FORCE may win short-term battles, but it never wins the war over hearts or minds, whether it's in Bosnia or Wichita, Kan.
The abortion battle of words, lawsuits and peaceful protests this year has turned into an outright one-sided war of force against doctors waged by a few fanatics who deem that shooting at doctors who perform abortions is justifiable under God.
First Pensacola, Fla. Now Wichita. In Wichita last week, Dr. George Tiller was shot in both arms by a protester who approached his car as he left the clinic. Rachelle Renae Shannon, 37, of Grants Pass, Ore., has been charged with the shooting. Police say there are two outstanding warrants against her for trespassing at women's clinics in San Francisco and Milwaukee.
This latest case of zealotry highlights the need for a federal law to protect abortion clinics, their workers and patients from protests that cross the line between constitutionally protected speech and criminal harassment.
If the Freedom of Access at Clinic Entrances Act, pending before Congress, were in force, the accused protester likely would have been unable to reach the doctor's car. And under the proposed law charges against her in other states would have barred her from traveling.
There would have been a buffer between the protesters and the clinic so that patients and workers could enter and leave without harassment. There would be hefty fines and the threat of prison for those who continue to break the law by stalking doctors, nurses and patients.
This is what it has come to: a proposed buffer zone in the war, fines of as much as $100,000 and imprisonment.
Does anyone really believe that anyone's mind will be changed by shooting a doctor or that a baby will be saved by such terrorism?
Force doesn't change minds. Logic and gentle persuasion can.
Every time one of those "Life: What a beautiful choice" commercials appears on television, my chest tightens, and I say a prayer for the unborn. That may seem strange to those who are against abortion rights and know that I am pro-choice, but it is quite in keeping with the meaning of choice.
The very essence of the word "choice," after all, is that people have more than one way to go. They have a choice, a set of options. In the case of abortion rights, women have the choice not to abort.
It is that choice that I and every other pro-choice person I know most cherish, and it is that choice that the "Life" commercials, underwritten by the Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation, make so compelling.
As ambivalent as Americans are about how far abortion rights should go, there is little doubt that a majority of people are incensed by the fringe element that is playing God when it should be praying to Him.
Myriam Marquez is a columnist for the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel.