Remembering Dr. Tiller: The Good Fight?

30 May

Union Square, June 1, 2009, 6pm. The city I love had sprung into action in less than 24 hours. We understood that the murder of our friend and colleague Dr. Tiller was the end of an era. Many of us knew of or remembered the dark times for reproductive health in the early nineties. There were many incidents of terrorism against abortion providers not only at work but at home. We thought we had worked passed this. We were wrong.

As loudspeaker eulogies washed over me, I thought back to my first real business trip to the National Abortion Federation conference in Boston. It was the big time. I was among rock stars- the real frontline advocates for reproductive justice. Walking to Dr. Tiller’s table was simultaneously thrilling and terrifying. I had heard much about this infamous Dr. Tiller but none of it prepared for the sweet grandpa-esque gentleman who was handing out worry stones and scented candles. Where was this hard passionate avenger of women’s rights? How was his soul so soft after facing all that abuse every day? I couldn’t believe it.

So I stood there in shock, thinking of this grandfather figure sitting in his church, while listening to what sounded like so many rallying cries I had heard before. We cannot let this stop us. We will not be scared! But I was terrified, angry sure, but terrified nonetheless. I’m not a clinician but it was only a couple months before that I committed to getting a Master’s in Reproductive and Family Health. My professional life was from that point forward was inextricably tied to abortion access and I would never want to put my family or myself in harm’s way. Clearly, I was naïve beforehand but I truly thought, at least for the most part, those days were behind us. How wrong I was.

I would like to say that somehow this brought new strength to the movement or something to that effect, but I just don’t think it’s true. We have so much work to do, and on days like this it is beyond overwhelming. It’s the kind of work that makes you wish you could crawl back into bed and the problem would just disappear forever. But it’s not going to disappear, and because of that, I refuse to run and hide. I’m sick and tired of “Let’s go fight the good fight,” because it’s not good. It makes no sense. No one should be shot for taking care of other people. No one. It is so wrong and confusing to me. How could someone shoot someone else in the name of God in a church? What has this battle become? How can you possibly work to change something so illogical?

These are the questions that I am battling with today, a year later. I’m sure many of you are too. I invite you to share your fears and comments and thoughts, because maybe together we’ll find some answers.

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