This past Sunday, a prominent supporting doctor of the “abortion wars” was gunned down and killed in his church. His name was George Tiller. He performed late-term abortions for women who had life or health threatening pregnancies, but also for women who had fetuses with severe abnormalities. As a result, his life was constantly threatened; he was once shot, his clinic was bombed, and most importantly, he became a common target on anti-choice websites. Such websites published information related to the specifics of his family, where he conducted business, and his everyday whereabouts. He took precautionary measures, including bullet-proof vests, armored cars, and advanced home security systems, to protect himself and his family.
In the article published on AlterNet, Jill Filipovic draws comparisons between this act of violence (as well as many others over the years) and terrorism. She writes that “since 1977, there have been at least 17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidents of assault or battery and three kidnappings committed against abortion providers in North America.”
Anti-Choice groups don’t claim direct responsibility for the murder, but do allude to the idea that “abortion is murder” and that Tiller himself was a “mass murderer.” The individual believed to be responsible for his death was closely affiliated with Operation Rescue, which maintains the mission of ending abortion in America. That said, I believe it is important to consider how it is possible for an organization that prides itself on “saving life” to enable and encourage an individual to murder a doctor who was performing legal and potentially life-saving procedures. “Far from a random extremist, he appears to have been fairly entrenched in the anti-choice movement,” writes Filipovic.
Furthermore, anti-choice groups openly celebrated Tiller’s death with blog headlines ranging from “George Tiller has killed his last baby” to “Tiller the Killer Killed.” Filipovic argues that although the responsibility for his death is upon the individual who pulled the trigger, the pro-life groups who provided the assailant with the resources necessary to locate Tiller hardly have “clean hands.”
Overall, Tiller’s death illustrates but one instance of a larger looming movement, fueled by radical anti-choice supporters, that promotes violence. The common discrepancy between pro-life and pro-choice supporters is their definition of life and their supposed “valuing” of life. The high prevalence of support for war and death penalty by pro-life supporters would suggest that abortion is about much more than the value placed on a single life (unborn or otherwise). Do war and death penalty not cause death? With this in mind, I have to question the true motivations of the pro-life movement.
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