The true test of your beliefs is your willingness to give up your life for them. For anti-abortionists this has been a test that many have “passed” with flying colors (the following list of atrocities comes from Wikipedia).
- March 10, 1993: Dr. David Gunn of Pensacola, Florida was fatally shot during a protest. He had been the subject of wanted-style posters distributed by Operation Rescue in the summer of 1992. Michael F. Griffin was found guilty of Dr. Gunn’s murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
- July 29, 1994: Dr. John Britton and James Barrett, a clinic escort, were both shot to death outside of another facility in Pensacola. Rev. Paul Jennings Hill was charged with the killings. Hill received a death sentence and was executed September 3, 2003.
- December 30, 1994: Two receptionists, Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols, were killed in two clinic attacks in Brookline, Massachusetts. John Salvi, who prior to his arrest was distributing pamphlets from Human Life International, was arrested and confessed to the killings. He died in prison and guards found his body under his bed with a plastic garbage bag tied around his head. Salvi had also confessed to a non-lethal attack in Norfolk, Virginia days before the Brookline killings.
- January 29, 1998: Robert Sanderson, an off-duty police officer who worked as a security guard at an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, was killed when his workplace was bombed. Eric Robert Rudolph, who was also responsible for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing, was charged with the crime and received two life sentences as a result.
- October 23, 1998: Dr. Barnett Slepian was shot to death at his home in Amherst, New York. His was the last in a series of similar shootings against providers in Canada and northern New York state which were all likely committed by James Kopp. Kopp was convicted of Dr. Slepian’s murder after finally being apprehended in France in 2001.
- May 31, 2009: Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed as he served as an usher at his church in Wichita, Kansas.
The last one in the list is currently being prosecuted in court. It was apparently perpetrated by Scott Roeder who admitted to it both to reporters and in a court filing. Open and shut case, right? Right.
Except that a recent ruling by the judge in the case has created a whole new problem, not only with this case but possibly with all future cases of this type.
Let me ask you this. What do you think the effect would be if the penalty for murdering an abortion provider wasn’t life in prison or the death penalty, but rather a sentence of only 5-20 years? People obviously feel strongly enough to give up their lives, so what happens when it’s no longer your life at stake, but only a few years of it?
This may actually be a possibility now thanks to one of the judge’s recent rulings. According to the Associated Press “…Sedgwick County Judge Warren Wilbert decided he would allow Roeder to build a defense case calling for a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter because he sincerely believed the May 31 slaying would save unborn children.” So what does that mean exactly? Well, here’s the definition of Voluntary Manslaughter and the penalty (from the Office of the District Attorney in Sedgewick County, KS)
Voluntary Manslaughter is the intentional killing of a human being upon a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion or upon the unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force.
The sentencing guidelines provide a range of sentence from a minimum of 55 months imprisonment [or about 4.5 years] to a maximum prison term of 247 months [or about 20.5 years].
Even if the judge eventually tells the jury that they aren’t allowed to consider a Voluntary Manslaughter conviction, simply allowing the defense to present their case for it means that the damage is already done. By allowing it he is implicitly saying that anyone that thinks abortion is murder can make the claim that killing abortion providers is justified, and even though we may disagree the fact that it’s an “honest belief” means that it’s not murder.
And if the worst happens, and the jury is allowed to consider, and subsequently convicts Roeder of, Voluntary Manslaughter then it’s truly open season on abortion providers. After all, killing an “abortionist” would no longer be murder. It would still be a crime, but one with consequences that I think far too many people could probably live with.