10 Years Later, We’re Still Fighting Anti-Abortion Extremism

Written by Katherine Spillar

Ten years ago today, I received a frantic call early in the morning from a former field organizer for our National Clinic Defense Project. She had just been notified that Dr. George Tiller had been shot and killed as he attended church that Sunday morning in Wichita, Kansas.

Dr. Tiller had long been one of the abortion providers most targeted by anti-abortion extremists. In 1991, Operation Rescue laid siege to his clinic, drawing hundreds of its followers from around the country, for weeks attempting to block access to the clinic. Each day, the Wichita Police would arrest and carry the protesters to a waiting police bus, clearing a path for Dr. Tiller, his staff and women patients to safely enter the clinic. Cited for misdemeanor trespassing and released, the protesters would quickly return to the clinic and join the ongoing blockade. Ultimately, a federal judge ordered U.S. Marshals to Wichita and the protests were ended.

In 1993, Shelley Shannon, who had participated in Operation Rescue protests, would travel from Southern Oregon to Wichita with the intent of killing Dr. Tiller. She shot at his car as he was leaving the clinic on the afternoon of August 19, fortunately only wounding him in both arms. A bandaged but defiant Dr. Tiller was back at his clinic the following day.

In 2002, a new leader of Operation Rescue, Troy Newman, moved the organization’s headquarters to Wichita, publishing a full page ad in the Catholic newspaper, The Wanderer, declaring: “Wichita isn’t big enough for George Tiller and me. One of us has to go and it’s not going to be me.”

For seven years, Newman and his followers harassed and terrorized Dr. Tiller and his staff at their homes—even Dr. Tiller’s church. Working with former Kansas Attorney General Phil Kline, Operation Rescue pushed to get criminal misdemeanor charges against Dr. Tiller for “illegal abortions.” The charges could have resulted in a 20-year jail sentence, but the jury took less than a half-hour to acquit Dr. Tiller on all charges. Kline was forced to resign and ultimately disbarred in Kansas for lying to a judge in order to secure search warrants of Dr. Tiller’s patient records.

Shortly thereafter, on May 31, 2009, Dr. Tiller was murdered in his church by anti-abortion extremist Scott Roeder—a self-proclaimed adherent of the “Army of God” and a frequent participant in Operation Rescue protests, including at Dr. Tiller’s church. Roeder sat next to Troy Newman during the trial of Dr. Tiller on the criminal charges, yet Newman told Ms. he had “no recollection of ever meeting Scott Roeder.”

Today—10 years later—anti-abortion forces, emboldened by the wave of extreme abortion bans sweeping through state legislatures, have increased their targeted harassment and threats against abortion providers. The Feminist Majority Foundation’s most recent clinic violence survey found that nearly half of clinics nationwide (45 percent) in 2018 “experienced at least one incident of severe violence and/or severe harassment.” These are not isolated incidents, but a coordinated campaign of anti-abortion terror.

On this 10-year anniversary, we remember Dr. George Tiller, the 12 doctors, clinic staff, security guards and bystanders who have been brutally murdered by anti-abortion extremists, and the dozens more injured in bombings and attempted murders. We pledge that we will not allow these extremists to destroy access to abortion with their threats of violence and harassment.

How many times must we say it? Women will not go back.

This post originally appeared on Ms. Magazine.

Photo Credit: Charles Edward Miller/Flickr

58 comments

Leo C
Leo Custer5 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Isabel A
Isabel A6 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Nicole Heindryckx

Women ONLY should have the full right to decide to give birth or to have an abortion. There are so many cases in which pregnancy is NOT wanted or NOT PREFERABLE (with severely handicapped children, limited life, heavy pains, etc.. or families who have too many children already and are too poor to pay for preservatives and still other cases) Men just have the pleasure and then turn their back as soon as they hear they become fathers. They refuse to pay 1 dollar to support the child, even when DNA testing proves he is the father. As long as they don't take any responsibility for their children, they should keep their mouths shut!!!. Whether abortion is legal or not, women who don't want a (further) baby will always find a solution, in a basement somewhere, risking their lives due to infections or unstoppable bleeding. Do these men prefer this?? And will these men then take care of the other children of this woman, feed, clothe and house them and take care of their education?? NO WAY!! They take no responsibilities whatsoever. And neither does the Government or the States. What about better education, free preservatives for teens under 18 years, etc. This would be a lot better than just commanding what women can or can not do!! Unless men pay their share of all expenses during pregnancy, as well as for the child until s/he is an adult. It's easy to stand on the side of the road and yell and shout, but do nothing else!!

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Leo C
Leo Custer14 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Freya H
Freya H15 days ago

Paul B, Brian B, Martin H, Anne M - do NOT spew your anti-choice rubbish in Care2 comment sections ever again until you promise to care for children AFTER they have been born. Do not howl about abortion being tantamount to murder until you give generous amounts of money and time to organizations that feed and clothe and house and medicate impoverished children. "Pro-lifers" care about only the unborn, and anybody who is rich and powerful enough to further their foolish, ignorant cause. Besides, women will always find ways to terminate unwanted pregnancies. They will risk infection and fatal bleeding by using knitting needles or seeking out back-alley practitioners. Or, if forced to give birth, they will abandon their newborns in the woods, as has been done for thousands of years. Go to https://dailysoundandfury.com/birmingham-alabama-pastor-has-powerful-sermon-for-forced-birthing-republicans/ and see how an Alabama pastor brilliantly exposes the hypocrisy of anti-choice activists.

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Marija Mohoric
Marija M16 days ago

Back to 18th Cent.???

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Ben O
Ben O16 days ago

Unbelievable!

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Ganaisha C
Ganaisha C18 days ago

keep fighting until victory is won

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Karen H
Karen H19 days ago

Martin Hill & others who think abortion should be banned. Consider where females in Alabama stand.
1. You cannot have an abortion in this state even though it is a U.S. constitutional right;
2. You cannot have an abortion in this state if you have been raped or are the victim of incest;
3. The infant mortality rate in this state is almost TWICE the national average;
4. This state does not track maternal mortality (wonder why?);
5. The woman/girl and baby are not entitled to prenatal care;
6. There is no right to health care for mother or baby, this is especially true for mental health services (so, if the mother dies, the fetus dies);
7. The adoption rate in this state is (on the high end) 16%;
8. Adopted children are not entitled to any services by virtue of being adopted and adoptive parents in this state are not entitled to any services;
9. The father has automatic visitation, without regard to whether or not he contributes to care or cost;
10. You cannot move out of this state with the baby if the father objects;
11. The state budget is in the red and regularly raids the education trust fund for general budget needs (Alabama ranks 50th in education);
12. Alabama ranks #1 in teen pregnancy because "abstinence only" sex education does not work;
13. This state will now spend millions of dollars taking this case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Separately, this state has pending legislation to make sexual assault victims pay

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Mark Turner
Mark Turner19 days ago

Ty.

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