“The Assassination of George Tiller:” What It Got Right, What It Left Out


Originally published at www.ansirh.org.

Like virtually every other abortion rights supporter I know, I am deeply grateful to Rachel Maddow of MSNBC for her excellent coverage of abortion. It is fair to say that no other contemporary media figure does a better job of addressing this controversial issue, and Maddow particularly excels in her reporting on the violence and harassment that plague abortion providers in the United States. Not surprisingly, she has devoted much attention to the savage murder of Dr. George Tiller of Wichita in May 2009, including an hour-long special “The Assassination of George Tiller,” (which received an encore presentation this past Thanksgiving weekend).

This special, narrated by Maddow, did some things very well. In particular, the program recreated the atmosphere of hate that surrounded Dr. Tiller for years before his murder. Tiller drew the wrath of antiabortion extremists because he was one of only a handful of doctors who openly performed later abortions (post-24 weeks of pregnancy) for women carrying fetuses with lethal or serious anomalies, or who had medical issues of their own that were incompatible with pregnancy.

Using old footage, the show methodologically revisited the unending assaults on Dr. Tiller: the early firebombing of his clinic; the so-called “Summer of Mercy” in Wichita in 1991, which saw hundreds of protestors arrested for laying siege to Tiller’s clinic (as well as his home and the homes of his staff); the shooting of the doctor in both arms by an antiabortion zealot in 1993; and, most consequentially, the moving of the group Operation Rescue’s headquarters to Wichita with the express purpose of shutting his clinic down. Maddow’s reporting makes a powerful case that Scott Roeder, Tiller’s murderer, was not “a lone wolf” acting alone, as some initially thought. The U.S. Justice Department is now investigating whether a conspiracy existed in this case.

Though some in the abortion rights community were upset that the program gave air time to leading extremist anti-abortion figures such as Randall Terry, Operation Rescue’s founder, and Troy Newman, its current head, I think this was an excellent move on the part of Maddow and her collaborators. Terry’s undisguised glee at Tiller’s death and Newman’s crocodile tears and expressions of shock that anyone could even think that Operation Rescue had anything to do with Tiller’s killing speak volumes. For the record, the special showed footage of Roeder sitting alongside Newman at Tiller’s trial in March 2009, several months before the shooting, and the phone number of an Operation Rescue official was found in the assassin’s car when he was apprehended by police several hours after the murder.

But, speaking as one who was fortunate enough to know Dr. Tiller personally, and who was acquainted with the remarkable staff at his Wichita clinic, the Maddow special disappointed me somewhat because of its lack of attention to what actually occurred inside that clinic. The three patients interviewed (two of whom chose to keep their faces hidden from the camera) spoke eloquently of their gratitude to Tiller and his staff for helping them through the horrendous difficulty of terminating much wanted pregnancies because of fetal anomalies, but there was not enough context given for the general viewer to understand the full complexity of women in such situations.

Simply put, women in need of later abortions (less than 1% of all abortion recipients) because of fetal indications not only face considerable challenges in finding such services, these women have different needs—emotional as well as medical—than those whose procedures occur earlier in pregnancy. The fetal indication patients typically stayed in Wichita for 4 to 5 days, during which their abortions were performed by the induction method (that is, over a period of days, the women delivered a stillborn fetus).

Beyond the specialized medical attention this method required, the staff, including Dr. Tiller and other physician associates, worked tirelessly to attend to the emotional well-being of these patients. In interviews I have conducted with some former staff members, they told me of the lengths the clinic would go to help grieving women and their family members deal with such a devastating loss. Tiller, deeply religious himself, established a spiritual sanctuary in the clinic—the “Quiet Room”—and hired a staff chaplain who would perform baptisms and various funeral rituals for those patients wishing a religious element. For non-Christian patients, the staff called upon the services of a local rabbi and a Muslim imam. All fetal indication patients were offered the opportunity to privately view and hold their blanketed stillborns for as long as they wished.

Vigil held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in Boston, Massachusetts, June 1, 2009, to mourn the death of Dr. George Tiller. Photo courtesy Tim Pierce from Berlin, MA, USA (CC-BY-2.0), via Wikimedia Commons.

Staff also informed me that Dr. Tiller firmly believed that the greatest comfort many of his fetal indication patients could receive would come from others in a similar situation, and he facilitated group meetings of those who came to the clinic at the same time. As staff recounted to me, typically these patients would deeply bond during the course of their stays, having meals together, and spending long hours of waiting together.

In short, while outside the walls of Women’s Health Care Services, there were screeching protestors, carrying grotesque signs and trying to prevent cars from entering the parking lot, inside the staff did everything humanly possible to make the clinic a tranquil place of comfort and healing. While recognizing that there is only so much that can be done in an hour of television, it is this aspect of  the George Tiller story that I wish had been acknowledged.

Watch “The Assassination of George Tiller.

Read patients’ reports of their experience at WHCS.

Read more on later abortions.

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  • crowepps

    The ‘controversy’ about Tiller’s clinic doesn’t include ‘do these patients need abortions’ or ‘what motivates ProLife fanatics to make tragic pregnancies harder on those suffering them’ but instead has been framed as ‘is this doctor evil or are these fanatics crazy?’

     

    The stories of the patients themselves are intensely personal and would have to be based on how they held up emotionally under horrible circumstances and since the ‘failure of pregnancy’ issue is consistently swept under the rug and ignored for the Disney version, and nobody wants to think about what gross fetal abnormalities really means or how they would feel if in a similar situation.  Nobody is going to tune in to see bad things happen to good people with no miracle at the end and no redemption that balances things out but instead just devastation and then enduring in grief.

  • lewisforlife

    Tiller was a mass murderer who savagely killed thousands of children without mercy.  Unlike Tiller, Randall Terry has saved countless children from death by an abortionists knife.

  • arekushieru

    Tiller was a compassionate, caring doctor who saved women from slavery, death and more because he knew women deserved the same rights as everyone else (unlike yourself, OBviously).  Randall Terry is pro-nine-months rape, but anti-minutes/hours rape.  Meaning he’s a hypocrite and misogynist.  As well as a murderer.  And a sinner, especially since he killed Tiller in church and in front of his friends and family.  SICKening.

    Btw, Tiller never killed any children.  SO sorry.

  • colleen

    Randall Terry has saved countless children from death by an abortionists knife.

    Mr Terry was the  minister of a Protestant church, a married man who had fathered many children because he denied his wife effective contraception, he proceeded to put the (sexual) moves on every woman  and some of the under aged girls in his church. His congregation was so appalled by his doggieness, they fired him and kicked him out of the church. He divorced his wife and 6 children and then failed to pay child support or support them in any way. Last I heard his wife was on welfare and the congregation of his former church were helping her and the children out. Having divorced his first wife of 19 years and his 6 children, Mr Terry proceed to marry a fool of a woman 20 years his junior. Appropriately enough he has now converted to Catholicism where a man with his predilections fits right in. The Catholic church annulled his first marriage of 19 years. How kind of them.

     I’m not  surprised when  the  religious right and  ‘pro-life’ republicans hold him up as an example of leadership and virtue. Noone is.

  • marysia

    Randall Terry certainly does not qualify as “prolife”:

    http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2009/12/15/randall-terry-fauxlife-leader

  • colleen

    If Randall Terry is not a ‘pro-life’ leader then why did he meet this last week with the Speaker of the House?

    You may not like him but there is no doubt that he is far more influential as a leader and his personal life is far more representative of the ‘pro-life’ movement than you appear willing to recognise or admit.

     

     

     

  • marysia

    NO ONE should recognize Randall Terry as “prolife”!!

    NO ONE should recognize anyone who behaves like Randall Terry as “prolife”!!

    No matter who recognizes him as such, or how often: IT IS NOT RIGHT!!!

    I have been speaking out against him for many years. Many who identify as prolife agree with me. We just don’t make the news.

    Is it my fault, or our fault, if others do not listen as we exercise our responsibility to speak out against Terry, and men who behave like him?

     

    How am I personally responsible for Terry’s horrific behaviors, for the horrific behaviors of others like him, or for enabling such men *if I have spoken out against them for a long time*?

     

    How is anyone who has also spoken out against them responsible for their hypocritical, life-destroying conduct, or for enabling their conduct?

    How much louder do I or anyone else have to shout against Randall Terry before we are no longer held responsible for his conduct, or for enabling it?!!!

  • rebellious-grrl

    Randall Terry is a misogynistic self-absorbed domestic terrorist.

    Terry, “renounced his gay son, left his wife for a campaign volunteer, and sought a reality television show. If it weren’t for YouTube, no one would’ve even noticed his inflammatory statements about the murder of Dr. George Tiller. In short, Randall Terry’s not only an extremist nutcase, he’s also old news.”

    John Boehner hangs out with Randall Terry
    http://www.salon.com/news/john_boehner/index.html?story=%2Fpolitics%2Fwar_room%2F2010%2F11%2F30%2Frandall_terry_boehner

    Randall Terry is a fringe extremist whose radically perverse beliefs lead him to condone violence against his ideological opponents.

    Wash. Times gives platform to lunatic Randall Terry
    http://mediamatters.org/blog/201004070011

    Dr. Tiller was an amazing person who helped and trusted women. He was a true healer a true doctor of medicine. Dr. Tiller is greatly missed. 

  • colleen

    How am I personally responsible for Terry’s horrific behaviors, for the horrific behaviors of others like him, or for enabling such men *if I have spoken out against them for a long time*?

    I did not say or even imply that you are “personally responsible” for Randall Terry’s behaviors.  I stated the obvious, that he is indeed a ‘Pro-life’ leader and that he is far more representative of the ‘pro-life’ movement than you appear willing to admit.  He makes a good  living being a ‘pro-life’ leader and republican tool.

     I’m not responsible for the fact that the ‘pro-life’ movement funds Randall Terry’s efforts and accepts him as a ‘pro-life’ leader any more than I’m responsible for the fact that these same people  do not listen to you.

    I’m not responsible for the fact that you associate youself with a political movement that, amoungst many other things,  accepts and embraces Randall Terry  as a leader.  Deal with it.

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • invisiblepinkunicorn

    He says he’s pro-life, you say you’re pro-life:  I (as a pro-choicer) am willing to take you both at your word that you want abortion to stop, regardless of how different your methods are.  All roads lead to Rome, after all. 

     

    See also <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman”> no true scotsman fallacy</a>.

  • marysia

    i wish i didn’t have this responsibility–but i *do* deal with it. 

     through challenging the hypocrisies and inconsistencies of those who name themselves “prolife” but in actual fact engage in and condone behaviors that are profoundly disrespectful to people’s lives.

    such as throwing their lgbt and/or pregnant children out into the street, such as denying women our rights to comprehensive sex ed, to use our chosen contraceptive methods and have the utmost social supports before, during, and ever after birth.

    i would *never* throw someone out in the street for being lgbt or pregnant. in fact, my own daughter had a surprise pregnancy with her son, who turned out to have some health problems, during her last year of college, and i have never given either of them *anything* but love and support. i was banished myself for conceiving her, so why would i inflict such rejection on anybody?

    i have worked for two decades doing whatever i could to ensure that women have options other than abortion, in sex education, prevention, parenting, adoption, foster care, guardianship.

    so how exactly is that associating with randall terry and his ilk?!

    i wish more prochoicers would recognize that while, yes, for some “prolife” is a cover for misogyny and sexual oppression–for others, “prolife” means what it says. after all, consider the areas of agreement between prochoicers and genuine prolifers.

  • marysia

    invisiblepinkunicorn–i *don’t* take terry at his word when he says he’s “prolife.” actions speak way louder than words. and his abundantly speak of contempt for people’s lives.

    on the other hand, i know people who identify as “prolife” and, for example, do lots to assist women through and beyond difficult pregnancies, for example, at all levels of society from the personal to the international. and to help women prevent such pregnancies. the deeds match up with the word “prolife.”

     

    it’s unfair to equate randall terry with people whose deeds match the word “prolife.” just like it would be unfair to equate people who name themselves prochoice and work for all the choices with anyone who advocates forced abortions!

  • colleen

    i wish i didn’t have this responsibility–but i *do* deal with it.

     Thus far you have un-apologetically  misrepresented what I said , you’ve tried to make the conversation about yourself and to present a minority of those who self identify as ‘pro-life’  as “genuine pro-lifers” even though by your own admission and complaint these “genuine’ pro-lifers”  have little or no influence within the movement or outside it. This isn’t  dealing with it.

    so how exactly is that associating with randall terry and his ilk?!

    Once again, beyond pointing out that it is inaccurate for you to claim that Randall Terry is not a ‘pro-life’ leader, I am not interested in making this conversation about you .

    i wish more prochoicers would recognize that while, yes, for some “prolife” is a cover for misogyny and sexual oppression–for others, “prolife” means what it says. after all, consider the areas of agreement between prochoicers and genuine prolifers.

    I’ll try again. My claim is that Randall Terry is a genuine  ‘pro-lifer’ in that he, far more than you or the oxymoronically named ‘Feminists for Life’ is representative of the movement as a whole. My claim is that the tendencies you decry aren’t anomalous but, rather, common throughout the movement. Indeed I would further argue that if the ‘pro-life’ movement focused even a quarter of it’s attention on male responsibility for unwanted pregnancies , poverty and so on as much as it indulges in focus on the (mostly imagined) sex lives of  women,  the ‘pro-life’ movement and the religious right itself  would be non-existent as a political force and far, far less culturally popular than it is under the leadership of men like Mr Terry. 

     

     

     

  • crowepps

    i wish i didn’t have this responsibility–but i *do* deal with it.

    What responsibility exactly is it to which you’re referring, and by whom were you assigned that responsibility?

    so how exactly is that associating with randall terry and his ilk?!

    i wish more prochoicers would recognize that while, yes, for some “prolife” is a cover for misogyny and sexual oppression–for others, “prolife” means what it says. after all, consider the areas of agreement between prochoicers and genuine prolifers.

    The problem for those outside the loosely associated ProLife organizations, is that since most of them pretty consistently have the same policy positions and make very similar statements and seem to attract adherents from people with very similar mental viewpoints, and since all of the organizations leap to the defense of each other, it is impossible for outsiders to tell precisely which ‘leaders’ and group members are well meaning and genuine, which ones are in it for the money, which ones are in the hatred, and which ones have the guns and bombs and cans of gasoline.  Considering how dangerous some of you are, it just makes sense from a personal safety viewpoint to assume that anybody who feels entitled to butt into the lives of pregnant women who are total strangers to them with instructions about  ‘what God wants’ is one of the dangerous lunatics.

     

    Frankly, it doesn’t really matter to the person being harassed and attacked whether the person bothering them is misogynistic, sexist, a religious fanatic or obsessive — that person wants ANY people who feel entitled to butt into their life to go away no matter what their motives.  If you’re one of the well meaning ones and that hurts your feelings, I’m really sorry, but you’re the one choosing to hang out in that crowd and call yourself by the same group identifier.  How are we or anyone else supposed to know you’re different?

  • ahunt

     do lots to assist women through and beyond difficult pregnancies, for example, at all levels of society from the personal to the international.

     

    One million plus US women annually…are clearly not convinced. Why is that…do you think?

  • marysia

    what responsibility? the responsibility to challenge anyone who claims to be “prolife” but whose deeds speak the opposite.

    and why would i *not* have that responsibility? i have the responsibility as a human being to challenge any and all forms of harm that i witness in the world, including the considerable harm caused by misogynists who say they oppose abortion but actually do things that *cause* abortions, and who even murder abortion providers in the name of “prolife.”

     

    prochoice people have often said, if you’re really prolife, you will do this, you will do that, to prove that you really are. you will fight for contraception, comprehensive sex ed, help for mothers and children through all stages of life. you will unequivocally condemn violence against abortion providers, you will oppose the slashing of social welfare programs, you will oppose war, you will oppose the death penalty, you will work against domestic violence….

    well, i, and quite a few i know have taken all this very much to heart and pursued these aspirations, both because of the promptings of our own consciences and our agreement that prochoicers who criticize these shortcomings and inconsistencies of “prolife” are valid in what they say prolife should be. 

    but after all that, now, it doesn’t really matter, because randall terry and abortion-causing “prolife” groups get a hearing from the powers that be and we don’t? and therefore *they* are the genuine prolifers?

  • ahunt

    I would only add that women, whether conflicted or at peace with the decision, are not obliged to humor the “well-meaning” among you, Marysia. 

     

    Not only do you not get the benefit of the doubt…you don’t get any time at all.

     

    The fact that well-meaning  pro-lifers descend into deliberate misrepresentation (so-called clinics, anyone?) makes it clear to a woman that your agenda is more important than her well-being. What possible reason can any woman have…to trust you?

  • ahunt

    None of this addresses Crowepps ‘ points.

     

    Face it, Marysia…good press is everything.

  • colleen

    but after all that, now, it doesn’t really matter, because randall terry and abortion-causing “prolife” groups get a hearing from the powers that be and we don’t? and therefore *they* are the genuine prolifers?

     We’re most certainly NOT trying to envision a kinder, gentler ‘pro-life’ movement when we point out that the ‘pro-life’ movement is about as ‘pro-life’ as the Spanish Inquisition.It’s YOUR goal to put lipstick on that pig. Not ours and most certainly not mine.

    Once again, we were discussing a political movement whose main goal is to make abortion illegal.  Randall Terry etc are genuine pro-lifers because it is their voices which have power and influence within your movement. You and voices like yours, by your own admission, have no power or influence. Because the ‘pro-life’ movement is essentailly a patriarchial, authoritarian movement I would suggest that voices like yours will have influence at about the same time that a woman is elected Pope by the College of Cardinals.

    That’s reality. Deal with it.

  • marysia

    the justice or injustice, rightness or wrongness, of any cause or stance is not determined by whether it gets press attention or is in with the authorities. 

    and it’s not true that voices like mine have  absolutely *no* power or influence. sometimes it’s surprising, who and how many we have affected, even though unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be the people who need affecting the most, like randall terry and the catholic hierarchy.

    who as far as i’m concerned, need way more affecting than prochoice advocates, because prochoice advocates are committed to working for choices other than abortion, and so in effect are far more prolife.

    as for putting lipstick on a pig–well, i’m not sarah palin, didn’t vote for her, never will. i vote for candidates who oppose war, the death penalty, and environmental destruction, and support social welfare programs, including those necessary to reduce abortion–whatever their stances on the legality of abortion. not alone in this, either.

    that much said…

    i feel really bad about this exchange. i have failed to understand and engage with and properly respond to important things that you all want to communicate.

    somehow i am just not getting what others here want me to get, my efforts to do so just aren’t cutting it and i’m not sure why or how.

    i apologize for my failures of understanding and empathy and respect, in this and any previous conversations.

    i have been thinking for a while that maybe i shouldn’t take part in rhreality check except for reading the articles and learning whatever is to be learned from them.

    if anyone wants to contact me on an individual basis, i’d welcome that. but it’s probably for the better that i not take part here publicly any more.

  • plume-assassine

    You seem to be more rational and polite than most of the other “pro-lifers” that come here. What I don’t understand, though is — if you are so interested in social welfare, then why in the world are you involved in a movement that oppresses and depersonalizes women? I can understand wanting to reduce the need for abortion by reducing unwanted pregnancies and helping women financially, and I can understand if you yourself would never have an abortion, because that is your personal choice,… but to take that choice away from other women, to want them to endure forced childbirth, is immoral and anti-feminist.

  • marysia

    i hesitate to address these or any other questions, as someone is hiding my comments and they might do the same to this one.

    ahunt–women *do* and *have* trusted me, and like minded prolifers. believe it or not.

    as for the million plus american women who still have abortions every year: i think that is *not* a measure not of the moral bankruptcy or untrustiworthiness of people like me, as we are working to address the problem.

    it is largely a measure of american society’s failure as a whole to provide for women’s sex education and contraceptive needs, for a social welfare network of the quality and extent that all human beings born and unborn deserve. and last but hardly least, our collective failure to hold men accountable for their sexual and reproductive responsibilites.

    la plume assassine: i am *not* involved in any “prolife” groups that i would identify as misogynist and indeed take flak from people associated with such groups because i repeatedly point out that misogyny is an offense against human lives.

    as for why a person interested in social welfare would take the stance i identify as genuinely prolife: well, it’s entirely possible to oppose abortion as prenatal lifetaking, although i don’t think this makes sense except in the context of opposing *all*/almost all forms of postnatal lifetakings and injuries. and in my case that goes beyond humans; for instance i have been a vegetarian about 15 years. i know quite a few vegetarian prolifers.

    a genuine prolifer has a vision of social welfare that encompasses human beings at all stages of life, already born and unborn. and of course that vision cannot omit women, for women’s own sake, and for the sake of ensuring that unborn children too have the opportunities to live and live well before and after birth.

    if you or anyone else wants to learn more about the reasons for such a take on social welfare, i invite you to read some of the materials here–some by me, some by others who are likeminded. i don’t expect you to agree on abortion, but it would be nice if you could understand more about why i and others differ on this issue:

    http://www.allourlives.org

    (try Links and/or Blog)

    by the way, prochoice advocates are welcome to participate in discussion here, as long as you are civil.

    i would never call a prochoice advocate’s somewhat different vision of social welfare “immoral and antifeminist.” i would just say mine differs from that person’s at least on this one point , a point on which reasonable and compassionate people can disagree.

    i would just say that in seeking the most embracing and all inclusive vision of social welfare, i have arrived in a different place. and feminism is big enough for both prolife and prochoice, i think. especially when and where there is much agreement on other issues.

  • ldan

    I agree that you’re one of the more thoughtful pro-life posters I’ve seen here. Thanks for remaining civil.

     

    As a fellow vegetarian (though a pro-choice one), I’m curious. When you conflate the two as logical extensions of a pro-life world view, do you also act in a similar fashion regarding both? Forgive me if I’m mischaracterizing your position, but I’m assuming from the tone above and your identification as pro-life, that you want abortion to be illegal. Would you also advocate that meat-eating become illegal?

     

    You ignore social and political reality if you think feminism can embrace an anti-choice agenda. Equality for women is impossible when we are not allowed control of our own bodies and reproductive capacity. In theory, universal education and free access to birth control would allow for a large portion of that control. But even in a perfect, theoretical world, there will be rape. And in the real, not-so perfect world, there will be contraceptive slips even if we have that universal education and access (which is a long-haul away to begin with).

     

    Back on the original topic; just because you are a pro-life person who does not espouse the crazy that Randall Terry does, who embraces contraception and sex ed, who puts their money and time where their mouth is in working for a world where women would feel better able to have and care for children, does not mean that the poster you were responding to is incorrect in claiming that Randall Terry is a pro-life leader.

     

    He’s representative of the loudest, most visible voices on that side of the conflict. He is, in fact, representative of the vast majority of pro-life voices we, on the other side of said conflict, hear. The protesters at clinics are highly visible and mostly sing the same song as Terry. The self-proclaimed pro-life posters here do as well. The strongly pro-life voice of the Catholic church is also anti-contraception, anti-sex-ed, and carries a strong vein of misogyny even if they stop short of advocating violence.

     

    It’s rather like my sane Christian friends who have to deal with being tarred by the reputation of the right-wing fringe. They can’t simply say “those aren’t Christians.” They can say that the fringe folks don’t speak for them. They can create Christian groups demonstrating what they believe actual Christian values are and work to get those actions seen. They can protest the folks giving them a bad name and ask that people not consider them in the same camp. But they can’t claim that anyone is lying who calls the hateful Christians Christian.

  • ahunt

    as for the million plus american women who still have abortions every year: i think that is *not* a measure not of the moral bankruptcy or untrustiworthiness of people like me,

     

    Oh Good Heavens, Marysia, I never meant to imply any such thing, and I do sincerely apologize for poor wording.

     

    My point was that women also seek abortions because they simply do not wish to bear a child at this point in their lives…full stop.

     

    All the mitigating efforts on the part of pro-lifers like you are fine for “thems that wants ‘em.” For a significantly large percentage of women who choose abortion…those mitigating efforts are nothing more than shaming guilt trips, and all the pretty words in the world cannot disguise that intent.

     

    Hence…the “million plus” comment.

     

     

  • arekushieru

    WELL said, L-dan!  When I use the term ‘anti-choice’, it’s a more accurate  description of the actual *policies* generally underlining the movement.  Which, in no way, makes those who have adopted a more consistent ideology any more or less part of that movement. 

    But, I guess it can be mentioned here, that a ‘kinder’, ‘gentler’ form of oppression is usually all that much more of an insidious form of it. 

  • marysia

    L-Dan, some lifetaking practices are best addressed through criminal law, and others through public health and welfare efforts to prevent and heal them. i would say that abortion, meateating, and cigarette smoking are examples of practices best addressed through the latter, in the context of present US culture.

    living as i do in proximity to african america, having a grandson of color who has already been racially profiled– i have a lot of problems anyway with a legal system that focuses on punishment rather than reconciliation and assistance.

    i don’t understand abortion opponents who say that overturning roe v. wade will make abortions magically disappear overnight. if women are still faced with the root causes of unintended pregnancies and abortions, whatever the legal status of abortion is or isn’t, abortion remains a widespread issue.

    as for your christian analogy–well, some christians advocate lgbt rights and others lgbt phobia. the former *can* say that the latter are not living by the genuine values of christianity, mercy and justice, and thus are bad christians or unchristian or even antichristian.  there’s even a verse from the christian bible: “by their fruits you shall know them.” deeds count for much more than professed ideologies or beliefs.

    if i may ask you a question, just curious–how do you fit being prochoice on abortion with being  a vegetarian?

    arekushieru–the pro every life stance is not some “kinder gentler” form of randall terry, but a different animal altogether. nor is it “insidious.” got nothing to hide. even if it is complex, and not always readily understood for what it is, because it does not fall neatly into the terms of the  american abortion debate as usual, the woman versus the fetus.

    i am not ignoting social and political realities–am challenging them every day. i do not think that the prochoice on abortion position or the alleged “prolife” movement serve human beings well, and am seeking something more inclusive & all embracing.

    i do not quarrel with women’s rights over *our own* bodies and over our sexual and reproductive rights. these rights are important for their own sake, and when women have these rights, the abortion rate goes down.

     i do disagree that abortion in general is a beneficial or nonviolent means of achieving these rights. this is a disagreement about means–not ends.

    and there is precedent in feminism for this sort of vantage point, both in recent and more distant history. ask me where i stand on anything but abortion and i probably will sound like a feminist to you!

    ahunt–apology accepted.

    as for women seeking abortions because they simply don’t want a child at this point in their lives–it’s vital to look as deeply as possible at women’s reasons for that.

    more often than not (and i have listened to many many women’s stories, both prolife and prochoice and read everything i could get my hands on, prolife or prochoice, on the subject)–the reasons have to do with collective, structural failures of the culture as a whole to honor women’s rights in pregnancy prevention and completion, and in making their own, fully supported choices among parenting, adoption, foster care, or guardianship after birth.

    take away these horrific failures–and how many abortions will there be? very few, i suspect.

    i do *not* mean that women have no right to prevent pregnancy, let alone that women have no right to voluntarily forego conceiving children altogether, or that if a woman conceives a child, she therefore has to be that child’s social parent for a lifetime as well as a biological or birth mother. i just work for means that do not involve lifetaking.

     

  • forced-birth-rape

    *Marysia, yes or no please.*

    ~ Do you think females should be forced to give birth against their will? ~

    ~ Do you think pregnant rape victims should be forced to give birth against their will? ~

    ~ Do you think if abortion was illegal women who have an illegal abortion should go to jail? ~

  • ahunt

    as for women seeking abortions because they simply don’t want a child at this point in their lives–it’s vital to look as deeply as possible at women’s reasons for that.

     

    You may want to rethink this one, Marysia…carefully.

  • julie-watkins

    Marysia wrote:

    as for women seeking abortions because they simply don’t want a child at this point in their lives–it’s vital to look as deeply as possible at women’s reasons for that.

    When I decided not to continue my pregnancy because we didn’t want to be parents, I was not a broken piece of machinery that needed to be fixed because I didn’t want to be a mother (Women do not have to be or want to be mothers to be a Real Woman). No, I didn’t like getting the abortion, I wish my IUD had worked. Any guilt I felt was guilt for not feeling guilty — the cultural training was trying to assert itself, you see. On the other hand, when presented with the reality of “yes, you are pregnant, you can not wish it away” I fought off the cultural conditioning. I decided I did not want to be a parent. Since, 28 years ago, the world was already over-populated, it was the right decision for us.

  • saltyc

    The problem I, as a vegetarian, would have joining with your web site or movement is I could never get behind promoting CPC’s the way your site does without thoroughly researching what they espouse. Do they take info and phone #’s of the client and then call her relatives/friends to inform them of her situation, show up at her job, etc., as many CPC’s do? Do they keep her info confidential, and do they give unbiased information on the risks of abortion vs pregnancy? The one in my town heavily skews the info to minimize the very real risks of carrying a pregnancy through, because they are trying to sway the woman into making the choice they want.

    Also, if this is pro-every life, why do you blatantly omit any discussion of embryonic stem cell research and fertility treatment? That alone is a huge red flag, why are you only interested in embryos that are inside women, meaning you really want to get into women’s business, that you really want more women to have babies against their own wishes and best interests, don’t you.

     

    As for reconciling vegetarianism with pro-choice, what is there to reconcile? I don’t eat sentient life. Plants and embryos are not sentient. And anyway, when it’s a matter of life and death, I choose to live. I would eat an animal if I were starving, or running the risk of serious disease or disability. Vegetarians still take vaccinations made from animals, birth control pills made from animals, use medical procedures developed by killing tons of animals, right, or do you not do any of that? Would you refuse a treatment taht would save your life if it were tested on animals??? I mean, giving up meat is actually pretty easy compared to carrying a pregnancy to term. Lots of women are disabled and die from pregnancy, who gets disabled from eating a veggieburger?? I’m sorry to ridicule your quiestion because I do hear it a lot but it comes from a place of totally losing perspective on the issues.

  • crowepps

    take away these horrific failures–and how many abortions will there be? very few, i suspect.

    I think you’re probably right.  However, I’ve just got to ask, if you are right, why are you wasting time agitating about the present state of abortion law or women choosing abortion when OBVIOUSLY the way to permanently solve the problem is to instead concentrate on the “collective, structural failures of the culture as a whole to honor women’s rights in pregnancy prevention and completion, and in making their own, fully supported choices among parenting, adoption, foster care, or guardianship after birth.”

     

    Failures of the culture, I would add, which the MAJORITY of ProLife organizations are trying to intensify by focusing on REDUCING women’s rights.

  • ldan

    L-Dan, some lifetaking practices are best addressed through criminal law, and others through public health and welfare efforts to prevent and heal them. i would say that abortion, meateating, and cigarette smoking are examples of practices best addressed through the latter, in the context of present US culture.

    From this and the later bits, it sounds as if you are not advocating for legal restrictions on abortion, but rather changes that would reduce the need for it. You’re at least aware of the social framework that abortion happens in. Honestly, it sounds a lot closer to the common prochoice position of women who are not comfortable with abortion but also don’t feel they have a right to dictate other women’s choices.

    You’re aware that there will always be a need for abortions, yes?

    if i may ask you a question, just curious–how do you fit being prochoice on abortion with being  a vegetarian?

    Easily. I’m not vegetarian because I object to killing animals. Life lives on death, unless you can photosynthesize. That’s a biological fact. I am a vegetarian because the vast majority of meat is raised unethically from both an animal welfare standpoint and an ecological standpoint. Said meat also tends to be unhealthy in a variety of ways that our ancestors’ meat wasn’t. It’s a hair more complicated than that, but this isn’t a food-related website, so I’m not going into more depth.

     

    Likewise, I see abortion as more ethical than forcing women into the position of livestock, forcing them to gestate and give birth. It’s reproductive slavery. I see abortion as more ethical than birthing unwanted children for both women and those potential children. I don’t believe *life* is a sacred thing all on its own (after all, I don’t flinch at swatting mosquitoes or using antibiotics). It is one piece to be weighed in an equation. Hence, preventing pregnancy is a better choice than ending one already begun; but ending one can also be the ethical choice. (see End of Life ethics as well. I don’t believe that maintaining a person in a vegetative state is necessarily the most ethical choice, either.)

     

    You stress that you don’t object to women doing what they want to *their own* bodies, implying that the fetus is not part of their body. If the fetus could be pried off and gestated elsewhere, that argument might hold. But that isn’t the case. In order to maintain our bodily autonomy and say “hey, I don’t want you pulling sustenance from *my* body,” the fetus is going to be detached and killed because it has no ability to survive otherwise. It isn’t lifetaking so much as denial of lifegiving.

     

    Isn’t that what mothers say? “I gave you life.” It’s a gift, not an obligation.

  • squirrely-girl

    as for women seeking abortions because they simply don’t want a child at this point in their lives–it’s vital to look as deeply as possible at women’s reasons for that.

     

    So, you go on to mention the failures of culture and society but still suggest we look at the individual women? This just comes across to me as looking to assign some stigma or blame (i.e., some abortions are “worthy” and others aren’t). 

  • crowepps

    It’s rather like my sane Christian friends who have to deal with being tarred by the reputation of the right-wing fringe. They can’t simply say “those aren’t Christians.” They can say that the fringe folks don’t speak for them. They can create Christian groups demonstrating what they believe actual Christian values are and work to get those actions seen. They can protest the folks giving them a bad name and ask that people not consider them in the same camp. But they can’t claim that anyone is lying who calls the hateful Christians Christian.

    This particular religious argument over the status of women, as well as the developing fragmentation in sects over the status of homosexuals, is clearlyy reminiscent of the permanent splits in the various US churches right before and during the civil war, where the more ‘liberal’ churches denounced slavery and the more ‘conservative’ churches insisted there was ample biblical justification and refused to condemn it.  Those divisions STILL exist in the major denominations.

     

    I have to say the competing accusations that the other is not a *REAL* Christian/*REAL* Catholic can become downright amusing.   It seems like Christianity is going to just keeps subdividing into smaller and smaller sects until each individual person has their own unique theology and considers themselves the only *REAL* Christian as the head of their own ‘church’.

  • invisiblepinkunicorn

    as for women seeking abortions because they simply don’t want a child at this point in their lives–it’s vital to look as deeply as possible at women’s reasons for that.

    With my Jedi mind tricks, I perceive a great bundle of unexamined assumptions on your part.  Why should women want children at any time of their lives?  Who exactly dictates this “should”?  If you seriously want to know the reasons for such a choice, go to a childfree site and actually listen to what they say.  Some honestly dislike children, some are just completely indifferent to them–should either group have them regardless?  Some don’t want the burdens of pregnancy or child-rearing–do you think such people would actually be good or happy with either?  Some don’t want to contribute to overpopulation out of concern for the environment or social justice or both–why should they follow your ideals instead of their own in this area?  Further, what about men who don’t want children–should they lay their thought processes out for your judgement as well or are you only entrenched in the myth of how “woman=mother”?

  • rebellious-grrl

     I was not a broken piece of machinery that needed to be fixed because I didn’t want to be a mother (Women do not have to be or want to be mothers to be a Real Woman).

    Julie this is what frustrates me about the anti-choicers, the idea that all women want to or should reproduce. Childfree is the way for me. 

  • marysia

    i would like to thoroughly address all these further questions asked of me, but unfortunately have other matters i need to attend to now.

    i intend no disrespect or dismissiveness. these are important questions from thoughtful people. anyone who wants to contact me individually, please do, if you can be patient and give me some time to answer.

    at the same time, i despair that no matter how i try to answer, i am still somewhat clueless about what you all are trying to say. and i wonder if i am expressing myself well enough to be understood.

    also, if i am perceived–regardless of whether it is a fair and accurate perception or not–as a representative of a movement that in essence advocates rape–i question whether i should be in a space where prochoice advocates look for safety.

    i apologize for any failures of intelligence, empathy, verbal skill. and for needing to attend to some health and family matters right now. i have tried to keep up with this conversation but need to bow out now, for all the above reasons.

  • crowepps

    i feel really bad about this exchange. i have failed to understand and engage with and properly respond to important things that you all want to communicate.

    somehow i am just not getting what others here want me to get, my efforts to do so just aren’t cutting it and i’m not sure why or how.

    I think it’s a matter of focus — of where the attention is directed.  Let me try again here:

     

    You’ve noted in several of your posts that there are systemic cultural problems that make it very difficult for women to cope with pregnancy and motherhood.  The ProLife approach is to object to women SOLVING their inability to cope through abortion on the basis that doing so IS UNFAIR TO THE FETUS and that makes it pretty clear that there isn’t any attention being given to how the the systemic cultural problems put women in a bind in the first place.

     

    In other words, if these systemic cultural problems cause pain and anguish, have a negative impact on the lives and education of, destroy the health of or even kill WOMEN, hey, too bad, sister, it’s ridiculous to think we should change our culture just because it inconveniences YOU and nobody ever said life was going to be fair. 

     

    However, when women have the legal option of a medical procedure to avoid the pain, anguish, life/education destruction and physical risks by rejecting that fetus, hoo, boy, now all of a sudden there’s a big PROBLEM.   While society asserts that it’s ludicrous for women to feel ENTITLED to society’s support and insists nobody owes women anything just because they’re pregnant and says life doesn’t come with any guarantees, on the other hand society now suddenly discovers that it makes perfect sense to REQUIRE women to provide support to and guarantee and maintain fairness for blastocysts at any cost.

  • crowepps

    These stories point to significant problems in our culture. But in the Times they’re presented as unfortunate facts of life for women to deal with individually, not as problems with broader solutions.

     

    Is it good — or even acceptable — reporting to focus these trend stories on women, as women’s problems, rather than considering men’s responsibility? The Times isn’t a feminist outlet that you’d expect to make the case for change, but not to even point out that the problems they’re identifying for women are built in significant part on male privilege? That’s plain lousy reporting.

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/12/5/925208/-NYT-to-successful-women:-suck-it-up

    As a general rule, the majority of ProLife organizations have strategies which focus on unwanted pregnancies as women’s problems and totally ignore men’s responsibility and advocate for changes in ONLY women’s behavior to solve the ‘problem’.  If every man who did not want future children got a vasectomy, if every single man met his responsibility be use a condom every time he had sex, the number of unwanted pregnancies would plummet, the demand for abortions would evaporate, and STD’s rate would fall as well.

  • plume-assassine

    Marysia, I know you probably won’t respond to this since you have bowed out of the discussion, but I wanted to add my two cents.

     

    First, I think it’s great that you are aware of the societal and financial framework that leads to the need for abortion and you are working to fix that, like pro-choice advocates. I’m also really glad to know that you support contraception.

     

    However, I think we differ on perception of what an abortion is. You frequently refer to it as a violent act. I do not think there is anything violent about the termination of a pregnancy, natural or otherwise. I do not think that removing non-sentient life (embryo/fetus) from its sentient source of sustenance (the woman) is a violent act at all. I think it is about as violent as pulling weeds from a garden.

     

    Another point to consider is that contraception is not perfect (yet) and people will never be perfect. So, in theory, there will always be a need for abortion in society, even if everything else in culture and in the individual woman’s life is ameliorated. Otherwise, attempting to eliminate [access to] abortion will endager many women.

     

    And finally, on a more personal level, I am childfree. I am apparently “”too young”” for any doctor to sterilize me, so I use other contraception. But it’s not perfect. If it ever failed and I found myself pregnant, I would have an abortion. Plain and simple. It doesn’t have to do with financial resources or my relationship or my intention to have a career… I am just one of those women who doesn’t want children. Where do women like me fit into your philosophy? Surely you don’t expect them to practice celibacy or go through with pregnancy anyway in the possible event that their contraception fails … 

  • crowepps

     I am apparently “”too young”” for any doctor to sterilize me, so I use other contraception.

    Setting up some legal mechanism which would ensure that doctors who do sterilizations don’t have the excuse of potential lawsuits, and that the information about which doctors WILL perform them is widely available would help.  It’s ridiculous that a man can walk in and get a vasectomy the day he turns 18 but doctors continue to assume that women “will change their minds later”.

  • arekushieru

    L-Dan, I use this argument: I oppose all non-defensive, non-reductionist, intentional and unequally mutualized and consensual harm.  This argument holds true with abortion, as well.  The fetus ‘injures’ the woman during implantation and continues to harm her throughout the duration of a pregnancy.  While there isn’t a conscious intent on the part of the zbef to implant, there is a kind of genetic ‘intent’.  And it isn’t defensive, either.  The woman does not harm it so that it needs to prevent itself from being harmed further by her by implanting into her uterus.  The fetus does not attempt to reduce the harm given to her over the nine months.  In fact, it escalates the harm, as seen when the fetus cannibalizes the calcium in the woman’s bones when it doesn’t receive all the nutrients it needs to develop.  The harm is definitely not mutual and the woman did not consent to how the processes of ovulation, menstruation, ejaculation, fertilization, implantation, gestation and extraction all take place within her own body.  Nor does she have wilfully physical control over the processes AS they take place.

  • arekushieru

    What about women who love children but just don’t want any of their own?   But, of course, you might be able to hang this under the heading of ‘Social Justice’, anyways.  Truthfully, although I consider overpopulation a problem, that isn’t at the root of all the reasons why I don’t want to ever be pregnant.  As far as I’m concerned having a uterus is sexist, simply because I am quite certain that I would not have chosen one if I had had a choice in that matter, and that utilizing it is just furthering that sexism.  Isn’t that what we say to anti-choicers.  That pregnancy may be a form of nature’s sexism, but forcing it on a woman means they are partaking in it.

  • forced-birth-rape

    When I say females I mean that as one word for grown women and little girls, sorry.

  • plume-assassine

    I agree; that would be great, and very progressive policy! And not just with sterilization, but they even make it hard for many (nulliparous) women to get the IUD… sigh

  • invisiblepinkunicorn

    lol, I probably missed lots–everybody has their own reasons!  Personally, I’m the “kids are awesome… so long as I can hand them back” type. ;-p 

     

    That’s a thought-provoking way of looking at deciding to have kids, though–childfreedom as a radical anti-sexist stance.  Never really thought about it, but I wouldn’t miss my uterus in the least if it just vanished.  I completely agree that removing the option of abortion does make pro-lifers complicit in furthering sexism.

  • arekushieru

    To clarify: I would not have chosen one because I look at life through a lens of ethics (equivalence), so the fact that nature requires more sacrifice on the part of the female than it does on the part of the male, in childbearing, would really repel me.  Patriarchal constructs have also helped to shape my opposition to it, because they place an even more unequal burden on the female.  And the fact that I physically have no choice in such a process, here and now, either, would similarly leave me with no regrets (as invisiblepinkunicorn stated) if it were to vanish completely.  Which is why I believe that having a uterus, and utilizing it, would be sexist.  However, not everyone looks at it that way, so it IS possible for it to be sexism in my case, yet not in another woman’s case.  

  • crowepps

    Considering that there is absolutely NO evidence of any valid medical reason to refuse IUD’s to nulliparous women, and lots of evidence from Europe that doing so prevents unintended pregnancy and lowers the abortion rate, getting those FACTS through to the OB/GYN’s ought to be something where it would be easy to identify Common Ground at least as to MARRIED patients.  I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for the big ProLife organizations to jump on the bandwagon, though.

  • catseye71352

    When I was younger, I reacted to the idea of pregnancy with loathing and stark terror. I was never so relieved in my life than when my “biological clock” finally wound down.