Abortion is not a pleasant subject. Most of us would rather think on more pleasant topics. But the issue of abortion remains the linchpin of full human rights for women. After all, if a woman’s body does not belong to her, what else possibly can?
It has been exactly four years since the pro-choice community was rocked by the murder of Dr. George Tiller who provided abortions in his Wichita, Kansas clinic. Dr. Tiller was shot down by a “pro-life” activist after facing decades of threats and vandalism on behalf of women’s reproductive health care. His health care clinic recently reopened only to face threats against the clinic and death threats against the director.
The over-simplification of the abortion issue and the vilification of doctors who provide that service, have resulted in a very strange phenomena. The violence and threats of violence are almost completely a one way phenomena- it is those who say they affirm life that take life. There is no parallel violence against anti-choice activists.
Democracy Now! did an interview with several of the people involved in the Kansas murder. Here is a short version of the interviews and a link to the longer transcript.
First Dr. Tiller, before he was killed, was asked in an interview what had made him decide to provide abortions:
A young woman, for whom Dad had already delivered two babies, came to him pregnant again right away. And she said something to the effect that “I can’t take it. Can you help me?” And those are the two common denominators. That is apparently the way you ask for an abortion from your regular doctor before abortion was legal. At least that’s my impression. You know, the common denominator: “I can’t take it. Can you help me?” Dad said, “No.” Big families were in vogue. “By the time the baby gets here, everything will be all right.” She went out, had a non-healthcare-provider abortion, and came back 10 days to two weeks later and died.
Now, I have had the unique experience of delivering two and three babies for Tiller Kansas—for Tiller family practice patients, second- and third-generation babies. I know what that neat relationship is between a physician and the woman for whom he delivers two or three babies. I’ve had a relationship. It’s a neat relationship. Having had that relationship, I can understand how upset my father was. I do not know whether he did a hundred abortions or 200 abortions or 300 abortions. I think it may have been something like 200 over a period of about 20 years. But I don’t know for sure.
Then Scott Roeder, the man who shot Dr. Tiller is asked about his motive for threatening the new director:
To walk in there and reopen a clinic, a murder mill, where—where a man was stopped, you know, it’s almost like putting a target on your back saying, “Well, let’s see if you can shoot me.” You know? But, you know, I have to go back to what Mike—Pastor Mike Bray said: you know, if 100 abortionists were shot, they’d probably go out of business. So, I think eight have been shot, so we’ve got 92 to go. And maybe she’ll be—maybe she’ll be number nine.
Finally, Julie Burkhart the new director is asked why she is willing to risk her life for women’s reproductive health care:
Well, I don’t think that the rights of women in this part of the country should be curtailed just because we have more—well, we have extremists here in this part of the country, as well as other parts of the country, but it’s more of a hotbed here. And we have a more conservative mindset here. But that does not mean that women should be denied their constitutional rights. And so, that, you know—and I am from this part of the country, so that that’s what gives me the courage and determination.