Debate About Personhood
John Brown was hanged for raiding an arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia three years later. To many anti-slavery activists, Brown was a hero. Henry David Thoreau praised him. Ralph Waldo Emerson compared him to Jesus Christ.
Abraham Lincoln, as we might expect, took a longer view of Brown’s hanging, saying: “We cannot object, even though he agreed with us in thinking slavery wrong. That cannot excuse violence. It can avail him nothing that he think himself right.”
That would sum up my view if Roeder should be executed.
I haven’t heard anti-abortion activists call Scott Roeder a hero though. Instead, they’ve roundly condemned what he did. Nonetheless, pro-abortion activists blame them for firing up Roeder. They blamed anti-abortion activists for Paul Hill too, a minister who killed an abortionist in Florida fifteen years ago and got the death penalty for doing so. Fanatic to the end, Hill went to his death confident he had done the right thing.
In The Atlantic last week, Megan McArdle wrote:
Listening to the debates about abortion, it seems to me that really broad swathes of the pro-choice movement seem to genuinely not understand that this is a debate about personhood, which is why you get moronic statements like ‘If you think abortions are wrong, don't have one!’ If you think a fetus is a person, it is not useful to be told that you, personally, are not required to commit murder, as long as you leave the neighbors alone while they do it.
Would it have done any good to tell John Brown “If you think slavery is wrong, don’t buy one!”? Slavery was legal in 1856 Kansas, just as abortion is now, but John Brown thought that irrelevant. Slavery and abortion are both about personhood as McArdle claims. If Africans were not persons, but organisms somewhere down the evolutionary scale between humans and animals - as so many slave-holders believed, then it was all right to enslave them. But if they were persons, as John Brown believed, then slavery was evil. So it naturally followed that he would, as he put it, “consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery.” Murder, in Brown’s mind, was justified on his mission.
It’s justified in Scott Roeder’s mind too because he believes unborn babies are persons just as slaves were. George Tiller killed 60,000 of them, making millions in the process. Many were partial-birth abortions, in which Tiller would pull out a baby by its legs, leaving it’s head inside the mother. Then he would make a hole in the base of the baby’s skull, insert a vacuum tube, and suck out its brains. As long as the head was still inside, it was a fetus with no right to life - not a person, legally. If its head were a few inches south, the baby would be a person in the eyes of the law and Tiller would be a murderer, a particularly gruesome murderer at that.
Instead, Tiller is a hero - a martyr to the “women’s rights” movement. Feminists held vigils for him in Portland and Boston and dozens of other cities across the US and Canada. President Obama, our most pro-abortion president ever, took time out of his Sunday to say he was “shocked and outraged” by the killing. The next day, a radical Muslim shot two American soldiers in Arkansas, killing one. There wasn’t a word from the White House about that for three days, after which the president said he was “saddened.”
As an Illinois state senator, Obama voted against the “Born Alive Infant Protection Act.” He would rather leave babies born alive after unsuccessful abortions to die on a shelf in another room, alone and unattended, because to recognize them as persons would threaten the legality of abortion itself. Explaining his vote, Obama said, “I mean, it - it would essentially bar abortions, because the equal protection clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this is a child, then this would be an antiabortion statute.”
Asked later when human life begins, Obama said he didn’t know, that it was "above my pay grade." If life doesn’t begin at birth, Mr. President, when does it begin? This is the guy who said that if his daughters get pregnant, “I don’t want them punished with a baby.” Not exactly a fanatic view, but pretty far out there nonetheless.
Ironically, President Obama and President Lincoln both came from Illinois, but that’s where the comparison ends.