The Terrorists Have Won: George Tiller Ten Years Later
In the years following the September 11 attack, Americans got used to the phrase "If we do ___, then the terrorists have won." The assumption in that phrase was that giving terrorists the thing they want, or "letting them win," was not a good thing. Both because we didn't want fear to force us to "change our way of life" and because we did not want terrorists to think that terrorism was an effective means of getting what they want.
Ten years ago today, Dr. George Tiller was murdered in cold blood in Witchita, Kansas, by the anti-choice terrorist Scott Roeder. He was killed on a Sunday morning, at the church where he was serving as an usher.
Dr. Tiller, or St. George as he was often called, was known to treat patients who discovered late in pregnancy that the fetus had severe or fatal birth defects, as well as treating patients who were in situations in which it was discovered later in pregnancy that going through with labor would result in the "substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function."
As a result of this, Tiller was a major target of anti-abortion extremists. It was specifically because of Dr. Tiller's practice that "Operation Rescue" chose Kansas as the site of their so-called "Summer of Mercy" campaign in 1991, and later as the base of their entire organization. In 1986, a bomb exploded on the roof of Tiller's clinic. In 1993, a lunatic shot him in both arms in an attempt to assassinate him.
Bill O'Reilly regularly screamed about him on his show on FOX, dubbing him "Tiller the Killer."
christian republican Bill O'Reilly Killed Dr. George Tiller www.youtube.com
In 2009, a few months before he was murdered, Tiller was charged with 19 counts of illegally performing late-in-pregnancy abortions. Such abortions were legal in Kansas, but had to be approved by two doctors independently agreeing that giving birth would cause irreparable harm to the patient. Prosecutors alleged that one of the physicians who signed off on these abortions had an improper financial relationship with Dr. Tiller, thus making the abortions "illegal." He was acquitted, and rightly so, because that is ridiculous.
The Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition in Washington, called the verdict "a setback." Mr. Mahoney said that had jurors voted for conviction, "they would have put him out of business." But Mr. Mahoney, who had predicted that the trial would "energize" anti-abortion forces, said it was a "very technical case" that was not relevant to other legal and legislative challenges to abortion.
And, as we know now, it did indeed "energize" anti-abortion forces. So much so that one of those lunatics killed him.
Anti-abortion terrorism is something that hits a little close to home for me, and not just because I'm pro-choice. My parents were actually at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 when anti-choice terrorist Eric Rudolph bombed the Olympic Village (though thankfully in their hotel room when it went off). A year after that, Dr. David Gandell was shot at in his home by an anti-choice sniper in Rochester, NY, where I lived at the time. A year after that, Dr. Barnett Slepian was shot and killed in his home in Buffalo, across the street from one of my best friends.
That shit was real and it was horrifying, though I am glad that New York, at least, is not rewarding these people by giving them what they want.
In 1997 Eric Rudolph bombed an abortion clinic in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1998 he bombed an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, killing an off-duty police officer. Both of these states are states that now want to make Rudolph's dream of forcing people to give birth against their will come true. They are rewarding him for his crimes.
Hello Birmingham - Ani DiFranco www.youtube.com
Rudolph is in prison now, but his writings are still regularly published by the Army of God, the same anti-choice terrorism organization that Scott Roeder belonged to, as well as Shelly Shannon, the woman who first tried to assassinate Dr. Tiller in 1993.
There are so many, many things that suck about what is happening with reproductive rights these days, and maybe "giving these assholes what they want" shouldn't be at the top of anyone's list. Still, these states are teaching would-be terrorists that while the consequence to killing and bombing may be jail time, it may also be that they eventually get what they want.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse