One City

One City

George Tiller, Abortion, and Compassion

So the abortion doctor from Wichita, Kansas, George Tiller was killed in church yesterday, by a pro-life radical (irony of ironies). Amazingly, this was not the first time Dr. Tiller was shot. So clearly Dr. Tiller believed in what he was doing quite strongly (if you get shot and keep going, you must have conviction), and clearly so did the (alleged) man who shot him. As a student of the human mind, I am deeply interested in abortion as an ethical quandry precisely because of the concrete convictions of so many people those on both sides. As the discussion in Ellen Scordato’s piece on the Sotomayor abortion questions demonstrates, it really does seem to be black and white in the minds of many. However, the study of interdependence makes every polarity wither away into complex shades of gray.

George Tiller, Dr. Tiller killed


I wonder what this will do for the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation process, as abortion stays right at the forefront of the American moral consciousness.

What is your view of abortion?

I am pro-choice, and strongly so, but not because I view anti-abortion stances as an invasion of women’s privacy. I don’t buy the whole “hands off my body, evil white men!” vibe of many pro-choice activists. Guess what, I am a white man who will never know what it’s like to be pregnant, and yet, a huge percentage of my own body is composed of other living organisms! Interdependence problematizes the idea that my body is even just my body when I’m not pregnant, much less when there is a (potential) human being inside of me.

So why am I pro-choice? Because the alleviation of suffering for all involved is the prime factor we should worry about. Bringing an extra life into an already over-populated world to be raised by parents who are not ready and willing to do so increases suffering, plain and simple. And who is best suited to make this interdependent decision? 99.9% of the time, it’s the people directly involved, not the government. Viewed interdependently, the people directly involved (mother – and hopefully – father) need all options on the table to make a decision based on compassion.

But at the same time, we need compassion for someone like George Tiller’s killer. He must’ve believed he was stopping a repeated murderer from striking again. Many anti-abortion activists view abortion as a genocide, and while I think this is a false view, I have to try to understand why they feel that way. While we may or may not agree with that stance, or with the hypocrisy of attempting to use violence to end perceived violence, we have to put ourselves in the mind of someone who believes a genocide is taking place, and is willing to kill the perceived actor in that genocide.

Compassion is all about staying present with our resistance to seeing a different point of view.

Finally, I really want to hear from anti-abortion activists who are also anti-war, because I believe that is a coherent moral position worthy of study and respect.

Sound off in the comments. 

Peace. For Real.

Comments read comments(13)
post a comment
Moore, Baltimore

posted June 1, 2009 at 1:05 pm

The time has come for American people to ssek a common ground. Abortion will not go away. American people should strive to shape policy to make it less important. President Barack Obama, in his address to Notre Dame’s Graduating Class 2009, put it best. He suggests that both right winged conservatives and left winged liberals work together to make abortion less necessary in the 21st Century. An open debate is the key. Let us set the stage for open discussions, and show the world we are determined to lead by example.

report abuse

Laura Mae Noble

posted June 1, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Thank you. You make shades of gray appealing to contemplate.

report abuse


posted June 1, 2009 at 2:03 pm

i understand and appreciate the need for compassionate understanding of the misguided people who would murder someone like dr. tiller. but, by their logic, why not also target the women who are “killing” their babies? they in fact are the ones “choosing” to have the procedure.
in genocide there is a bias/hatred/prejudice. these mothers & doctors do not hate the fetus. the only hatred in the pro-life equation comes from those who want to inflict their values on others, so far as killing them to get their point across. allowing room for the “genocide” argument to even enter the picture is allowing judgment of the women & health care providers who make this hard choice in life. and judgments & compassion cannot coexist.
so, yes, we need to find compassion for people who kill these courageous doctors. but, in my mind, not for the reason you bring up. something inside of these people from their past, their unresolved feelings of entitlement/anger/hurt/isolation allows them to persist in feeling the world should function according to their ideas & their ideas only.
somewhere there is a wound inside of them–for me, this is where we should focus our struggle to empathize with them. it is this deep wound that we should find compassion for, not their argument for murder.
by the way…
Monday, June 1st, 6 pm
Union Square, New York City
Accessible by the 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R trains
For a map of Union Square:

report abuse


posted June 1, 2009 at 3:14 pm

What I find interesting is that out of most of most US pro-lifers, only a small fraction oppose abortion in instances of rape. THIS STANCE IS TERRIBLY PROBLEMATIC. These pro-lifers here are saying a woman’s overall circumstances can be taken into consideration when she is a sexual victim, but not when she had consensual sex and made the very human mistake of not using birth control. Those from the abortion-only-in-the-case- of rape camp use a rhetoric that punishes women (and never their male sex partners) for messing up and being a slut while doing it. Here’s where the abortion necessarily becomes a feminist issue regardless of whether a life begins at conception or not.

report abuse


posted June 1, 2009 at 11:44 pm

That was totally unclear, sorry. Here’s what I mean to say:
In polls a vast majority people who say that they are against abortion make an exception for cases of rape. (No source here, but I know it’s true, I swear.)
So the question becomes: why do most anti-abortion folks make an exception for rape cases and not any of the other crappy surprise pregnancy situations where having a child would also suck? Some say this inconsistency is a way of punishing women who have casual sex.

report abuse

Your Name

posted June 1, 2009 at 11:54 pm

I feel that a key fact is being left out here: Dr. Tiller wasn’t your average abortionist. According to the NYTimes, he “was one of about only three doctors in the country who had, under certain circumstances, provided abortions to women in their third trimester of pregnancy.”
I strongly support the pro-choice position but I find the prospect of a third trimester abortion really disturbing. I think if you’re going to do it, you should do it early on. By the time the third trimester starts, most of the babys’ development has already taken place. I believe that these types of abortions should only take place if there is a medical reason necessitating it. 27 weeks should be enough to a) realize that you’re pregnant and b) figure out what to do about it.
I don’t know the circumstances under which Dr. Tiller performed these third trimester abortions, so I can’t judge him. His death was a tragedy and it will surely make those other two providers of third trimester abortion in this country very, very nervous.

report abuse


posted June 1, 2009 at 11:56 pm

Last comment by Lauren

report abuse

Your Name

posted June 2, 2009 at 4:12 am

I don’t feel sorry for the guy.
The only thing that sucks is that his arms and legs weren’t pulled from his body with giant forceps and his skull wasn’t twisted and crushed spraying his brains everywhere by a smiling doctor like himself.
Neither the killer doctor or the killer that blew the doctor away had a right to play god. But they both thought they did. Now there’s two less people running around in the streets that can do harm to others.
The doctor is dead and the extremist that couldn’t control his emotions is in jail. I don’t feel sorry for neither one of these guys.
I respect others who believe in “freedom of choice” but just can’t agree that any of us have a right to choose whether someone else lives or dies.

report abuse


posted June 2, 2009 at 4:55 am

Steve Waldman describes the circumstances:
Read it and check back with us.

report abuse


posted June 2, 2009 at 5:26 am

Don’t mince words, Your Name. Tell us how you really feel!

report abuse


posted June 2, 2009 at 1:10 pm

It’s funny that you ask me how I feel about the article you link to since my stated position and the position quoted in the article are the same — it should be banned unless there is a good medical reason for it.

report abuse


posted June 4, 2009 at 8:26 pm

I find it interesting that so often these discussions talk way OVER the issue of what abortion actually is. As a young woman in college, I thought that abortion for unwanted pregnancies was okay- that before a certain point the fetus was not yet a fellow human being. In recent years I have realized that I and many others have been deceived- people who advocate abortion ‘rights’ never show the pictures.
As an intellectually curious person, I wanted to find out where my ideas about abortion came from, and get to the root of the argument. As such, I decided to look into the essence of what abortion is. I had already heard the pro-choice arguments, now I wanted to hear what the spectrum of pro-life advocates had to say. Every day after work, I watched videos on YouTube, from Catholics, people of color, Protestants, and secular people such as myself.
While most videos were useful, I then halfheartedly decided that it was time to see the pictures. I stared at photograph after awful photograph, until I finally came to one with unborn babies (~7 months) piled up in a garbage can, dead. With all my ‘bravery’ for making myself look at the photos, I could not stop myself from sobbing. That was the awakening from my ignorance about abortion.
As for all of you arguing about women’s rights, I am not trying to change your views on those things (I am sure we share a lot of them)- but let’s just try and be a little sensitive here, and acknowledge what abortion really IS if we’re going to talk about it. And while we’re at it – let’s try and be sensitive to all who are affected by it.
I have recently discussed my experience with some of my friends, who disregarded my findings as the work of the religious right, citing the pictures I spoke of as propaganda. I understand if you might share this view, but please consider this- Would you consider the many, many pictures of the piles of starved, lifeless bodies of Jewish people who died in the Holocaust as propaganda? How is this any different?
As for the death of Dr. Tiller, that was indeed murder. I am saddened that the person who shot him was so misguided in trying to protect the unborn. The killer’s actions will have consequences not only for themselves, but for those peaceful people who are pro-life.
Finally, to the author of this post, if you think that abortion is not genocide, you are mistaken. Since Roe vs. Wade millions of babies have been aborted, many of them minorities (13,000,000 black babies), which makes it doubly so.

report abuse

Edward Eiland

posted November 22, 2010 at 4:41 am


report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More blogs to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting One City. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Most Recent Buddhist Story By Beliefnet Most Recent Inspiration blog post Happy Reading!

posted 2:29:05pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Mixing technology and practice
There were many more good sessions at the Wisdom 2.0 conference this weekend. The intention of the organizers is to post videos. I'll let you know when. Here are some of my notes from a second panel. How do we use modern, social media technologies — such as this blog — to both further o

posted 3:54:40pm May. 02, 2010 | read full post »

Wisdom 2.0
If a zen master were sitting next to the chief technical officer of Twitter, what would they talk about? That sounds like a hypothetical overheared at a bar in San Francisco. But this weekend I saw the very thing at Soren Gordhamer's Wisdom 2.0 conference — named after his book of the same nam

posted 1:43:19pm May. 01, 2010 | read full post »

The Buddha at Work - "All we are is dust in the wind, dude."
"The only true wisdom consists of knowing that you know nothing." - Alex Winter, as Bill S. Preston, Esq. in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure"That's us, dude!" - Keanu Reeves, as Ted "Theodore" LoganWhoa! Excellent! I've had impermanence on my mind recently. I've talked about it her

posted 2:20:00pm Jan. 28, 2010 | read full post »

Sometimes You Find Enlightenment by Punching People in the Face
This week I'm curating a guest post from Jonathan Mead, a friend who inspires by living life on his own terms and sharing what he can with others.  To quote from Jonathan's own site, Illuminated Mind: "The reason for everything: To create a revolution based on authentic action. A social movemen

posted 12:32:23pm Jan. 27, 2010 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.