On a Sunday morning at the end of May, Dr. George Tiller, who was well known as one of the few doctors in the country who performed late-term abortions, walked into Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita Kansas, which he had attended regularly for years. Inside the church, long-time anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder shot and killed him.
Many online abortion opponents could not conceal their delight with Roeder's "street justice." Dr. Tiller had also for years been the object of incendiary attacks from Bill O'Reilly of Fox News, which many blame for inciting Roeder to the murder. Abortion opponents rankle, of course, at the notion that they bear any responsibility for the criminal violence of extremists like Roeder. They point out that the mainline anti-abortion organizations denounced Dr. Tiller's murder, and that few of them would ever engage in violence. Nevertheless, the argument on which religious opposition to abortion is always based, that abortion is murder, is inherently inflammatory. If they insist that Dr. Tiller committed hundreds of murders, they can hardly denounce his own murder as inappropriate or disproportionate punishment. Their arguments justify violating the law by appealing to a higher law.