August 11th, 2013

Ground Zero in Wichita: Dr. George Tiller and the Continued Attack on Women

by Ginny

I have been on this Abortion Rights Freedom Ride (ARFR) for twelve days.  I met up with the riders in Minneapolis; we then traveled to Fargo, North Dakota and Bellevue, Nebraska.  At each stop we met people who recognized that abortion rights are in a state of emergency.  We talked with abortion clinic personnel, groups of free-thinkers and atheists, various members of NOW and other locals who were interested in our banners, our riders, and our message.   Currently we are in Wichita.  This is not just another stop for me.  Events in the past, as well as the tensions of today, add meaning and depth to my time in this city.

Most people know the story:  On May 31, 2009, Dr. George Tiller, one of the very few doctors who still preformed late-term abortions, was shot and killed in his Wichita church.    Dr. Tiller’s wife, Jeanne, was in the choir at the time. The Wichita police arrested Scott Roeder of Merriam, Kansas.  Roeder, a member of the anti-abortion terrorist group Operation Rescue, was subsequently found guilty of murder and two counts of aggravated assault for threatening other church members with a gun.  He was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for fifty years.

The murder of Dr. George Tiller brought into focus a number of horrifying realities.  First, it became clear that the idea of abortion was, indeed, under attack.  Although many fought for and won the right to safe and legal abortion in the early 1970s (Roe v Wade, 1973), the social and political climate now denounced this right, calling it the “murder of an unborn child” rather than the reasoned choice of a woman.  This twisted logic seemed to justify the murder of an abortion provider and whipped anti-abortion fanatics into a frenzy.

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August 9th, 2013



Standing in front of the fake clinic, A Better Choice, it was striking to look through the “DANGER: crimes against women” tape we wrapped around their front door. I could see the national headquarters of Operation Rescue just across the driveway, proudly displaying the late clinic sign marked “CLOSED.” When the clinic was unable to afford rent, Operation Rescue seized on the opportunity to shut the clinic down entirely. Concentrated in these two buildings is the essence of the women-hating, Bible thumping, anti-abortion movement who thru their lies, and deceit, contributed to the climate where just a few years ago the anti-abortion vigilante, Scott Roeder, murdered Dr. Tiller in Wichita. The Abortion Rights Freedom Riders had an obligation to go to this strong hold of dark ages morality to take them on by indicting and exposing the clinic, and Operation Rescue.



Standing on the main street unfurling an “Abortion on Demand &Without Apology” banner, Freedom Riders began to chant, “without this basic right, women can’t be free: ABORTION ON DEMAND &WITHOUT APOLOGY!” The street was zooming with cars witnessing an all too rare message of “Abortion on Demand &Without Apology!” including a display that declared “fetuses are NOT babies” with real scientific clarity and truth.  


One Freedom Rider read our prepared indictment with conviction and three of us brought it to the door. The center was mysteriously closed for the day, which according to their website is usually open on Fridays.
(see indictment here). We left the indictment behind so that when the door is finally opened, the indictment will be waiting.

August 9th, 2013

The Reality of “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” & the Whole Anti-Abortion Movement

What does it mean to be “pro-life?” Do they care about the “sanctity of the unborn?” Are they motivated by strong moral convictions to preserve life? Is “fetal personhood” their final goal? 

This may be true of a handful of individuals who identify as “pro-life,” but the reality is that once the fetus is granted rights, the woman is denied hers, and that the entire agenda of the anti-choice movement is to enslave women.  Not one single anti-choice organization supports the right to birth control, even Feminists for “Life.” At the root of the ”abortion question” is the “women question” because how one sees abortion depends on how they understand a woman’s role in society. In order to better understand why this is the case, it’s important to expose some of the more influential anti-choice organizations and the fake clinics known as “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs) which target women seeking real choices.
These CPCs are usually given a perplexing name including the word “choice.” In addition, a number of these facilities are set up near or even next to actual abortion clinics. This is all to deceive women along the same line of their targeted advertising which calls on women in “crisis” who need a “free pregnancy test,” “information,” and “options.” Abby Johnson, a Planned Parenthood employee turned ardent anti-choice bigot, clarifies this particular CPC strategy here. They deceive and coerce women in to their facilities and to bear children against their will, which ultimately aligns with the framework of the greater anti-abortion movement.

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June 20th, 2013

After send-off rallies on July 23 in New York City and San Francisco, caravans will travel from both coasts, rallying and gathering support along the way, arriving in North Dakota before August 1 when new laws are set to shut down the last abortion clinic in the state. Then, down to Wichita where those who courageously re-opened the clinic of Dr. George Tiller following his assassination by an ant
i-abortion gunman are facing serious, and escalating threat. On to Jackson, Mississippi where a temporary court injunction is the only thing keeping the last remaining clinic in the state open. All along the way, we’ll protest and confront the anti-abortion woman-haters, erect visual displays that tell the truth about abortion and birth control, collect and amplify women’s abortion stories in order to break the silence, defend the clinics and providers most under attack, and meet with people to build lasting organization to DEFEAT the whole war on women. 
tweet @stopPatriarchy #abortion rights FR

June 11th, 2012

Three Years Later: Remembering George Tiller — Recommitting to the Fight for Women’s Lives

Revolution #271, June 10, 2012

On May 31, 2009, Dr. George Tiller was assassinated as he acted as an usher in his Wichita, Kansas church on a Sunday morning. Dr. George Tiller was a hero. Dr. Tiller’s commitment to women went far beyond merely providing abortions to women, as essential as that is. Dr. Tiller withstood years and years of targeted harassment, threats, and terror directed at him and his family. When his clinic was firebombed, he posted a sign outside during its reconstruction which read, “Hell No, We Won’t Go!” When he was shot in both arms during a previous assassination attempt, he went immediately back to work.

Not only did he provide abortions, he provided late-term abortions. These types of abortions make up only 2% of all abortions but are some of the most essential; women who seek them tend to be those who discover a life-threatening problem late in the pregnancy or women who were unable to get abortions earlier due to being extremely young and/or extremely poor and/or in places with extreme restrictions to abortion access. Women traveled from around the world seeking out his services.

Not only did he provide these late-term abortions at great risk to himself, he did it with extraordinary compassion. Once, Dr. Tiller heard that a woman who was driving up from the South to visit his clinic was sleeping in her car because she couldn’t afford a motel. Despite the fact that he had already offered to provide her abortion for free, he instructed his staff to pay for her hotel and her meals during her travels. When he heard that an extremely young woman who had been impregnated through rape was traveling from another city to his clinic, he had his entire staff dressed in T-shirts which read, “Friends of Annie” [the young woman’s name] when she arrived! When I attended his memorial three years ago, many women from Wichita told me the stories of their own abortions, adding, “Dr. Tiller gave me my life back.”

While Dr. Tiller was assassinated by one man, his death was the result of a whole nationwide campaign over many years to demonize, isolate, criminalize and stop—by any means—abortion providers from giving women the ability to terminate a pregnancy. Every time someone—whether a Christian fascist, a “pro-choice” Democrat, or a television drama—refers to abortion as “killing a baby” they are contributing to an atmosphere where providers are seen as people with “blood on their hands” who “deserve” violence and retribution. In reality, fetuses are NOT babies and abortion is NOT murder!

Further, every time lawmakers restrict abortion access, they commit an act every bit as illegitimate, immoral, and violent towards women as the assassination of George Tiller was. The question is not whether these attacks are carried out “by individuals” acting “outside the law” or by a fascist movement acting through the power of the state. Forcing women to have children against their will is enslavement. It is an act of violence against women every bit as damaging as rape.

This is something that many providers understand, and this is why they risk so much to provide abortion services to women.

In the three years since George Tiller’s assassination, lawmakers have passed an unprecedented level of restrictions to abortion nationwide and violence against clinics and threats to providers have continued unabated.

On this anniversary, let us never forget the life of commitment to women lived by Dr. George Tiller. Let us never forgive the movement which took his life and which threatens the lives and futures of the half of the population who have been born female. Finally, let us redouble our determination to protect and defend those who risk everything to provide abortions to women and let us fight for a world where providing abortions no longer requires such risk and abortion and birth control are available to all women all the time on demand and without apology!

To get involved in the fight for Abortion on Demand & Without Apology as well as the fight to End Patriarchy and Pornography: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women altogether,

January 5th, 2012

Abortion Clinic Burned on New Year’s Morning – Into the Streets for Abortion Rights On Roe V Wade!

American Family Planning Clinic, Pensacola

On January 1st, by 1:00 in the morning, an abortion clinic in Pensacola, Florida was engulfed in flames. By all accounts thus far, this was a case of arson.

But chances are you have heard nothing about this.

The fact that there has not been a single politician commenting on this violent assault on an institution that is essential to women’s freedom and that this act of terror has not been picked up on in the national/mainstream media should only serve as a further wake-up call to those who care about women’s rights.

No one will defend women’s right to abortion and birth control but the millions of us who refuse to see women enslaved. We must rely on ourselves, not on the Democrats or electoral politics. We must take to the streets and not go back home. We must reseize the moral high-ground, declaring: Abortion on Demand and Without Apology. We must be in the streets in DC on January 22nd & 23rd to stand up for abortion rights!

While no one was hurt in the fire, this fire will cripple the ability of an already overstretched community of abortion providers to meet the very real and urgent needs of women in western Florida, Alabama and Mississippi for abortion care. This will cause tremendous suffering and unnecessary burdens on women who seek abortions. This will cause great financial strain on those who seek to provide abortions.   And, this will – as it was undoubtedly intended to do – strike fear in the hearts of those most courageous individuals who knowingly risk their lives every day to provide women with this absolutely essential, completely moral, remarkably common, and medically safe procedure all across this country.

To be clear, this is NOT the first time an abortion clinic, its staff, or its patients have been the victims of extreme violence and it will not be the last.

In Pensacola alone, several clinics were fire-bombed on Christmas day back in 1984 in what those convicted described as a “a gift for Jesus on his birthday.” It was there that the first abortion doctor, Dr. David Gunn,was assassinated outside his clinic in 1993. In 1994, John Britton, along with his security escort James Barrett, were also gunned down.  In Wichita, Kansas, as recently as 2009, abortion doctor George Tiller was murdered as he attended his church on a Sunday morning.

Already, people are rationalizing this violence and issuing threats in online forums: “Anyone that performs, supports, or participates in abortions should be given the death penalty. And lets nuke Iran while we’re at it.” “These clinics, are going to be the target of ridicule as long as they are in operation. This clinic, should not be rebuilt, and any other abortion clinic should be shut down. Abortion is legal in the State of Florida but it is not a good idea for one to be operating in a town that obviously does not want it.” “At least some little lives will be saved since the clinic is out of commission.”

But that is not the worst of it.

It is time we stop allowing the mainstream of the anti-abortion movement, and the mainstream of American politics (Republican and Democrat) to distance themselves from these kinds of acts and this kind of hatred of women.

The truth is, whether the restriction of women’s right to abortion is carried out through legal changes – such as “personhood” amendments, late-term restrictions, funding of fake clinics, etc. – or whether this is carried out through extra-legal terror, they are all violence against women.

Being expected by all of society to subordinate one’s life, ambitions, dreams and intellect to one’s biological ability to bear children – and having this expectation legislated through the most powerful and repressive state in the world – is enslavement. Whether this is done “legally” or through extra-legal terror doesn’t make one shred of difference in the lives of real women and of future generations.

In fact, these two different tactics – the legal and the extra-legal – work together. This is true whether those carrying out these different tactics recognize this or not. The kind of violence and terror that has been aimed at abortion doctors and clinics is fueled and unleashed by those in the “mainstream” who equate fetuses with babies and abortion with murder (which, again, both Republicans and Democrats routinely do – think most recently of the Democratic support for the amendment in Mississippi which almost granted full “personhood” rights to all fertilized eggs!). And when clinics are burned or doctors are killed, these “mainstream” opponents of abortion can appear “reasonable” and less extreme in pushing forward measures which will have a much more lasting and horrendous impact on even greater numbers of women. 

The charred structure of the clinic in Pensacola, the shattered body of Emily Lyons (the nurse who was torn apart in the bombing of a clinic in Alabama), the assassinations of Dr. Gunn, Dr. Britton, Dr. Slepian and Dr. Tiller, the hatred and venom spewed at women who enter these clinics nation-wide is not different in any fundamental way from the violence that will be done and the oppressive terror that is being locked in place with every legal restriction on abortion.

Being forced to bear a child against your will is the enslavement of women. Bleeding to death from a perforated uterus because you cannot find access to a safe and legal abortion is just one result of this enslavement. Being arrested and held in jail for providing abortions to women in need – as has already happened now to several doctors legally – is the enforcement of this enslavement. Being arrested for self-inducing your own abortion – as has happened to women in several states, including very recently in New York City! – is more enforcement of this enslavement.

All of this is state-sponsored violence and it is just as damaging as any extra-legal violence against women and women’s clinics has been. The only difference is that it is viewed as “legitimate” by millions and it happens on a much grander scale!

Let the fire in Pensacola be a wake up call to us all. That, along with the countless other incidents of violence and terror against clinics and providers, is the true face of the anti-abortion movement.

Let the silence of both major ruling-class political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, about this terror – along with their continuous chipping away at this most fundamental right – confirm the need to rely on ourselves!

Without the right to decide for themselves when and whether to have a child, women cannot be free. If women are not free then no one is free.

There are millions of us. It’s time to stand up.

Join us and World Can’t Wait in DC on January 22nd for a program at Busboys & Poets for a panel, discussion and dinner on the anniversary of Roe V. Wade and join us on the steps of the Supreme Court to Stand Up For Abortion Rights in the face of the so-called “March 4 Life.” on January 23rd!!

Sunsara Taylor writes for Revolution Newspaper and is on the Advisory Board of World Can’t Wait.  follow Sunsara Taylor on twitter @sunsarataylor, friend her on facebook and add to your blogroll

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