Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Fighting abortion with violence

There is an essay on American Thinker by Dr. Frank Rosenbloom about the murder of abortionist George Tiller. Dr. Rosenbloom was no fan of Dr. Tiller but nevertheless condemns his killing.

My initial reaction was one of shock, which progressed rapidly to anger. Shock because despite the ongoing efforts of those who seek to destroy it, this is still the United States of America, where differences in views are settled according to the rule of law, not by vigilantes roaming the streets or ambushing helpless people in church pews.

[. . .]

He was detested by pro-life advocates, including this particular pro-life advocate. I must admit that I would not have been personally saddened had he died by slipping on a banana peel, but I am profoundly saddened and truly mortified by his murder. This killing was not the act of a pro-life supporter. It was the act of a person who profoundly misunderstands pro-life principles, democratic ideals and further, had no self control.

Dr. Rosenbloom argues that it is wrong to kill men like Dr. Tiller for two reasons. One is purely practical, this kind of murder damages the pro-life movement.

The other reason is moral.
I have in the past noted that pro-life advocates must promote the right to life of every innocent human being. We need consider not only moral innocence, but innocence legally as determined by our system of law. Dr. Tiller was certainly not, in my view or in the view of most pro-lifers, morally innocent. His supporters would no doubt agree that a person living in Nazi Germany would have been morally justified by violently interceding on behalf of the innocent people being slaughtered in concentration camps. Actions such as this would have been justified even if they resulted in the deaths of the perpetrators. Therefore, how can we reconcile this apparent dilemma? How do we in the pr-life community conclude, while maintaining logical credibility, that in defense of the unborn we cannot kill a person who is guilty of repeatedly killing babies in the past and had planned to do so in the future?

Reconciliation of this dilemma is possible precisely because we do not live in a country like Nazi Germany, a regime founded upon the principles of hate and violence. That system of government itself was intrinsically evil and therefore morally decent people had no obligation to respect the laws allowing and in fact supporting those atrocities. Standing up and violently fighting the regime itself, the agents of that regime and the actions of that evil regime was justified.

The United States, for all of its perceived faults, was founded based upon the principles of liberty and justice and its laws are passed by legislation adherent to the constitution. This country is basically and intrinsically good and its system of government is representative. We are therefore morally bound as citizens to obey its laws even if there are certain laws with which we disagree, since the laws were passed by a majority in the spirit of liberty and democracy. We have the right to protest against laws we find repugnant and we can vote our consciences. If we find that we cannot by our own actions obey a law we find morally reprehensible, we must peacefully refuse to do so and accept the legal consequences. We have no right to use violence against others or, heaven forbid, kill as a protest against lawful, though immoral acts.

I'm sure that most readers have spotted the fatal flaw in Dr. Rosenbloom's argument. Abortion on demand did not come to the American republic because the American people acted through their elected representatives to make it so. Legal abortion came to the entire nation through an act of judicial activism in which a simple majority of a nine judge panel exercised a power which the framers never intended for them to have and issued a decree from the bench.

The American people did not choose a nationwide abortion law and can only change it by electing presidents who will appoint Supreme Court justices (when there are vacancies) who they can only hope will rule to overturn Roe (and as Sandra Day O'Connor and David Souter prove that process is hit-or-miss).

So am I arguing that it is moral to kill abortion providers? After all the national abortion policy was illegitimately imposed on the nation by an unelected branch of government using authority which was usurped from the legislature and the people. Roe vs. Wade has no more genuine legitimacy (using Dr. Rosenbloom's reasoning) than the Nuremberg laws in Nazi Germany.

Be this as it may I do NOT argue that it is permissible to kill men like Dr. Tiller.

As a Christian I am bound by the New Testament's command to obey the secular authorities. The apostle Paul clearly spelled out this policy in the thirteenth chapter of Romans. If Christians are instructed to submit to the rule of a beast like Nero I can find no justification for rebelling against any other secular government - even evil governments like the Nazis of Germany or the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Of course the Christian is not bound to obey laws which command what God forbids or forbid what God commands, but resistance must be passive rather than violent.

To the non Christian I can offer no argument against killing abortionists other than the purely practical. Killing an abortion doctor will not stop abortions. Strike one down and another will simply take his or her place. Of course they deserve to die, they are mass murderers of children. But killing them will only cause the law to view you as a murderer and you will be used as a means of discrediting the pro-life movement.

If violence directed against abortion providers and abortion facilities becomes common the government will treat it as an insurrection rather than as isolated incidents of crime. Pro-life organizations will be regarded as no different than al Qaeda or the Taliban. The state, especially under a president like Obama, will use anti-abortion violence as an excuse to ban firearms and suppress Christian organizations. Any speech critical of abortion will be legally regarded as an incitement to violence and will therefore not be considered to enjoy First Amendment protection.

And not one abortion will be prevented.

Abortion mills will be moved into reinforced concrete bunkers (at taxpayers' expense) and women seeking abortions will be brought to them in armored personnel carriers. Security will be provided by a specially created federal agency and anyone wishing to protest, conduct a prayer vigil or reach out to women seeking to enter the clinic will not be allowed to get close enough to even see the place.

And not one abortion will be prevented.

The backlash against the violence will cost pro-life persons their First and Second Amendment rights and abortions will only become less expensive and more easily obtained.

It simply isn't worth it to kill these bastards.