How An Abortion Provider's Murder Was Enabled & Incited

In May 2009, Scott Roeder murdered late-term abortion provider George Tiller. Last night, a Rachel Maddow-produced and narrated documentary aired on MSNBC, and went a little deeper on the two men — and the hate-filled movement behind Roeder.


The entire documentary, The Assassination Of Doctor Tiller, is online here, but here are some highlights. We get to glimpse the man whose life was tragically ended and his straightforward determination, including coming to work the day after he was shot and putting up a sign outside his clinic that said, "Women need abortions, and I'm going to do them."

Operation Rescue embarked on a campaign of harassment against the clinic, bullying local vendors and dropping photos of bloodied fetuses off at the homes of clinic workers' neighbors.

Their names and photographs were published on various anti-choice websites. Then Bill O'Reilly started in on the incitement:

He went on to call Dr. Tiller "Baby Killer" 28 times before Scott Roeder pulled the trigger. The last line of the film is an anti-choice activist saying calmly that it's on to "the next villain."

Although Operation Rescue officially distances itself from violence committed against doctors and clinic workers, the subjects interviewed in the documentary point out more than once that the dehumanization and violent rhetoric practiced by such groups is also a form of incitement. This morning, some pro-choice advocates expressed gratitude to Maddow for the film but wished the film had gone even further in making those connections. Says Jodi Jacobson at Reproductive Health Reality Check,

The documentary did not delve very deeply into why earlier reports to authorities including the FBI of Roeder's activities and those of other violent anti-choicers were not followed up. It did not tie together in this specific documentary the earlier information provided on the Maddow show of "wanted posters" being circulated now, as we speak, in other states by anti-choicers targeting doctors in much the same way Dr. Tiller was targeted before he was killed in cold blood in his church. It did not explore the failures before the murder of the government (including but not limited to the Obama Administration) to enforce the FACE Act, or the lame response by the Administration or Congress to Dr. Tiller's murder. And it did not draw the links effectively to what is now underway in the political sphere with regard to extremist views held by members of the Tea Party and by Republicans running for office [on reproductive choice].

A good place to start in making those further connections is reading this Ms. investigation debunking the "Lone Wolf" theory of Tiller's murderer.

The Assassination Of Doctor Tiller [MSNBC]
Reflections on Maddow's "The Assassination of Doctor Tiller" [RH Reality Check]
Related: Not A Lone Wolf [Ms.]


A Small Turnip

I recently encountered these kinds of vile anti-choice protests for the first time (I'm from the UK, and am also notoriously unobservant), and was utterly sickened and shocked by them. It was at the beautiful Common Ground agricultural fair here in Maine, and outside the entrance, the road was littered with people carrying enormous poster-sized pictures of aborted fetuses, and signs saying that people who terminate their pregnancies will go to hell. At first, I thought it was a joke, or a parody of some kind. I thought, people don't really do this sort of thing, do they? At an organic fair? Apparently they do. And there's something so unsettling about seeing these people in action that it's nearly impossible to communicate. As someone who's been able to take her reproductive freedom as a given, I'm don't think I fully realised how viscerally despicable these people are, and how genuinely frightening.

They are frightening. Even as a person with little fear of eternal damnation, and with all kinds of resources to call upon should I become pregnant, their rage and hollow stares made even me feel intimidated and shaken. For someone without those things, without money, and without any options, the anti-choice activists aren't cultural curiosities, they're active threats to their lives.

I'm very grateful for people like Dr. Tiller. I wish I could do more to help.