Today marks the 2-year anniversary of the tragic death of Dr. Tiller, the courageous physician in Kansas who provided late-term abortions. Risking his life, Dr. Tiller bravely helped women in need when they had nowhere else to turn. Sadly, a long history of violence towards abortion providers exists. Clinics endure a daily barrage of protests and harassment, doctors faces have been plastered onto “wanted posters” and the recent arrest of Ralph Lang, who plotted to assassinate doctors and nurses at a Wisconsin Planned Parenthood clinic as well as other clinics, comprise some of the terrorist tactics from anti-choice advocates.
Dr. Tiller’s murder shows the extreme lengths some will go to in preventing abortion. Others take a subtler, yet still detrimental, approach. Obsessed with banning abortion and attacking women’s rights, conservative Republicans keep churning out anti-choice propaganda. When I watched Rachel Maddow (aka my future wife) last Thursday night on MSNBC, she discussed the latest legislation stemming from the GOP. As Maddow stated on her show,
“They have been focused, focused like a laser on your uterus.”
With bills like H.R. 3 and the Pence Amendment, House Republicans attempted to redefine rape, ban federal funding to Planned Parenthood, burden small businesses who provide abortion insurance coverage, and make it easier for doctors and hospitals to refuse abortions. Despite the Democratic-controlled Senate, Maddow declared that 6 Republicans in the Senate introduced a bill two weeks ago “that sets 10-year prison terms for abortion doctors who violate the senators’ new proposed parental consent waiting period for abortion.” While the situation seems grim at the federal level, reproductive rights at the state-level face an even greater onslaught.
The Louisiana House just voted a bill out of committee, HB 645 (originally HB 587 – keep updated on all that’s happening with the legislation), a truly heinous bill that would criminalize abortion. When the bill was initially written, women who obtained abortions would have been charged with feticide and sentenced to prison for 5 to 15 years (WTF?!). The latest version of this bullshit bill wouldn’t charge women, but rather the doctors who perform abortions, even if it saved a woman’s life. Double WTF?! So doctors should face a 5 to 15 year prison term for performing a legal (let me repeat…LEGAL), medical procedure?! Neither women nor their doctors should face incarceration for having or performing abortions.
But Louisiana is not alone. Reproductive rights at the state level are under siege. As Maddow pointed out on her show, more and more states have abortion bans in place restricting abortion at 20 weeks, 5 weeks or banning it completely. In Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio and Oklahoma, doctors performing abortions could be sentenced from 6 months to 8 years. In Alabama, Iowa and Mississippi, doctors could face 10 years. And in Florida (yes, Florida has multiple bans) and Georgia, doctors could face 30 years to life in prison! OMG is this some dystopian future nightmare?!
The GOP continually claims to prioritize job creation. But as they’ve clearly demonstrated, they care about 3 things (not one of which is creating jobs): eradicating abortion, dismantling healthcare (as they’ve indicated with their support of Ryan’s Bill) and invading uteruses. Medical decisions should not be made by anyone but a patient and their doctor. Yet federal and state republicans want to strip people of that right.
Despite abortion being legal and a normal part of reproductive healthcare, especially considering 1 in 3 women have had an abortion, there is not another medical procedure I can think of that is so blatantly demonized and criminalized. As Dr. Tiller was a man of faith gunned down in his church, it’s important for both atheist pro-choice advocates (like me) and religious anti-choice activists (particularly the anti-choice terrorists claiming to have god and morality on their side) to remember that religious women have abortions and many people of faith support pro-choice policies.
Dr. Tiller truly believed in supporting all women’s decisions as his mantra was “trust women.” He stood up for what he believed in, providing hope for those who had none. We should all be more like Dr. Tiller and start trusting women, embracing the notion that every person must decide for themselves what is right for them. Dr. Tiller’s tragic death should remind us all that this is not a battle of religion or morals; rather it’s a war waged on women. And sadly, the war is from over.