Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Are We Back to Assassinating Abortion Doctors?

Well, it appears that Dr. George Tiller, M.D., of Witchita, KS, a physician who would perform abortions, has been assassinated in his church by a “pro-life” activist.  We’re back to this.  A number of clinics where abortions were performed were bombed in the ’80s and there were a number of doctors and clinic personnel killed in the ’90s by anti-abortion activists.  This form of domestic terrorism then died out.  Anti-abortion activists stopped comparing such actions to attempts to assassinate Hitler during the Holocaust. 

But we’re back to it, it seems. 

I don’t think this is typical of the pro-life movement, but I have talked to many in it who seem happy that this kind of violence intimidates many doctors and hospitals into refusing to provide abortion services.  It is terrorism which works.

I connect this murder not to the mainstream movement against abortion, but to the rise in rightwing extremist violence that began late in last year’s presidential campaign–and includes the mass murder in a Unitarian church in Tennessee just after the election because “liberals gather there” and the murderer could not get to high profile liberals like Obama.  This kind of rightwing violence is being fomented by the ravings of those like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh who dominate much of American airwaves.

There is nothing “pro-life” about assassinations. It is not “justifiable homicide” no matter what one’s views of abortions are.  It is domestic terrorism. 

There is also nothing Christian about this.  I understand opposition to abortion.  For most of my life I believed all abortions were morally wrong and I still believe that most abortions are immoral, but some are tragically the best of bad options.  But killing “the born” to prevent killing “the pre-born” (as anti-abortionists refer to gestating fetuses) is a betrayal of anything pro-life.  It simply adds to the cycle of violence.

June 1, 2009 - Posted by | abortion, assassination, terrorism prevention


  1. I deleted D.R. Randle’s comment not because he was inappropriate, but because he has been banned from this site for previous inappropriate comments. So, even though his comment this time was helpful, he is still no longer welcome here. He is one of only 2 people I have ever banned from this site.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | June 1, 2009

  2. […] Are We Back to Assassinating Abortion Doctors? from Levellers. […]

    Pingback by Reactions to the Tiller Murder « Moderate Christian Blogroll | June 1, 2009

  3. This was a tragedy, but the abortion debate inflames passions like few other issues. And there may well be a fringe element in the anti – abortion movement who consider abortion to be a form of “domestic terrorrism”.

    Comment by Paul | June 1, 2009

  4. What about John Brown? Potowatamie and Harper’s Ferry. History still hasn’t (perhaps never will) rendered a clear verdict on his legacy. Our ambivalence concerning the fact that violence occasionally accomplishes/encourages justice is to blame.

    Comment by stan | June 1, 2009

  5. And today someone has driven up and assassinated a young Army recruiter at a recruiting office in Arkansas. Are we back to the sixties?

    Comment by K Gray | June 1, 2009

  6. I do not consider John Brown to have been moral. His belief that he was a new Moses shows that he was probably insane. Nor do I consider violence to ever encourage justice–this time included.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | June 1, 2009

  7. I REALLY hope not–at least not that part of the ’60s.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | June 1, 2009

  8. Definitions aren’t that malleable. If one agrees with the assumptions of the pro-lifers, then abortion could be considered murder, but not terrorism. Terrorism is defined as violence or threatened violence that is designed to frighten a population. So, killing a doctor who performs abortions in his church is domestic terrorism–it is designed to frighten several groups of people: women who might seek abortions, doctors and medical staffs at facilities that perform abortions, hospital and clinic administrators who would contemplate providing abortion services, and churches and other faith groups who might welcome abortion providers. And the reactions coming from groups like Operation Rescue show that, while they deny encouraging such actions, they are perfectly happy with the effects of such domestic terrorism.

    It might even be the case that this is religiously inspired terrorism–spawned by a flawed version of conservative Christianity (Talibangelicalism?) the way that al Qaeda and similar groups’s violence is terrorism inspired by a warped form of Islam. This should inspire much introspection by conservative Christians in the U.S.–but probably won’t.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | June 1, 2009

  9. As a big supporter of restorative justice and against all forms of retribution, I think we need to explore ways other than imprisonment for Tiller’s killer. I don’t think we should compound the violence of murder with the violence of a prison sentence. We should make him promise never to do this kind of thing, again, however.

    Comment by Sandra | June 2, 2009

  10. When the “evil liberals” are in power the crazies come out of the cupboards. I would expect more of this, just like we saw during the Clinton years. I pray it won’t happen.

    Comment by Steven Kippel | June 2, 2009

  11. I do not advocate killing doctors who perform abortion; however, I hold them in low regard.

    Comment by Paul | June 2, 2009

  12. I believe in restorative justice, Sandra, but unlike some others, I do not rule out prison for those who are an ongoing threat to the public–despite my strong support for prison reform. The suspect, Roeder, has promised to do this again and he is being essentially canonized by the violent/terrorist fringe of the anti-abortion movement, including Operation Rescue’s Randall Terry.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | June 2, 2009

  13. There is nothing pro-life about this murderer. Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh are not responsible or culpable for some murderer murdering an abortion doctor. The murderer is responsible for his own violence. He broke the law, while the abortion doctor murdered innocent pre-born babies but didn’t break any of our nation’s laws.

    I’m pro-life and oppose the legalization of all abortions. Consistent with my pro-life position would be a sentence of capital punishment for this murderer of the abortion doctor!

    I know you don’t want to go that hard on him.

    BTW, most domestic terrorism is being perpetrated by left-wing, environmental extremists.

    Comment by Chuck | June 2, 2009

  14. “…Roeder…is being essentially canonized by the violent/terrorist fringe of the anti-abortion movement, including Operation Rescue’s Randall Terry.”


    Where did Terry essentially canonize Roeder?

    Comment by K Gray | June 2, 2009

  15. There is something very interesting going on.

    Did Randall Terry actually say anything that tends to canonize Scott Roeder? Operation Rescue didn’t.

    Comment by K Gray | June 2, 2009

  16. Operation Rescue and Randall Terry, unlike the far right Operation Save America and similar groups like Missionaries to the Unborn, try to have it both ways. They put out websites denying responsibility for the murder, but they also make it VERY CLEAR they are happy he is dead. Terry spent more time vilifying Tiller than anything else. Schroeder, the alleged murderer, was a member of Operation Rescue as well as more radical groups including the Prayer and Action Newsletter which DOES actively support such violence.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | June 2, 2009

  17. “Scott Roeder has never been a member, contributor, or volunteer with Operation Rescue. Mr. Roeder may have posted to our open blog web site, as have thousands of members of the public, including those with pro-abortion views, but he is not affiliated with this organization. […]”

    – from ThinkProgress, quoting Operation Rescues’ president.

    And Randall Terry did not canonize or even talk about Roeder.

    There are plenty of other facts to fit your theory. It’s just that some of is what is being used against anti-abortion groups is not true.

    Truth is good.

    Comment by K Gray | June 3, 2009

  18. That would be hard to prove. You need statistics if you’re going to say “most domestic terrorism is being perpetrated by left-wing, environmental extremists.”

    Comment by Steven Kippel | June 3, 2009

  19. Terry’s statement dismissed the murder saying he was “more concerned” with Obama’s response to what he called “our most effective … actions. Abortion is still murder. And we still must call abortion by its proper name; murder.”

    Read between the lines.

    He finishes his statement saying, “Those men and women who slaughter the unborn are murderers according to the Law of God. We must continue to expose them in our communities and peacefully protest them at their offices and homes, and yes, even their churches.”

    That last “yes, even their churches” is a direct reflection on where Tiller was murdered, his church.

    Comment by Steven Kippel | June 3, 2009

  20. Operation Rescue’s staff members’s numbers were found with Schroeder. They were helping him track Tiller’s movements. Also, Operation Rescue is organically connected to Operation Save America, whose website is full of people celebrating Tiller’s death and praising the assassin’s actions.

    Like I said, Operation Rescue and Randall Terry try to have it both ways.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | June 3, 2009

  21. “They were helping him track Tiller’s movements.”

    That’s a very convicting spin.

    According to the article, he would call and ask about Tiller’s court hearings, and they would provide that info.

    Comment by K Gray | June 4, 2009

  22. The number in Roeder’s car belonged to the woman who heads up policy matters in Operation Rescue. She did TWO YEARS in prison for attempting to blow up a women’s health clinic that performed abortions in CA. She helped track Tiller’s movements on her Twitter account and she kept Roeder appraised of them.

    This is what I mean by OR trying to have it both ways. They claim to be nonviolent—as if they were mainstream like the National Right to Life Committee. But then they employ violent people and share membership lists with violent extremists–and share much of the rhetoric of the extremists. They know what they are doing. Randall Terry and OR provide “cover” for those like the Army of God who are straight-up anti-abortion terror networks.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | June 4, 2009

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