An Open Letter to President Obama Regarding Dr. Tiller's Murder

This wasn't even the first attempt on Dr. Tiller's life; it was the merely the first successful one.

Dear President Obama,

As you have no doubt heard, Dr. George Tiller was murdered yesterday. Mr. President, I can't yet say that sentence without crying. Partly, I am crying because I am sad—because of the hurt I feel for Dr. Tiller's family and friends; because Dr. Tiller was someone who I admired; because I have long feared the threats and murder attempts Dr. Tiller would inevitable yield this result.

Partly, I am crying because I am scared. This was a terrorist act, one in an ongoing campaign against Dr. Tiller, who was one target among many in a bigger campaign against women and the people who provide abortion services and safe havens for them—but no one in our government will call it terrorism. There are, in fact, a lot of things that don't get called terrorism in this country, but few of them approach the breadth of the long-term, flagrant campaign of intimidation, harassment, exhorted violence, attempted violence, actual violence, and murder of abortion providers and abortion-seeking women.

Still, our government is unwilling to call this orchestrated, overt, unapologetic campaign against women and their healthcare providers terrorism, even as increasing numbers of doctors say offering the legal service to their patients is not worth the risk—the very definition of effective terrorism. Even as physician champions of women's right to choose are murdered in cold blood. Even as "pro-life" groups openly celebrate his death and take the position that he deserved it. Mr. President, in the history of my blog, I've gotten death threats right in my comments threads by people who know that the government will not take them seriously, people who have left links to pictures of dead fetuses and pictures of Dr. George Tiller pictured in a sniper's crosshairs. I am scared for whoever will be next, if the government continues to fail to take this terrorist campaign seriously.

And partly, I am crying because I'm angry. Your statement, upon hearing of Dr. Tiller's death, was that you are "shocked" and "outraged," that you believe: "However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence." Mr. President, if you had been paying the slightest bit of attention to the realities of the front line of the fight to protect women's bodily autonomy, you would not be shocked. This wasn't even the first attempt on Dr. Tiller's life; it was the merely the first successful one.

Melissa McEwan writes and edits the blog Shakespeare's Sister.
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