Monday, 1 June 2009

Remembering Dr. George Tiller

I was not going to write about the murder of late-term abortion provider George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas on Sunday. I thought I would leave it to those closer to the horror to come to terms with their own feelings about it, to write about them, to remember the man and his work, and - unfortunately but inevitably - to actually have to defend Dr. Tiller's memory and the value of his work against those who would argue that he reaped what he sowed. I thought I would silently commiserate with the women he helped and whose lives he saved, and with those he would have helped but who will now have no place to go; and wordlessly offer up my thoughts and love to his family and friends.

But I find it difficult to go on with my week here at the Chronicles and in general without making this written statement about Dr. Tiller. And it's because as people who work to secure reproductive rights and health for women in different parts of the world, this act of terrorism affects us all. The same language that has been used to intimidate women seeking abortions and to incite hatred against people like Dr. Tiller who provided them - words such as 'abortionist' (as if he practiced this gleefully as a hobby) and 'baby-killer' and far uglier ones - are also used where we work to obscure the truth, because hate thrives where the truth is hidden. And the truth is that in the US, third trimester abortions are less than 1% of all abortions and must be medically indicated. In parts of the global South, that percentage drops even lower, as the diagnosis and procedures that would allow for life-saving terminations are less accessible. I've embedded the linked video by RH Reality Check below.

So I stand today with everyone else acknowledging the brave work of Dr. Tiller and honouring his memory. And I think the message that needs to be sent unequivocally by government through its abortion legislation and through its prosecution of this kind of terrorism and the language and intimidation tactics that give rise to it, is that this is not a war that will be won with guns. Being shocked and outraged is fine, but that shock and outrage are nothing unless they lead us to swift action to protect the reproductive rights of women, and the lives of those who secure them.

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