The AP is reporting that Nebraska doctor LeRoy Carhart (pictured) will step in to fill Dr. George Tiller's shoes, but the threat that anti-abortion group Operation Rescue will buy Tiller's clinic is unfortunately very, very real.
Carhart, a longtime colleague of Tiller's who also performed abortions at Tiller's clinic, currently works in Nebraska but said he would start providing late-term abortions in Kansas. He declined to discuss the details of his plan, but he did say of late-term abortions, "if I have to train the staff and if I have to do them, then that's certainly an option."
Meanwhile, Operation Rescue's plan to buy Tiller's Wichita Clinic, which Tiller's lawyer Dan Monnat dismissed as a stunt, may be much more than that. Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones explains that the anti-choice organization previously bought a Wichita clinic — now its national headquarters — through a front group. That means, "if Tiller's family puts the building on the market, they might have to sell to someone they know or closely investigate the buyer to keep the building out of [Operation Rescue's] hands."
As Tiller's supporters wrestle with these concerns, others discuss who should bear the blame for Tiller's death, and what that blame should look like. Some are calling Scott Roeder a terrorist, and asking that he be charged with domestic terrorism. Joe Conason of Truthdig writes,
Although an overwhelming majority of abortion opponents bear no responsibility for the doctor's murder and should feel free to exercise their constitutional freedoms to the fullest extent, there is a violent fringe on the far right that has earned the designation of terrorist. And the federal government is responsible for ensuring our safety from those menacing forces.
According to feminist blogger Lindsay Beyerstein on the Huffington Post, however, Roeder is unlikely to face terrorism charges. She says,
That designation would unleash vast federal powers to investigate large swathes of the radical anti-choice movement and hold accountable anyone who gives them the slightest aid and comfort. The feds are simply not prepared for the political fallout that would ensue if, say, Operation Rescue were officially designated as a terrorist organization.
Although Gene Lyons in Salon calls Roeder "a classic Midwestern lone demento," he also cites some of the forces that egged him on. According to Lyons, Bill O'Reilly compared Tiller to Hitler, Stalin, and Osama bin Laden. He also said,
If I could get my hands on Tiller. Well, you know. Can't be vigilantes. Can't do that. It's just a figure of speech. But despicable? Oh, my God. Oh, it doesn't get worse.
This kind of rhetoric didn't kill Tiller, but it certainly made it easier for someone like Roeder to actually become a vigilante, and to feel that powerful people in the antiabortion movement were at least tacitly on his side.
Dr. William Harrison, himself called "Dr. Satan" by antiabortion protesters, has a moving tribute to Dr. Tiller in the Arkansas Times. At its conclusion, he writes,
A common pious remark among many on the Religious Right whose activities incited the murder of Dr. George Tiller is, 'He sowed the wind and now he has reaped the whirlwind.'
Federal, state and local governments, in allowing the religious terrorists - as dangerous as those who kill in the name of Islam - to continue their attacks on Dr. George Tiller, his staff and his patients and their families for the past 22 years are the ones who have 'sown the wind.' Now, unless there is government action on all levels, many more of us will 'reap the whirlwind.'
Let's hope the government action Harrison calls for actually happens, so that no other doctors have to face Tiller's fate.
Neb. Doc Plans To Offer 3rd-Term Abortions In Kan. [AP, via Yahoo News]
Why Is Tiller's Alleged Killer Doing Press Conferences? [Salon]
Will George Tiller's Murder Be Charged As Terrorism? [Utne Reader]
The Story Behind Operation Rescue's Plans to Buy Tiller's Clinic [Mother Jones]
‘Dr. Satan, Come Out!' [Arkansas Times]
Domestic Terrorism By Any Standard [Truthdig]
Weekly Pulse: Will the Feds Dare Call it Terrorism? [Huffington Post]