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.