2003: Paul Hill, anti-abortion martyr

Five years ago today, minister Paul Hill was put to death by lethal injection for murdering an abortion provider and a clinic escort nine years before.

Hill rose to prominence in the early 1990’s as a fire-eating abortion foe, who openly preached the righteousness of defending unborn life by force — a divisive position among anti-abortion activists that got him excommunicated from the Presbyterian church.

On July 29, 1994, in the abortion conflict’s ground-zero of Pensacola, Fla., Hill put his theology into action by gunning down Dr. John Britton and his septuagenarian escort, along with Britton’s wife (who survived the shooting).

Creepy. It sure looks like the song and image pairings were done in earnest, not in irony.

He never betrayed the least scruple about his act, hoping only to use his trial to present a “justifiable homicide” defense; the judge’s suppression of this line was and remains a grievance of Hill’s fellow-travelers against the judiciary.

Nor did Hill betray the least concern to die for his beliefs; if anything, in dropping appeals that would at the least have prolonged his life, he cut a figure thirsty for the martyrdom he attained this day.

To what end?

Hill left a plentiful documentary record — like this manifesto, among the pro-Hill documents collected on the Army of God website:

I knew that [killing an abortion provider] would uphold the truths of the gospel at the precise point of Satan’s current attack (the abortionist’s knife). While most Christians firmly profess the duty to defend born children with force (which is not yet being disputed by the government) most of these professors have neglected the duty to similarly defend the unborn. They are steady all along the battleline except at the point where the enemy has broken through. I was certain that if I took my stand at this point, others would join with me, and the Lord would eventually bring about a great victory.

One can question whether this proved to be the case or not. The infamy (in most circles) of the killing arguably dampened enthusiasm for the cause, at least as measured by the sulfur level on clinic sidewalks. At the same time, Hill’s was only the most spectacular instance of a campaign to terrorize abortion providers that drove many out of business and made some areas of the country virtual abortion-free zones.

Whatever may have surprised him about the way the issue played out over the 1990’s, he was serene about his choices when interviewed the day before his execution.

To some in the movement, he’s a holy martyr, the John Brown of slavery’s modern-day parallel.

And even if Paul Hill’s name is taboo in the respectable public discourse of abortion today, with four relatively young rock-ribbed anti-Roe v. Wade votes now entrenched at the Supreme Court, it’s far from obvious that Hill won’t get what he was after all along … even if he didn’t live to see it.

Part of the Themed Set: Judging Abortion.

On this day..

23 thoughts on “2003: Paul Hill, anti-abortion martyr

  1. What a charming man that so called Dr is. Expressions like Moron,Retard, and other simplistic words not words a real Doctor would use. A real doctor deals with mentally disabled people frequently and would never use those words to disparage anyone.

  2. Well said, Tony. Two things anti-abortion advocates don’t like to consider:

    Number one being that people don’t have abortions because they want to, but because they’re trying to make the best they can out of a very bad situation. An abortion is a painful, unpleasant, slightly risky and often emotionally wrenching experience. One that is, I’m sure, made much worse by people accusing them of “murdering” their baby.

    Number two being that putting her child up for adoption is one of the most devastating things a woman can do to herself. They spend the rest of their lives wondering how their child is, whether they’re loved and taken good care of, whether they resent being put up for adoption, etc. I read a book that was a study of birth mothers and none of them ever got over it. Many leaped into relationships afterwards and had babies, hoping that would make them feel better, and discovered it didn’t. One woman gave her first baby up for adoption, and later married and had several additional children. One of her later children got cancer and died in childhood. The woman said the pain of her daughter’s death was actually less than the pain of putting her first baby up for adoption, because at least she knew where her dead child was and what had happened to it. To me, that speaks VOLUMES. But anti-abortion people act like if you put your baby up for adoption it will be all nice and rosy for both of you.

  3. Of course, the commenter calling themselves “Teddybear” is correct when they say it is irrelevant whether or not a pregnancy being terminated is the result of rape or incest — that abortion is either always or never murder.

    It’s never murder.

    That many anti-abortion jurisdictions make an exception for rape/incest victims is an admission of what restrictions on abortion are really about — punishing women for exercising sexual agency.

    The woman who got pregnant “through her own fault” (she may have even enjoyed having sex, God forbid!) must have the child as punishment.

    This is, of course, not only an abuse of women’s rights but also the rights of chldren. Every child deserves to be wanted.

  4. Someone with a very poor grasp on reality commented above: “Isn’t it kind of hypocritical to support aboortion when you’ve already been born? ”

    Strangely enough everyone who has ever supported the right to abortion, throughout history, had already been born. Stranger yet, everyone who has ever opposed abortion had also already been born. What is more, none of them had chosen to be born.

    The Christian Taliban’s focus on the right to exist of those who don’t already exist is just cover for their desire to deny rights to people who actually do exist, especially women.

    [PS. Alot of people celebrate their birthdays, but to be consistant Dr Adford should instead celebrate the anniversary of when his parents had sex. ]

    [PPS. To return to the topic of the blog, the Hill case, particularly the execution-eve interviews, yet again underlines that capital punishment is hardly a deterrent for martyrdom-happy religious dingbats.]

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  6. “But you would rather continue having millions of innocent unborn babies be murdered in their own mothers’ wombs, than get women to change their attitude…”
    That is completely libellous! I never said any such thing! I believe women should use contraception, which is never taught in US schools. I had two babies, now young women, who were both loved and wanted. I also had two miscarriages. All I want is for women to determine their own fertility and to be free to have an abortion if they feel this is the only alternative. You are a ranting right wing lunatic and in future you can rant until you have a heart attack, I will not be reading any more of male chauvinist rubbish!

  7. “As for your contention that abortion is the worst atrocity on Earth, you really are a fruit loop.What about the Holocaust, what about the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?”

    Add up the numbers, idiot. Look at who was murdered.
    You place adults above unborn babies, because you have lost your natural desire to protect your own progeny.

    I see that you couldn’t actually rebut anything I said, Fiz… i.e. the reasons that millions of women keep getting pregnant ‘by accident’ every year…

    But you would rather continue having millions of innocent unborn babies be murdered in their own mothers’ wombs, than get women to change their attitude…

    When I did I “skim over” the facts you presented about miscarriages? I clearly stated – two wrongs don’t make a right, you are therefore living in cloud cuckooland, and unable to face reality. Abortion is the worst atrocity in the world, and all pro abortionists know this.

    Go back up and read the reasons I gave for women needing abortions. Which of them are untrue?

  8. If you refuse to face facts it proves you are one track minded. You chose to skim over the real facts I presented about miscarriages and chromosomal abnormalities, both of which are true, because if you are a real doctor you would know that, but you’d rather insult other people’s intelligence because they don’t believe in your simplistic view of conception and pregnancy. If you condone the killing of the doctor you also are a would be murderer. As for your contention that abortion is the worst atrocity on Earth, you really are a fruit loop.What about the Holocaust, what about the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

  9. “Do you know how many pregnancies are lost in the first three months? Between one in three, or four. That is a hell of a lot of miscarriages. ”

    People die in car accidents every day – therefore, according to your logic, it doesn’t matter if I CAUSE cars to crash every day, killing innocent people.

    As usual, the pro-abortionists haven’t got a logical argument to defend their position.

    Women need abortions because they date losers. They date men who won’t wear condoms. Don’t tell me – ‘condoms fail’ – rubbish. Couples who don’t use condoms, because the man can’t keep it up with one on, LIE, and say that “The condom broke”, when obviously there were no independent witnesses to verify this, EVER.

    Women need abortions because they date men who don’t love them. A man who loved you would wear a condom. Women need abortions because they give themselves up to the first scumbag who comes along, without getting him to wear a condom, and they ‘forget’ to take the pill. Yeah right, I REALLY believe you.

    It’s not as if millions of women try to ‘trap’ men into relationships by getting pregnant ‘by accident’, or anything like that.

    Behind abortion, the REAL reasons are the ones that none of the idiots responsible want to talk about. I have listed them above, quite simply and clearly. Those reasons are all we need to be talking about – abortion is the worst atrocity ever caused on Earth.

  10. Fiz, I think the Vatican would have something to say about your doctor’s position on when life begins.

  11. Isn’t it kind of hypocritical to support aboortion when you’ve already been born? Kind of easy to defend the so called right to choose when it’s not the back of your skull that is going to be punctured, the brain sucked out and your limbs sawed off…talk about barbaric and stone age…

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  13. Do you know how many pregnancies are lost in the first three months? Between one in three, or four. That is a hell of a lot of miscarriages. Not all pregnancies are made to flourish or have perfect babies at the end of them. If a Roman Catholic can see this, who are you to get on your high horse and say they are all wrong? FYI, children born of incest have an extremely high rate of chromosomal damage, which is invariably untreatable. Grow up and try and get into the 20th century. I’ll let you off the twenty-first, it’s obviously going to be far too difficult for you. Oh, and yes, I am a Christian.

  14. i totally agree with teddybear, abortion is murder no matter how the baby got there!! rape or incest an child is still a child and taking it’s life for those reasons is still murder!!

  15. My Roman Catholic doctor interestingly told my daughter that early abortion “is just removing a collection of cells”. Life does not begin at conception or in the first three months, otherwise babies which are miscarried would cry out – and they don’t, as I know too well.

  16. It’s always been interesting to me that the same people that say abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape or incest, also say it’s murder. The baby does not know of the circumstances of it’s conception, and if abortion is murder, it’s always murder. There are no exceptions, it’s either murder or it’s not.

  17. “Joshua”, you try being raped. It isn’t fun, or a woman’s fantasy, and I should know since it happened to me. Why is it always men who tell us what we can and can’t do with our own bodies? Get back in your cave!

  18. What of rape or incest? These cretins would force a woman or child to bear an infant out of a vile, illegal act. To remember her pain every day for 9 months. I think not.

  19. “You can’t kill others saying you want to protect life”


    What if somebody is holding a knife to the neck of a one year old baby? Is it wrong to shoot them, to save the baby’s life?

    There is no ‘God’…

  20. Yes abortion is wrong, but taking someones life is being God in itself. God is the only one who can judge others. You can’t kill others saying you want to protect life. I do not know whether he is in heaven or hell, because he was not a righteous man in my opinion. I am probably more for life than he was, but I wouldn’t kill someone. He was very wrong in his actions.

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