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Posts Tagged ‘late-term abortion’

Killing an Abortion Doctor: Maybe Not So Bad, Judge Rules

January 12th, 2010 1 comment

The judge in the George Tiller homicide case has ruled that, at least for now, the defense may present the jury with the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. If convicted on this lesser charge, Scott Roeder may end up spending only a few years in prison for what everyone agrees was a deliberate act: Roeder walked up to Tiller in church, put a gun to his head, and calmly pulled the trigger.

Why voluntary manslaughter? That’s the usual conviction where the defendant believes, unreasonably but sincerely, that he needs to take a life in self-defense, or in defense of a third party. Here, though, the claim is quite different. Roeder claims that he believed he was saving the life of unborn children from Tiller, who performed some late-term abortions.

The judge’s decision to allow this theory to proceed beggars belief. Whatever Roeder’s personal, philosophical or religious convictions, the plain fact is that Tiller was performing procedures that are legal and sanctioned by the state. Would the judge allow this lesser-crime argument to be made by a defendant who killed a flag-burner because he thought that was the only way to prevent terrorist attacks? The logic is a bit more attenuated, but the theory is the same: As long as you have a good-faith (if nutso) belief in what you’re doing, let the arguments for  reduced culpability begin.

If this works, expect further violence against abortion providers. We’ve already got a good example of how this ruling will embolden other “baby-saving” killers: The “Rev.” Don Spitz, who runs this astonishing website calling for violence against doctors who perform abortions, pronounced himself “flabbergasted, but in a good way,” at the ruling. The site applauds Scott Roeder. Click over at your own risk.

Were I the prosecutor, I would immediately take whatever steps I could to get this insane decision reversed: stay, mandamus — whatever the local rules allow. This dangerous action can’t go unchallenged.

“Abortion is an ObamaNation.com”

August 28th, 2009 2 comments

The quote that forms the title for this post was plastered on a truck driven by a member of Operation Rescue. The vehicle also sports a poster of a fetal hand on a coin. They’re not going for subtlety.

The vitriolic protests against abortion providers continue, this time with Dr. LeRoy Carhart filling the late Dr. George Tiller‘s role as the focal point for the anger. Carhart, you may recall, led an unsuccessful challenge to the so-called “partial birth abortion law; the sharply divided Supreme Court ruled that Congress could constitutionally rule out one form of late-term abortion as long as it permitted another means of accomplishing the same task. Justice Kennedy’s opinion for the majority misunderstands both medical practice and public health principles, and, as Justice Ginsburg noted in dissent, won’t actually save the life of a single fetus. (At most it will put doctors at risk of liability for making on-the-spot decisions on how best to perform the procedure.)

Carhart’s public stance, courage, and notoriety explain may why he’s now been targeted. And yes, he does some (but very few)  late-term abortions; as evidenced by the back-and-forth I had with Andrew Sullivan a couple of months ago (see here, here, here, and here), as well as the many testimonials he published on the issue, these abortions are the ones that get people the most worked up. (Maybe they shouldn’t, though, because most of these abortions are to terminate the life of the most seriously deformed fetuses, many of whom wouldn’t even be born alive. But this post isn’t going to revisit the issue.) Given what happened to Tiller, and the willingness of Operation Rescue to refortify the ramparts so soon after his murder, Carhart understandably fears for his life. If anything does happen to him, the principals of that group will express ritual disapproval, but not remorse.

Also of interest here is the use of the now-familiar “ObamaNation” (read: abomination) slogan and its purported connection to everything that’s thought to be wrong: taxes; health care reform; now, abortion. But what has Obama to do with abortion? The practice has been legal continuously since 1973, yet the anti-abortion forces feel,  with some justification, that they have a kindred spirit in office during Republican administrations. Democrats allow this, well, abomination to continue, and don’t even have the decency to mount a rhetorical struggle against it. So violence and the threats of it escalate, dramatically, during Democratic presidencies.

I still haven’t accounted for the “.com” at the end of the slogan.  Now we’ve got something concrete: Obamanation.com is the url for a group that is dedicated to stopping what it sees as an Obama-led black genocide; black fetuses are aborted in disproportionately high numbers. (Here’s the organization’s page with data supporting that point; I haven’t checked out the underlying reports.) But in a larger sense it “Obamanation” stands for everything that’s wrong, and for the poor sap who happens to be at the epicenter of it all.

50,000! (Thanks)

July 14th, 2009 No comments

In late January of this year, I started to blog faithfully. Doing so was scary, as what I most feared was a clanging silence. As this recent article in the New York Times points out, in 2008 there were some 133 million blogs, of which about 7.4 million had been updated within the past 120 days. I’m glad I didn’t know that before I started.

Six months into this, I’m happy and proud to report that, just a few minutes ago, wordinedgewise.org crossed the 50,000 page view threshold! The audience has grow each month, with June seeing an explosion: Over 8,000 unique visitors viewed more than 22,000 total pages.

As regular readers know, I cover all kinds of social, political, sports-related, personal, and just plain silly issues. I’ve had lively and, I hope, respectful debates with other bloggers, notably Andrew Sullivan over at the Atlantic (the Daily Dish), who engaged me in a back-and-forth over late-term abortion. My current take on the Philadelphia area swimming pool controversy has been linked to CNN, and spawned a ton of comments (not all of which are as respectful as I’d hope).

The blog has been fun to write, and enlightening to me. I’ve changed some positions, and been inspired to think about things that I might otherwise have ignored. Thanks for your interest, your encouragement, and — always — your comments and suggestions.

The Hierarchy of Lawlessness

June 10th, 2009 No comments

Let’s play a depressing game. Consider these stories, and spot as many cases of lawlessness as you can:

  • As I wrote about a couple of days ago, a Philadelphia mob attacked and severely beat a rape suspect. The actions were condoned, encouraged, and rewarded by city officials. In this piece, Columbia University Professor Marc Lamont Hill attempts to justify the mob’s actions by noting that black women can’t count on the criminal  justice system to vindicate their interests.1
  • In the wake of the killing of Dr. George Tiller, who ran one of only three late-term abortion clinics in the country (now two, as his clinic is closing), Dr.  Susan Hill, a friend of the late Dr. Tiller’s and President of the National Women’s Health Foundation, appears on the Rachel Maddow show and says that the police often do not protect women who seek late-term abortions when they are harassed by anti-choice nuts. Apparently, the Freedom of Access to Clinics Entrances Act (“FACE”), the federal statute that allows both the U.S. Attorney General and any aggrieved person to sue for acts of violence or intimidation, isn’t doing enough to stem this misplaced zealotry, either.  Dr. Hill also states that the level of violence and intimidation has spiked since Dr. Tiller’s death, but also notes that federal marshals are on the ground to safeguard women’s safety. (The linked video is worth your time.)
  • This compelling story from the latest ABA Journal: In 1909, a black man is convicted of raping a white woman despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence. (Stop me if you’ve heard this before.) The judge essentially orders the convicted man’s attorneys not to appeal his death sentence. Other attorneys do step in and appeal, eventually filing a petition for habeas corpus in federal court, challenging the detention on constitutional grounds (including the right to a fair trial). The petition is denied in the lower court, but the court also stays the defendant’s execution pending appeal. When Supreme Court Justice John Harlan allows the appeal, an angry mob — enabled by the local sheriff — lynches the poor man, and shoots him “just in case.” The Supremes then host their one and only (still!)  criminal trial, eventually finding the sheriff, a deputy, and several mob members guilty of contempt of court. All are sentenced to (ridiculously brief) jail time, but are greeted as conquering heroes upon their return to their home town of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Meanwhile, the black lawyers who took the appeal, fearing for their lives, are forced to relocate.
  • The U.S. Government tortures enemy combatants, then protects those who ordered the torture. Congress attempts to strip the detainees of their habeas corpus rights, but the U.S. Supreme Court, in Boumediene v. Bush,  strikes down the law, finding that the procedures in place to challenge their detention were insufficient as a matter of due process.

Lawlessness isn’t limited to angry mobs. But such vigilantes are emboldened, and given example and cover, when those charged with enforcing the law — from renegade juries, prosecutors and law-enforcement officials to elected officials, to judges who forget their  role in the constitutional design, to legislators who pass laws they should know are unconstitutional — fail to do their jobs.

The above stories suggest a scary lattice of lawlessness. Violent anti-abortion protesters who aren’t arrested and prosecuted for breaking the law encourage others, equally or more violent. The stranglehold of Jim Crow racism was almost impossible to break given the lawlessness of public officials; it took the Supreme Court to create (admittedly crummy) accountability.  The Philadelphia mob will spawn others, because the message from the city is clear: “We’ll look the other way.” And only the Supreme Court, by the narrowest of 5-4  margins, stood between Congress and the further erosion of our Constitution when it comes to our treatment of detainees.

Maybe it’s the pervasiveness of this outlaw mentality that explains Marc Lamont Hill’s attempt at justifying the mob’s actions last week. Here’s what he had to say:

“I…have no antipathy toward the ghetto kangaroo court that sentenced him to a thorough ass-whooping. Still, I remain wary of hasty rushes to judgment (and punishment) regardless of the circumstance. After all, it was the ostensible need to quickly avenge rape that led to the physical and juridical lynching of thousands of black men throughout history. Also, if the racial tables were turned, we would surely disapprove of a white mob beating a possible black rapist. Black and white, however, are not two sides of the same racial coin.”

Hill then goes on to cite compelling historical and sociological evidence of the law’s failure to regard the black female body as worthy of protection. He then concludes:

“In a perfect world, law enforcement would be enough. Unfortunately, we live in a world so fractured by racism and sexism that black female bodies are still rendered unimportant. On Tuesday, the neighbors decided to send a different message. Until the broader society gets it, the community’s brand of justice is both appropriate and necessary.”

There’s so much wrong with this argument that I hardly know where to start. First, even if (as we must concede) the criminal justice system is flawed, that does not mean that the mob justice he champions is better. The mob had already attacked the wrong guy before they fingered this one. Is it OK if they’re wrong? If not, how does he know that the guy  they did beat is the right one? Because the very police he doesn’t trust said so?  And how far would he let the mob go? This alleged rapist was hospitalized. What if he’d died? Would that have been OK, assuming the same level of force was used?

None of these pedestrian concerns appear to have occurred to Hill, who practices being provocative on FOX News. Nor does he appear to have thought through the implications of excusing criminal behavior based on the race of the parties involved. Saying that “black and white are not two sides of the same racial coin” is sound-bite ready, but what does it mean? More to the point, what might that statement justify? Lawlessness isn’t so easily cabined, once unleashed and condoned. He’s “wary” of this kind of behavior? So what?

Batman is pretty cool as a comic book character (although I always preferred the less complicated Superman as a kid), but a nation of lawless zealots who “know best” and their academic and official enablers is less appealing.

  1. h/t Kris Kachline for alerting me to this article.