3 Reasons Why Murdering an Abortion Doctor Isn’t Being Called “Terrorism”

by Will Potter on June 2, 2009

in Government Priorities

A t-shirt from ChristianShirts.net.

A t-shirt from ChristianShirts.net.

Dr. George Tiller, one of the few late-term abortion providers in the country, was murdered inside his church on Sunday, and the only suspect is Scott Roeder, a man The New York Times said “had professed an anti-government, anti-abortion philosophy.” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the murder an “abhorrent act of violence,” but he hasn’t used the word “terrorism.” Not once.


As a bit of context, if you’re new to this website, the FBI labels the animal rights and environmental movements as the “number one domestic terrorism threat” even though those activists have never harmed a human being. At the very worst, underground groups like the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front have released animals from fur farms, destroyed SUVs and set fire to empty buildings.

When animal rights activists or environmental activists are arrested, though, the government immediately sends out press releases and holds press conferences trumpeting the arrest of “eco-terrorists” and “domestic terrorists.”

So it’s pretty startling that government hasn’t used the T-word, considering that we’re talking about murder, and, as James Ridgeway notes over at Mother Jones, Roeder was also arrested in 1996 with ammunition, gunpowder, a blasting cap, and a fuse chord in his car. He was sentenced to two years of supervised probation. (By contrast, the SHAC 7 received years in prison for running a website).

What gives? Why hasn’t the murder of an abortion provider been labeled “terrorism”?

  • It’s not a threat to profits. Time and again, we’ve seen that a driving force behind the domestic “War on Terrorism” is protecting corporate interests. The ELF, ALF and above-ground, lawful activists all directly target profits. As the Department of Homeland Security said in a memo, “Attacks against corporations by animal rights extremists and eco-terrorists are costly to the targeted company and, over time, can undermine confidence in the economy.” Similarly, the State Department has warned corporations how to protect their profits from “eco-terrorists.”
  • Health clinics and nonprofits don’t have the lobbying power of multinational corporations. NOW is already pushing to label this crime as “terrorism.” I wouldn’t be surprised if they also push legislation to label anti-abortion violence as terrorism. The problem, though, is that groups like NOW and Planned Parenthood don’t have the political influence (read: money) as Pfizer, Wyeth, GlaxoSmithKline, and all the other multinational corporations who push “eco-terrorism” legislation like the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.
  • It’s not threatening the “American way of life.” In my reporting I’ve found that the word “terrorism” is typically applied to two types of crimes. The first are crimes that go up the chain of power (so, for example, the U.S. military bombing civilians is not terrorism, but an Iraqi civilian bombing the military is).

    The second are crimes that challenge dominant American values. Let me explain: Attacking African American voters is not terrorism, right-wingers like Chuck Norris calling for armed revolution is not terrorism, Timothy McVeigh bombing the Oklahoma City building is not terrorism. Why? Because the values behind all of those actions– racism, capitalism, and Christian fundamentalism—are business as usual.

    So, for example, if Dr. Tiller had been murdered by Muslim extremists proclaiming jihad against the West, the government would be labeling this “terrorism.” The exact same crime committed by Christian extremists is merely a “wicked deed in Wichita”

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