(On May 31, 2009, a US terrorist
assassinated Dr. George Tiller at his church. Domestic terrorists
had previously bombed Tiller’s clinic in 1985 and shot Tiller in
1993. The murderer had been arrested the night before for damaging
another clinic, but he was released immediately.)
When I think of Dr. Tiller
and his clinic I think of compassion. What Dr. Tiller and his staff
did each and every day was to give women their dignity.
Dame President Obama said, 'As citizens of a vibrant and varied
democracy, how do we engage in vigorous debate? How does each of us
remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we consider right,
without demonizing those with just as strongly held convictions on
the other side?'
Tiller's murder, Randall Terry, who led protests against Tiller's
clinic in 1991, issued a statement, 'I am more concerned that the
Obama Administration will use Tiller's killing to intimidate
pro-lifers into surrendering our most effective rhetoric and
rhetoric includes describing Dr. Tiller as 'a mass-murderer' and
abortion as a kind of 'slaughter.' It also includes describing Dr.
Tiller, as Bill O'Reilly did, as 'guilty of Nazi stuff.'
rhetoric of 'mass murder' and 'slaughter,' killing and genocide, is
commonly used by a religious and political organizations that oppose
abortion. It is language that is demonizing and dangerous.
really how we think of women who have abortions, some lucky enough
to do so with the support of caring doctors? Do we really believe
that pregnant women who end their pregnancies-- and the health care
providers who help them--are no different from Hitler or Pol Pot? Do
we really think that the individual decisions of pregnant women are
the same as, or worse than, government-sponsored genocide?
rhetoric, largely unchecked over the last 30 years, distracts
attention from key facts about the women who have abortions.
Sixty-one percent of women who have abortions are already mothers.
By the age of 44, 84% of all women have become pregnant and given
birth. American women, many of whom have had or will have abortions,
do 80 percent of the childcare and two-thirds of the housework. They
do this work without any form of formal compensation, without any
guaranteed pensions, and without any form of insurance or healthcare
should they need it.
Tiller was amazing. In addition to his determination and his
extraordinary courage, he knew and appreciated who his patients
were. He knew them as loving women, daughters, and mothers who are
the backbone of their families and, to a large extent, our country.
women who traveled to Dr. Tiller's clinic were did not want to have
abortions, or even support abortion rights. Many were women with
wanted pregnancies. But they learned that their baby had no brain,
or kidneys growing on the outside of their bodies, or 'severe fetal
women who could not face two or three more months of pregnancy with
people patting their bellies and saying, 'Oh honey you must be
excited. When are you due?' Some women deal with such crises by
continuing to term even knowing the baby cannot survive. Others find
that their dignity depends on being able to end the pregnancy.
women who went to his clinic were extremely young. Some struggled
with health problems and disabilities that would be exacerbated by a
pregnancy they did not recognize until late. All together they
represented women with the least desired and rarest abortions, ones
late in pregnancy.
Tiller was extraordinary. When I met him he talked about why women
have abortions and how they understand them in terms of their
religious faith and spirituality. He described his efforts to serve
them with respect. He made possible rituals that would allow them to
say goodbye to fetal life that they valued.
women who returned from his clinic felt that they had been treated
better through an abortion they wished they had not needed, than
through a birth that they had anticipated with joy.
will be some who will explicitly or subtly endorse Dr. Tiller's
murder as a matter of necessity, justified to stop what they will
claim is worse killing.
tired of a public debate that treats seriously the claim that
pregnant women, mothers, and the people who support them are
killers. I am tired of a debate that trivializes genocide by saying
that what women do to deal with their reproductive lives is worse.
want instead is to honor George Tiller, a man who honored women. And
I want instead to honor those who value fetal life, but who do not
lose sight of the women who give that life. And I want to honor
those who would never dream of murdering a doctor, who was among the
few to give those women the services, respect, and dignity they
National Advocates for Pregnant Women
Dr. Tiller wore a button that
simply said, Trust Women. NARAL Pro Choice America will send you a
wristband with the same slogan for any size donation. Go to their
website at: prochoiceamerica.org.
Results of 30-years of Domestic
Terrorism against Pregnant Women:
Women’s Health Clinics spend
thousands of dollars on bulletproof glass, armed guards, security
cameras, and metal detectors. And pregnant women in 87 percent of
counties in America do not have access to an abortion provider,
though abortion is legal.
After Tiller’s murder, Randall
Terry of Operation Rescue threatened "random acts of violence
against things, against facilities, things happening in the streets,
acts of vandalism..." and "...reprisals against the
individuals...deemed guilty...of pushing this tyranny." July 21,