June 1st, 2009
05:30 PM ET

How I (and other "Pro-Life" leaders) contributed to Dr. Tiller's murder

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/06/01/kansas.doctor.killed.charges/art.tiller.kake.jpg caption="Dr. George Tiller was one of the few U.S. physicians who performed late-term abortions."]

Frank Schaeffer
The Huffington Post

My late father and I share the blame (with many others) for the murder of Dr. George Tiller the abortion doctor gunned down on Sunday. Until I got out of the religious right (in the mid-1980s) and repented of my former hate-filled rhetoric I was both a leader of the so-called pro-life movement and a part of a Republican Party hate machine masquerading as the moral conscience of America.

In the late 1970s my evangelical pro-life leader father Francis Schaeffer and Dr. C. Everett Koop (who soon become Surgeon General in the Reagan administration) went on the road with me taking the documentary antiabortion film series I produced and directed ( Whatever Happened to the Human Race?) to the evangelical public. The series and companion book eventually brought millions of heretofore non-political evangelical Americans into the antiabortion crusade. We personally also got people like Jerry Falwell, Ronald Reagan and countless Republican leaders involved in the "issue."


soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Monica

    I agree! You couldn't have put it better!

    June 2, 2009 at 10:45 am |
  2. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    It's sad when Americans call the murder of this doctor a hate crime or terrorism, yet ignore his murder of hundreds or thousands of unborn children.

    June 2, 2009 at 8:42 am |
  3. Jeffrey Young, Sr

    I'm deeply saddend but not surprised by the murder of Dr. Tiller. Just as in centuries past men and women have used religion as a cover to commit unspeakable acts. But what disturbs me the most is that many in the religious right who are speaking on this topic are elated that the Dr was killed. I grew up in the Christian tradition that says all murder is wrong in the eyes of God and that vengence is not for man but is for the hand of God. People who mask their hatred with chapter and verse are no better than those they villify. And from my perspective Dr. Tiller seemed a compassionate and thoughtful practitioner who understood that the decision to terminate a pregnancy is very rarly taken lightly. Finally even if abortion is, in the eyes of God, a sin against humanity he and only he is in a position to sit in judgement of the Dr and his patients (as is says in the Bible).

    God help us all.

    June 2, 2009 at 4:35 am |
  4. Doris Cobb

    It is very disturbing when one person commits an act of violence against another, especially resulting in death. Murder does not solve anything.
    I have just read the article from Mr. Schaeffer and I see another example of throwing the baby out with the bath water. It seems to me that too often when people move from one way of thinking they go completely to the other direction of their first opinion or belief. I agree that extreme fundamentalism is dangerous, whether it's a Christian group or an Islamic group.
    Unfortunately when it comes to the abortion issue this kind of thinking allows for the core of the issue to get lost in rhetoric. Throughout the years I've heard the standard Pro-Choice arguement; what about the 12 year old who is raped and becomes pregnant or the woman who's life is in jeopardy. Although I am completely Pro-Life, I believe that if the only abortions ever performed were on girls or women in those situations, there would not be an issue at all.Abortion as a form of birth control is the real root of the whole Pro-Life, Pro-Choice arguement. In Canada ( where I live) and in the U.S there a more abortions than live births every year. That's alot of raped 12 year olds and women in jeopardy.
    When people, in general, make statements about the lack of values, respect, consideration, or the amount of greed, lust and the like in this world, I don't believe many of them give real serious thought as to the root cause of all these failings. Accepting the elective killing of the unborn has not had a positive outcome on our society.
    Of course the stance that a woman has the right to govern her own body is the arguement that causes the most ire. I agree fully that a woman should govern her own body, but how about doing it before sex and prevent a pregnancy, because once you are pregnant it's another body you're killing.
    Years ago I attempted to dissuade a young mom from aborting her second child. During our conversation she told me that the counsellor at the family planning clinc was 7 months pregnant, she herself was in her third month, and the clinic counsellor said that what she (at 7 mos) was carrying a baby but that what this young mom had in her was just fetal matter. At that pont this "fetal matter" has formed and has fingers, toes, arms and legs.
    Back to the subject of the murder of the abortion doctor. Murder is wrong and all the Pro-life people that I know and have known over the years would never sanction such an act as acceptable. I can never understand how a person could call themselves Pro-Life and commit or aprove of the taking of any life.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:58 am |
  5. Bill Bicks

    I don't feel one bit sorry for Dr. Tiller.

    How many innocent human beings (albeit unborn) did he kill throughout his abortion practice? Thousands, tens of thousands?

    All of these fetuses had the potential for rich human life.

    Why should Dr. Tiller's life be any more highly appraised than any of the innocent lives he snuffed out by abortions?

    June 1, 2009 at 11:55 pm |
  6. bill

    Sir, you need not apologize for me. Nor should you attempt to for Christians, Roman Catholics, Republicans, or any other individual on this earth who happen to appreciate Truth. Or who happen to appreciate the fact that Life begins at conception. No matter which trimester you speak of. They're all the same, you just need a different size microscope for the different periods of their life. We don't even know anything about the individual who took it upon himself to take Mr. Tillers life and yet you among others are so anxious to start pointing blame. I suppose society as a whole is to blame, but that's only because we have placed ourselves above all creation to a point that soon after, you begin to ask yourself "why are we continuing to lie and do things which support the lies". It's not hate mongering to support life. One would have to believe it the other way around when death is the preferred option. Our society chose to be irresponsible in the 60's and began making laws to support these actions in the 70's. With miss-guided marketing which brought women on board, buying the idea that it was a woman’s right and all, well, here we are today. One thing led to another as you can plainly see. So please, if you've done something wrong, so be it. Apologize or do what ever you feel you must. But don't play that game with people, peaceful people, who only believe in the Truth's their Bible teaches them, which is one of the Ten Commandments. Should be easy enough to look up. And make sure you don't misinterpret it either. Many have and will continue to do so. I'm proud to be a Christian. I believe in life. Yes, I'm an American who would rather see less government involvement in our lives, because that's the way it was set up to be and has been the beacon on the hill for many generations. A little dose of common sense would be a wonderful thing for today’s politicians and media. What's wrong with plain and simple honesty. It's amazing how we're so busy at getting nothing done because we are so busy at trying to get our own to believe in the lies. I don't even know if the country still has a goal but if we do, it's probably all bogged down in red-tape somewhere waiting on some Senator or Congressperson to approve the fact that it exist. I feel badly for Mr. Tillers family and their loss but greed is what ruled the late Mr. Tiller. Place your blame there and among those who approved the task to begin with if you like, but wouldn't it be better for everyone, if those responsible took responsibility for their doings rather than everyone else having to?

    June 1, 2009 at 11:49 pm |
  7. Caroline K

    Dear Frank,

    While I must unfortunately agree with you that your words (and those of your father, the religious right, the Republican party, etc) most likely fueled the action of Scott Roeder, I must at the same time applaud and thank you for taking responsibility and for your sincere apology. We all say things we later regret, but very few of us have the decency and moral conscious to own up to them. I think it was very brave of you to do so and I hope it sets an example that others will follow.

    I don't think anti-abortionists are looking at the issue from all sides. How can you ask a woman to give birth to a child that is so deformed that it will die upon birth? Men cannot understand the wonder and awe of carrying a human life. Never mind the sex. the one thing most expectant mothers want is a healthy baby with all of it's fingers and toes. To know that your child is severely deformed is the worst blow of all. How can anyone ask a woman to go through with that? and since when did a woman's body become public property? I don't know what I would do if I were one of these women. I had to face the prospect of abortion when I became pregnant out of wedlock and wasn't sure what my partner's reaction would be. thankfully, he wanted me to do no such thing which is good, because I don't think I could have gone through with it. Children are precious gifts from God, and i think most people would agree with that statement. But sometimes they are not meant to be and it is up to the mother to decide if she wants to see it through to the end and say goodbye then, or end it as soon as possible so that healing can begin. It is personal, private and ultimately, very painful for all involved.

    God Bless you,

    Caroline K

    June 1, 2009 at 11:25 pm |
  8. A History of Secret Human Experimentation-Torture.

    Randle Terri – What would you tell my friend to do when she learned that her baby was dead at four months? Let nature take its course? Go for an operation? In a hospital? Maybe we should re-name these clinics.

    Randle Terri? How do you know it was too late for him to get right with G-d? He Was In Church!

    WHere were you Randy Terri? Killing to control something you have no control over? This won't stop it, You want people stay ignorant of the facts as to the kind of woman who have medical problems.

    When people hear late term abortion, they think of those horrible films of babies being pulled apart. That is their hate. G-d is Love, the other guy is hate.

    I knew a woman, a nurse, who was happily married, and three months pregnant, then she realized the baby hadn't moved in a few days. The baby died. She had to go to this horrible place, she felt it was the worst place anyone would want to go who needs medical care, and she deserved care in a decent place. She couldn't find a decent place.

    People are thinking in a box because of bias commercials. We don't see the other stories as a commercial, like they do. They don't show the woman who has a baby and is badly deformed, and the mother doesn't know because she has no medical coverage she puts off going to the doctor. The woman may feel fine until she finally goes and learns devastating news.
    Are the woman of the future going to have to get operations instead? Isn't that what it actually is. Why do the Doctor's have to feel like criminals?

    The woman who called and said, if they are depressed it is her right? I don't believe that should be the end of it.

    There should be counseling, and support for all woman, and maybe there is. We don't know? Doctor's are helping woman who could die, and, or her baby.

    If the Clinics and Doctors Nurses are treated like an enemy, we will never be able to help woman safely. With dignity.

    June 1, 2009 at 11:25 pm |
  9. Laura

    If you're against abortion you have that right and can live your life accordingly but you do not have the right to make that decision for other adults.

    Churches need to take a hard and honest look at any hatred and intolerance being spread and watching for members who live on these fringes.

    Although I do not live in Kansas, as a woman in this country I am profoundly grateful for Dr. Tiller and his family for the care, support and courage they displayed 24/7 to provide all care for women.

    My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

    June 1, 2009 at 10:59 pm |
  10. Sarah


    Your editorial really makes me think about the words we use when we discuss contentious issues. I come from a different perspective, but know the words that I have used to describe things have often been inflammatory or even hateful. Words do matter. And, I will hold it in my mind to choose mine more wisely thanks to your editorial.

    I am struck by your willingness to accept responsibility. It is commendable.

    As a mother and a pro-choice activist, I am having a hard time swallowing the rhetoric from the anti-abortion/religious right surrounding Dr. Tiller's murder. It is time to truly talk about this issue; it is time to end this violence. It is time to stop trying to win followers/elections/whatever and really focus on the issue.

    "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind."–Mohandas Gandhi

    Thank you for sharing your voice and perspective.

    June 1, 2009 at 10:43 pm |
  11. Nancy

    I am so sick of people preching that they value the life of a child and then go kill someone else. Where are these people when women who have babies with genetic disorders have their babies and cannot care for them? Are these right wingers going to adopt these children? I bet not. How dare anyone decide for someone else what is right for another person. Why don't they take care of themselves and stop judging others. We supposedly live in a democracy and this issue has already been voted on by the Supreme Court.

    June 1, 2009 at 10:39 pm |
  12. s gray

    My sorrow for the doctor and his family is great. One more time please let the men stay out of this. Again please, when will this be just a female issue regarding the rights of women. A man impregnates a women the w omens body is the one that's bears the child. Some men raise the child many men leave the women and the children are raised by the women. This is a women issue only !!

    June 1, 2009 at 10:21 pm |
  13. Nikki J

    What a woman decides to do with her pregnancy is between her and her God not pro-life advocates. Her business.

    June 1, 2009 at 8:51 pm |
  14. Lisa in CA

    It's becoming the norm not to think about the consequences of our words on others. We don't think they will take them definitively but rather take them abstractly.

    Regardless, people still have no right to advocate when abortion should be legal or illegal. Those doing the advocating against – no matter what term – are not the ones who have to deal with the consequences of that decision. I also find that they are the ones who want funding for social programs cut. The same programs that would help the potential lives once born have a better life; that would help the parents if the baby has severe physical/mental issues.

    To outlaw totally late term abortions also brings with it unintended consequences - not only for the families but for society as well. And unless society is willing to ensure programs and funding are in place, society needs to stay out of the private lives of people. We are not privvy to those conversations and decisions; as such, we should have no say.

    June 1, 2009 at 8:28 pm |
  15. Charles L. Morse Sr.

    I don't agree with any doctor being kill like this doctor . If you wan't to kill his practice of abortion . Do it with the law in court . Taking this mans life makes you no better then he for killing babies . What good are our courts if we take judgment out of the hands of God and the people .

    June 1, 2009 at 7:45 pm |
  16. Janet

    Without trying to inflame, can someone tell me in a non-hate filled way, what should happen in cases where the mother's life is in danger if she continues a pregnancy? Is allowing a person to die better than taking the life of a yet-born person?

    June 1, 2009 at 7:28 pm |
  17. GF, Los Angeles

    What a shocking apology...I would've never expected it. I hope all your followers and your father's reads it. The hateful religious rhetoric must stop. The decision to have an abortion is not easy considering a host of reasons why that decision is made. We have no right to take that choice away from a woman who needs it.

    June 1, 2009 at 7:04 pm |
  18. AEC

    Regardless of political or religious beliefs, abortion causes the death of a unique human being. Call it whatever you want. This world needs more love and compassion to correct the wrongs that make a woman feel the need to kill her unborn: money, fear, neglect, etc.

    June 1, 2009 at 6:24 pm |