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Connie Schultz
11 Feb 2016
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Generalities Fail Us in the Abortion Debate


Let's not compound our grief with generalities when the specifics are so horrendous.

One man walked into one church in Wichita, Kan., Sunday, and with a single shot, he killed one doctor.

This was not any doctor, nor is the killer just anyone.

Dr. George Tiller was the nation's best-known abortion provider, one of the few in the country who would perform abortions late in women's pregnancies. He had been a target of violence for years — shot and wounded in both arms in 1993, his clinic bombed in 1985.

His alleged killer, Scott Roeder, joined a citizens militia years ago and became increasingly unrecognizable even to his closest relatives, sinking deeper and deeper into the darkest recesses of extremism. His hatred for abortion simmered for years.

"Bless everyone for attending and praying … to bring justice to Tiller and the closing of his death camp," someone identifying himself as Scott Roeder posted in May 2007 on the Web site of Operation Rescue, which is an anti-abortion group that targeted Tiller and his clinic for years.

"Sometime soon, would it be feasible to organize as many people as possible to attend Tillers church (inside, not just outside) to have much more of a presence and possibly ask questions of the Pastor, Deacons, Elders and members while there? Doesn't seem like it would hurt anything but bring more attention to Tiller."

On Sunday, Tiller was shot while distributing bulletins at Reformation Lutheran Church. A few hours later, police arrested Scott Roeder, whom witnesses identified as the killer.

When I heard about Dr. Tiller's death, my first reaction was like those of many who flamed on blogs and Facebook. I wanted to blame Roeder's horrendous act on everyone who demonizes abortion.

After a few deep breaths, though, I had to acknowledge what I know to be true: Most people who oppose abortion rights do not want others to die for their cause.

Many anti-abortion groups said as much after Tiller's death, but their outrage felt tepid to those of us worried about copycat crimes.

It takes so little to goad the similarly deranged.

In a statement after Tiller's death, Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry said nothing about the killer but called the doctor a "mass-murderer."

"We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God. … Those men and women who slaughter the unborn are murderers according to the Law of God. We must continue to expose them in our communities and peacefully protest them at their offices and homes, and yes, even their churches."

What a thinly cloaked "attaboy." Small wonder that clinics across the country have increased their security measures this week.

Pro-choice advocates insist that Tiller's murder is a wake-up call for Americans who've become complacent about reproductive rights. I think that's true.

Many anti-abortion activists say this crime is a major setback to their cause. I think they're right, too.

There has been an explosion. What we choose to see once the sky clears will determine our progress on the abortion front. Will we cultivate patches of common ground or simply dig new trenches?

In the meantime, women still need the help that Tiller provided. Women like the mother who carried conjoined twins, only one of whom could survive and live a "brief and painful life filled with surgery and organ transplants," as her husband described on the blog Balloon Juice.

Women like Cecily Kellogg, too, whose blood pressure skyrocketed to life-threatening levels after one of the twins she was bearing died and her kidneys began to fail. Doctors advised her to abort to save her life.

"As I lay on the gurney, waiting for my procedure to start, I felt a gulf of grief and emptiness the like of which I have never known," she wrote on her blog, Uppercase Woman. "I felt abandoned by God. I lay there, crying, alone, surrounded by doctors and nurses. You can't imagine the sadness."

Generalities fail us when the specifics are so horrendous.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and the author of two books from Random House: "Life Happens" and "… and His Lovely Wife." To find out more about Connie Schultz ( and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



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