While no one can argue that Bill O’Reilly and his ilk are directly responsible for the murder of Dr. George Tiller, they certainly are responsible for hanging a target on his back and engaging in frighteningly inflammatory rhetoric year after year, arguably creating an environment where it is okay to demonize a medical professional performing a legally guaranteed and necessary medical procedure. Not only did they make it okay for American citizens to demonize George Tiller, the result of their rhetoric is seen on message boards around the country where you can find Tiller’s murder being justified and even praised.
And this is what O’Reilly had to say today, just a day after the murder of Tiller:
And while it’s true that many leaders on the right have decried the murder of George Tiller, there have been too many efforts to rationalize any influence such inflammatory and tolerated rhetoric of O’Reilly and others has had on anti-abortion extremists. Former anti-abortion extremist Frank Schaeffer forcefully explains why pundits and extreme activists bear some responsibility for creating the environment in which Tiller’s murder ocurred in the Huffington Post.
We also need to talk about about domestic terrorism, because it’s been infuriating to watch conservatives rationalize the murder of George Tiller by claiming that his murder is not a terrorist act because Tiller’s murderer alone.
According to Princeton’s WordNet, terrorism is “the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear.” A terrorist is “a radical who employs terror as a political weapon; usually organizes with other terrorists in small cells; often uses religion as a cover for terrorist activities.”
When we take in the history of violent acts committed by anti-abortion extremists, not to mention the charged rhetoric, Tiller’s murderer becomes one in a series of domestic terrorists who employ terror in the service of a religious and/or political goal.
According to data gathered by the National Abortion Federation, there have been at least nine killings in anti-abortion protests, 17 attempted murders and 400 death threats since 1973. Bombings and arson attempts of abortion clinics happen on a regular basis. This is a pattern of violence used to intimidate a constitutionally protected medical procedure.
This pattern of violence is domestic terrorism.
And the results have been devasting for women and their families in America. Not only does Tiller’s death leave only two doctors in America who will perform a necessary medical procedure, in many states, women and their families have litle or no access to the constitionally protected right to abortion. As Sara Robinson writes:
“Tiller was one of just three doctors in the entire US who performed late-term abortions. Now, there are just two. Which means that 36 years of anti-choice terrorism is now just two assassinations away from completely ending late-term abortion in America. Violence has won out — over the will of the people, over the courts, over the horrific logic of medical necessity. And whenever terrorists win, democracy has lost — and is lost.”
We don’t like to think of terrorists as people like us. We like to think of terrorists as foreigners, as people who look and sound different than us, and who live in different places–not in our own cities and neigborhoods. But they do, and until the anti-abortion movement takes responsibility for the inflammatory rhetoric that surrounds it and loudly condemns it over and over, whenever it rears up, and until we all make it unnacceptable for “news” broadcasters to incite violence irresponsibly for the sake of ratings, the domestic terrorism will continue.
And just today, Family Research Council spokeswoman Cathy Ruse referred to Dr. George Tiller as “Dr. Killer:”
Abortion is a complex issue, but until the anti-abortion movement ends the inflammatory rhetoric and the emotion of some of its leaders that feed the fear and hate of extremists, we will not be able to come together in the ways we need to to lower the numbers of unwanted pregnancies in this country.
Send a note of condolences to the men and women who worked along side Dr. Tiller at Women’s Health Care Services in Kansas.