Today marks the five-year anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Tiller, one of the few late term abortion providers in the country.
Because he provided life-saving late term abortions, he was a target for anti-abortion extremism and violence. His clinic was firebombed in 1986, he was shot at and injured in 1994, and for seven years he was the target of the “No Place to Hide” campaign – where he was stalked and harassed — led by anti-abortion groups, which culminated in his murder in 2009.
Dr. Tiller understood that “abortion is a matter of survival for women,” and was committed to reproductive rights. He put his life on the line to protect women’s health. For his bravery and dedication to those rights, we remember Dr. Tiller as a true hero.
We will not forget the sacrifices made by Dr. Tiller and the doctors who continue to put their safety at risk to provide abortion care to women in the U.S., refusing to be scared off by anti-abortion harassment and intimidation. The award-winning documentary After Tiller explores the experiences and practices of the four remaining late term abortion doctors in the U.S., who were all friends and colleagues of Dr. Tiller.
While there are laws in place to protect reproductive health facilities, providers, and patients from violence and harassment such as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, these laws are not enough.
FACE protects providers and patients at clinics, but leaves them open to attack elsewhere.
Harassment and intimidation pervades doctors’ lives, following them to their homes, their other medical practices, and their places of worship — Dr. Tiller was killed on a Sunday at his church.
The violence perpetrated against Dr. Tiller was horrendous, but not uncommon. Anti-abortion violence in the U.S. includes eight murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 181 incidents of arson, 530 counts of stalking and 657 bomb threats.
Think that clinic violence is a thing of the past? Earlier this spring, Dr. Susan Cahill’s clinic in Montana was so severely vandalized that it was shut down and may not reopen. The vandal smashed medical equipment, stole exam tables and medical supplies, destroyed records, damaged furniture and shattered glass.
To give the attack a more personal bite, the vandal gouged the faces out from family photos.
Anti-abortion extremists exist to this day, and aren’t afraid to resort to illegal acts of violence and terror to limit women’s rights.
Though this extremism continues and legal protections of abortion providers are obviously inadequate, there’s a chance that the U.S. Supreme Court may decide that a 35-foot buffer zone shielding clinics from anti-abortion protestors is unnecessary.
Hopefully the Court will not forget that this law was put in place after a gunman attacked two Massachusetts clinics, killing two people and injuring five others.
But even if they do forget, we won’t. We honor the memory of Dr. Tiller and the many other heroes who put their lives on the line for women’s healthcare.