Monday, June 1, 2009

Charlotte Taft, Friend of Dr. George Tiller, Writes: This Was A Mob Hit

(George Tiller, MD)

Charlotte Taft, Friend of Dr. George Tiller, Writes: This Was A Mob Hit

In November 2008, we published here an essay sent to me by Charlotte Taft in the post If You're A Feminist, You'll Vote Obama. At that time, I introduced her as: "Charlotte Taft is what I think of as a Feminist's Feminist. She is particularly well-known and respected in Texas because she founded the Routh Street Women's Clinic, the first feminist reproductive rights clinic in our state. Routh Street became known, under her leadership, as a place where the whole woman was treated, where abortion was approached as the complicated and life-altering decision that it is without judgment or denial. With her efficient pragmatism and creative humor, she managed to dissuade Operation Rescue and other hate groups from keeping Routh Street Clinic as its number one target."

Tonight I received an e-mail from her which read "I was stunned this morning to have someone telling me of the murder of my longtime friend and colleague Dr. George Tiller. I have come to believe that the only useful response is one that is in our own hands -- hence my essay. Please share it if it speaks to you."

It did speak to me. I share it with you below.

This morning a friend of mine -- a wonderful man I have known for thirty years -- was shot and killed. He was executed -- shot at point blank range while ushering in his church. This was not a robbery -- not a domestic dispute -- not an accident -- not a surprising act of violence. This was a mob hit.

The man, Dr. George Tiller, had been shot before -- and his offices vandalized and bombed more times than I can count. He had been vilified and demonized and mercilessly attacked, and through it all he never wavered in his commitment to serving his patients -- the women who for myriad reasons needed the later term abortions that were not available anywhere but at his Kansas clinic. George and his staff reminded patients of their goodness -- he valued family and love. In my visits to his center my foremost memory is of the thousands of letters of gratitude he received from women whose lives he saved literally and figuratively. It was George who said, “To understand abortion you must understand the heart of a woman.” He was a rare and generous man, and one of a kind.

The mob in question has long been known for its brutality -- for past murders, bullying, stalking, domestic terrorism, kidnapping, vandalism, intimidation, and emotional blackmail. Yet this mob hides behind religion and behind respectable churchgoing people. This mob does the dirty work for the nice people. This time, as every past time, the nice people will say that they didn’t know about it, or have anything to do with it. Yet they created the atmosphere that allowed George Tiller’s death as surely as if they had pulled the trigger themselves.

In my grief and anger this morning I want to find some way to wake this country up to the fact that these are the people who are supposed to be so reasonable. But their idea of compromise is for everyone to obey them!

The middle ground in abortion is LEAVE ME ALONE TO FOLLOW MY OWN CONSCIENCE! Pro-choice IS ALREADY the middle ground.

I got a note from George Tiller dated 5/13/09. “Charlotte -- We have come a long way!!! Sometimes it seems as if we are back at the beginning. Thank you for your love and support throughout these decades.” His words echoed the fears of many of us who provide abortion services -- that we are once again in a Twilight Zone in which brutality, murder, bullying, stalking, domestic terrorism, kidnapping, vandalism, intimidation, and emotional blackmail are rewarded with respect and treated with kid gloves. I have been an abortion counselor for more than thirty years. I have already lived through murders of my friends and colleagues and the violence against doctors and clinics across the country. I have watched as the police allowed my colleagues to be overrun by whomever held up the biggest cross. A small number of people, no matter how dedicated, makes an easy target.

I believe that we abortion providers have made a fatal mistake. We have stood between the millions of women in this country who have had abortions, and the vicious, righteous, hypocritical terrorists that make up the anti abortion movement. We positioned ourselves as the guard of women’s freedom, dignity, and integrity, but in our wish to protect our patients we have forgotten that it is their freedom we fight for. We have turned ourselves inside out and in many ways sacrificed our lives to protect the most fundamental and primitive and basic freedom of all -- the freedom to decide when and if to bring children into the world. More than 45 million women have had legal abortions in this country, yet we have guarded their secrets and their voices are not heard. This latest murder screams to us that, as the gay right movement taught us, silence equals death.

I call upon my colleagues for a new order. We can no longer collude in the shame and silence that the anti abortion forces have laid upon women like a pall. As every other group who treasures freedom we must break open that silence. We must do it in honor of the values we stand for -- and in honor of our fallen heroes.

~~Charlotte Taft, 31 May 2009

ADDENDUM: This post has generated a great deal of response, and I'm grateful to Charlotte for once again having her finger on the pulse of the human spirit. I agree wholeheartedly with her basic message, that we need to strip shame and silence from the decision of a woman or girl to have an abortion. Toward that end, I want to direct your attention toward a brilliant post by Tata at Poor Impulse Control which is a reply to this post, No Other Troy For Me To Burn. Telling our own stories is, as always, an act of extraordinary empowerment.

(Quote from Audre Lorde.)