Catholics Working to Make “Pro-Life” Less of an Oxymoron

It’s been a busy seven days in abortion-related news, even in light of the recent 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. A new abortion clinic is preparing to open in the space previously occupied by Dr. George Tiller’s clinic. Arizona state Rep. Cathrynn Brown introduced a bill that would charge pregnant rape survivors that terminated their pregnancies with “tampering with evidence.” Reliably conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat tried to make the case that focusing on pregnant women was “too simplistic” when talking about abortion. And a group of Catholic nuns, priests, and scholars spoke out about the need for Catholics that call themselves “pro-life” to support gun control.

While the Wichita news is encouraging, the Douthat op-ed unsurprising, and the Arizona news infuriating—can someone explain just why politicians in that state hate women so much?—it’s this last item that really jumped out in a crowded week. Frankly, I’m impressed that a number of high-profile Catholics are finally making it plain that if you claim to care about one aspect of life, you should logically care about all aspects.

After all, if you just care about life insofar as it exists in a woman’s uterus, that’s a pretty limited view. And that’s also not really being “pro-life”—it’s more accurately being “pro-fetus,” or “pro-birth.” Which is a very limited viewpoint, as it ignores what happens to people after they are born and able to live independently in the world. [Read more...]

Three Years Later: More of the Same?

Three years after Dr. George Tiller’s assassination, anti-abortion extremists are as brazen as ever. Should we be surprised? The far right is dreaming up new, more harrowing ways to restrict a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy every day. Last week, the targets were distant cities and reasons that are rare, if not imaginary.  The best that can be said about these efforts is that they are legal. The same can’t be said for three attacks against reproductive health care facilities last week.

On May 24, Women With a Vision (WWAV), a New Orleans advocacy organization that provides health care and other support for poor women of color, was the victim of arson. Earlier the same day, a fire broke out at a Cobb County obstetrics and gynecology office near Marietta, Georgia, the second fire of questionable origin at a Georgia clinic that week.

The FBI is investigating these cases, and at the moment, it hasn’t determined whether they are related. Georgia officials haven’t yet identified arson as the cause of the two fires. While I am grateful that law enforcement is held to a higher standard of proof than me, I have no doubt that these events are not only related to each other, but to the current political climate, where the preponderence of anti-abortion legislation has effectively made very restrictive views about abortion into a new normal.

So where is the outrage? I scour the headlines every day (with the help of an alert or two), and I would not have heard about these clinic attacks if not for Democracy Now!‘s piece on the anniversary of Dr. Tiller’s assassination. (I know we’re supposed to be jaded up here in New York City, but the Times is writing its own embarrassing obituary when not one of these incidents has warranted a mention in its pages.) [Read more...]

Three Years Later

Abortion Gang and the Provider Project are honoring Dr. Tiller by collecting blog posts from around the internetSubmit yours.

Rep. Trent Franks recently made news for his crusade to ban abortion after 20 weeks in the District of Columbia. While Franks’ action is particularly brazen because the Arizona Congressman was not elected to represent the women of D.C., he was really just jumping on a growing anti-choice trend of restricting when women can legally terminate their pregnancies. Franks’ home state currently has the most draconian law in effect, decreeing that any abortion after 20 weeks gestation – which the state is defining as the 18th week of pregnancy – is illegal in Arizona.

When Dr. George Tiller was assassinated in his church three years ago, many people, both in the pro-choice movement and the country at large, feared for the safety of abortion providers. There was so much talk about how providers – and their families, and their patients, and their clinic staffs – deserve to be able to live their lives without concern that a violent extremist will decide that it somehow makes sense to kill in the name of the “pro-life” cause. There was also a lot of talk about the role of late-term providers in general: how vital their work is, and to what extent Dr. Tiller’s murder might prevent other doctors from providing this service. But I don’t think anyone was seriously talking about the possibility that late-term abortions themselves might just be legislated out of existence. That seemed too brazen an assault against Roe v. Wade to even consider, too direct a strike against women’s rights and privacy and autonomy.

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Tonight: Watch Rachel Maddow Narrate “The Assassination of Dr. Tiller” On MSNBC

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Tonight, MSNBC will air an hour long documentary about last year’s slaying of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller.

As I’m sure you remember, Scott Roeder walked into Dr. Tiller’s house of worship and shot him in cold blood, claiming that it was to protect the lives of unborn children. The documentary will feature never before seen footage of Roeder and people close to him, including his ex-wife Lindsey, who will detail his spiral from anti-abortion advocate to murderer.

“The Assassination of Dr. Tiller” will also include interviews with nurses in Tiller’s clinic, and most importantly, the singling out of Operation Rescue as an inciting force in Tiller’s murder. If you read Feminists For Choice often, you’ve probably seen the blogs about Operation Rescue leadership – Randall Terry, Cheryl Sullenger (who has unique ties to Scott Roeder and the murder of Dr. Tiller), and others. I urge you to read up on these posts before you watch this documentary.

Check out this trailer of the documentary from The Maddow Blog. After the show has aired, please come back and leave your thoughts and comments on this thread. We’d love to have a good discussion about the documentary and the case.

Most importantly, though, we’d love to have a discussion about the rampant harm that Operation Rescue is causing. This quote, from Shelly Sella, one of Dr. Tiller’s fellow doctors, sums up exactly why we need to have discussion about these groups and their hate-filled rhetoric:

“The anti-abortionists who don’t carry guns definitely incite the ones who do,”


Operation Rescue: Cheryl Sullenger and Scott Roeder

Before Cheryl Sullenger became Operation Rescue’s senior policy advisor, she was perhaps best known for trying to bomb an abortion clinic in the 1980s. Sullenger and her husband pled guilty to conspiring to blow up the Southern California clinic; Sullenger served two years in prison. Five co-conspirators were convicted as well, and given sentences ranging from 149 days to five years.

Sullenger has been relatively under the radar in the years since her stint in prison, but last summer her phone number was found in Scott Roeder’s car after he was arrested for murdering Dr. George Tiller. The Wichita-based Sullenger denied any knowledge of Roeder’s plans, but later admitted that she gave Roeder information concerning Dr. Tiller’s court dates and hearings. Roeder claimed that he spoke with Sullenger and Troy Newman in 2002 about “justifiable homicide,” and that he visited OR’s headquarters shortly before killing Tiller. [Read more...]

In Memorium: The Tiller Round Up

May 31st marks the anniversary of the murder of Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider from Kansas. Here are some of the many posts that have been written about Dr. Tiller here on Feminist For Choice, as well as across the pro-choice blogosphere.

George Tiller: A Man at the Front Lines – Feminists For Choice
Remembering Dr. Tiller – Feminists For Choice
Debating the Definition of Terrorism – Feminists For Choice
Not a Lone Wolf – Ms. Magazine
When a Lone Wolf is Not Alone – Daily Kos

It’s kind of ironic that this anniversary falls on Memorial Day this year, a day typically reserved for those who have been killed while serving in the military. I don’t want to militarize the discussion, but the fact of the matter is that abortion providers are literally on the front lines of a culture war. Doctors should have to risk their lives in order to provide medical care to women – it’s just ridiculous.

One Year Later

I remember exactly where I was when I found out that Dr. George Tiller had been murdered. I remember what I said to my husband, and I remember calling my parents and sister and sitting on my couch restlessly channel-surfing between CNN and MSNBC while refreshing the New York Times website on my laptop. I craved information, details, concrete words to attempt to make sense out of something so incredibly unreal. One year later, it still seems unreal.

The other night I was making dinner and thinking about how it’s been almost twelve months and I realized that this loss is too big and far-reaching to ever make sense. Dr. Tiller is gone. Say the words again: Dr. Tiller is gone. And think of the reason why: because he helped women and families. How can that ever make sense? It can’t, and it shouldn’t. I’ve been struggling to write this post, but honestly, the words are escaping me.

The death of Dr. Tiller has left such a huge hole that will never fully close, it hurts to even think about. My heart goes out to his family, to his staff, to all the women whose lives he saved. Dr. Tiller’s courage, his compassion, and his dedication to helping others is a constant inspiration to all of us in the pro-choice community to keep working, to keep fighting, and to never give up. [Read more...]

It’s Our Anniversary

Feminists For Choice has been around for a full year. When we launched the site on June 1st of last year, we didn’t know in advance how fortuitous the timing would be. The site had been in the works for a few months. And then Dr. George Tiller was killed on May 31, 2009. Dr. Tiller’s death was certainly a wake up call for many of us. If there is one positive side to his murder, I guess you could say that it motivated many pro-choice supporters to become pro-choice activists.

We’ve had a lot of great posts on the site this year. The top 10 posts in terms of traffic are listed in the middle column. Some of my favorites have been about porn, pro-choice dudes, and clinic escorts. We also hosted choice chats with Gloria Feldt and Carol Adams. We’re hoping to bring you some more in the year to come.

Feminists For Choice has started a new feature called “Feminist Conversations.” We’re talking to pro-choice feminists around the country to find out what rock stars like yourself are doing with your feminist energies. Last week we featured Kamy Shaw, an utterly fabulous midwife from New Mexico who really just kicks major feminist booty. If you’d like to see yourself featured in the column, please send an e-mail to We’d love to find out what types of activism you’re up to in your neck of the woods.

Well, that’s basically the past year in a nutshell for ya. Many thanks to all of our writers for providing such excellent content for the site. And thanks to all our friends on Twitter for helping us grow. Happy Anniversary, and thanks for reading!

Remembering Dr. Tiller

Today is a good day.  Scott Roeder–the man who, in cold blood and with years of  premeditation–walked into a church and shot Dr. George Tiller in the head–was convicted of first degree murder charges. After only 37 minutes of deliberation, the jury in the case sent an unequivocal message:  there is no level of disagreement with someone that justifies killing them in cold blood.

Like many people, particularly people committed to ensuring that women have access to safe, legal abortion and family planning services, I am celebrating Mr. Roeder’s conviction and looking forward to the day when he is sentenced for his crimes.

But, even as I am thrilled with the outcome of his trial, I think Mr. Roeder is getting way too much attention today.  I am happy he was convicted but I am still mourning the loss of Dr. Tiller–a man who dedicated thirty years of his life to women’s health.  Despite having his clinic bombed, despite having been shot in both arms in 1993 (by another anti-choice zealot), Dr. Tiller continued his practice.  He chose not to let the daily threats, the attempts on his life, the violence with which his foes confronted him on a regular basis, deter him from providing LEGAL and necessary medical care.

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Judge Rules Out Voluntary Manslaughter in the Tiller Case

Some excellent pro-choice news to kick start your weekend…

You can breathe a sigh of relief, because after all that worry, it turns out Scott Roeder will not be given a chance at a lesser charge in the murder of Dr. George Tiller. After the defense rested its case Thursday, the judge ruled that the jury cannot consider a voluntary manslaughter charge, which Kansas law defines as “an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force” and carries a slim four-to-six-year sentence. [Read more...]