Shakespeare, Ayn Rand, and the Murder of Abortion Clinic Physician, Dr. George Tiller

The Kansas abortion clinic physician, Dr. George Tiller, was murdered today in a church. It’s hard to imagine a more animalistic and nihilistic gesture than to enter a church to murder someone, and it put me in mind of a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Claudius, testing the resolve of Laertes to murder Hamlet, asks for suggestions as to how, and Laertes enthusiastically responds, “To cut his throat I’ th’ church” (4.7.144). The implication of the line is one of both horror and comedy, for surely one could not be more absurdly hell-bent and overwhelmed by an irrational passion than to murder someone in a church.

But today, a man was murdered in a church.

Below is a video of Dr. Tiller briefly talking about his experiences as a doctor who has spent many years, in the teeth of active resistance, supporting women’s constitutionally protected right to terminate their unwanted pregnancies:

And since many in the Republican Party these days claim to be influenced by the libertarian philosophy of Ayn Rand, here’s Ayn Rand on abortion:

Observe that by ascribing rights to the unborn, i.e., the nonliving, the anti-abortionists obliterate the rights of the living: the right of young people to set the course of their own lives. The task of raising a child is a tremendous, lifelong responsibility, which no one should undertake unwittingly or unwillingly. Procreation is not a duty: human beings are not stock-farm animals.

The authoritarian theocratic wing of conservatism has once again done something at cross-purposes with the professed message of its libertarian wing. And Bill O’Reilly has, for years, been maligning and demonizing Dr. Tiller. It will be interesting to see how Fox News and America’s far-right radio noise machine treats this tragic news story, or fails to treat it by simply ignoring it (which would be, in itself, telling).

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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5 Responses to Shakespeare, Ayn Rand, and the Murder of Abortion Clinic Physician, Dr. George Tiller

  1. Veronica Abbass says:


    Thank you for ‘Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” in the Light of Bruce Hornsby’s “Mandolin Rain.”’ It was my, much needed, Mental Health Break for a Sunday.

    Thank you, as well, for referring to Shakespeare’s _Hamlet_ in an effort to make sense of Dr. George Tiller’s murder.

    In Canada, Dr. Henry Morgentaler, “a Polish Holocaust survivor who immigrated to Montreal after the war, [and] opened his first abortion clinic in 1969,” was named to the Order of Canada in 2008. see

    I mention Dr. Morgentaler because he and his abortion clinics have been equated with “Nazi-levels of atrocity.” In 2005, when the University of Western Ontario conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws degree upon Morgentaler, someone commented to me that Morgentaler “looks like a Nazi.” The person (male), who made this comment and intended it to be a conversation stopper, was very surprised when I replied loudly enough for my voice to carry, “so does the pope.” This happened at a party where most of the guests were Catholics and one guest was a Catholic bishop. My reply was the conversation stopper.

    Many lives will be affected by Dr Tiller’s death. Bill O’Reilly and all the organizations and people who presume to interfere with a woman’s autonomy in regards to her body are implicated in Dr. Tiller’s murder.

  2. Eric Dondero says:

    Umm, excuse me, but the vast majority of us libertarians are staunchly PRO-CHOICE! How does that equate with your summation that this guy was influenced by “libertarian” views?

    We’d be on the opposite side of the fence from this guy on the issue.

  3. Eric Dondero says:

    Oh, for the record: Ayn Rand was Pro-Choice.

  4. santitafarella says:

    Eric Dondero:

    Perhaps you just scanned—rather than read—what I wrote.

    I clearly said in the post that Ayn Rand and libertarians support abortion rights: “The authoritarian theocratic wing of conservatism has once again done something at cross-purposes with the professed message of its libertarian wing.”

    And I quoted Ayn Rand clearly stating her support of abortion.

    In other words, how can libertarians share a party with theocrats? Obviously, it is profoundly difficult, abortion being just one of the issues on which libertarians and theocrats divide sharply.


  5. santitafarella says:


    That was a rather fast-thinking “on your feet” retort to the Nazi quip!

    I’m glad you liked Christopher Cross. Alas, he had more hair when his song first came out.


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