Has U.S. abortion language created climate of violence?
The murder of Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller has been condemned by prominent groups and activists on both sides of this divisive and emotive issue.
But the language used by some opponents of abortion rights who reviled Tiller for his work providing late-term abortions remained very strong.
Take this statement by Dr. James Dobson, founder of the conservative evangelical group Focus on the Family.
“We are shocked by the murder of George Tiller, and we categorically condemn the act of vigilantism and violence that took his life,” Dobson said in a statement. He went on to say that the perpetrator must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
But he also said: “Tiller recently faced serious charges related to the killing of babies in violation of the law, by the most grotesque procedures administered without anesthetics or compassion. We profoundly regretted the outcome of his legal case, believing the doctor had the blood of countless babies on his hands. Nevertheless, he was exonerated by the court and declared ‘not guilty’ in the eyes of the law. That is our system, and we honor it.”
Randall Terry, founder of the anti-abortion rights group Operation Rescue, made Dobson’s strongly-worded comments about the “blood of countless babies” seem moderate by comparison. Terry didn’t even condemn the murder but he expressed concern about Tiller’s soul in his statement.
“George Tiller was a mass-murderer. We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God,” Terry said.
Most of the opposition to abortion rights in the United States is faith-based and the movement has been led mostly though not exclusively by evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics.
Opponents of abortion rights regard the procedure as murder, though virtually all of the U.S. based activists insist that their fight must be done within the parameters of the law. That is why even the staunchest of opponents such as Dobson say that those who kill abortion doctors must be held accountable for their crimes.
But some supporters of abortion rights have long argued that the language used by opponents — with terms such as murder, blood-stained, destroy or holocaust frequently evoked — create an atmosphere that fosters violence. This angle was raised today on various U.S. news programs such as the Ed Show on MSNBC. Tiller himself had been shot before by an abortion opponent and his clinic was bombed in 1985.
If you really think abortion is mass murder why would you work within the law to stop it?
What do you think? Has strong language dangerously enflamed abortion passions on the ground in the United States? But if you equate abortion with murder or mass murder shouldn’t you be able to say so freely? Should the deplorable actions of the very few stifle free speech for others on this issue?
(Photo credit: Anti-abortion demonstrators unfurl a giant sign on the side of North Table Mountain in Golden, Colorado August 26, 2008 referring to the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES) US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN 2008 (USA)