The reason is simple. On June 4, less than a week after George Tiller was shot and killed in his church, Cothran advocated that “the murder of abortionists” be “safe and legal.” This is disgusting.
Cothran offers no particular defense for the conscienceless (and tasteless, natch) attempt at justifying cold-blooded murder. Like Scott Roeder, who pulled the trigger on George Tiller, Cothran is “deadly serious.” The cold-blooded murder of a man in front of his family and his community is subservient, in Cothran’s world, to his interest in distinguishing humor from irony, and using irony to draw dramatic lessons about a political debate over abortion.
Abortion, Cothran (again, like Roeder) insists, is murder. Indeed, it is “a holocaust.” This is a decidedly idiosyncratic use of that term, but the human tragedy here leaves me numb to quibbles over definitions. A terrorist shot someone dead because the courts, the legislatures, and the voters all refused to concede to his immoral demands. His demands were that women who had been raped, women impregnated through incest, women whose pregnancy was killing them, women whose fetuses were dead or dying, and threatened to take the woman with them, should all be left with no choice but to die, to raise a child born of rape or incest, or to suffer themselves and then watch their child suffer and die. Roeder didn’t just terrorize the community of Wichita, and the parishioners at Reformation Lutheran Church. He set out to terrorize the thousands of women who have no option but to end their pregnancy.
The women who went to Tiller had no other options. As a matter of self-defense, of medical and moral necessity, they needed to end a pregnancy. These were women who wanted children, but who could not carry this pregnancy to term. Tiller practiced mostly third trimester abortions, over 90% of abortions are performed in the first 10 weeks. Women who carry a pregnancy for 8 months are not the ones who are sure they don’t want a baby, they are the ones who are forced into abortion by the most obvious necessity.
One husband whose wife relied on Tiller explains that they were told she was having twins:
Two days later our joy was turned to unspeakable sadness when the new sonogram showed conjoined twins. Conjoined twins alone is not what was so difficult but the way they were joined meant that at best only one child would survive the surgery to separate them and the survivor would more than likely live a brief and painful life filled with surgery and organ transplants. We were advised that our options were to deliver into the world a child who?s life would be filled with horrible pain and suffering or fly out to Wichita, Kansas and to terminate the pregnancy under the direction of Dr. George Tiller.
“One can only imagine,” he adds, “the pain borne by a woman who happily carries a child for 8 months only to find out near the end of term that the children were not to be and that she had to make the decision to terminate the pregnancy and go against everything she had been taught to believe was right.”
One can imagine this if one has compassion and empathy. But a moral monster cannot see the suffering of this couple, nor can he appreciate how Dr. Tiller helped so many women. In Martin Cothran’s monstrous world, Tiller and this couple are all “holocaust practitioners.” The husband, however, tells us that “Dr. Tiller understood that this decision was the most difficult thing that a woman could ever decide and he took the time to educate us and guide us.” Tiller helped women, and saved lives.
Tiller’s work let women attempt future pregnancies, avoiding uterine damage which could have rendered them sterile. For instance, a woman who “is a carrier of a terrible genetic abnormality. In addition to other defects, her babies developed with no faces, with no way to eat or breathe. They were doomed. The only way to extract them without hurting her chances of ever having another baby was through a D&X,” sometimes called a “partial birth” abortion. Tiller performed such procedures not out of spite, hatred, or grand political ideologies, but in order to save women and to ensure they could have the children which fate had denied them in this pregnancy.
For Cothran, though, these faceless (literally and figuratively) fetuses carry more moral weight than a man gunned down in cold blood. All he can think to do is call for more such murders, to endorse and encourage them. Cothran swears that his “moral universe” is still right side up, but it looks pretty twisted to me.