What the Tiller Assassination Means
I was saddened and appalled, though not really shocked, over the news about the murder of noted abortionist George Tiller. Tiller was one of my least favorite people, and his work providing late term abortions was truly evil, though no worse than any other abortionist. However, slaughtering those who disagree with us on moral issues is both wrong and ineffective, and I, like all pro-lifers, condemn the murder and the man who committed it.
Some wonder why, if abortion is truly murder, it is not moral to kill as many abortionists as possible in order to reduce the number of abortions. (It is mostly, in fact almost exclusively, pro-choicers who pose this question). It is possible that Tiller’s murderer used that reasoning—Tiller was one of few abortionists who did late term abortions, so many of his potential clients will have nowhere else to go for abortions. Pro-lifers condemn the murder of George Tiller—but why, if it prevented murder?
There are, I think, two reasons such actions are wrong. The first is the ineffectiveness of such killings—any drop in the number of abortions as a result of Tiller’s death will probably be more than offset by the ill-will garnered by the pro-life movement as a result of the killing. Assassinations, as Brutus, Booth, and Čabrinović, found out, don’t usually work the way they are intended to.
The second reason is that we live in a democracy, and unless people consent to be governed by the laws made by the majority, democracy is meaningless. If the proper response to disagreement is violence, then democracy is undermined. Everyone owes allegiance to the state and to society, provided that society is just.
If the society is just, of course, rebellion may be a just and moral thing to do—those Germans who conspired against Hitler during World War II were probably justified in doing so. But I think it is hard to argue that contemporary American society is so unjust as to be illegitimate, and violence in this situation is quite wrong. An analogous situation is that of blacks during the forties, fifties, and sixties. The racial prejudice they faced was wrong—but the proper response was not murder. Had Martin Luther King used bullets instead of words, he would be remembered today as the same sort of monster as Scott Roeder, George Tiller’s murderer.
Pro-lifers who commit violence are in the wrong. Every pro-lifer realizes that. But the reaction of much of the media intentionally ignores this fact, and much of the analysis of this crime amounts to what is really nothing more than a smear job against those whom oppose abortion.
Pro-lifers have been protesting Tiller for years. Bill O’Reilly (who, by the way, isn’t pro-life—he supports abortion rights) has devoted a great many shows towards exposing Tiller. The idea is that all that protesting and exposing inspired Roeder to do what he did, making the pro-life movement partially responsible for Tiller’s murder.
This charge is slander, and honestly I cannot see how anyone could make it in good faith. No movement can be held accountable for the actions of everyone who shares its goals, and the pro-life movement is no exception. Roeder is a nut with a history of potential violence (he has been arrested before for having bomb materials in his car), and had little movement (aside from the odd blog comment) with the pro-life movement. Every pro-life group condemns, and has always condemned, violence, and Roeder acted without any encouragement from any pro-life group.
It is not only pro-life extremists who spread violence. Ecoterrorism is relatively common, and anti-war protesters are notorious for vandalism. Monday, a man shot and killed an army recruiter—he was a convert to Islam and his motive was almost certainly dissatisfaction with U.S. foreign policy, something that most liberals share. Are mainstream, anti-war liberals to be held accountable for the actions of this man?
Of course not, since they have always condemned such violence. Pro-lifers have always condemned such violence too, and bear no responsibility for the death of George Tiller.