Tiller and the Logic of ‘Choice’

The recent murder of Wichita, Kan., abortionist George Tiller has sparked responses from pro-lifers and reactions from pro-abortionists. The pro-life responses have been immediate and uniform, condemning a violent action which is contrary to the meaning and purpose of the pro-life movement. The reactions are similar to the responses, in that they condemn the murder, but radically different, in that they lay the blame at the feet of pro-lifers.

Mike Hendricks, writing for The Kansas City Star, states that “the motive for the crime we can all surmise, given the vitriolic rhetoric aimed at Tiller these past couple of decades by anti-abortion activists.”

The National Organization for Women blamed the pro-life movement for the killing and called the Department of Homeland Security to declare the movement a form of “domestic violence.”

Bonnie Erbe of U.S. News and World Report declared on her magazine’s website that the “Tiller Murder Is Terrorism, and All Pro-Life Extremists Are to Blame.”

LifeSite News received an e-mail announcing, “We are going to use every lawful means at our disposal to rid our country of you fascist hate mongers.”

If the pro-life movement is a terrorist organization, it is not a very effective one. Tiller is the first abortionist in 11 years to be murdered. Moreover, the suspect is clearly not an affiliate of the pro-life movement. His profile indicates that he is mentally disturbed, a longtime anarchist and a convicted felon. Yet, pro-abortionists insist, rather precipitously, on linking him to the pro-life movement.

We would not expect pro-choice people to link him to their own movement. This is the last admission they would be willing to make. But a compelling case can be made that the alleged murderer was not “pro-life” but “pro-choice.”

Pro-choice propaganda abounds in our present culture. The president declares that he is “pro-choice.” Pro-choice advocates advise people to “choose choice.” Planned Parenthood sells Christmas cards carrying the slogan “Let there be choice on earth.”

Choice itself becomes a sui generis validation for moral action. Is it not possible, then, that a pro-choice mentality has seeped into the culture to the extent that some people find it difficult to resist the temptation to think that something is good because it is chosen? If a woman can choose to kill the child in her womb, why can’t someone choose to kill an abortionist if he is personally convinced of the righteousness of his act?

The difference between barbarians and civilized people is not that one group chooses and the other does not. Rather, it is that the former chooses recklessly whereas the latter chooses righteously. “Choice” is not a self-validating moral principle. Even pro-choice people know this, and that is precisely why they condemn the slaying of George Tiller.

Being pro-choice has its appeal. It simplifies things by eliminating the more moral and usually more difficult option. It is convenient, requiring little discipline and conscience. It demands neither reflection nor knowledge. It is shortsighted, having little or no concern for the future. It conforms neatly with Nike’s popular maxim “Just do it.”

The accused, Scott Roeder, succumbed to the pro-choice attitude that is part of the culture. We judge people by their actions. If we judged people solely on the basis of their words, it would be impossible to ever convict a spy of treason.

And since actions speak not only more loudly but more meaningfully than words, we must conclude that the accused is not pro-life but pro-choice. Tragically, he gave in to the temptation that permeates the present culture and is being played out on many other fronts — arson, vandalism, theft, libel, assault and battery.

The attempt to smear all pro-life people because of the actions of one person — who is not even pro-life — is discrimination at its very worst. But more significantly, it reveals the inability of pro-choice people to come to terms with their own philosophy.

They are the ones who have been disseminating an unregulated “pro-choice” morality. When it comes home to roost, the result is not self-recognition, but the projection of guilt onto the innocent. It is sobering to remember that when a person points the finger of blame at another, three fingers are pointing back at himself.

Being unqualifiedly pro-choice is, of course, barbaric.

To choose rightly is the mark of a person who sees that more is at stake than mere choice. The difference between an executioner and an executive lies in the fact that the executioner simply executes, while the latter must explore the whole field. It is not barbaric to believe that killing unborn children in the third trimester is a violent and dreadful action that has far-ranging consequences.

Donald DeMarco is a professor emeritus at

St. Jerome’s University and an adjunct professor at

Holy Apostles College and Seminary

and Mater Ecclesiae College.