Sometimes, corporations do actually make the right choice. This was the case earlier this week, when online auction site eBay refused to allow supporters of Scott Roeder, who is charged with the first-degree murder of Dr. George Tiller this summer, to hold an auction to raise money for his defense. Dr. Tiller was a Wichita doctor who was one of the few doctors in the country who performed late-term abortions. He was shot on May 31 in the foyer of his church, as he handed out the weekly bulletin.
EBay refused to permit the auction on the grounds that it would violate their policy regarding “offensive material.” The announcement that the auction would not be allowed came after a statement from Tiller’s family that implored the company to prevent it. “These materials contain hate messages, glorify violence against abortion doctors who provide constitutionally protected medical services, and instruct on means of violence, including bombing, of abortion clinics,” wrote an attorney for the Tiller family in a letter. “We urge you to deny access to the resources of eBay for this reprehensible and vile ‘auction.’”
Roeder is scheduled to go on trial in January; he is currently being represented by a public defender. His supporters are urging him to argue that the killing of Tiller was a justifiable homicide, a defense that other anti-abortion activists charged with violent crimes have attempted to use with little success. Roeder’s friends and defenders are outraged by eBay’s refusal to allow the auction, saying that it was necessary for Roeder to have a “true defense.” A friend of Roeder’s claimed that eBay was “trying to shoot down the truth of what went on behind Tiller’s closed doors and fenced gates.” She added, “It’s not going to work.”
The auction itself would have included items that ranged from the expected to the incredibly offensive, including an Army of God manual (an underground publication containing detailed instructions on how to attack abortion clinics – among other things, it includes bomb recipes), a prison cookbook compiled by a woman doing time for abortion clinic bombings and arsons, and some drawings submitted by Roeder.
These drawings included one particular sketch of David and Goliath, depicting David holding the head of Goliath. “Tiller” was written on Goliath’s forehead. The words “child-murdering industry” was written on the corpse.
The murder of Dr. Tiller has reignited the discussion of the methods used by anti-choice activists who will use any means necessary to shut down abortion clinics. These methods range harassment of women entering clinics to attempts to destroy clinics and kill doctors. A New York Times article last July sensitively recounted the battle that Dr. Tiller fought until the end of his life, and looks directly at the implications of his death for both sides of the abortion debate. David Barstow, the article’s author, wrote:
“They blockaded his clinic; campaigned to have him prosecuted; boycotted his suppliers; tailed him with hidden cameras; branded him “Tiller the baby killer”; hit him with lawsuits, legislation and regulatory complaints; and protested relentlessly, even at his church. Some sent flowers pleading for him to quit. Some sent death threats. One bombed his clinic. Another tried to kill him in 1993, firing five shots, wounding both arms.”
Roeder was finally successful, but many anti-choice activists have acknowledged that Tiller’s death means a loss for both sides. The pro-choice movement lost one of its most fearless proponents, and the anti-choice movement’s most radical, violent techniques were brought baldly into the public consciousness. To put it simply, the conversation about abortion is not ended by violent attacks on doctors or clinics. As a pro-choice activist who has engaged in many peaceful and productive conversations with anti-choice groups about how we can work together to stop abortion from being a necessity, I am horrified by violent attacks on innocent people who publicly support a woman’s right to choose, which make me much less willing to work with anti-choice groups generally.
To their credit, many members of the mainstream anti-choice movement tried to distance themselves from Roeder and his supporters in the months after Dr. Tiller’s murder, but this auction reveals that many will still resort to – or defend – brutal, illegal and inhumane methods of ending abortion. I’m just happy that eBay refused to let it happen.
UPDATE: Via Jezebel, apparently the drawings signed by Roeder as well as many of the other items that were slated to be auctioned are available on eBay, and people are bidding on them. Since this seems clearly to violate eBay’s policy, the whole auction may be taken down soon, but Jezebel has some chilling photos of the drawings.
Photo via Flickr.