Calling the killing of Dr. George Tiller by Scott Roeder a murder, many among the anti-abortion crowd seem to be trying to distance themselves from the act.
For instance, Patrick J. Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition says that “…It would be a double tragedy for those who oppose the pro-life movement to take this episode and use it to paint the pro-life movement with a broad brush of extremism and violence."
But the truth is that the killing is best thought of as a cold-blooded assassination meant to achieve a certain reaction, rather than a single "episode" of a deranged man. It was a political assassination wrapped in (God’s) clothes fashioned by the anti-abortion movement.
Roeder is part of a broader milieu, in the political movement sense and undoubtedly within his own personal realm, that routinely calls both doctors who perform abortions and the women who have them, murderers.
Most egregiously we have the likes of Bill O’Reilly, who for years has compared Dr. Tiller’s work to that of a Nazi. There’s a reason O’Reilly is so over the top about abortion—his audience has found him and he revels in their Christian warrior magnification of his message.
The response to this isn't about free speech, disgust with O'Reilly aside. The O'Reilly's of the world will always exist, and not just on the topic of abortion. Our job is to delegitimize O'Reilly through our own speech and through organizing, and to push the leaders of the anti-abortion crowd to do the same.
Instead of focusing on O'Reilly, et al, we need to take Roeder's killing of Tiller for what it really is--an act of domestic terrorism, meant to inspire fear among the broader populace. As in, “look what happens when you don’t agree with us.”
It's very hard to believe the assassin, Roeder, acted without the knowledge of any other anti-abortion militants, who have so villainized doctors, and women, that it's highly likely they are celebrating Roeder's act today. They probably view him as a martyr. The U.S. government needs to ferret these people out.
And the rest of us should understand there's a political dimension to this as well. It’s also an act meant to incite the anti-abortion base at a very deep level, to inspire them to join with right wing zealots such as Rush Limbaugh in resisting the moderating voices that are emerging within the Republican party.
Is it really a coincidence that this occurs just as moderate Republicans have gained a much bigger voice in the public debate? It’s as though Roeder sent a resounding message to the suggestion that the Republican Party is big enough to encompass the range of beliefs about abortion: NO.
Let's hope reason prevails.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009