Kansas.com, the website of the Wichita Eagle newspaper, is reporting that late-term abortionist George Tiller "was shot to death this morning as he walked into church services." Tiller was a member of Wichita's Reformation Lutheran Church, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
Tiller's abortion clinic "is one of the few in the country where late-term abortions are performed." According to reports, Tiller himself had performed over 60,000 abortions.
As Kansas.com notes, Tiller has repeatedly been the subject of lawsuits and criminal investigations. Most recently, "A Wichita jury ruled in March that he was not guilty of illegal abortion on 19 criminal charges he faced for allegedly violating a state law requiring an 'independent' second physician's concurring opinion before performing later term abortions." He remained under investigation for a similar complaint filed with the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts.
Tiller was also a significant donor to the political campaigns of former Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius, the radically pro-abortion Catholic whom President Barack Obama appointed as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Tiller contributed to Sebelius directly and to political action committees that she controlled. During her tenure as governor, Kansas City Archbishop Joseph Naumann declared that Kansas had become "infamous for being the late-term abortion center for the Midwest." Sebelius repeatedly vetoed legislation that would have affected Tiller's business.
All of that said, the murder of Tiller cannot—must not—be excused. Murder is murder, and those who would weigh the 60,000 lives that Tiller took (and those he might have taken in the future) against his own make a fundamental moral error. We cannot do evil that good may come of it, and God is the proper judge of Tiller's soul. Our duty as Christians remains the same after Tiller's murder as before: to pray for his soul.
Sadly, Tiller's actions (or most of them, anyway) were legal under the laws of the state of Kansas and under the current state of federal constitutional law. Even more disturbingly, Tiller's murderer may have set in motion a political backlash that could lead to a federal crackdown on abortion protests and a revived push to pass the federal Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA).
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama had promised to sign FOCA, a congressional bill that would force states and localities to remove restrictions on abortion, thus guaranteeing a uniform "right to an abortion" across the United States. Since his inauguration, President Obama has signaled that FOCA would not be a legislative priority for his administration. Abortion-rights groups, happy with what they have received from the Obama administration so far, were willing to give the President a pass on FOCA.
I predict that Tiller's murder will change all of that. FOCA will be reintroduced in Congress (it failed in the last legislative session), and President Obama will likely get behind it. We may also see federal marshals stationed outside abortion clinics, something that hasn't happened on a regular basis since the early years of Operation Rescue. And that will mean more arrests of peaceful protestors.
Over the past month, several polls, most prominent among them Gallup, have indicated that, for the first time since the question has been asked, there is a pro-life majority in the United States. The willingness of voters to identify themselves as pro-life seems to be a reaction to the pro-abortion policies of President Obama's first 100 days in office. Tiller's murder will likely cause a backlash on this front, too.
Murder is murder. By taking Tiller's life into his or her own hands, Tiller's murderer joined with Tiller in his sin. Unlike Tiller, he or she will likely be brought to justice.
But if the murder of Tiller prompts a political backlash, it is unborn children and those who spend their days on the front lines trying to save them—peacefully, through prayer and sidewalk counseling—who will pay the price for the murderer's decision to become what he or she despised.