Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Stepping into the fire

Sadness and anger enveloped me as I read of the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in my hometown, Wichita, Kansas. First a little back history. Dr. Tiller was one of few doctors left in the country who would allow women to exercise their legal right to control their reproductive decisions.

The most controversial thing about Dr. Tiller was that he was almost alone in Kansas, let alone the country for performing late second and third term abortions. He was dealing with families who were making heartbreaking decisions to end their pregnancies in late gestation because of the knowledge that the fetus had unalterable abnormalities which could either be life-threatening and/or would cause severe disabilities, both physical and mental.

His life and the lives of his family were in almost constant danger simply because he was faithful to the law that gives women the right to choose abortion over problem pregnancies. The year I graduated high school, his clinic was bombed. In 1991 while I was being robbed at gunpoint, the police officer who responded to the call seventy minutes later apologized because Operation Rescue's "Summer of Mercy" anti-abortion protests at Tiller's clinic were taking the resources of so many officers that they were understaffed. In 1993 someone shot Dr. Tiller in both arms which was as you can see just one of several murder attempts made previous to the one which ended his life as he was serving as an usher in his family church last Sunday.

OK, let's step back for a moment. I don't need to tell the reader that abortion is a terribly divisive subject. Even those who identify as being for reproductive rights will lay the line in different places, either for the right to use contraceptives but no abortion, or for abortion but just in the first trimester, or allowance for abortion up into the second trimester.

As a lesbian who does not intend to have a baby I feel that I have about as much of a say about abortion as the average man. No guy has an idea what it is like to miss a period and wonder - no, FEAR - that a pregnancy has started. They've never questioned themselves about what would happen if the person 50% responsible drops out of their lives when they find out that their sex games have consequences which will have dirty diapers.

Also as a lesbian I have never felt the stirring of a fetus in my womb and filled with joy at the thought of bringing another human life into this world. Thus I cannot even begin to understand the horror which a woman who pines for a child yet is barren would feel when considering that abortion is one of the most performed surgeries in America today with over twenty-five percent of pregnancies being ended prematurely.

I'm not going to get into the right and the wrong of what Dr. Tiller was doing in his clinic every day. All I can say is that it was sanctioned by the law in Kansas, and for me that is where it ends.

What I can speak about is my disgust for vigilante justice. No individual has the moral right to become judge, jury and executioner. Due process of the law must be respected in modern society or anarchy prevails.

This man was the fourth abortion doctor to be killed by a vigilante in the last few decades. Is the pro life movement a bunch of fringe lunatic terrorists? No, I wouldn't say that anymore than I would say that the gay rights groups are terrorists. I would say that they are both trying to get laws changed according to what they believe is right.

What I do take issue with is the anger and violent words spewed forth by the pro life movement since Roe v Wade. As a Wichitan in the early 90's I was subjected daily to anti-abortion activists holding up signs with pictures of bloody body parts and screams that I should be in the protest with them if I found the practice disgusting. Witnessing a ten year old child screaming "You're going to murder your baby you stupid bitch" as a tearful pregnant woman with her head down hurried into the nine foot iron gates of Tiller's clinic. All of this as the child's assumed mother looked on with a gleam in her eye. This was for me the epitome of repugnance.

People like Bill O'Reilly have been inciting anger and violence against individuals like Tiller for years. Does this make him partially responsible? By the way, it turns out the man suspected in Dr. Tiller's murder was a huge O'Reilly fan. Are we surprised?

No doubt Bill has come back and said that it was not his intention to incite violence, he may even decry the murder, but there is plenty of evidence that he himself has said that he would like to do away with Dr. Tiller. But then again, let's just add this to a long list of things I don't appreciate about Bill. Nah, he's just spewing those hateful words to reach his base. The problem for me is, his base seems to be OK hearing it. Of course Dr. Tiller was under attack long before O'Reilly even had a show, so blaming him just seems stupid, right?

If you believe in a woman's right to choose you have a duty, even a right to speak out against those who would take that away. If you believe that abortion is murder, you also have a duty and a right to speak out against this practice. Welcome to America. Freedom of speech is a strongly held belief. But does either side have the right to incite violence for the cause?

Just like everyone else I filter the news through my own life's experiences. I have to look at this from my perspective with a minor change. If I were standing in front of a Wichita city official trying to obtain a marriage license for me and my Sweet No, allowing her to immigrate to America and for us to be together, would I be driven to murder because this person says that two women are not entitled to this right? Will I incite others to commit murder if they are in similar circumstances? Would I stand by and listen as someone in the gay community called for the murder of people withholding these rights? The answer to these questions, an unequivocal no.

I am just as frustrated as many of the average anti-abortion people, why would I not be willing to listen to my community leaders calling for the death of all those responsible for withholding my rights? Because I know it is wrong.

No, those people are doing their job, upheld by the law. Until that law changes, those people should be protected for doing their jobs. They certainly don't deserve to die any more than Dr. George Tiller did.

My thoughts are with Dr. Tiller's wife, children and grandchildren in this time of sorrow.

“However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence.” - President Barack Obama

Been reading:


marie said...

It is so sad. So, so, so sad and I grieve for everyone...

Goofball said...

you can't protest "pro life" by killing someone. No matter what you think about abortion. it's insane.

The Carpenters said...

Hi Snooker-

It gets to the point where nothing surprises me anymore. Mindless violence, apathy, lack of understanding of fellow humans - not a good direction for us (Americans).

You touched on same-sex rights in your post which is serendipitous as I just read this story ( and wanted to pass the link on to you. I hope this topic doesn't get lost in Congress. You should have the right to abuse your lady love with American culture, just like the rest of us with Expat spouses here in the US. :)

tqe / Adam said...

The anger I felt upon hearing the news is hard for me to express.

Thanks for posting this.

sarah1976 said...

I'm pretty much with Adam. I have no words. Just anger and disgust and profound sadness. And a large measure of embarrassment that this is linked to my home town.

Thanks for your eloquence.