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The Murder of Dr. Tiller, a Foreshadowing

Cristina Page

For those who would like to think today's murder in church of Dr.
George Tiller, an abortion provider, is an isolated incident, here's
the horrifying news: You are wrong. The pattern is clear and

In March 1993, three months into the administration of our first
pro-choice president, Bill Clinton, abortion provider Dr. David Gunn
was murdered in Pensacola, Florida. That was the beginning of what
would become a five-fold increase in violence against abortion
providers throughout the Clinton years.

Today's assassination of Dr. George Tiller comes 5 months into the
term of our second pro-choice president. For anyone who would like to
believe that this is a statistical anomaly, a coincidence that doesn't
portend anything, again, you are wrong.

During the entire Bush administration, from 2000-2008 there were no murders.

During the Clinton era, between 1994-2000 there were 6 abortion
providers and clinic staff murdered, and 17 attempted murders of
abortion providers. There were 12 bombings or arsons during the Clinton

During the Bush administration, not only were there no murders,
there were no attempted murders. There was one clinic bombing during
the Bush years.

One can only conclude that like terrorist sleeper cells, these
extremists have now been set in motion. Indeed the evidence is already
there. The chatter, the threats, the hate-filled rhetoric are abundant.

In the last year of the Bush administration there were 396 harassing
calls to abortion clinics. In just the first four months of the Obama
administration that number has jumped to 1401.

And so the execution of Tiller, 67, is not only tragic but ominous.
He was born into an era when being an abortion provider meant saving
women's lives. And the cold-blooded murder in church and in front of
his wife of this stalwart defender of women rights and beloved
physician, comes as a message for others, as well as tragic deja vu.

Battered women are at greatest danger of being killed by their
abusers when they are most strong -- that is, when they muster the
courage to leave. The same phenomenon may be true in the abusive
political abortion debate. The pro-choice movement, specifically our
abortion providers, are in the greatest danger of violence when we take
power. When the anti-abortion movement loses power, their most extreme
elements appear to move to the fore and take control. The murder of Dr.
Tiller suggests that violence against abortion providers may be far
more linked to the power, or lack thereof, anti-abortion groups have
politically than to laws designed to increase penalties against such

History has another disturbing lesson for us. The escalation of
anti-abortion rhetoric plays a direct role in instigating violence.
When anti-abortion groups ratchet up the rhetoric, they know exactly
what they're doing and the results it will have. Even if they maintain
deniability, as Operation Rescue recently did saying, in effect, we
wanted Tiller gone, but didn't want him murdered, they have inflamed
the rhetoric. And suddenly people Like Dr. Tiller's murderer become

Eleanor Bader, author of Targets of Hatred: Anti-Abortion Terrorism, in an article
in March for about clinics bracing for an uptick in
violence after the election of Obama wrote, "immediately after Obama's
election, Douglas Johnson, Legislative Director of the National Right
to Life Committee, called him a "hardcore pro-abortion president." The
American Life League dubbed him "one of the most radical pro-abortion
politicians ever," and Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life warned
that Obama will "force Americans to pay for the killing of innocents."
Americans United for Life, the Family Research Council and Operation
Save America quickly joined the chorus."

Bader interviewed clinic staff -- many seeing a direct relationship
between the pro-choice victory in November and increased aggression
against them and their patients. Claire Keyes, of Allegheny
Reproductive Health in Pittsburgh, explained:

Right after the election we saw a small upsurge in
anti-abortion activity. But since the inauguration, things have gotten
measurably worse. There's been an increase in picketing by students
from Franciscan University in Ohio. On Saturdays there are 60-plus
protesters and there's been an increase in screaming and aggression. We
don't have a parking lot so people park on the street. The antis have
surrounded cars, trapping the women inside, and in several cases the
antis jumped into vehicles and touched or grabbed at them. The police
were called but so far they don't seem to be responding appropriately.

Bader also quotes Elizabeth Barnes, Executive Director of the
Philadelphia Women's Center, who explained, "When the pendulum swung in
the direction of protecting women's rights, we expected something. The
way the antis are reacting has changed, they're taking more liberties,
pressing the boundaries of legal, civil protest."

Many in the pro-choice movement believed that the Freedom of Access
to Clinic Entrances (FACE) law, passed in 1994 in response to Gunn's
murder, was responsible for reigning in violence against abortion
providers. Clearly that is not the case. Based on statistics
on violence against abortion providers compiled by the National
Abortion Federation, even after the passage of FACE in 1994, there was
still considerable violence and threats against clinic personnel,
including six murders. As appears clear, the pro-choice movement has
looked through rose-colored glasses, assuming or hoping that legalities
can restrain terrorists.

In fact, it didn't abate after FACE, as we've seen. It was not until
a comforting anti-abortion president did they calm down and stop the
murder, bombing and harassment spree.

As we are witnessing now, Bush policies resulted in a surge in abortions.
That has failed to inspire introspection from anti-abortion groups.
That Clinton presided over the most dramatic decline in abortion rates
in the recorded history of our country left them unmoved. That Obama
has assigned his senior-most staff to the task of finding ways to
reduce the need for abortion has not protected clinics nor providers
nor Obama. Holder and his Justice Department should take note of the
chatter and move aggressively against this form of domestic terrorism.
The hate-filled rhetoric against Obama from the anti-abortion movement
is at unprecedented levels, even for this reflexively inflammatory
group. They refer to him as the "Most Pro-Abortion President Ever"
ignoring the fact that he is the first to extend an olive branch in
hopes that together we can make abortion more rare.

Anti-abortion groups will put out carefully worded press statements
condemning the murder of Dr. Tiller, as became routine for them during
the Clinton years. But unless the rhetoric they choose from now on
becomes careful too -- they may be the enablers of murder and terror.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Cristina Page

Cristina Page

Cristina Page is a prominent reproductive rights activist and author of "How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics and the War on Sex" and spokesperson for

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