With Dr. Tiller’s clinic closed, anti-choicers lack a target

This article in the Times is pretty interesting — now that Dr. Tiller has been killed, anti-choicers no longer have a center on which to focus their hate. Wichita was long the focal point of anti-choice activism, and Dr. Tiller was a large part of that. I recommend this Rolling Stone article nearly every time I write on this subject, but really, if you haven’t read it yet, go. It illustrates just how much of a battleground Wichita really was, and the kinds of violence-inducing tactics that anti-choicers used. They made a point of publicizing the addresses and personal information of clinic staff so that other anti-choicers could stalk and harass them. They claim now that they had no idea people would take matters into their own hands and commit murder, but that’s a bald-faced lie. Abortion providers had been killed before, in their homes and in their clinics, because anti-choice groups publicized their information. They knew exactly what they were doing. But it turns out that anti-choice groups may have been their own worst enemies:

Since what is known here as the “Summer of Mercy,” when thousands of people from around the country converged here in 1991, blocking clinics and being arrested, the city has been a hot spot for the nation’s abortion debate and for an ever-shifting array of organization names, leaders, protesters and preferred tactics.

“There’s so much disagreement,” said Mark S. Gietzen, president of the Kansas Coalition for Life. Mr. Gietzen spent his time last week juggling calls from volunteers who wondered what would come of their regular shifts outside Dr. Tiller’s clinic, where they planted rows of crosses each day and tried to talk to women going in.

“If you went to a meeting, sometimes you would think the enemy was other pro-life people, not abortion,” he said.

Not all anti-abortion advocates, he said, favored the bloody “truth truck” (“Abortion is an ObamaNation,” it reads) parked outside his house or agreed on what protesters should call out to women going inside the clinic (obscenity-filled insults or offers of help) and how loudly.

Even now, Mr. Gietzen said, they were not of one mind about statements many groups here have issued condemning the killing of Dr. Tiller. “You can’t be pro-life and go around killing people, but some people are really mad at me for saying that,” he said.

So while anti-choicers are fighting over how loud they should scream at women entering clinics, they’re also shrugging off all the blame for Tiller’s murder:

Scott P. Roeder, a Kansas City man charged with murder in Dr. Tiller’s death, was not a member of Operation Rescue or a contributor to it, Mr. Newman said. But the authorities found a slip of paper with the organization’s name in Mr. Roeder’s car when he was arrested, as well as the name of one of its leaders and her telephone number. He had also met Mr. Newman at least once.

“I have been racking my brain to see if there was something I could have done,” Mr. Newman said of Mr. Roeder.

Dr. Tiller’s clinic was the one — the big one — Mr. Newman had always hoped to close. Still, he said, if it closed now it would be no victory for Operation Rescue.

“Good God, do not close this abortion clinic for this reason,” he said. “Every kook in the world will get some notion.”

Oh please. Troy Newman isn’t an idiot, and he’s not going to tell the Times that he’s happy Dr. Tiller is dead. But really, Tiller’s clinic was the major target. It’s what Newman and his hordes focused on for years. The only reason he’s disappointed that Tiller is dead is that now he’ll have to re-focus his efforts elsewhere.

And that’s exactly what anti-choicers are doing: Tehy’re already planning on protesting any doctor who fills Tiller’s shoes:

Despite the family announcement about the clinic’s uncertain future, some here seem convinced that it will secretly reopen on Monday. On Sunday, Mr. Gietzen said some of his more than 600 trained volunteers already were organized in shifts for a new week, in case visiting doctors were flown in.

“If it happened,” he said, “we’re going to act like the Minutemen and be there.”

But no no, they don’t actually want any harm to come to abortion providers…

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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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16 Responses to With Dr. Tiller’s clinic closed, anti-choicers lack a target

  1. Renee says:

    The hypocrisy of these so called “pro-life” people is disgusting. Of course they wanted harm or they would have redacted all of the personal information of the clinic staff from their flyers and communications. The way to promote life is not by promoting death or violence through passive aggressive means. What I am wondering is when the government is going to take this seriously and pass some laws that will ensure the safety of the doctors and staff that bravely work in these clinics.

  2. FashionablyEvil says:

    The people who protested regularly outside George Tiller’s clinic are adrift! alone! after Tiller’s murder? Where did I pack that tiny violin…?

  3. mzbitca says:

    I was thinking, if Dr. Tiller’s clinic doesn’t reopen on Monday and there are still a ton of protestors out there it would be an excellant time to get out there with video cameras. I think it would be extremely powerful that less than two weeks after one of their own murdered a man they are still out screaming hate.

  4. Kathleen says:

    Is any kind of big national march for choice being planned in the aftermath of this? I know it’s been done before, and Tiller was still shot dead by terrorists who are winked at by the U.S. government, but it seems like a good time to try again.

  5. Kathleen says:

    Possibly in Wichita instead of Washington? Hotel stays would be cheaper, it’s a shorter drive for people who can’t afford to fly and don’t live on the East Coast. Or is this already in the works and I just haven’t heard about it?

  6. Matt says:

    A great question from John Cole, via the Economist’s blog, “Democracy in America”:

    “So when do we get to start torturing this guy:
    The man charged with murdering a high-profile abortion doctor claimed from his jail cell Sunday that similar violence was planned around the nation for as long as the procedure remained legal, a threat that comes days after a federal investigation launched into his possible accomplices…

    Scott Roeder called The Associated Press from the Sedgwick County jail, where he’s being held on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated assault in the shooting of Dr. George Tiller one week ago…

    ‘I know there are many other similar events planned around the country as long as abortion remains legal,’ Roeder said.”

  7. Alexis says:

    That Rolling Stone article is profoundly disturbing.

  8. lou says:

    Perhaps stalking laws should be rewritten. What they are doing is harassment and stalking, clear and simple.

  9. Thomas says:

    He is a terrorist. He admits knowledge of other pending terrorist operations. What will the administration do about this terrorist conspiracy?

  10. bluedancer says:

    I don’t understand how the behavior described in the Rolling Stone article can be legal. Isn’t that practically a textbook description of harassment and stalking? Are the laws that different in Kansas?

  11. William says:

    He is a terrorist. He admits knowledge of other pending terrorist operations. What will the administration do about this terrorist conspiracy?

    If recent history is any indication they’ll call for concilliation and dialog in order to find “common ground,” “heal the wounds of our nation,” and contribute to the recovery of the economy by stimulating the sagging Platitudes sector.

  12. Jaleesa says:

    I’m wondering the same thing as bluedancer.

  13. Rebecca says:

    Weirdly, I do think that Operation Rescue nutbar is sad that Tiller is gone. Because that clinic wasn’t just Dr. Tiller’s livelihood. It was Operation Rescue’s.

    Newman arranged his entire life around that clinic–he uprooted his family and his “business” to revolve around it.

    What a sad and pathetic waste of his time and energy, really. If he cared anything for the “unborn” he’d work tirelessly to prevent unwanted pregnancy and make adoption more affordable for the middle class. But that goes for the lot of the “pro-life” community, hypocrites all.

  14. Joan says:

    There are plenty of “pro-life” people who are not hypocrites, just as there are plenty of “pro-choice” people who consider abortion regrettable in most cases. The raving fringe of each group insists there is no moral issue at all here.

  15. Joan says:

    That is, that there is no need for further moral consideraton.

  16. William says:

    That is, that there is no need for further moral consideraton.

    Morality is between an individual and their god(s). I can’t really argue whether any abortion is moral or immoral. Painting the discussion as one of moral consideration is a red herring. This is a discussion about rights. SCOTUS held that Neo-Nazis had the legal right to march through the largest community of holocaust survivors in the country. I think few people would make the case that such behavior was morally right, but the fact of the matter is that it is legally protected because some rights cannot be abridged unless their exercise causes material harm to a real and discrete individual.

    Like it or not, the law doesn’t consider a fetus a person. Even if it did theres the competing right of the mother who might not want another person using her bodily resources and holing up in her abdomen for three quarters of a year. You couldn’t demand the use of my spare bedroom because you were homeless, regardless of your relation to me. If you tried to enter my home by force I’d be well within my rights to resist with violent (and lethal) force. The legal theory espoused by forced birth proponents essentially demands that women and a fetus have a legally unique relationship in which the needs or desires of the woman always (or almost always) come second.

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