Entrant: Zoe French
Nominee: Dr. George Tiller
Dr. Tiller was an abortion provider, one of only three nationwide who provided abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy. He was murdered at church by an anti-abortion activist on May 31, 2009.
Entrant: Zoe French
Nominee: Dr. George Tiller
Dr. Tiller was an abortion provider, one of only three nationwide who provided abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy. He was murdered at church by an anti-abortion activist on May 31, 2009.
This post was written in connection with the annual Blog for Choice Day, Friday, Jan. 22. Apologies for the delay!
NARAL is dedicating Blog for Choice 2010 to the legacy of Dr. George Tiller, who was murdered last May in his church foyer as he welcomed parishioners attending morning mass. Tiller provided abortions to women who often had no place else to turn and whose health, or the health of the fetus, was threatened.
Scott Roeder, 51, a vocal anti-abortion advocate, admitted in November that he killed Tiller, and he claims the killing was justified. Roeder’s first-degree murder trial started on Friday — yes, Roe v. Wade’s anniversary. You can follow the trial coverage at http://www.kansas.com/news/tiller/index.html.
Tiller was the focus of anti-abortion groups for years; he had survived previous attempts on his life, including being shot in 1993. Committed to his work, he sometimes wore a button that said, simply, “Trust Women.”
This year’s blog question, “What does ‘Trust Women’ mean to you?” can be answered with an equally simple response: Everything.
If the world learned to trust women, women would not only control their bodies but would control their lives.
If the world learned to trust women, women would be welcomed into power structures, affecting every legal, political, social and economic arena.
If the world learned to trust women, women — and especially men — would no longer fear living outside of stereotypes and would be able fulfill their potential.
Trust Women isn’t just a mantra of tolerance or respect. It’s a phrase that changes the playing field, in every way imaginable.
It’s the right phrase to advocate for women making their own reproductive health choices, and it’s a much broader statement about our future.
For more reflections, check out Feministing’s Blog for Choice Round-Up, which includes this excellent post by fellow OBOS blogger Rachel Walden, and feel free to add your own responses in the comments.
More Suggested Reading …
- “Dispatches from the Abortion Wars: The Costs of Fanaticism to Doctors, Patients, and the Rest of Us” by Carol Joffe
I just started reading this new, well-researched book and will write more on it soon.
- “Who Decides? The Status of Women’s Reproductive Rights in the United States”
This is NARAL’s 19th annual report on current state and federal laws. A summary of the victories and setbacks are listed below.
In 2009, 14 states and Washington, D.C. enacted 21 pro-choice measures. Examples include:
- Wisconsin enacted a law that requires health-insurance plans that provide prescription-medication benefits to cover contraceptives and required pharmacists to fill valid birth-control prescriptions.
- Hawaii, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, and Washington enacted laws that improve sex education in schools.
- Utah and D.C. enacted laws to ensure that sexual-assault survivors receive information about and access to emergency contraception in emergency rooms.
In 2009, 14 states enacted 29 anti-choice measures, increasing the number of anti-choice measures enacted in states since 1995 to 610. Examples include:
- Virginia enacted a law that establishes “Choose Life” license plates. A portion of the proceeds from these plates funds anti-choice organizations known as “crisis pregnancy centers” that target women considering abortion and often mislead, coerce and intimidate them.
- Arizona enacted a far-reaching law that includes a litany of anti-choice provisions that, among other things, subject women to state-mandated lectures and waiting periods that delay access to abortion care. The law also allows certain individuals or entities to refuse to provide abortion services and to refuse to provide or dispense contraceptives.
Grit TV with Laura Flanders
This episode includes a discussion with Carol Joffe, author of “Dispatches from the Abortion Wars,” Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, and Silvia Henriquez, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. Learn about the current state of reproductive health and rights and how anti-abortion efforts — whether through legislation or terrorism — hurt all pregnant women.
PRX: “Hyde-ing” the Right to Choose
While lawmakers in Washington mull over the nuts and bolts of health care reform, advocates are concerned that a woman’s fundamental right to reproductive health services is endangered. We explore how access has been denied for decades to young women and poor or low-income women who are disproportionately women of color. On this edition, Stupak, the Hyde Amendment, and religion.
Stephanie Poggi, Executive Director, National Network of Abortion Funds
Jenny, shares her story about having an abortion
Jon O’Brien, Catholics for Choice President
Guadalupe Rodriguez, ACCESS/Women’s Health Rights Coalition Program & Public Policy Director
Roeder, 51, talked to an AP reporter for more than 30 minutes by telephone. He has been charged with one count of first-degree murder in Tiller’s death and two counts of aggravated assault for allegedly threatening two church ushers who tried to stop him when he shot Tiller in a church foyer in May, just before the start of a Sunday mass.
The confession has no bearing on Roeder’s “not guilty” plea. His trial is scheduled to begin in January.
“Because of the fact preborn children’s lives were in imminent danger this was the action I chose. … I want to make sure that the focus is, of course, obviously on the preborn children and the necessity to defend them,” Roeder told the AP.
“Defending innocent life — that is what prompted me. It is pretty simple,” he said.
Roeder also said he has no regrets about killing Tiller.
“No, I don’t have any regrets because I have been told so far at least four women have changed their minds, that I know of, and have chosen to have the baby,” Roeder said. “So even if one changed her mind it would be worth it. No, I don’t have any regrets.”
A small group of abortion opponents today released a document — “Defensive Action Statement 3rd Edition” — that proclaims “whatever force is legitimate to defend the life of a born child is legitimate to defend the life of an unborn child.” The 21 signers state that “if Scott Roeder did in fact kill George Tiller, his use of lethal force was justifiable,” and he should therefore be acquitted.
According to this document (and bear in mind, it is difficult to read), this statement was originally written by Paul Hill in 1993 and signed by 29 people who supported Michael Griffin’s shooting of Florida abortion provider David Gunn. One year later, Hill shot abortion Florida provider John Britton. Hill was executed in 2003.
A bit of catching up to do …
About That Pro-Life Majority …: Amy Sullivan always thought the Gallup poll released in May that showed, for the first time, a majority of Americans describing themselves as “pro-life” rather than “pro-choice,” was a fluke. And she was right:
My skeptical interpretation of the poll didn’t turn out to be terribly popular. The idea that just a few months after the election of a pro-choice president, Americans were racing to embrace the pro-life cause was too tempting a storyline. The poll made headlines everywhere, and we ran an essay on it anyway.
Now along comes a follow-up poll from Gallup and whaddya know, the much ballyhooed pro-life majority seems to have disappeared. The percentages of Americans calling themselves “pro-life” and “pro-choice” are essentially the same (47% for pro-life; 46% for pro-choice). Meanwhile, the positions they hold — a more useful indicator than the labels people choose for themselves — haven’t budged. A solid 78% think abortion should be legal in some or all circumstances.
Think Prescriptions Are Private? Think Again: After buying fertility drugs at a pharmacy in San Diego, a woman started receiving coupons and samples in the mail — for everything from diapers and baby formula to gifts for an elementary school graduate — for a child she did not have. Milt Freudenheim writes that your prescription information — including your and Social Security number — is “a commodity bought and sold in a murky marketplace, often without the patients’ knowledge or permission.”
But protections might be strengthened under federal law:
The federal stimulus law enacted in February prohibits in most cases the sale of personal health information, with a few exceptions for research and public health measures like tracking flu epidemics. It also tightens rules for telling patients when hackers or health care workers have stolen their Social Security numbers or medical information, as happened to Britney Spears, Maria Shriver and Farrah Fawcett before she died in June.
“The new rules will plug some gaping holes in our federal health privacy laws,” said Deven McGraw, a health privacy expert at the nonprofit Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington. “For the first time, pharmacy benefit managers that handle most prescriptions and banks and contractors that process millions of medical claims will be held accountable for complying with federal privacy and security rules.”
The law won’t shut down the medical data mining industry, but there will be more restrictions on using private information without patients’ consent and penalties for civil violations will be increased. Government agencies are still writing new regulations called for in the law.
New Blog: The Global Fund for Women has a new blog: http://globalfundforwomen.wordpress.com. Read about reflections on gender and power; a feminist look at the financial crisis; and tips from Dolores Huerta on keeping activism alive.
Egg-As-Person Crusade Draws Big Money: “In just five short years, the primary movers and shakers in the absolutist anti-abortion/anti-choice movement seeking to promote the ‘personhood’ of zygotes (the single cell that forms after a sperm fertilizes an egg) have amassed nearly $58 million in tax-deductible contributions for their cause,” writes Wendy Norris at RH Reality Check. Norris profiles five organizations that have raised the most money.
Plus: “A Vermont woman whose 6-month-old twin fetuses died after a car crashed into the family van wants them to be legally recognized as children, which is not the case under current state law,” reports the AP.
Why LeRoy Carhart Won’t Stop Doing Abortions: Newsweek profiles Omaha physician LeRoy Carhart, one of three abortion doctors who took turns assisting at the clinic of George Tiller, the Kansas doctor who was murdered in May. Sarah Kliff writes:
Carhart knows there are people who want him dead, too. A few days after Tiller’s murder, Carhart’s daughter received a late-night phone call saying her parents too had been killed. His clinic got suspicious letters, one with white powder. It’s been like this since Carhart started performing abortions in the late 1980s. On the same day Nebraska passed a parental-notification law in 1991, his farm burned down, killing 17 horses, a cat, and a dog (the local fire department was unable to determine the fire’s cause). The next day his clinic received a letter justifying the murder of abortion providers. His clinic’s sidewalks have been smeared with manure. Protesters sometimes stalk him in airports. The threats, the violence, now the assassination of his close friend — all of it has left Carhart undaunted, and the billboard-size sign over his parking garage still reads, in foot-high block letters, ABORTION & CONTRACEPTION CLINIC OF NEBRASKA. “They’re at war with us,” says Carhart of the anti-abortion activist who killed Tiller. “We have to realize this isn’t a difference of opinions. We need to fight back.”
Health Insurance Fail: Sarah Wildman’s daughter cost more than $22,000. Not because of fertility treatments, or adoption. And yes, she and her partner have insurance, which they obtained on the individual market:
Our insurer, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, sold us exactly the type of flawed policy— riddled with holes and exceptions — that the health care reform bills in Congress should try to do away with. The “maternity” coverage we purchased didn’t cover my labor, delivery, or hospital stay. It was a sham. And so we spent the first months of her life getting the kind of hospital bills and increasingly aggressive calls from hospital administrators that I once believed were only possible without insurance.
Last fall, the National Women’s Law Center issued a report detailing exactly how women who want to bear children are derailed when searching for out-of-pocket health care. Only 14 states require maternity coverage to be included in insurance sold on the individual market, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In contrast, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 requires employers with more than 15 employees to include maternity benefits in their health insurance packages. “We looked at 3,500 individual insurance policies and only 12 percent included comprehensive maternity coverage,” said Lisa Codispoti, Senior Advisor at the National Women’s Law Center. Another 20 percent offered a rider that was astronomically expensive or skimpy or both. One charged $1,100 a month; others required a two-year waiting period.
Gene Mutation That Affects Hair Color Linked to Greater Pain Sensitivity: “A growing body of research shows that people with red hair need larger doses of anesthesia and often are resistant to local pain blockers like Novocaine,” reports The New York Times. The story goes on to note that the mutation in the MC1R gene also occurs in people with brown hair, though it is less common. I think I’m one of ‘em.
Rachel Maddow devoted more than seven minutes of Monday night’s show to the elevated threat against doctors who provide abortions, noting that “perpertrators of violence [against doctors] are not just being turned into martyrs — they’re being turned into leaders.”
The coverage was sparked by a Kansas City Star story on the high number of anti-abortion rights activists who have been visiting and communicating with Scott Roeder, the man accused of killing abortion doctor George Tiller.
The list, writes Judy L. Thomas, “reads like a who’s who of anti-abortion militants”:
Two convicted clinic bombers. The man behind the Army of God Web site. Several activists who once signed a declaration that defended the killing of abortion doctors.
And federal agents have now talked to many of them. [...]
The federal investigation into the possible existence of a conspiracy began after Tiller — one of a handful of doctors in the country who performed late-term abortions — was shot in his Wichita church on May 31 while serving as an usher. Roeder, 51, of Kansas City, was charged with first-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty, and a trial is scheduled for Sept. 21.
Roeder’s bond was originally set at $5 million, but a judge raised it to $20 million after Roeder called The Associated Press on June 7 and warned that there were “many other similar events planned around the country as long as abortion remains legal.”
Maddow’s guest, Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman’s Health, said that visitors to the county jail where Roeder is being held are parading “in broad daylight, almost in defiance that the government will do anything about it.”
Meanwhile, Jodi Jacobson reports that the U.S. Department of Justice has removed the federal marshals assigned to protect Dr. Leroy Carhart, whose clinic in Nebraska has long been the target of protests. Carhart recently said he intends to open another clinic in Kansas.
Last month, NOW on PBS aired “Abortion Providers Under Seige,” a look at how the murder of Dr. George Tiller is affecting other abortion providers and whether violence against doctors who perform abortions should be prosecuted as domestic terrorism.
It was a straightforward, highly praised report — which means that PBS came under siege from right-wing groups. These groups tend to object — quite loudly — to factual coverage that raises important questions about their activities.
In response to the right-wing outcry, the Women’s Media Center sent an alert and created a letter that you can send to PBS, thanking the network for airing this important program and voicing support for NOW on PBS and Maria Hinjosa’s reporting.
You can watch the program online, and also check out additional features, such as a “Gallery of Rage,” featuring images from anti-abortion websites, and an online debate between Operation Rescue President Troy Neuman and reproductive rights activist and author Cristina Page.
*I’m late with announcing this action, but it’s not too late to let PBS know what you think.
It started with a bomb threat.
We were at the National Network of Abortion Funds Organizing Summit, held at a Chicago hotel last weekend. The Network consists of grassroots groups who raise money to directly help women and girls with the cost of abortion, and ever year it bring members together for training and meetings. This was my eighth year attending, and I was looking forward to the first night’s social hour, a time to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones. It’s always been one of my favorite moments.
So there we were, in the hotel bar, when the staff informed us of the threat. An uneasy silence was quickly replaced with loud chatter that reflected our anger. The police told us that the threat was non-specific, but you have to admit it was horrible timing. We were already grieving the murder of Dr. George Tiller, and the threat of additional violence, directly related to us or not, was almost too much. But true to the work that we do, we kept to the schedule. If there’s one thing abortion rights activist have in common, it’s a ridiculous amount of determination.
During the Friday morning plenary, I noticed a large number of participants under age 35. In fact, I would easily estimate more than half of the 140 attendees were young women, which left me feeling a bit giddy for the future of the movement. (The majority of Funds are all volunteer run, so those who believe young women aren’t activists should take note.)
As member Funds introduced themselves and gave their yearly reports, it became evident that abortion funding is evolving as an international movement. Not only did 55 out of the 100 U.S. member Funds attend, but Funds from England/Ireland, Canada and Mexico were also present. There’s also one Fund that operates solely online. I was thrilled to learn more about the global work to ensure access to abortion care.
I was contemplating access to rights when we learned that Gretchen Dyer, executive director of the Texas Equal Access Fund, had died unexpectedly of heart failure in a Dallas hospital. She was a tireless supporter of women’s rights, especially dedicated to bringing young women and women of color into the movement. She also loved art and film and found a way to combine her passions by writing and producing “1 in 3,” a play about abortion. Our small community faced yet another devastating loss. Once again, under the weight of grief, our determination kept us going.
Over the next couple of days, I attended a variety of workshops on fundraising and organizing, including programs on repealing the Hyde Amendment and even how to avoid activist burn out. At the Saturday evening banquet, we mourned our losses and celebrated our victories. We honored one of the original Network founders, Tom Moss, founder of the Iowa Medical Aid Fund (Tom joked that he was still one of the only men in the room, which was true).
Many other Funds were honored, including the Roe Fund in Tulsa, Okla., (part of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice), which was recognized for 30 years of service, and the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund, of which I am a board member. We received props for volunteer involvement and as a model for movement building.
When the formalities were over, we moved on to the talent show. Fund members performed songs, spoken word, cheerleading (yes, cheerleading), and, of course, comedy. Though many performances emphasized the intersection between the work we do and our personal lives, it was a chance to present our whole selves and not just our roles as abortion rights activists. I was in the last group to perform, along with friends from North Dakota and Virginia. When we finished our comedy/singing act, we held up a sign that read, “Abortion Funds Rock.” Everyone stood in unison, clapping, cheering and pounding on tables in agreement.
On Sunday, the Network presented Rep. Jane Schakowsky (D-Illinois) with an award for her work around women’s rights, health care reform and social justice. Schakowsky discussed the ongoing battle for health care reform, including reproductive rights. It was a fitting end to an intense four days.
As the Summit concluded, I was exhausted, sad and ready for my own bed. I was also inspired and rejuvenated, armed with new tools and ready to take on another year of fighting the good fight. I am determined to change minds, and laws, to ensure women and girls always have access to abortion care. And after last weekend, I am reminded that I am not alone.
Wendy Brovold is the communications and marketing manager at Our Bodies Ourselves, and a board member of the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund. For more information about the National Network of Abortion Funds, including how to start a Fund in your area, please visit www.nnaf.org.
Ed. note: We’ve updated the collection of writings about Dr. George Tiller with more news and policy analysis.
The family of Dr. George Tiller announced today it will not re-open the health clinic where Tiller provided abortion services for three decades.
The family’s lawyers said in a statement that the clinic, Women’s Health Care Services, will be permanently closed, effective immediately:
The family of Dr. George Tiller announces that effective immediately, Women’s Health Care Services, Inc., will be permanently closed. Notice is being given today to all concerned that the Tiller family is ceasing operation of the clinic and any involvement by family members in any other similar clinic.
We are proud of the service and courage shown by our husband and father and know that women’s health care needs have been met because of his dedication and service. That is a legacy that will never die. The family will honor Dr. Tiller’s memory through private charitable activities. The Tiller family wishes to assure Dr. Tiller’s past patients that the privacy of their medical histories and patient records will remain as fiercely protected now and in the future as they were during Dr. Tiller’s lifetime.
The Wichita Eagle reported on how the closing affects access to abortion clinics in the Midwest. The closest abortion provider is in Overland Park, Kan., about a three-hour drive from Wichita.
“A three-hour trip time is not unusual for many women in America, especially if you look at places like Mississippi and Arkansas, where substantial populations don’t have an abortion provider,” said Jenny O’Donnell of the Massachusetts-based Abortion Access Project.
Nationally, about 87 percent of counties have no abortion provider, according to 2005 statistics from the Guttmacher Institute, a New York think tank focused on sexual and reproductive health.
In the Midwest, the percentage of counties without a provider was 94. In Kansas, 96 percent of counties had no abortion provider, before Tiller’s clinic closure added Sedgwick County to the list.
In 1992, Kansas had 15 abortion providers; by 2005, that number had declined to seven. Nationwide, the number of providers declined from 2,380 to 1,787, the Guttmacher report said.
Finally, if you missed Rachel Maddow’s interview Monday night with repentant former anti-abortion activist Frank Schaeffer, author of “Crazy for God,” watch below.
A new website launched today to spotlight stories of individuals working to make abortion safe, legal, healthy and accessible to women and girls: http://IAmDrTiller.com
Steph Herold, an abortion counselor at a women’s center in Pennsylvania who last month was inducted as an Our Bodies Ourselves Women’s Health Hero, and her partner, Yahel Carmon, created the interactive site. (Herold was nominated by her sister, who submitted a video interview and wrote that her older sibling is “a college senior who already has helped countless women with her passion for variety of different kinds of activism.” Here’s yet another reason to cheer on Steph, now a recent college graduate.)
“The goal of this project,” Herold told OBOS, “is to serve as a memorial to the lifework of Dr. George Tiller and as a living testimony to the courageous lives of abortion providers.”
The idea for the website was sparked by a staff conversation at the women’s center on how to respond to discussions that it’s OK to take the life of an abortion provider. Herold said she and Carmon decided to do something that would “personalize abortion care.”
“People need to know what we do and why we do the things we do,” said Herold. “It’s important for people to understand that so many of us who do this work in so many capacities do it for all kinds of reasons.”
Herold said she works as an abortion counselor — her full-time job since December – because women deserve the best available care.
“Women should be respected for the choices they make with their bodies,” said Herold. ” I want to be able to make that choice — and dealing with the physical and emotional realities of that choice — as healthy as possible.”
IAmDrTiller.com aims to feature nurses, counselors, escorts, volunteers at abortion funds, or abortion doctors themselves. From the website:
You will not see the faces of these providers to protect their safety. What you will see is the story they decide to share — how they came to abortion work, what their function is at their abortion clinic, or their personal abortion story. We want to humanize these individuals to convey the kindness, courtesy, justice, love, and respect they have for women and the health care choices women make. We share our stories in hopes of ending clinic violence, to alleviate the shame associated with the abortion experience, and as an homage to Dr. Tiller’s outstanding and courageous life work.
To take part, submit a photo of yourself holding a sign or piece of paper (in front of your face) that says, “I Am Dr. Tiller.” Also include your story about the type of work you do related to reproductive health or your personal abortion story.
You can submit your photo and story via the website (instructions here http://iamdrtiller.com/submit), or email your photo and story to “info AT iamdrtiller DOT com” (your personal information will of course remain confidential).
Please contribute to the project if you can and share http://IAmDrTiller.com with your friends and colleagues. Along with the George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund, it’s a great way to focus our energy and resources.
In the wake of Dr. George Tiller‘s murder, a number of women’s health advocates shared their stories with Our Bodies Ourselves. Here are some of their reflections on the work of an abortion provider.
The assassination of Dr. George Tiller is both tragic and chilling, a caring physician deeply committed to women’s reproductive freedoms, murdered in his own church. I understand that there is a diversity of opinion on the issue of abortion, but there should be no diversity of opinion regarding murder.
I have lived through a similar assault in Brookline, Mass., several years ago and faced my children asking me if I would be killed at work today. All of us in the medical community who support reproductive rights and who either do abortions or refer our patients to our respected colleagues for abortions, are horrified at this assault to human decency and to our safety and the safety of our patients.
This moment is a giant step backwards as we all struggle to maintain an open society where women can obtain the health care they feel then need and clinicians can provide that care without fearing for our lives. The expressions of dismay from the foes of abortion sound disingenuous to say the least. Spreading hatred and spewing violence towards people who believe in a woman’s right to choose lays the groundwork for this type of despicable crime and endangers us all.
- An obstetrician-gynecologist
* * * * *
I knew George Tiller when he returned from an internship in the Navy to take over his father’s general practice in Wichita after his father, mother and other members of the family were killed in a small plane crash. We were colleagues and friends in medical practice and in the general practice residency at our hospital.
He was a conscientious, virtuous and competent family physician, a credit to the discipline, who became committed to women’s reproductive health, including but not limited to terminations of pregnancy. He persevered in an uncommon way against relentless harassment, threats and violence and paid the martyr’s price for what he believed in wholeheartedly.
* * * * *
Resistance in World War II, would I have risked my life? Would I have protected my colleagues if arrested? If abortions suddenly became illegal again in the United States, would I learn to perform them?
The need would be great, and as a primary care physician, I could learn the skill. I haven’t had to answer that question, although even with legality, the need is great.
I am deeply sad, terrified, and horrified, that in the United States in 2009 a physician was assassinated for offering women a legal medical procedure whose necessity was arrived at by mutual agreement. We can no longer consider the words of anti-reproductive rights terrorists to be idle threats.
- Massachusetts obstetrician-gynecologist
“A generous donation from a venerable benefactor also came in via U.S. mail on Monday, the day after the shooting,” writes Harris. “It was $500 — and it was sent, days before he was shot, by Dr. Tiller himself.”
The doctor’s own gift — remarkably spooky, remarkably generous — “makes clear that the Memorial Abortion Fund is a fitting tribute to this compassionate provider of critical abortion care,” said [NNAF executive director Stephanie] Poggi.
In the clip below, Tiller calmly recalls the pickets, the arrests and the 1993 attempt on his life. There’s also footage from the 1991 protests, part of the “Summer of Mercy.”
Dr. George Tiller’s murder offers us all an opportunity to reflect upon and honor the work of so many women’s health care professionals who continue to offer abortion services despite ongoing threats to themselves and their families.
That such a kind and dedicated human being could be attacked and killed like this sends all of us reeling once again. How is it that those who purport to care about life can spew forth the kind of hateful rhetoric that foments destructive passions in already unstable individuals like Dr. Tiller’s attacker?
I think about a few physicians I know who have had to walk around their communities wearing bullet-proof vests. Even though there has not been a shooting like this one in some years, they are well aware of the recent increase of harassment and violent incidents related to abortion clinics in this country.
Terrorist behavior like this is designed to deter other women’s health care practitioners from providing abortion services. And it is precisely because of this that we must all be outspoken in our support of all physicians willing to provide such services — and of the women who seek these services.
Widespread community resolve and solidarity will be key to our ability to restore a civil society in which such acts of violence will not be met with so many cheers by those who would use any means to stop women from having abortions. We now need to find more ways to honor and support women’s health providers like Dr. Tiller.
This week I re-read the moving speech of Dr. Garson Romalis, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Vancouver, British Columbia, who was attacked twice (in 1994 and again in 2000). He spoke last January at a University of Toronto Law School symposium marking the 20th anniversary of R. vs. Morgentaler about why he continued to provide abortions despite two attempts upon his life. It is a speech I think that all of us need to read again.
His courage, commitment and resolve will help inspire many of us to keep working toward a world in which women are respected and supported in their times of need. One concrete action we can all take is to support the George Tiller Memorial Fund, established by the National Network of Abortion Funds to provide assistance to the same women Dr. Tiller served, or any of a number of groups now working to preserve women’s access to comprehensive reproductive health services. Here’s more info (pdf) about the fund.
- Judy Norsigian, Our Bodies Ourselves Executive Director
More than 500 people gathered in downtown Boston Monday evening to mourn the death and celebrate the life of Dr. George Tiller. OBOS’s own Wendy Brovold helped in the planning and put together this video. Speakers included Stephanie Poggi, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds.
The vigil was covered on New England Cable News.
There’s so much important policy analysis and moving stories about Dr. George Tiller that we wanted to try to bring you a snapshot of it all here. We’ll continue to add to this post — please also leave suggestions for additional reading, or your own thoughts, in the comments.
In our previous post on Tiller’s murder, we included Tiller’s own story about becoming an abortion provider. He learned his father had provided medically safe abortions for women who had no place else to turn prior to Roe v. Wade only after taking over his father’s practice. Tiller decided to continue to provide the service for women, despite great risk to him and his family. If you haven’t already, read the whole piece, published at Physicians for Reproductive Choice & Health.
Since then, Judy Norsigian, Our Bodies Ourselves executive director, expanded on her blog post about how to show support for abortion providers with three things everyone can do. And we continue to support the efforts of IAmDrTiller.com and the George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund.
Analysis & Public Policy
Abortion Wars, the First Time Around: On The New York Times op-ed page, Kate Manning writes: “Dr. Tiller is just the latest in a line of brave people who have died for providing abortions. Perhaps the most infamous of these was a midwife named Ann Lohman, who killed herself in New York in 1878 after decades of harassment.”
The Legacy of George Tiller: Carole Joffe, author of “Dispatches from the Abortion Wars: The Costs of Fanaticism to Doctors, Patients, and the Rest of Us” (Beacon Press, forthcoming January 2010), writes that another response to Tiller’s murder “must be to demand that the mainstream medical community acknowledge the reality that there will always be some women who need abortions later on in pregnancy. Local medical institutions must make provision for these cases — especially since these women can no longer be sent off to Kansas, out of sight and mind of ‘respectable’ doctors and hospitals.”
Anti Abortion Rhetoric Still Strong: Journalism professor Cynthia Gorney, author of “Articles of Faith: A History of the Abortion Wars” discusses the state of the abortion debate on NPR.
A History of Violence on the Antiabortion Fringe: Excellent overview by Richard Fausset in the L.A. Times of the degree of violence against abortion clinics and providers.
Abortion Provider George Tiller Murdered at Church: Writing at Religion Dispatches, Frances Kissling ponders the likely outcomes “when people are treated to an unrelenting barrage of religious claims that abortion is murder, that doctors who perform abortion should be charged with crimes and sent to prison, and when pickets outside clinics pray the rosary and display mangled fetuses on crosses as if they were Jesus Christ himself.”
In Memory of Dr. George Tiller: A Tireless Supporter of Women’s Dignity: “I am tired of a public debate that treats seriously the claim that pregnant women, mothers, and the people who support them are killers,” writes Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women. “I am tired of a debate that trivializes genocide by saying that what women do to deal with their reproductive lives is worse.”
Why Clinic Violence is Obama’s Problem: Ann Friedman at The American Prospect calls Tiller’s death “a wake-up call to the fact that our existing laws and regulatory bodies to protect against clinic violence aren’t working as well as they should. As written, FACE provides a lot of protection for reproductive health providers. But we need an active task force — or some other means of accountability — to make sure the law is fully enforced.”
George Tiller Needs More Than Candlelight Vigils: Former Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Gloria Feldt has written a powerful piece remembering past acts of clinic violence and explaining why “candlelight vigils alone will never be enough.”
The Murder of Dr. George Tiller, A Foreshadowing: Cristina Page at RH Reality Check writes: “For those who would like to think today’s murder in church of Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider, is an isolated incident: here’s the horrifying news: You are wrong. The pattern is clear and frightening.”
Who killed George Tiller?: Jill Filipovic of Feministe writes: “… this latest act of terrorism is, sadly, not an anomaly. It is part of a clearly-established pattern of harassment, intimidation and violence against abortion providers and pro-choice individuals.”
I Write Letters: Melissa McEwan at Shakesville’s open letter to President Obama, including this direct response to his statement on the matter: “Mr. President, if you had been paying the slightest bit of attention to the realities of the front line of the fight to protect women’s bodily autonomy, you would not be shocked. This wasn’t even the first attempt on Dr. Tiller’s life; it was the merely the first successful one.”
What Should Change in Wake of Tiller Murder: GRITtv with Laura Flanders hosts a discussion about the media coverage. Guests include Lynn Paltrow of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, Jennifer Pozner of Women In Media & News (WIMN), and Sunsara Taylor, a writer for Revolution Newspaper and an abortion provider.
What Happens Next
News coverage and updates from the Wichita Eagle: kansas.com/tiller
Sad News in Closing of George Tiller’s Clinic: “Who can blame George Tiller’s family for declining to re-open his clinic?” asks Barb Shelly, Kansas City Star editorial page columnist. “But the clinic’s closing means the killer has achieved his objective. That’s a thought akin to an open wound. The decision also means, for Kansas women in crisis, a yawning gap between abortion clinics in the Kansas City area and Denver.”
Closed Clinic Leaves Abortion Protesters at a Loss: “Over almost 20 years, a vocal, diverse constellation of anti-abortion forces has grown up in this conservative city with an intensity rarely seen elsewhere, converging around Dr. Tiller’s practice. With his death, its future suddenly seems uncertain, too,” writes Monica Davey at The New York Times.
Why I Plan to Emulate Dr. George Tiller: Rozalyn Farmer Love, a third-year medical student, writes at the Atlanta Journal Constitution about her plan to become an obstetrician-gynecologist. “I dream of delivering healthy babies, working with families and supporting midwifery. But as part of my practice, I also envision providing abortions to women who need them.”
The Circle Continues: “Dr. Leroy Carhart, a physician who provides abortions for women in need and who for many years provided later term abortions in his home state of Nebraska, will temporarily take over Dr. Tiller’s medical practice in Kansas,” reports Amie Newman at RH Reality Check. “Dr. Carhart, still a practicing provider, is most well known for his involvement in two Supreme Court cases, Stenberg v. Carhart and Gonzales v. Carhart, which challenged and then upheld the ban on the politically termed “Partial Birth Abortion.”
The Compassion of Dr. Tiller: “There are two other clinics that do late-term abortions, but neither are known for taking patients regardless of their ability to pay or for ministering so comprehensively to their emotional needs. Tiller’s murder leaves a void that could imperil women across the country,” writes Michelle Goldberg at The American Prospect.
Attorney General Directs U.S. Marshals to Protect Women’s Health Clinics, Providers: “U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder dispatched the U.S. Marshals Service to protect “appropriate people and facilities around the nation” in the wake of the killing Sunday morning of late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas,” reports Ernest Luning.
Recollections From Tiller’s Patients
The George Tiller I Knew: A diary entry at Daily Kos.
Where Will Women Go Now?: Over at Salon’s Broadsheet, Kate Harding quotes from a number of personal narratives posted online.
Statements from Reproductive Rights Groups