I Write Letters

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.

I'm angry because you have been admonishing pro-choice advocates to respect the views of anti-choice activists, despite the fact there is very good reason not to afford a modicum of respect for a viewpoint that would force women to relinquish control over their own bodies to the state. I'm angry because you don't seem to get that both sides of this "debate" aren't equal, and it's not just because one side contains mainstream organizations who tacitly encourage the murder of doctors. I'm angry because you invited to do the invocation at your inauguration a man who equates abortion with the Holocaust, and you don't seem to have a problem with that, nor recognize how perilously inflammatory it is. I'm angry because you tell lies about pro-choice advocates in order to play your bullshit game of "both sides are just as bad."

Ann Friedman says Dr. Tiller's murder should be a wake-up call about clinic violence, and I see that Attorney General Holder has ordered increased security for "a host of unnamed individuals and facilities" as a result of his death. But I also hope that his murder will be a wake-up call to you, sir, to stop relying on dangerously dishonest rhetoric about abortion, its supporters, and its opponents.

Both sides are not just as bad, Mr. President, and it's high fucking time you figured that out.

Melissa McEwan

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