33 thoughts on “Is it “pro-life” to assassinate an abortionist?

  1. Pro-lifers are not necessarily consistent, we may hate abortion as death, but condone the death sentence not even giving second thought to Paul on Jesus’ cross exposing the Powers in Galatians I think it is written.

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  2. I suppose if one has a radical view of the “Just War Doctrine” it could be both justified, and viewed as a service to God. As for me, I do not see any crosses in the sky, or hear voices calling for retribution in my head.
    But, I have to say, I can understand the violent dislike someone might have for late term abortions.
    For this person it is not solely a “pro-life” issue. That is far to simple a view of their considerations.
    They are viewing this as an issue of justice and life. This is why the people who are pro-life are often in favor of the death penalty as well. It is not simply life versus death, it is innocence versus guilt combined with life and death. A killer of an abortion doctor considers his actions to be justified because he is saving innocent lives while dealing out justice to someone perceived as a grossly guilty individual.
    Here is the convoluted, but well thought out philosophical process of justifying killing abortion doctors and bombing clinics:
    • Life begins at conception.
    • Abortion premeditatively ends life.
    • The government which should protect life does nothing.
    • The basis of our American foundation of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness (in that order) must be protected.
    • unborn children cannot defend themselves, and therefore need a protector.
    • The innocent unborn continue to be slaughtered without retribution, and in fact with government protection of the killers.
    • therefore the government and the killers are already in a state of war with the unborn, and with all who would rise up to be the protectors of the unborn.
    • Just War theory comes into action, and the killing of an abortion doctor is not viewed as murder, but as 1) justice which the government should be performing, and 2) an unfortunate act of war time killing.
    I am not saying this is a good thinking, but it is understandable, and I am surprised that it has not come to civil war proportions in our world. People who desperately want to protect the unborn are passionate, and I am thankful they have been as peaceful in their actions over these 40 years as they have been.
    The real story should be that those who are pro-life have been as patient as they have been for so many years. They have suffered watching millions of unborn babies die, and only a few (out of the millions of them) have become so wacked out to have killed abortion doctors. That seems almost miraculous to me, and I am thankful that this world hasn’t gone crazier over the issue. I may have to post on this myself bro. 😉
    Peace and Baby Ducklings,
    Phil o Salem

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  3. Phil,
    The problem I see with that rationalization is that it is not consistently applied to all situations that are of the same life or death nature. There are people who are going daily without much-needed medication for serious and even life-threatening conditions. And governments do nothing about it. Where are the people who are so passionate about those people’s plights that they’re willing to break into pharmaceutical warehouses and steal the medications these people need?

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  4. Personally I think late term abortion is abhorrent. I certainly don’t think it’s an appropriate profession for a Christian. I would certainly question whether a guy performing late term abortions was fit to be an usher in our church, most certainly if repentance was not forthcoming. But beyond that I’d leave it to God. I can’t help concluding that this assassin has usurped God’s prerogative and betrayed his own cause in the process.

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  5. Whoa, Matt … the articles I read noted that Dr. Tiller performed the late-term abortions when the mother’s life/health was in danger. There are such instances when a choice has to be made, unfortunately between the life of the mother and the life of the child. We don’t know what those instances are and God help any of us if we are ever in them.
    We also really don’t know when life begins, so I’d argue that we cannot really say that millions of lives have been lost to abortion in the 40+ years since it was legalized. Many people do not believe that a life is taken when abortion is performed before the 12th week of pregnancy. Just because you say that it is, does not make it so. In point of legal fact, in the United States a fetus is not considered a viable life until after the 20th week of pregnancy. Even then, that is a questionable point.
    Beyond all of that, we are born into a state of life that requires death at some point. There’s no getting around it. We will all, at some time, die. I do not understand why we elevate the necessity of some lives (those of the unborn in the West) and not others (those who starve in the not West).
    In closing, the Just War argument against a tyrannical government holds no water when you consider this passage in Matthew 26:52 said to Peter in Gethsemane when the Roman soldiers (killers of the innocent) have come for Jesus: “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” He clearly told Peter and all his followers that violence was not part of the plan.

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  6. Hey Gang,
    A few thoughts on my way out the door.
    1) I do not hold the positions I outlined above. Some of them – yes, the line of reasoning – no. Sympathy for the killer – no. I do have an ability to understand the thinking behind it all, and a capacity to see that these are not simply cold-blooded killers, but severely conflicted, and potentially highly intelligent individuals.
    2) The example of sick people and medicine does not hold water in this illustration. Sickness is a natural event of life often – even if it is devastating. My son nearly died of a rare kidney disease and needed a transplant I know this issue at a heartfelt level. But, it does not equate to performing abortions. Abortion by surgical means is not a natural event. It is excessively unnatural, and premeditated. So, the killer who would kill an abortion doctor can not be accused of being inconsistent I do not think. He is dealing with justice in a far more severe level. And you don’t think that medications are not being stolen? That would not even make the news, but people are doing something to get medications to others for free, so who is to say that pro-life people are not involved in that work as well?
    3) The Just War theory is not simply an issue of government against government. For those who follow the US Constitution strictly it is the reason for the Revolution, and or those who follow the teachings of John Locke (who I do like personally) war begins at a personal level, when someone infringes upon God given rights. This further is confirmed by James 4:1-2 where we are told that wars begin within us as individuals.
    4) I wonder who the Muslim world would better identify with? The doctor? The killer? Those who defend the doctor? Those who defend the killer? This makes me wonder how we look in this world.
    Well, off I go. Thanks for some great conversation!
    Peace in,
    Phil

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  7. The main issue with abortion is that it is so polarised. How can you navigate through it and come out the other end if not unscathed then in one piece? I would like to encourage both sides to open up dialogue and patiently wait for more information. The greatest danger I see with most views of pro-choicers is the tremendous influence that consumerism has on society, especially in Christianity. What can the Church do as an alternative to abortion, to help those with unwanted pregnancies? Are Churches willing to adopt and care for these children and include them as part of their families thereby turning the traditional family values on their head as Stanley Hauerwas suggested (paraphrase). The church is not helping mothers with unwanted pregnancies by giving information on what the Church could help them with. What usually happens though is that like most, mothers look eslewhere to abortion clinics because to them the Church is not a viable option due to the way we have told our story such as hypocriticism, and judging them. If anyone is in the best position to help it is the Church.

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  8. I’m not so sure I’m ready to accept that death due to sickness and death due to murder are not comparable. After all, that sounds to me like a model of justice that isn’t so concerned about the tragic loss of life but the cirumstances surrounding that loss. Surely true justice has to be more about retribution and/or vengeance against the wrongdoer, doesn’t it?
    If life should be preserved whenever possible by whatever means, then it seems to me that it doesn’t matter whether the threat comes from a natural source like illness or at the hands of another person. But then again, that’s assuming that the real goal is the protection and saving of lives.

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  9. “Personally I think late term abortion is abhorrent.”
    Sometimes abhorrent choices need to be made. Sadly some pro-life groups have characterized late-term abortions through a distorted lens of dubious “mental health” exemptions and “abortion as birth control” harlots instead of facing the truth. That the vast majority of late term abortions are done in circumstances where the pregnancy isn’t viable, where the child might suffer a painful death shortly after being born, or where the life of the mother is at stake. But that, more truthful, narrative doesn’t line the pockets of anti-abortion activist groups.
    We are now at a point where the number of doctors who specialize in late-term abortions has dwindled down to possibly only one. If he is, in turn, murdered (or forced from practice), are we willing to accept the heartache and death that results when there are no doctors skilled enough or willing to perform these procedures when they are (tragically) necessary? What happens when we can’t make a calculated abhorrent choice in order save a mother? Or, perhaps worse, what happens when that abhorrent choice, when made, is left in the hands of surgeons who only know the procedure in theory.

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  10. Thanks for the discussion Matt, and Jason thank you for the link. This is of course an emotive issue, and one where most people are not able to be detatched when approaching it.
    I tend to be against abortion, but can see instances where it is the best way ahead, especially where the mothers life is threatened, or the childs life would be unviable.
    I also support abortion as a choice for rape/ abuse and or incest victims…
    losts of greys no black and white here. As for killing the assasination, ridiculous, as you say, how is that pro-life?

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  11. Hey Jarred,
    I think that your point about the assumption that at the end there about protecting and saving lives is something I personally wonder about at times.
    On the one hand I believe God is about life. On the other hand neither the law of the Old Covenant which is His, or the facts of life verify that it is the only thing He is about, and sometimes it seems to take a back seat to something else.
    My whole point in considering the position of the killer is this: We say that his position is absurd. We say that the issue is too polarized. Hmmmmm…isn’t the first statement polarizing in and of itself? and shouldn’t we step back to understand the thoughts of the far right justice seekers in order to minister to them, and in doing so find a way of peace?
    Thinking like someone else we totally disagree with is an exercise in anthropological missiology. Even if that person claims to be a Christian already. I wonder how good we are at thinking like the other, and consequently understanding the other. It seems acceptable if someone is radically liberal to understand them. It seems unacceptable and unpopular to understand them is they are radically conservative.

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  12. Jason said, “Sometimes abhorrent choices need to be made.” Yes, my abhorence for late term abortion does not prevent me from seeing the alternatives as sometimes being equally abhorent. Yet, having seen some ultrasounds of late term abortions, I am never going to have warm fuzzies about it. Wherever life begins, I am very much convinced that it begins earlier than late term. I agree with Sally that the ethics are not always black and white, yet I think we must admit, to abort or not abort is a very black and white act. As are assassinations.
    I am reminded of the Old Testament story of King David who, though he was God’s favourite, was nevertheless forbidden from building the temple because he had blood on his hands. I am also reminded of Christian soldiers in earlier ages who, even when they believed their cause just, still sought confession afterwards. They realised that, even when faced with a choise between two wrongs, two wrongs don’t make a right. It may be that Dr. George Tiller was sometimes helping women to choose the lesser evil. Even so I think it is still appropriate to question whether he should be representing a church.
    As for the assassin, I am inclined to suspect he was not following just war doctrine but holy war doctrine.
    As for me, as a pacifist I countenance neither.

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  13. Matt i just felt nothing for him What goes round comes round is all i thought – the bastard got owned in this life in a way. I just felt nothing like when you read of a pedophile being murdered in a jail. Just that sick flat feeling and o well… Murder however will not erradicate abortion and the taking of life is just that. So whether in utero or out of the uterus murder is murder But is not the Bible full of murder and murderous ppl etc… To sanction the murder of this man means one is militant in approach. It be there i draw the line but like i said he got owned

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  14. Some other stray questions on abortion. When does life occur? If you can kill a fetus, is it not alive? If even a single cell is alive is this possibly the wrong question? What about this. When does emotional bonding occur? When does consciousness arise? When does a baby-mother system go from being one to two? Can we draw neat lines?

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  15. “Can we draw neat lines?”
    I can draw one very neat line. The moment we dictate and rule over a woman’s fertility and child-bearing through secular law. That is, after all, what anti-abortion groups ask for. People in the abortion debate love to argue over “where life begins”, but are often reluctant to think through what the consequences are once you start having that much control over an individual’s life. That it reduces women to mere incubators for potential life. That it creates a whole set of gender-exclusive laws controlling the birthing process.
    I don’t think any sane or serious pro-choice proponent has asked a pro-lifer to love abortions, approve of abortions, or have an abortion. Only to recognize that it’s madness to try to micromanage women in this manner. That it never stopped abortions (which have been happening since ancient times), and that it never will.
    When “life occurs” is the question asked when we want to exclude the mother from the equation. When we grant primacy to the potential life over the life of the mother.

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  16. I hadn’t considered it from that angle, I was questioning the appropriateness of the question from a purely logical angle. I can’t see any beginning, only a continuous stream of life.
    Since you bring this up though Jason, would you argue for the opposite, that the mother takes primacy over the baby? Or would you argue for an intermediate position, that nethc mother or the church have primacy? I am left unsure by your response.

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  17. “that the mother takes primacy over the baby”
    In the sense that forcing a woman to bear a child denies her own moral agency, yes. But more to the point, it isn’t really a question of primacy of either mother or child, but of where power and control in birth is believed to emanate. In a patriarchal system, it emanates from, and is controlled by, men. The fathers. In that world women are mere vessels for “seed”, and any interference with that process undermines the primacy of male rule.

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  18. I wonder if debates over women’s moral agency are somewhat moot though. Two terms of Bush couldn’t overturn the abortion laws. Obama is hardly about to overturn the abortion laws. Is woman’s moral agency really under any serious threat? The very act we are discussing here, this resort to vigilante style assassinations, is that not a tacit admission of political impotance?

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  19. Phil wrote “Thinking like someone else we totally disagree with is an exercise in anthropological missiology. Even if that person claims to be a Christian already. I wonder how good we are at thinking like the other, and consequently understanding the other. It seems acceptable if someone is radically liberal to understand them. It seems unacceptable and unpopular to understand them is they are radically conservative.”
    This is interesting, Phil, because my experience has been exactly the opposite. As a liberal in a conservative area, people seem to dismiss my POV and do not seek to understand me. I have found it unacceptable and unpopular to have the positions that I have and it has been acceptable and popular for me to seek to understand the majority opinion where I am. Perhaps what you are experiencing is more likely a feature of where you live (Salem, Massachusetts) and not a universal phenomenon.
    Jason, you make some excellent points about the timeline of life and the ranking of importance between mother and child. The idea that children have greater importance than parents (in the grand scheme of things) is a novel idea in terms of our history. Until late in the last century, it was rare for children to even survive childhood. Now medical advances have made it so that we (parents) may assume that all of the children born to us are going to survive into adulthood … for the most part. The grief of children dying before parents is also quite new. If you do any reading of historical biographies about childhood, children were considered quite dispensable until their teen years. Part of this was economics, and part was emotional. Children contributed to the economic health of the family or they died. It was fairly simple. We are now wealthy enough to allow them to be fairly like parasites (in strictly economic terms) until they are well into adulthood. With this has come a host of ethical/moral questions that we need to answer as a society.
    How do we measure the relative worth of a life? Both at the beginning when it is still unlived? And in the middle when one is in childbearing years?
    People of Abrahamic faith are bound to answer these questions vastly differently than people without a faith code or those of different faith. Since we all do live together in pluralistic societies, how do we decide to answer those questions?

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  20. Sonja, how do we (as a pluralistic society) decide to answer those questions? Through democratic processes I would say. But that means accepting when democracy doesn’t go our way. And that is where separation of church and state becomes important. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the assassin was a wee bit theocratic in his theology, unable to cope when his government went in a different direction to his religion, unable to differentiate between his national and Christian identity, unable to accept a theologically unpalatable but democratic decision.
    Phil suggests as much by his summary of the logic: “The basis of our American foundation of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness (in that order) must be protected.” Who is the “our”? Who is the “we”? Are they “our” babies? It saddens me that abortion is so prevalent. It saddens me that lifestyles that lead to unwanted babies go largely unquestioned by those living them. But is it a Christian’s duty to kill the killers? I would challenge anyone to justify that on a New Testament basis. I find it suggestive that Phil’s exegesis rests on the theocratic parts of the Old Testament. I would ask people to consider the practice of post New Testament Christians. Did the early Christians see it as their duty to murder Pagans who abandoned their babies? No, they started adopting them instead. I think the passions of anti-abortionist extremists would be better channelled in that direction.

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  21. I find it interesting that very few of the comments have attempted to answer the question asked in the main post.
    “Just how is assassination pro-life?”
    Most seem to have evaded it, and discussed the morality of abortion instead.
    Is that because the main question makes people feel uncomfortable? Or are there moral blind spots? Or what?

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  22. I’m a doctor (GP)in the UK. I am generally seen by my colleagues as “not doing terminations” – that means I don’t sign the form saying I think it’s in the best interests of the patient to have an abortion. However, I WOULD sign the form if there were severe danger to the health of the mother, health of existing children (although find this difficult to imagine) or if the fetus had a defect incompatible with life and the mother wanted a termination.
    I’ve never actually had to do this, as it’s a relatively rare situation and most abortions in the UK are done for “social” reasons.
    I don’t see this as being incompatible with my faith.
    I find the whole abortion situation in the USA bizarre. How can a country where there is supposedly a separation between church and state be so militantly dictatorial on “spiritual” grounds on such matters?

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  23. Steve,
    I’ve evaded the orginal question for one simple reason: I am not “pro-life” in the sense that the word is generally used when discussing abortion and I’m not sure how to answer that question without coming across as taking a shot at the pro-life/anti-abortion crowd as a whole.

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  24. Maybe you SHOULD take a shot at the pro-life crowd Jarred. Ooops. Better be careful. Some may take it literally [ducks head].
    More seriously, I can’t readily identify with either label. As someone said on a similar thread a few months ago, I want to empower people to “choose life”, and that sorta puts me at odds with both the pro-life and the pro-choise lobbies.
    It particularly puts me at odds with the assassin. I cannot see his actions in any way as “pro-life” understood literally. And I wonder, if “pro-life” is interpreted so narrowly that it only includes the unborn (and the American unborn at that, not the Iraquis) then it has become nothing more than a dog whistle propoganda phrase.

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