Tiller's Murder, as Wrong as Abortion, Adds Stigma to 'Pro-Life' Label

You can't be pro-life on the one hand and support the death penalty on the other.

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By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

My colleagues Bonnie Erbe and Peter Roff wrote earlier about abortion doctor George Tiller's murder, and I've been reading a lot of similar commentary for the last day or so. The best reader comment I've seen so far was on Andrew Sullivan's website, from a Kansas City woman who had been a protestor outside Tiller's clinic, but who had stopped when she realized how radical the group was becoming: "Sometimes I wonder if I need to come up with a new label for myself other than 'pro life' just to distance myself from them." You might recall that I wrote a few weeks ago that we need a new name for the majority of Americans who are in favor of more restrictions on abortion but who are not pro-life extremists. This case makes a good argument for doing that.

Here's the best comment I've seen among the many columns and blogs, which is from The Corner's Robert George, who is a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton:

Whoever murdered George Tiller has done a gravely wicked thing. The evil of this action is in no way diminished by the blood George Tiller had on his own hands. No private individual had the right to execute judgment against him. We are a nation of laws. Lawless violence breeds only more lawless violence. Rightly or wrongly, George Tiller was acquitted by a jury of his peers. "Vengeance is mine, says the Lord." For the sake of justice and right, the perpetrator of this evil deed must be prosecuted, convicted, and punished. By word and deed, let us teach that violence against abortionists is not the answer to the violence of abortion. Every human life is precious. George Tiller's life was precious. We do not teach the wrongness of taking human life by wrongfully taking a human life.

Professor George's comments remind me of Cardinal Bernardin's 1984 speech in which he described the "seamless garment" of being pro-life: that is, you can't be opposed to abortion on one hand and support the death penalty on the other. Similarly, you can't oppose abortion and then murder people in the name of the "pro-life" movement. As George says, what happened in that Kansas City church was "gravely wicked."

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