Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Debate About Personhood

We’ve never suffered a shortage of fanatics who believe they know what’s best for the rest of us, who would impose their will whether we like it or not. One was John Brown - anti-slavery fanatic who in 1856 hacked five pro-slavery men to death with broadswords in Kansas. I was struck by the coincidence that anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder shot abortionist George Tiller to death last week in Kansas too. The murders were 100 miles and 150 years apart.

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.


Anonymous said...

One picture in particular this morning was shocking to me, Tom. Then again, some people need to see it because they may not actually visualize the process of this type of abortion. My mind would not allow me to go to the extent that the picture did because it bothered me.

I personally don't believe in abortion, but if someone wants one, it's up to them. They have to face themselves every morning in the mirror and answer for what they did when the time comes and if they can do that, then more power to them. I have taken a friend to have an abortion and was there for her when it was over. That was something I wouldn't want to go through again because it affected me as well as her. I would have to think long and hard about bringing another friend to have an abortion because of the way I felt later.

A case of rape or incest is a different story. The person didn't ask for that to happen to them and shouldn't be forced to carry a child to term and add additional trauma to themselves. For everyone else, if you're going to play, expect to pay or do something to prevent that possibility from happening.


Anonymous said...


Thank you for having the courage in continuing to speak out on this issue. People do need to see and have the procedure spelled out for them, because 'late-term abortion' seems to have become just another political term that has lost its meaning. It is a disgusting and barbaric practice. With all that is now known about fetal development, and how to treat pre-natal conditions, I can think of no excuse for this horrifying form of legal murder to occur in our society.

And contrary to the popular belief of the pro-death movement, the majority of us on the pro-life side of the argument do not condone "Dr." Tiller's murder, no matter how reprehensible his actions were. It's rather pointless to argue against the murder of innocents if you're committing murder yourself.

For me to continue would entail writing my own blog in your comments section, so I suppose I'll save it for mine. Thanks again for another great column.


Alice said...

Thank you, Tom, for another great column The comparison to John Brown was particularly good. As for the second picture, I am still horrified. I knew the procedure was barbaric but to actually see it - oh my! I wonder how Dr. Tiller could square that with going to church, even being an usher. A disgusting person in my view. And of course I do NOT think his murder was justified.

Henry Johnson said...

Yeah right, no pro-life activists condone the murder:

Randall Terry, the founder and former president of Operation Rescue, staged a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., where he denied that the anti-choice movement is responsible for Tiller's death--but added that Tiller "was a mass-murderer and, horrifically, he reaped what he sowed."

Regina Dinwiddie, who protested at clinics alongside Scott Roeder, told CNN that Tiller's slaying was "absolutely" justified. "He forfeited his life by taking the lives of innocent children," she said.

Talk radio host Steve Deace had the gall to compare Scott Roeder to the 19th-century abolitionist John Brown. "Maybe the fact that we have a lawless society that has not protected these babies from infanticide created the Scott Roeders of the world, who in very John Brown-like fashion, illegally took matters into his own hands," Deace said.

Roeder is an ignorant thug and bears a startling resemblance to the author of this crappy blog.

Anonymous said...

Hey Henry:

It's a shame to see you waste so much of your precious time reading and commenting on such a 'crappy' blog. Perhaps you should get a hobby.


Anonymous said...

To answer Bobby; The German people said; personally I would never kill them but if Hitler and his followers want to do that who am I to stand in the way. It's their right!

The other one is your comment on rape and Incest....It seems to me that after being brutalized and humiliated by the assailant, how is killing an innocent human being who played no role in this sick act going to make the victim of the crime feel any better about themselves? I mean,what did the kid do to deserve death at all and how would that person be able to bring closure to the violent act that has been inflicted upon them by murdering someone else who is also completely innocent in this... I would submit to you that only in an act of unselfish love of giving life to another innocent human being that has been thrust into this sick scenario, like the rape victim, would you be able to, through much pain and suffering, hold your head up high knowing that you did the right thing and not joined the crazies out there.

Paul M.

Anonymous said...

to Henry Johnson; If we are anti choice....does that make you pro death?

Paul M.

tommyp said...

I'm neither surprised or saddened by Doc Tiller's untimely demise. I'm not completely against abortion. If it's going to be done do it as soon as possible. Waiting until the fetus has turned into a viable infant, only to puncture its skull and suck out its brain seems like some experiment done by the Third Riech. If abortions were limited to the first trimester most Americans who are against abortion would probably let it go.

Former Student said...

I believe abortion should only be an option when the mothers life is (absolutly)in danger.In the case of rape or incest,I believe the baby is not to blame for the situation and therefore, shouldn't be murdered.
It sickens me to hear people say "It's the womans body,it's her choice" Well, what about the childs body within her? What are his/her choices? Also,a lot fail to mention the father of these children ?Do they always know/agree to the murdering of their child?
I think I'm fast becoming the minority,and that's ok with me!

Tom McLaughlin said...

When we force ourselves to look at what abortion really is, and how it's actually done, our humanity recoils in horror.

We have tens of millions of women just here in America who have had abortions. How many really knew what they were choosing? That they're now reluctant to examine what they did is understandable and I take no pleasure bringing it up.

I've known women who have had abortions and heart-wrenchingly faced it later. They have been able to work through their grief and forgive themselves.

I suspect I know many more who keep it a dark secret that eats at them. They're the ones who suffer most.

Anonymous said... just has to stop and realize we have basically removed a city from the States. Not only a city, but how many off-springs from that city and technological advances?