Jun 8, 2009
George Tiller, one of only three doctors in the U.S. still providing late-term abortions to women who need them, was shot and killed outside the church he attended on Sunday, May 31. It’s an unspeakable outrage.
Tiller’s murder was quickly declared to be the act of one lone crazy person, Scott Roeder. He may be mentally unstable, but this particular craziness was created and fed by a whole campaign, stretching over decades, against the women who seek an abortion and the health care professionals who help them.
For years, Operation Rescue had distributed pictures of Dr. Tiller and others, made to look like “Wanted” posters. “Hit Lists” were posted on websites of Operation Rescue and other anti-abortion organizations. Bill O’Reilly, the conservative talk show host, had mentioned Dr. Tiller 29 times in the past four years, almost always as “Tiller the Baby Killer.”
These are nothing but incitements to violence, just like many others aimed at abortion providers. And they’ve had the effect they were looking for. Eight clinic workers have been murdered in the United States since 1993; in that time, seventeen attempted murders have taken place. Over 5,800 acts of violence against abortion providers have been reported since 1977, including bombings, arsons, death threats and assaults, as well as more than 143,000 other acts of disruption, including harassing phone calls, fake anthrax attacks, stink bomb attacks and bomb threats.
Dr. Tiller was himself the target of a sustained series of attacks. His clinic was bombed in 1985; he faced massive protests at his clinic in 1991; and he was shot in both arms by an abortion opponent in 1993. His clinic had to be fitted with bulletproof glass and security cameras. He traveled with a body guard, and regularly wore a bulletproof vest.
Tiller also faced baseless legal claims he had to defend himself against. Even though he was acquitted of every one, they still ate up years of time and lots of money.
Most recently, his clinic was vandalized in early May: wires to the surveillance cameras had been cut, and a hole was punched in the roof, causing water to pour into the clinic. The vandalism was reported to the FBI, which did nothing.
Tiller’s killer, Scott Roeder, was even spotted attempting to vandalize Tiller’s clinic and another one in Kansas City, Missouri, several days before Tiller’s death. The FBI didn’t show up until AFTER Tiller’s murder.
Anti-abortion leaders tried to disavow Roeder’s act, but it was too little too late, and filled with double-talk. Troy Newman, the president of Operation Rescue, tried to say that his group had always sought “non-violent” methods against abortion; but his friend Randall Terry justified the murder, calling Dr. Tiller a “mass murderer” whose “hands were covered with blood.” Dave Leach, an anti-abortion activist from Des Moines, who had published articles from Roeder in his newsletter, said, “To call this a crime is too simplistic.”
This is, in the most direct way, a sustained campaign of terror, carried out by the religious Right in order to deny women access to abortion.
And it’s been carried out with the complicity of the news media, which treats Dr. Tiller’s murder as if it were only an isolated incident.
The politicians have been no better. They cover up the true nature of this act. President Obama issued a statement saying, “However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence.” As if this were simply an isolated act of violence; as if this were simply a difference of opinion that got out of hand; as if these acts of violence have been carried out equally on both sides!
No – it’s terrorism, pure and simple. Terrorism tolerated by the media and politicians in this country, even those who claim to support abortion rights.