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The Tiller Murder Wasn't a Lone Killer's Sick Plot; It Came Out of the Radical Anti-Abortion Movement

The murder of Dr. George Tiller is a logical outcome of increasingly violent rhetoric from pundits like Bill O'Reilly and radical pro-life groups.

George Tiller, a Kansas physician, was shot to death in church on Sunday. He was one of only a handful of doctors in the United States providing late-term therapeutic abortions for women in need -- women whose pregnancies threatened their lives or their health, and women who learned that they were carrying fetuses with severe abnormalities. Women traveled across the country to see Tiller when their own physicians and local medical providers couldn't help them. For many women, Tiller was, as one of his patients put it, "the one shining light in the worst week of my life".

He was also a major lightening-rod in the abortion wars. Anti-choicers harassed his patients, day in and day out. They bombed his clinic. They shot him once before. They filed lawsuit after lawsuit and even convinced local prosecutors to launch criminal investigations and trials (none were successful). They published his home address and the full names of his family members on their websites. They posted information about anyone who did business with him, from where he got his coffee to where he did his dry cleaning.

They had him and his staff wearing bullet-proof vests to work every day. Tiller drove an armored car and protected his home with a state-of-the-art security system. And, to better enable stalking and harassment, they posted his daily comings and goings -- including the fact that he attended services every Sunday at Reformation Lutheran Church, the place where he was ultimately shot and killed.

All because he was a licensed physician who performed legal medical procedures.

Not surprisingly, his killer is strongly suspected to be affiliated with the "pro-life" movement. If that's the case, it makes Tiller the 10th person in the United States to be murdered by anti-choice terrorists.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Since 1977, there have been at least 17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidents of assault or battery and three kidnappings committed against abortion providers in North America. Tiller himself survived an assassination attempt in 1993.

Some pro-life groups are issuing statements of condemnation and attempting to paint this murder as the work of an extremist. But this latest act of terrorism is, sadly, not an anomaly. It is part of a clearly-established pattern of harassment, intimidation and violence against abortion providers and pro-choice individuals. And mainstream pro-life groups shoulder much of the blame.

Pro-life organizations routinely refer to abortion as " murder", a " genocide" and a " holocaust". They post the full names abortion providers on their websites, along with their addresses, their license plate numbers, their photos, the names of children and the schools those children attend (sometimes with helpful Wild-West-style "Wanted" posters offering $5,000 rewards).

When you convince your followers that abortion providers are the equivalent of SS officers slaughtering innocents by the millions, tell them that "it's all-out WAR" against pro-choicers and then provide the home addresses and personal information of the "monster" "late-term baby-killer" abortion providers you're supposedly at war against, you can't act surprised when those followers conclude that it's morally justified to use the information to kill doctors.

These are not fringe groups. Conservative television personality Bill O'Reilly called Tiller's clinic a "death mill", referred to Tiller as a "baby killer" who was "executing babies about to be born" and said Tiller was doing "Nazi stuff" for which he "had blood on his hands".

Frank Pavone, a Roman Catholic priest, member of James Dobson's Focus on the Family and director of Priests for Life, posted a YouTube video on Sunday to say that he "abhors" the violence committed against Tiller but "we just don't know and we shouldn't jump to conclusions" in assuming that an anti-choice terrorist may have murdered Tiller -- although, he concedes, someone may have assassinated him "in order to stop Tiller from killing more babies". He continued: "When we talk about abortion, we are taking about killing. There's no two ways about it. ... This is a massive holocaust, it is killing."