I Write Letters

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

Dear President Obama:

Today marks four 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 are being enacted across the nation, at least one in every single state legislature over the past two years. 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 month, a man in my state was arrested after extensively vandalizing a Planned Parenthood facility because, in his words, "they 'kill' and 'murder' babies." This is only one recent example of the multiple anti-choice terrorist acts that have happened in this nation over the last year, and they didn't happen in a void. They happened in a political climate in which it is considered an acceptable position to value fetuses more highly than the people who carry them.

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 virtually 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 the terrorist who murdered Dr. Tiller continues his terrorism from prison.

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 call out anti-choice terrorism, failed to give an address centering reproductive rights even as record numbers of anti-choice legislation are being passed in state legislatures, failed to even say the word "abortion" during an address to Planned Parenthood, failed to give even a passing mention to reproductive rights in your "Women's Equality Day" proclamations, 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 addresses, 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.

Four 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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