Pro-Life Hypocrisy?

In the wake of the murder of Dr. George Tiller, churches and pro-life groups have been tripping all over themselves in condemning his killing and distancing themselves from his alleged assassin. But is this position hypocritical?

Although the following line of reasoning is not original with him, William Saletan is such an eloquent and incisive writer (one of the best I’ve ever encountered), it is difficult to lightly dismiss his arguments.

What say ye?

From the Saletan article:

[quote=Saletan]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.

But aren’t even mass murderers in our society given a trial by jury - even when they are obviously guilty? Everyday life in this country is not war, and without controls like these wouldn’t we would have lynching and anarchy?

If pro-life groups promote lawless killing of abortionists, it’s likely to result in more abortions and more people in favor of abortion.

Women who have abortions are guilty of murder but I think their guilt is less because of all the false information and pressure they have been given, as well as the difficulty of their situation. Legal resources should be applied against the abortionists, not so much against the women who are, indeed, victims.

But I think it is true that many people (even pro-lifers) don’t feel the horror of abortion as they would the horror of mass murders of the elderly. We can more easily put ourselves in the place of the elderly.

I say that one who is pro-life does not kill someone in cold blood. I have not seen a single pro-life group that has applauded the mudrder of Dr Tiller

If you don’t accept what he did, then maybe it’s time to ask yourself what you really believe. Is abortion murder? Or is it something less, a tragedy that would be better avoided? Most of us think it’s the latter. We’re looking for ways to prevent abortions—not just a few this month, but millions down the line—without killing or prosecuting people. Come and join us.

Was Jesus legally murdered? After all, Peter denied him three times. His disciples and his own mother stood idly by while the tragedy unfolded. Did human society truly legally murder the Son of God? Was Jesus something less than the Son of God, whose crucifixion was a “tragedy” that would be better avoided? Most of the secular world today think it’s the latter. We’re looking for ways to prevent murder - not just a few this month, but many thousands down the line - without killing or prosecuting people. Come and join us - on the dark side.:shrug:

I don’t think the comparison is quite apt. But it still poses an interesting dilemma.

If, say, I was a German during WWII, and if I saw Joseph Mengele on the street, would I be morally justified in gunning him down on the spot, no matter what? Well, probably not. First of all, it is, according to the CCC, the duty of the state to prosecute criminals after the fact, not mine. When I see Mengele on the street, he is not, then and there, killing a Jew. Perhaps he has repented. Perhaps he will do so before sending another Jew to his death. What he has done, when I see him walking on the street, is all in the past. It is up to the state, not to me, to make him pay for his past crimes. The fact that the state was not, at that moment, willing to punish him, does not confer on me the right to act as the civil authority.

When Tiller was killed, every crime he had done was all in the past at that moment. As we know, the state was not willing to prosecute him. But it was still the state’s function, not the killer’s, to make Tiller pay for his past crimes. Tiller was not, then and there, trying to kill a baby. It would have been reasonable to believe that sometime or other Tiller would probably kill again. But it was not a certainty, and he was not in the act of doing it.

But on the other hand, what if I see Mengele starting to put a poisonous IV into a man’s arm? I am morally free to prevent him from doing it and, depending on a number of things, may be morally obliged to do it, even to the point of using deadly force against him. In making my decision, I would also be obliged to consider the other obligations I have in life and the consequences to others if I kill Mengele in his “clinic”. If, due to the protection provided by the state to Mengele’s clinic, my chances of getting access to it in order to intervene at the right moment are remote, the whole question is just a theoretical exercise.

It may seem hypocritical to some that we do not invade clinics like Tiller’s to stop them in the act, even to the point of using deadly force. But while we might have an easier time of it than one might have had in trying to invade Mengele’s clinic at Auschwitz, we are quite unlikely to succeed in the effort. Those places are well-protected. Knowing that, and knowing the likely futility of it, and further knowing that we might not actually find the perps in the act, and further knowing the consequences it will have to others (e.g., our families go without support, others to whom I have merely talked are prosecuted as “co-conspirators”) the moral obligation to invade the clinics to stop the perps in the act recedes from the “real” and becomes a theoretical exercise.

Having said all of that, one has to ask oneself whether one would nevertheless gun down one who had killed his/her own child or grandchild, yet walked because the state would not prosecute him. I would like to think I wouldn’t, but I don’t know for sure that I wouldn’t.
Because of that personal uncertainty, I truly do have to face the fact that some lives are more important to me than others.

And finally, I have to admit to myself that I am sufficiently unempathetic to be unmoved by Tiller’s death. The world is better off without him.

Priest For Life was present when Terri Shiavo was fighting her last battle against her murders in the hospital in Florida. All the time praying, giving support to her family and friends, the same way as it is done in front of an abortion mill.
After she was killed, neither Priest For Life nor her family went into a rampage to kill the assassins, on the contrary, peacefully but boldly denounced the cruelty of her husband and of the state to kill Terri. Did anyone listen?
At the same time, in Rome, our beloved JP2 was dying a dignifying death condemned Terri’s abuse in America.
All of this was done in a peaceful and prayful manner -characteristic of the pro-life people.
Of course, the pro-life movements don’t celebrate the killing of one who chose to be on the other side. They must condemn any act of violence but it does not mean hypocrisy.:o Only God has the right to take the life of any of His creatures when He decides it.

Here’s a 1994 article from The Wanderer by Charles Rice that you should read:

What say ye?


Very good post. The world is indeed better off without his services. The insight as to catching & stopping a heinous crime in the act versus a “pre-emptive” strike is right on.

After I wrote my comparison paraphrase, I too wondered if it conveyed the thoughts that were going on as I tried to keep within the framework of the author’s wording. Some of those thoughts were:

  1. If the forming baby in the womb only looks like a “blob of tissue” is the baby any less a person with a soul. Just as, if Jesus only looks like a man, is He any less than the Son of God? One may extend the thought to the Holy Eucharist. Just because the Holy Eucharist only looks & tastes like bread & wine, is it ridiculous to consider it to be the complete body, soul & divinity of the Son of God? Answer, if Jesus’ words at the Last Supper were literal, then we are obliged to take Him at His Word in faith, just as Catholics are obliged to take the Magisterium (as the Vicar of Christ) as to the right to life of the forming baby. It doesn’t matter whether our natural senses are sensitive enough to see the truth.

  2. How it looks like Pro-Life folks may not truly believe that the baby in the womb has full personhood, just as one might question the apparent lack of forceful action by the disciples in defense of the Son of God with the sword as being apparent evidence of an underlying lack of faith in Jesus as the Son of God. But Peter had cut off the ear of one of the arresting officers, when Our Lord told him not to take action with the sword. Vengeance is the Lord’s alone. Vigilante-ism is not sanctioned by God apparently.

  3. The looking to reduce the numbers of abortions “without killing and prosecution” is the same old straw argument of “safe, legal, and rare”. It seems to me that many are out of their “proportionate reasoning” minds when it comes to pacifying & justifying their guilty consciences with their Peace & Justice rhetoric espousing other “common good” issues, “common ground” alternative, “seamless garment” equal weighting of social injustices. The “without killing” is an argument against capital punishment for those who provide or procure abortions. The argument is sound. “Without prosecution” is not sound when it comes to abortion providers especially and, to a lesser extent, procurers. Why should the act of murder be safe or legal? How is the change the hearts & minds mentality going to produce better results in reduced abortion numbers than the pre-1973 levels of abortion?

  4. The use of the word “tragedy” to describe the decision to have an abortion. Tragedy is a word that one uses when you describe something that was inevitable and could not be averted.

The author is very persuasive and dangerous, IMO.

Excellent article!

**Check out some of these other threads and you will find a significant number of individuals who applaud Dr. Tiller’s “demise” and put smiley faces after their despicable posts.

The theme runs throughout applicable CAF threads. It’s repulsive.


“And finally, I have to admit to myself that I am sufficiently unempathetic to be unmoved by Tiller’s death. The world is better off without him.”

**Without having been in Dr. Tiller’s shoes, or the shoes of a woman trapped in a pregnancy, empathy would be impossible.


Thank you to those who posted.

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