Today marks the second year since the assassination of Dr. George Tiller, a pro-choice advocate and provider of reproductive health services, including late-term abortions. On May 31st, 2009 an anti-choice extremist named Scott Roeder shot and killed Dr. Tiller. Roeder was convicted by a jury of his peers on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated assault, and was sentenced to life without parole.
The stiff penalty for killing an abortion provider doesn’t seem to be detering other would-be murders. Last Thursday Ralph Lang, a 63-year old anti-abortion extremist was arrested in Madison, Wisconsin when he told police that he had driven in from Marshfield, WI to shoot the doctor and nurses at a Madison Planned Parenthood.
There is a long history of persecution, harassment and violence against those who provide abortions or who work to ensure access to abortion. In 1995, David J. Garrow of the New York Times wrote that this type of extremism ”is the death throes of an anti-abortion movement in which almost every remaining participant realizes that the war to overturn Roe v. Wade has been irretrievably lost.” Would that he had been right, but 16 years after that article was published our abortion providers still have to wear bulletproof vests to work. Clinics still need enhanced security and volunteers to ensure that patients can get to their appointments. Legislators are still introducing new bills that would restrict women’s access to abortion.
Pro-choice advocates often do not receive the positive recognition, support and accolades that they so richly deserve. There is a lovely post over at Almost Diamonds which urges all of us on this Memorial Day to recognize not only the veterans of US wars and military engagements, but those who have fought to ensure our freedom in other areas of our lives.
I recognize Dr. George Tiller, Dr. Barnett Slepian, Officer Robert Sanderson and Nurse Emily Lyons, Dr. Jack Fainman, Dr. Hugh Short and Dr. Garson Romalis, Shannon Lowney and Leanne Nichols, Dr. John Bayard Britton, James H. Barrett and June Barrett, Dr. David Gunn. I recognize all of the employees and volunteers of clinics who support or provide abortion, who work to keep clinics open and serving their communities despite the potential for harrassment, violence and even death that is, frustratingly, just part of the job. This Memorial Day I remember their courage and their sacrifices.