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Posted by on May 31, 2009 in Society | 28 comments

Varying Responses to Dr. Tiller’s Murder

Some so-called pro-life bloggers are responding to Dr. George Tiller’s murder today in a manner that makes me question how much they really do value human life.

LaShawn Barber is a good example. In a post titled “Child Killer George Tiller Killed,” she writes:

Tiller made the case for infanticide by showing graphic photos of unborn babies with abnormalities. He admits on tape to having aborted babies a day before the mother’s due date. One murdered baby in Tiller’s photo collage was a child with three arms. I asked, “Why didn’t the mother carry the baby to term and consider corrective surgery after he was born? A baby with an extra arm isn’t worthy of life?”

Today, Dr. Infanticide was shot and killed while walking into a church. Is “ironic” the right word to describe it?

Who killed Tiller the child killer, cultivator of death?

MacRanger’s response is along the same lines. He titles his post “RIH: Baby Murderer George Tiller Shot Dead,” and explains at the bottom of the post that “RIH” means “Rot in hell.”

In fairness, however, I have to say that bloggers as hateful as these two are in the minority.

Charles Johnson has a one sentence post, straightforwardly reporting the news of the murder, with a quote from the news source but no commentary. Later, after a suspect was taken into custody, Johnson posted a photograph and a video of the arrest. In an update, Johnson condemned Randall Terry’s response to the murder, in no uncertain terms:

UPDATE at 5/31/09 1:10:28 pm:

A disgusting statement from Operation Rescue’s Randall Terry: George Tiller was a Mass-Murderer, says Randall Terry — We Grieve That he Did Not Have Time to Properly Prepare his Soul to Face God.

Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue states, “George Tiller was a mass-murderer. We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God. I am more concerned that the Obama Administration will use Tiller’s killing to intimidate pro-lifers into surrendering our most effective rhetoric and actions. Abortion is still murder. And we still must call abortion by its proper name; murder.

“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.”

Jillian Bandes has a brief, respectful, neutral tone piece at Although there is no commentary per se, Bandes notably included the information that a candlelight vigil to support and honor Dr. Tiller’s life and work and to stand up against violence is being held in downtown Wichita tonight. Although I am not familiar with Bandes specifically, is Hugh Hewitt’s site, and very conservative, so I think this is an especially striking, and commendable, inclusion.

Don Surber writes, “The murder of Dr. George Tiller is pretty shocking and definitely the opposite of pro-life.”

Finally, there is this from AJ Strata:

Despite the denial on the right and the ranting of leftward nuts [like] Andrew Sullivan who raging about all Christians, there is a rational ‘center’ to this horrific news, best illustrated by a commenter at Gateway Pundit:

Despite peoples’ wishes, I think we’re going to find out that Tiller’s murderer was indeed associated, albeit on the fringes, with some sort of pro-life organization.

That association will indeed be used to tar the entirety of the pro-life movement, in precisely the same way that the entirety of Islam wasn’t after 9/11, or the Left in general wasn’t after a Weather Underground bombing.

Actually, the rightwing and many in this country DID tarnish all of Islam (can we forget [Ann] Coulter’s dismal ‘towel head’ comment at CPAC?), and the rightwing has been nailing every liberal with the heinous crimes of Bill Ayers (who should have been locked up since he is no better than the man who just killed Tiller).

This is how emotions get out of control. This is how zealots (left and right) are created. As long as it is ‘us’ verses those ‘traitors in America’ on the left or right (traitors are all the fringes ever see outside their echo chambers) we will see American-on-American violence like this.

Chill the hyperventilating, respect each other. Learn to disagree like adults.

Well said. I’ll just add that it’s not necessary to agree on every point, even in the context of this particular event, in order to give credit where credit is due. AJ Strata includes certain characterizations in his post — as do a few of the other conservative bloggers I’ve quoted — that I don’t agree with, or even find objectionable. But this does not take away from the fact that, overall, his reaction to Tiller’s murder is consistent with his own stated pro-life beliefs. That is not at all the same as the pro forma disclaimer followed by vile hatred — or vile hatred followed by pro forma disclaimer — that we see from, for example, LaShawn Barber and MacRanger.

I hope that most of us can grasp this distinction.

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  • Ryan

    Well, if you really think he’s a murderer protected by law, rather than condemned by it, I see no reason for anything but rejoicing at his death. I suppose you might want to keep it under wraps for PR purposes, but really, who would complain if someone killed Osama at a mosque?

  • PJBFan

    For me, who believes that Abortion is always murder, and should, except in cases of self defense, be illegal, I still cannot rejoice in the murder of Dr. Tiller. While he abused his medical training, it is absolutely wrong that he should have been murdered, especially in a Church. While I think he should have faced prison, and perhaps the needle, I cannot like that he was murdered. I sincerely hope that his murderer is brought to trial, and convicted. This was a needless taking of human life.

  • CStanley

    I appreciate your giving credit where due to the bloggers, Kathy, but I also wanted to point out that almost all prominent prolife organizations have issued immediate and unequivocal condemnations (NRTL as well as most of the state organizations including Kansas RTL, American Life League, Priests for LIfe, Americans United for Life, and even Operation Rescue, which I believe is the organization that Randall Terry founded but then left when the group wasn’t willing to orient itself in the radical and violent fashion that he advocates.)

  • rudi

    Ryan – Spread your wings and keep on singing…

    Gandhi and MLK also rejoiced when the enemy dies.

  • kathykattenburg

    Well, if you really think he’s a murderer protected by law, rather than condemned by it, I see no reason for anything but rejoicing at his death.

    I don’t rejoice at anyone’s death. And would not.

  • kathykattenburg

    I also wanted to point out that almost all prominent prolife organizations have issued immediate and unequivocal condemnations. …

    I’m aware of that. I was specifically focusing on blogtopia (or the blogosphere). If I had rounded up pro-choice response to the murder, I would have handled it the same way — just bloggers, not pro-choice organizations. It wasn’t meant as a snub to pro-life organizations; it was just the way I wanted to focus that particular post.

  • Rambie

    “Chill the hyperventilating, respect each other. Learn to disagree like adults.”

    Wise words. There is too much “Us vs Them” from both the fringe Left and Right in our country today. We need to learn how to agree-to-disagree and find common ground on issues where we can.

    I’m not sure AJ and I would agree on too many issues but we do seem to share common ground on abortions, especially late-term abortions. I don’t agree with abortions, and I wouldn’t advocate anyone to get one, however I’m fine with first-trimester abortions being legal.

    His whole post was good except he himself showed a bias in his first sentence:

    “Despite the denial on the right and the ranting of leftward nuts [like] Andrew Sullivan ”

    Last I checked, Andrew Sullivan was a “moderate” Republican, sure he’s gay but not a “leftward nut”.

  • The anti-abortion crowd is rightly (no pun) concerned about how the fringe rejoicing is repellent to most Americans. This episode is not good for them. And their rhetoric and their actions, in hundreds of angry, repellent YouTube videos, like it or not, IS representative of anti-abortion protests.

  • CStanley

    I’d encourage everyone to go to a demonstration or a prayer chain then, GD, and they’ll see that you are wrong. I don’t know if you’re intentionally misrepresenting the truth or if you have possibly encountered some more militant protestors but not the mainstream ones, and perhaps you believe your anecdotal evidence means more than it actually does.

  • I’m pointing out that the public face of the anti-abortion movement is extreme, and this makes it worse. If the movement can’t control its adherents, then independents and moderates will be repelled, just like the “teabag protests” produced more images that repel independents than attract them.

  • CStanley

    Well, perhaps, GD, there’s a need for people to realize that not everything they read and see on the internet and in the media is representative of unbiased reality. I certainly never assumed that the vile tactics of Code Pink were representative of the average war protestor, nor is ELF representative of the green movement. I don’t know why people like yourself won’t give the same benefit of the doubt to conservative movements.

  • I think most anti-abortionists are sincere but misguided. Most are probably not radical or violent. But I deplore their anti-choice agenda, and hope that someday we put this debate to rest for good. Women citizens have the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The government has no legitimate right to step into a difficult medical decision on behalf of a maybe-baby, that is a mass of cells that should one of a hundred things not go wrong, might be a natural born citizen. The current citizen’s rights have to be protected, while those of a potential citizen are undefined, but cannot be elevated above the rights of an adult woman, IMO.

    BTW, I have no personal stake in this. I have a family and have never had to participate in that awful decision. And as you may have noticed, I’m not a woman.

    As a citizen, I am passionate about the rights of other citizens. As an American, I see no rationale for forcing women to give birth, or for preventing them from planning their family size and timing.

  • CStanley

    As an American, I see no rationale for forcing women to give birth, or for preventing them from planning their family size and timing.

    Except in cases of rape, they have every opportunity to do so (and men should share in the responsibility) before a pregnancy occurs. Why should the government sanction killing of an unborn human when people fail to take that responsibility?

    • Ryan

      CS: Because an undifferentiated lump of organic tissue is not a person; and because taking responsibility can include having an abortion in the first place. Really, I’m starting to think this is less about the rights of the unborn human – which, I might add, is or is not a person completely independently of whether its mother was raped – and more about punishing women for being sluts.

  • CS, you want to impose your religious beliefs on all women. In my religion, a fetus is not an unborn human. It’s a mass of cells that MIGHT become a human if one of a hundred things doesn’t go wrong. It is not protected by the Constitution, nor should it be. The woman has rights clearly established by the Constitution, and these should not be abrogated for ANY other human, her child, her lover, her friend or a stranger. And certainly NOT for a mass of cells that might become a living American citizen.

  • CStanley

    Not so, GD. Religion is not the only reason for presuming some rights for the unborn. Many states have laws which make it a homocide to kill a (wanted) fetus if that occurs in conjunction with murder of a pregnant woman. Would you also say that those laws impose religious values on society?

    And the majority of the American public does not share your (apparent) view that a fetus has no rights at all until birth, nor did the Supreme Court interpret the Constitution in that way in Roe or subsequent opinions. The courts have upheld reasonable restrictions on late term abortions.

  • CStanley

    Ryan, that clump of cells is a) not undifferentiated at the stage of pregnancy that we’ve been discussing and b) human tissue, and by biological definitions is a distinct human being even if it’s not one that is necessarily vested with our concept of ‘right to life’.

    And with all the talk here about not using provocative rhetoric, I wonder why it is that you feel it’s fine to insinuate derogatory motivations to people who hold different views than you do? Why do we go from discussing responsible sexual behavior to saying that this means that I must wish to ‘punish sluts’?

    • Ryan

      CS – if you’re going to start distinguishing between various stages of pregnancy, then note that late term abortions are extremely rare compared to their earlier counterparts. Nobody has a third-trimester abortion for birth control purposes – if you are seven months pregnant and do not want to give birth then something has already gone horribly wrong. If that’s where we assign the fetus any rights, then they are still going to conflict with those of the mother. And no, I don’t consider ‘distinct human being’ to imply ‘person’ when the human has the size and intelligence of a roach.

      As for your motivations, as I said, rape has absolutely nothing to do with the personhood of a fetus. If it’s a person, then you would grant rape victims the novel right to kill an innocent third party; if it’s not a person, then you are apparently in favor of enslaving a woman to a non-person if she doesn’t meet your standards of acceptable sexual behaviour. Is there some better word for sexually irresponsible woman than I’m missing?

  • CStanley

    Ryan, the reason that this particular conversation was centered on late term pregnancies is because that is what Dr. Tiller provided. They were not rare in his practice.

    In terms of the language issue, certainly slut has connotations of irresponsibility but it also places all the responsibility on the female in question- which I specifically did the opposite, stressing that men should not place women in the position of having responsibility for the pregnancies that result from their sexual acts. And aside from that, accuracy isn’t the only determination of language used when inflammatory subjects are discussed- there’s also good taste and an attempt (hopefully) to avoid insult or ascribing negative motivations when there is no evidence of that.

    • Ryan

      CS – you said “before a pregnancy occurs”. Would prefer having written “before x months gestation”? If not, then absolutely, early abortions are relevant to what you wrote. Dr. Tiller already worked on the 1% cases – you can’t make any meaningful statement about abortion based on his practice alone. When considering all the evidence, the cases where the fetus is closest to personhood are exactly the ones where, again, something has already gone horribly wrong.

      OK, so let’s see what the actual motivations are: Should rape victims be allowed to have an abortion that would otherwise be denied them? If so, why?

      • CStanley

        I’m not sure why that question addresses my motivations (nor why I have to be scrutinized as to my motivations) but whatever…

        My personal feeling is that rape victims should not be permitted to abort either, and I realize that’s an extreme position which sounds very harsh. However, what I think prompted you to ask this is the obvious inconsistency between saying that women shouldn’t have the right to abort for convenience if they chose to have sex (because the unborn has some right to life) but the rape victim should. In no other situation would we allow a murder in order to ease the suffering of another person (well, actually one could say that the death penalty is somewhat for that reason, but I oppose capital punishment too.)

        I do believe of course that rape victims should have a GREAT deal more support in dealing with their traumatic episode, and in the rare cases that a pregnancy results from a rape they should have a great deal of societal support in carrying the pregnancy- including financial support, living quarters if needed, psychological counseling, and any other needs related to the event and pregnancy. In my personal view, this is the morally correct response to a highly immoral and heinous act.

        I have come to separate my personal beliefs from the way I think the law should handle the abortion issue though, and if society doesn’t agree with me (which surveys show it doesn’t- most people can’t fathom the idea of a rape victim carrying a baby that results from the rape- although some survivors who’ve done so say that it was more healing to them to do so than to take part in a second act of violence), then I do understand that many people struggle to reconcile the competing rights of the mother and the fetus in those cases. Personally I don’t believe that you can say the unborn child’s rights are to be completely disregarded based on whether or not the mother was forced to have sex rather than choosing to do so, but I can understand (though disagreeing with) the more libertarian view of balancing the rights of the two individuals in that situation.

        • Ryan

          The scrutiny there was mostly from “Why should the government sanction killing of an unborn human when people fail to take that responsibility?” and “Except in cases of rape”. I’m curious though if the great deal of support would include something like actually absolving rape victims of any responsibility for children they’ve had as a result – carrying a pregnancy to term is enough of a kick in the teeth as it is, never mind 18 years of parenting.

          • CStanley

            Yes, support for adoption services, which should be much more available to all women facing crisis pregancy, whether by rape or not.

  • Interesting discussion, as usual. Now it’s more clear, as I always thought, that the “late term” and “Dr. Tiller” part of this discussion is just the sliver. You have provided no evidence that a single one of Tiller’s late term abortions was unnecessary to save the mother, and I doubt you care. CS, you believe all abortions should be illegal.

    In other words, that a pregnant woman has no right to make a medical decision that reduces her risk of dying if that decision threatens the fetus. In your view, the fetus has greater rights than the woman who carries it. Now, what if she needs chemotherapy, which endangers the fetus, and could very well cause spontaneous abortion? Under that scenario, should all pregnant women give up their rights to other medical decisions that would endanger the fetus? If not, why not? Under your scenario, society has decided that the fetus is more important than the mother’s right to make her own medical decisions based on known risks. Should Washington decide if the woman’s need for chemo is great enough to allow her to endanger the fetus? Does her husband have any say, or does he also sacrifice rights for the fetus? He might wish to do all he can to save his wife, and consider fathering a child with her later, if her cancer treatment is successful.

    Should she stop taking her blood pressure medication, which is a clear risk to the fetus? How many of her medical decisions does she sacrifice by becoming pregnant? Why not all of them? As a point of law, if we subjugate the pregnant woman’s right to make a medical decision, the same logic applies to any decision she makes that could end the pregnancy.

    I don’t expect us ever to agree. I don’t expect you to even seriously consider “right to life” with respect to the woman. I just hope to give other readers here something to weigh. If a woman–if anyone–must make medical decisions based on protecting the life of another human (let alone a maybe-baby), we have fundamentally changed the very core of the Constitution.

  • CStanley

    I don’t know why you continue to distort the data, GD. The data that the state collected showed that not a single of the mothers involved were at risk of losing their life. All doctors who performed late term abortions were required to answer yes or no to that question, and the answers were uniformly “NO” for all late term abortions performed in the state. The data just doesn’t say what you claim it does.

    I don’t really have time to continue the discussion, so you can get the last word if you wish but if anyone reads your comments I hope they’ll also hit the link to see that you’re not accurately reporting the facts.

  • I don’t know why you continue to distort the data, CS. In 40% of the cases the fetus was not viable, as you admitted. I’m going to make an allowance for your probable lack of expertise here, but a dead fetus is not a good thing to carry to term, even if that is possible.

    Now, you are standing by your insistence that these late term abortions should have been illegal. Good. That makes this debate much easier. In every case, the woman would have suffered “serious and irreversible damage to a major bodily function” if the pregnancy was continued. That is a crystal clear expression of the lack of concern for an adult American citizen encompassed by your position. She should be forced to suffer permanent damage to carry that fetus.


  • brianmadsen

    The shooting death of the great “doctor” was a horrible thing. I would think a pair of scissors to the back of his skull, followed by sucking his brains out with a shop vac would have been a more suitable demise.

  • libramoon

    All God’s Children

    “Great day, my brethren! We are ready to execute our plan, and some Baby Killers. (laughs)
    For those of you who were not at our last meeting, Joe here — come on up here with me, Joe —
    has assembled this sweet little high octane explosive device with a timered detonator from the
    plans we found on the internet.

    Sister Mary has agreed to hide the device in a fake baby bump and take it to the clinic.
    We have figured out the time when it will be most busy, so she can easily avoid
    detection. She’ll just secure the thing where it won’t be noticed in the restroom,
    and set the detonator to give her plenty of time to get back here.

    Then, we all will just be having our regular meeting when we hear the news.

    Yeah, Chris, you have a question? I know you’ve not been here in awhile.”

    “Hey, Luc. So, let me get this straight. You want to blow up this clinic at peak
    time when there’ll be all those pregnant women at risk? You know this clinic serves
    all kinds of healthcare for local women who can’t afford to get prenatal care anywhere
    else close enough for them to get to. Even those women coming for abortions might
    be persuaded against that course with more gentle tactics, at least some of them. How does
    it make sense for our cause to threaten all these pregnant women and their children?”

    “It’s for a higher purpose, Chris. Can’t get the Lord’s work done just jawing and making
    noise outside that evil den of murder. We have to let those Godless Baby Killers know the wrath
    of the Almighty.”

    “Luc, you’re going way too far, here. Listen people, you don’t need to do this.”

    “You chicken, Chris? Don’t have the guts to fight for what is right, to save the innocent?”

    “What I am saying, Luc, is this violence you instigate is no way to follow our Lord’s
    Commandment: ‘Thou shalt not kill.'”

    “Yeah, kid, you never did have what it takes. That’s why I’m the Lord’s special right-hand
    Angel; and you are only the sniveling human son.”

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