The Scott Roeder case brings into focus the extreme and irresponsible statements uttered by many right-wing commentators and politicians. Fox’s Bill O’Reilly repeatedly referred to Dr. George Tiller as “Tiller the Baby Killer.”
U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, has publicly advocated the death penalty for abortion providers. Unfortunately, naïve, misguided or misinformed Americans such as Roeder hear those words and feel entitled to carry out a criminal act.
If we have learned nothing else from this tragic and sad episode, it should be that our words may take on extreme meaning and cause irreparable harm — even if not intentionally. This should be especially noted by those in public office or the media.
We should heed the words of former Supreme Court Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.: “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.”
The facts of the slaying of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller seem undisputable. Scott Roeder publicly gunned down Tiller, was arrested, and now faces trial. Roeder’s actions are driven by his belief the murder was justifiable due to Tiller’s involvement in abortion, some late-term.
The trial is headed toward the narrow ridge between laws and beliefs on a most passionate subject with Americans. We need to decide where our compass points on the subject of medically terminating unwanted pregnancy.
It’s a tragic situation, and there are no winners. This trial shall speak volumes of our character content in this great land of freedom.