Jun 27, 2009

Pro-Life reaction to the Murder of Dr. George Tiller

How are members of the Pro-Life movement responding to the murder of late-term abortionist Dr. George Tiller? Our response first and foremost, is and has clearly been to condemn in no uncertain terms the murder of Dr. Tiller. All Pro-Life groups have condemned the murder, declared it unjustified and senseless, and expressed sympathy to the Tiller family and regret that George Tiller was denied the time to repent.

Though Pro-Lifers found what Dr. Tiller did - late term and third trimester abortions, repulsive, U.S. Law allowed him this license. While Pro-Lifers are unanimous in our condemnation of his murder, a murder committed by a schizophrenic and delusional unemployed drifter, we also recognize that Dr. Tiller's murder will be used an attempt to shut up the Pro-Life movement. We cannot let this happen.

Tiller's murder will be used by the radical Pro-Choice advocates as an accusation against the rhetoric of Pro-Lifers. They will say that our inflamed speech lead to Tiller's violent death, even though we did not pull the trigger. Their argument is essentially that when anyone (especially Bill O'Reilly or Randal Terry) said that Dr. Tiller had "Blood on his hands", this was an incitement to violence.

This is simply not true for the following reason. Do a web search for "Blood on his hands" and see how common this accusation is and how broad the spectrum of those so accused (Google returns nearly half a million references, but Pro-Lifers prefer to use www.goodsearch.com). Examples include Pope John Paul II, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the New York Times, Rapper Ice-T, author Salmon Rushdie, and President George W. Bush by nearly everyone in the Mainstream media. I could continue but you get the picture, the point is a phrase like “Blood on his hands” is used in all sorts of accusations where murder was not the end result.

Even Bill O'Reilly has been accused of having blood on his hands for having said Dr. Tiller had blood on his hands.

One emblematic “Blood on his hands” accusation illustrates the appropriateness of passionate rhetoric in an another important National debate: I speak of the accusation of the blood on the hands of Lawyer John Yoo of the White house Office of Legal Council, OLC. Yoo wrote the OLC memos used to defend water-boarding, called enhanced interrogation techniques by its defenders and torture by detractors. The more time passes since 911 the more it seems that what once was considered legal as an enhanced interrogation technique, garnering silent acquiescence even from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi then, now is more generally described as torture and illegal, garnering the full fury of said Speaker.

Just as passionately as people debate water-boarding, and rightly so considering its life or death consequences, so too should we passionately debate abortion. However some on the Pro-Choice side suggest that abortion is a settled issue, when all they really can claim is that abortion is legal (as was slavery, child labor and physically beating one's wife or child at certain times in our past. Even water-boarding was “legal” in 2003). This is the point, making something legal does not make it right, and even a decision by the Supreme Court on water-boarding would not end this debate.

The Supreme Court decisions of Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton cast aside all abortion restrictions in 1973. The Doe decision declared that any restrictions on abortion, no matter how late, must include an exemption for the mother's health, defined as “that the medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors - physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age - relevant to the wellbeing of the patient. All these factors may relate to health.” Please note that this says nothing about life-threatening.

Just as one could not truly debate water-boarding by limiting the discussion to the facts of the lives saved and the terrorist attacks prevented, avoiding a discussion of the physical pain and trauma inflicted on the prisoner of war, as well as the damage to our Nation's moral standing, one cannot debate abortion without discussing all the facts. In other words we cannot talk of Dr. Tiller's death without also talking about his life, and his life's work.

Dr. Tiller's web site said he performed third trimester therapeutic abortions, abortions for the mother's health. A former employee of Tiller named Luhra Tivis was told by Tiller that he only did abortions on deformed babies, or for a medical crisis. However Ms. Tivis reported, “I was seeing eight- and nine-month pregnant women come in, and out of those two dozen a week, only about 2 percent had medical deformities. I thought I was pro-choice back then, but week after week I kept seeing these women coming in with healthy babies and I saw all the records. I didn't think that was right.” Though Dr. Tiller aborted deformed babies, he also clearly aborted healthy ones, at 8-9 months gestation, for reasons of the mother’s psychological and emotional health.

The Kansas State Board of Healing Arts still has an open investigation against Dr. Tiller, and his employee/partner Dr. Shelly Sella on a botched abortion, which could result in loss of medical license for Dr. Sella, obviously not for Dr. Tiller. The KSBHA is also investigating 11 counts of violating Kansas law which required a second opinion from an unaffiliated physician when third trimester abortions for “health” are performed. The criminal case for breaking this law was dismissed, even though Dr. Sella obviously worked with Dr. Tiller and her second opinion resulted in financial gain. However the Board case is still pending against Dr. Sella, and this is the correct action because two doctors with financial ties should not be confirming that each others abortions follow Kansas or Federal Law.

Lest you consider this an isolated or one-sided account about Dr. Tiller's work, Steve Waldman, editor in chief of Beliefnet in a recent post highlighted the "problem" with the late term abortions Dr. Tiller performed. Waldman presented evidence that most were for the "mental health" of the mother, not for any physical health risk to the mother or for a fetal deformity. Most telling is that these abortions for “mental health” could in no way even amount to a psychological reason that could be stretched to the limits of legality. In order for that to happen there must be a psychiatric condition that was "substantial and irreversible." However respected psychiatry professor Paul McHugh reviewed Tiller's records and said, "I saw no file that justified abortion on that basis. All the files justified the abortions on the patient's present state of mind of being distressed and social proposals that this person's life would be less successful, less developed, less opportune if this child were born, and those are not psychiatric reasons, those are social reasons.” All this on healthy and viable babies.

Despite these facts about Dr. Tiller's medical practice, some radical Pro-Choice advocates want to remove the best weapon we Pro-Lifers have, our rhetoric, our words, which evince our passion. Our rhetoric needs to bear witness to the truth that abortion is a civil rights issue, and abortion ends the civil rights of the most defenseless in our society because abortion murders them. Dr. Tiller's third trimester abortions of otherwise healthy babies makes this point abundantly clear. We can say this no less passionately or emphatically, using the same weapons of the other great civil rights, suffragette and abolitionist movements of our great country. If Dr. Martin Luther King had followed the advice of the timid in his day, President Obama would still be sitting in the back of the bus.

Dr. Tiller's death needs to be the catalyst for the debate this country never had, the debate the Supreme Court removed from our hands, the debate on how late is too late for an abortion? No one in America supports this kind of license against near new-borns. This is why all third trimester abortions need to be illegal, because so many are performed not to save a mother's life, but for “therapeutic” emotional, psychological and even social reasons. Our President says abortion should be safe, legal and rare. He could start with the stroke of his pen and outlaw these late term and third trimester abortions, 60,000 by Tiller alone, done through the legal loophole for the mother's “health”.

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