American Morning

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June 2nd, 2009
06:32 AM ET

Who's responsible for Tiller's killing?

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Dr. George Tiller was one of the few U.S. physicians who performed late-term abortions."]

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.

Filed under: Controversy • Crime
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Janos

    If a muslim plots an assassination, he's a terrorist. Why then do we not call Atheist who commit arson against churches terrorist? Why then do we not call Christians who bomb abortion clinics terrorist? We have a real double standard in our country, and it's time that double standard is addressed.

    June 2, 2009 at 7:42 pm |
  2. Terron Clarke

    America is known as the land of liberty where everyone has a right is not that so, it is silly to impose your pro life on persons who choose to commit abortion, let god and the individual work it out.
    I am aha me of Christians who are agreeing with the death of the doctor we should preach repentance,forgiveness of sins and love to hate and to preach hate is murder

    June 2, 2009 at 2:22 pm |
  3. RJ

    do people on welfare really have the right to keep having babies on my dime?

    June 2, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  4. RJ

    Hey JT do we live in the land of the free or the land of religious supression? What all leaders need to realize is that all of our economic and social issues are due to too many people! Its called overpopulation! What happens in the animal world when they over populate? i`ll tell you they get diseases, and end up killing each other over competion for food! Is this what we want for the human race? This planet does not have enough resources to maintain the population as it is, so keep adding more by the millions? Please stop telling its in the bible, who wrote the bible? Is it even accurate after being handed down by word of mouth for hundreds of years, it takes more than faith for me it takes reality, common sense, and the ability to think for myself!

    June 2, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  5. JT

    I have one comment...When a woman has a miscarriage and the baby is 5-7 months, everything is done to save it and the little tyke is a miracle! NOW, this doctor performs late term thats 5-9 month abortions and knowlingly has to kill he baby, how on earth can any medical person who has taken an oath to preserve life do that? it is inhuman. Why not deliver the baby and try to help it survive. the ONLY reason I could think of for a late term abortion would be if the mother's life is in danger, and why not save her baby too. There are adoption agencies and people who would love to adopt an infant and can't get them...! I believe in the mother's right to choose, but late term?? there should be a limit!!

    June 2, 2009 at 11:25 am |
  6. Daniel Nelson

    I think if you have a sexual relationship with a member of the opposite sex you also should have made a commitment with that person to love him or her for life. If you are a sex addict or love to have it all the time you need help or a partner of the opposite sex who enjoys sex as much as you do but if you are young and want to experiment you should also be aware of what might happen and take responsibility for the child until he or she is mature enough to take care of themselves if one would be conceived! The only way an abortion should occur is if the women was raped or might loose her life if she continued the pregnancy.

    June 2, 2009 at 11:08 am |
  7. Paul

    I think we need to understand late term abortions better – not even a medical term. I believe most of these are performed because the fetus has a serious medical problem – usually a chromosomal anomaly not compatible with life and so a couple takes the difficult decision of ending the pregnancy instead of prolonging something that will not survive. It is only humane to allow couples this choice. If it is not for you, then don't do it, but leave others with the option.

    June 2, 2009 at 9:37 am |
  8. Daisy21

    If we need a discussion about words possibly inciting a man to kill the abortion doctor in Kansas, why not a discussion about words possibly inciting the Muslim convert who yesterday killed a soldier in Arkansas outside a military recruiting center?

    Did all the anti-military, anti-war talk by certain people encourage this young Muslim to kill the innocent soldier? For some reason, I've not heard much coverage about the recruiting center murder, but a whole lot about the abortion doctor.

    June 2, 2009 at 8:46 am |
  9. carol costello

    Carol Costello here...thanks for your comments. Abortion is such a divisive issue I wonder if anyone really thinks there is a "middle ground?"
    President Obama has convened groups representing both sides–to diffuse tension and reduce unwanted pregnancies.

    Is it a pipe dream?

    June 2, 2009 at 8:43 am |
  10. dwayne

    abortion is murder god gives life and only he should take it . dick chenny is not in his right mind he shot his friend so of course he is going to say that being gay is okay

    June 2, 2009 at 8:35 am |
  11. mario mtl ca

    All of those who think they are more catholic than the pope

    June 2, 2009 at 8:34 am |
  12. Daniel Nelson

    RJ you sound like you care only for what you want in life and have no care for others. I hope you enjoy your life here on earth because it looks to me that is all you want and that is all you'll get!

    June 2, 2009 at 8:08 am |
  13. RJ

    its a free country there LT get used to it! Sotomayor is right in with those men you just mentioned, be careful how you throw your stones!

    June 2, 2009 at 8:04 am |
  14. RJ

    who says theres a god in the first place, show me proof dont just tell me I have to have faith, show me proof!

    June 2, 2009 at 8:02 am |
  15. L.T. Freeman

    CNN putting on air hate groups, Limbaugh, Lindsay Graham, Jeff Sessions, all Republicans, all spouting hatred for the people in power, as they did on John Roberts "American Morning" on Monday 6/1/09. CNN is promoting hatred and terrorist actions against Americans right to peacefully change from the failed administrations past policies. You do your nation no service promoting their Bigotry.

    June 2, 2009 at 7:59 am |
  16. RJ

    I say to the christian bible thumper if you will agree to take care of every unwanted birth in this world and not ask me to help than you can make abortion illegal, until you do then leave law abiding citizens alone!

    June 2, 2009 at 7:59 am |
  17. RJ

    To Amy Rigg, you hit the nail on the head the root to all mankinds problems is population! We have far too many mouths on this planet to feed and its getting worse by the day! What we really need is policies like China has on births! Its the only way bible thumper! You know just do the right thing and admit it!

    June 2, 2009 at 7:58 am |
  18. RJ

    its a law in this country for anyone who wants an abortion, plain and simple and no bible thumper has any right telling me I cant do something! I`m sick of bible thumpers trying to dictate how I`m supposed to live my life! They need to mind their own business and leave people alone and keep their views to themselves!

    June 2, 2009 at 7:53 am |
  19. amy rigg

    Whoever said that the people who disparaged Dr. Tiller, calling him "Tiller the Baby Killer" (O'Reilly and that other crazy guy) can't be held accountable for his murder, should take note of the case of Charles Manson ... he never actually killed anybody, but his words surely persuaded others to commit heinous crimes. I think the world would be a better place of Bill O'Reilly's mother would have a retroactive abortion performed on her son. Our planet has way too many humans to support now, and if humans don't consciously try to prevent unwanted births, I'm sure the earth will balance herself out and get rid of this mass of crazed humanity. Those people should be held accountable for their evil words that drive wack-a-loons to murder innocent doctors.

    June 2, 2009 at 7:26 am |
  20. kelly

    The question isn't as much who (killed Tiller), but what: the answer once again smacks of fear and unresolved vulnerability. The logic of people deciding to kill, showing killing is wrong, in the defense of a pro-life stance seems irrational and solely emotionally based.

    June 2, 2009 at 7:15 am |
  21. Kim

    Aren't you perpetuating the situation by calling him an "abortion" doctor?? Why not just say he is a "doctor" who was killed by a loonie for performing abortions!!

    June 2, 2009 at 7:14 am |
  22. Rob Levine

    Now the anti-abortionists are forced to admit that abortion is NOT murder; if abortion IS murder, then the killing of Tiller is justified – after all, if he's "murdered" thousands of people and is still on a "rampage" then one is surely justified in killing him. But now the antis are saying the killing of Tiller was wrong. So which is it, abortion is murder or not? Their mouths say yes, but their actions say no.

    June 2, 2009 at 7:03 am |
  23. Daniel Nelson

    Many sins of killing others does not condone the killing of that person! Like God had said if you commit one sin it is though you commit many!

    June 2, 2009 at 6:58 am |
  24. Janos

    Why is it that when a Muslim is inspired by ideology and rhetoric to murder, he is called an Islamo Fascist or a Terrorist, but when a Christian is inspired by ideology and hateful rhetoric to commit murder or call in bomb threats s/he's not a Christian Fascist or a Terrorist? Double Standards much?

    June 2, 2009 at 6:58 am |