When I called Dr. George Tiller a hero last week for saving women’s lives, I began to receive messages that greatly deepened my understanding of why, before he was assassinated on May 31st, his practice was so critical to the lives of all women. A man from Wichita wrote:
“I knew Dr. Tiller. He was pretty much a hero. He saw my girlfriend when no other doctors would because she couldn’t pay right then. She had gotten real sick and couldn’t understand why. She was 'just' the bass player in our band at the time and broke. She did finally see Dr. Tiller and he found she had a tubal pregnancy and the fetus was dead or almost. If she hadn’t gotten to him, she definitely would’ve gotten sicker and maybe died. She had the 'abortion' and was protested the entire time by those good folks in Wichita. They also found while performing the surgery that she had 'pre-cancerous' lesions. They caught those in time and she had cryogenic surgery a few weeks later. No problem after that and is still cancer free 25 years later. People aren’t told about the good work he did. He saw a need and filled it.”
Now that Dr. Tiller is gone and his family has closed his clinic permanently, who will fill that need?
We have a hell of a challenge before us. For women, the Bush years were a disaster of faith-based abstinence-only education and punitive cuts in access to reproductive care. Abortion and birth control, because of state restrictions and relentless hounding by those against abortion, are less accessible than at any time since 1973. But rates of unintended pregnancy among teenagers are going up. Planned Parenthood clinics are reporting a surge in demand for birth control and abortion, given growing rates of unemployment. The reality is that women are being increasingly forced to bear the children of unintended pregnancies. To paraphrase what World Can’t Wait’s Call to drive out the Bush regime said in 2005, “Your government is still moving to deny women the right to birth control and abortion.”
If you thought the fascist movement which exists to enforce the subservience of women is not still deadly serious at stopping all access to abortion, snap out of that delusion. The increasing pressure on abortion providers by state governments is propelled by the foot soldiers of a fascist movement, whose leaders call, openly or with a wink, for doctors to be forced one way or another from providing abortions. Dr. Warren Hern who owns the Boulder Abortion Clinic told me Saturday, while surrounded by federal marshals at Dr. Tiller’s funeral, that the American anti-abortion movement wants a “Christian fascist theocracy.” When asked on Democracy Now if anyone from that movement had reached out to him, he said, “They have been trying to get us killed for decades. Their statements that they’re dismayed about Dr. Tiller’s assassination [are] hypocritical nonsense. These people got exactly what they wanted. They wanted Dr. Tiller dead. They wanted Dr. Tiller’s clinic closed. And they want the rest of us killed.”
Within the pro-choice movement, we’ve got some issues to struggle through.
First we need a pro-choice movement! I don’t mean only a list of people who get email and “click” when asked to donate or who are led to lobby and write Congress. I don’t mean a politically passive movement that accepts whatever the Democratic Party does as the “best” we can hope for. I mean an uncompromising movement that calls people into the streets for visible resistance against Dr. Tiller’s murder, and any further attacks. I mean systematic efforts to reach the people – especially youth – about why abortion is not murder but a completely necessary option for all women. I mean a movement which organizes efforts to protest and support abortion providers. Having a big current in this movement of people who dare to dream of the liberation of women would help tremendously in raising the movement’s sights far beyond the present accommodation to the latest outrage.The women’s movement in this country has been obsessed with wanting to be “in” the Obama administration, under the assumption that the Democrats would restore women’s rights. Other than quietly reversing the global gag rule, what has Barack Obama done to reverse the Bush anti-woman program? He issued a two-sentence pro-forma statement on Dr. Tiller’s murder, saying nothing about Dr. Tiller himself. Federal marshals were quietly dispatched to protect some doctors belatedly, given that the FBI had been urgently informed over the previous week about the crimes against abortion clinics that the alleged shooter was seen carrying out, including one day before the murder. Where was the high-level delegation at the funeral, or the call from the president, or even from women in his administration to stop these attacks?