I Write Letters

[Content Note: Anti-choice terrorism; violence.]

Dear President Obama:

Today marks three years since Dr. George Tiller, a reproductive rights advocate and one of the precious few physicians in the country who performed lifesaving late-term abortions, was murdered at his church.

The day after his murder, I wrote you a letter, begging you to "stop relying on dangerously dishonest rhetoric about abortion, its supporters, and its opponents," and to stop drawing an equivalency between the pro-choice and "pro-life" positions, as if both sides have an equally valid point, and as if activists who defend reproductive rights and activists who seek to subvert them are somehow two sides of the same coin.

Since that time, the Republican Party has, on both the state and federal levels, endeavored to undermine access to abortion, to contraception, and even to woman-centered healthcare providers. A record number of anti-abortion restrictions were enacted across the nation last year, at least one in every single state legislature. More than half of the state legislatures have considered restrictions on private health insurance plans to disallow them from paying for abortions. At least one state legislator has suggested that women should have to bear the cost of a separate insurance policy in case of needing an abortion in the event of being raped.

All of this has been done under the auspices of "valuing life," despite the fact that forcing a person to carry to term an unwanted or unviable pregnancy against hir will is the opposite of a respect for life, if the definition of "life" is to have any meaning at all.

Last week, a second suspicious fire broke out in a reproductive clinic in Georgia, and, this week, a women's health clinic in New Orleans was burned to the ground by an arsonist. These are only the latest examples of anti-choice terrorist acts in this nation, and they didn't happen in a void. They happened in a political climate in which it is considered an acceptable position to value a blastocyst over a living, breathing, sentient, existent human being.

They happened in a country in which every state legislature, and the national Congress, are trying to find ways to limit access to abortion—and in which our ostensibly pro-choice president remains silent on that matter. Except, of course, when you're bragging about ceding ground to anti-choicers to pass legislation, while insisting it's "not an abortion bill."

They happened in a country in which we are expected to trade everything away, including our civil liberties, in exchange for protection from the existential threat of nebulous foreign terrorists, but in which one of the most brazen, unapologetic terrorist campaigns in America, its co-ordination and orchestration frequently done right out in the open—at meetings, on websites, in email alerts—and potentially affecting the lives of more than half the population, is ignored by one party and mainstreamed as a central plank of its party platform by the other.

Mr. President, the vicious murder of Dr. Tiller was an act of terrorism committed by a terrorist. It should have been a wake-up call to this nation, and to you, to acknowledge the ugly reality that the anti-choice movement is a serious domestic threat.

Instead, the anti-choice movement has gained momentum with the unilateral support of the Republican Party, turning what was once a radical fringe movement into nothing less than state-sponsored terrorism, in defense of an inherently violent ideology.

And in response to this onslaught of violently misogynist activity by people who seek to rob people with uteri of their agency, their bodily autonomy, their right of self-determination, their access to a legal medical procedure, their ability to do that most basic of life management in the modern world—control their reproduction—your party has been all but silent.

Mr. President, you have failed to give an address centering reproductive rights, failed to give even a passing mention to reproductive rights in your "Women's Equality Day" proclamation, failed to give even a passing mention to reproductive rights in your "Women's History Month" proclamation, failed to acknowledge this war on agency in your State of the Union address, failed to prioritize science over religion, failed to prioritize healthcare over religion, and failed to be generally clueful on the issue of reproductive rights.

You are failing us.

Two years ago, I told you I was crying because I was sad and scared and angry. Today, sir, I cry because you have allowed Dr. Tiller's murder to happen in vain.

With colossal contempt,
Melissa McEwan

P.S. I will keep writing this letter every year, as long as I have to.

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