Monday, June 29, 2009

More Hateful Rhetoric on O’Reilly – This Time, From Ann Coulter

It’s no surprise that Ann Coulter has chosen to join in on the disrespectful, detestable rhetoric anti-choice groups have adopted after Dr. Tiller’s murder, but it doesn’t make her comments any less infuriating. In a recent appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, Coulter, when questioned on her thoughts on the incident, stated, "I don't really like to think of it as a murder. It was terminating Tiller in the 203rd trimester." In an unsuccessful attempt to co-opt pro-choice values on privacy and individual autonomy, she went further, clarifying, "I am personally opposed to shooting abortionists, but I don't want to impose my moral values on others." This is ridiculous statement due to the fact that as someone who fully supports restricting women’s access to basic health care, Coulter absolutely wants to impose her beliefs on her on others.

This is a prime example of the unacceptable, hateful rhetoric the extreme right so often uses to express their opinions. These comments only serve to polarize pro-choice and anti-choice supporters in their dehumanizing nature and their biased interpretation of reality. Pundits like Coulter and O’Reilly should focus on the facts rather than getting a sensational quip on national television. O’Reilly appears flabbergasted that he’s been called on to take accountability for how the vitriol proliferated by his show influences the actions of extremists, but appears to have toned down his typical hate speech for this particular interview. Watch the clip below and judge for yourself. If you are as appalled at these comments are we are, don’t let voices like these be the only ones heard. Take action to support abortion providers by thanking them for their work to ensure women’s reproductive rights.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

After Tiller: What Will Happen To The Women?

by Nancy Keenan, NARAL Pro-Choice America
cross-posted at NPR

This central question haunted me Tuesday when I heard that Women's Health Care Services Inc., where Dr. George Tiller provided care to women for more than 30 years, would close permanently.

I can't imagine the pain Tiller's wife and children are experiencing. It is a sad day for our country when the very family members who stood by their husband and father as he endured countless attacks are forced — as a result of his murder — to make a decision to close the medical center that he fought so hard to protect.

I thought about Karen from Pennsylvania, who shared this comment on our blog: "Dr. Tiller, you saved my niece Jeanette's life, you helped our family through one of the darkest, most desperate and unthinkable moments we ever experienced. When we thought there was no where to turn, there you were."

Now only two providers in the country are able to help families like Karen's through similar tragic situations. These women often find out late in their pregnancy that something's gone wrong — and they have to make the most profoundly personal and difficult decision of their lives.

It is for these women that pro-abortion-rights Americans organized more than 50 vigils in Tiller's honor in 24 states. These Americans know that Tiller's murder is not an isolated incident. It is part of a pattern of harassment and intimidation designed to make it impossible for women to access the safe, legal abortion care they need.

These women's stories must not be forgotten as abortion opponents stand before television cameras to denounce Tiller's murder, while they continue to use inflammatory rhetoric that demonizes abortion providers in their anti-abortion propaganda.

Even before Tiller's murder, notorious anti-abortion blogger Jill Stanek told Newsweek that, after pro-abortion-rights gains in the 2008 elections, it was time for "guerrilla warfare" against abortion providers. Stanek last week posted the names and locations of two doctors who offer care to the women Tiller and his staff used to help.

The disdain and disrespect for women's health and privacy doesn't end there.

Troy Newman, the head of Operation Rescue, an organization that moved its headquarters to Wichita specifically to target Tiller's health center, told The Associated Press that his group "would love to make an offer for the property and that his group had discussed the idea."

Newman once again demonstrates how callous he is. The question isn't, "What will happen to the building?" It is, "What will happen to the women?"

Nancy Keenan at “Mainstreaming Extremism” Panel

Last week, NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan commented on the rise of violent rhetoric in right-wing media during a panel at the National Press Club hosted by Media Matters for America and moderated by Eric Boehlert. Watch the video below to see Nancy take on Bill O’Reilly and other notorious anti-choice figures, all of whom form what she called an “echo chamber” of hate speech that gives the most extreme element of the anti-choice movement license to act in violent ways.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mississippi Funds Abstinence Summit

As part of the $16 million of state funding dedicated to abstinence-only sex education, the Mississippi Department of Human Services recently sponsored a summit on abstinence that resembled a pep rally. At this summit, Soulja Boy’s “Crank Dat”, a song laced with sexual innuendos, was played, a middle school cheerleading squad promoted abstaining from sex through cheers, and a local reverend led prayers. In turn, the main speaker failed to discuss methods of birth control, commented that “[a] pregnant woman will rip the skin off your arm,” and mocked teenage girls calling his house in the early hours of the morning for his wife, a pregnancy crisis counselor.

The insufficiency of abstinence-only education can be seen clearly: Mississippi had the highest teen birth rate in the nation in 2009 and consistently ranks in the top five for rates of STI transmission. It is unacceptable that state funded programs like this are intentionally and unapologetically withholding potentially life saving measures from young people in an effort to further a religious agenda.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Continuing Intimidation by Anti-Choice Groups

In the aftermath of Dr. George Tiller’s murder, the future of Dr. Tiller’s clinic has come into question. On Tuesday, Dr. Tiller’s family announced the clinic will be permanently closed. For more than 35 years, Women’s Health Care Services, Inc. provided women from Wichita and around the world with high-quality abortion care. The murder of Dr. George Tiller has been a devastating loss not only for his family, but for abortion providers and countless women who relied on his clinic for care. We respect the family’s decision to close the clinic, and our hearts go out to them as they grieve during this very difficult time.

Operation Rescue president Troy Newman quickly and thoughtlessly responded with interest in buying the property and turning it into “a tribute for the babies,” arguing that the clinic “is hallowed ground” and comparing the site to Auschwitz. Bear in mind this is the same organization that claims it has no culpability in the harassment and eventual death of Dr. Tiller, despite laying siege to the clinic for several years and using inflammatory rhetoric such as “Tiller the Killer.”

This aggressive reaction is especially troubling considering reports from clinics that antiabortion harassment is escalating in the wake of the murder and claims by alleged killer Scott Roeder that more attacks are planned. Troy Newman and Operation Rescue’s disgusting comments, tactics, and responses to this tragedy continue to show that they are callous extremists. Check out Susan Hill of the National Women’s Health Organization discussing the clinic closure, the issue of clinic violence, and the safety of providers on The Rachel Maddow Show.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hateful Rhetoric Dehumanizes Providers

The murder of Dr. Tiller has catapulted abortion and all its surrounding issues of choice into the public consciousness, inciting numerous analyses from both sides of the abortion debate. Right-wing standbys like Bill O'Reilly deride Dr. Tiller and other abortion providers as "abortionists," a polarizing term. From the extremist end of the pro-life spectrum, abortion providers and pro-choice advocates are labeled "sinners," "baby killers," "monsters," "Nazis" and other dehumanizing terms.

As this post on Feministing's community blog points out, words do have power when extremists twist them to suit their agendas. As this post rightly points out, when you stop viewing people as humans it is easier to hate them. When you hate someone, it's easier to justify or commit violence against them. Some pro-choice analysts have followed this logic and speculate that vitriolic, dehumanizing language from mediums such as Fox News bears some responsibility for this heinous act. Whether or not hate speech directly incites violence, people on both sides of the abortion debate should be able to agree that inflammatory, dehumanizing rhetoric erodes any progress that might be made for “common ground .”

Fortunately, pro-choice advocates can wield the power of words for good.
Telling our own stories can inform our friends, family, neighbors and coworkers about the reality of abortion and women who have abortions. By refusing to stay silent, the pro-choice majority can raise their voices in solidarity to stand up to pro-life bullies and ensure the future of reproductive freedom.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Clinic Escort Training

The tragic murder of Dr. George Tiller is an important reminder that abortion providers and women seeking reproductive health care need on-the-ground support from the pro-choice community.

Clinics across Maryland are in need of peacekeeping escorts. Join NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force for a free training.

Escorts provide a peaceful and reassuring presence for patients, their companions, and staff outside clinics being harassed by anti-choice protesters. Escorting is an important way to support local abortion providers and the women who need their care.

At the training we will talk about clinic safety concerns and precautionary practices that protect against violence. WACTDF volunteers and clinic staff have not experienced violence at a Maryland clinic in over a decade.

Please join us at one of these two trainings and learn how to become a clinic escort.

Silver Spring Training:
Date: Monday, June 8
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Location: Silver Spring, MD
Accessible by Metro

Frederick Training:
Date: Wednesday, June 17
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Location: Frederick, MD

Note: Nearby clinics have a specific need for escorts.
Contact Melissa Kleder ( to RSVP or for more information.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Attitude is Everything

On Sunday we were shocked and horrified by the murder of Dr. George Tiller in his Wichita, Kansas church. While the shock has worn off, the horror is still here.

Dr. Tiller was continually harassed by abortion opponents for much of his career - his clinic was bombed, he was shot by an anti-choice extremist, and he was recently targeted for investigation only to be acquitted by a jury this spring. But none of this stopped Dr. Tiller from providing needed abortion care to women from all over the country.

I am fortunate to have met Dr. Tiller and his amazing staff several times. I have a button from his clinic that says “Trust Women.” If women were trusted to make decisions about their reproductive health, they would be able to get health care without fear of violence, harassment, or intimidation.

Dr. Tiller had another button that he gave out – it said “Attitude is everything.” He an amazing attitude and generosity of spirit despite the adversity he faced on a regular basis. His death is an enormous loss to the pro-choice community and women everywhere.

There are dozens of news articles and analyses about this terrible tragedy. Here are some of the pieces we have been reading:

Rachel Maddow discussing
the obstacles to obtaining an abortion in many parts of the country and an interview with Dr. Susan Wicklund, an abortion provider who knew Dr. Tiller.

“Where Will Women Go Now?” discusses the important care that Dr. Tiller provided.

“Slaying Raises Fears on Both Sides of Abortion Debate” contains today’s coverage from the Washington Post.

NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland Statement on George Tiller

“We are shocked and horrified by the murder of Dr. George Tiller in his Wichita, Kansas church,” said Jennifer Blasdell, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland. “Dr. Tiller provided needed abortion care to women from all over the country. He never wavered in his dedication to provide compassionate and high quality services despite being a constant target of violence and harassment. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Tiller’s family, friends, and clinic staff.”

“We call on opponents of a woman’s right to choose to unequivocally condemn acts of violence against abortion providers. Abortion providers in Maryland and across the country work every day to ensure that women have access to safe and legal abortion care. Acts of violence and intimidation directed toward abortion providers, their staff, their patients, and their families must end.”