On the morning of May 31, 2009, Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas physician and abortion provider, was murdered as he was serving as an usher in his church in Wichita, Kansas. His murderer, Scott Roeder, was arrested 170 miles away three hours later. He confessed to the murder and said he felt no remorse: “No, I don’t have any regrets because I have been told so far at least four women have changed their minds, that I know of, and have chosen to have the baby. So even if one changed her mind it would be worth it. No, I don’t have any regrets.”
I remember that day well. I remember the shock and outrage I felt over the fact that someone would walk up to a doctor in church and kill him because the doctor was providing a legal and Constitutionally protected health care service to women.
Saturday was the fifth anniversary of Dr. Tiller’s assassination. Over the last five years, we’ve seen a steady attack on a woman’s right to choose what she can do with her own body. Multiple states, including Kansas, have banned abortion at 20 weeks, despite such a ban being unconstitutional. Many clinics have been forced into closing their doors, thus severely limiting women’s access to reproductive services in some states. Six states are one clinic away from having no legal abortion providers. In all, there’s been 300 bills to restrict abortion access since 2010. And, I won’t even get into the personhood movement spreading across the country, which has been backing bills to not only outlaw abortion but also many commonly used means of birth control.
The violence is also ramping up. According to Vicki Sapota, the president of the National Abortion Federation (NAF), there have been at least 61 acts of vandalism, 14 assaults, six arsons, and a bombing in the years since Tiller was murdered, as well as ten death threats.
All is not doom and gloom, though. The doctors who continue to provide these necessary services aren’t backing down despite the threats and legal hurdles thrown at them. And last year, the South Wind Women’s Center opened in the same building where Dr. Tiller had his clinic.
Occupy World Writes salutes the bravery of the doctors and staff providing these much needed services. We feel that a person’s right to control what happens with his or her body is one of the most fundamental of human rights, if not the most. And, as we remember George Tiller, we vow to not quit fighting until that right is guaranteed to all.