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What About George Tiller's Late-Term Abortions?

(Editor's Note: This article is a response to Jacob Apple's article, George Tiller and the Paradox of Anti-Abortion Violence.)

Just to be clear, I do not identify with the term "pro-life" any more than I do "pro-choice." I think they're both misleading and don't address the issue. I have never picketed for one side or the other, nor have I argued for abortion to be legal or illegal. In fact I have remained largely neutral on the subject. If I simply must be classified -- and I suspect I should be since I'm responding to your article -- I would say this: I personally believe there are instances in which abortion must be allowed: rape, incest, a threat to the mother's physical health, or even fatal abnormalities that are detected in utero. But that's about where my sympathies end. I suppose you could call me the "reasonable" type, as you phrased it: someone who "might argue that while developing fetuses are not fully human, they have intrinsic value and should not be destroyed, even if women’s liberty must be restricted to preserve them." In other words, women's rights are not first on my agenda when it comes to the issue of abortion. (I know -- how very un-American of me.)

That said, I have a question for you. You write that you "strongly support a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy , because I do not believe that fetuses possess personhood." I was curious whether or not this applies to a 9-month old baby who's set to emerge from the womb -- because that's a big part of what this story is about, and you didn't mention it. People came from all over to seek Tiller's "services" specifically because so few people are willing to kill 7, 8, and 9-month old babies -- whether they have birth defects or not. Most Americans are reasonable -- they understand that life is complicated and that necessary evils are inevitable -- but people have their limits. I respectfully disagree with my religious friends that there's no difference between ending a pregnancy at one month and ending a pregnancy during the third trimester. Pro-lifers argue that life is life, no matter which stage of pregnancy a woman happens to be -- a reasonable and consistent argument, to be sure -- but the reality is that extracting a one-month old fetus from a woman's womb is very different from delivering an actual baby, and then puncturing its skull. This is precisely the reason many doctors will do the former but not the latter.

Dr. Tiller was willing to do the latter, but in your article you conveniently (or perhaps accidentally) left this part out. Presumably, you still stand on the side of a woman's "right" to end a pregnancy at any stage of development. As an ethicist, can you explain this to me? I'm afraid your insistence on logic -- though I respect its use and rely upon it often in my own arguments -- will fail you here. At some point our social conscience must play a role.

Read the original article from Jacob Apple, George Tiller and the Paradox of Anti-Abortion Violence.


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