A Leading Abortion Foe on the Movement's Anxieties Over Tiller's Murder

Antiabortion activist and blogger Jill Stanek says murder presents her movement with new challenges.

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Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

I spoke this morning with Jill Stanek, a leading antiabortion activist and blogger (and active Twitterer), about what the murder of George Tiller, who was director of a Kansas clinic that performed abortions, means for her movement. The conversation provides a window into the anxieties antiabortion activists are feeling today:

Do you worry that Tiller's murder will tarnish the antiabortion movement at a time when more Americans than ever are calling themselves "pro-life"?
It's a personal tragedy that a vigilante killed a guy who has, I think, four kids and 10 grandchildren. As a pro-life movement, our whole reason for existence is to try to stop the killing of human beings. The other side [the pro-abortion rights movement], whose very core is violence and which promotes and profits from violence, has tried for years to peg us as the violent ones. And then something like this happens.

The timing is so bad. [Tiller] was due to retire soon. He was under investigation for his license from the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts. And for him to be killed in his church—it's not good.

What's the fallout for the antiabortion movement?
Already we've seen the pro-abortion movement try to exploit this, which is not a surprise. [President Obama's chief of staff] Rahm Emanuel is famous for saying, "Never let a crisis go wasted" and already we're seeing talk of the Justice Department and [Attorney General] Eric Holder calling in forces to protect the abortion forces and clinics, and we're going to see moves to attempt to stifle free speech. It now falls to the pro-life movement to protect the First Amendment.

The pro-life movement is the most peaceful social justice movement in American history. There are a thousand abortion clinics and small groups of protesters outside many of them and nothing ever happens, except that some pro-lifers get run over by pro-aborts [pro-abortion rights activists]. So this is so ironic. There has never been a social justice movement that has been totally focused on saving human lives, as opposed to expanding voting rights or other rights, like the pro-life movement is.

Do you know anything about the suspect in the killing, Scott Roeder?
The killer was not part of our movement. No one knows who he was. He was a crackpot, just like the killer of Martin Luther King was a crackpot. The civil rights movement wasn't blamed for the heightened tension that led to the death of Martin Luther King. And what we're seeing is the corollary.

Has there been a concerted strategizing effort on the part of antiabortion groups to respond to the Tiller murder?

I can't say anything about that.... But I have never seen so many immediate responses from pro-life groups, basically all saying the same thing: We condemn the killing of innocent human beings, including George Tiller. I have never seen anything like this, such an outpouring of one voice.

Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry has made a pretty unapologetic statement about the killing. Where does Terry fit into the antiabortion movement?
The pro-life groups in general don't consider him part of their network. He would not be included on conference calls, for instance. He's got a history. Some of the thing he says are pretty brilliant, but then he goes off.