Monday, June 01, 2009

Prompt Response

The Obama Administration has reacted to the murder of Dr. George Tiller, head of one of only three clinics in the U.S.A. to provide late-term abortions. The reported Sunday evening that President Obama issued this statement:

I am shocked and outraged by the murder of Dr. George Tiller as he attended church services this morning. However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence.

And on Monday we learned:

Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered increased security for some abortion clinics and doctors in the wake of the slaying of Dr. George Tiller.

Jeff Carter, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service, confirmed the decision “to increase security for a number of individuals and facilities” following Tiller’s slaying at a church service Sunday in Wichita, Kan.

The clinic built by Dr. Tiller is nearly a fortress- a moat, metal detectors, no windows, and other safeguards- and Tiller himself employed private security. But he did not expect a hit to take place at church, perhaps especially because so much pro-life enthusiasm emanates from devout elements of the Christian community. No doubt Tiller believed, as probably do most abortion providers, that violence and sabotage are most likely at the clinics, and that otherwise they and their staff are most vulnerable traveling to and from work.

That would be a legitimate impulse, but hopefully the increased security provided by the federal government will consider every contingency. And it is not unreasonable to suggest that intimidation, if not violence, will continue and even escalate. For, as Matthew Yglesias points out

direct action terrorist violence against abortion providers has, I think, proven to be a fairly successful tactic. Every time you murder a doctor, you create a disincentive for other medical professionals to provide these services. What’s more, you create a need for additional security at facilities around the country. In addition, the anti-abortion protestors who frequently gather near clinics are made to seem much more intimidating by the fact that the occurrence of these sorts of acts of violence.

In general, I think people tend to overestimate the efficacy of violence as a political tactic. But in this particular case, I think people tend to understate it.

And so, at least for now, the Obama Administration for its response deserves a thumbs-up.

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