Paul Hill was scheduled to be executed at 6pm Eastern time for the deaths of John B. Britton, an abortion provider, and his security guard, James H. Barrett. [He was executed at 6:08pm.] I find myself in a moral quandry, which is unusual.
I generally see the world as fairly black-and-white, and I don't often have trouble formulating an opinion that I can support with facts and reason. However, with regards to this case, I'm unsure. I've written about abortion before, and I believe that an unborn baby is a human being. That belief and understanding leads me to view abortion as "killing", and as such abortions may only be morally justified in the same ways that other killings are -- self-defense, for instance, if the pregnancy threatens the mother. Abortions of convenience are equivalent to murder.
That being the case, I find it hard to condemn Paul Hill's act, even though I want to do so. It doesn't seem wise for pro-life advocates to gun down abortion providers, but I can't help feeling that they deserve it. Not only have abortion doctors callously committed murder for profit in the past, they are incredibly likely to murder again in the future, by their own profession.
The murder of unborn babies is legal, and this must play into my reasoning somehow. It's not my place to execute judgement on anyone; that role belongs to God, and he has delegated much of that earthly authority to the government. But if our government fails to act justly, then what? Hypothetical analogies are easy to come by: if you saw someone being raped or beaten, would you feel morally justified in going to their aid, even if the law prohibited it? Of course you would, but it's a strange hypothetical because it's hard to imagine that such a heinous crime would be legal, or that rendering aid in such a case would be illegal.
Additionally, violence isn't the only potential solution. Being that we're in America, pro-lifers have the option of pushing their agenda through legal, non-violent means; we clearly have that responsibility, but does such action abrogate or mitigate our responsibility to protect those who are being murdered?
I concede that the issue of punishment is best left to God and the government, and should be handled through the legal and political system. However, the other side of the coin is the moral imperative of preventing the murderers from claiming more victims. Is it morally sufficient to throw my hands up and be content with the the status quo and whatever slow political change can be wrought? Or, when faced with the prospect of countless millions of future murders, do my beliefs compel me to more direct and immediate action (not necessarily violent)?
Here's an interesting legal hypothetical. Suppose Paul Hill had been sentenced to life in prison rather than death. What if a Constitutional amendment were ratified in the future that made abortion legally equivalent to murder? Could Paul Hill then appeal his conviction and sentence based on the idea that he was preventing future murders? What if he had killed Britton while Britton was in the act of performing an abortion?