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June 1, 2009

Either Way, Abortion Doctor’s Death a Victory for Domestic Terrorism


It may be too early to call the shooting death of Dr. George Tiller the first deadly act of terrorism in the United States under the Obama Administration. It is not, however, too early to speculate on what the Kansas doctor’s death means for what is currently a legal medical treatment.


Tiller performed late-term abortions, and his death immediately provoked talk about the past connection between abortion and domestic terrorism. Much of that talk centered on Tiller’s own history as a target for domestic terrorism: He was shot in the early ‘90s, and following years of protests, his clinic earlier this month was vandalized to the tune of thousands of dollars in damage.


The connection between abortion and domestic terrorism is a long and storied one, stretching back over decades and involving things like bombings and murders. One of the nation’s longest-hunted fugitives, Eric Rudolph, was tied to this movement through bombs he set off, including the one during the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, and one at a clinic that killed a security guard.


Human nature being what it is, it is difficult to know precisely what the perpetrators had originally hoped to accomplish when they set out. There are indicators that some had hoped to unleash God’s vengeance on the guilty. What they did accomplish has been itself a victory for terrorism.


It is important to state at the outset here that abortion, no matter what side of the argument you come down on, remains legal virtually everywhere in the United States. That is, if you are a doctor in the United States and wish to perform abortions, there is really no place where you could go where you’d be prohibited from doing so by the legal code. A couple of attempts to institute widespread bans on abortion have been tried. Each time, they have failed.


Yet the number of places where you can go and get an abortion has shrunk and continues to shrink. The reason? Terrorism works.


After the simmering campaign of violence against abortion clinics and doctors commenced, the number of doctors willing to offer the service unsurprisingly shrank. Doctors made that decision not because they became personally opposed to abortion, but because they were frightened by the prospects of becoming the victims of violence. It’s the very definition of terrorism.


That has led, over the years, to a constriction in geography for where abortions are available. For purposes of practicality, there are wide swaths of the country where abortion may be legal, but may as well not be, because no doctor within a reasonable distance performs them. The anti-abortion movement has not achieved victory through the political process, but its more extremist elements (rejected by the mainstream, it should be noted) have through politically motivated violence.


For all the heat generated, this is even truer of late-term abortions. Only a handful of doctors in the United States actually perform late-term abortions. That number is now reduced by one, and if Tiller’s death is tied to abortion-related terrorism, then those other doctors who currently perform the procedure and doctors entering the field will all have to ask themselves whether it is worth the risk. In fact, right now even as the police search for a person of interest, all of those people – undoubtedly familiar with the connections between abortion and political violence in the United States – are no doubt already doing that.


That means that if Tiller’s murder is eventually found not to be at the hands of an extremist, that it is intertwined with domestic terrorism. The connection is, thanks to past actions, automatic. Each new doctor who, considering the risk, declines to perform abortions based not on conviction but out of physical fear is another victory for political violence and a defeat for the way most of us think things should work.


© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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