Damon Linker

A Question For Pro-lifers

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Theocon Robert P. George has put out a reasonable, responsible statement about the cold-blooded murder of abortion-provider George Tiller.

Whoever murdered George Tiller has done a gravely wicked thing.  The evil of this action is in no way diminished by the blood George Tiller had on his own hands.  No private individual had the right to execute judgment against him.  We are a nation of laws.  Lawless violence breeds only more lawless violence.  Rightly or wrongly, George Tiller was acquitted by a jury of his peers.  "Vengeance is mine, says the Lord." For the sake of justice and right, the perpetrator of this evil deed must be prosecuted, convicted, and punished.  By word and deed, let us teach that violence against abortionists is not the answer to the violence of abortion.  Every human life is precious.  George Tiller's life was precious.  We do not teach the wrongness of taking human life by wrongfully taking a human life.  Let our "weapons" in the fight to defend the lives of abortion's tiny victims, be chaste weapons of the spirit. 

As I said, reasonable and responsible.

But I have a question: If abortion truly is what the pro-life movement says it is -- if it is the infliction of deadly violence against an innocent and defenseless human being -- then doesn't morality demand that pro-lifers act in any way they can to stop this violence? I mean, if I believed that a guy working in an office down the street was murdering innocent and defenseless human beings every day, and the governing authorities repeatedly refused to intervene on behalf of the victims, I might feel compelled to do something about it, perhaps even something unreasonable and irresponsible. Wouldn't you?

This is the radicalizing logic of pro-life rhetoric. Which brings me to my question for pro-lifers: Who is the better, truer member of your movement? The man who murdered serial "baby killer" George Tiller? Or Robert George and other (comparative) moderates, who reject the use of violence to save the innocent?

UPDATE: Further evidence of this radicalizing logic: Note that even the reasonable and responsible Robert George draws an equivalence between "the wrongness of taking human life" in abortions and "wrongfully taking a human life," namely Tiller's. Anti-abortion activist Jill Stanek does the same thing on her blog this morning: "Pro-lifers are consistent. They are shocked and outraged by the vigilante murder of George Tiller as well as the thousands of children he murdered."

So, you see: To be a pro-lifer is to live with the equivalent of George Tiller's cold-blooded murder every day in clinics and hospitals all over the country -- only unlike Tiller, the victims of abortion are innocent and those who murder them are protected, not punished, by the law of the land.

We should consider ourselves very lucky that so few anti-abortion activists resort to violence. After all, as the pro-life Rod Dreher admits (in response to this post), it is merely "prudence" (and not principle) that keeps opponents of abortion from following the lead of John Brown instead of Martin Luther King, Jr.

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