From CNN's Carol Costello and Bob Ruff
Killing doctors who perform legal abortions is rare in this country—but it happened again over the weekend.
Dr. George Tiller, who performed late-term abortions at his Wichita, Kansas clinic, was shot and killed while serving as an usher at his church Sunday morning. Tiller was the fourth abortion doctor killed.
Dr. Barnett Slepian was killed by a sniper in his Buffalo Amherst, NY home in 1998.
In 1994 Dr. John Britton was murdered while sitting in a car in Pensacola, Florida.
The first killing of an abortion doctor happened in 1993, also in Pensacola. David Gunn was shot while abortion opponents protested outside his clinic.
You’ll notice that it has been more than a decade since the last such murder, and some speculate there’s a reason for that.
UC Berkeley professor Cynthia Gorney, author of “Articles of Faith: A Frontline History of the Abortion Wars”, says anti-abortion leaders realized years ago that such killings do not help their cause of eliminating all abortions in this country—and so they’ve discouraged it. The problem with high profile killings, Gorney told CNN’s Carol Costello, “is that you do stir up a great deal of conversation, and for them it’s almost all negative, because you’re going to get a huge backlash against right to life. You’re going to get a lot of people now saying, ‘see those people are all crazy.’”
Randall Terry, the outspoken founder of “Operation Rescue,” an anti-abortion pro-life group, agrees that such extreme violence puts pressure on their pro-life movement. He told reporters Monday that “President Obama, the pro-abortion groups, their friends on Capitol Hill are going to try to browbeat the pro-life movement into surrendering.”
But Terry has no qualms about verbally assaulting Dr. Tiller, even in the wake of his death. “George Tiller was a mass murderer,” says Terry, “he reaped what he sowed.”
Despite talk that violence against abortion doctors and their clinics has diminished because pro-life leaders feel it hinders their cause, one pro-abortion leader disagrees. Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal told CNN that “this is not an isolated incident. I know it’s not and I worry as I sit here for other doctors and other health care workers who are being threatened.”
What about highly charged rhetoric against abortion doctors? Can words along alone incite violence? Smeal says yes. “Those who stir up the pot, and then now they say they feel sorry, well, I’m sorry. They bear some responsibility for having demonized him [Dr. Tiller] unfairly. Ridiculously.”
The most recent statistics on the number of abortions reported to the Centers for Disease Control show that 820,151 legal induced abortions were performed in the United States in 2005. That’s down from more than 1.4 million in 1990.