Pro-Life Killing: An Oxymoron? Explore More Content
Alan's monthly letter for January 2014
On May 1, 2009, Scott Roeder walked into Reformation Lutheran Church, pulled out a gun, and shot George Tiller in the head at point blank range. Tiller was a late-term abortion provider. Every pro-life leader and organization I know condemned the killing.
Although abortion-choice advocates noted our outrage at Roeder’s action, many believe pro-lifers are being inconsistent. They claim that if we believe the unborn is a human being like every other person, then killing an abortion doctor wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. After all, their reasoning goes, if a man attempts to kill a toddler, deadly force might be justified to defend the child. Therefore, if we believe the unborn is morally equivalent to a toddler, then killing a doctor before they perform an abortion may be a permissible defensive act. The unborn and toddler are parallel situations.
But pro-lifers neither advocate nor condone killing abortion doctors. This fact, abortion-choice advocates believe, betrays our true beliefs: We don’t think the unborn are true human beings. Therefore, we’re either inconsistent or we don’t believe what we say about the unborn.
I disagree. Although the unborn and a toddler are equally valuable human beings, defending a toddler with deadly force is not parallel to defending the unborn with deadly force. Three differences come to mind.
First, if a madman’s attempt to kill a toddler is thwarted with lethal force by a Good Samaritan, no other person would continue the effort to kill the toddler. The child’s life would be spared and no longer in harm’s way. If an abortion doctor is killed, however, a pregnant woman can seek another abortion provider to do the job. The life of the unborn would still be in jeopardy. Killing a doctor doesn’t protect the unborn the same way a toddler is protected when their killer is stopped.
There is a second difference. If a person doesn’t realize their action will kill a human being, then it seems excessive to use lethal force to stop them. Consider a hypothetical situation. A cardiologist prescribes medicine for a pregnant woman to treat a blood condition. Unbeknownst to the doctor, the medicine has the side effect of killing her unborn child. Would the appropriate response be to kill the doctor before he writes the prescription? No, that would be excessive. There are non-lethal ways of accomplishing the same end. If the doctor were trying to kill a toddler, however, then it would be obvious he knew the child was an innocent human being and deadly force may be necessary. In the same way, abortion providers don’t necessarily believe they are killing innocent human beings that are morally equivalent to you and me (although some might). It would be better to find an alternative, less lethal response that saves the child.
Third, an abortion doctor is not like a killer who has a specific person as their target. Nothing short of deadly force might stop a killer. All it takes, though, for an abortionist to cease their activity is the verbal request of the woman who is seeking an abortion. She simply can change her mind and the life of the unborn is spared.
These three differences demonstrate that killing an abortionist is not parallel to killing a madman who tries to kill a toddler. Therefore, pro-lifers aren’t being inconsistent when we condemn the killing of abortion doctors. You don’t always have to use deadly force to prevent someone from killing another person.
We should also be reminded of the importance of engaging women facing a crisis pregnancy. They are the ones asking for abortion. It’s not doctors demanding to perform them. Not only should the pro-life community try to change the minds of abortion-minded women, but we should also provide them with the love, support, and care they need to carry their child to term.
This month marks the 41st year that abortion has been legal in the United States. Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider, tells us that 3,321 unborn children will be killed in our country today. Tomorrow, another 3,321 will be killed. The next day, another 3,321. And so on. The number dead is astonishing. It’s so high, it’s almost impossible to comprehend.
My pledge is to stop abortion by changing minds, training others to change minds, and finding real-life solutions that lower the abortion rate and eventually make abortion-on-demand a thing of the past.