Veteran reproductive rights activist Dr. George Tiller was murdered today in Wichita, Kanas. Tiller was serving as an usher during morning church services when he was shot entering his local church. The gunman reported fired one shot at Tiller and threatened two other people who tried to stop him. Kansas Jackass blog is reporting that a post it note with the phone number of Operation Rescue was found inside the car of the Dr. Tiller’s accused murderer.
As we get more news about Tiller’s murder and the man currently arrested as the suspect, we no doubt will be discussing the long history of violence targeting abortion clinics and doctors and the inflammatory rhetoric regularly broadcast on talk radio and by some anti-abortion activists and how both have contributed to the escalation in violence over the years. For example, Operation Resuce founder Randall Terry made the following statement:
“George Tiller was a mass-murderer. We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God.” Terry’s statment does not admonish violence in any way.”
As people on both sides of the abortion struggle to find areas of common ground in the abortion debate, it is also true that others are doing their best to prevent any kind of reasoned discussion. Kelli Conlin, the President of NARAL Pro-Choice New York expresses the very serious roadblock the violence of the anti-abortion activist movement presents for pro-choice advocates:
“A dedicated health care provider who never wavered in his commitment to providing abortion services and other reproductive health care to women and their families – even after surviving previous acts of violence against him — Dr. Tiller was slain for doing the work that we pledge to protect every day: ensuring the right and ability of women to make decisions that are best for themselves and their families.
President Obama has called on leaders of both sides of the debate on whether women should have the right to legal abortion to come together to find “common ground.”
But it is cold-blooded, vicious actions like today’s assassination that make it hard for those of us in the pro-choice community to find common ground with those on the other side. It is lawless, violent behavior like this that makes us fear for our lives and our families. When they sit down across from us, they have no reason to believe that we come to the table with violent intentions. Today is a brutal reminder that we are not privileged to have the same sense of security.
We therefore call upon the leaders of the anti-abortion movement to go beyond condemning today’s action to actually committing to control and measure their own irresponsible and incendiary rhetoric and actions.
When these anti-abortions leaders stalk us, harass us and label physicians “murderers,” they fan the flames to create a setting where abhorrent acts such as today’s can transpire.
Our heart and our compassion go out to Dr. Tiller, his family, friends and colleagues. Our thoughts are also with all the other providers across this country who do their work in the face of violent opposition. We will continue to stand with them as they serve the women who need them every day.“
Until the reality of the anti-abortion activist movement’s violence is addressed, no real common ground can ever be found.
Please send a note of condolences to the men and women who worked along side Dr. Tiller at Women’s Health Care Services in Kansas.
Photo courtesy of dr-tiller.com