Anti-choice groups swiftly condemned the murder of Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, shot dead on his way to church this Sunday in Wichita, Kansas, while Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, stopped short of justifying the murder but failed to disavow the use of violence against providers.
The New York Times reported,
Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion group that has led opposition to Dr. Tiller’s methods, denounced the killing on Sunday, as did other national groups opposed to abortion. “Our prayers go out to his family and the thousands of people this will impact,” Mr. Newman said in a telephone interview from his home in Wichita.
Other statements from anti-choice groups, including the Susan B. Anthony List — " "The Susan B. Anthony List condemns this anti-life act in the strongest of terms…Authentic progress in women’s rights has always encompassed the protection of human rights of every person across the board" — the American Life League — "Today’s actions were tragic, and serve as another reminder that all human life is sacred" — "the National Right to Life Committee unequivocally condemns any such acts of violence regardless of motivation" — suggested that anti-choice groups clearly consider pursuing their aims through violence immoral.
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Yet Randall Terry, in a statement carried by Christian News Wire, said, "George Tiller was a mass-murderer. We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God. I am more concerned that the Obama Administration will use Tiller’s killing to intimidate pro-lifers into surrendering our most effective rhetoric and actions. Abortion is still murder. And we still must call abortion by its proper name; murder."
While mainstream anti-choice groups attempted to draw a bright line between their own anti-choice activism and violence against an abortion provider, on Religion Dispatches, Frances Kissling wondered whether an environment of unending protest, harassment and stigmatization of abortion provision inevitably, eventually, leads to violence:
…[W]hen people are treated to an unrelenting barrage of religious claims that abortion is murder, that doctors who perform abortion should be charged with crimes and sent to prison, and when pickets outside clinics pray the rosary and display mangled fetuses on crosses as if they were Jesus Christ himself, some nuts are going to do what Terry suggested and kill the “baby killers.” Perhaps nuts are just nuts and will do what they do whether or not some religious leaders provide a moral frame for immoral acts and others remain silent. Frustration at not getting your way leads people to do and say terrible things.
Frances’s plainspoken yet incontrovertible conclusion forces us to ask how a person could die for extending compassion to women: "Dr. Tiller saved women’s lives; this is not a debatable point."