In the first place, those who accept the doctrine [that a fetus has a right to life from the moment of conception and thus that abortion is murder] ought not say that reason requires us to accept it, for that assertion is false. The public forum is as open to the false as to the true, but participants in it ought to take seriously whether what they say is true. There is already far too much falsehood in the anti-abortion movement. A recent newspaper photograph showed an anti-abortion protester holding a placard that said "Abortion kills;" that much is true. But under those words was a photograph of a baby. The baby looked to me about a year and a half old—counting in the ordinary way, from birth, not conception. The message communicated by that placard was that abortion kills fully developed babies, and that is false, indeed, fraudulent. Exaggeration for a political purpose is one thing, fraud quite another.
But falsehood is by no means the worst that comes of pronouncements that abortion is murder. Say that often and loudly enough, and some weak-minded soul is sure to start shooting to put a stop to it—as of course has happened, most recently in Brookline [where a shooting occurred; see the start of the article]. That is the second point to stress about the public forum: what is said there has consequences. Exaggeration for a political purpose is one thing, incitement to do harm quite another. (my emphasis)
A friend of mine also drew my attention to this op-ed from today's New York Times.
In the stuff I'm working on, which in part involves what we can justify once we've decided for ourselves that some thing is intolerable, I've argued that hateful rhetoric falls beyond the pale, precisely because it attempts to blur the line between non-violence (an exercise of free speech) and violence (via provocation). There seems to be a lot of hate in the air these days...anyone know what the remedy is?