Abortion

Roeder's Rescue

Why is killing abortionists wrong?

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Scott Roeder, whose trial begins this week in Wichita, Kansas, wanted to argue that killing the abortion doctor George Tiller was necessary to prevent a greater evil: the murder of unborn children. Since that is not how the law views what Tiller did for a living, it is not surprising that the judge would not let Roeder present a "necessity" defense.

But it is surprising that so many people who proclaim that fetuses have a right to life reject Roeder's argument out of hand. Killing abortionists may or may not be a good long-term strategy for saving unborn babies, but it is hard to see why the use of deadly force is not morally justified, at least in principle, once you accept the premise that abortion is tantamount to murder.

After Roeder shot Tiller in the doctor's Wichita church last May, anti-abortion groups rushed to condemn the attack. "The National Right to Life Committee unequivocally condemns any such acts of violence regardless of motivation," the organization declared. "The pro-life movement works to protect the right to life and increase respect for human life. The unlawful use of violence is directly contrary to that goal."

The more confrontational Operation Rescue sang the same tune. "Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels, to bring [Tiller] to justice," it said. "We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning." The group nevertheless welcomed the resulting closure of Tiller's clinic. Similarly, Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry implicitly condemned Tiller's killing even while continuing to call him a "mass murderer."

Obeying the law is generally a good idea, but there are exceptions. When the law blesses the murder of babies, it is hardly worthy of respect, any more than laws blessing the enslavement of Africans or the gassing of Jews were, and violent resistance against such enactments surely can be justified. A pro-life position does not require pacifism in the face of a murderous assault; it allows and arguably demands the use of force in defense of oneself and others.

That is the logic of the "Defensive Action Statement" formulated in response to the 1993 murder of Florida abortion doctor David Gunn. "Whatever force is legitimate to defend the life of a born child is legitimate to defend the life of an unborn child," the 30 activists who signed the statement declared. "If Michael Griffin did in fact kill David Gunn, his use of lethal force was justifiable provided it was carried out for the purpose of defending the lives of unborn children."

It is not clear why Operation Rescue and the National Right to Life Committee reject this argument. Both say they are committed to legal, nonviolent change, but they are hazy as to whether that course is morally mandatory or merely prudent. Perhaps they think it is morally mandatory because it is prudent—i.e., because it is ultimately the most effective way to stop abortion.

A campaign of anti-abortion violence could very well undermine the cause in the long run by alienating the public and inviting legal repression. "It has been said by people I respect that the flurry of violence against abortion clinic personnel and abortionists in the 1990s set our Movement back the better part of a decade," writes Dave Andrusko of the National Right to Life Committee. "In much of the media coverage, the image of pro-lifers as crazed militants was at the expense of much of the work that 99.999999% of us were doing in the legislatures, in the courts, and in crisis pregnancy centers."

But does this bad press mean that Scott Roeder's supporters are indeed "crazed militants"—or, as Operation Rescue President Troy Newman puts it, "loons" and "wing nuts"?  It seems to me they share the moral premises espoused by other anti-abortion activists but disagree about how best to implement them. Either that, or they take seriously what others only pretend to believe.

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason and a nationally syndicated columnist.

© Copyright 2010 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. Good Morning reason!

    Isn’t Radley supposed to be the one to kick us in the tummy with news like this?

  2. But it is surprising that so many people who proclaim that fetuses have a right to life reject Roeder’s argument out of hand. Killing abortionists may or may not be a good long-term strategy for saving unborn babies, but it is hard to see why the use of deadly force is not morally justified, at least in principle, once you accept the premise that abortion is tantamount to murder.

    Many of us don’t buy into the pre-crime punishment of Tom Cruise movies to be valid.

    1. It’s not a pre-crime punishment when the subject openly admits that he will be committing the “crime” at certain regular times and dates five days a week for the rest of his professional career.

      Not that I think abortion actually is a crime. I’m just trying to explain Jacob’s premise.

      1. It’s not a pre-crime punishment when the subject openly admits that he will be committing the “crime” at certain regular times and dates five days a week for the rest of his professional career.

        So why not kill Martha Coakley for what she does to people like Gerald Amirault? Why not kill Houston police officers for what they do to people like Pedro Navarro-Oregon?

        1. we can just pretend he was being killed for previously administered abortions. There, no pre-crime.

        2. Indeed, why not?

      2. Sorry Fluffy, but your moral sense is wrong. Abortion is murder. If you don’t beleive that, you are a fool.

  3. …argue that killing the abortion doctor George Tiller was necessary to prevent a greater evil: the murder of unborn children.

    That argument might fly except for the fact that Dr Tiller performed abortions on already dead, or non-viable (“grossly abnormal”) fetuses that would either be born dead or not survive for more than a few hours.

    1. [citation needed]

      1. http://whyy.org/cms/radiotimes…..iller-m-d/

        Click “Listen to MP3” one hour. Reproductive endocrinologist Dr. FRANCES BATZER of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia, PA discusses Dr. Tiller’s practice with WHYY’s “Radio Times” host Marty Moss-Coane in first 20 minutes.

        Reaction to the murder of George Tiller, M.D

        Thursday, June 4th, 2009

        George Tiller was one of just a handful of physicians nationwide who provided late-term abortions. He was murdered on Sunday after several previous attempts on his life and several legal challenges to his work. We talk about what his death means to both sides on the abortion debate and also learn about late-term abortions. Guests are reproductive endocrinologist FRANCES BATZER, KATHY SPILLAR of the Feminist Majority and SHAUN KENNEY of the American Life League. Listen to the mp3

    2. If you kill a terminally ill patient before he/she dies natuurally, you will be tried for murder. TP is a fool.

  4. I suppose this is very interesting if you’re into that sort of thing, but why doesn’t Reason cover the *real* news, like a new government study has found that movies aimed at children have gotten better at modeling safe behavior for viewers:

    ‘For example, actor Will Ferrell in the 2003 Christmas movie “Elf” gets knocked down by a New York City taxi while crossing the street. He bounces back up without a scratch – but at least he was in a crosswalk.

    Still, the study’s lead author, CDC researcher Jon Eric Tongren, said the scene minimizes the accident’s dangers and may give young children a false sense of safety.

    And in the 2005 comedy “Yours, Mine and Ours,” about a family with 18 kids, the children are wearing life jackets during a boat trip – but the parents are not.

    The two films were among 67 movies from 2003 to 2007 examined in the study. The movies were rated G for general audiences or PG, parental guidance suggested. Results were compared with two previous CDC studies and were to be published today in Pediatrics.’

    Sorry about the threadjack, guys, but this new study is important.

    1. That was so interesting ?

      1. Ooh, you really got the point of my joke! ?

    2. Pay attention Max. There was an article only a day or two ago about this.

      1. You got the joke, too. ?

        1. -1 for not using an interrobang.

        2. I got it as well, although I suspect you’re being too subtle for many who don’t want to think about it. But your juxtaposition is apt and shows the hypocrisy on the other side quite well.

          1. I found it shallow and pedantic

  5. In much of the media coverage, the image of pro-lifers as crazed militants was at the expense of much of the work that 99.999999% of us were doing in the legislatures, in the courts, and in crisis pregnancy centers.

    So if everyone in the country were pro-life, there’d only be 3 crazed militant nutjobs? I’m pretty sure I’ve met way more than 3 at once.

    1. Since everyone in the world is pro-life, there are about 60 nutjobs. Yeah sounds about right.

  6. Killing abortion doctors is the same as committing an abortion in 293rd trimester.

    1. +1

    2. I’m generally in support of abortion to the 300th trimester.

      1. JB, I would have supported your mothers right to an abortion.

  7. Nobody who wants to be taken seriously is going to openly support vigilante justice or pre-crime-fighting, both of which are frowned upon by the courts, too. What they say behind closed doors might be different, though.

  8. ‘What they say behind closed doors might be different, though.’

    No, it isn’t.

    1. I’ve been in private conversations with pro-lifers, and here’s what I’ve *never* heard: ‘You know that small minority of vigilante killers? I admire them *so* much, and they are *so* helpful to our work!”

      1. I haven’t heard that specific phrase, but I had several of my “pro-life” coworkers tell me around the lunch table that they thought abortion providers should be killed, and one told me that women who obtained abortions should also be killed.

        1. I have never heard anyone say that, privately or publicly.

        2. Neither of which is necessarily an endorsement of Roeder.

          Saying that “it should be done” is different from asserting that taking the law into your own hands to do it is permissible.

          Then again, I’m sure everyone who disagrees with you about abortion is an extremist, so what’s the difference anyway?

        3. DBN – I doubt very seriously that you are telling the truth. I know MANY pro-life folks, including myself, and I have never heard anyone say that. They may think it, as I have on occasion, but they don’t say it.

  9. When the law blesses the murder of babies, it is hardly worthy of respect, any more than laws blessing the enslavement of Africans . . . and violent resistance against such enactments surely can be justified

    Aside from Nat Turner and John Brown, most abolitionist action was decidedly pacifist. I think foes of unjust laws realize that more violence is counter-productive to the movement, and calls into question the motives of the movement.

    1. But that would seem to be a prudential argument.

      Were the abolitionists morally obligated to use non-violence? Or had they been able to use violence and succeed, would that have made it OK, since at that point it would not have been “counterproductive”?

      1. Abdul & Fluffy: Violence did eventually end slavery in the U.S. — it was called the Civil War.

        1. Was the Civil War between Abolitionists and slave-holders? Really, the secessionists started that war because they feared that eventually the abolitionists would take over the federal goverment under Lincoln’s tenure and end slavery through lawful means.

          I think a better example of vigilante-style abolitionist violence would be Bloody Kanasas in the era leading up to the referendum on slavery.

  10. To sum up by quoting Phil Collins:

    “If you can’t put faith in what you believe in, it’s getting you nowhere”

    It is pieces like this that truly earn Reason its name, and why I keep coming back.

  11. It seems to me they share the moral premises espoused by other anti-abortion activists but disagree about how best to implement them. Either that, or they take seriously what others only pretend to believe.

    Jacob, I think you’ve created an overly simplistic dichotomy here, assuming that I am reading your intention of “moral premises” accurately and that you are arguing that they don’t really disapprove of Roeder’s action but rather only to the impact it has on their movement.

    Recall that anti-abortion is, largely, a Christianist position. For you to frame it that the choice they make is either utilitarian or a matter of “pretended” belief (i.e., some sort of hypocrisy) sweeps aside what most of them would consider to be meaningful Christian ethics. I don’t know whether you really don’t understand their position or if you are deliberately distorting it to take a potshot at anti-abortion activists for not being man enough to do the dirty deed, but it is entirely consistent within a set of Christian ethics to hold that it is moral to oppose evil actions and yet immoral to decide, alone, what the punishment for those actions would be.

    Let me propose a parallel argument. We all accept that it is wrong to use compulsion upon others except to protect oneself or to prevent fraud. Many of us would extend that to say that it is appropriate to use force to prevent manifest harm to others (e.g., if we see a murderous thug attacking an old woman on the street we would tend to help her). If we share these premises, is it merely pragmatic concerns that keep us from sending troops into Darfur to protect the Christian minority from oppression as our liberal brethren constantly urged? Are we not committed enough to our principles to stand up for them? Are we only “pretending to believe” what our liberal friends “take seriously”?

    I think most of would argue (correctly) that this is a tremendously over-simplistic statement and interpretation of libertarian principles and ethics, but it is over-simplistic in precisely the way your statements about Christian/anti-abortion ethics and principles is over-simplistic.

    1. There is nothing uniquely Christian about opposition to abortion. There is hardly a necessity of believing in a Supreme Being to think that an unborn human being has a right not to be killed.

      I actually think that this hurts the pro-life movement. “God says so” is meaningless to many people, even off putting. While Christians should certainly use the Bible in their arguments with other Christians, they need to develop a more reason/rights based argument to convince the heretics.

      1. I don’t disagree, but nevertheless the anti-abortion/pro-life activists are largely Evangelical Christians, and it is with them that the position is associated.

      2. There is hardly a necessity of believing in a Supreme Being to think that an unborn human being has a right not to be killed.

        No, but there are very few atheists who think there is any such thing as an “unborn human being.” And that’s the rub. As noted by Untermensch, anti-abortion types are almost entirely religious although he forgot that Catholics also make up a large part of the anti-abortion ranks.

        And from what I hear, the Christianist anti-abortion people won’t even sit down with anti-abortion Atheists or Gays. Which should tell you something.

        1. You are correct. I didn’t think about Knights of Columbus and the like. I’m not in a particularly Catholic area (I’m in top of the Bible Belt), so I don’t see them as much as I see the evangelicals.

        2. You should read Nat Hentoff on being a pro-life atheist who had friends stop talking to him after speaking at a largely-religious pro-life rally.

        3. And from what I hear, the Christianist anti-abortion people won’t even sit down with anti-abortion Atheists or Gays. Which should tell you something.

          It should tell us that you argue based on hearsay? 😉

          Sorry, I’m not convinced by your “this is what I hear that those pro-lifers are *really* like” argument, because I know different people than you. My mother is religious, definitely against abortion, but certainly encourages birth control.

          Not that we’ll ever convince each other without more data.

          1. Thacker,

            OK, my info was a bit dated. According to Wikipedia:

            [Pro-Life Alliance of Lesbians and Gays] is currently welcomed to events including the annual March for Life, although this has not been the case in the past. The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., denied a request to allow PLAGAL to cosponsor a pro-life conference in January 2009, citing the group’s support for same-sex marriage and condoning of homosexual sexual activity.

            I read about PLAGAL and their struggle to be accepted by mainstream (Christian) anti-abortion groups in the Gay press several years ago, but was too lazy to recheck before posting. My bad.

            However, I view the acceptance of gay and atheist allies by the mainstream of the movement as a sign of increasing desperation.

            1. Dated, indeed. Given that the public is increasingly pro-life, you ‘desperation’ remark makes no sense.

      3. this has often been my critique of the pro-life movement as a whole – Im one that generally leans that way and do so not out of any religious reasons.

        When only half the country buys religious arguments, if prolifers are going to convince others they have to do so with a logical/ philisophical natural rights framework – and in general they don’t do that.

        1. Yeah, Aquinas got famous just by saying ‘God said so’. And what’s this ‘only half’ nonsense? People want abortion rights so they have something to bail them out of their mistakes. They already know abortion is wrong.

    2. You’re omitting the third necessary premise for the Darfur:

      That it is obligatory to take action to prevent an injustice if you can stop it, even if it will result in extreme harm to you. I.e. the altruistic premise.

      It is possible to think that it is morally acceptable to kill abortion doctors, without finding it mandatory. That would mean that it would also be morally acceptable for you to launch a one-man violent crusade to save people in Darfur, but it would not be mandatory for you to do so. If there was some lone individual saving lives in Darfur by showing up and fighting against militias who were trying to rape and murder people, and he didn’t ask for or require your help in any way, would that individual’s actions be salutary or damnable, using Christian ethics?

      Jacob didn’t include that premise, because he’s not asking whether the principles of the pro-life movement make killing abortion doctors mandatory. He’s asking whether they make it permissible.

      1. Jacob didn’t include that premise, because he’s not asking whether the principles of the pro-life movement make killing abortion doctors mandatory. He’s asking whether they make it permissible.

        Maybe I’m not being “Christian” enough in my reading of the article, but he is being deliberately provocative beyond merely asking if they make it permissible. The last paragraph makes that pretty clear. His question is whether anti-abortion activists are hypocrites for not openly condoning actions like Roeder’s murder of Tiller. That’s a long way beyond permissible, and is an assertion that their ethics, if followed to their conclusion, require such action.

        Sorry, but I won’t give a pass to such an easy cop-out on his article. I may have problems with it, but I want to do it the justice of taking his claim seriously, not trying to soft pedal it away.

  12. Megan: Hey, you’re really hardcore, aren’t you?

    Mac: Oh, well, you know. I mean, if you really wanna see hardcore… (hands her a piece of paper)

    Megan: What’s this?

    Mac: That’s the list of doctors I’m gonna kill.

    Megan: There’s two already crossed out.

    Mac: Yeah, I know.

    1. If I prove you’re guilty, I am gonna torture the shit out of you.

      1. Don’t get cute with me, pal. I will jam you up so hard, I will jam you from morning until night. You want to get jammed up?

  13. Surely the necessity defense can’t require that the harm to be avoided be imminent. If you insist on silly rules like that, then you won’t be able to bomb Iran or invade Iraq on the grounds that you’re afraid they might use WMDs on you.

  14. Given the behavior of most children I see, I consider abortion justifiable homicide.

    1. Sometimes I do think their parents should be removed from the population too, then I go about my business.

  15. Are you seriously asking why first degree murder is wrong?

    I have no strong stand on abortion, and I understand the argument you’re making, but this is just silly.

    1. You obviously don’t understand the article, because that’s not what he’s asking at all.

      He is arguing, “If you actually believed X, you would necessarily believe Y. I therefore conclude from your denial of Y that you don’t actually believe X.”

      If Christians actually believed that believing heresy would send you to hell for all eternity [for example] they would still burn heretics at the stake. The fact that they have stopped burning heretics at the stake constitutes evidence that they don’t actually believe that exposure to heresy threatens your eternal soul. Not in the way that heretic-burners did.

      This abortion thing is similar.

      1. Not sure if you’re cleverly punking here or not, but assuming the latter, many Christians do assume that if you believe heresy you will go to hell. They’ve also figured out the killing heretics doesn’t really help them or anyone else out. I have Evangelical friends who are convinced I will rot in hell, but they figure their duty is still to love me and show my by example what needs to change. It is because they take that belief so seriously that they don’t just dismiss me or turn me aside. The assumption is the same even if the actions consistent with that assumption are opposite.

        1. Untermensch: As I understand it the efficacy of heretic-burning consisted of two points: (1) get them to recant their error and burn them before they backslide thus insuring that they get into heaven, and (2) burn them because you don’t want them to infect other people with their sinful ideas and thus cause even more poor souls to end up in Hell.

          1. That may well be (I don’t seem to have said anything contrary to what you wrote), but it certainly doesn’t follow that someone who doesn’t take that same course of action (burning heretics) is, by that fact, not serious in his beliefs. He can still be extremely serious in his belief that heresy is a damnable offense, but simply think there are better ways to deal with it.

            Fluffy’s argument that I was responding to was pretty specious, just as if I were to argue about genuine atheist behavior based on Soviet Marxist-Leninist actions and say that if atheists really (dis?)believed what they say, they would confine believers to concentration camps rather than let belief infect the world.

            I don’t believe that any more than I believe Fluffy’s claim, especially since I know enough deadly serious Christians to know that seriousness in faith ? desire to kill me for heresy.

      2. The idea that all heretics were hellbound has never been official Catholic teaching, by the way. And heretic-burning was almost always motivated by the state’s desire to curry favor with the Church.

        Don’t let any of that sidetrack you, though. You’ve got a good caricature going there…

  16. I’ve always had this impression of the pro-life camp — that if they really considered abortion to be murder, then they’d be more serious about it.

    For one, as Jacob writes, they’d be less quick to condemn those who kill abortionists. (I know I’d have sympathy for someone who shot a serial killer who had slaughtered hundreds of babies.)

    A serious pro-life advocate, one who believed abortion was murder, would also advocate that in the criminal justice system, abortion would be as serious a crime as murder, carrying the same penalties. We might expect to see life without parole, or the death penalty, for women who have abortions. Most pro-lifers don’t, in fact, advocate this.

    Finally, if pro-life advocates seriously believed abortion was murder, they’d aggressively and systematically promote birth control. It is, after all, the best way to prevent abortions.

    Because they don’t do this, I’m inclined to think that pro-lifers, like most of us, hold a fuzzy and intermediate view of the status of a fetus. Not quite an inanimate object, but not quite alive. They don’t quite treat fetuses exactly the same way they’d treat babies.

    This is why I suspect motivations other than the protection of the innocent in the pro-life camp. If you think abortion does not kill a living human, but you still think it’s wrong (this, by the way, is the official Orthodox Jewish position) then you most likely think it’s wrong because you don’t like women being able to “cancel” childbirth. (Again, this is the Orthodox Jewish rationale, as I understand it — that abortion is wrong because it prevents the birth of a child.) Essentially, that comes down to opposing the notion that women should be able to have sex without the risk of parenthood.

    That’s an old attack on pro-lifers and they hate hearing it; they claim that they simply want to protect fetuses the same way I want to protect children. But I have a hard time believing that because they simply don’t behave as though fetuses were exactly the same as children.

    1. Finally, if pro-life advocates seriously believed abortion was murder, they’d aggressively and systematically promote birth control.

      Some of us do. A broad brush is a useful tool for the right job. This isn’t it.

    2. That’s an old attack on pro-lifers and they hate hearing it; they claim that they simply want to protect fetuses the same way I want to protect children. But I have a hard time believing that because they simply don’t behave as though fetuses were exactly the same as children.

      Strawman much? Actually many of us do.

      I completely expect a screaming hissy fit about how wrong I am, too.

      I believe that abortion is premeditated murder. Yes, I favor the death penalty for premeditated murder. Yes, I would flip the switch or pull the trigger myself.

      I consider a person who kills an abortionist to be on the same moral level as a German citizen who killed someone on their way to work in a death camp. A human being who systematically takes the lives of other humans is a threat to all humans. Killing them is “self-defense”.

      1. I think this does point out the flaws in the argument, though. Most people believe in the rule of law as strongly as they believe in not murdering people.

        So they want serial killers, mob bosses, rapists, murderers, and (in this case) abortion doctors tried and convicted under the courts. They are very upset that they can’t do this to abortion doctors.

        No one considers it a great moral failing that people fail to support lynch mobs for serial killers or the mafia. We allow killing in defense of an immediate and present danger, not as retribution or punishment. Shooting someone who is coming at your wife with a pipe wrench is considered valid defense. Shooting someone a week later because you saw him hit your wife with a pipe wrench will land you in prison.

        1. But if the law said that you and your wife were a special class of people who were not entitled to legal redress, ever, for the fact that she was hit by a pipe – then you SHOULD shoot the guy a week later, and do your best to get away with it. Because the rule of law in that situation would not be worthy of respect.

          1. But if the law said that you and your wife were a special class of people who were not entitled to legal redress

            Like foreigners, when the US Armed Forces invade.

            then you SHOULD shoot the guy a week later, and do your best to get away with it.

            So you’ve got no problem with op-eds saying, “Why don’t you antiwar types admit you support the terrorists and would like to see US soldiers get killed? Logically you must!”

      2. Then you aren’t the person the article is directed at.

        The overwhelming majority of the pro-life movement does not endorse your position. That means they either don’t agree with it, or secretly think it and are lying about it. That’s the whole point of the article – that your viewpoint is rare when it should logically be common.

    3. Finally, if pro-life advocates seriously believed abortion was murder, they’d aggressively and systematically promote birth control. It is, after all, the best way to prevent abortions.

      And you are absolutely right about this, from a rational POV. Within the bubble of faith and dogma, rationality does not apply.

      Suki, sure “some,” but I suspect a very small minority. See my 10:00 AM post upthread.

      Catholic anti-abortion types tend to hew to all the church dogma, so they can’t support contraception. Fundagelicals are almost uniformly against sex outside of marriage, so again can’t support contraception.

      1. “Catholic anti-abortion types tend to hew to all the church dogma, so they can’t support contraception.”

        I’m sorry. But, that is just nonsense. While no longer a religious person, I grew up Catholic, went to Catholic grade school and most of my extended family is Catholic. Your statement doesn’t reflect the community I know at all.

        Granted, it’s just my own personal experience. But, I came from a fairly large parrish. Most of the Catholics I know do support contraception (even though they know this contradicts church dogma) while still being against abortion.

    4. So you’d take them seriously if they bought these fetuses clothes? Bottle? Diapers while they’re still in the mother?

  17. The article seems to boil down to: “Why aren’t you guys crazier? I think you should be crazier. It would make things easier on me if you were crazier.”

    If liberty is really as important as all us libertarians claim it is, why aren’t we killing cops who take it away? Why aren’t we at least kidnapping them and locking them in our basements for the good of the cause? Why aren’t we burning down statehouses? Do we not really believe what we say?

    1. I mean, for Rand’s sake, the government is using force against us! We have the moral obligation to go out and slaughter the statist pigs! They’re takin’ mah libertahs!

      As for the abortion issue, remember that kinda the whole point of the pro-life stance is that abortion is murder, AND MURDER IS WRONG. That killing abortion doctors is wrong to a pro-life activist is only “logically inconsistent” if you’re so completely entrenched in your own world viewpoint that you can’t for one second see things through a different ideological lens.

      An example. Why don’t I pick up a gun and go through the ghettos of Detriot, killing every gangbanger I run into? I can’t really say, to be honest. They are all guilty of murder, even if just conspiracy to commit murder. Perhaps even worse, they’re guilty of stifling an entire community and through their actions condemning future generations to a life of squalor (god I hate how much I sound like a lefty right now.) So why don’t I act on my convictions, knowing that if one removed the gangs from Detroit, it’s very possible that future generations would be better off for it? Because I know another would take their place. That’s it’s pointless. And perhaps, most important of all, I really don’t want to go on a rip roaring rampage of revenge because, again, I think murder is wrong, I can’t stomach the thought of just walking up to another human being and killing him without direct provocation, and that the ends don’t justify the means. I’m pretty sure the pro-life camps feels the same way.

      What an idiotic article. What is it with idiotic articles and Reason recently? Has the Reason crew been replaced by Pelosi operatives who are trying to discredit libertarian ideology by making absolutely assine claims designed to discredit the movement?

      1. I can’t stomach the thought of just walking up to another human being and killing him without direct provocation, and that the ends don’t justify the means. I’m pretty sure the pro-life camps feels the same way.

        But if someone pointed a gun at you, could you kill them to defend yourself? What if they pointed a gun at your family?

        What if you knew that tomorrow morning, at seven am, they would go to work and start killing families? Would you be waiting out in front of the office to stop them?

        And even if you couldn’t, could you really put someone who did kill this murderer on the same moral plane as the murderer himself?

      2. “So why don’t I act on my convictions”

        Because your a little chicken-shit bitch?

      3. “I mean, for Rand’s sake, the government is using force against us! We have the moral obligation to go out and slaughter the statist pigs! They’re takin’ mah libertahs!”

        There’s a big difference between saying we have a moral obligation to execute tyrants, and saying we have a moral obligation to condemn those who take up arms and execute tyrants.

    2. Why aren’t we at least kidnapping them and locking them in our basements for the good of the cause? Why aren’t we burning down statehouses? Do we not really believe what we say?

      Because these actions don’t involve the taking of life. You can bet that if the government were bulldozing a million people a year into mass graves, pretty much everyone calling themselves a libertarian would be advocating a violent response. Those that were still alive, at least.

      If abortion is murder, as the pro-life movement claims, then the metaphoric response of the pro-life movement has been to picket Auschwitz. Jacob is calling the movement on this milquetoast response, asking if they lack the conviction of their beliefs, or out of pragmatism, are simply concealing this conviction.

      1. Hence the kidnapping caveat. Proportional response, right? Why aren’t you people crazier?!? Your belief in freedom and property rights is obviously just lip service!

        To the Libertymobile!

    3. Again, this is not the question that is asked.

      No one asked you why you personally aren’t killing abortion providers.

      The question asked is whether you can logically condemn those who do.

      And the reason we aren’t calling for the killing of police is because the situation is not bad enough to justify that yet. If the police were killing millions of people a year, and someone started shooting police, I would not condemn them, even if I was not brave enough to do it myself.

      As a libertarian, I don’t condemn John Brown. And he engaged in extralegal violence. I don’t condemn him because if libertarianism is true, no slave state can ever possess a legitimate government and anyone who takes up arms against that government is justified in doing so. This is different from the question of whether or not I am personally a big pussy who would never do something like he did.

      1. I think you may have convinced me with the John Brown angle, Fluffy. Your position is much clearer than Sullum’s. I can only hope he meant what you say.

      2. As a libertarian, I don’t condemn John Brown. And he engaged in extralegal violence. I don’t condemn him because if libertarianism is true, no slave state can ever possess a legitimate government and anyone who takes up arms against that government is justified in doing so.

        Fair enough. But plenty of libertarians would condemn him. We could sit here all day and argue about whether they’re being dishonest, aren’t consistent, lack the courage of their convictions, or whatever. Ditto for someone who asked why antiwar campaigners didn’t kill President Bush or engage in terror against the US armed forces.

        I don’t think that you or Jacob or anyone appreciates John or anyone else saying, “Why don’t you antiwar people admit that you’re on Al Qaeda’s side and go ahead and join them in terrorist acts?” But that’s essentially what Jacob is saying here. Heck, it might even be more logically consistent for more antiwar Westerners to attack the US armed forces and the government, but I’m pretty damn sure that they’d be really upset if/when some pro-war advocate made the “they’re on the other side” argument.

      3. And the reason we aren’t calling for the killing of police is because the situation is not bad enough to justify that yet. If the police were killing millions of people a year, and someone started shooting police, I would not condemn them, even if I was not brave enough to do it myself.

        Is there a particular point at which you go from not condemning to condemning cop-killing? I understand waiting until the situation is bad enough to take up arms yourself. I don’t entirely understand “condemning” someone for making a different judgment call in a matter of degree rather than kind.

  18. Do you remember Harlan James Drake? It was only last year that he killed an elderly pro-life protester, and then told police that he was offended by his victim’s prolife signs. This was an echo of the ‘pro-choice’ criticism of prolife protesters ? their signs are provocative, their rhetoric is divisive, etc.

    Perhaps Sullum should be taunting the ‘pro-choice’ movement about this: ‘Isn’t Mr. Drake simply carrying out your deepest beliefs? If you guys *truly* believe that prolife protesters are evil fundamentalists who are trying to enslave women, then why is it wrong to kill them in self-defense? It’s not as if you guys shrink from the shedding of blood, after all.’

    Yet the ‘pro-choice’ crowd avoids criticism from Sullum as it distances itself from Mr. Drake’s crime. The ‘pro-choicers’ explain that Drake wasn’t really against abortion, he was simply against prolife protesters. And anyway, only 50% of the murders Drake committed were related to the abortion issue.

    1. Perhaps Sullum should be taunting the ‘pro-choice’ movement about this Passive-agressive much, Mad Max? Why don’t you just man up and say this for yourself?

      Yes, Drake was an embarrasing ally for the pro abortion movement. I’m not happy to own him as an ally, but no way to wiggle out of this. AFAIK, Drake is the only person to have murdered anyone for holding anti-abortion views, which is particularly egregious because the protester was murdered for anti-abortion speech. But MM, that means you have to own the actions every killer of abortion providers, and that body count is higher than one.

      1. But MM, that means you have to own the actions every killer of abortion providers, and that body count is higher than one.

        That’s not quite his argument. He’s not arguing about responsibility, because that’s not what Jacob’s arguing. They’re arguing consistency and hypocrisy, saying that if you hold premises A and B, you must therefore believe X which follows. But Jacob’s logic applies just as well to the killing of pro-life campaigners. Especially if you consider it enslaving women, and follow Fluffy and others in thinking that John Brown was justified.

      2. But surely if some politician tried to take some actual, concrete legal steps to limit a woman’s sacred Right To Choose?, then that person ought to be killed, no?

        Wouldn’t the killer be doing a John Brown-esque feat in the defense of liberty? To arms, eh?

  19. Sarah is quite right – most pro-lifers only pretend to believe abortion is murder, while opposing it as a form of birth control and a source of sexual freedom. Crying murder just works much better, as a means of making people listen.

    1. Your statement here doesn’t make any sense at all. Why are believing abortion is murder and “opposing it as a form of birth control and a source of sexual freedom” contradictory in any way? If one believes it is murder than opposing it as those things follows pretty much by necessity since the thing itself is wrong, regardless of the end to which it is put.

      I do not doubt that there are pandering fools who only claim they believe abortion is murder while really having other goals, but most of these folks are really quite sincere in what they believe, as hard as it may be for you to comprehend. I think you’ll find a number of libertarians who believe abortion is murder (or something quite like it), but who also believe people should be free to use birth control and be sexually active, up to the point where their choices start to involve force upon a nascent human being.

    2. Bullshit. The Catholic pro-lifers are against birth control, yes. But evangelicals generally are not against birth control. There are exceptions, as usually, but as a whole evangelicals see nothing wrong with birth control as long as it does not abort a fetus. Most of the evangelicals I know are on birth control right now, actually, because they don’t want to have children with their husbands until “the right time”. Go actually talk to people before you make broad, random assertions about their belief systems.

    3. Bullshit, Pedantula, you can’t get inside the heads of those people and know what they truly think.

    4. Oh, come on. That’s like pro-lifers using old quotes from Sanger and others to demonstrate that being pro-choice is “really” about eugenics and eliminating the poor and blacks.

      1. Except without the corroboration from Supreme Court Justices…

        Q: Are you talking about the distances women have to travel because in parts of the country, abortion is essentially unavailable, because there are so few doctors and clinics that do the procedure? And also, the lack of Medicaid for abortions for poor women?

        JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes, the ruling about that surprised me. [Harris v. McRae?in 1980 the court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of Medicaid for abortions.] Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion….

      2. Yes, and two wrongs somehow make a right? If it’s wrong for one side, it’s wrong for the other. We don’t have to like the tactics of either side.

  20. As for the discussion of the American abolitionist movement: It *did* grow violent – prominent abolitionists financed and/or praised John Brown, and they endorsed the bloody U.S. Civil War as a holy crusade to extirpate slavery.

    The abolitionist movement is *not* a good example for the prolife movement. The USA is the odd man out for having war over slavery. Usually, slavery got abolished peacefully (by the passage of antislavery laws enforced through law-enforcement techniques). Medieval Europe, 19th-century Latin America, even 1960s Saudi Arabia – they all abolished slavery without war.

    The prolife movement, likewise, is making progress all over the world without war. Whether in Ireland, Latin America, or the USA, prolifers are supporting prolife laws and opposing proabortion laws.

    It is the very effectiveness of the prolifers in the arena of peaceful legislation which angers the ‘pro-choicers.’ Of course the ‘pro-choicers’ want the prolife movement to give up its successful lobbying and legislative effort and shift its focus to revolutionary violence.

    This argument – why aren’t you more violent? Is simply tactical and insincere, except when it’s being parroted by useful idiots.

    1. (to be sure, ‘effectiveness’ is a relative term, and the climate in the USA right now is not very good – but such progress as has been made is due to legislation and lobbying, not shootings and bombings)

    2. I’m not sure you really want to argue that slavery is gone from Saudi Arabia.

      1. It’s not gone from the U.S., either. Passing a law doesn’t make the crime go away, or else there would be no burglary.

        1. Perhaps “gone” wasn’t strong enough (or too strong?). Saudi hasn’t really “abolished” slavery in any meaningful sense.

        2. It may not be gone, but it’s not nearly as prevalent as it was in 1850. This is one libertarian point that is idiotic. Let’s take laws against theft off of the books and see if it goes up.

  21. On a slightly different note: you can have a certain amount of fun with Leftists by asking them how they’d feel about blowing up a free abortion clinic…that only serves black women.

    “Okay, but that’s totally different!”

    1. Is Pedantula from another planet? His/her/its comments really don’t make any sense at all.

  22. Well, if you’re a consistent pro-lifer, then the argument doesn’t hold. If that’s how it is, Suki and Marshall, fine. I do anticipate that the pro-life movement will become more careful about consistency over time because it’s often vulnerable to retorts like these.

    1. Everyone is vulnerable to retorts like that. See Frbunny’s post.

      1. Which means, no one is vulnerable to retorts like that.

        1. But it’s not “Why aren’t you crazier?”
          It’s “Given your assumptions, one would expect you’d behave like this. Why aren’t you consistent?”
          Mainstream pro-lifers (by which I mean the Republican Party, mostly) say abortion is murder, but treat it as a milder sort of vice. That’s puzzling.

          To lay my own cards on the table, I’m uncertain as to whether abortion kills a living human. I’m inclined to believe it doesn’t, but I’m not super-confident. What I do believe for certain is this: if abortion kills a living human, then it is wrong, and exactly equivalent to murder. If it doesn’t, then it is entirely harmless and should be subject to no legal restrictions at all. Which is why it’s weird to me that our political system offers space to be “moderate” on abortion.

          1. No no no. It’s not “murder” because that is a legal term in this context. Abortion is currently legal. Killing an abortion doc is murder, and won’t further anyone’s goals. The goal is to make abortion illegal, then to go after the “murderers”.

            Ugh. I’m not even a pro-lifer. This doesn’t seem very tough to me.

            1. Partial mea cupla here.

            2. Okay, if murder is a legal term, I’ll talk instead about killing a person.

              I think Sullum meant your second interpretation (the John Brown thing).

              If millions of American children — born children — were being slaughtered, it would not be a “cultural” or “religious” issue to me. It would not be an issue to “bring in the conservative base.” It would be genocide. I would expect perhaps violent opposition, maybe hunger strikes, people setting themselves on fire, massive rescue operations to get the children to safety — big stuff.

              I’m sure some already view abortion this way. But there are a lot of people who oppose abortion mildly. That, I don’t understand at all.

              1. Sarah:

                Don’t a lot of people view making abortion illegal as “enslaving women?” Then why not kill pro-life activists? We fought a war over slavery, and people don’t find that wrong.

                1. But it’s not enslaving women.
                  From a pro-life perspective, outlawing abortion means outlawing a morally harmless action that’s very important to many women’s well-being. I don’t see the connection with slavery.

  23. 2 simple explanations:

    1. The supply of abortions (and abortionists) is highly elastic. If you kill one abortionist you are *not* saving any fetuses. Women seeking abortions will, upon discovering their doctor has been murdered, find another doctor.

    2. There are several people at Reason who believe taxation is theft. Do *they* advocate vigilante justice against the thieves? Of course not. Taxes and abortion will not get solved (from the perspective of anti-statists and pro-lifers, respectively) until there is a sea change in public opinion. In the meantime, murdering politicians and abortionists is just…murder.

    1. I believe Jacob addresses this when he asks if the pro-life movement rejects violence more because it doesn’t believe violence is justifiable in defense of innocent life, or because it simply isn’t effective in ending abortion.

    2. But there is no guarantee making it illegal will end the supply either. Look at drugs. Compound that with a supply of doctors who will probably perform the procedure on ethical grounds that refusing to do it would put the women in greater danger at the hands of back alley doctors and coat hangers. There are not a lot of drug dealers who do it out of idealism (there are exceptions), but there are a lot of doctors with an interpretation of the Hippocratic oath similar to what I described.

      The only way, the only way, to slow down abortion is to convince women it is wrong on an individual basis and provide them with alternatives. Not condemning contraception as evil and/or even private donations of contraceptives would also help.

  24. All this talk of “reproductive rights” but no discussion about why MEN don’t have them.

  25. But it is surprising that so many people who proclaim that fetuses have a right to life reject Roeder’s argument out of hand.

    I really don’t think it’s surprising in the least.

  26. This argument wouldn’t even fly in junior high.

    Cancel my subscription; …Postrel; …site called Reason; grumble grumble; etc.

  27. In other news Sullum is surprised by the fact that peace activists don’t indiscriminately murder soldiers. This is a tired bullshit piece of hackery. It is just a cheap shot at pro life people. Stalin murdered millions. Was every person who didn’t commit murder and face the full sanction of the law in Stalin’s Russia a coward? In some sense yes, but not in any reasonable sense. And of course perhaps indiscriminately and pointlessly murdering people isn’t perhaps the best way to stop abortion in this country?

    1. Did you read the end of the article? Jacob discusses how mainstream pro-life opposition to violence seems rooted in pragmatism.

      1. So what if it is?

    2. One more time: that’s not the question.

      The question is: If someone had managed to get to Stalin and murder him, would that act have been praiseworthy or damnable?

      Would you have said, “We denounce the illegal murder of Stalin”? Or would you have cheered it?

      1. One more time, it depends on your world view and the circumstances. If I am a true pacifist, which some pro-life people are, I would indeed condemn the illegal murder of Stalin.

        Even if I am not, if the murder of Stalin causes a purge and more murders to occur and does nothing to change the situation, I would again condemn the illegal murder of Stalin. You assume that murder is automatically the best answer to a problem. It often times is not.

        The point of your whole argument is to imply that since pro-life people are not out either murdering abortion doctors or celebrating their murders, that they really don’t believe what they say. That is bullshit.

        You can absolutely believe that abortion is murder and at the same time believe that murdering abortion doctors is both immoral and unproductive. You also can believe in something called the rule of law and endorse something beyond vigilante justice.

        1. John, thank you — you have stated your (and my) position sufficiently clearly, succinctly and persuasively that I am left just rooting for you at this point.

        2. John, sometimes I disagree with you strongly, but I think you’ve given the clearest summary here yet of the problem with Sullum’s argument.

  28. If life is life is life, why are pro-lifers not arguing against war, or the continued torture (under Obama) of children in places like Bagram? There seems so much hypocrisy in the movement. It’s not about murder itself; it’s about the reasons behind the killing.

    1. Many of them do. I know lots of pro life people who object to the death penalty. Many of the serious pro-life people are real no kidding religious pacifists. Reason unsurprisingly has no idea that such people exist and think that every pro lifer is a shotgun toting Bush loving, kill all the Muslims, redneck.

      1. Most of them I know are also more liberal than conservative (economically). It makes voting tricky for them, although Bush 2 pre-war was probably an easy call.

      2. Actually, we only think that about you and Sarah Palin, John.

        1. It is good that you sometimes think something. That is better than not thinking which is what you do most of the time.

          1. Are you saying he sleeps alot?

    2. It is about perceived murder. But there is also the perceived status. For many prolifers, unborn children are innocent and they take the biblical statement seriously that if anyone harms a child it would be better for him to have a millstone tied about his neck and be tossed in the ocean. The make a distinction between murder and killing in justified war. Whether you agree with them or not, most of them see us as being in an existential conflict with terrorists and (for some) Islam, so the killing there is justified to defend ourselves.

      I’m not saying I agree with that stance, but it isn’t hypocrisy since it’s consistent with their stated beliefs. You can believe they’re wrong, but most of them are actually quite consistent in their actions and beliefs.

    3. Because it’s “thou shalt not *murder*” and not “thou shalt not kill”. The difference being justification (self defense, etc).

      That being said, Jesus was quite clear that while you can give up your life to save another, you cannot take a life and should offer the other cheek.

      Of course the whole book is riddled with contradictions so you can generally find some piece of scripture to justify just about anything.

  29. Many anti-abortion folk seem to have difficulty picking up on certain nuances. I am, of course, painting with a broad brush.

  30. Can it be that nobody has brought up Hitler yet?

    1. If you equate Stalin with Hitler (as we should), it has already been done…now that I think about it, Hitler has already been brought up indirectly, by reference to concentration camps.

  31. Probably already said above, but pro-lifers think killing is wrong. That includes killing abortionists.

    Does that mean they don’t think killing in self-defense is justified? Probably most of them do support lethal self-defense. But killing an abortion doctor doesn’t meet the definition, which requires an imminent threat to yourself or others.

    So, no, I don’t see any hypocrisy or hidden weakness in pro-lifers who aren’t gunning down doctors in the street.

    1. I agree with your assumptions about pro-lifers. If I might add this. There is a huge difference between wishing an abortion performing doctor dead and actually physically ending his/her life. Killing another person is an act that has serious long term effects on the person doing the killing. Admittedly, they get easier with repetition. Most folks just don’t have it in them to take a life, even if the target desperatly needs elimination.

      1. Most folks just don’t have it in them to take a life, even if the target desperatly needs elimination.

        But do you support those who do have it in them to do so? And if you can’t do so publicly for fear of making the movement look bad to the mainstream, do you do so privately?

    2. But killing an abortion doctor doesn’t meet the definition, which requires an imminent threat to yourself or others.

      The guy goes to work every morning at seven and starts killing babies. How is that not an “imminent threat?” Do you have to wait until he gets the woman up in stirrups before you can shoot him?

      1. I would say, yeah, something like that. Imminent means “About to happen right fucking now!”, not “Pretty sure its gonna happen soon”.

        Many pro-lifers believe that withdrawing care from a comatose patient with no hope of recovery is murder. Should they regard hospitalists as “imminent threats” and, and are they hypocrites if they don’t gun them down in the street?

  32. its hypocritical for a murderer to say they are pro-life. killing an adult against their will is a breach of the non-aggression principle so I don’t see why libertarians would support killing abortion doctors. the whole belief that a potential human is equal to an actual human is religious bs. keep the government out of it, let it be up to the mothers, its their bodies and their lives.

    1. “A piece of protoplasm has no rights-and no life in the human sense of the term. One may argue about the later stages of a pregnancy, but the essential issue concerns only the first three months. To equate a potential with an actual, is vicious; to advocate the sacrifice of the latter to the former, is unspeakable.” (“A Last Survey,” The Ayn Rand Letter, IV, 2, 3)

      1. the problem is that in application the courts have interpretted “health of the mother” so loosely that elective abortion is essentially legal at any point in pregnancy. A mother of 9 months preganant needs only to say that she would be mentally stressed to have a child and that qualifies. Most abortions do indeed occur at early statges of pregnency, there are many that occur later and currently the law allows it. So that is an issue at hand. This isnt just about early term abortions.

        1. “Most abortions do indeed occur at early statges of pregnency”

          [Citation Required]

  33. A Libertarian, who advocates absolute personal freedom, cannot reconcile the murder of providers of reproductive rights with his/her philosophy. The two are mutually exclusive by definition because the murder of someone who provides a service related to personal freedom is a denial of personal freedom.

    1. Come now, can you really not see that for some libertarians, abortion is the ultimate in denial of personal freedom for the child being killed? There are two principles in conflict: the personal freedom of the mother and the right to life of the child. Both are libertarian principles, but when they are in conflict your ranking of them will determine what you maintain to be the correct course of action. The circumstances themselves do not contain the answer to how to resolve this unresolvable dilemma, so it’s up to you to decide whether the rights of the mother to some degree of convenience outweigh the right to life of this other (not quite yet) human. If the answer were an obvious one, there would be no debate, but there is no answer that fully satisfies libertarian principles for all parties involved.

      I know of no libertarians that would argue we should turn a blind eye to murder on the grounds that doing something to stop murder violates the freedoms of the murderer. If you believe that an abortionist is a murdered, then you have a plausible reason to kill said abortionist. Whether that is a reasonable or ethical decision is another matter, but an abortionist is not just someone “who provides a service related to personal freedom”, even if you think that this service is morally OK and desirable. You make it sound as if the action performed by the abortionist is on the same level as a hair stylist (who also who “provides a service related to personal freedom”), when those who oppose abortion argue it is the exact opposite of your description.

      I’m not advocating a position on the issue here, but to make intellectually lazy pronouncements and then treat them as statements of fact helps no one and makes for really asinine arguments. Try to at least recognize that the issues aren’t trivial or so simple.

  34. If you believe that an abortionist is a murderer, then you have a plausible reason to kill said abortionist.

    No, you don’t, unless the killing is done in self-defense (that is, in response to an imminent threat). No libertarians that I am aware of think that someone shooting OJ Simpson on a golf course somewhere would be justified because they believe he is a murderer.

    1. Exactly. Or to give a better example, many libertarians view the wars in Iraq as illegal and the civilian deaths there caused by the military to be murder. Yet, no Libertarian I am aware of, no matter how radical their views on the war, feel it is justified to murder American soldiers about to deploy to the war and by necessity in their view commit murder.

    2. Perhaps my framing was bad. How about this. If you seriously believe that an abortionist is a murderer and you kill him to protect those (defenseless children) he is going to murder, there is a plausible reason to have done so. It’s not as if you went out and killed someone (like OJ Simpson) after the fact for something already done.

      I’m certainly notsaying one should undertake this action, but there is a plausible, if debatable, logic to it that is very different than the counter-example you cite. John’s example is better, and shows the problems with that logic.

      I guess I wasn’t clear that I don’t advocate this position, just appreciate (like Sullum) that there is a certain logic to it. If you take the right of the unborn child to life as tantamount, then the abortionist is a mass murdered who should to be stopped (legally or extralegally). If you rank the freedom and convenience of the mother higher, then you will come to other conclusions. Both are logical outcomes that rely on other unprovable premises. Both are morally repugnant if viewed with the hierarchy inverted.

      What is clear, and the point I was trying to make, is that making the case that an abortionist is merely “providing services related to personal freedom” is an oversimplification of the grossest sort. If someone takes libertarian principles seriously, then abortion should be troubling, regardless of the conclusion one comes to about it precisely because it cannot possibly conform to libertarian principles for all involved.

      Put another way, suppose that we were in 1840 debating slavery from a semi-modern libertarian perspective and were asking the question whether it would be appropriate to shoot a person capturing slaves. The equivalent of Lazy John’s argument would be that abolitionists in that framework shouldn’t take action against slave catchers who are “providing a service related to the personal freedom to retain one’s chattel.” Because blacks wouldn’t count as people to some in the debate, that position would be reasonable. Others would, of course, see blacks as full persons and the killing of slave takers as justifiable. (Others might see blacks as persons but conclude that killing slave takers is wrong and the problem should be resolved legally.) Which position you take is not an obvious one and depends on your underlying assumptions about the status of all involved.

      The interpretation you make depends in a not insubstantial measure on the moral and personal status of the fetus.

  35. Jacob,

    The problem with your simplistic analysis is that it doesn’t address all culpable parties, in particular, the women seeking abortions.

    Killing in defense of an innocent party doesn’t fly since killing the pregnant mother would not prevent the death of the innocent but rather facilitate it through alternate means.

  36. I’m surprised nobody here has brought up what to me is the ultimate issue: when exactly DOES life begin? To me abortion is a very difficult issue because it pits the two values I hold most dear–life and freedom–against each other. However, it only does so if you believe the fetus constitutes a life. Therefore, for me the paramount issue becomes when life begins.

    As a Christian, I believe life begins at conception, which is why I personally oppose abortion. However, as a secularist, I don’t believe that my religious beliefs should be the basis for civil laws. As such, the question becomes twofold: 1.) can we define scientifically when life begins, and 2.) if we cannot, what do we do?

    With respect to question number one, it seems clear to me that there is no scientific consensus as to when life begins. Addressing question number two, my general thought is if we’re not sure, err on the side of life. However, it’s a critical question to me and I’m not really comfortable with either answer, which ultimately what makes it hard for me to commit to either the pro-life or pro-choice camps.

    So you wanna know why I’m not out hunting abortionists? Because I don’t believe in killing somebody else because they disagree with my religious beliefs, and I simply DO NOT KNOW if abortion is murder from a legal perspective. I don’t expect people to agree with me, but I at least hope they can respect my thought process and not see me as a hypocrite for standing by as abortions are performed every day.

    1. I’m surprised nobody here has brought up what to me is the ultimate issue: when exactly DOES life begin?

      I would say the hard question is when exactly does personhood begin.

      1. when people say when does life begin, i think thats implied. From a purely technical standpoint at the moment of first cell divisiont here is a unique genitic code and therefore bioligally it is its own organism, The question is is whether this organism constitutes a human person.

        1. I’ll go out on a limb here, and say that “human” life begins when a human fetus can support life on its own.

          1. So, when it is 6-8 years old? Maybe older for american kids?

            1. I think he means when a fetus can survive outside the womb.

              1. This is how it seems to me. No one can survive without two things: 1) nutrition and 2) a friendly environment. If you stop eating you die. If you are suddenly transported to deep space, you die. This applies moreso to small children and babies. They are unable to survive without external assistance and an environment conducive to survival. A fetus obtains nutrition from the mother. (The ‘friendly environment’ is the womb, for now.) With technological advances a fetus is able to survive at a younger and younger age. Personally, I see no reason a fetus can’t eventually be both conceived and develop completely outside the womb. When abortion is acceptable is really just an exercise in line-drawing. An individual member of the species Homo Sapiens comes into existence at conception. After this, it’s just a matter of development. Pro-choice/abortion advocates merely want to draw the line later rather than soon. Everything else is a rationalization to justify the point at which the line is drawn.

    2. But is life the basis for rights? Animals and plants are alive, yet they do not have rights. I don’t think anyone should argue that a fetus isn’t alive. If it can die then it must be alive.

      I think anti-abortion people have a stronger argument than most people realize. Although either side could be right, it seems that we should default to banning abortions even though they might be morally OK, instead of allowing abortions even though it might be murder.

      However, I don’t see the fetus as separate individual from the mother until it is born. If this idea is taken into account, then it is perfectly within moral bounds for a woman to control a part of her body.

      1. I think life is a basis for rights if the life is human. Yes, we make a distinction between humans and, say, dogs. However, humans don’t really surpass dogs in intellectual ability until around the age of one and a half (that’s my rough estimate based on my two dogs and two kids). If we’re going to make cognitive ability a factor in determining who gets rights, then infants and the severely retarded don’t get rights. I for one am not comfortable going down that road.

        1. But they WILL have the cognitive ability. Human beings in general inherit faculties of reason. Just saying only humans have rights isn’t very principled.

        2. Oh yeah, just because you are mentally retarded doesn’t mean you don’t understand the difference between right and wrong. We don’t see mentally deficient people running around comitting crimes for a reason. If you can understand right and wrong, you can have rights.

    3. “Where human life begins” is not a scientific question. It can only be decided legally. Abortion is not legally considered murder. The opinions of a religious minority shouldn’t matter.

      You can’t stop abortions, but you can ensure the safety of the women getting them. The most “pro-life” position one can have in my opinion is to be pro-choice. Although certainly the issue isn’t black and white, treating zygotes as fully fledged human beings isn’t a western tradition, or a tradition anywhere else really. It’s a modern rhetorical strategy to justify an old anti-woman point of view.

      1. You can’t stop abortions, but you can ensure the safety of the women getting them.

        How is that my responsibility?

        The most “pro-life” position one can have in my opinion is to be pro-choice.

        I could not agree more. Here are the things I think women who do not wish to be pregnant should chose:

        contraception
        emergency contraception (rape, condom failure etc.)
        abstinence
        sterilization

        1. How is that my responsibility?

          It’s not. All you have to do is get out of the way while the country makes laws guaranteeing more personal freedom for women.

          Here are the things I think women who do not wish to be pregnant should chose:

          So you’re bitching about things not being your responsibility, then you’re dictating to women how to handle their own bodies?

          1. I did not realize that offering practical, safe, economic suggestions for avoiding an unwanted outcome constituted “bitching”. I learn something new every day.

      2. Although certainly the issue isn’t black and white, treating zygotes as fully fledged human beings isn’t a western tradition, or a tradition anywhere else really.

        I don’t see why this is considered a good argument. Neither is/was treating women, children, or people of another race or nationality as fully fledged human beings a tradition, either. For that matter, you could make that argument about environmentalism and animal rights, that they’re “modern rhetorical strategy to justify an old [anti-development, anti-scientific] point of view.”

        At some point I think you have to take people’s argument as they come, rather than looking for “real reasons” behind them. I can disagree with environmentalists and animal rights and vegans without claiming that their masking different motives. People who are pro-life are not just looking for a way to oppress women any more than people who oppose President Obama’s programs are just looking for a strategy to justify an old anti-black point of view.

      3. Come now, at least do a minimum of fact checking before your make sweeping statements like that. Your statement is just as wrong as if you’d said that everyone, everywhere, has always opposed abortion. Opposition to abortions within some traditions goes back at least three millennia and has a long tradition in the west. The Romans had an active debate on the propriety of abortion, indicating that at the very least you are oversimplifying the record.

        And your statement that it is justifying an “old anti-woman point of view” is really engaged in some serious question begging…

        1. I didn’t say that abortion wasn’t an old controversy, just the idea that a fetus is the same as a person. Were the older debates about that, or were they about women’s reproductive control?

          As a matter of common law in England and the US, abortion was illegal after the first movements by the fetus could be felt by the mother. This is hardly scientific, but it’s our starting place. The deciding factor in legalizing abortion being considered the liberalized policy choice is the fact that even in regimes where abortion is strictly illegal, it is still widespread. Access to abortions is now considered by the modern world to be fundamental to reproductive rights.

          1. Access to abortions is now considered by the modern world to be fundamental to reproductive rights.

            Let me offer up a corrective:

            Access to abortions is now considered by some in the modern world to be fundamental to reproductive rights. Its propriety in this role is strongly debated by people of goodwill on both sides of the argument.

            If you original statement were true unaltered, none of this debate would be happening. I suppose you could be snide and argue that all those who oppose abortion aren’t “modern”, but that would be engaging in some serious question begging in this context.

      4. The opinions of which religious minority should not matter? Atheists, Jews, Catholics? When you are done excluding the opinions of all the religious minorities you want to exclude, who is left to make the decision?

  37. After Roeder shot Tiller in the doctor’s Wichita church last May, anti-abortion groups rushed to condemn the attack.

    I think there is a much greater irony that Tiller was an active church goer. What possible interpretation of Christianity is consistent with being paid handsomely to perform abortions? What church is pathetic enough to have him as a deacon?

    1. I don’t know. Maybe ones that have a different understanding of Christianity than you do? But I suppose your interpretation is so self-evidently right that anyone else must be wrong.

      1. What understanding? Are you seriously suggesting I could not produce 20 biblical quotes from Christ (you know, the root of Christianity) arguing for the sanctity of life and his opposition to murder?

        I’m not a Christian so I don’t have a dog in the fight. But since you are so smart why don’t you produce one quote that you feel is consistent with Christ being okay with abortion.

        1. Well, arguing against abortion is pretty hard for someone who adheres to a sola scriptura position. There is little or nothing to point to in the Bible either way.

          Christian opposition to abortion is documented from within a few decades of the start of the Church; but it’s not mentioned in the Bible. You have to look at other documents.

          1. The life of Christ as told in the Bible is rich with tales of the sanctity of life, of protecting the weak and of opposition to murder. I don’t think it is much of a stretch to apply any of that to abortion.

            1. The Bible really says little on how to regard the fetus/unborn child.

              It may not be “much of a stretch”, but it is a stretch, inasmuch as the Bible at no point addresses the question of whether the fetus is to be regarded as fully human. You can’t argue against abortion from the Bible.

          2. Well, arguing against abortion is pretty hard for someone who adheres to a sola scriptura position. There is little or nothing to point to in the Bible either way.

            Exodus 21:22

            “And in case men should struggle with each other and they really hurt a pregnant woman and her children do come out but no fatal accident occurs, he is to have damages imposed upon him without fail according to what the owner of the woman may lay upon him; and he must give it through the justices.

            1. Assuming you’re taking the “…but no fatal accident occurs” as evidence that the dead fetus is not considered to have been a human life. If so, you also must believe that the earth is a polygon due to all the “four corners of the earth” references in the Bible.

        2. Hmm. I never said I was so smart. I merely said that your understanding of Christianity is not shared by all, but you were imposing your understanding as the correct one. Since you posited something, you’re the one who has to defend it. I know enough practicing Christians who support abortion in at least some cases to know that those “pathetic” churches you are talking about would include many mainstream ones.

          1. I am not going to bore you with the dozens of easily found tenets of Christianity discussing the sanctity of all human life. But I am asking you to produce one that you feel could be used to argue that Christ would be okay with the willful choice to kill an unborn child.

            1. You keep changing the question on us. You said you wanted to talk about churches and interpretations, then later you say you don’t care about churches and you want to talk about tenets (which apparently, for you means the Bible since you explicitly exclude catechisms below). It’s not worth responding to your questions when they will assuredly change yet again.

    2. I think there is a much greater irony that Tiller was an active church goer.

      Was not Mohammed Atta a devout Muslim?

      If there is no inconsistency between Islam and flying airplanes into buildings, then there is no inconsistency between Christianity and performing wrongful abortions.

      1. Was not Mohammed Atta a devout Muslim?

        I’ll take that as a given, but you have it bassackwards. Atta is an analogue for Roeder, not Tiller. Atta thought he was doing God’s work by murdering; the same for Roeder. I don’t think Tiller felt that his work as an abortionist was a spiritual mission.

  38. I’m a bit ill this morning but in that picture it looks like that guy only has room for about half a brain in his head.

  39. The argument is as valid as a conservative writing an article wondering why antiwar campaigners don’t admit that they’d like to kill to President Bush or support terrorism against the US armed forces.

  40. I never understand why the “pro-life” focus is on punishing the abortion doctor and not the woman who requested the abortion. If abortion is murder, then aren’t abortion-seeking women essentially hiring a hit man to off their baby? Yet whenever I read “pro-lifers” talking about anti-abortion laws, they always seek to criminalize only the behavior of the doctors. (Presumably because they view the women as weak-willed victims who have been talked or forced into having an abortion.)

    Jacob, would you be in favor of kidnapping women in the parking lot of the Planned Parenthood, and then restraining them for the duration of their pregnancy to make sure the baby lives to term? That certainly would seem consistent with your position.

    1. No, I think it’s because each doctor will perform far more abortions than any particular patient will ever undergo.

  41. ” the judge would not let Roeder present a “necessity” defense”

    Why should the government be allowed to tell an individual what defense they can use? Strikes me as trying to fix the outcome.

    1. A jury’s job is to rule on facts, not law. Legal determinations are the judge’s job. In this situation, I’m assuming the judge found the defense to be legally insufficient. As such, you could argue that the government did not tell Roeder he couldn’t use the defense; he DID use the defense, but the judge found that it did not legally exculpate him from the crimes of which he was accused.

      1. See also, the “God told me to” defense.

      2. Thank you for the explanation but it strikes me as wrong.

        The government unilaterially decided his defense was inappropiate. In essence the judge denied him a jury trial. If his defense was a poor one, I would rather the accussed’s piers decided that than the government.

        If someone shot a politician for cleary acting unconstitutionally and wanted to use as his/her defense that the Constitution gave them the right to kill a tyrant, then I am guessing a judge would not allow that defense whereas I believe they should be able to do so.

      3. There have been several 2nd amendment cases in the last few years where the judge has disallowed mention of the 2nd amendment; in one case, I remember the judge being quoted as “this will not be a forum for debating the 2nd amendment” when the person involved was there *for* that purpose.

        It seems to me highly unjust to tell someone what defenses he can or cannot use. It should be up to the jury to decide if the defense holds water…regardless of how absurd, or how controversial, or how wrong, that defense may be!

  42. Future Reason articles


    “Why is killing SUV drivers wrong?”
    But it is surprising that so many people who proclaim that CO2 is destroying the world reject this argument out of hand. Killing SUV drivers may or may not be a good long-term strategy for saving the world, but it is hard to see why the use of deadly force is not morally justified, at least in principle, once you accept the premise that the world and indeed millions of people are in imminent danger due to AGW caused by CO2.


    “Why is killing smokers wrong?”
    But it is surprising that so many people who proclaim that second hand smoke is deadly reject this argument out of hand. Killing smokers may or may not be a good long-term strategy for protecting non-smokers, but it is hard to see why the use of deadly force is not morally justified, at least in principle, once you accept the premise that second hand smoke kills thousands of people every year.

  43. I think the major pro-life groups are merely being prudent. Going and killing a bunch of aborition doctors no matter how justified doesn’t accomplish much.

    Unless maybe it was done on a big enough scale that people became affraid to be an aborition doctor.

  44. Technically you cannot legally use that defense to kill someone planning to kill an adult. You can only kill to defend another if that person is actively trying at that moment.

    Unless you are a woman killing your husband. Then you only need the fear of someday he might kill you or your kids, and you can off him in the most inhumane way you can imagine and then go skipping to the bars with your girlfriends.

  45. What possible interpretation of Christianity is consistent with being paid handsomely to perform abortions

    The exact same churches that until this century said abortion of early term fetuses was moral. that’s what.

    maybe you need to read your catechism.

    1. I am not talking about Catechisms or churches, I am talking about Christians. I do not see anything in the life of Christ or the teachings of Christ that would be consistent with a pro-abortion stance.

      I did 13 years of Catechisms and all that accomplished was making me despise religion.

      1. You can’t go changing the question. You asked about interpretations of Christianity, not what Jesus taught. You specifically asked “what church” above and now are saying “I am not talking about Catechisms or churches.” Excuse some of us for thinking you meant what you wrote.

        Then you write “I am talking about Christians” and somehow jump from that to a definition of what you are talking about that completely excludes people and instead focuses solely on Jesus’ teachings.

        You can’t have it every way and then complain that people answering your questions aren’t answering them when you seem to have no clear idea yourself what you are asking.

        Most Christians are pretty selective about what teachings of Jesus they choose to live by. Your reductive notion that Christianity = the teachings of Jesus is naive in the extreme, I’m afraid. It is impossible to understand Christianity in any form based just on the Bible, while also ignoring the interpretive traditions and people who follow it, yet you are asking us to comment on a modern church that had Tiller as a prominent member while doing just that.

        If you want to debate the Bible, that’s one thing. If you want to debate “interpretations of Christianity”, that’s another, and you should be prepared to debate that item, not pull a bait and switch.

  46. It seems to me that many people in this discussion have given no thought to the fact that most people obey laws only because there are men with guns, gallows, gaols, and gulags to punish them if they don’t, not because they believe the laws have any moral validity on their own. No one who lived through or studied the often tragic history of the 20th century could have failed to notice how frequently laws had no legitimate moral foundation. And since, for most of human history, even expressing an opinion that would anger the lawgivers or their enforcers has been an extremely unwise proposition, people have learned to think one thing but say another.

    So, it’s perfectly reasonable for a committed pro-lifer not to have any intention of expressing a consistent set of beliefs, for fear of the consequences.

    There’s also a rather naive belief running through many of the threads that people have any real control over the laws that are in fact enacted and enforced, and that they in any way reflect their own preferences or moral positions.

  47. Sullum is a bit of a one trick pony, ain’t he? (the link is to a June 1, 2009 article essentially the same as this one)

    Not to mention of course that his “questions” that he’s “wondering” about were answered several times in the comment thread of that article, yet he still pretends not to know the answers. Perhaps he’s not so much “wondering” as looking for a convenient rhetorical stick with which to beat pro-lifers.

    1. That’s pretty obvious, but I’m guessing Sullum was that kid who went around with a stick whacking hornets’ nests in the hopes other kids would wander by and get stung.

  48. The “Pro-Life” movement has invested heavily in that moniker and fought being called “anti-choice”. So going out and killing would defeat their own stated purpose and validate the “anti-choice” moniker.

  49. Why is it illegal to preemptively kill the people who would kill abortionists?

    1. Religious nuts believe we should kill abortion doctors because each fetus is a tiny little smoking gun mushroom cloud.

  50. When “choice” means “the freedom to kill innocent human life,” you know a culture is sick unto death.

    1. Then I guess if you don’t like America – you should just LEAVE!

    2. You can’t define anything you want as human life. There is no way a less than 2-month old fetus is human life. It’s a tiny lump of meat with a nervous system less complex than some supercomputers we build. Sure it CAN and WOULD be a human at some point in the womb, but it sure as hell ain’t yet. The potential isn’t the same as the actual – time matters. Nobody calls a 12-pack of eggs a kind of poultry.

  51. This issue more than most has to be influenced strongly by our suppositions about what the experience of being dead (not of dying) is like — a matter we have extremely little evidence about.

  52. Using violence to effect a political change is war, the Catholic Church subcribes to the Just War Theory, the criteria for which are:

    “Just cause
    The reason for going to war needs to be just and cannot therefore be solely for recapturing things taken or punishing people who have done wrong; innocent life must be in imminent danger and intervention must be to protect life. A contemporary view of just cause was expressed in 1993 when the US Catholic Conference said:

    “Force may be used only to correct a grave, public evil, i.e., aggression or massive violation of the basic human rights of whole populations.”

    Comparative justice
    While there may be rights and wrongs on all sides of a conflict, to override the presumption against the use of force, the injustice suffered by one party must significantly outweigh that suffered by the other. Some theorists such as Brian Orend omit this term, seeing it as fertile ground for exploitation by bellicose regimes.

    Legitimate authority
    Only duly constituted public authorities may wage war.

    Right intention
    Force may be used only in a truly just cause and solely for that purpose?correcting a suffered wrong is considered a right intention, while material gain or maintaining economies is not.

    Probability of success
    Arms may not be used in a futile cause or in a case where disproportionate measures are required to achieve success;

    Last resort
    Force may be used only after all peaceful and viable alternatives have been seriously tried and exhausted or are clearly not practical. It may be clear that the other side is using negotiations as a delaying tactic and will not make meaningful concessions.

    Proportionality
    The anticipated benefits of waging a war must be proportionate to its expected evils or harms. This principle is also known as the principle of macro-proportionality, so as to distinguish it from the jus in bello principle of proportionality.”

    I think it can be seen that killing abortionists can afoul of such criteria as the legitimate authority and probability of success.

    I wonder if Sullum makes his moral judgements in such a simplistic fashion as he thinks the pro-life movement should or if he cannot imagine someone he disagrees with using sophisticated moral reasoning.

  53. What’s all this talk of ‘murder’?

    There are many, many retarded fetuses out there who deserve their abortions.

    It’s not murder if I say it isn’t.

  54. And once again a libertarian misses the difference between theory and reality.

  55. How about what the killer did wrong was make the decision to kill too easily?

    I’d be willing to grant that killing abortion doctors isn’t wrong if they are killing viable fetuses that are so advanced they’re basically already babies, just inside the womb.

    The problem is the way the partial-birth-abortion laws are written, and Dr. Tiller’s specific history are vague. From what I remember when I was researching it, most of the partial-birth abortions involve some sort of massive complication with the baby or the pregnancy, but it MIGHT be possible that the law allows the abortion of a perfectly viable more-than-7-months-developed-fetus. And Dr. Tiller MIGHT have performed such an abortion. It’s hard to tell without investigating Dr. Tiller himself. You can look up the history of Dr. Tillers work, but even that’s vague.

    The problem is that this guy decided to kill Dr. Tiller even if he wasn’t sure that Dr. Tiller really killed any healthy, well-developed fetuses. So you could say that if it turns out that Dr. Tiller did indeed kill one or more healthy babies-in-the-womb, then it wasn’t murder and the killer didn’t do anything morally, or Dr. Tiller didn’t and the killer did. Or maybe it’s wrong period to kill someone when you don’t know the facts. I lean towards the latter.

    In all this I’m ignoring that anti-abortion types often consider ANY fetuses, even tiny 1 or 2 month old fetuses, the same as babies. I consider that a ridiculous proposition. Likewise, you can’t deny that at 7 months or later, certainly by 8 months, it is a baby. I mean, it’s not just a fetus that can be saved, but it can be relatively easily saved without much fancy medical equipment (like a respirator). I mean for Christ’s sake, there is a woman out there who SURVIVED an attempted abortion – if that doesn’t tell you that after a certain amount of development, it is indeed a baby you’re trying to kill, then I don’t know what does.

    And so I find the Dr. Tiller case vague.

  56. it seems somewhat sad that we would debate on this topic but to each there own

    if you wish to endanger your reproductive success and potential output by the use of an abortion that is a personal choice there are worse parenting choices
    welfare *shudder*

  57. This article was reprinted in today’s Chicago Sun-Times. Here is my response:

    I find that I have no words to adequately convey the shock & outrage I felt after reading today’s Sun-Times column (“Trial question: Is killing abortionists wrong?”, 01-14-10) by Jacob Sullum.

    If Mr. Sullum is inclined to argue that I’m missing some larger, contextual issue, or offers some other mealy-mouthed smokescreen, let the unequivocal nature of his words stand forth:

    “Killing abortionists may or may not be a good long-term strategy for saving unborn babies,but it is hard to see why the use of deadly force is not morally justified, at least in principle, once you accept the premise that abortion is tantamount to murder.”

    “Obeying the law is generally a good idea, but there are exceptions. When the law blesses the murder of babies, it is hardly worthy of respect, any more than laws blessing the enslavement of Africans or the gassing of Jews were, and violent resistance against such enactments surely can be justified.”

    “A pro-life position does not require pacifism in the face of a murderous assault it allows and arguably demands the use of force in defense of oneself and others.”

    Let me also be clear and unequivocal: I am absolute in my support of the right of free speech, and as a volunteer veteran, I believe I have done my duty to defend Mr. Sullum’s right to express his poisonous views. I even agree with his final suggestion that, perhaps, far from being “wing-nuts”, those who murder abortion providers simply “take seriously what others only pretend to believe”. What I do not believe is that a mainstream newspaper such as the Sun-Times has any obligation whatsoever to provide a platform for anyone whose words provide support, encouragement and advocacy to those individuals currently contemplating violence and murder directed at abortion providers.

    You have only one course to follow to wash your hands of the blood of the next victim: You must immediately print a lead editorial denouncing Mr. Sullom’s position in the strongest, most unequivocal words possible, and you must declare that his columns will no longer appear in your newspaper. Absent this action, I will make it my calling to notify all of your major advertisers of my decision to never again buy your paper, and of my resolve to encourage everyone I know to do the same.

    1. Mr Bloedel, with all due respect, methinks you’ve missed the point. There is a lot wrong with this column, but “provid[ing] support, encouragement and advocacy to those individuals currently contemplating violence and murder directed at abortion providers” is not among its faults. I would encourage you to study the use of ironic speech: Mr. Sullum is mocking pro-life Christians and claiming that they don’t actually believe what they claim to.

      That his analogy and logic in doing so are sloppy and flawed is something I think even he might admit if pressed on the point. But even a casual reading of the article makes it rather clear that he doesn’t support murdering abortion providers and wants nothing to do with them in any way. His distaste for the pro-life camp is obvious, so he can hardly be accused with a straight face of doing what you claim. If you want to complain about his “article”, do so on the basis of what he’s actually claiming?that pro-lifers are cynical opportunists who don’t really believe that abortion is murder but instead use the position for political reasons?which should offend you deeply for very different reasons than why you were actually offended.

      1. (I didn’t think anything would make me defend this article, but I never anticipated such a gross misreading of it.)

  58. By this same thinking, opponents to capital punishment should seek out and kill prison employees who are involved in executing death sentences.

  59. This whole piece is despicable in that it is built on the mischaracterization of Dr Tiller’s practice.
    He wasn’t killing babies. He performed late term abortions in very specific cases.
    Andrew Sullivan has a series of testimonies on his blog.
    Idiots who label Dr Tiller “baby killer” should read them before passing judgment.

  60. I agree with Murray. I find it interesting that we have libertarians on this forum who have no clue when it comes to understanding the concept of self ownership. Either we have full ownership of our bodies – or we clearly do not. The unborn are not actual human beings who somehow deserve a “right to life”; potentiality is not actuality. Philosophically speaking, an anti-abortion rights position is clearly anti-libertarian in every respect. John’s idiotic comments confirm his intellectual bankruptcy when it comes to this crucial issue.

  61. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I’m sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won’t get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there’s more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I’m not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It’s just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight…the Bible’s books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on…the Bible’s books were written by people with very different mindsets…in order to really get the Books of the Bible, you have to cultivate such a mindset, it’s literally a labyrinth, that’s no joke.

  62. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I’m sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won’t get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there’s more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I’m not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It’s just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight…the Bible’s books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on

  63. This whole piece is despicable in that it is built on the mischaracterization of Dr Tiller’s practice.
    He wasn’t killing babies. He performed late term abortionsreplica omega in very specific cases.
    Andrew Sullivan has a series of testimonies on his blog.

  64. Sir–let me be clear that I personally would never abort a fetus, However, respectfully, I offer some correction of your analysis.
    Murder is the killing of a human being. A fetus is not a human being according to current state and federal law. Ergo, one can not murder a fetus.
    If your correct that the accused wanted to raise a necessity defense because the doctor was about to commit murder, the court was correct. The reasoning is the same. What the doctor was about to do was kill a fetus which is not murder and unless done contrary of the mother’s wishes, isn’t even a crime of any kind.
    antonio

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