Is It Wrong To Murder An Abortionist?

Over at Slate, William Saletan, who’s pro-abortion, tries to make the argument that pro-life conservatives should logically want to murder abortion doctors in a piece called, Is it wrong to murder an abortionist?

If abortion is murder, the most efficient thing you could have done to prevent such murders this month was to kill George Tiller.

…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. According to the Washington Post, Roeder told other pro-lifers that he condoned deadly violence to stop abortions. He admired the Army of God’s “Defensive Action Statement,” which endorses the murder of abortion providers on the grounds that “whatever force is legitimate to defend the life of a born child is legitimate to defend the life of an unborn child.”

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…So is Roeder getting support from the nation’s leading pro-life groups? Not a bit. They have roundly denounced the murder. The National Right to Life Committee says it opposes “any form of violence to fight the violence of abortion,” preferring instead “to work through educational and legislative activities to ensure the right to life for unborn children, people with disabilities and older people.” Americans United for Life agrees that it was wrong to kill Tiller because “the foundational right to life that our work is dedicated to extends to everyone.”

I applaud these statements. They affirm the value of life and nonviolence, two principles that should unite us. But they don’t square with what these organizations purport to espouse: a strict moral equation between the unborn and the born. If a doctor in Kansas were butchering hundreds of old or disabled people, and legal authorities failed to intervene, I doubt most members of the National Right to Life Committee would stand by waiting for “educational and legislative activities” to stop him. Somebody would use force.

…The reason these pro-life groups have held their fire, both rhetorically and literally, is that they don’t really equate fetuses with old or disabled people. They oppose abortion, as most of us do. But they don’t treat abortionists the way they’d treat mass murderers of the old or disabled. And this self-restraint can’t simply be chalked up to nonviolence or respect for the law. Look up the bills these organizations have written, pushed, or passed to restrict abortions. I challenge you to find a single bill that treats a woman who procures an abortion as a murderer. They don’t even propose that she go to jail.

Saletan’s argument reminds me of atheists who don’t get Christianity, yet try to make arguments about, “what you Christians should be doing.”

Getting past that, there are reasons why we pro-lifers don’t kill abortion providers (The last murder of this sort was way back in 1998) even though I consider describing them as “baby killers” to simply be an accurate description of what they do for a living, not inflammatory rhetoric.

First off and most importantly, as a general rule, killing people is immoral — even if you’re murdering an “evil” person. Yes, there are times when you don’t have much of a choice: if you’re a soldier or if someone breaks into your house and your life is in danger, but taking the law into your hands is usually morally the wrong thing to do. That’s why dueling and revenge killings, even if the person who was killed may have deserved it, are not legal in this country. It’s also why I can unambiguously say that murdering an abortionist is wrong and that if Scott Roeder is guilty, I’d like to see him given the death penalty for his crime (which I consider to be another moral use of killing for the good of society.)

Setting that aside, we have not given up on winning this issue through legal channels. Roe v. Wade is nothing more than raw judicial activism and there is hope that it can be overturned so that we can take the abortion fight to the states. Since that’s the case, murders like this one are politically counter-productive because they have the potential to turn the American people against our cause.

Last but not least, to live in a civilized society under the rule of law, we have to give up certain things and one of them is the right to settle political and moral disputes with a gun. Consider the chaos that would engulf our society if everyone simply killed people they believed were evil. The pro-lifers would kill the abortionists. The animal rights nuts would kill the butchers and the farmers. The global warming wackos would kill the people driving hummers. The millions of liberals who’ve referred to Republicans as Nazis would start killing us. From there, you’d have people engaged in revenge killings for their families and friends, people would kill members of groups they thought were going to target them, and our society would be made up of armed camps.

We’ve already been through that once in this country, over slavery, and we shouldn’t need to go through it again to learn our lesson.

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