Sunday, May 31, 2009


Like so many people, I was saddened today to hear about the murder (assassination? execution?) of Dr. George Tiller in Wichita. Though I did not know him personally, I am connected to people who did and who will miss him deeply. My very good friend describes him as a hero and her word is good enough for me.

Throughout the day, I have been reading blog posts and articles and comments and message boards. And, of course, so much of the discussion has gone back to the very heart of the same old pro-life vs. pro-choice arguments relating to "elective" abortion. I've tried to think about writing a blog post of my own, but nothing seemed quite right. All day long, I have been struggling with the fact that this man's murder has been lumped in to the plain old abortion argument. It shouldn't be. It can't be.

Because Dr. Tiller (don't anyone dare refer to him as "Mr. Tiller" on my blog!) did not practice in the realm of first trimester abortion. Dr. Tiller's practice doesn't involve the standard issues of birth control and abstinence and personal responsibility and adoption and sex education. Dr. Tiller's practice dealt with the fetus that developed without a brain and conjoined twins that could not survive and women diagnosed with cancer post-pregnancy and women suffering ramifications to their own health that they never dreamt of on that happy day months prior when the stick turned pink. These weren't unwanted pregnancies; they were very much wanted pregnancies that went hideously wrong. Or, worst of the worst, were the ridiculously young victims of sexual abuse whose pregnancies were so unexpected that they went undetected until they necessitated late-term abortions. Dr. Tiller demonstrated such dedication and compassion to these women as he provided them a safe environment for dealing with these worst-case scenarios in private.

So let's not use Dr. Tiller's murder as yet another chance to trot out the tired "I am pro-choice: choosing abstinence or birth control!" line. Or "we need to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies through sex education." Because what Dr. Tiller did really didn't have anything to do with those things. Instead, we should focus on the real heart of what Dr. Tiller worked so tirelessly to protect: the rights of women to deal with these gut-wrenching situations in private and to make their heart-breaking, impossible decisions for themselves. The women facing these horrific situations have even fewer kind faces to turn to after Sunday's tragic event. Those of us who value women, who respect their personal autonomy, and who believe that women should be left alone to make the decisions that are best for them and their families should be alarmed. Who will be left to help these women? And we must not let the discussion surrounding Dr. Tiller's murder be co-opted by those who believe all abortions involve a woman who just callously woke up one day and decided she didn't feel like being pregnant anymore.


Unknown said...

A sad story indeed. I thought about a radical feminist take on it that I once read. This whole business is to keep women in their proper place. It's not about the fetus or whether abortion is murder, or sexual promiscuity, it's simply about controlling women, subjugating them to men and men's laws.

S said...

I definitely think targeting Dr. Tiller and railing against the unique services he provided requires a lack of concern for the well-being of his patients (and women). Is there any situation in which society tries to insert itself into the critical medical decisions relating to men's health?

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