Abortion Doctor George Tiller Murdered at Church

There’s a lot to unpack in this sentence:

Late-term abortion doctor George Tiller, a prominent advocate for abortion rights wounded by a protester more than a decade ago, was shot and killed Sunday at a church in Wichita where he was serving as an usher and his wife was in the choir, his attorney said.

I’m opposed to both late-term abortion and church. Still, presuming he was murdered by abortion opponents calling themselves pro-life and motivated by Christian teaching, it’s hard to imagine anything more twisted.

UPDATE (Monday morning):  I’m going to be tied up today with meetings and panels but I wanted to add some quick points to this post I rapidly dashed off yesterday afternoon before getting on with my Sunday.

  • Most late-term abortions are abhorrent, involving a viable child who could live outside the womb.  Many, however, are not.  I’ve gathered from what I’ve read since the news broke that Tiller mostly performed the latter, those heart-wrenching cases where the fetus, while late in its development, was either nonviable, horribly defective, or threatening the safety of its mother.
  • Andrew Sullivan and a goodly number of left-of-center bloggers I read blame Bill O’Reilly and other more-or-less mainstream conservative commentators for adding to an environment that made murdering Tiller more likely.  I reject that argument wholeheartedly.   I’m by no means an O’Reilly fan but he’s not advocating murder.  Indeed, the overwhelming number of even hard-right social conservatives condemn these anti-life crimes.  The idea that holding forth passionately on one’s political views is tantamount to incitement to violence is incredibly dangerous to our continued freedom.
  • While no commentator has yet taken it that way, I want to make clear that my opposition to “late-term abortion and church” was in no way intended to suggest an equivalence between the two.  I think the former heinously immoral in most circumstances while I’m merely philosophically opposed to the latter for reasons I’ve explained previously but aren’t germane to this discussion.
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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. floyd says:

    So James, is it your contention that being Pro-Life can only result from being exposed to Christian teaching?

    Can you imagine anything more twisted than serving as usher in a church with a day job like his? I can… they could put him in charge of the nursery![lol]

    Can we assume[using your logic] that it was not a Christian church,it was Lutheran, since he was not lynched long ago.[grinz]

    BTW; It was clear what George thought of the status of the unborn….

    “The clinic itself is unusual in that it offers FUNERAL services to its patients. Some of these services include photographs, footprinting and handprinting, BAPTISM, cremation, arrangement for burial in or out of state.”
    “”It’s hard to imagine anything more twisted!””:

  2. just me says:

    I think it is doubtful they were motivated by Christian teaching.

    Christian teaching isn’t going to encourage the murder of an abortion provider. At least not in any Christian church I have been a member of.

  3. I guess counter-intuitively, late term abortions are the ones I have the most trouble understanding opposition to. I mean, I guess it’s easy enough to imagine women who had carried the baby for 25 weeks suddenly deciding they don’t really want to go to term, butseriously, do people actually think this is the case more often than not? That seems awfully implausible to me.

  4. […] James Joyner […]

  5. PD Shaw says:

    It looks like it’s about a two hour drive to the Westboro Baptist Church to get a religous ruling.

  6. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Should have known. James, the PhD. after your name was a sign about the not going to church thing. Where is it you worship your God? Some lecture hall at University.

  7. Jamie says:

    If you oppose going to church, why criticize someone the shooter for not following the same beliefs you are against?

  8. legion says:

    Only a small number of Christian sects actually take it as a tenet that life begins at the moment of conception, thus equating abortion with murder. And even then, very few of them take it to the extreme that a)any abortion for any reason, even the health of the mother, is a terrible thing and b)that it’s important enough to kill someone over. This is very much NOT a “Christians vs. godless heathens” issue; to attempt to describe it as one is to attempt to paint all Christians with the same sick, depraved brush. The man was entering a church when he was murdered – just not a church that defines life in that manner.

    This was terrorism, pure and simple – by definition: the use of extreme violence in an attempt to force a political change or to punish people for having different beliefs.

  9. C.Red says:

    It is important to understand that the late term abortions performed by this doctor were on fetuses that were either already dead or incapable of living outside the womb AND were threatening the life of the mother.

    I have heard that the doctor was accused of something like 19 illegal abortions and received 19 acquittals. I think it is fair to say, if that is true, that he was neither careless or capricious in the cases he chose.

    Certainly he was an advocate of a woman’s right to choose, but his clinic provided grief counseling and funeral services and similar services and such because his late term patients were forced into the procedures for medical reasons, not because of choice. I don’t see anything twisted about trying to comfort a grieving family.

  10. KenJ says:

    legion: “Only a small number of Christian sects actually take it as a tenet that life begins at the moment of conception, thus equating abortion with murder.”
    How do you justify this statement? It seems to me to be the crux of the problem.

  11. Franklin says:

    As Steve Benen points out, this doctor performs abortions for women who WANT a baby, but there is a serious problem. I’m typically for the standard exceptions such as threats to the mother’s life or severe developmental problems with the baby.

    To floyd: note that this is why they have funeral services – these were babies that the parents intended to have. Nothing twisted about it.

  12. Franklin says:

    Sorry for the repetition, C.Red already made the same relevant points.

  13. G.A.Phillips says:

    This was terrorism, pure and simple – by definition: the use of extreme violence in an attempt to force a political change or to punish people for having different beliefs.

    Yes,I think if it was their intent, it would be hard to see it any other way.

    Murder is and will always be wrong no matter what your excuse is.

    Only a small number of Christian sects actually take it as a tenet that life begins at the moment of conception, thus equating abortion with murder.

    I dint at first, but I did realize it was murder before I became a true Believer, even If you don’t believe in God, no especially if you don’t, you must know that we are so much more then animals and we all deserve the right to live and in the lest not to be murdered in cold blood, be it newly conceived or old and evil or if you will a taker of lives.

    Very sad for him and his family.

  14. floyd says:

    So you say Franklin, so you say.

  15. Justin Bowen says:

    Can we assume[using your logic] that it was not a Christian church,it was Lutheran,

    Lutherans are Christians, as are Baptists, Catholics, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Anglicans, Eastern Orthodoxes, and all other people who believe in Jesus.

  16. An Interested Party says:

    So you say Franklin, so you say.

    Tell me, what would you suggest a couple in this situation do…

  17. floyd says:

    That was the point, justin

  18. floyd says:

    Aip;
    Ask Sarah.

  19. legion says:

    How do you justify this statement?

    Justify? I don’t have to justify it – it’s a simple fact. Talk to Christians of varying stripes and ask them.

  20. wr says:

    Odd, I seem to recall a great deal of outrage on the right when it was announced that the Obama administration had a report commissioned by the Bush administration warning about the possibility of crimes by right wing extremists. Those who complained insisted this was a plot by the president to put right wingers in jail, because everyone knew that conservatives were all good, God fearing people who would never, never, never do any harm to anyone.

    The line for apologies starts on the left.

  21. G.A.Phillips says:

    Lutherans are Christians, as are Baptists, Catholics, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Anglicans, Eastern Orthodoxes, and all other people who believe in Jesus.

    I would beg to differ.

    It’s kind of hard to believe in Jesus, If you don’t believe in the first six words in the Bible.

    But thats just me and because I have a semi functioning brain.

  22. G.A.Phillips says:

    Odd, I seem to recall a great deal of outrage on the right when it was announced that the Obama administration had a report commissioned by the Bush administration warning about the possibility of crimes by right wing extremists

    lol it’s Bush’s fault Obama wont call a terrorist a terrorist but calls pro lifers, returning vets, and people of believe in Revelations terrorists and put out a directive saying they must be watched as a whole, OK Skippy.

  23. KenJ says:

    “Justify? I don’t have to justify it – it’s a simple fact. Talk to Christians of varying stripes and ask them.”
    Thanks for the tip on how to gather “simple facts”. Can’t get any simpler than that.

  24. An Interested Party says:

    Ask Sarah.

    The governor of Alaska was not in the same situation as the one described in that link…

  25. Eric Florack says:

    Andrew Sullivan and a goodly number of left-of-center bloggers I read blame Bill O’Reilly and other more-or-less mainstream conservative commentators for adding to an environment that made murdering Tiller more likely. I reject that argument wholeheartedly.

    Thank you, James. Knowing, this, without your saying it, I intentionally held back on commenting to this thread at all. I had wondered if you were going to make this specific. We agree.

  26. Furhead says:

    It’s kind of hard to believe in Jesus, If you don’t believe in the first six words in the Bible.

    But thats just me and because I have a semi functioning brain.

    I think “semi” is the key word here. The first six words in most English translations are:

    In the beginning God created the

    That doesn’t even form a complete thought, so what the hell are you talking about?

  27. […] Joyner notes yesterday, that Andrew Sullivan and a goodly number of left-of-center bloggers I read blame Bill O’Reilly and other more-or-less mainstream conservative commentators for adding to an environment that made murdering Tiller more likely. I reject that argument wholeheartedly. […]

  28. Furhead says:

    Andrew Sullivan and a goodly number of left-of-center bloggers I read blame Bill O’Reilly and other more-or-less mainstream conservative commentators for adding to an environment that made murdering Tiller more likely. I reject that argument wholeheartedly. I’m by no means an O’Reilly fan but he’s not advocating murder. Indeed, the overwhelming number of even hard-right social conservatives condemn these anti-life crimes. The idea that holding forth passionately on one’s political views is tantamount to incitement to violence is incredibly dangerous to our continued freedom.

    I wouldn’t blame O’Reilly, but groups like Operation Rescue have been stalking the people who work with Tiller for a long time. There are degrees of everything. Disagreeing with abortion and explaining the reasons rationally is one thing, and perfectly fine. Yelling “these people must be stopped” at a protest to a bunch of unhinged fundies is conceivably a little more dangerous. Parking a trailer across from one of the workers’ homes and sending disgusting postcards repeatedly to all of their neighbors is yet another step. Do any of these border on the incitement of violence? Because Operation Rescue has done all of them.

  29. Michael says:

    The idea that holding forth passionately on one’s political views is tantamount to incitement to violence is incredibly dangerous to our continued freedom.

    There isn’t a hard line between passionately espousing one’s political views, and creating an air of violent anger in an audience that wants to see those views made manifest. Vilifying the opposition to the point where your audience believes that killing them would be the morally correct action crosses that line, in my opinion.

  30. floyd says:

    Aip;
    Wrong Sarah! It sounds like your knee-jerk support for George is unfounded.
    While, as you imply, therapeutic late term abortions are easier to to defend than late term elective abortions, [I site your link]
    You must then be subjected to quid pro quo, in the interest of balance…

    http://tinyurl.com/m7hsgz

    I suggest you do more than a cursory scan of the above material.Bear in mind that each is only one case and that they are at least equally credible.
    Also the “Baby Sarah” case is much better documented from multiple sources.
    You ask me to feel compassion for the parents of the conjoined twins.
    I only ask that you read about Baby Sarah with the same open mind that you request of me.
    I recognize that neither of us is likely to change our settled opinions on elective abortion.
    I also recognize that neither of us has here endorsed the killing of George Tiller.

  31. floyd says:

    “”Vilifying the opposition to the point where your audience believes that killing them would be the morally correct action crosses that line, in my opinion.””
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    Michael;
    If you were a member of that audience, could you be incited to that point,or are you a moral free agent capable of drawing your own conclusions?
    If the latter, then should we assume that such superiority is rare and the hoi-poloi need to have their ears plugged, being incompetent to process such information by their own moral compasses? Should we then allow them to listen to campaign speeches? Or even allow them to vote?

  32. G.A.Phillips says:

    In the beginning God created the

    hmmmmm pick something lol.

    All, everything, by and for his Son, do you get it yet?

    Lutherans are Christians, as are Baptists, Catholics, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Anglicans, Eastern Orthodoxes, and all other people who believe in Jesus.

    I talk to people like this all the time who believe in evolution and think that some if not all abortion is a good thing, that some how the history or the rules don’t apply to them.
    hell take DarthObama for instance, never talked to him but he for some reason thinks he is a Christian.
    are we getting anywhere yet?

    we go with the first 4 words for you so that you can start at the beginning.

  33. G.A.Phillips says:

    “”Vilifying the opposition to the point where your audience believes that killing them would be the morally correct action crosses that line, in my opinion.””

    how many Death threats have the poor bastards from A.I.G. had because of the words of….hmmm…

  34. Michael says:

    If you were a member of that audience, could you be incited to that point,or are you a moral free agent capable of drawing your own conclusions?

    I’m not making excused for the guy who pulled the trigger, he’s absolutely in the wrong. I’m saying that the guy who told him it would be morally correct for him to pull the trigger (or morally wrong to not do so) shares in his guilt. Please also note that I’m not saying O’Reilly is guilty of doing this, just that political opinion can spill over into inciting violence, they are not mutually exclusive.

    If the latter, then should we assume that such superiority is rare and the hoi-poloi need to have their ears plugged, being incompetent to process such information by their own moral compasses?

    Charles Manson didn’t commit those murders himself, do you think he is innocent and that only his morally-independent followers are to blame?

  35. Tlaloc says:

    The idea that holding forth passionately on one’s political views is tantamount to incitement to violence is incredibly dangerous to our continued freedom.

    Are the Turner Diaries just an example of someone holding passionately to their views or an incitement to racial violence?

    See when the view is that a political enemy is subhuman and above the laws, such that no normal social process can stop them from committing crimes… well this is exactly where that leads.

  36. Gustopher says:

    If a politically motivated murder, which will have a chilling effect on others who might otherwise become abortion doctors, isn’t terrorism, than what is?

    It’s an act violence designed to strike fear and terror, and to make the legality of abortion moot — if no one will perform them, it doesn’t matter if they are legal.

    I’m not surprised that this happened, I am surprised it doesn’t happen more often. Given the belief that abortion is murder, doctors who perform abortions are then mass murderers, and “eye for an eye” justice has an appeal to many, some of whom are going to be unbalanced enough to do it themselves.

    And, changing subtopics, as Mr. Joyner notes, many (if not most) late term abortions are the absolute heartbreak cases, where the couple desperately want a child but the baby is not viable.

    I would add that if access to abortion was easier, the rest of those late term abortions would likely have been early term abortions. Whether that is better or worse is obviously a completely tangled mess of morality and logic.

    But, mostly, abortion is icky and unpleasant to think about. Comprehensive sex education and access to birth control can reduce the need for it, and hopefully make it rare.

  37. An Interested Party says:

    re: floyd June 1, 2009 11:28

    My bad, you should of specified which Sarah you were talking about in your initial statement…and I don’t have “knee-jerk support” for anyone…as a matter of fact, abortion troubles me greatly…but, insisting that it can never be performed under any circumstances (perhaps you don’t feel that way, but you sound as though you do) sounds more like a “knee-jerk” reaction…

  38. floyd says:

    “Charles Manson didn’t commit those murders himself, do you think he is innocent and that only his morally-independent followers are to blame?”
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””

    Excellent rebuttal,The answer is as complex as the human psyche. The legality is even more so.
    Sometimes I wonder whether most people have innate moral compasses, when I see recent examples of the power of celebrity like Barack or Adolf.

    The question remains unanswered…
    “Should we assume that such superiority is rare and the hoi-poloi need to have their ears plugged?”

    My position is that you had better be careful who you set-up to make that judgment, since “there isn’t a hard line”

    My post was comprised of questions,hoping you might more clearly define where you draw that amorphous line.

  39. floyd says:

    Aip;
    I agree with Paul[the apostle formerly known as Saul] on the general subject.

    If you will notice please, I have at least recognized that there is a moral difference between therapeutic and elective abortions, a simple position that should be easily ascertained whichever side of the general issue you embrace.

  40. Michael says:

    The question remains unanswered…
    “Should we assume that such superiority is rare and the hoi-poloi need to have their ears plugged?”

    The problem I have with your line of questioning is that it seems to imply that by casting blame on the person using rhetoric, I am somehow insulating the person using the violence from some due portion of blame.

    No, I don’t think anybody needs their ears plugged, or to be censored from hearing speech that could possibly incite them to action. I am not a fan of protecting people from making bad choices, and believe they are innocent or guilty because of their own actions, not those of others.

    But, on that same note, I am not willing to give immunity to someone who knew, or should have known, that their speech was likely to incite violent acts, simply because they did not personally participate in those violent acts.

  41. Brett says:

    I’ve gathered from what I’ve read since the news broke that Tiller mostly performed the latter, those heart-wrenching cases where the fetus, while late in its development, was either nonviable, horribly defective, or threatening the safety of its mother.

    I’ve heard of cases of the second. Basically, the parent does a sonogram, finds out that the fetus has no spine, no limbs, no eyes, and is severely lacking in mental development – aborting it is probably an act of mercy, since it won’t survive long outside the womb.

  42. Grewgills says:

    Sometimes I wonder whether most people have innate moral compasses, when I see recent examples of the power of celebrity like Barack or Adolf.

    F-ing ridiculous. Can we all agree that comparing our political enemies to Hitler is counterproductive?

  43. An Interested Party says:

    Not only is it counterproductive, but it speaks of the desperation and the powerlessness of those making such fallacious comparisons…if you are a supporter of the president, you can only hope that his political enemies will continue to compare him to Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, etc. as such silliness will not only expose his enemies as being foolish but that they also do nothing to harm the president, quite the contrary, actually…

  44. floyd says:

    There is no silliness, since the subject was celebrity.
    Rarely in history do we find leaders who’s CELEBRITY has more profoundly mesmerized the general public, robbing them of independent thought.
    Can we compare them on this basis alone?
    “Sich…uh,”Yes We Can”…[lol]

  45. floyd says:

    Mussolini… ridiculous! the trains ran on time!
    Marx… Well Karl was a capitalist by comparison
    (he ran a book store)
    Groucho… Maybe..(say the magic woid and get the boid)
    Harpo… NO WAY! Barack can’t shut-up!

  46. An Interested Party says:

    Barack can’t shut-up!

    And, apparently, neither can you when the subject is Barack…

  47. floyd says:

    Especially not if it bothers you!hehehehe

  48. An Interested Party says:

    You overestimate your abilities to bother others, darling…

  49. […] the controversy over late-term abortions that was brought back into the public spotlight with the murder of Dr. George Tiller, observes: The argument for unregulated abortion rests on the idea that where there are exceptions, […]

  50. […] murder of abortion doctor George Tiller has had its desired impact, the closing of one of the few clinics in the United States willing to […]