Wednesday, June 03, 2009


On Sunday the anti-choice movement had a big win. A huge win, actually. A win that represents a 50% reduction in the availability of certain crucial services for women's health nation wide. It doesn't matter if you don't align yourself with so-called pro-life organizations or if you're against murder or if you're vegan and wear only naturally occurring hemp. If you are anti-choice in any way somebody handed you an enormous win on Sunday when he shot and killed Dr. George Tiller.

Is it everything you were hoping for?

If I sound angry it's because I am. It's a boiling, crazy, frustrated lividity in the center of a huge lobster pot of sadness and not a little fear. I'm told by a former head of Planned Parenthood that my feelings should spur me to action. I'm told by Susie Bright that this act of terrorism will result in a backlash against political conservatives no matter what I do. I'm told by NBC News that there's nothing to be angry about, Dr. Tiller was killed by his reputation, not by a misogynistic nutjob.

I'm being told a lot of stuff. As are we all. Fortunately, as a fully functioning human being and member of society (no matter what anyone tries to tell me to the contrary) I can choose who to listen to and what to take away from all this advice. I'm going to choose to stay angry for a while. I'm not sure how long because I'm angry at a lot of people. Sure I'm angry at people who are anti-choice and thereby supported a culture of disrespect and danger. I'm also angry at the shooter, of course. I'm a little angry at whoever was making security decisions for Dr. Tiller and a lot angry at the various levels of the justice system that allowed his killer to roam free despite numerous acts of terror and violence against people engaged in pro-choice work over the course of the last 20 years. Mostly, though, I'm angry at myself. I'm angry that I've never volunteered my time or money to Dr. Tiller and the one other gentleman in our country who provides similar services. I'm especially angry that, despite practice and education and sheer determination, I have been unable to form words and craft sentences convincingly enough to change minds and increase the culture of choice, choice for all, such that not only would Dr. Tiller still be alive he'd have enough colleagues to care for the women of our nation with the same three dimensional, compassionate approach that he pioneered.

All I can do is keep trying. I feel like I'm saying that about a lot of things lately. The anger will help with that at first. Then it will fade. It always does, if only a little. I will keep trying to resolve that anger into action, into words, and into hope that all women will have access to competent and compassionate reproductive care based on their own, highly individual choices and that with that access we will see a reduction in the need for some of the services in question.

You, the winners, if you will, I ask you to take this occasion to move forward as well. I ask you to challenge your perception of the average woman seeking an abortion. I ask you to investigate the increase of infertility treatment in our country and its relationship to abortion services and the women who require them. I ask that you think really hard about the women you know and make a weighty choice about whether denying certain choices to your perceived Average Woman Seeking An Abortion is worth also denying full choice to the women you love and respect.

It's a long journey, this road to equality. We are only partway there and someone keeps moving the finish line. For all of us, the "winners" and the losers, I post below the places I have gone to be educated since Dr. Tiller was gunned down last Sunday. Knowledge is power, right? And we need fuel for forward motion.

  • A couple of extra pieces of info on abortion and on Dr. Tiller's Memorial Fund via Feministing.
  • A video about the pro-life (a subset of anti-choice) movement's reaction to Tiller's death. Keep in mind that some of these groups had "Tiller Watch" sites urging their followers to act against Tiller and his colleagues which mysteriously started showing 404 error pages just minutes after news of the shooting broke.
  • Here's Moxie's post about being a pro-choice Christian and how she feels about this crime.
  • Aaryn Belfer wrote about the word terrorism and how it relates to violence against pro-choice supporters.
  • Feministing has done a round up of how we can support the pro-choice movement in honor of Dr. Tiller and in honor of our own beliefs. The one that speaks to me is donating to Medical Students For Choice. While the debate rages on opportunities for learning abortion-related procedures dwindle which has the potential to kill a lot of women, even women who don't fit what you might think of as the typical profile of an abortion seeker.
  • Here is Feministing's original post on the tragedy which includes news links about the killing as well as links to stories they posted about Dr. Tiller while he was still alive.

Whoever you are and whatever you believe, thank you for reading. Thank you especially to SAA for letting me know how hard you were listening. It took me a long time to write this post and knowing you are out there made it possible.


  1. I've never understood killing in the name of peace, or religion, or whatever. This piece should go in your portfolio and should make you famous. Brilliantly said, my friend.

  2. I was horrified by this but, like you, I couldn't put all that I was feeling into words (I'm not sure I can, so I may just point to you, if that's okay).

    Like Snob, I do not understand the logic of this - how people can justify their behavior, where the hatred comes from.

    Now I'm off to throw 20 bucks at Medical Students for Choice. It's not much, but it's something...

    (oh, and not for nothing, but I think you make a huge (and overly generous) leap when you say "I ask that you think really hard about the women you know and make a weighty choice about whether denying certain choices to your perceived Average Woman Seeking An Abortion is worth also denying full choice to the women you love and respect." I'm just sayin')

  3. Snob, very kind of you to say. Thank you.

    Chili, you found the one sentence that worked me the hardest. I wanted somehow to leave the door for dialogue open but, truthfully, I cannot believe someone who says they love and respect (certain) women while continuing to be anti-choice. I don't see how the two aren't mutually exclusive.

  4. Medical Students for Choice - thank you for that suggestion.

    I am appalled at the way the anti-abortion people characterize what Dr. Tiller did. The people he treated were in serious risk, and the babies were not capable of survival.

  5. Kizz, thank you for writing this post. Dr. Tiller's death was sickening and the response by the anti-abortion forces was appalling and shocking.

    Yes, and thank you for Medical Students for Choice link.

  6. Miflohny12:01 AM

    Reading your post, I was going to suggest Medical Students for Choice, but I see you already did.

    I first donated to them years ago, and from all I can tell they're a very good organization. It's hard to make progress on improving training for medical students when the medical students who are advocating on their own behalf keep graduating, but there are some amazing students out there who are getting the job done - fighting to get a full education that includes comprehensive information on reproductive choice and training in performing abortions. Apparently, it's a big uphill battle, but they keep at it, thank goodness! They approach the issue on an individual level (asking what's already available to them or an option for them that maybe they didn't think of), on an institutional level (asking how their school is shortchanging their education, and why every med student should get this education, not just those who are interested - I mean you can't just say, "I hate feet. I'm not going to study them."), and on a continent-wide level (meeting with other students and learning from each other).

  7. Look, I don't make my stance on abortion a secret, nor do I make my belief that in some cases killing is the best solution to certain situations a secret.


    this is not one of those cases!!!

    If you don't believe in abortion, fine, you don't believe in it. You have that right in this country. You do NOT have the right to take the life of somebody who believes differently than you!

    The murder of Dr. Tiller was heinous, abhorrent, disgusting, shameful, and sad (I could throw in more terms, but I think you all get the gist).

    To the murderer of Dr. Tiller: what part of pro-LIFE didn't you get?