Voices

Let's make a deal

Can both sides of the abortion debate agree not to make heroes out of those who kill?

Issue: "Salting Hollywood," Sept. 3, 2005

Let's have a truce between pro-lifers on the one hand and pro-abortionists on the other. Its terms would be like this: We won't make public heroes out of any of our extremists; you won't make public heroes out of any of yours.

By "extremist," I mean someone who would actually kill someone else for his or her cause. It seems both fair and humane to suggest that neither side in this debate should defend anyone who resorts to murder to make its point.

All this was running through my head a few days ago while Eric Rudolph faced his final round of sentencing for the awful murders and violence for which he had been convicted by courts in Alabama and Georgia. Mr. Rudolph planted bombs outside an abortion clinic in Birmingham in 1998 and at a central site of the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996, and several people died as a result. At his trial, Mr. Rudolph protested that he is a sincere Christian who opposes the federal government's approval of abortion. He thinks abortion is offensive to God.

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Well, so do I. And I agree with Mr. Rudolph that the federal government's defense of abortion is wicked. But so is Mr. Rudolph's decision to take justice into his own hands. Nowhere does the Bible allow for vigilantism of Mr. Rudolph's kind.

So if there are pro-lifers out there quietly or implicitly defending Mr. Rudolph, call it off-now. There's no room in our whole playbook for anything approaching his tactics. And no, we can't sit around either saying things like, "Well, I know Eric Rudolph went too far, but . . ." He went way too far. End of sentence. End of paragraph.

That's why I started by suggesting that we pro-lifers should disown every nuance of justification for the sort of things done by the extremist Eric Rudolph-while at the same time insisting that the pro-abortionists similarly disown every nuance of justification for what their extremists are doing. In forging such an even-handed agreement, we come out way ahead; here's why.

We come out ahead first because we give up nothing. The pro-abortionists and the mainstream media love, of course, to portray all of us as closet Eric Rudolphs. They would love to prove that he really speaks for us. But it's all innuendo. At least 99 percent of the pro-life community I know finds a Rudolph-type response to be a repugnant thing. They don't need a special compromise deal to give it up or to distance themselves from it. The distance has always been there.

Second, we come out ahead because our adversaries in this debate, if they really were to live up to the terms of such a new agreement, would give up everything. If the pro-abortionists were honestly to agree to give up all killing in defense of their point of view, the whole debate would come to a screeching halt. For killing is the essence of their cause.

The other side's heroine in the Rudolph case-a sort of anti-Rudolph figure-is the tragic Emily Lyons. Mrs. Lyons was the nurse at the Birmingham abortion clinic who was terribly injured and disfigured by the Rudolph bombing. Now she and her husband Jeff have co-authored a new book, Life's Been a Blast, detailing their awful experience. It is a grisly tale, and is meant as an embarrassment to the pro-life cause. Her main point: Terrorism doesn't work, and it should be declared by all parties as out of bounds.

Indeed. And that includes the terrorism and violence that still occur inside every abortion clinic every day that they are open for business. Bluntly, it includes the terrorism and violence that Mrs. Lyons was complicit to in her daily work before the bombing.

The pro-life community has been overwhelming in its rejection of Eric Rudolph as its hero. What he did to Mrs. Lyons deserves the awful punishment he is getting, if not more. Now it's time for the pro-abortionists to distance themselves in similar fashion from the bloodshed they so regularly inflict. Is it a deal they can afford to accept?

Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.

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