The Canonization of George Tiller Print
By Cathy Ruse and Austin Ruse   
Friday, 12 June 2009

Late-term abortionist George Tiller has been buried. His clinic has been permanently closed. It is being reported that candlelight vigils were held across America for him and that another late-term abortionist has compared him to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Pro-choice” Christian ministers called him a “martyr in the classical sense.” One even called him a “saint.” That he was killed in a church certainly contributed to the hagiography.

Anyone who claims to value all human life should condemn his murder, but that does not mean we should refrain from telling the truth about this alleged saint.

Let’s assume he was not in it for the reported $6,000-$20,000 he charged per late-term abortion, or the fees he charged for the other abortions, 60,000 total, which left him a well-heeled man by all accounts.

Let’s stipulate that he believed in abortion on the level of religious commitment, that abortion was for him what one of his minister-supporters called it: a sacrament.

Let’s say he was a believer in abortion on the order of the Christian martyrs of the second century who were torn apart by wild beasts for their refusal to reject the Christian God. Let us stipulate to all of that. But for what cause, exactly, was he a martyr?

We are told he was a martyr for women. But not one of the late-term abortions he did was to save a woman’s life, according to Kansas health department records. Tiller was not in the life-saving business.

Was he a martyr for some postmodern notion of freedom? Those celebrating his life’s work are most comfortable with abstract terms like “choice,” but we understand that there is real flesh and blood behind the sloganeering – that they are celebrating the work of this man’s hands. Tiller’s late-term abortions were described to the Kansas state legislature:

Tiller or his staff would inject a drug called digoxin through the mother’s abdomen and into the heart of the living baby, killing the child. The mother then has a dead baby in her womb for up to four days as she waits to deliver. The mothers would wait in a local hotel. When the time came to expel her dead baby one Tiller patient, Michele Armesto-Berge, told Kansas lawmakers that Tiller’s staff made her sit over and give “birth” to her dead baby into a toilet.

This is what Tiller did to countless vulnerable women and to countless viable children, children who felt pain, children who could have lived outside the womb if given the chance. If George Tiller was a martyr, he was a martyr to this.

Indeed, Martin Luther King’s niece, Alveda King, said of the comparisons of Tiller to her uncle: “to mention the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr., who worked through peaceful and nonviolent means, in the same breath with that of George Tiller, whose work ended peace and brought violence to babies in the womb, is offensive beyond belief.”

Until Sunday morning, public opinion about abortion was moving towards pro-life positions. Three recent polls confirmed that Americans’ views on abortion had shifted dramatically. One poll showed that 51 percent of Americans – an absolute majority – call themselves pro-life, and that the pro-choice designation trails by nine percentage points. Another poll showed that, even in the highly important 18-to-29-year-old demographic, pro-lifers outnumber supporters of choice. And when you drill down into the polling data, you discover that most Americans are against most of the abortions that occur each year and believe they should be made illegal.

This change has come about through advances in science and medicine that allow new mothers actually to see their developing infants. It also happened because pro-lifers have been wise and patient, and have done their work in large part quietly, head to head and heart to heart. The pro-life movement has been successful against all odds in not only keeping the issue alive despite massive opposition in the media and popular culture, but also in changing hearts and minds.

Will the murder of George Tiller halt this steady and solid progress? It’s too soon to tell. But we should brace for the possibility that a violent act committed by a mentally disturbed man (as his family describes him) will change the playing field profoundly on the most important human rights issue of our day. Abortion activists are already trying to use this crime to discredit and to thwart our efforts. Will the Obama Administration exploit this – another crisis – to try to silence our voices and further its pro-abortion agenda cloaked in “common ground” rhetoric?

Those of us in the pro-life movement know this: We are not going anywhere. We will continue to be peaceful and persistent. Even now, young people on college campuses are coming up with creative ways to advance our cause. Even now, elderly men and women are standing outside of abortion clinics praying for young women to turn around. Even now, young women are turning around, and their lives and the lives of their babies are being saved. Our work will go on.

Cathy Ruse is Senior Fellow for Legal Studies at the Family Research Council. Austin Ruse is president of the New York- and Washington DC-based C-FAM (Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute), a research institute on international social policy.


© 2009 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info at thecatholicthing dot org


The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.