Rep. Frankel, Pittsburgh Jewish lawmaker, outraged with pro-life group using Holocaust images
An anti-abortion group went too far this week when it sent state Rep. Dan Frankel said an email loaded with black and white photos of Holocaust death camp victims to protest his vote on an abortion bill, the Squirrel Hill lawmaker said.
Frankel, who is Jewish, represents the district that includes the neighborhood where a gunman killed 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Oct. 27. He also serves as chairman of the Women’s Health Caucus and is an outspoken supporter of women’s reproductive rights.
In an impassioned, four-minute floor speech this week, Frankel declared that House Bill 321 — which would make abortion illegal in cases of prenatal diagnoses of Down Syndrome — was cover for those who would outlaw all abortions.
That speech and his no vote earned him the ire of the Scranton Chapter of Pennsylvanians for Human Life.
The image-laden email he received said the group was saddened to learn he had voted against the bill that passed the House 117-76.
The Pennsylvania Capital-Star reported that all 76 lawmakers who voted ‘no’ received the email that read:
“We are committed to protecting the life of the born and unborn child. This is a holocaust that we taxpayers should not be funding.”
Frankel said he’s accustomed to receiving angry mail, but the imagery attached to the email stunned him.
“I have received very hateful communications over the years. Usually it is from individuals. But this was quite unusual because it was my understanding that this was a kind of a mainstream pro-life organization. I was just incredulous that someone would equate the Holocaust and images of murdered, naked bodies in a concentration camp with the issue of women who want to exercise their legal and constitutional rights,” Frankel said.
He said the email came in the wake of a speech House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, made to a pro-life group several weeks ago where Turzai equated abortion to Nazis and eugenics.
“This just has to stop. We’re living through a time of increased hatred toward targeted groups, especially the Jewish groups who face a rising tide of anti-Semitism,” Frankel said.
He fears those bent on violence view such comments and imagery as justification and rationale for their acts.
Friday afternoon, Frankel said he received an email from Helen Gohsler, president of the Scranton group, apologizing for the initial email.
“It has come to our attention that the email and images we sent to you on Friday were found to be offensive,” the message stated. “We sincerely apologize for any offense taken. Please understand that none was intended. We regret very much any pain this may have caused. You can be assured that this will never happen again.”
Calls to Scranton office number listed on the email went unanswered.
Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, [email protected] or via Twitter .