I try really hard to take Megan McArdle seriously. I do. For one thing, I’m pretty sure she could take me in a fight, and that scares the crap out of me. Also, she knows people who could buy and sell me and everything I own 27 times before getting out of bed in the morning.
But it’s really hard when she writes paragraphs like this:
Now I can move onto the observation that if you actually think late-term abortion is murder, then the murder of Dr. Tiller makes total sense. Putting up touching anecdotes about people he’s helped find adoptions, etc, doesn’t change the fact that if you think late-term abortions are murder, the man was systematically butchering hundreds of human beings a year–indeed, not merely butchering them, but vivisecting them without anaesthetic. I’m sure many mass murderers have done any number of kind things over the course of their lives, to which the correct response, if you’re trying to stop the murders, is “so?”
We accept that when the law is powerless, people are entitled to kill in order to prevent other murders–had Tiller whipped out a gun at an elementary school, we would now be applauding his murderer’s actions. In this case, the law was powerless because the law supported late-term abortions.
Okay, look. In no way, shape, or form do I accept the proposition that “when the law is powerless, people are entitled to kill in order to prevent other murders.” That’s an absolutely insane legal paradigm to subscribe to. So if I really, in my heart, believe in my “Meat is Murder” bumper sticker, I am entitled to go on a manhunting spree during hunting season here in Colorado? Or to stalk, harrass, or murder the girlfriends of teenagers who work at McDonalds, because I find their attitude towards animal cruelty to be beyond excuse? That is, not to put too fine a point on it, the stupidest thing I will read or hear today, and I am still scheduled to spend 5 hours in a room full of children, aged 6 to 13.
In McMegan’s example, the law is powerless to prevent the spree killing at an elementary school because there doesn’t happen to be an officer of the law present. But it’s still illegal to kill elementary school children. If there were a hostage situation at the school, and the cops had the place surrounded and the situation fairly under control, until some wild-eyed wacko ran through the barracades and started shooting up the place, we would not laud that person at all – instead, they would be castigated and prosecuted, if not actually shot dead by the police.
In this case, the law was absolutely empowered to stop Tiller from performing his procedures. He did not operate in a back alley, under cover of darkness. He performed what he saw as his duties plainly and openly, without shame, for all the world to see. Law officers could have entered his clinic at any time, or knocked on his door and arrested him. Only, the law did not stop him, because the law happened to say that what he did was not illegal!
Again, I’m not going to get deeply involved in the question of whether or not abortion rights should be restricted, whether it should be a federal or a state governmental question, or whether it’s morally right or wrong, and up to what point. I will simply note that it is absolutely ridiculous to say that it can be a defensible paradigm to say anything along the lines of “I think what you’re doing constitutes murder, so even though what you are doing is open and publically known, I am going to kill you.” Such a thought process, if adopted by everyone, would lead to a complete societal breakdown. Thus, it cannot be defended in a country which aims for civilization.
Enough abortion stuff from me; no more, I promise.