Pro-Life: Beyond the Rhetoric

With all the recent flurry in the news about the killing of Dr. George Tiller, it’s hard to avoid for very long the question: “Just what does it mean to be ‘Pro-Life’?”

On the one hand, most Catholic moral and ethical authorities have come out stating strongly, that ‘the murder of George Tiller is a gravely wicked thing, and is an absolutely unjustified transgression of the moral law.’ Their stance seeks to maintain a hermeneutic of continuity, so to speak, in the Pro-Life movement, valuing the life of both unborn babies and abortion doctors equally and without distinction. ‘Violence is never the solution’ in such cases, they say, and to kill an abortionist in cold blood is murder just as much as to kill an unborn child is murder. Rather, the ‘solution’ (for them) lies in recourse to civil authorities, and in the hope that the future will bring a reversal of the current abortion laws in America, and a defense of all life, from conception to natural death.

On the other hand, some Pro-Life activists have come out strongly in support of the slaying, noting that the exercise of lethal force is justified in such a case where the civil authorities condone the murder of children; and where Dr. Tiller’s stated intent was to continue performing such genocidal atrocities. For these people, to gun down Tiller in cold blood is not murder, but rather an implementation of a sort of “just war” theory on the civil level. In other words, from such a standpoint, the ‘murderous’ character of the slaying is alleviated by the fact that killing an abortionist is really the protection of innocent human life, which would otherwise be in imminent danger of utter destruction.

I trust that the Catholic moral authorities have stated something true. And I don’t want to launch into a debate, here, on the objective moral status of such a killing as happened in Kansas this week.

More importantly, I think, is the fact that much of the debate surrounding abortion in America today has become one of polemics and rhetoric, rather than a debate situated in the context of immediate and government-sanctioned genocide. Abortion is, as Dr. Robert George notes (regarding President Obama), not presumed to be the extermination of mere biological matter, but rather the killing of real (little) human beings. And thus, the ultimate tragedy is that an open declaration of class-genocide is in effect; and it is genocide that is fundamentally supported by American law.

This isn’t a debate between political ideologies. And it isn’t a disagreement that ought to be hashed out with rhetoric. The abortion debate in America is one that involves real, imminent, widespread murder; and murder condoned on the level of civilly sanctioned genocide.

Certainly, the reality of this debate doesn’t mean that we ought to go out and kill abortionists. But it does mean that we must, at least in our own minds and in our actions and convictions, restate the basic terms of the ‘argument.’ The reality of the plague of abortion means that we must understand the relevant object of our concept (i.e. the actual murder of unborn children), and bring it to the forefront of our consciousness. It will do no one any good to suppose that abortion is merely a word (even if a heinous, unbearable one). “Abortion” is a reality; and it ought to be treated as such.

The media frenzy covering the killing of Dr. George Tiller is, at the very least, bringing some of this reality to our immediate attention. And we should take the opportunity to make the most of it.