Revolution #169, June 28, 2009
Reporter's Notebook from Wichita
June 20, 2009: Two weeks ago I along with many others including Sunsara Taylor, writer for Revolution, and Debra Sweet (Director of World Can't Wait) came to Wichita, Kansas to attend the funeral of a very courageous and brave man, Dr. George Tiller. Dr. Tiller, who was one of only three doctors in the country who publicly provided late term abortions to women, was dedicated and passionate about saving women's lives. His view of abortion was that this is about women's lives, their hopes and dreams—and that without this right their lives would be shipwrecked. He was known for wearing a button that said "Trust Women." For decades he was one of the main targets of the Christian fascist anti-abortion, anti-women movement that gets leadership from and has ties to powerful forces in the ruling class. This meant that death threats, harassment, vandalism, rabid picketers, baseless lawsuits were a part of Tiller's daily life. When his clinic was bombed in 1986, Dr. Tiller responded by making a homemade sign saying "Hell, no, we won't go" and posting it on what was left of the building, showing his resolve to rebuild and continue to provide abortion services. In 1991, his clinic was under total siege by the anti-abortionists for 47 days in what they called the "Summer of Mercy." In 1993, he was shot in both arms by Shelly Shannon who identified with the extreme Christian Fascist group called the Army of God. Showing his determination and courage, Dr. Tiller returned to work the next day!
George Tiller never backed down and on Sunday, May 31, 2009 he was murdered by an anti-abortion assassin. (More on Dr. Tiller and the morality and science of abortion at every stage of pregnancy, see Revolution newspaper issue #168)
I have returned to Wichita to distribute and report for Revolution newspaper, interview people, investigate and assess the polarization here among different sections of people; and boldly spread the scientific understanding that women are not incubators, fetuses are not babies, and abortion is not murder.
A few days before I got here I heard that Troy Newman, the Christian fascist Director of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, and Pat Mahoney, director of the Washington DC based Christian Defense Coalition, called for a protest—two weeks to the day from the funeral—at Dr. George Tiller's clinic (which has been closed by Tiller's family). This disgusting move was meant to further spread the lie that fetuses are babies and that therefore Dr. Tiller was a "baby killer." (For a scientific discussion of why fetuses are NOT babies checkout the centerfold of Revolution #166).
These plans by the anti-abortionists in Wichita infuriated and angered many people. Right away, the National Organization for Women (NOW) in Wichita called for a counter-protest. After pro-choice forces made it clear that they were not going to let the anti-abortionists protest at Tiller's clinic unopposed, the Christian Fascists backed down and changed the location of their protest. It was a very good thing that the anti-abortionists were not able to demonstrate at Tiller's clinic. A woman at the NOW orientation meeting the night before said that when she heard that Operation Rescue was going to Tiller's clinic it was as though she was getting raped.
The anti-abortionists had their ugly protest at the Wichita headquarters of Operation Rescue (this building used to be an abortion provider clinic and Troy Newman bought it a couple of years ago). About 25-30 anti-abortionists, half of them youth, laid flowers in the front of their building, and then walked to a nearby hospital to "celebrate the birth of babies and mourn for the women who were taken there after having botched abortions."
Meanwhile the the pro-choice forces stayed most of the afternoon, through a torrential downpour, at Tiller's clinic to protect it in case any anti-abortionists showed up.
I've only been here a day, but have already had lots of very interesting conversations. In the next few weeks I'll be adding to this Reporter's Notebook from Wichita, including interviews with many different kinds of people. These will be posted up at revcom.us.
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