This post has nothing at all to do with whether or not the murder of George Tiller was morally justifiable or not. That needs to be said upfront. My initial reaction was a bit hasty, and I like others have foot-in-mouth disease. Being a passionate writer who is used to speaking his mind openly has its advantages and drawbacks. If I had a nickel for every statement I made that I later regretted, I’d be having too much fun with my millions to bother posting here at AC 🙂
What I do want to more fully understand is exactly how, or perhaps more importantly, why, this event will have disastrous implications for the pro-life movement. I understand that, on one level, it may serve as a pretext for a government crackdown, on restrictions against free-speech, and the like. That is a legitimate concern. What I do not understand is the argument that there are actually people out there whose position on abortion, which in turn hinges upon their position about the ontology of the unborn itself, will change as a result of this.
Perhaps I am reading this entirely wrong. I would be grateful if someone could show me how. But as it stands, it appears to me that people are arguing that a) there are people whose minds on abortion will change or be swayed one way or the other as a result of Tiller’s slaying, and b) that we should actually care what such people think.
If one is only making point “a”, it may be a fair point, but without “b”, an irrelevant one. I can only imagine what sort of weak mind and will it would require to shift positions on abortion because of what one man did to an abortion doctor. Are there really some folks out there thinking, right now, “well, now that I see what the consequences are of accepting the pro-life position, I’m going to become pro-choice”? More importantly, if there are, is it really that important that we abandon our own wits to appease such people?
This cause walks a very fine line indeed. To me it is a little dishonest to deny that describing abortion as murder, as the Church does, as pro-lifers in general do, can inspire acts of vigilantism. For various reasons I object to equating abortion in America with the Holocaust or slavery, not because there is a moral difference, but because such comparisons blind us to the true cause of abortion.
That said, abortion is child murder, and it must be said that even though the country is sharply divided over first-trimester abortion, there is a much broader consensus that partial-birth abortion is infanticide, or too close to infanticide to remain legal. Thus it is not only an ‘abortion debate’ but also an infanticide debate. If these weren’t different things – regardless of their both being terribly wrong – we wouldn’t have different words for them.
There is no way around it. It doesn’t need to be the Holocaust for it to be morally objectionable, and for the people who partake in it to be guilty of serious offenses against morality and human life, and God willing, one day a just law prohibiting this barbarism.
As you can tell, I am of two divided minds on this matter. I want to call abortion what it is. To me, it is more important to call abortion what it is than to worry about what happens to abortionists. At the same time, I am as uncomfortable with the implications as everyone else is, when I look at those implications honestly. If there really are children being murdered, and in Tiller’s case, by his own admission, a day before they are due to leave their mother’s wombs, it can be immoral and wrong, but can’t possibly be beyond reason and understanding to want to put a stop to it by any means necessary. We can and should redouble efforts to work for peaceful change, to continue the effort to put the abortionists out of business forever and deny their legal right to practice. We should continue to proclaim that summary executions are not consistent with a Christian conception of justice. But I won’t pretend that I don’t understand the impulse, to, as the left does, act as if Tiller was doing nothing more than plastic surgery or some other benign procedure. My fear is that the harder we strive to show everyone how appalled we are over Tiller’s death, the closer he comes to virtual sainthood out of fear of reprisals from our political enemies, the more we forget who and what he was.
On a closing note, I truly wish that Tiller could have been punished by society, through due process, and not by a lone individual. I have heard people lament that Tiller didn’t get a chance to repent; I for one believe that God gives everyone a chance to repent in their own time, especially when they have been alive for 67 years. I do lament that he was gunned down before we were able to come to our senses and shut down his bloody practice, that instead of being remembered as a violent criminal, he will be remembered as a sort of ‘folk hero’ for pro-abortion forces, a martyr for the cause.