Sunday, September 07, 2003

Just Punishment? - My Answer

I lost about half this post last night and I'm not sure I have the energy to entirely reconstruct it. Nor am I sure I've thunk it all out yet, but I guess I ought to make a stab at it. This does not pretend to be an exhaustive treatment, but just sufficient to establish whether Paul Hill's actions can be defended under the traditional right to self-defense.

Jeff Culbreath says that "William Luse is a courageous man for even asking the question." That's me he's talking about. But I'm afraid I must demur. Asking questions is easy and often a source of great annoyance to others; just ask my wife and kids. Besides, I'm not even close to being the first to ask it. I went poking around and found that Paul Hill, either before or after his conviction, said the following: "Whatever force is legitimate in defending a born child is legitimate in defending an unborn child." For those of us who think the humanity of the unborn is no more in doubt than that of the born, the persuasiveness of Hill's assertion strikes us at once. It appeals to that impulse which I mentioned to Paul Cella, that if we saw a man about to murder a neighbor, and we had the means to prevent it, we would. Hill's sense of conviction, his lack of doubt, his apparent "courage", his willingness to act, suddenly seem foremost, and to stand as an affront to the consciences of those of us who have trouble dragging ourselves out to join a Life Chain or pray in front of a clinic, let alone block the entrances and subject ourselves to arrest. Mr. Hill's premise seemed so powerful, in fact, that the magazine First Things felt compelled to convene a symposium of pro-life eminences to rebut it. They may have gotten more than they bargained for in the response of Robert P. George, whose wickedly droll masterpiece of moral inversion requires that I reproduce it in whole:

I am personally opposed to killing abortionists. However, inasmuch as my personal opposition to this practice is rooted in a sectarian (Catholic) religious belief in the sanctity of human life, I am unwilling to impose it on others who may, as a matter of conscience, take a different view. Of course, I am entirely in favor of policies aimed at removing the root causes of violence against abortionists. Indeed, I would go so far as to support mandatory one-week waiting periods, and even nonjudgmental counseling, for people who are contemplating the choice of killing an abortionist. I believe in policies that reduce the urgent need some people feel to kill abortionists while, at the same time, respecting the rights of conscience of my fellow citizens who believe that the killing of abortionists is sometimes a tragic necessity-not a good, but a lesser evil. In short, I am moderately pro-choice.

The unsubtle might read this as a defense of Hill, but they would be wrong. Mr. George's remarks remind us that an abortionist is no more human than a fetus. At least, that is what we ought to believe, or so I've been led to believe. But do we? If we do, Mr. Hill's action would seem, on the surface, defensible; if we do not, absolutely indefensible. There is no middle ground here. The baby is either human, as precious to God as you or me, or he is not. Let's say that we do so believe. We then feel that we ought to do something. Murder is a thing that ought not to go unchallenged. Yet we feel helpless, our will to action constricted by the law which allows the murder of the baby but not the abortionist. How can we live with this, how tolerate it? Mr. Hill did something and we have not. You've prayed, you say, given money, done this or that, and perhaps saved a child by the action of grace in someone's heart. Maybe, for you cannot know, or at least cannot demonstrate it to anyone's satisfaction. You rest on the laurels of conviction by faith, while the babies keep dying. I dare say, if you saw not a pregnant mother entering the doors of that clinic down the street, but a mother leading her 3 year old Down syndrome child by the hand and through those doors to extermination - because, like many politicians, our laws had "grown" while in office, allowing parents a trial period, say five years, to decide if they were really cut out for this - your reaction might be quite different. I think you'd be reluctant to wait on the power of prayer and conversion. In fact, your duty would consist in not waiting. You might resolve that it was time to take up the gun. (Or you might not. What is required to rile the people of this country to cast even a vote that would take back what belongs to them is yet to be determined.) But if you believe that there is no moral difference between that Down syndrome child and one that is unborn, why do you not take up the gun now? What is it about your desire to pray that makes you right, and Mr. Hill's desire to shoot that makes him wrong?

We need to examine Mr. Hill's act beneath two lights: that which allows us to scrutinize its moral rectitude according to the law of God, and the other according to the law of man and society (our duty to each other as citizens), insofar as the latter does not contradict the former. Let's deal with the latter first.

Our own Declaration of Independence - in which I find no premise in defiance of Catholic doctrine - states that "...Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it...". And further: "Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security..." Apparently most pro-life Americans do not yet think we have come to this pass, and that we "are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable..." Mr. Hill could suffer it no longer, and so he acted alone. This in itself would not make him wrong, the acting alone, but that he did so without seeking the approbation of a larger cadre does, something that would give him at least a semblance of "legitimate authority," as when Jefferson in penning his Declaration, or Washington in leading his troops abroad, were not claiming the right to do these things on their own authority. Like Hill, they claimed an authority given them by the Creator's endowment, and from which they derived an understanding of the natural rights of men, but they did this in common. This, under just any circumstances, wouldn't have made them right, but it certainly makes Mr. Hill wrong, for he had no patience with the larger society of men. He claimed to have it straight from God, as would a prophet - or a terrorist. (I realize the flaw in that latter analogy: Hill was trying to protect the innocent, while a terrorist tries to kill them. But they do share peculiar intimations of divine purpose.) Mr. Hill's sense of infallibility, the absence of doubt right up to the end, was disconcerting. Even saints have doubts.

Speaking of which, we are in very murky waters here. When, exactly, will we know that it is time to "abolish or destroy?" Will we recognize the "absolute Despotism" when we see it? Are we there now, 30 million dead babies later? I'm not there because no one will follow me, and there is no one to follow, and I'm certainly not following Paul Hill. Most pro-lifers wouldn't even follow Operation Rescue. Maybe life's too busy, too comfortable, too profitable, though our hearts are in the right place. Or maybe we're just cowards. What we're into here is one of those line-drawing dilemmas such as confronted Potter Stewart in his attempt to define obscenity, admitting that we can't define it, but trusting that we'll know it when we see it. It is a terrible responsibility, which Paul Hill took lightly. For me, the moment is not now, and I would not trust my authority to announce that it was. There seems to me to still be hope, tempered by another hope that this is not merely a coward's sentiment.

Nazism was an absolute despotism, and a commonly drawn parallel is one saying that between the abortion doctor and the death camp doctor there is no difference. To most of you the difference is, I trust, transparent. The death camp was state-compelled, the abortion clinic state-permitted. The permission indeed grants approval, in spite of what certain kinds of pro-choicers say, and the law that grants it heinously unjust. But it is a difference that allows us to say, rightly or wrongly, that the moment is not now. In China, some abortions are state-compelled. If that became the case here, would the moment be now?

What Paul Hill did was to take up arms not against just another person, a murderer, but against his own country, and not against just one of its laws (as he probably thought) but against its most fundamental prohibition, that forbidding murder. He fancied that in his own person, an embodiment of God's will, he possessed this authority, appealing to, and asking approval from, no other. His act was a declaration of war against abortionists and the state which coddles them, and he is therefore subject to just war principles. He fails on several counts. We've already discussed his lack of legitimate authority. Neither did he use a means proportionate to the end, nor did he have a reasonable chance of success (in saving children or of stamping out abortion in this country), nor is it beyond all argument that the good to be achieved far outweighed the evil that would accompany it (except in his own mind), nor was his use of lethal violence a last resort. Several readers pointed this out, and we can now move into that other light of scrutiny, the one that would tell us whether Paul Hill's act, apart from what the State might say of it, can at all be defended, under the usual circumstances permitted by the moral doctrine of our faith, as an act of legitimate self-defense either of his own life or that of an innocent other.

First let me say what arguments offered I thought were not probative. Jeff Miller says that he objects both to the murder of the abortionist and to the execution of Paul Hill on the same principle. His main reason seems to be that the opportunity for repentance is lost. He then offers an impressive list of personages who underwent just such a change of heart, and concludes with this sound Christian advice: "As Christians we are called to prayer and sacrifice and the living of the Christian life to hopefully transform through the grace of God those who are doing violence to their own eternal souls." To say nothing, Jeff, of the violence they are doing to the bodies and souls of others? As much as I love the Curt Jester, godfather to this very page, I cannot go along with any of this (except the sound Christian advice).

The Catholic Church has always ceded to the State the right to inflict the punishment of death. If we equate the state's action with Hill's, we charge the Church with sanctioning murder. Now if Jeff wants to take exception to this particular execution on some prudential ground, that's a different matter. I do find it odd that, of so many murders committed with far greater savagery and bloodlust, with no justification by a higher purpose even offered, no defense of another even conceivable, their perpetrators should be given life while Paul Hill was so swiftly brought to death. It almost seems aimed at the pro-life movement, which, as we all know, is fulminate with extremists.

As for that chance to repent, I would say a man can repent in a fortnight as readily as in a decade, or a generation. Giving him a deadline tends to force the issue. To take one of Jeff's examples, former atheist-abortionist now (Catholic?) Bernard Nathanson, I think it wonderful that he now finds himself in the grace of God. By his own account he presided over the murders of upwards of 60,000 human beings. That's a big body count for the sake of one conversion. I'd rather have the 60,000 back. He can repent on his own time. The babies are dying on ours. If in earlier years he had been convicted and sentenced to death, would that have been unjust? Maybe that depends on whether we think the unborn really are as precious to God as the born. Dr. Nathanson has gotten as far as he has only because the law, an unjust law, was on his side.

Another objection raised concerned the damage done to the pro-life movement, and here I agree with Ryan Booth, that this is a practical, not a moral reservation. I knew plenty of pro-lifers who were embarrassed by Operation Rescue, an organization which, in its emulation of the civil disobedience of the civil rights era, had reason to believe that its tactics might change many minds. Now we have such efforts prosecutable under the RICO statute, making the sacrifice impossible for all but the most heroic. Mr. Booth then asks the following: "If you argue that it is moral for an individual to forcefully protect the innocent from the government," how far are we allowed to go in taking the law into our own hands? He gives examples: can he bomb a porn store, a casino, spring from prison a man wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for murder? The answers are no, no, and maybe. Unlike the baby at the clinic, no one is being forced into that porn shop; you have other avenues available. Casinos cater to vice, not murder, and since they tend to run round the clock, if you bomb one you're likely to kill somebody. The punishment wouldn't fit the crime. The fellow unjustly convicted is a lot like the abortion problem – you should refrain from action until all hope is lost. When all hope is lost is a judgement call. His question – can I kill the executioner? – is more on point. I'd say no, since the executioner, on behalf of the state, believes himself to be carrying out an act of justice, not murder. The evidence presented in court may indeed allow the state to claim invincible ignorance. The execution of the innocent man will have been a wrongful death by accident, and you may not claim self-defense in killing a man who is not objectively committing murder. I should think you'd have the right to forcefully intervene, short of lethal violence, as long as you are willing to accept the consequences of your actions. But if you know the man is innocent, then show the evidence. If you don't have the evidence, then how do you know? On faith?

Now if we live in that condition of "absolute Despotism" in which the state is in the habit of purposely executing those known to be innocent, the equation changes. This is the instance that would parallel Herod's killing all the babies in Bethlehem, and of course you'd have the right, indeed the obligation, to employ all necessary force to stop it. This is also the instance that applies to the abortionist, who is willfully, knowingly, and with malice aforethought, killing an innocent and defenseless being. He cannot be allowed to use the escape clause of invincible ignorance to soothe his conscience (or ours) because the evidence in the case has not been lost, stolen, or simply escaped his notice. It's right before his eyes. That which he considers a "clump of tissue" or "nascent human life" would, left unmolested, emerge from its mother's womb none other than fully human. To allow him to claim that the baby in the womb is not yet "fully human" is to allow him the privilege of wallowing in an overweening stupidity. Some things we have a responsibility to know, and can be held accountable for not knowing. Such an ignorance would not be invincible, but willful and self-enforced.

One other observation I thought to be in error and that will be enough. James Kern says that "The bodyguard had no part in the abortions performed by the doc." Oh? How about the nurses? The secretary at the front desk? I think everyone connected with the clinic had a part in those abortions. My understanding of the moral law is that we can share in the guilt of an enterprise by offering our aid and approval. The degree of guilt we can leave to God, but under our current laws, if abortion were illegal, everyone in that clinic could be charged as a co-conspirator, and that guard knew what he was defending. Mr. Kern then says (and here we move to the arguments I consider valid), "there was no incontrovertible evidence to support Hill's assumption that the doctor was going to perform any more abortions. Yes, it was highly likely, but, at the moment he was gunned down, he was simply walking to the clinic, not poised between the legs of some woman with his suction and forceps in hand. For all Hill knew, the doctor might have been going in to clean out his desk. Hey, he might have had a change of heart the night before." This may sound disingenuous on its face, but is really of the essence.

Paul Hill saw himself as one who would not "stand idly by while Herod killed all the babies in Bethlehem." But is that what he was? Most of you saw quite clearly that he was not. The ladies, Sparki and Emily, along with several others, mentioned that his probability of success was extremely low, in that he seemed intent on saving babies in general but none in particular. He thought he'd saved 32 that day, but we can't know that he saved even one. And, in his taking up arms against the state, we've already enumerated other tenets of just war teaching in light of which he fails miserably. The doctor, though acting with the state's approval, was not, like Herod's soldiers, its direct agent. This is a small difference but a crucial one for those of us who do not wish to invade abortion clinics brandishing weapons with which we proceed to take out doctors in the process of performing abortions. This does not contradict my earlier parallel between Herod and the doctor, because the point of that parallel was to show intention on the part of the killer, and to now show that Mr. Kern's "change of heart" theory is not a matter of our straining at the gnat of an excuse in order to swallow the camel of inaction. Location is everything, and Mr. Hill's choice of it was poor. Herod's soldiers were in the midst of the act, their intention unmistakable; Hill's doctor was not.

Is there, then, any ground on which Paul Hill can claim to have been acting in legitimate self-defense or in defense of an innocent other? Unlike in Herod's day, the enemy in our own time seems not so clearly to be the state as it is our neighbor, our fellow citizens. So when can we take down a neighbor without being charged with murder? The Church allows us to intentionally kill another only under very strictly defined circumstances: the state in its right to execute, an army in its prosecution of a just war. But individuals? From what I've been able to gather, our use of violence must be a last resort, and any death that results from it must not have been intended, in short, an accident. After all his years of praying and demonstrating, Hill surely thought that he was down to his last resort. But hog-tying the doctor, or dousing him with pepper spray, or calling him nasty names were not on his list of things to do that day. And the doctor's death was certainly no accident. So on both counts Paul Hill again falls down. I frankly can't think of a principle to bring to his defense. Some might ask: what about his intention? His intention was good, to save babies. No it wasn't. It was to kill a doctor. If you have two intentions, one good and one bad, you may not use one to obviate the other, to in effect violate the immemorial principle : "You may not do evil that good may come."

In all this I do not say that the doctor was not deserving of death, only that it was not Paul Hill's place to deliver him into its hands. But what if the circumstances were different?

Suppose the following. Suppose Mr. Hill had managed to ferret his way into the clinic and interpose his body between that of the abortionist and the woman on the table, whose baby is about to die. In this scenario, we escape Mr. Kern's caution about a "change of heart." We are no longer in doubt about the doctor's intention. Armed with the lethal weapons of his trade, he is going to kill that baby. How far may Mr. Hill be allowed to go in that baby's defense? May he use sufficient force, short of the intended, lethal kind, to "abort" the doctor's mission, and perhaps of the accidentally lethal kind to save himself if threatened by a scalpel-waving physician? Would it not have been noble of him to demonstrate a willingness to lay down his life for that baby, or to kill in its immediate defense? And if your answer is 'yes,' how many among you are willing to follow? Not me. I want to live my life where I am, not in jail. If I somehow found myself standing over one of those "procedures", I'd probably feel compelled to do something. That's why I don't try to get in, and why I wonder if most of us really think that the unborn occupy the same moral status as the born. Come after my walking-around little kid and I'll shoot you dead, devil take the hindmost, but if my wife or daughter wants an abortion, I have to sit back with a sigh of resignation.

To protest yet again that such an action would stand little "chance of success" in eradicating abortion is to say that one baby's life isn't important enough, just babies in general. The "chance of success" becomes in time the one-note chant of a hollow chorus, an excuse for doing nothing. It's an excuse we can always make. Meanwhile the babies keep dying and every day that passes we wake up and re-draw the line that says "the time is not now, but we'll know it when we see it."

I don't see a happy or "satisfactory" outcome to our examination of Paul Hill's case. Discovering that he was wrong doesn't equate to knowing that what we are doing now is right.

In closing, I'll leave you with a question I asked earlier, that if, in years to come, our laws continue to "evolve", and you see not a pregnant woman but a mother leading her three year old into that clinic, or even carrying in her arms her three month old, what would you do? Because it's clear by now that carrying it in her womb rather than in her arms is not the condition of insufferable evil that will move us to act. I wonder what will.

I'd like to thank everyone who participated.


In some ways Paul Hill's crime is similar to those tragic familiy situations where a hatefully abused child ends up murdering the parent-tormentor while he is reclining on the patio. The crime is inexcusable and must be punished for the sake of order -- but we understand that seemingly impossible circumstances can push people over the edge. Our national toleration of abortion, if considered in all of its horror and gravity, is enough to push an unbalanced soul over the edge in a hurry. Paul Hill may have wanted to save babies, or he may have wanted an excuse to murder, I don't know. But if he just wanted an excuse to murder, he couldn't have asked for a better pretext than the one his country has given to him.
Posted by Jeff Culbreath email at September 8, 2003 12:46 AM
Yes, it's impossible to know what's in a man's mind. I think he wanted to save babies. If he just wanted to murder, he might have found a way to do it for profit, or fun.
Posted by William Luse email at September 8, 2003 02:35 AM
I think most of us try not to think of this at all. But there are more questions as to what is morall permissable.
Would it be permissable to sabotage the abortionists? For instance to destroy their equipment and buildings at night? It seems that the state would likely bring in RICO to deal with this action- as it has done with Operation Rescue. Surely sidewalk counselors are an act of sabotage- but is there something more effective?
To be honest I'm quite troubled by this since I can honestly see that Paul HIll was wrong but we are, as you said, not right.
But if we did see a child out of the womb we would have other options. Namely- kidnapping. The mother certainly couldn't claim, at this point sole right to murder- she simply wants to be done with the child- so- we offer to take the child from her- or if she persists (to eliminate the child and her neglect from her conscience) we could simply steal the child and develop a type of Underground Railroad system to save those children. It's simpyl because we can't reach into a woman's womb now that we don't take this approach.
Posted by Michael Brendan email at September 8, 2003 02:36 AM
Interesting thoughts, Michael. I'd like to hear some others before I give any more of my own.
Posted by William Luse email at September 8, 2003 02:44 AM
While vigilante justice is not intrinsically immoral -- in some primitive societies, it may be the only form of justice to be had -- it is not licit when practiced at one's whim. Had Paul Hill fully formed his conscience according to the understanding of the sanctity of life promoted by the pro-life movement, perhaps he would have realized he had done the pro-life movement more harm than good. Perhaps he would have realized that his actions have cast a long shadow over peaceful pro-life activists everywhere, making it easier for the culture of death to tramp all over the pro-life movement in its quest to kill.
The genius of Mahatma Gandhi was that he stubbornly clogged the works of the British Empire in the most peaceful manner possible. He ended his life revered by all men of good will, even those who hated him when he forced them to reconsider and change their inhumane treatment of East Indians. Paul Hill, on the other hand, will only be remembered by the pro-life movement he claimed to serve as someone who furthered the cause of the very pro-death movement he thought he was combatting.
May he rest in peace, and may God save the pro-life movement from the consequences of his actions.
Posted by Michelle email at September 8, 2003 02:58 AM
First off, sir, my compliments to you on presenting a most insightful and comprehensive examination of this issue: Well done!
Secondly, permit me to respond to your disagreement with my remark about the bodyguard who Peter Hill killed in addition to the abortion doctor. In retrospect, I see now that when I said the guard had nothing to do with the abortions, I should have added: “…that warranted a death sentence”. Yes, he could be viewed as an accessory, but a very peripheral one. And, if he was simply an on-duty police officer or by-the-hour security man, even more peripheral. The degree to which he is an accessory to the crime is important when we consider the extreme nature of his “punishment”. We’ve headed down another slippery slope if we assent to the execution of anyone who might, in the course of his normal duties, give “assistance” to any abortion provider. If the clinic caught on fire, it would be absurd to suggest that the firemen called out to extinguish the blaze refrain from doing so; and even more absurd to suggest they be executed for aiding and abetting murder, if they went ahead and saved the clinic.
As to your question regarding the woman carrying a 3 month-or-year old child into a “euthenasium:”
I, too, share your (mounting?) exasperation at the widespread inaction, political and personal, of our neighbors, here in North America in particular, and in the developed world in general, regarding abortion. Considering the self-justification and illogic of the pro-abortion side, your scenario is not far-fetched. The incremental degradation of our laws and population is well under way. The trend does seem to lead towards the days of permissible "termination" of the "post-born". If that day does come, it would be time for civil war. In your scenario, I grab the child and, if necessary to escape, injure or kill anyone trying to stop me. If caught and sentenced to death, I would go to the gallows with a conscience as clear as Bavarian crystal.
Posted by James Kern email at September 8, 2003 03:23 AM
Question for Michelle: If Paul Hill's actions had helped rather than hurt the pro-life movement -- let's say, it caused a drastic decline in physicians willing to perform abortions and therefore resulted in fewer abortions -- would you be OK with it?
Posted by Jeff Culbreath email at September 8, 2003 02:02 PM
What about the issue of abortafacients? Possibly chemical abortion kill more than those willfully aborted. Could someone who killed a pharmacist claim the same as Mr. Hill? Or assassinating those in the pharmaceutical industry that profits from these silent murders?
You bring up good points about when do we draw the line in the culture of death and what actions would be prudent in curbing it.
Thanks for the post and helping us to think through this issue without falling on pat answers.
Posted by Jeff Miller email at September 8, 2003 05:00 PM
My wife is a pharmacist and has spent considerable time working this out with her confessor. She has also managed to convince her employer to allow her not to dispense abortifacient contraceptives: many pharmacists are not so lucky. In any case, those pharmacists who choose to dispense abortafacients (or who do not think to object) are to be distinguished from the physicians who prescribe abortifacients. Pharmacists do not have any authority over what is contained in a prescription. Also, those who prescribe, dispense, and use contraceptives which accidentally result in abortion are to be distinguisghed from those whose primary goal is to effect an abortion.
There are fewer and fewer professionals in the medical field with "clean hands" these days. There are those who make the fully informed choice to end a life by abortion; there are those who knowingly participate in a system that faciliates abortion as an unintended consequence; there are those who object to the whole dirty business but must stay involved out of economic necessity; there are those who are complicit but truly have no idea what is really going on; and there are thousands of workers with intermediate relationships to the anti-life ethic that spreading throughout the health professions.
But one thing can be said about the abortionist that cannot be said about anyone else: he knows that he is personally doing the killing, and that he is killing on purpose. He is not hiring anyone else to pull the trigger. He is not passing the buck. He cannot say, "out of sight, out of mind" and refuse to think about it. He is a highly trained professional who has no economic "need" to kill. And he knows that he is the driving force behind the whole rotten murder machine that makes thousands of unsuspecting people unknowingly complicit in his crime.
Posted by Jeff Culbreath email at September 8, 2003 05:40 PM

Good points, those in the pharmaceutical industry do not serve as the direct cause of death, but just enable it. The abortionists generally knows that their act results in the death of a human. Especially since their medical knowledge is way beyond those that have been convinced that the child is just a clump of cell.
Posted by Jeff Miller email at September 8, 2003 06:36 PM
Thanks for a thoughtful treatment of a difficult subject. You are quite right when you say that those of us in the pro-life movement are not doing enough to stop the slaughter.
I think that the basic reason that we have permitted abortion as a society is the old adage of "out of sight, out of mind." Very few mothers could fail to take pity on the crying face of a newborn, but the fact that a fetus is unseen allows those who are willing to avoid that sight.
Fortunately, this situation is changing -- largely because technology now allows us to see the fetus. Crisis pregnancy centers report that an ultrasound machine is one of the most powerful weapons they have in the fight against abortion. Many mothers considering abortion have been dissuaded in this fashion, and newer and better ultrasound technology will accelerate this trend in our direction. More and more people are aware (from seeing ultrasounds from friends and relatives) just how developed fetuses are inside the womb.
As I reported in my blog, this is causing the pendulum of public opinion to swing back dramatically in our direction. The Roe v. Wade era will end -- the only question is when.
What can we do? Though I'm sure others have ideas as well, I think it's especially important that we work for pro-life candidates for public office, especially for the US Senate and for President. We can also support our local crisis pregnancy centers. And we can pray.
Posted by Ryan Booth email at September 9, 2003 06:28 PM
Peter Singer, the 'ethicist' author of Animal Planet, believes in infant euthanasia and has spoken publicly about it. You can find his writings on the topic on his web page.
on another note -
In my life, I have been complicit in two abortions (that I know about). 15 years ago, and 25 years ago. Both were friends of mine who became pregnant by married men. I know (or at least think) now that I could have done more to dissuade them, but I didn't. I didn't have the guts. I should have offered to adopt those babies, or helped their moms find a safe place to live, or something........The guilt kills me sometimes. I do what I can in reparation.......
Most abortions stem from sin of one kind or another - be it fornication, adultery, contraception - sin leads to sin. I don't know if we will ever be able to get rid of abortion through legal avenues - I have become convinced that we will only end abortion when it becomes unthinkable, not merely illegal or immoral.
I don't go out to the clinics. I don't do sidewalk counseling. I talk to women, one at a time, often when they are most vulnerable. I only know of a few cases where I have been able to make a real difference, and I treasure those few.
I understand Mr. Hill's frustration, but I cannot agree with his tactics.
What is really needed is for our culture to repent. We all lost when the sexual revolution came along.
Posted by alicia email at September 9, 2003 08:14 PM
I have read your thoughts, Mr. Booth, and would encourage others to do so as well.
Alicia, give yourself a break. Those women got themselves pregnant with no help from you. They could have delivered those babies and put them up for adoption quite easily. They are responsible for their own children. You do good work. It's enough.

Posted by William Luse email at September 11, 2003 03:22 AM
Hi Jeff:
Our national toleration of abortion, if considered in all of its horror and gravity, is enough to push an unbalanced soul over the edge in a hurry. Paul Hill may have wanted to save babies, or he may have wanted an excuse to murder, I don't know. But if he just wanted an excuse to murder, he couldn't have asked for a better pretext than the one his country has given to him.
True Jeff but we have to adhere to the traditional moral maxim that the end does not justify the means. Otherwise we are ripe for a whole host of actions which can be "justified" on the basis of the individual's subjective view of reality.
Hi Michelle:
The genius of Mahatma Gandhi was that he stubbornly clogged the works of the British Empire in the most peaceful manner possible. He ended his life revered by all men of good will, even those who hated him when he forced them to reconsider and change their inhumane treatment of East Indians.
Aah but Michelle, Ghandi succeeded because his opposition was at least either civilized or believed in some form of proper action. I hope you do not think that Ghandi could have succeeded in this approach if his country was occupied by extremist Muslims.
Hi Michael:
Would it be permissable to sabotage the abortionists?
Depends on how this is gone about I suppose. There are many kinds of sabotage. I would say that non-intangible sabotage would be fine. However, for both the sake of a consistent moral stance as well as not wanting to undermine the work of those fighting in the trenches on this issue, I would have to opine against physical destruction. Intangible weapons are our best recourse, the arena of ideas and public discourse the proper "theatre of war", and of course we cannot underestimate the necessity of prayer.
For instance to destroy their equipment and buildings at night?
The end does not justify the means.
It seems that the state would likely bring in RICO to deal with this action- as it has done with Operation Rescue. Surely sidewalk counselors are an act of sabotage- but is there something more effective?
Well, perhaps we need to ask ourselves if reform is not needed in our own houses as well. (And I do not exclude myself from that indictment by any means.) As far as sidewalk counselors go, that is a form of sabotage perhaps but I see nothing wrong with it. After all, the abortion mills do not like to tell the entire story so under the pretext of "equal time" if nothing else there is justification for such approaches. We have a "waiting period" before buying a firearm, why can there not be a "waiting period" for those who want to obtain an abortion??? Say, a month from the first visit. If these so-called "providers" are really as concerned for their "clients" as they claim, there should be no hesitation to allow for reflection on the matter. But reflection works against the abortion agenda. I would wager that we could cut the number of abortions by at least two thirds if there was a waiting period of three weeks to a month where the person went over all the angles on the issue.
Response to Jeff C:
But one thing can be said about the abortionist that cannot be said about anyone else: he knows that he is personally doing the killing, and that he is killing on purpose. He is not hiring anyone else to pull the trigger. He is not passing the buck. He cannot say, "out of sight, out of mind" and refuse to think about it. He is a highly trained professional who has no economic "need" to kill. And he knows that he is the driving force behind the whole rotten murder machine that makes thousands of unsuspecting people unknowingly complicit in his crime.
Agreed. Whatever mitigating circumstances there are in others involved to some degree with the process, I cannot see any with the abortionist. And the same Lord who said that "whosoever causes these little ones to stumble it would be better to have a millstone around their neck and be cast into the sea" will I believe have the most painful hell of all for unrepentent abortionists.
PS to Jeff: I am glad that your wife does not have to dispense abortifacient contraceptives. As you note, there are other pharmicists who are not so lucky. As you well note, those pharmacists who choose to dispense abortafacients (or who do not think to object) are to be distinguished from the physicians who prescribe abortifacients. Pharmacists do not have any authority over what is contained in a prescription. Doctors of course are another story altogether.
Posted by I. Shawn McElhinney email at September 15, 2003 05:59 PM

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