Frank Diamond

is a freelance writer

in Langhorne

The slaying of Dr. George Tiller last Sunday was an evil, despicable act. The fact that he was shot dead near his wife makes it even more heinous. That the killing took place at a house of worship makes it blasphemous. Or more blasphemous.

For the taking of human life is almost always a crime against God, as well as man. "Thou Shalt Not Kill," lays the cornerstone of not only our Judeo-Christian civilization, but also of every culture in which the highest aim of the individual is to lead an ethical life. Tiller was killed at the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kan., where he served as an usher. A suspect, Scott Roeder, is in custody.

I was pleased to see the antiabortion movement immediately condemn Tiller's killing. This, even though he was the medical director at Women's Health Care Services in Wichita, which is one of only a few clinics in the nation where abortions are performed after the 21st week of pregnancy.

He became infamous for championing partial-birth abortion, the late-term procedure in which the skull is cracked open and the brains are sucked out, something the late Sen. Patrick Moynihan said "comes as close to infanticide as anything I have seen in our judiciary."

I oppose everything Tiller stood for. I wanted him prosecuted in our courts. Unfortunately, that's now impossible. This man's life was taken. His family mourns. His death diminishes the rest of us. Anybody who is not outraged by this shooting lacks humanity. Tiller deserved to live out his golden years in quiet, savoring whatever sunsets were left to him, watching his grandchildren run across the lawn.

We should all pray for the repose of the soul of Dr. George Tiller.

Then, we should pray for his victims.

By some estimates, Tiller performed 60,000 late-term abortions. Let's say that my prayer for Tiller and his family lasts one minute. How long would it take me to say a similar prayer for each of the aborted babies? Sixty seconds times 60,000 lives equals 3,600,000 seconds. By my calculation, if I were to say a one-minute prayer for each baby aborted by Tiller, it would take me about 42 days to finish.

Say that the outrage that I feel over Tiller's killer took me about 300 words to express. If I were to write as much about each of the babies killed by Tiller, I would have to write 18 million words. One of the longest novels ever written, Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, has about 560,000 words. My outrage over Tiller's victims would make a library of 32 similar-size books.

This is not to belittle the tragedy that afflicts the Tiller family. This is only to point to the millions of tragedies that occur in our society each year.

Who knows what we've lost? Those babies might have grown up to cure cancer, or hammer out a Middle East peace process, or even win the seventh game of the World Series for some future Phillies team.

This is not to sugarcoat expectations. Some of the 60,000 would surely have wound up in jail, on drugs, or living off the public dole. A good portion might have been born handicapped. That, however, doesn't negate their potential. Talk to many parents of such children, and often they'll speak of the blessings in their lives.

Tiller's life and his death teach the same lesson. It is not our call.