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  • Writer's pictureJohn Stackhouse

The Strange Double Standards of Abortion

Updated: Aug 14, 2022

Here‘s a post I wrote for one of Canada’s national newspapers, The National Post, prompted by the shooting of American abortionist George Tiller.


What would you do to prevent a Canadian Columbine? This past week, a teenager in Vancouver was arrested by police because friends of his had noticed a “hit list” of over 100 people posted on his Facebook page. When the police seized the Grade 12 student, they found an arsenal of knives, guns and batons.

That young man attends my son’s high school: Templeton Secondary. Suppose he lived next door. Suppose I read the Facebook page one evening because my son brought it to my attention. Suppose the next morning I saw him loading weapons in the trunk of his car. What would I do to stop him from killing innocent people? I’ll tell you what I would do: Whatever I could. Wouldn’t you? The recent assassination of abortionist Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas, has ripped the scar off the abortion debate in the United States and beyond. And as one reads and listens and watches the debate, one notices a disturbing pattern. Everyone deplores the vigilantism of Dr. Tiller’s slayer, yet double standards are evident on almost every side. One group espouses non-violence categorically. For its members, vigilante violence is never appropriate because lethal force is never appropriate. These people would naturally champion instead instead a Martin Luther King, who resisted an evil regime via civil disobedience. Yet many such people decry the pro-life physician, nurse or pharmacist who refuses to collaborate in what he or she thinks is the murder of unborn children. And even if a pro-lifer is allowed to demur for sake of conscience, he or she is expected to refer a pregnant woman to someone who will perform an abortion — which for pro-lifers amounts to collusion in evil. Pro-choicers who do support violent force, such as military action, on behalf of the victims of the Taliban in Afghanistan or the Tutsi in Rwanda generally draw the line at protecting unborn children and even protecting viable infants. Neonatal intensive care units serve babies as young as 24 weeks—second trimester babies who usually survive whatever trauma brought them out of the womb that young. Yet pro-choice groups opposed American legislation intended to curb so-called partial birth abortions (a late-term procedure) and George Tiller was known particularly for performing third-trimester abortions. Are pro-lifers exempt from such ethical contradiction? Mainstream pro-lifers campaign against lethal force used on a fetus, often resorting to violent images on their posters and violent talk in their speeches about what they routinely characterize as the murder of innocents. After the shooting of Dr. Tiller, however, most of them have done whatever they can to distance themselves from the vigilante who killed him, with Operation Rescue leading the way. But let’s think about this posture from the pro-life point of view. If you really believe your next-door neighbour is heading out in his car once again to do his day’s work of abortion, and you believe there is no legal authority that will stop him, then what do you do? Suppose instead your neighbour is heading down to the state orphanage to euthanize unwanted children. That's what pro-lifers believe is happening in an abortion clinic.

So is praying enough? Is friendly persuasion enough? Is political campaigning enough? More than three decades after Roe v. Wade, as all of these methods have apparently failed, do you consider other means? Perhaps I sound like I’m making a case for vigilantism on behalf of abortion. I hope not. I’m as frightened by vigilantism as anyone else. But I’m also angry. I’m angry about our absurd political situation that makes vigilantism even thinkable. Most of us, at least, can agree that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare”— even most pro-lifers can imagine extreme cases in which an abortion might be justified. But to have such weak anti-abortion legislation in the United States, and to have no anti-abortion law at all in Canada, only breeds martyrs on the extremes and makes the rest of us into hypocrites.


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