In Re Tiller

Some thoughts regarding the Tiller killing.

On the one hand, as Pournelle once paraphrased Niven’s Laws #16:  Every movement has its share of fuggheads.  An obvious corollary is that one should not judge a movement by the random idiots within it.  I have many friends & acquaintances who are prolife, and I cannot picture any of them condoning Tiller’s murder.

OTOH…there’s a strain in American culture that is eminently willing to excuse the homicide of someone who “needed killin'” or “had it coming”, and basically agrees with John Kelly’s memorable line in Without Remorse: “It’s only murder when innocent people die”.  In which case, if a political movement promotes the view that embryos & fetuses are morally equivalent to innocent human babies, that abortion = infanticide, and that anyone who performs abortions is a murderer, incidents like the Tiller killing are, IMHO, an obvious & foreseeable outcome of such promotion.  They may be rare, and deplored by the bulk of the movement in question; but on some level, given the cultural milieu into which heated prolife rhetoric spews forth, occasional murders of abortion doctors are the prolife movement’s “cost of doing business” (so to speak).  Consider it the rhetorical equivalent of TANSTAAFL.

I’m not prolife; but even if I were, I’d like to believe that I’d shrink from employing the loaded terminology – e.g., murderers, Nazis, genocide, etc. – which often emanates from the prolife side.  Accurate or not (given appropriate presumptions), I don’t find such emotionally-inflammatory language to be terribly helpful to rational discourse.  On the contrary, IMHO, every such utterance is one more step down a dangerous path, at the endpoint of which, civil discourse on the abortion question is no longer possible.

I also find Linker’s & Saletan’s awkward question apropos.  Reading Dreher’s response thereto, my reaction basically was, “So, is the extralegal killing of abortion doctors morally permissible, but merely imprudent given the current sociopolitical milieu”?  In fairness, it should be noted that other prolifers have made serious attempts at addressing questions like Linker’s – see, e.g., here, here, & here.  (Turmarion’s 5:21 comment on Dreher’s post was also quite interesting.)  However, even after reading such articles, I can’t help but wonder if, on this question as on others (e.g., prosecuting mothers who have abortions; taking up arms against a government that proscribes the unborn en masse), the prolife movement is, for whatever reason(s), simply unwilling to face the logical implications of its position.


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