By Anne Eggebroten
Friday, June 5, 2009
Recent commentaries in major national newspapers contend that the murder of Dr. George Tiller cannot be blamed on virulent anti-abortion rhetoric. Given the studied connection between word and deed, Anne Eggebroten disagrees.
Editor's Note: The following is a commentary. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the views of Women's eNews.
(WOMENSENEWS)--In the past few days I've been reading articles about why the anti-abortion movement shouldn't be blamed for the murder of Dr. George Tiller.
The Los Angeles Times ran an editorial on Tuesday under the headline "Don't Exploit a Tragedy." The pieced closed with: "It's unfair to ask anti-abortion activists to muffle their message because it might inspire an unbalanced individual to commit an atrocity."
On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal ran "The Religious Right Didn't Kill George Tiller" on its opinion page.
I have to join the chorus of those who disagree.
In fact, the man who killed Tiller has just shot the anti-abortion movement squarely in the foot.
He exposes the inherent contradiction within activism that calls itself pro-life but shows a lack of respect for the lives and consciences of others. Religious choices different from their own are suspect; even houses of prayer are not sacred.
By taking a 67-year-old man's life as he stood in his church serving God, the killer said, "You are wrong, the 12 people on the jury that acquitted you in March are wrong, the Supreme Court since 1973 has been wrong, the Reformation Lutheran Church is wrong. I and my friends in the movement to end abortion are right. We will stop you."
For 20-some years, anti-abortionists have claimed the moral high ground with some success. They've raised millions of dollars and persuaded some voters to back them; South Dakotans, however, rejected their initiatives twice in the last three years.
People who don't agree with them are "murderers."
Doctors who end a pregnancy of a few weeks are "baby killers."
Those few people like Tiller who are willing to help a woman in the last trimester, a woman carrying a wanted baby that can't live--for example, without a brain--these doctors are compared to Adolf Hitler or Josef Mengele.
Yet now anti-abortion leaders are very sorry about the death of Tiller.
"I don't know of one legitimate pro-life leader who would not unequivocally condemn this," Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition told a Los Angeles Times reporter in a story published on June 1.
"Legitimate"? Apparently Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, doesn't count. He's still calling Tiller "a mass murderer" and refusing to give up "our most effective rhetoric" (WeNews Commentary, June 2).
Then there's Regina Dinwiddie, the Kansas City activist who was quoted in the Los Angeles Times on June 2 as saying "George Tiller needed killing," not to mention the unabated hatred on talk radio, blogs and anti-abortion Web sites.
Anti-abortion groups cannot claim to be innocent of the blood of Tiller as long as they continue to use the word "murder" to describe legally ending a pregnancy after consultation between the doctor, the pregnant woman and perhaps others.
Every study of violence prevention finds that verbal abuse precedes shoving and pushing, which can escalate to killing. Roy F. Baumeister, in the 1999 edition of his book "Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty," writes that people "typically start off insulting each other or saying cruel things, and then perhaps they shout and scream at each other and from there they proceed to hit each other."
Then hitting can lead to killing, but it all starts with "lesser stages of aggression," like Randall Terry calling someone a murderer or Regina Dinwiddie saying Tiller "needed killing."
Call abortion wrong, continue working to change the law--but when you call it murder, you make crazy people feel entitled to pick up a gun.
Anne Eggebroten teaches women and religion at California State University, Northridge. In 1994 she edited a pro-choice book, "Abortion--My Choice, God's Grace: Christian Women Tell Their Stories."
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
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