Letter to editor was thoughtful, deserves answer

Michael Mann’s letter in Tuesday night’s Forum criticizing my comments on the murder of Dr. George Tiller last Sunday in Wichita was thoughtful and deserves a response.
He complained that by blaming the inflammatory rhetoric that characterizes so much of the anti-abortion movement’s public comment for motivating the killer that I was lumping all who oppose abortion “into the same category as a crazed murderer.”
Mann goes on to say, “... the murder of Dr. Tiller was a senseless act of violence done by a single person, not all of the pro-life movement. Every person I talked to about this, pro-life or not, viewed it as an inexcusable act that never should have happened. How you can, as a supposedly objective person of the press, be that bigoted toward a single group of people is quite saddening and very disheartening.”

MY EDITORIAL perhaps did not make it clear that I was blaming the extremism of the violent spokesmen and women of the anti-abortion movement, not all of those who call themselves pro-life. Mr. Mann, for example, obviously does not belong in the intellectual company of Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue, who called Dr. Tiller an evil man whose hands were soaked in blood and told the National Press Club Monday that Tiller was “a mass murderer and horrifically, he reaped what he sowed.”
Anti-abortion leaders often refer to abortion as murder and that is why, in my opinion, those who attend mass meetings aimed at abortionists sometimes work themselves into a frenzy, blockade clinics, confront patients violently, trash the area and threaten clinic workers.
Dr. Tiller, remember, was shot in both arms several years ago by such a frenzied man, was the constant recipient of hate mail that threatened him with bodily harm and caused him to hire body guards and take other precautions such as installing bullet-proof glass in his Wichita clinic. His assassination was the logical culmination of those kinds of harassments waged against him for decades.
Do these facts mean that all pro-life people are violent? Of course not. But I would submit that those who cannot connect the dots between the hateful rage expressed by the Terrys of the anti-abortion movement — who are, after all, its public face — and the death of Dr. Tiller are willfully deceiving themselves.
History is full of deadly tragedies caused by venom-filled propaganda that pushed vulnerable zealots over the edge. The lynchings provoked by the Ku Klux Klan are a shameful example from our own nation’s past.
Mr. Mann berates me for being “bigoted toward a single group of people.” Not so. I don’t consider those who call themselves pro-life to be a single group in any way but their attitude toward abortion, any more than I think Democrats, Republicans, Presbyterians, Muslims or non-believers are clones of one another.
My target in Monday’s piece was inflammatory rhetoric that drives people to violence — and in this tragic case, contributed to the death of a dedicated, incredibly brave, physician.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.