STARKE, Fla. (BP)–Barring a stay, Paul Hill will become the first person in America to be executed for anti-abortion violence Sept. 3.
Hill’s scheduled execution and his past actions — he killed an abortion doctor and a bodyguard in 1994 — have reignited a debate over the proper response to abortion in America. While Hill has his supporters, the overwhelming majority of pro-lifers condemn his actions and say that violence is not the answer.
“It’s a pretty hard case to make that you want to be pro-life by killing people,” Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Commission, told Baptist Press. “If you’re pro-life, you believe in the sacredness of all-human life — including abortion doctors and people who work in abortion clinics.
“This man shot and killed people. His supporters say he’s motivated by religious conviction. Well, so are radical Islamic Jihadists.”
Hill’s supporters are vocal in their support. His spiritual adviser, Donald Spitz, told The Palm Beach Post he believes that “whatever’s justified to defend the life of a born child is justified to defend the life of an unborn child … including justifiable homicide.”
The Internet has allowed Hill’s supporters to spread their message. One group, Missionaries to the Unborn, uses its website to show pictures of abortion doctors on a deck of cards — similar to what the U.S. government did with Saddam Hussein and his regime.
The group compares Hill to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Christian theologian who was hanged in 1945 for his opposition to the Nazi government. Land rejects such a comparison.
“There was no democratic resource [in Nazi Germany],” Land said. “There was no way to remove Adolf Hitler from power or to change Adolf Hitler’s policies. In other words, there was no legal redress.”
A better analogy, Land said, would be to compare Hill to John Brown, the 19th-century abolitionist who took up arms and killed several slavery supporters five years before Civil War fighting broke out. Brown tried but failed to incite a slave revolt in 1859 and was hanged. His action further divided the north and south, historians say.
“John Brown was wrong, too,” Land said. “John Brown killed people in the name of freedom and sought to foment armed slave revolt against the United States.”
While Brown was trying to feed a revolt, Americans “were using the legal redress of grievance through their ballot box to elect Abraham Lincoln who was going to bring about an end to slavery,” Land said. “It does no good to the pro-life cause to argue that you have the right to kill people.”
Additionally, Land said, the pro-life movement is winning the battle to change minds. He pointed to a survey of 3,300 women by the Center for the Advancement of Women showing that 51 percent of respondents believed that abortion should either not be available or be available only in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger. It was released this summer.
“In the long struggle to win the right to life for unborn children, we are winning the struggle for hearts and minds,” Land said.
Hill’s crime, meanwhile, has harmed the pro-life cause, Land said, “in the same way that John Brown damaged the abolitionist cause — by making some people think that [abolitionists] were a radical group that would not abide by the rule of law.”