Abortion opponents on Monday condemned the fatal shooting of George Tiller and warned against attempts to "demonize" their movement because of one "unbalanced" person.
"We are pro-life," the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, the director of the Christian Defense Coalition, a religious freedom and social justice group, said at a news conference. "We stand against violence. That is why every pro-life leader of any reputable organization has unequivocally condemned this act, especially in the lobby of a church."
Tiller was shot to death inside his church on Sunday while he was serving as an usher. His clinic long has been a flash point in the long-running battle over abortion rights because it was one of the few nationally that performed late-term abortions.
"This is a great evil... for we know that vigilantism is an act outside (God's) moral will," the Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council, said in a prayer before the news conference outside the U.S. Supreme Court building.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and an abortion opponent, expressed similar sentiments Monday in a statement that conveyed sympathy for the Tiller family.
"This murder also damages the positive message of life, for the unborn, and for those living," Palin said. "Ask yourself, 'What will those who have not yet decided personally where they stand on this issue take away from today's event in Kansas?' "
Abortion opponents also worried that Tiller's shooting could affect their ability to influence the upcoming confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court.
With the court's massive Greek columns and bronze doors as a backdrop, they cautioned their critics not to use the killing for "political gain."
Mahoney said that painting the entire anti-abortion movement as violent could intimidate its supporters on the Judiciary Committee and others from speaking out.