by Thomas Gilleece, Guest Contributor
I wonder if historians will judge radical anti-abortionist Scott Roeder as favorably as they’ve judged radical abolitionist John Brown. Why is the fight against slavery almost always considered heroic, while the fight against abortion is generally considered controversial?
Let me be clear, I’m not saying I condone what Scott Roeder did. But, I’ve noticed how historians consistently praise John Brown’s actions. Howard Zinn wrote favorably about Brown, and the recent Matt Damon-produced TV special “The People Speak,” even featured Josh Brolin doing a dramatic reading of Brown’s courtroom speech to much applause.
Scott Roeder, for those unfamiliar with the name, is the man who shot and killed “late-term” abortionist George Tiller (one of only three in the nation) in 2009. Tiller, according to his own words, had aborted over 60,000 unborn babies, many that were perfectly healthy and completely viable. Many of these abortions were performed very late-term (he once bragged that he’d aborted a baby one day before its due date). The vast majority were aborted without the physical or mental health of the mother being a factor.
John Brown was an anti-slavery zealot who some historians credit as a primary catalyst for the Civil War. He believed violent action was needed to end the cruel practice of slavery and, in 1856, he and his sons killed five pro-slavery settlers in Kansas, hacking the men to death with their broadswords.
Three years later, in October of 1859, Brown led 19 men in a raid on the Harpers Ferry armory. His plan was to take the weapons stored there and arm slaves as he swept through the South. During the raid, Brown’s group killed four men (including, ironically, a freed black man) and wounded nine others. He was soon captured by a force under the command of Robert E. Lee, and was put on trial for murder, insurrection, and treason. He was found guilty and hanged on December 2, 1859.
The similarities between John Brown and Scott Roeder are eerily similar.
John Brown was a devout Christian, as was Scott Roeder.
Both men were considered unstable – even mad – by those who knew them well.
Brown was responsible for the deaths of five men in Kansas; Roeder shot and killed George Tiller in Kansas.
Both strongly believed that they were fighting for a cause much greater than themselves; both believed their violent actions would prevent further acts of violence against innocent victims, and both truly believed they were martyrs.
Both rebelled against practices which, although highly disagreeable, were still legal at the time.
Neither expressed remorse at their trials.
Both were quickly found guilty.
There, however, the similarities end. Brown caused the deaths of nine men. Roeder killed only one. Brown fought against the evils of slavery and Roeder fought against the evils of late-term abortion, but, for some reason, only slavery is ALWAYS considered evil. Yet slavery, as repugnant as it was, rarely led directly to death; in every single late-term abortion, a living being is killed. Of that, there can be no doubt.
There are huge differences in the way these men were covered at the time of their trials, as well. Some of the most famous writers of his day (including Victor Hugo and Ralph Waldo Emerson) expressed sympathy for Brown and even tried to obtain a pardon for him. Songs, plays, and poems were written praising him. Abolitionists and anti-slavery groups hailed him as a hero. Numerous books have been written in his name. Roeder, on the other hand, has been almost universally condemned – even by religious leaders and pro-life advocates.
Today, as I noted earlier, historians and biographers heap enormous praise (one called him “an American who gave his life that millions of other Americans might be free”) on John Brown for his valiant efforts to end an ugly practice.
I wonder how historians will remember Scott Roeder.
Time will tell.