As you have probably heard by now, late-term abortion provider Dr George Tiller was shot and murdered yesterday while attending church in Wichita, Kansas.
Church. Shot him in church.
As I commented on the Feministe thread, not even the mafia does hits in church.
If you would like to send condolences, the Feminist Majority will forward them to Dr Tiller's family.
There is much fascinating and intense commentary in the wake of Dr Tiller's murder, signaling deep moral confusion about the subject of abortion, at least here in the USA. I recommend Jill's Feministe thread about the kinds of late-term abortions Dr Tiller performed; these were usually medical emergencies. Also recommended is Heart's post on the Quiverfull connection. (I knew there had to be one.)
Meanwhile, we have William Saletan at Slate, who asks the loaded (pardon expression) question: Is it wrong to murder an abortionist?
To me, Tiller was brave. His work makes me want to puke. But so does combat, the kind where guts are spilled and people choke on their own blood. I like to think I love my country and would fight for it. But I doubt I have the stomach to pull the trigger, much less put my life on the line.Megan McArdle writes in The Atlantic:
Several years ago, I went to a conference of abortionists. Some of the late-term providers were there. A row of tables displayed forceps for sale. They started small and got bigger and bigger. Walking along the row, you could ask yourself: Would I use these forceps? How about those? Where would I stop?
The people who do late-term abortions are the ones who don't flinch. They're like the veterans you sometimes see in war documentaries, quietly recounting what they faced and did. You think you're pro-choice. You think marching or phone-banking makes you an activist. You know nothing. There's you, and then there are the people who work in the clinics. And then there are the people who use the forceps. And then there are the people who use the forceps nobody else will use. At the end of the line, there's George Tiller.
Now he's gone. Who will pick up his forceps?
Tiller's murder is different from all previous murders of abortion providers. If you kill an ordinary abortionist, somebody else will step in. But if you kill the guy at the end of the line, some of his patients won't be able to find an alternative. You will have directly prevented abortions.
That seems to be what Tiller's alleged assassin, Scott Roeder, had in mind.
Imagine a future in which the moral consensus has changed, and our grandchildren regard abortion the way we regard slavery. Who will the hero of history be: Tiller, or his murderer? At the very least, they'll be conflicted, the way we are about John Brown.I was waiting for someone to mention John Brown. They always do, on both the right and the left. His moral certainty haunts us.
We accept that when the law is powerless, people are entitled to kill in order to prevent other murders--had Tiller whipped out a gun at an elementary school, we would now be applauding his murderer's actions. In this case, the law was powerless because the law supported late-term abortions. Moreover, that law had been ruled outside the normal political process by the Supreme Court. If you think that someone is committing hundreds of gruesome murders a year, and that the law cannot touch him, what is the moral action? To shrug? Is that what you think of ordinary Germans who ignored Nazi crimes? Is it really much of an excuse to say that, well, most of your neighbors didn't seem to mind, so you concluded it must be all right? We are not morally required to obey an unjust law. In fact, when the death of innocents is involved, we are required to defy it.Indeed, I think it is notable that this happened after Obama's election, at a time the rightwing feels beleaguered. According to most statistics I have seen, the actual number of abortions is decreasing. Thus, this terrorist act was not about a situation that is progressively worsening... in pro-life terms, the situation is IMPROVING.
As I say, I think their moral intuition is incorrect. The fact that conception and birth are the easiest bright lines to draw does not make either of them the correct one. Tiller's killer is a murderer, and whether or not he deserves the lengthy jail sentence he will get, society needs him in jail for its own protection.
Still, I am shocked to see so many liberals today saying that the correct response is, essentially, doubling down. Make the law more friendly to abortion! Show the fundies who's boss! You know what fixes terrorism? Bitch slap those bastards until they understand that we'll never compromise!
Well, it sure worked in Iraq. I think Afghanistan's going pretty well, too, right?
Using the political system to stomp on radicalized fringes does not seem to be very effective in getting them to eschew violence. In fact, it seems to be a very good way of getting more violence. Possibly because those fringes have often turned to violence precisely because they feel that the political process has been closed off to them.
Therefore, we can conclude the real catalyst was a feeling of hopelessness on the part of the anti-abortion movement; the sentiment that they have "lost" the battle for good.
Strategically, this motivation is very different from that of John Brown, who hoped to ignite a full-scale rebellion (and eventually, there was one, called the Civil War). By contast, Scott Roeder appears to have acted because there is NO HOPE of a full-scale rebellion, so he might as well do whatever desperate acts he can manage.
Even if he has to do it in a church.
And finally, Salon correctly points out that Fox News demagogue Bill O'Reilly has been waging a non-stop verbal war on Dr Tiller for years now. After calling everyone from Michael Moore to the DailyKos bloggers "terrorist apologists" and worse--I think it's now Bill's turn to wear the title of TERRORIST APOLOGIST, since his incendiary and inflammatory screeds have everything to do with WHY Dr Tiller was in the right-wing cross-hairs.
There were only three doctors in the entire country (and now only two) who did late-term abortions. Why do we only know the name of Dr Tiller? Largely because Bill O'Reilly was obsessed with him, in particular:
Tiller's name first appeared on "The Factor" on Feb. 25, 2005. Since then, O'Reilly and his guest hosts have brought up the doctor on 28 more episodes, including as recently as April 27 of this year. Almost invariably, Tiller is described as "Tiller the Baby Killer."
Tiller, O'Reilly likes to say, "destroys fetuses for just about any reason right up until the birth date for $5,000." He's guilty of "Nazi stuff," said O'Reilly on June 8, 2005; a moral equivalent to NAMBLA and Al-Qaida, he suggested on March 15, 2006. "This is the kind of stuff happened in Mao's China, Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Soviet Union," said O'Reilly on Nov. 9, 2006.
O'Reilly has also frequently linked Tiller to his longtime obsession, child molestation and rape. Because a young teenager who received an abortion from Tiller could, by definition, have been a victim of statutory rape, O'Reilly frequently suggested that the clinic was covering up for child rapists (rather than teenage boyfriends) by refusing to release records on the abortions performed.
When Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, an O'Reilly favorite who faced harsh criticism for seeking Tiller's records, was facing electoral defeat by challenger Paul Morrison, O'Reilly said, "Now we don't endorse candidates here, but obviously, that would be a colossal mistake. Society must afford some protection for viable babies and children who are raped." (Morrison ultimately unseated Kline.)
This is where O'Reilly's campaign against George Tiller becomes dangerous. While he never advocated anything violent or illegal, the Fox bully repeatedly portrayed the doctor as a murderer on the loose, allowed to do whatever he wanted by corrupt and decadent authorities. "Also, it looks like Dr. Tiller, who some call Tiller the Baby Killer, is spending a large amount of money in order to get Mr. Morrison elected. That opens up all kinds of questions," said O'Reilly on Nov. 6, 2006, in one of many suggestions that Tiller was improperly influencing the election.
Tiller's excuses for performing late-term abortions, O'Reilly suggested, were frou-frou, New Age, false ailments: The woman might have a headache or anxiety, or have been dumped by her boyfriend. She might be "depressed," scoffed O'Reilly, which he dismissed as "feeling a bit blue and carr[ying] a certified check." There was, he proposed on Jan. 5, 2007, a kind of elite conspiracy of silence on Tiller. "Yes, OK, but we know about the press. But it becomes a much more intense problem when you have a judge, confronted with evidence of criminal wrongdoing, who throws it out on some technicality because he wants to be liked at the country club. Then it's intense."
Tiller, said O'Reilly on Jan. 6 of this year, was a major supporter of then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. "I think it's unfairly characterized as just a grip and grin relationship. He was a pretty big supporter of hers." She had cashed her campaign check from Tiller, "doesn't seem to be real upset about this guy operating a death mill, which is exactly what it is in her state, does she?" he asked on July 14 of last year. "Maybe she'll -- maybe she'll pardon him," he scoffed two months ago.
This is where it gets most troubling. O'Reilly's language describing Tiller, and accusing the state and its elites of complicity in his actions, could become extremely vivid. On June 12, 2007, he said, "Yes, I think we all know what this is. And if the state of Kansas doesn't stop this man, then anybody who prevents that from happening has blood on their hands as the governor does right now, Governor Sebelius."
Three days later, he added, "No question Dr. Tiller has blood on his hands. But now so does Governor Sebelius. She is not fit to serve. Nor is any Kansas politician who supports Tiller's business of destruction. I wouldn't want to be these people if there is a Judgment Day. I just -- you know ... Kansas is a great state, but this is a disgrace upon everyone who lives in Kansas. Is it not?"
Speaking of DISGRACE, I think we know who the DISGRACE is.
Of course, he will not apologize for inflaming the rabble. But we cannot allow him to forget that he is accountable, too.
It is not Governor Sebelius, but Bill O'Reilly who has blood on his hands.