Uncomfortable Truths

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.


12 Responses to Uncomfortable Truths

  1. Time heals all wounds, but we cannot blame those who are still angry in spite of the years that passed.

  2. I think you’re right that clear thinking people won’t change their beliefs about the morality of abortion because of this event. However, a lot of people aren’t very clear thinking — and among non-clear-thinkers moral decisions are often made on the basis of “Good people think X” or “Bad people think Y”. To the extent that pro-choicers are able to turn this into a narrative of, “Pro-lifers are all homicidal maniacs and woman-haters,” that will probably lead some not-very-clear-thinking people into supporting the pro-choice cause and possibly even into thinking that the pro-choicers are right that abortion is a perfectly good way out of a bad spot in life.

    Clearly, this isn’t very good thinking, but it’s fairly common. (After all, think of the number of people for whom a religious conversion basically starts as, “These people are all so nice, they must be right about God.”) However, in a democratic republic, the sad fact is that a lot of decisions are made based on the “swing vote” of non-clear-thinkers. Most people who are strong in their thinking will have already made up their minds about most issues, and although people do indeed change their minds on strongly held opinions from time to time, it’s rare.

    So yes, I think it will hurt the pro-life movement both at the ballot box and in terms of winning hearts and minds.

    At the same time, I’m not sure it will hurt the movement that much in the end. The fact is, although violence against abortionists is quite rare (to my knowledge there have been less than a dozen abortionists every murdered in the last 30 years since Roe, which is a pretty good record compared to the murder-rates of more mainstream murderers) the pro-choice movement has flogged what little violence there has been against them _so_ hard that most people who listen to such things seem to have the idea it happens fairly frequently.

    Basically, since the pro-choice lobby already calls us murderous fanatics all the time, I’m not sure that it actually happening for the first time in a number of years actually makes that much difference in the PR sense — wrong though it was as a moral act.

  3. TomSVDP says:

    It appears, that the Guardian article posted on these forums today: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/jun/01/george-tiller-abortion-doctor-murder and other speech are indeed talking about how pro-lifers are always calling abortion murder. I listened even to Father Pavone on Relevant Radio today http://www.relevantradio.com/Page.aspx?pid=534 and he was calling it murder and if the head of Priests for life uses this speech, what else would we be using? I must have read abortion called murder hundreds of times in the last 2 days.

    But this event, a lightning-rod too, has shown me how all across the USA, people are indeed, pro-life, viewing forums, it often runs 2 to 1 I’d say.

    Forward with Prayer is all I can think of. If it is such a puzzle, maybe we need to be contemplative but supportive of the cause.

    I do think, gains made with the 51 percent in the Gallup poll being Pro Life must have been immensely helped by Education. Education is key.

    But let us remember too, this act probably came largely in part to the state of Kansas not properly governing Tiller’s clinic. I honestly believe that. We have a Federal Government that thumbs it’s nose at us on this issue. The issue really flared up.

  4. JC says:

    What does calling abortion “murder” have to do with what happened to George Tiller?

    To have a problem with calling abortion “murder” is to admit that one does not believe abortion is really homicide, as Fr. Pavone recently pointed out in regard to people who get offended by comparisons of abortion to the Holocaust, or to child abuse, or to any other serious evil.

    I can see how ignorant minds have a problem with our uses of the terms “Culture Wars” or “spiritual warfare,” but that just means we have to be more clear on what we mean by those terms.

    Shooting abortionists is neither cultural nor spiritual warfare, but literal warfare, and the very opposite of what is intended by either term.

  5. Gerard E. says:

    Much will hinge on whether overreaction will be met with counter-overreaction. A suddenly activist Justice Dept.- overruling career prosecutors in the case of pseudo-Black Panthers who disrupted a voting establishment here in Philly- may want to train the Rotweilers on the pro-life movement. Worth keeping in mind that for all his sanctimony, Dear Leader has stomach for an internal dispute- why he stayed away from the Pelosi/Panetta kerfuffle. Coverage of Tiller’s killing has been overshadowed by the enormity of GM filing for bankruptcy. Perhaps an inadvertent way of cooling tempers. But the culture will have to deal with abortion- and its abominable side-effects- sooner or later. The Tiller case may speed up the timetable. Will not say Perhaps Some Good Will Come From It- nothing good comes from cold-blooded homicide. But even we pro-lifers can’t control the schedule of the coming national debate. It will arrive all well and good. Stay ready. Be prayerful. And don’t make a jackass of yourselves like Randall Terry at the National Press Club on Monday (let’s go out for beer and wings har har….)

  6. Joe Hargrave says:

    “although people do indeed change their minds on strongly held opinions from time to time, it’s rare”

    lol, then I must be worth something, because I’ve done it a fair number of times. I don’t know if it makes me crazy or more sane than most.

  7. Matt McDonald says:

    It seems unlikely that Tiller was murdered just because he performs abortions, he was targeted precisely because he habitually performs illegal late term abortions, and he is protected from prosecution by a corrupt government. This has enraged passions legitimately, but it has also triggered an anti-government nut to take the law into his hands. If only the “One” and his staff would recognize it and instead of unjust reaction of oppressing the legiitimate pro-life movement, make a just reaction and prosecute abortion operations which operate outside the laws (such as they are). Such an action would demonstrate that he truly wants to work for the common ground…. I won’t hold my breath.

    To be honest, any mitigation of Obama’s reaction is based solely on his desire to avoid the appearance of a disproportionate response to Tiller relative to the soldier being murdered.

  8. Matt McDonald says:


    Don’t make a jackass of yourselves like Randall Terry at the National Press Club on Monday (let’s go out for beer and wings har har….)

    I’m not sure what you’ve read about Randall Terry’s statement, but it is being widely picked apart out of context in the press, even among conservatives. It may still be objectionable, but objection should be based on the whole statement:

    WASHINGTON, May 31 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The following was released today by Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue.

    Background: In 1991, Mr. Terry was arrested by federal agents in front of Dr. Tiller’s office for his part in leading the “Summer of Mercy.” Mr. Terry’s leadership gave birth to multitudes of protests in front of Tiller’s office.

    Following is the statement of Randall Terry, Founder, Operation Rescue.

    “Dr. Tiller was a mass murderer.

    “I grieve for him that he did not have an opportunity to properly prepare his soul to face his Maker. Unless some miracle happened, he left this life with his hands drenched with the innocent blood of tens of thousands of babies that he murdered. Surely there will be a dreadful accounting for what he has done.

    “I believe George Tiller was one of the most evil men on the planet; every bit as vile as the Nazi war criminals who were hunted down, tried, and sentenced after they participated in the ‘legal’ murder of the Jews that fell into their hands. But even Mr. Tiller – like other murderers – deserved a trial of his peers, and a legal execution, not vigilantly justice.

    “His killing presents us a severe challenge.

    “The arch proponents of child killing such as Planned Parenthood, the National Organization of Women, NARAL, and a host of other enemies of children are already blaming the pro-life movement for Dr. Tiller’s death.

    “The child killers, and their allies in the Obama administration and on Capitol Hill, will attempt to browbeat the pro-life movement into surrendering our most effective weapons in this battle: our rhetoric, our actions, and our images.

    “Pro-lifers must not flinch, waver, or in any way alter our course in our epic struggle to make child killing illegal again.

    “Our rhetoric must bear witness to the truth: abortion is murder.

    “Our actions must be equal to this crime: we must continue with vigorous (yet peaceful) actions such as have been used by every social revolution since America’s birth. The easiest picture to have is that of the civil rights activists of the 1960s. They held ‘illegal’ marches, freedom rides, and ‘sit-ins’ at lunch counters; they were met with water canons, dogs, police brutality, arrests, and jail. If we are going to end child killing, we must unflinchingly adopt the strategies of heroes past.

    “Our images must reflect the truth. We must continue to show the victims’ bodies that we have pulled out of dumpsters; we must not retreat a single inch from showing the decapitated heads of little boys and girls, the arms and legs that were suctioned or carved out of their mothers wombs; we must paint the picture of sewers and landfills being used as unholy graves for these holy victims.

    “Of course we are peaceful; that is why this horrific shooting in a church has immediately garnered national attention. It is precisely because we are peaceful that Dr. Tiller’s killing sticks out like a huge wart on an otherwise flawless complexion. If abortionists were gunned down every week, it would gather no more attention than crack dealers who are gunned down every week.”

  9. Greg says:

    Was Pope Gregory XIII pro-life when he called for the Assassination of Queen Elizabeth, Dec 12th, 1580

    “Since that guilty woman of England rules over two such noble Kingdoms of Christendom, and is the cause of so much injury to the catholic faith, and loss of so many million souls, there is no doubt that whosoever sends her out of the world with the pious intention of doing God service, not only does not sin but gains merit, especially having regard to the sentence pronounced against her by Pius V of holy memory. And so, if those English nobles decide actually to undertake so glorious a work, your Lordship can assure them that they do not commit any sin. We trust in God also that they will escape danger. As far as concerns your Lordship, in case you have incurred any irregularity, the Pope bestows on you his holy benediction.”

  10. Joe Hargrave says:

    Food for thought, Greg, food for thought.

  11. Blackadder says:


    Pope Gregory’s call to depose Elizabeth didn’t work out very well, did it?

  12. Donald R. McClarey says:

    That was the Cardinal of Como who allegedly said that Greg, not Pope Gregory XIII. Of course Bloody Elizabeth at the time was busily suppressing the Catholic Church in England and Wales and put to death 312 of her Catholic subjects while doing it. Some 210 Irish Catholics were martyred for the Faith during her reign.

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