Pamela Sumners of NARAL asked me to post the following:

Don’t 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 Emily Lyons.

Whether 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.  

Their 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.  

Joseph 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.

The 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.”

Eric 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.  

There 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.

Forget 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.