Two years ago yesterday, Dr. George Tiller was shot point-blank in his church and died instantly at the hands of a religious zealot with ties to the anti-abortion movement. "Dr. George Tiller was murdered ... by an anti-abortion extremist whose goal was to make abortion less available," noted Rachel Maddow last night. "And today, two years later, there is no abortion-provider in Wichita," where Tiller maintained his practice.
As I've written here previously, anti-abortion violence is a persistent thread in the movement's history -- one that the movement and its leaders should be called to examine, explain and address. The threat of assassination continues to loom over those who provide women's healthcare. Just last week, another would-be crusader was arrested in Wisconsin, where, armed with maps and a .38-caliber handgun, he planned to execute doctors and nurses serving at the Madison Planned Parenthood clinic.
Marie Diamond observes at ThinkProgress that such extremists "are getting considerable help from their friends in politics."
Congress is trying to prevent doctors from learning how to perform life-saving abortion procedures that are often necessary when women have incomplete miscarriages. This year, Republicans in South Carolina, Nebraska, and Iowa have pushed legislation that would essentially legalize the murder of abortion providers. If passed, these bills would protect vigilantes and constitute the first instances of state-sanctioned anti-abortion terrorism. Such radical sentiments have been echoed by prominent conservatives on the national stage like Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who said during his 2004 campaign, “I favor the death penalty for abortionists.” When it comes to the modern anti-abortion lobby, it seems no position is too extreme.
Not only are the courageous folks at Planned Parenthood braving the threat of violence daily, but they are fighting back against these unjust intrusions into the practice of medicine. Just last week, Planned Parenthood filed suit in South Dakota to enjoin a law there requiring a 72-hour waiting period and anti-abortion "counseling" at a "crisis-pregnancy center" before being granted access to an abortion. According to Sarah Stoesz, CEO of the local Planned Parenthood affiliate, "This law goes farther than any other in the country in intruding on the doctor-patient relationship, and putting women and families at risk."