Remember

Dr. George Tiller*

Dr. George Tiller*

This day four years ago Dr. George Tiller was murdered. He was murdered by an anti-abortion protester on May 31, 2009. He was murdered while ushering at church services on a Sunday morning.

Today we should remember his bravery and commitment for years to help women, even at great risk to himself. Today we should honor his life while mourning his loss. Today we should remember to “Trust Women.”

Trust Women

————————————————————————–

*The photo of Dr. Tiller is included in a statement from Merle Hoffman, On The Issues Magazine, Spring 2009 edition. Please take a minute to read it.

————————————————————————-

If you are interested in reading more about Dr. Tiller’s story, I highly recommend  ”The Wichita Divide: The Murder of Dr. George Tiller and the Battle over Abortion” by Stephen Singular, published by St. Martin’s Press, First Edition edition (April 12, 2011) It is available for purchase at bookstores and Amazon.com.

Remembering Dr. George Tiller

Violence surrounding reproductive health services, especially abortion, is on my mind this week. There were two arsons at two different clinics in Georgia last week. There was another arson in New Orleans at Women With a Vision.

The National Abortion Federation has  a breakdown of the history of violence surrounding abortion and abortion providers.  It has not been updated to include the Florida arson in January nor the ones this past week, but it is a reminder to all of us the potential for violence at abortion clinics is always present.

Dr. George Tiller was murdered by an anti-abortion protester on May 31, 2009. Dr. Tiller was 67 years old when he was murdered. He could have retired, but he worked tirelessly for women’s reproductive choices. He faced years of death threats, protesters interfering with his work and even harassment by Phill Kline, the Attorney General of Kansas.

Imagine the commitment to go to work every day with the threat of violence. Would you want to go back for almost 15 years after you were shot five times because you were an abortion provider? Would you post a sign at your clinic after it was firebombed, saying “Hell no, we won’t go”? Dr. Tiller’s commitment to women was summed up in his motto: “Trust Women.”

I remember where I was when I heard the news of his murder. My shock at the news was spent in endless hours watching news coverage and reading articles. It also awakened in me a need to translate my commitment to abortion access for everyone, for any reason, into action. I know I do not have a tiny fraction of the courage Dr. Tiller had, but I had to honor his memory by continuing to speak out in support of women and their choices.

It is hard to believe it has been three years since Dr.Tiller’s murder. It is hard to believe the legislative landscape for abortion and even birth control is worse than three years ago.

Please hold Dr. George Tiller and his work in your thoughts tomorrow. Wear your “Trust Women” buttons and t-shirts proudly in honor of his commitment.

—————————————————————————

If you are interested in reading more about Dr. Tiller’s story, I highly recommend  “The Wichita Divide: The Murder of Dr. George Tiller and the Battle over Abortion” by Stephen Singular, published by St. Martin’s Press, First Edition edition (April 12, 2011) It is available for purchase at bookstores and Amazon.com.

Trust

Abortion is not a dirty word. Escorts emphasize this all of the time when talking about the clinic. The reason we need to keep repeating it is because there are so many ways abortion is stigmatized.
.
Clients are exposed to the myths about abortion daily. These myths are repeated in the pulpit, the nightly news, TV shows, movies, books, magazines and blog articles.
.
These myths range from  judgments about who does or doesn’t have an abortion. Along with these myths of who and why people get abortions are inaccurate statements about health risks of abortion, including risks of breast cancer, future sterility, post-abortion syndrome and medical risks of the procedures in an abortion.
.
The truth is not always easy to find in the flurry of myths. You have to be determined in your research to find out one out of three women will have an abortion by the age of 45, that 61% of women having abortions are already mothers, and it is one of the safest medical procedures in the US today.
.
Most clients have researched the issues and weighed their decision according to their life situation. Many have discussed their decision with friends and family members. These clients have weighed their choices and have chosen abortion.
.
We see supportive companions walking with clients through the gauntlet of antis. These clients have decided to trust their own judgment about what is best for them. The companions have decided to trust the client.
.
We constantly hear comments from clients and companions about antis, ‘Don’t they realize I have thought about this before coming here?’ ‘They don’t know me. They don’t understand why I need this abortion.’ The clients aren’t trusting what a stranger screams at them from the sidewalk. They have already done their research. The yelling doesn’t make them waver in their decision.
.
Trust Women is the slogan of many reproductive rights activists. It is in honor of Dr. George Tiller. He was murdered May 31, 2009 because he was a doctor who performed abortions. Dr. Tiller wore a button with those words on it. Trust Women is a powerful statement. Trust women to make the reproductive choices right for them. Trust women to make decisions for their families. Trust Women. Period.
.
Escorts respectfully approach clients and trust them to make their own decisions.

—–

Bloggers United for Human Rights is a community of bloggers dedicated to the principle that all human rights are inalienable. Not to be voted, or debated, or negotiated. Blog with us on 2/15 to support Women’s Reproductive Rights.

—–

REMINDER: The next escort training is February 25,  9:00A to 10:00A.

.

Registration will start at 8:30A. The subject of the training is Legal Discussions.  If you want more information about the training you can email us at:  everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com

.

Trust Women. Thank goodness for Roe v. Wade

What does it mean to Trust Women?

Trust Women.

Do I really have to answer such a simple question?

Justify such a powerful statement?

Is the idea that personal integrity and freedom extends to women such a stretch?

Why does the content of my uterus change my right to legal medical care?

My right to decide if I want to be a parent.

Why must I shoulder the burden of my pharmacist’s conscience

What is it about women refusing to acquiesce our reproductive and sexual autonomy that evokes the kind of anger that manifests bombings and murder.

Every year the anniversary of Roe v. Wade gives me pause. I am ready to celebrate, yell from the rooftops my joy at being a woman, a queer person and the Supreme Court’s decision to respect my privacy and bodily autonomy. In that same moment however, I mourn the tragedy that is the anti-choice movement’s march across the political landscape, throwing up roadblocks large and small. The cumulative result being a tiered system of the haves and the have nots, baring access to reproductive health care with parental consent laws, 24 hour waits, compulsory ultrasound viewing, personhood amendment, prohibitions on sex education, emergency contraception and constant stigmatization and harassment.

I started escorting at EMW Women’s Surgical Center in 1999 and am there every Saturday morning. I have walked with countless families past protesters yelling, begging, lying, crying, pushing, obstructing, harassing and bullying.

I have used my body to create space between the most confident 15 year old in the world and grown men who think they know her story without ever asking.

I have run with terrified women past protesters trying to grab her arm into the clinic doors.

I have stopped anti-choice protesters from slipping religious materials into client’s purses.

I have watched protesters call out their neighbors by name as they enter the clinic and then call the client’s mothers, pastors and sisters to bully them into leaving.

I have held a crying woman in my arms as she told me about her diagnosis with MS after her health began to rapidly deteriorate with her fourth pregnancy, and the agony in her voice as she wondered about sacrificing her body for the one or preserving her health for the other 3.

I have heard hundreds of stories of families in need, poverty beyond my wildest nightmares and heartache that I do not have the language skill to adequately express. And everyone of these people have been forced to walk through a gauntlet of anti-choice protesters who believe they know better than each of these women how to handle the struggles in their lives.

So what does it look like to Trust Women?

Trust is earned by every working mother.


Trust is knowing that women are life bearers. There is great power and knowledge in being the one to bring forth humanity. Trust is believing that women know better than anyone else when and if they have the resources to bring a child into this world.

Trust is agreeing to disagree; every woman experiences pregnancy on a continuum, Trust is supporting women no matter what.


Trust is acknowledging and dismantling privilege.


Trust is recognizing that poverty, racial and gender oppression burden us all.


There is no healthy world without healthy women.

Dr. Tiller understood.

Women are to be trusted.


Reproductive Justice is the Antidote to Rape Culture

Recently there has been a lot of attention paid to a tactic a group of anti-choice protesters outside of EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville KY is using to deceive the clients trying to access abortion services. Louisville’s Clinic escorts (volunteers provide emotional and tactical support to clients entering the clinic) wear orange vests that say ‘Clinic Escort’ identifying themselves to clients. In the last month the anti-choice protesters have begun wearing remarkably similar vests, the only difference is the wording on the vest: ‘clinic escort’ vs. ‘life escort’. In this post I want to explore the intersection of Rape Culture and anti-choice activism highlighting the places were reproductive and sexual health meet the reality of our cultural norms.

Louisville's Clinic escorts vests

liar

Rape culture is defined as the cultural normalization of sexual violence. We see this in the social context of blaming the rape survivor for the rape; they were asking for it because they attended a party or had a few beers. Our court system routinely blames survivors of domestic violence for staying in abusive situations without providing viable options for those seeking refuge. Melissa McEwan has an awesome Rape Culture 101 post with lots of examples of what rape culture looks like including this gem of a paragraph.


Rape culture is 1 in 6 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Rape culture is not even talking about the reality that many women are sexually assaulted multiple times in their lives. Rape culture is the way in which the constant threat of sexual assault affects women’s daily movements. Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you’re alone, if you’re with a stranger, if you’re in a group, if you’re in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you’re carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you’re wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who’s at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and didn’t follow all the rules it’s your fault.”


An example of rape culture being utilized as social control against women and LGBT people can be seen in the 2009 horrifying gang rape and murder of Eudy Simelane, an out lesbian footballer in Kwa Thema, a suburb of Johannesburg South Africa.

The motive for the attack was “corrective” in nature, that is, culturally sanctioned sexual violence in order to enforce heteronormativity. The Guardian reported “What we’re seeing is a spike in the numbers of women coming to us having been raped and who have been told throughout the attack that being a lesbian was to blame for what was happening to them,” said Vanessa Ludwig, the chief executive at Triangle. The goal of the rapists is social conformity to the broader misogynistic paradigm, or in other words the heteronormative, enforced gender binary with women’s bodies and supporters of women’s bodies the target of socially condoned sexual violence and intimidation.

Dr. George Tiller

Now, let’s turn to the sidewalk in front of EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville KY. Five days a week, protesters chase women and their families from their cars to the door of the clinic, yelling at them, calling them murders and whores, in general harassing them. The anti-choice protesters view themselves as peaceful, information bearers. They genuinely believe they have been ordained/ instructed by God to minister to these women. And while they certainly have the right to speak their mind and oppose abortion, we move squarely into the realm of rape culture when there is no place between the interactions of anti-choice protesters and the women to consent to the interaction. We move even further down the continuum of disempowerment and social control when women clearly DO NOT CONSENT to the interaction. Routinely clients will say something along the lines of “Please Leave ME ALONE” and the anti-choicers continue to aggressively impede their progress, thus crossing the line between free speech and assault.

white male privilege says "yes, you can and are"



The first week the anti-choice protesters showed up wearing their very deceptive vests one of the regular chasers told a group of escorts they (the anti-choicers) were simply trying to “level the playing field”. Which I feel is one of the most disgusting displays of social privilege I have witnessed in my 10 years of escorting in Louisville. What I think this young woman was trying to get across is that they feel entitled to the time and attention of the women entering the abortion clinic for reproductive health care services, and that if it is necessary to be physically imposing to do so, obfuscation and misinformation are appropriate tools to such an end. This entitlement is at the core of rape culture. The attitude that the bodies of women and queers are fair game as a battle field for social conformity is exactly the place where reproductive justice and rape culture intersect. Eudy Simelane and Dr. Tiller’s bodies were destroyed in attempts to isolate and stigmatize the ‘other’.

Tim Tomeny and another bully stand as close to the door as they legally can. from these posts they jump out at clients, shove or trip escorts and sometimes snap pictures. nice guys, real nice.

Well, we are all the ‘other’. There is no ‘other’. Rape Culture hurts us all. Rape is a tool of war. Gender equity is destroyed by rape. And the only way to combat these evils is to fight for the autonomy and empowerment of all people.

One week after the murder of Dr. Tiller

Saturday June 6, 2009

Escorts: 20+

Protesters: 25-30

Cops: 2 on hand with extra patrol drive bys

In the eternal words of my grandmother, “life goes on”. Everything changes, but then it really just stays the same. I have spent the week almost obsessively reading, watching and listening to every scrap of media coverage regarding Dr. Tiller, the funeral, Scott Roeder and any other related topic I could get my paws on.

I attended a small vigil in honor of Dr. Tiller and listened to local activist  Carla Wallace reference Louisville’s  Unity Rally in 1997.

For those who are not familiar, the KKK decided to hold a rally in the middle of downtown Louisville complete with hoods and banners and such. Many people in the community, including the mayor,  said “ignore them”, “don’t give them the attention”, “they are dangerous, it is not safe to oppose them”, when counter demonstrations were organized. But tons of people would not let it go. And so more than 1,000 people showed up to counter the 35 or so klanspeople. We were loud and determined to make sure everyone knew racism was not welcome.

We understood that not a single lynching was ever averted with silence.

Not one oppressive act was ever derailed because no one spoke.

“Silence is a position”, Carla said. When we fail to speak out against injustice we condone it. When we fail to work towards empowerment and equality, we perpetuate oppression and intolerance.

Laquetta Shepard 2002 KKK rally in Louisville KY.

Laquetta Shepard 2003 KKK rally in Bowling Green, KY.

And Dr. Tiller’s murder is no different. Violence and intimidation will not keep me or my ilk from getting up and helping clients into the doors of our abortion clinic.

And so we showed up. Almost as many escorts as protesters.

I was unsure how our local protesters would respond to the national storm. As physically aggressive as they are on a regular basis, most of our protesters are not interested in this kind of violence, they are bullies, nothing more.  But I just did not know if they would be quiet and not push any buttons or if they would be out looking for a fight.  I saw equal opportunity for genuine humility and sadness for the loss of life or conversely self-righteousness and stepped up agro behavior. And as most Saturdays, the group reaction is not homogeneous either.

Gratefully,

It was quiet.

I don’t pretend to know why the protesters were almost tolerable. I don’t have any idea if they were being respectful or simply wishing not to be antagonistic. But I do know that I was damn happy to see a strong show of escorts, who were ready to take what ever fire was coming down the pike. Last week a man was shot to death for showing up and supporting families in really rough spots. James Barrett, a clinic escort, was murdered in 2003 with Dr. John Britton by Paul Hill in Pensacola Florida.

These things, they happen.

In the last ten years we have had a lot of violence in Louisville. An 80-something regular escort was shoved to the ground, an escort’s ankle was broken in a skirmish. Protesters have been arrested for punching client’s friends.  And we have to physically cut a path through a crowd at the door most Saturday mornings.

And don’t forget the Clients.

They have been called sluts, murderers and degenerates. Clients have been described as heartless, and nazi like. They are told they will anguish in pain and depression eventually dieing of cancer after their abortions. They are physically hassled and emotionally berated as they make their way into the clinic doors.

Violence at the only abortion clinic in my city happens every day.

And so with great sadness I mourn the loss of Dr. Tiller. But violence will not work to intimidate us. We need Reproductive and Sexual health care.

And we must speak loudly, clearly stating that abortion is part of our lives and we will have quality access.

Breaking: Abortion provider George Tiller murdered

Here are a few links:

Feministing

Huffington Post

New York Times

My sympathies to Dr. Tiller’s family and staff.

 

Dr. George Tiller

Dr. George Tiller

Wow. Talk about fanaticism. I don’t really know where to start, other than i am more saddened by my lack of surprise that something like this was possible than I could have anticipated. Of course it is possible, the man had endured being shot, his clinic burned, constant harassment from anti choice groups, legal issues connected with said anti-choice groups and the list goes on. I am sure he knew it was possible. I am sure his family and staff knew something like this was possible. But it does not change the fact that this is completely heartbreaking.

I am sad for Dr. Tiller’s family and staff.

I am sad for the loss of such a committed physican.

I am not surprised that the anti-choice movement continues to use violence and intimidation as a tool in it’s arsenal.

I am not surprised to see this type of violence even as Obama seeks to find common ground.

Those of us escorting outside abortion providers in this country who are routinely protested know that the aggression there has been ratcheting up.

I am furious.

Those are my immediate thoughts. I am sure i will have less raw ramblings once the shock of the news has settled in a little.

In the mean time, thank your Reproductive Health Care Provider. Support your local escorts. And keep a close eye on your Reproductive and Sexual Rights. They are important.