Monday, June 8, 2009

Domestic Terror on the Rise

By Stacie Murphy

My heart sank yesterday when I heard the news about the murder of Dr. George Tiller, the Kansas ob-gyn who was one of the country’s few remaining providers of late-term abortion services. I was sick, and I was stunned. But I wasn’t really surprised.

Only a few weeks ago the Department of Homeland Security released a report highlighting an increased risk of domestic terror attacks from right-wing groups. The report specifically mentioned fanatical choice opponents as potential perpetrators. After an outcry from the right, political pressure forced DHS to retract the report and issue an apology. It turns out the agency’s fears were well founded. The alleged shooter appears to have longtime ties to both separatist militia movements and to Operation Rescue, the radical anti-choice group famous for publishing the personal information of abortion providers on its website.

Dr. Tiller was no stranger to these kinds of attacks. He was shot and wounded in 1993, and his clinic had been a target of bombings, vandalism, and other threats for over two decades. In the last month, Dr. Tiller had asked law enforcement for additional security, citing increasing harassment and threats. His constant vigilance and careful security measures were not enough, however. Yesterday morning, a man entered the lobby of the church where Tiller was serving as an usher and shot him dead.

There can be no debate: the murder of George Tiller was a terrorist attack. The aim was not merely to stop Dr. Tiller, but to send a message to other doctors and choice advocates: believe as we do, or die.

Along with every other choice advocate in the country, I am grieving today. I mourn for a man who braved violence, intimidation and threats to stand up for the rights of women in the most vulnerable time in their lives. I sorrow for the wife, four children, and ten grandchildren Dr. Tiller leaves behind. And I am heartbroken to be reminded yet again, and in such a tragic way, that our fight for reproductive autonomy is not over.

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