“I am shocked and outraged by the murder of Dr. George Tiller as he attended church services this morning. However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence.” President Barack Obama, who himself skipped most of the votes on reproductive choice in Chicago
I keep reading this story and pushing it out of my mind. The hypocrisy of the culture wars is that people who claim to believe life is sacred are willing to put physicians, nurses, advocates, and receptionists names and home addresses on internet and hard copy hit lists, bomb their clinics, and even shoot workers and patients alike. In the narrative about respecting disparate opinions in this country we have forgotten a past peopled with such bombings and worse, some of the first uses of anthrax in this country. The same people who rally against the terrorists seem to have no problem with domestic terrorism in the name of state’s rights, the right to life, or racial hegemony. In fact, discussion of recent bombings of suspected abortion clinics in Oregon, the banning of parishners from communion in New Mexico, Texas, and parts of the East Coast, and campaigns outside clinics across the nation, have all but disappeared from the news.
And while Obama’s recent appearance at Notre Dame re-opened discussion, it did not reflect the more violent side of the debate. As an example, I was riding with some colleagues in their postcard picture small town when we drove past a huge sign condemning abortion. I swallowed and asked if their town was conservative and the response was “no, but this church does have a graveyard for all the ‘unborn babies killed by abortion’ in the back lawn.” I remember going numb despite being a “good little Catholic girl” with my own issues w/ the eugenicist “past” of reproductive choice, ongoing ablism, and the mobilization of stereotype in some of the activism campaigns surrounding it. In that moment, eyes searching in the dark for those crosses, I wished I was anywhere but there. The boys I was with were so used to it, the behavior had become invisible to them.
That same invisibility occurred when pro-life people bombed and vandalized a small town clinic in Oregon b/c they mistook its “women’s choice” name for an abortion clinic. It wasn’t, it was actually a women’s health facility with counseling services on a number of topics. The people featured on the news broadcast shrugged it off and laughed about the mistake. As if bombings and vandalism are ever funny.
The invisible insidiousness of pro-life militancy masquerading as faith, has now gone so far as to kill a man while he was attending church service. Dr. George Tiller was murdered Sunday morning while attending regular service in Wichita Kansas. Tiller provided late term abortions, grief counseling, and even funeral and baptism services for women who requested it. Many of his clients were predicted to have stillborn children or had become pregnant as the result of rape or incest. He was a long time advocate of a woman’s right to choose AND to be informed about those choices. Before he was murdered yesterday, he had already been shot in a previous murder attempt and his clinic had been bombed and blockaded by activists claiming to “support life.” You can read more about him, and where to donate in his honor, here and here.
note: I use the terms that both sides have chosen for themselves in this post rather than the names one or the other side has chosen for their opposition b/c I think, even in this case, self-naming is important.
- 2006 pro-life protest outside Tiller’s clinic. unattributed
- 2004 March on Washington for repro rights. AP Photo/Susan Walsh