Marking the one year anniversary of the death of George Tiller, a prominent “abortion doctor”, I revisited an article written in the hours following his murder. In full disclosure, I will mention that I do not believe in abortion under any circumstance (though I do sympathize more with women who are faced with pregnancy in cases of rape than in other cases) and without hesitation contend that it is murder. With that said, what struck me about this article was beyond whether or not I agree with Tiller’s medical practices or I believe his murderer to be in the right. The lingering question I was left with at the end of the article was what constitutes a revolutionary? And more specifically, is Tiller’s killers a revolutionary figure?
Most times I find myself in conversations where the other person(s) is rolling their eyes at me, with me knowing they are thinking, “this is completely different”. My questions for them, and any readers who may be thinking the same thing about where I am going with this, is why is it different? Why can’t a pro-lifer use violence as a means of justice against somebody he considers a murderer; and not just a murderer, a mass murderer for hire?
The same general “liberal” population (I mean this to be people who classify themselves as “liberal” and have found a way into my life – this is not meant to represent the opinion of all liberals, obviously) that stands in support of abortion rights—or as many would argue, not abortion rights per se, but reproductive and women’s rights—and outwardly scrutinize pro-life demonstrations and this subsequent murder, are the same grouping of people that stand in solidarity with such revolutionary individuals such as Malcolm X and Che Guevara.
So what? Well, let’s consider the fact they these particular individuals fought for what they considered grave injustices with violence. They were both once involved in acts that were categorized as “terrorism” and guerilla warfare (because it was not state sponsored perhaps?). So, why then, is it acceptable for these men to utilize violent tactics and not for George Tiller’s murder? When is revolution acceptable and when is it not?
I understand that the revolutions the abovementioned men (and their groups), in a nutshell, were part of larger movements to end oppressive governmental forces throughout the world. More specifically, they were fighting against neoliberal and racist ideals and influence that strategically worked against minority and indigenous populations, ripping from them human dignity, the right of self-determination and equal access and rights to resources and a full and happy life.
In a challenge, however, I would ask each of us to consider what the pro-lifer who killed Tiller was fighting for. Was it any less of a just cause than what the 1960 revolutionaries were fighting for? Is abortion somehow a protection of humanity and equal rights? Are the unborn not the most vulnerable of citizens in need of rights? Are they part of the “choice” in whether or not they live? Tiller’s killer was standing against the senseless murder (as he and many others understand it) of approximately 1.3 million defenseless children per year in just the United States of America; and this in a country that provides able opportunity for children to be housed with one of the 1.5 million good and willing adoptive families registered. Millions of children’s heads are being crushed, brains being vacuumed out of the head, babies who could realistically survive out of his/her mother’s womb are being ripped from the only home they’ve known, being flipped and flopped on a cold table, wrapped in white wax paper and thrown in the rooms garbage bin—that is what Tiller’s murderer was fighting against.
And I do not know whether or not the man who killed Tiller tried to balance the rights of women and his stance against abortion, but as I juggle the two ideas I would also dare each of us to consider the similarities between the forced sterilization of women at the hands of the Peace Corps that sparked revolution in Bolivia and the abortion practices that are being challenged in this country. While I write with limited knowledge, and in all honesty, a less than developed opinion of women’s rights movements and Bolivia (which may be somewhat problematic in my trying to make the connection I mentioned between Bolivia in the 60s and abortion in the U.S.), from what I understand a component of the problem in Bolivia and sterilization was misrepresentation of the procedure, in addition to outright lies told to the indigenous population). The fact of the matter is that these women were being ripped of their right to information and the “after procedure” realities they would face. Similarly, abortion clinics, in particular Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States, has been noted as less than forthcoming with information for women that are seeking advice concerning unplanned and possibly unwanted pregnancies. Rick Sadowski in his article “Planned Parenthood: The Baby Killing Machine”, questions:
Is Planned Parenthood really about “choice”? If the grounds for abortion are to give women choices, one would think Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortion, would present all choices or at least one alternative other than abortion.
Statistics show that for every 1 referral for adoption between 2000 and 2007, there were 140 abortion referrals (Adoption=Terror). Even more telling is the “undercover” visit Kristen Hawkins of Students for Life made to a Planned Parenthood clinic. The only service she was offered was abortion; no adoption information or even more information for a general OB/GYN visit was provided. This type of service begs the question of whether or not abortion clinics, including those funded by Planned Parenthood and other privately owned and operated ones, really exist to provide “choices” to women and help them in their most vulnerable of times, or are they playing the game of capitalism and profiting off of exploitation and murder. And if that is the case, is Tiller’s murderer fighting against the same overarching theme that pits revolutionaries against large corporations capitalizing on the needs and anxieties of a citizenry in an effort to accumulate wealth and power. (I recognize further development of this connection might be needed and this very general and basic conclusion might be a stretch to some, but on my journey of trying to dialogue and wrestle with the ideas of revolution and revolutionary characters, I think it is helpful, if only to me).
As Franz Fanon, revolutionary author, suggests, violence is the language of the oppressor. It is a responsive tactic that should be, and is arguably, the only way to overcome the violence of those who impede on true peace and tranquility of a people. The idea is that “humanity can only be realized, according to him, by violence. This violence …is necessary as a route towards a better world.”The revolutionary violence throughout Africa, Latin America and the United States and its figures are held as icons of revolution. Perhaps, like these revolutionary icons, Tiller’s murderer saw himself as a voice for those were “sub human” (or not even human at all, like many contend in regards to unborn children), that somehow their worth as a nation or grouping of peoples were not equal to those in power. In much the same way, it can be viewed as if the abortion doctor’s killer was awakened as a revolutionary leader to stand against the violent assault on America’s children that was seemingly more acceptable because of the fact that they are done in sterile doctor’s office, fueled by the American “apathy of ignorance.” Women are being coerced into abortions, thinking (or rather being told) that “choice” is the only choice, to fill the pockets of corporation, all while being left to deal with the psychological and physical trauma that consequently affects abortion patients, their families and their lives and children were being slaughtered. Tiller’s murderer may have found his place was to act against the doctor who was part of this system of violence, with, what else but violence.
I still do not know whether George Tiller’s murderer is a revolutionary. (Who has the right to crown somebody a revolutionary anyways?!) However, in considering of the world’s most highlighted revolutionary leaders and ideals, I would contend that his actions are no less revolutionary than those which Fanon explicitly outlined and many people in history, like Che and Malcolm X, have adopted.