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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.

Not a Moment to Lose: We Must Protect Abortion Providers’ Rights

6:44 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Dr. Suzanne Poppema for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

When Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health was founded in 1992, it was a dangerous time for abortion providers. Several of my colleagues had been shot by anti-choice extremists, some murdered, and many clinics were bombed or blockaded by protestors. I wore a bulletproof vest to work at my abortion clinic outside Seattle. It sometimes felt like providers were an endangered species.

Physical violence ebbed over the next decade, but that proved to be a temporary lull. In the past few years, I’ve seen one colleague’s clinic destroyed by arson, while my friend George Tiller was murdered last spring. It isn’t just violence that affects abortion providers today, though—we are also the targets of pointless state laws that limit women’s access to health care. The number of anti-abortion laws this year—about 370—may be a record high.

After LeRoy Carhart declared his intention to continue Dr. Tiller’s work and provide later abortions to women who need them, the state of Nebraska passed a law banning abortions after 20 weeks. Their ostensible reason—that the fetus can feel pain at that point—contradicts the best scientific evidence about fetal development. The real goal of this law was clear from the beginning: to make it impossible for Dr. Carhart to offer women abortions later in pregnancy.

Nebraska wasn’t the only state this spring to target abortion providers and the women they serve. Oklahoma stood out with a series of bills aimed at making abortion more difficult, including a mandatory ultrasound and a lengthy questionnaire doctors must complete before a woman can have an abortion. Meanwhile, Arizona, Mississippi, and Tennessee have blocked women from buying insurance policies that cover abortion, and more states are considering similar bans.

In light of the many restrictions and fears abortion providers must live with every day, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health has introduced an Abortion Provider’s Declaration of Rights. The aim of the declaration is simple: to state that abortion providers deserve the same treatment and protections that other physicians enjoy as a matter of course.

Among the rights spelled out in the declaration are: the right to practice medicine free from fears of violence, harassment, and intimidation; the right to give patients complete, medically accurate information about the procedure; and the right to continue their training and conduct research on abortion methods. All are basic rights taken for granted in any other field of medicine, but denied to abortion providers.

While a part of me is discouraged that we need to enumerate these rights, I also know that there is strength in numbers. Among the first signers of the petition were Jeanne Tiller, Dr. Tiller’s wife; his daughter, Rebecca Tiller-Bunting; Dr. Carhart; and other prominent abortion providers. More than 800 people have signed the petition to date, and I urge you to add your name. Together, we can show the extremists and anti-choice politicians that there is a strong community committed to protecting abortion providers and the women they serve.