Sara Whitman

Dr. George Tiller Shot Dead: A Painful Reminder to Us All

Filed By Sara Whitman | June 01, 2009 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: basic rights, George Tiller, LGBT rights, murder

Yesterday, while walking into church, Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed. He was one of the few doctors left in the country who would perform late term abortions. Contrary to the propaganda of the Right to Lifers, late term abortions are not a casual affair, rather only done when the life of the mother is at risk.

But we should have those babies even if it means dying.

I started my "career" as an activist on abortion clinic lines. I believed strongly in the right to choose, although I know as an adoptee it would be almost impossible for me to have an abortion. Of course, I'm a lesbian so the chances of me getting pregnant by accident are ... um... next to none. Only rape or incest would cause me to be pregnant and in neither case would I carry a baby to term.

I was always blown away by the holier than thou attitudes of the other side. And yet, the complete and total disrespect they showed everyone who opposed their beliefs made me wonder what teaching of Jesus they were reading.

I was also driving down Beacon Street in Brookline the day John Salvi went on a rampage at two clinics. My wife and I were annoyed by the stopped traffic, only to hear on the radio moments later we were within two blocks of the first shooting, only moments before.

It reminded me of how scary the protesters could be, too. I don't remember any that ever seemed like average folks. Ever. Average folks don't carry around a fetus in a jar. They don't chain themselves to doors.

Dr. Tiller faced a lifetime of threats. His clinic was bombed in 1985. He still continued his work because he was saving lives. And one of the few willing to take the constant abuse thrown at him and his family.

Walking into church, a sanctuary if nothing else, he was shot and killed. I am certain the shooter believes he has saved countless babies lives. I am also certain he has cost countless women's lives.

Shot dead in front of his wife and daughter.

I no longer stand vigil at clinics. I believe deeply, though, that the right to choose was essential in the battle for women's rights, regardless of whether or not a woman would ever be in the position of making that choice.

No woman ever makes the choice lightly.

Our bodies. Our choices. Over the years, the anti-abortion groups have pressured so many decent doctors out of providing safe access to a medical procedure. Few are brave enough to continue.

Dr. Tiller was brave enough.

My deepest condolences to his family.

It is a reminder to all of us working in the LGBT rights movement that we need to learn from this. No matter how far down the line we get, no matter how secure our rights are, there will be always someone twisted enough to shoot us dead in the streets.


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Last April, a huge controversy erupted when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano published a report (prepared by the Bush Administration) that assessed the threat of right-wing extremist groups. Much of the hoopla was raised by conservative Republicans, who for some reason thought that a report about the dangers of neo-nazi extremists and violent right-wing religious whack jobs was an attack upon themselves.

Napolitano ended up apologizing for the report, further indication of the weak resolve of the Obama administration when it comes to the threats to national security that come from the right.

Yesterday, our nation, not just the courageous Dr. Tiller, was subjected to an attack by domestic terrorists. To say this was the work of a lone assassin, is disingenuous at best. The perpetrator's association with Operation Rescue has already been established. One need only to read the comments of Randall Terry to understand his role in inciting this act. If Mr. Terry were a mullah, he'd likely be in custody by now.

Further incitement to this murder was committed by media thug Bill O'Reilly, who has, in his broadcasts, demonized the legitimate medical activities of Dr. Tiller no less than 29 times, calling him a murderer, a nazi, and "Tiller the Baby Killer". He also forecast, "Judgement Day is coming".

These people deliberately incite murder without conscience or fear of consequence, and will continue to do ANYTHING to advance their agenda, all the while hiding behind the "free speech" that they seek to deny others.

The culture war is REAL. The only question is: Who's next?

diddlygrl | June 1, 2009 4:02 PM

It is sad and deeply troubling the amount of violence that the people who espouse religious fervor are willing to go to. The only difference is these people carryout their acts of carnage in the name of one who always preached peace, rather than one who preached conversion by the sword toward the end of his days.

This is one of the reasons the fanatics win, rational people tend to underestimate just how low or how far the zealot will go.

Operation Rescue's chief policy person's phone number was on the dashboard of the suspect.

Nooooo, they aren't terrorists.

I think we have the wrong people in Gitmo.

The Christian Right doth protest too much. They deny knowing what was common knowledge. They deny knowing plans and programs that were public . They even deny the use of their documents by conspirators actively attempting to destroy clinics and to assasinate doctors.

The chief villain on whom blame is placed by all of the leaders of the Right, with some of the spokespeople vying with each other in producing appropriate epithets is the killer. He is the man at whom nearly every one tainted by this crime has pointed an accusing finger.

I shall not dissent from this consensus, nor do I deny that others more extreme than the speakers may have shared guilt, some of whom are already deceased. In crimes so reprehensible that degrees of guilt have lost their significance they may have played the most evil parts. But their guilt cannot exculpate the living leaders of the Christian Right and the anti choice movement. The killer does not carry all of the guilt with him. But it was this kind of fanatic that these men chose to be their students and their partners in this this great conspiratorial brotherhood, and the crimes that they did together they must pay for one by one if we are to end this.

But let me play Devil's advocate for a moment. The spokespeople for the Right acknowledge that a crime has taken place but deny that it was a conspiracy. They deny that they were connected to each other as a single programme.

Have we established the Plan or Conspiracy to kill gynecologists performing D and E's?

Certain admitted or clearly proven facts help answer that question. First is the fact that such murders and attempted murders have taken place. Second, it is admitted that from the moment Roe become law, every one of them laboured incessantly to stop the legal practice of medicine that included the performance of D and E's.

The question therefore comes to this: Were they preparing for the outcome which did occur, or were they preparing for some outcome which never has happened? I submit that the leaders of the Christian Right and the anti-choice movement either knew or were chargeable with knowledge that the outcome for which they were recruiting and inciting followers would inevitably result in fatal violence.This is partly because there was no real expectation that any persuave language would change the feminist movement's position, making democratic change unlikely.But it is chiefly because the inherent nature of the language and literature of the Right was such that they were certain sooner or later to inflame followers and then convince those individuals that the goals that they pursued could then be accomplished only by violence.

The Christian Right stands before the public with the record of hate that they created just as blood stained Gloucester stood by the body of his slain King. He begged of the Queen "Say I slew him not."
And the Queen replied, "then say he is not slain, but dead he is"
If these men are excused from guilt in this horrendous crime, it would be the same as to say there was no murder, there is no victim, there has been no crime.

diddlygrl | June 1, 2009 11:16 PM

They should all be fed Altoids Curiously strong Eintergreen mints until they suffocate. Death by breath mint, there is no punishment harsher.

I want them all tied together legally; I want it clearly demonstrated that a "reasonable man" would have knowledge that inflammatory speech on the subject would could likely result in the death of a gyno performing abortions.

At that point, continuing the speech becomes conspiracy. At that point, we escape the protected speech issue and move into purely criminal intent. The conspirators do not have to know each other, nor do they all have to be aware that they were part of the conspiracy with all of the other members.

Conspiracy is working for a common cause with a forseeable outcome in this kind of instance. And the case can be made, there are precedents in international law....

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 2, 2009 1:27 AM

So a baby is born without a brain who will die in moments after birth or worse linger for days, weeks months costing available health care resources to other children.

So a mother who has vacillated, wanting a child but knowing that they are giving birth to a severely challenged child, finally decides at 21 weeks that it is more challenge than she can bear and is told that it is exactly what she has to bear.

If conspiracy can be proven fine, but these are people who sincerely believe that we are in the "end times" and that makes them doubly dangerous.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | June 2, 2009 3:27 AM

Here's some important background on this murder from AlterNet.

"Slam Bill O'Reilly for His Jihad Against Dr. George Tiller

Dr. George Tiller, one of the few OB-GYNs in the country who performed late-term abortions despite threats to his safety, was brutally murdered on Sunday in an act of domestic terrorism. Suspect Scott Roeder has been detained for questioning, but while Roeder may have pulled the trigger, another participant in Dr. Tiller’s tragic death is still at large: Bill O’Reilly.

Gabriel Winant of Salon writes about O’Reilly:

... there's no other person who bears as much responsibility for the characterization of Tiller as a savage on the loose, killing babies willy-nilly thanks to the collusion of would-be sophisticated cultural elites, a bought-and-paid-for governor and scofflaw secular journalists. Tiller's name first appeared on The Factor on Feb. 25, 2005. Since then, O'Reilly and his guest hosts have brought up the doctor on 28 more episodes, including as recently as April 27 of this year. Almost invariably, Tiller is described as "Tiller the Baby Killer."