It is not only immoral, it should even be illegal, for a person to state that abortion is the unjustified taking of the life of a person.
Why would this be.
Well, the unjustified taking of the life of a person is murder. So, to say that abortion is the unjustified taking of the life of a person is to say that abortion is murder. If abortion is murder, it follows that the person who performs the abortion is a murderer.
Murderers should be punished. In fact, many people believe that the appropriate punishment for murder is death. So, to say that abortion is the unjustified taking of the life of a person is to say that abortion doctors deserve to die. In other words, the claim that abortion doctors deserve to die is an incitement to violence.
It is not only immoral, it should even be illegal, to incite people to violence. Therefore, it is not only immoral, it should even be illegal, for a person to state that abortion is the unjustified taking of a human life.
This pattern of argument describes the position that many pro-life opponents seem to take against their pro-life advocates. It is a quick and easy way to condemn them for speaking – to argue as if the mere utterance of the pro-life position is an incitement to violence that is to be morally condemned, if not legally punished.
A lot of the noise made against pro-life groups as a result of the murder of Dr. Tiller follows this line of reasoning. The speaker is ultimately trying to argue that the mere utterance of the pro-life position is immoral and perhaps should be made illegal because it is an incitement to violence.
However, there is a problem with this line of thinking. We can easily reduce it to the absurdity it is.
If this were a valid line of reasoning we could also use it to argue that it is not only immoral, it should even be illegal, for a person to state that the killing of an atheist is murder, or a person of color, or a Native American, or a woman, or a homosexual.
The reasoning would be the same. To say that these types of acts qualify as murder is to incite violence against those who would kill atheists, blacks, Native Americans, women, or homosexuals. It is wrong to incite violence against others. Therefore, these types of claims should be declared immoral and, perhaps, those who make them should face legal penalties as well.
Unreasoned rhetoric sure is tempting. It's quick. It’s easy. It is the perfect tool for those who only care about winning arguments and who care nothing about truth or reason. The reason pro-life speakers and writers love the rhetoric above is that it has the ability to slip past rational defenses – like a virus slipping through a cell wall – and effectively infect the thinking of its target audience.
On the other hand, the person who cares about reason and truth would recognize that it has to be considered permissible for a person to argue for the position that the killing of X is murder, and any argument that aims to silence those who would make such an assertion is somehow flawed.
The flaw is that it holds speakers responsible for the unreasoned inferences of others. It is certainly true that the utterance, "The killing of X is murder" might inspire some people to engage in private acts of violence against those responsible for the killing of X. However, the proposition, "The killing of X is murder" does not in any way entail the legitimacy of private violence. If somebody decides to make that unwarranted leap in logic, the fault is the person who makes the faulty leap, not the person who uttered the proposition, "The killing of X is murder.'
One possible response I can imagine to this is the claim that, “I am not objecting to the utterance of the proposition, 'the killing of X is murder'. I am objecting to the vilification of those who kill X – the name-calling and the hostility that the speaker attempts to stir against those who kill X when he says that the killing of X is murder.
Well, that's a bit like saying, "I am not objecting to the fact that a person says that the killing of X is murder. I object to him speaking as if he really believes it.”
So, a person can utter the proposition that the killing of atheists (or Jews, or homosexuals) is murder. However, he is not to do so in any way that invites listeners to adopt an attitude of hostility towards those who would kill atheists (or blacks, or women). Because, if he does such a thing, then he would be guilty of inciting violence against those who would kill atheists. That is not morally permissible.
If you prohibit people from condemning those who would kill atheists then this is pretty much the same as prohibiting people from making the claim that the killing of atheists is wrong. Similarly, a prohibition on condemning those who would engage in abortions is pretty much the same thing as a prohibition on making the claim that abortion is wrong.
It's like saying, "Sure, you can call Jim a bachelor. However, you are not permitted to say anything that suggests he is not married."
The utterance of the proposition, "Abortion is the unjustified killing of an innocent person," is a legitimate speech act. The condemnation of those who would perform abortions is simply another way of expressing the opinion that abortion is wrong which is a legitimate speech act.
If a speaker advocates acts of private violence (as opposed to changing the law), then he has made a transgression worthy of condemnation. If he actually engages in violence, he has made a transgression worthy of condemnation. If you cannot provide evidence that the speaker has done one of these things – if all you can show me is that the agent asserted that abortion is murder and those who perform abortions should be treated as murderers, you have not given me evidence of wrongdoing.