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Ignore That Self-Affixed Halo: Anti-Choicers Know Just What They Are Doing to Incite Violence

11:46 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Immediately after the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in the vestibule of his church in Wichita, Kansas just over two years ago, anti-choice leaders who had long used stridently violent language to describe Dr. Tiller specifically and abortion care generally, fell all over themselves proclaiming innocence of any connection to the murder.  Among these was Troy Newman, current president of Operation Rescue, who stated:

“We are shocked at this morning’s disturbing news that Mr. Tiller was gunned down… Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice. We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning.”

But the fact is that Newman and his cohorts regularly used imagery and language that depicted Dr. Tiller himself as a monster and in many ways indirectly if not directly suggested him as a target for someone willing to commit a violent act. That someone turned out to be Scott Roeder, who had, it turns out, several links to Operation Rescue.

And, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Any doubt of Newman’s own gruesome feelings of glee about Dr. Tiller’s murder can be summed up in a photo showing Newman standing at the site of Dr. Tiller’s assassination giving a thumbs up.

Operation Rescue and other anti-choicers have now turned their sights on Dr. LeRoy Carhart, who is providing late abortion care to women in need several times a month in Germantown, Maryland.  During the several hours I spent on three days in Germantown, to help with clinic defense, I saw suggestions of violent action everywhere, courtesy of the anti-choicers marshaled by Operation Rescue and its colleague organizations.

First, for example, there was the truck plastered with photos of what the anti-choicers claim are mangled fetuses.  These photos, whether real or not, are obviously distasteful, and meant to be so. But they are also misleading if not outright fake.  If, for example, a woman is carrying a fetus that has died in utero, and it is removed for her own mental and physical health, it may well look grisly. So would, for example, heart surgery. But the implication without context is that someone is killing near-born babies without reason. Using photos-and science for that matter–that is either created entirely for shock value or so grossly misrepresents reality as to have no relation is a primary strategy of the anti-choice movement.

But also plastered across this truck, amidst the “dead baby” photos were photos of Dr. Tiller and those of Dr. Carhart. Those of Dr. Tiller pronounced him “dead,” and tho

se of Dr. Carhart had large yellow arrows fixed around the perimeter with the word “Abortionist” in large black block letters, pointing to Dr. Carhart.  The message, if not explicit, is nonetheless clear: “One of these men is dead, the other is still working. Whaddya gonna do about it?”

Then there were the sidewalk chalk drawings, pictured here.

These drawings, which were one version of other drawings that appeared on a different day as well, were drawn out by teenagers “called in” by OR to help out with th protest.

Among these on Sunday were the sayings:

  • Would it bother us more if they used guns?
  • What would Jesus do? (with a gun)
  • Would it bother us if they used guns?

A drawing of an exploding gun as at the bottom of this row of chalk drawings.

Again, these images have two purposes. One is to suggest violence is an answer to something that anti-choicers don’t like, namely, women exercising self-determination in their lives by determining whether and when to have children, taking control over their own reproduction and sexual health, and safeguarding their own and their family’s health when a wanted pregnancy goes horribly awry.

The other is to intimidate those who are protecting women seeking care, and doctors who serve them. What would come to your mind if you walked the street toward your doctor’s office and there were exploding guns sketched on the sidewalk leading up to the office door?

Operation Rescue and other anti-choice groups such as those in Germantown use religion and piety to advance a patriarchal agenda cloaked in religious fervor.

But it is violence by any other name.

Irrational Anger vs. Courage: Tiller Documentary Showed Faces of “Culture Wars”

9:30 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Sarah Seltzer for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Rachel Maddow’s documentary, “The Assassination of Dr. Tiller,” was a very rare hour of prime-time coverage which was sympathetic to the pro-choice position in “the culture wars.” It accomplished this by attempting to clearly show how extremists on the anti-choice fringe choose to make those culture wars, as Maddow herself put it, into an actual war by turning their rhetoric into violence–or more perniciously by allowing more deranged members of their movement to do their violence for them.

In some ways the documentary was a letdown for an eager women’s activist community which wanted new information and new revelations. But in the end, it served a different purpose. As Jodi wrote earlier this week, “The Assassination of Dr. Tiller” wasn’t a film whose goal was to further edify us stalwarts of the pro-choice side who have immersed ourselves in this story for months, reading every news report and watching all the footage. Instead it was aimed at a broader, liberal-leaning audience, familiar with the basic structure of the horrible story of Dr. Tiller’s murder but maybe not with some of its more poignant and infuriating details.

These viewers might have been struck by Scott Roeder’s “revelation” while watching the 700 Club which turned him from a layabout to a fanatic. They might have felt overwhelmed by the relentless barrage of protest aimed at Dr. Tiller’s Kansas clinic, including repeated legal challenges that never held water in court; crazed, frenzied protests outside the door of the clinic; and most alarmingly, personally targeted messages aimed at making hardworking, dedicated clinic staffers into pariahs in their community. All of this information helps illuminate the fact that Dr. Tiller wasn’t just killed by a man, but by a movement which instilled that man with an evil purpose.

The medium of film–as opposed to writing or even news reporting– was most useful in vividly illustrating the anti-choice movement’s vicious modus operandi . This was quite a contrast with the fortitude and conviction and ultimately the pain of its health-care providing opponents. These two poles were seen on the faces of those interviewed by Maddow and her team, or caught on camera. Perhaps the most foreboding of these pieces of footage was the image of a distraught Roeder sitting in the back of a courtroom when Tiller was acquitted of trumped-up charges.

When told through pictures and videos, so much we already knew was illustrated again so powerfully. There was the fortitude on the faces of Dr. Tiller and his staff, who over the years looked into the cameras without apology, defending their work. Read more