Tuesday, June 02, 2009

George Tiller’s Death: Is It Wrong to Feel Conflicted?

[Please Note: Open to Other Viewpoints]

Dr. George Tiller is the only abortion doctor's name I know. I had been following his recent court case with great interest and so when I heard that he'd been shot Sunday, it wasn't just another name to me.

The reactions from the pro-life community have ranged from a clear condemnation of the murder to some calling the murderer a hero. The rational of the latter goes something like this: If you knew that a man was premeditating to kill several toddlers in the coming week and you had no lawful way to stop him, would it be wrong for you to kill him for the sake of the children? I feel conflicted. But first, here are some points that both views within the pro-life community can agree on.

First: George Tiller was deserving of death.
This statement does not condone the man that took the law into his own hands and shot Dr. Tiller. It is only a statement of justice. When Genesis 9:6 states that, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” It is stating a principle for all societies for all times.

Many are quick to dismiss statements from the Old Testament with a blanket rule that the old has passed away. However, it is the law of Moses that Christ fulfilled, with regulations such as no eating shellfish, which the New Testament clearly revoked (for instance, Peter was told in a vision to kill and eat unclean animals.) However, this statement was written long before Moses and is grounded in the fact that man is made in God’s own image.

One principle that is helpful in understanding what things from the Old Testament carry over and what still apply, is to study the grounding behind the statement. The ceremonial law, with its regulations on washing and sacrificing animals, had the express purpose of pointing us to Christ and his substitutionary death. Now that the death of Christ has taken place, the ceremonial law is no longer necessary.

But the grounding for a man forfeiting his life by taking another man’s life is the image of God. As long as man continues to be created in God’s image, the principle will hold. A just society should have enough respect for the destroying of the image of God that this principle would be written into its law code. Dr. Tiller would have been stopped long before he was allowed to destroy over 60,000** people created in the image of God (**see endnote). However, if the laws were such, it is likely he and others would have never gone into the abortion business in the first place. But God’s laws remain whether or not the laws of this country line up.

Second: Relief

I think we can all agree that it is okay to feel relieved that this man will no longer shed blood. If you had Jews hiding in your attic and you heard that a plot to assassinate Hitler had finally been successful, there would be a certain degree of relief, maybe even rejoicing, going on in your house. This would be true even if you staunchly opposed to the assassination plan, felt that it was unbiblical and unethical. You would still be thankful that the oppression of the Jewish people had come to an end.

I feel relieved for the babies that were supposed to die yesterday and today and the rest of this week. Some of those women may not be able to get another appointment (Tiller’s clinic is one of only three clinics in the U.S. that perform abortions after 21 weeks). They may have to give birth to their babies. Perhaps a couple that has been waiting for years to adopt a baby, will finally get their wish. Many of the babies Tiller killed had Down’s Syndrome or some other defect that was not detected until late in the pregnancy. There is a national registry of families desiring to adopt such children. If some of these children will now live as the result of his murder, I am thankful that they will have life.

Third: This is a moral dilemma that we should do our utmost to remove.

No man should have to make a choice between spending the rest of his life in prison or perhaps receiving the death penalty on the one hand, or else, allowing a planned killer to continue with his work day in and day out. We have a unique privilege in this country that few in the history of the world have ever had: to have a say in the laws of our land. But with every privilege comes a responsibility, and we need to take seriously our responsibility to see that our laws are just. We must soundly reject the idea that the best way to save babies may not be through overturning Roe. This argument is popular and advocates other methods such as increasing welfare and free birth control to reduce abortion instead. Abortion will still continue even if illegal, the argument asserts. This logic is applied to no other societal ills, (i.e. let’s not make homicide illegal, because it will continue anyway.) But more than this, it does not promote justice and give the protection of the law to the weak and innocent.


With all that said, I believe that the man who shot Dr. Tiller was acting contrary to God’s law and has forfeit his own life. Paul commanded the early Christians to obey Nero (Rom. 13:1), not assassinate him, although he murdered many Christians and fed them to the lions as sport. This verse has to be read carefully, for Paul himself did not stop preaching the gospel after commanded to by the governing authorities to stop (Acts 5:40). We obey government except where government conflicts with God’s clear commands, and then we obey God. Because our government does not allow us to kill abortion doctors, only a clear command from scripture to kill murderers who the government wrongly refuses to bring to justice would justifies taking the law into our own hands as Tiller's assassin did. I can think of no scripture in his support.

Truly God has commissioned us to: "Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. 12 If you say, "Behold, we did not know this," does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?" (Proverbs 24:11-12)

But we must seek to obey both God and the government when we can. We must seek to rescue the weak in all ways that do not kill. We cannot condemn killing through more killing. We must seek to change our laws and not become a law unto ourselves.

We pray for abortion to end and for God to bless our efforts knowing that He will not help this movement so long as we use as our methods the very thing we seek to uproot: death.

**Down in Wichita, Kansas, there is a physician by the name of George Tiller. On his website he boasts that he has already performed 60,000 abortions, mostly late-term, and week after week he is killing 100 more unborn babies.
Dr. Tiller does not think of these fetuses as clusters of cancerous cells. He knows they are human because he baptizes some of them before he incinerates them in his own crematorium. You don’t baptize non-humans. Dr. Tiller knows that. He is a practicing Lutheran. His former congregation, Holy Cross of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, excommunicated him as an unrepentant sinner. But the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, which belongs to the ELCA, communes him. Did I mention that he kills 100 human beings every week and has already done away with 60.000? Sixty thousand! In Nuremberg they hanged some fiends for murdering less than 60 -- zero point one percent of Tiller’s toll.
Perhaps this little tale will give even non-believers pause if they have not discarded their conscience, known to Christians as the law God has written upon every man’s heart. One day, of this I am certain, this will indeed result in collective shame – and God knows what other horrible consequences."

From Remembering Collective Shame


Burr Deming said...

Dr. Tiller was killed by idealism. He encountered the most dangerous creature on earth: the man who knows that God is on his side.

Mary Anne said...

Hey Les, I have a question. Reading about this case made me wonder what exactly the laws are about late-term abortion. I was under the impression that it was banned except in cases where the mother's life is at risk if the pregnancy continues. Is that true? I'm confused because it sounds like Tiller was doing abortions for other reasons too. Can you clarify? Was he breaking the law or are there huge loopholes in that law?

Robyn said...

Mary Anne- Late term abortions are illegal, but there are loopholes in the legislation. Under kansas law, viable fetuses cannot be aborted except for reasons of "substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function" to the mother, and opinion to which another doctor must also attest. George Tiller had claimed that many of the babies had fatal birth defects (although I don't consider Downs Syndrome to be fatal), but also admitted to aborting viable babies. He was able to do so because he operated under the philosophy that "a major bodily function" could include a woman's state of mental health, and was able to get another doctor to collaborate with him to this end. That was one reason why he was on trial- under Kansas law, one must seek the collaborative opinion from an independent source, and apparently, George Tiller had a network of concurring doctors from whom he continually sought collaboration. There are many loopholes under which abortion doctors operate, and if pressed, they always claim it is for the protection of women. In my own medical studies, however, I have found that fetuses very rarely pose imminent danger to a mother's health, and many procedures can be taken to protect a mother's health in an at-risk pregnancy, so long as the baby is 'wanted'. Hope that helps.

Leslie said...

Hi Mary Anne,
HI :)
I'm glad you asked that question. I'm still a little confused myself, to be honest. Like Robyn said, Kansas state law states that two physicians have to agree that the pregnancy is a health risk to the mother. Furthermore, the two physicians have to be independent of each other. In the most recent court case against Tiller, I read that he had been paying another Dr. to be his second opinion. And yet, he was acquitted. This may have to do with the fact that he had a six-person legal team defending him, three of them former Attorney Generals. If he was following Kansas law, why the need for such an elaborate legal team?

More than that, the law itself confuses me. Recently, we heard of a woman from church who was 6 months pregnant and her blood pressure got dangerously high; they couldn't control it. Her doctor decided to immediately deliver the baby. The baby was in intensive for several weeks, but ended up being just fine. In late term cases, if a woman's life is in danger, I wonder why they can't just deliver the baby?

Anyway, it's frustrating that the law appears to be so easily subverted. Robyn, do you know anything about the clinic in Boulder? It is one of the "three" in the U.S. that performs very late abortions. The Dr. was on the local news the other day saying he had beefed up security.

Mary Anne said...

Thanks! Wow. It's all so horrible and sad. That's a good point you made, Les-- why can't they just deliver a viable baby if the mother's health is at risk? Very, very good point.

Yeah, it sounds like there are a million and one loopholes in a law like that. And I agree-- I'm sure the percentage of pregnancies where the mother's life actually is at risk is extremely tiny. It is so frustrating.

I did hear an interesting argument from a pro-choice person recently about abortion in general, not late-term abortion. It was a problem they found with the idea supported by some pro-life groups that a fetus should have legal status as its own person. If an unborn baby is deserving of the same legal protections as a born baby, then anytime a pregnancy ends--be it from a miscarriage or other unintended complication-- doesn't the state then have an obligation to investigate? Wouldn't a mother then be potentially legally responsible for anything that went wrong with the pregnancy, and able to be charged with criminal negligence, manslaughter, etc?

I thought that was pretty interesting, because I guess that is indeed what legally would follow from giving an unborn baby legal rights. Any thoughts?

Can't wait to see you guys soon!!

Nathan said...

Giving a baby legal status shouldn't affect any cases dealing with miscarriages or unintended complications. It would be parallel to a baby dying of SIDS or a person jumping in front of a train. These cases can be investigated, but if no one is at fault, then there are no charges. The law seems to accommodate unintended circumstances.

Robyn said...

Hi Leslie,
I do know a little bit about the clinic in boulder. The doctor who owns the practice, Warren Hern, is one of the most radical advocates of population control in his field. He has gone so far as to make the analogy that humanity is a sociological model of cancer and behaves, pathologically speaking, as an environmental carcinogen. If you go here, you can see a list of articles he promotes which discuss the theory of homo ecophagus (which loosely translates to ecosystem devourer). The problem this philosophy presents in the context of an abortion doctor or practice is that the philosophy precludes the sanctity of human life, and is staunchly against the hippocratic oath. If one regards humanity as a cancer, one rarely seeks to serve what is in a particular human's best interest. Yet, on the home page, there is a large diatribe about the health and safety of his female clients. There are people out who truly believe that late-term abortion doctors act in the interest of a woman's health, and maybe some of these doctors believe that they are, but it a lie and a farce for a man who believes that humans are a cancer to their environment to turn around and feign an interest in the genuine health of his clients. These two philosophies (that of the hippocratic oath and that of homo ecophagus) are mutually exclusive, so it is a mystery why any person espousing such a philosophy would enter the field of medicine. A mystery, that is, until one considers that he has brought his twisted philosophy into the operating room by reducing this 'cancer' one person at a time.
In regard to the legality of his practices, he operates under the same guises of the George Tiller. All abortions are performed under the pretext of medical necessitation be it a 'threat posed the mother', a fetus with a 'fatal birth defect'(including Downs Syndrome, which is rarely fatal), or any other generic diagnosis that satiates what are already loose standards. Colorado does not have a law requiring another physician to certify that an abortion is medically necessary, and currently, only 10 states have such a stipulation. Nine other states stipulate that another surgeon must be present in the event that the baby survives the procedure. Here is the information, state by state. Additionally, Hern is now being protected round-the-clock by federal agents, a matter that is contrary to laws issued from the Supreme Court which maintain that law enforcement cannot be retained for the use of private citizens unless an actual crime has been committed. 'Being endangered' or even being threatened with death does not give a private citizen the right to federal protection on the taxpayer's dime.
Hi Mary Anne- From an ethical standpoint, one cannot make laws based on theoretical effects on the established legal system. There are certainly legal questions that arise in this debate, but for a topic that is purely and intrinsically a matter of ethics, propositions such as these represent a classic straw man fallacy and, in my mind, show themselves to by no more than duplicitous subterfuge. I don't want to make this a black and white argument, or be perceived as a heartless ethics robot, but there is really only one question here and that is: Are we terminating human life by performing abortions? The answer to that question is an unequivocal 'yes'.

Wow. I guess those loquacious Dennis traits really come out in me on blog comments!

Leslie said...

Hi again Mary Anne,

I'm glad you brought up that argument because I just came across it for the first time myself only a few days ago. My first thought was: I wonder how the law was handled prior to 1973.

My second thought is: when a law is passed, there are different ways of enforcing it. For instance, recently I was listening to an audio book called Not For Sale about modern day slavery. The author was saying how even though prostitution is illegal, the traditional method of criminalizing the women prostituting themselves is not the best way to deal with the problem. Instead, law enforcement has started criminalizing those who see the prostitutes, therefore drying up the demand. They treat the women as victims and help them find other ways of work, rather than lock them up.

Similarly, the abortion law could be enforced in any number of ways. For instance, perhaps only the physicians who perform the abortions should be criminalized. Maybe the women should be treated more as victims, although it was their choice of course.

I read a comment of a woman recently saying she has struggled with forgiving the doctor who performed an abortion on her 9 years ago. This surprised me especially since she had become a Christian and felt forgiveness from God for her own sin and had forgiven herself, but forgiving the doctor had been harder. She felt that it was wrong of him to make money off of her vulnerable position and not give her information about the development of her baby, adoption options, etc. That is what gave me the idea that perhaps doctors are more responsible.

If abortion were illegal, a simple penalty such as removing a medical lisence from a physician could be effective. The doctor may not care about life that much, but after spending 12 years in medical school and a small fortune, I think not many doctors would be willing to risk losing their lisence. This could force doctors to encourage other alternatives to their patients.

I don't have any real legal knowledge, just winging it :)

Leslie said...


Thanks for all the info on Dr. Hern. Another problem with Dr. Tiller's assassin is that he has made it look like Dr.s Tiller and Tern are some sort of persecuted heros, and Tiller a martyr. The focus has shifted away from their victims in the womb into making the Dr.s into victims themselves.

Mary Anne said...

Les, you're good at winging it. :)