Dr. George Tiller, a reproductive health physician and medical director of a clinic that performs abortions in Wichita, Kan., was gunned down in his church on Sunday.
Anti-abortion groups immediately sent out a flurry of press releases, most condemning the murder but a few implying that Tiller had it coming.
While investigators haven’t released information about the suspect or motive, Tiller had been a target of anti-abortion activists for more than a decade. He was shot in both arms by Rachelle Shannon in 1993. His clinic was bombed in 1986, and was vandalized earlier this month causing several thousand dollars in damage.
If his murder was the result of anti-abortion ideology, Tiller’s would be the eighth death in the last 20 years. In addition, there have been 17 attempted murders, 41 bombings, 175 incidents of arson, 96 attempted bombings or arson, 390 invasions, 1,400 cases of vandalism, 1,993 cases of trespassing, 100 butyric acid attacks, 659 anthrax threats, 179 cases of assault and battery, 406 death threats, four kidnappings, 151 burglaries, and 525 cases of stalking directed at abortion clinics, doctors and patients according to the National Abortion Federation.
Those numbers include Matthew Derosia’s attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Paul earlier this year.
Anti-abortion activists quickly condemned the murder.
“We cannot kill people in the name of pro-life.” said Bryan Kemper, president of Stand True. “Answering the violence of abortion with more violence will not serve the babies or help the pro-life movement in any way.”
Operation Rescue, a group that had launched a national protest against Tiller in 1991, wrote in a release: “Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice. We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning. We pray for Mr. Tiller’s family that they will find comfort and healing that can only be found in Jesus Christ.”
But Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue, was less apologetic. “George Tiller was a mass-murderer. We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God,” said Terry. “I am more concerned that the Obama Administration will use Tiller’s killing to intimidate pro-lifers into surrendering our most effective rhetoric and actions. Abortion is still murder. And we still must call abortion by its proper name; murder.”
“He died the way he lived. His was a bloody death,” said the Rev Rusty Thomas of Operation Save America. “Someone ‘chose’ to end George Tiller’s life this morning, in his church.”
Rev. CJ Conner, author of “Jesus and the Culture Wars: Reclaiming the Lord’s Prayer,” said it was Tiller’s church that was to blame.
Mr. Tiller lived quite the murderous life himself, pulling viable babies out by their legs and sucking their brains out with a vacuum. Other Churches called him to repentance and excommunicated him, but Reformation Lutheran, ELCA, enthusiastically embraced him, pocketbook and all.
Church discipline, and the call to repentance, is a matter of life and death in the Church. As Reformation Lutheran mops up Tiller’s blood from their foyer floor, let them not forget that his blood is also on their hands.
Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, was saddened but wouldn’t label it an anti-abortion killing.
I am saddened to hear of the killing of George Tiller this morning. At this point, we do not know the motives of this act, or who is behind it, whether an angry post-abortive man or woman, or a misguided activist, or an enemy within the abortion industry, or a political enemy frustrated with the way Tiller has escaped prosecution. We should not jump to conclusions or rush to judgment.
But whatever the motives, we at Priests for Life continue to insist on a culture in which violence is never seen as the solution to any problem. Every life has to be protected, without regard to their age or views or actions.
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