On May 31, George Tiller, a physician who performed late-term abortions, was gunned down at his church. The suspect being held for the murder is an anti-abortion activist, Scott Roeder, who is reported to have regularly protested outside Tiller's clinic.
This week, Tiller's family announced that his clinic would close permanently. Under normal circumstances, the closure of an abortion clinic may be a victory for the pro-life movement, but Tiller's murder is a tragedy for both sides of the abortion debate.
The crux of the pro-life argument centers on the sanctity of human life. While many people who consider themselves pro-choice agree that life is sacred and should be protected, some do not agree that a fetus is a living organism and thus, terminating a pregnancy does not equate to ending a life.
Some may consider a fetus to be a life but believe there are extenuating circumstances, such as rape or possibility of giving birth to a severely disabled child, that justify abortion. Still others hold that the woman has the right to make a decision on the fate of the fetus (whether it is a life or not), since it is taking residence in her body. Some people are pro-choice simply because they do not believe in legislating morality.
On the other hand, pro-lifers ascribe to the belief that life starts at the time of conception. In Jeremiah 1:5, God says to the prophet Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart."
Based on this text alone, it seems safe to conclude that God's acknowledgement of human life begins long before birth. This thought is also the premise of opposition to so-called "justifiable abortion." While the circumstances surrounding rape are traumatic and raising a disabled child is challenging, every life has a purpose and deserves to be protected; adoption should be considered in place of abortion.
But be that as it may, if sanctity of life is the basis of Roeder's ideology, it is hard to miss the inconsistency. By committing murder, Roeder is guilty of the very act that he so vehemently opposes. It is these sorts of contradictions that contribute to the delegitimization of the pro-life movement. Most of the leading anti-abortion groups have condemned Tiller's murder, but no movement is devoid of fringe people.
In recent years, the pro-life debate has been dominated by extremists, many of whom have committed senseless crimes in the name of religion. The irony in this instance is Tiller was shot while serving at his church, making it more difficult to turn this into a religious versus irreligious discussion.
No one claiming to value life can condone Tiller's murder. Even though his decision to perform late-term abortions went against pro-life beliefs, his life deserved just as much respect and consideration as the life of an unborn child.