Yes, and no. Yes it is just for the state, which has been given the power of the sword as God’s minister of justice (Romans 13), to put to death those who take it upon themselves to commit murder. Abortion is murder. Those who perform it, and those who procure it, in a just society, would receive the strongest civil penalty there is, death. Both, of course, like the rest of us, can and are forgiven by their Maker if and when they repent in Christ. The many millions of Christians in the church who are tainted by guilt on this issue, women who have procured abortions, husbands, boyfriends and fathers who have encouraged them, have had that taint washed away in the blood of Christ, just like the rest of us who had the taint of spilling His blood, and have now been washed by it. None of this, however, changes the biblical calling of the state.
What though if the state fails in its calling? What if the state not only doesn’t put to death those who practice this monstrous evil, but in fact sanctions the evil? In that circumstance, would it be right for an individual to execute an abortionist? No. When the news hit more than a dozen years ago that Paul Hill had executed an abortionist, I was in a meeting. A woman, a friend in fact, stunned by the news uttered, “He must be crazy.” I suggested that such was assuredly not the case. I argued in fact that while it was wrong to murder abortionists, that that conclusion was not on its face clear and obvious. I suggested that the arguments were rather nuanced. One had at least to deal with the argument that the Bible sanctions deadly force in defense of those being wrongly assaulted. Yes, the correct moral answer was knowable. It was not, however, immediately crystal clear.
I suspect that most people, though by no means all, who respond in horror to the news that this abortionist or that died by the sword, but a sword not wielded by the state, are horrified in part because they just don’t take this holocaust seriously. It is for them, for too many of us, simply a political issue. Murdering an abortionist for most evangelicals makes as much sense as murdering the local tax assessor. We don’t like our tax rates, and we don’t like abortion. We vote for men whom we hope will bring us lower tax rates, and we vote for men whom we hope will lower the number of abortions. Murder is, in these people’s eyes, simply blowing the issue way out of proportion.
It is true enough that there is a disproportionality between the evil of abortion and the murder of one abortionist. The former is far, far more grave and horrifying than the latter. If it is fitting and just to take up arms to end this abomination, killing them one at a time is playing games. But there is a disproportionality on the other side of the equation. Those who rightly long to see this evil of abortion come to an end should have an even stronger passion to see themselves cease from sin. Their consuming passion should not be ending abortion, but obeying the living and true God. None of us, not even those who have answered this question wrongly, who have taken it upon themselves to fulfill the state’s calling here, take abortion too seriously. Instead, all of us fail to take all sin seriously enough.