Sunday, May 30, 2010

Remembering Dr. George Tiller and his message to Trust Women

I didn't know a lot about Dr. George Tiller and his work before he was killed. I had come across his name a couple times over the years, and I knew he had been shot before (1993) in his line of work. But the second I heard he had been gunned down and killed in his church, my hands started shaking and I was just so ... angry. And sad. And defeated. And motivated. I spent the majority of the rest of that day searching for news on the Internet (you can read my blog post about his death here).

That was one year ago, on May 31, 2009. Nothing in the past year has helped make sense of Dr. Tiller's death. He was killed by Scott Roeder, who is an extremist anti-choicer. Roeder is most definitely not pro-life, no matter what he or his allies say. (If you are truly pro-life, you don't go around killing people. It is, in fact, that simple.) Roeder was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 50 years in jail without parole. It hardly seems enough.

I think for me, one of the saddest things we've seen happen in the past year is the further erosion of a woman's right to choose. Not only have we lost one of the very few doctors who performs late-term abortions, but his succinct message to "Trust Women" has been ignored time and time again, in state after state. Legislatures all over the United States are coming up with new laws designed to make it harder for women to access abortion services. They are requiring unnecessary medical procedures (ultrasounds) be done before an abortion can be performed; they are banning all abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy; they are saying it is legally okay to lie to women about what's going on in their pregnancies; they are instituting waiting periods; they are upholding conscious clauses. They are not Trusting Women in any way, shape or form. Instead, they are treating women like children, children who have to be protected from themselves -- the exact opposite of how Dr. Tiller treated his patients.

On this one year anniversary of his death, I hope this: that no other person involved in any way with abortion services is ever harmed or killed for the work they do. No more guns, no more bombs, no more death threats, no more harassment. I think the only way to make sure that happens is to work toward a world in which every woman has the legal right to choose, a world in which the stigma of abortion is taken away, and a world in which religion doesn't rule women's bodies. Is that possible? I don't know. But we have to try, don't we? Because a world in which abortion isn't an option is a world in which women lose their agency and selves, a world in which they lose the right to their own bodies, a world in which women can never achieve equality because they will forever be second-class citizens. We can't let that happen.

More reading:
  • I Am Dr. Tiller: "Reflections: One Year."
  • Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health: Words from Dr. Tiller about his practice, how he came to do what he did, how he dealt with being picketed, harassed, shot, and more.
  • Beacon Broadside: "The Legacy of George Tiller."
  • NARAL: "Honoring Dr. George Tiller."
  • Our Bodies Ourselves: "2010 Women's Health Heroes Hall of Fame Inductees." Dr. Tiller is one of them.
  • Ms. magazine: "Not A Lone Wolf: Scott Roeder is now serving a life term for murdering abortion doctor George Tiller. But did he really act alone?"
  • Jezebel: "Intimidating Abortion Providers Is Chillingly Effective."
  • Kansas City Star: "NOW to mark anniversary of Tiller murder." Warning, the comments on this are particularly offensive.
  • Planned Parenthood: "Planned Parenthood Federation of America Statement on the Anniversary of the Murder of Dr. George Tiller."
  • Ms. blog: "Sen. Harry Reid honors Dr. George Tiller." On the Senate floor, no less!
If you've written something about Dr. Tiller or want to suggest something, leave a link in the comments.

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