Dr. George Tiller’s murder offers us all an opportunity to reflect upon and honor the work of so many women’s health care professionals who continue to offer abortion services despite ongoing threats to themselves and their families.
That such a kind and dedicated human being could be attacked and killed like this sends all of us reeling once again. How is it that those who purport to care about life can spew forth the kind of hateful rhetoric that foments destructive passions in already unstable individuals like Dr. Tiller’s attacker?
I think about a few physicians I know who have had to walk around their communities wearing bullet-proof vests. Even though there has not been a shooting like this one in some years, they are well aware of the recent increase of harassment and violent incidents related to abortion clinics in this country.
Terrorist behavior like this is designed to deter other women’s health care practitioners from providing abortion services. And it is precisely because of this that we must all be outspoken in our support of all physicians willing to provide such services — and of the women who seek these services.
Widespread community resolve and solidarity will be key to our ability to restore a civil society in which such acts of violence will not be met with so many cheers by those who would use any means to stop women from having abortions. We now need to find more ways to honor and support women’s health providers like Dr. Tiller.
This week I re-read the moving speech of Dr. Garson Romalis, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Vancouver, British Columbia, who was attacked twice (in 1994 and again in 2000). He spoke last January at a University of Toronto Law School symposium marking the 20th anniversary of R. vs. Morgentaler about why he continued to provide abortions despite two attempts upon his life. It is a speech I think that all of us need to read again.
His courage, commitment and resolve will help inspire many of us to keep working toward a world in which women are respected and supported in their times of need. One concrete action we can all take is to support the George Tiller Memorial Fund, established by the National Network of Abortion Funds to provide assistance to the same women Dr. Tiller served, or any of a number of groups now working to preserve women’s access to comprehensive reproductive health services. Here’s more info (pdf) about the fund.
- Judy Norsigian, Our Bodies Ourselves Executive Director