Monday, June 1, 2009

Reaction to the Murder of Dr. George Tiller

There is a lot of buzz and a lot of reaction to the murder of Doctor George Tiller that is currently making the rounds. We will visit some of these views in a moment, but first a few of my observations.

Dr. Tiller's murder by a right-wing extremist is not only sad and reprehensible, it is an act of domestic terrorism. It is an act by a member of an extremist movement that has justified and is currently using this latest incident, as an opportunity to justify the killing of this doctor as an acceptable act. Coupled with these acts are rhetoric that divide, are hate-filled, and are used to inflame.

Bill O'Reilly is one commentator that had criticized Tiller on his show, even calling him "Tiller the baby killer". Andrew Sullivan was one of the first to point out this connection and Dailykos has compiled a few clips:

In a related note, on June 12, 2007 O'Reilly said, “Yes, I think we all know what this is. And if the state of Kansas doesn’t stop this man, then anybody who prevents that from happening has blood on their hands as the governor does right now, Governor Sebelius.”

O'Reilly is expected to address Tiller's killing this evening and while I expect him to (genuinely) comdemn the act, he will probably use the opportunity to defend the kind of language that he used in the compilation above. Things get really hairy when you start talking about "stopping" a doctor from performing lawful acts.

I also want to point out that there are some who have complained that this issue has been immediately "politicized". But as BlueTexan rightly points out, you can not politicize politically motivated terrorism because it is political by its very nature.

Other opinions on this matter:


I'm moved by his abiding courage and stubborn insistence that women should receive the care that's appropriate for them to control their reproductive lives. His family and supporters in his community have our eternal gratitude for courageously standing by him; surely they lent him strength to do his work and unfortunately, at times they shared the risks to his safety as well. We at MOMocrats send the Tiller family our deepest condolences upon the untimely loss of a generous, ethical, caring, empathetic person.


I remember the 90’s when several abortion providers were murdered along with volunteers and other staff. It seemed to be a reaction to having a pro-choice president in office, in that case, Bill Clinton. The murders can’t be justified, but I would suspect that they were born out of extreme frustration from not having a conservative administration in Washington, DC. Since January 20th, I suppose it was just a matter of time. So I’m very saddened by the loss of Dr. Tiller. Unlike Warren Hearn, I’ve never personally known or communicated with George Tiller. But his work always meant a lot to me, and women who need a second trimester abortion are worse off due to his loss.


Indeed, the murder of Dr Tiller in a demented defense of a "culture of life" should be all it takes for everyone to see that this is not the simple, straightforward issue they'd like to believe it is. And once you recognize that it's a unique circumstance in which the moral boundaries are blurry and indistinct, the only possible course is to trust the person with the most knowledge of the circumstances, the symbiotic relationship to the fetus and greatest stake in the outcome --- the woman.


This latest killing of a health care provider, martyred for daring to provide women with a vital medical service (in the same week that, here in Canada, the Ontario Provincial Police decided to let another anti-choice assassin evade accountability), only reinforces that all-too-clear fact. Seriously, this is supposed to be an expression of ‘pro-life’ sentiment?! Look, Operation Rescue can offer hollow denunciations all they like. They are still morally complicit and should rightfully be held accountable for their inflammatory rhetoric and tactics.

Matt Yglesias:

Random murder of civilians in order to coerce political concessions doesn’t have a great track-record. But direct action terrorist violence against abortion providers has, I think, proven to be a fairly successful tactic. Every time you murder a doctor, you create a disincentive for other medical professionals to provide these services. What’s more, you create a need for additional security at facilities around the country. In addition, the anti-abortion protestors who frequently gather near clinics are made to seem much more intimidating by the fact that the occurrence of these sorts of acts of violence.

Remember the Department of Homeland Security report that came out a couple of months ago that warned against right-wing extremism? You know, the report that has this:

A footnote attached to the report by the Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis defines "rightwing extremism in the United States" as including not just racist or hate groups, but also groups that reject federal authority in favor of state or local authority.

"It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single-issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration,"

I think it may be time to revisit this report.

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