call it murder. Call it an assassination. George Tiller
was the fourth doctor who performed abortions to be targeted, stalked,
and executed in the United States since 1993. If the Scott Roeder
in custody is the same Scott Roeder who posted on Operation Rescue’s
website the thinly veiled invitation to OR’s supporters to help him
scope out the floor plan of Tiller’s church, he may have had help
with everything but pulling the trigger. He pulled that trigger
on the sixth anniversary of the capture of Eric Robert Rudolph, whose
bomb at the Birmingham clinic contained five pounds of dynamite and
hundreds of nails that killed a police officer and almost killed nurse
Roeder acted alone as a technical matter in pulling that trigger, he
had the complicity of a fanatical fringe. While the Reverend Joseph
Scheidlers of this world appropriate the mantle of the Civil Rights
Movement to cloak tactics never countenanced by that movement, telling
us they act in "defense of the unborn," telling us they resist an
American Holocaust, their democratic constitutionalists’ robes are
nothing but the emperor’s new clothes. When they were sued years
ago for violent blockades and blitzes at the clinics, they responded
in court papers that their assaults and harassment were merely "vigorous
protests," "sidewalk counseling," "rescues," or "sit-ins."
Punishing them, they said, would set the precedent for chilling all
social protestors, from Martin Luther King to PETA. They conveniently
forget that Dr. King’s goal was to secure peoples’ rights, not to
block them from exercising them.
public language, the language they use in court, is very different than
the language they use for the troops. Among the troops, a women’s
clinic is a "death mill" or "abortuary." The escorts who
help patients navigate the gauntlet of angry, abusive protestors to
get inside the clinic are "deathscorts." When the public relations
antennae are down and the judicial ear is not listening, Joseph Scheidler
vows to stop abortion "by any means necessary" and proclaims "
a year of pain and fear" for anyone seeking or providing an abortion.
He touts a "pro-life Mafia" for which he once emblazoned a motel
marquee "WELCOME PRO-LIFE ACTIVISTS-HAVE A BLAST" and passed out
nametags with firecrackers on them to pro-life conference attendees-just
after a spate of bombing plots and clinic attacks.
Scheidler is not atypical of the leadership that the militant wing of
the anti-choice movement has had for many years. Randall Terry
of Operation Rescue once led a demonstration on a Colorado clinic’s
premises during which he prayed for the doctor to be "executed."
He repeated his prayerful threat over the radio three years later; two
days after that broadcast, the doctor who replaced the assassinated
Dr. Gunn of Pensacola was found murdered in Birmingham, with money in
his pocket. As for Scheidler, his own appearance at the same Colorado
clinic was preceded by a brick through the window and a phone-jamming
campaign orchestrated by one of his friends.
martial language is inescapable. "We will win because we’re
on God’s side. It’s a Holy War," Scheidler has said.
Operation Rescue literature has trumpeted, "We are among the front-line
troops in the battle for life. Together we will win! We
have an army of people. The battle is raging…The Commander
is calling most of us to the front lines."
Rudolph, too, esteemed himself a holy warrior, a good man who will be
hailed as a hero by later generations. He told the federal judge
who sentenced him: "I will be vindicated – my actions that overcast
day in January 1998 will be vindicated. As I go to a prison cell
for a lifetime I know that I have fought a good fight. I have
finished my course. I have kept the faith." People like
Rudolph and Roeder take their marching orders from the Scheidlers and
Terrys of the world. Dining on a diet of vitriol and jihad, these
criminals mistake projectiles for political tracts.
are others behind them in the long ranks, the sort of people who think
that if they send a letter to the clinic explaining why everyone
there is going to hell along with the anthrax, it’s just an expression
of opinion. It’s just dissent, and besides, the purity of their
principles gives them a moral exemption from the laws that bind the
rest of us. They will be vindicated.
blaming Bill O’Reilly for fanning the flames. It is the rhetoric
of the militant wing of the anti-choice movement itself that is the
unindicted co-conspirator in Dr. Tiller’s assassination.