Thoughts on Dr. George Tiller, Writings of Anne Lamott

June 2, 2009


Every time this incident is mentioned, Dr. George Tiller is referred solely as “the late-term abortion doctor, one of only three clinics in the country where such a procedure occurs.”

That may be, but little attention is given to why and how such procedures were arranged. The very term “late term abortion” is code word, it’s supposed to be an area even those of us who are very pro-choice are forced to concede, to agree with the opposition that such a thing is heinous and never acceptable. Surely if a woman can’t make up her mind before the 21st week, surely if she’s carried the child to that point and begun to significantly show, surely there can also be no doubt that there is a heartbeat and numerous signs of life, surely we can all agree she has waited to long and to have an abortion at such a stage is irresponsible, wrong and unforgivable. Surely?

Well,  not exactly. Now, I can’t state everything as exhaustively written and researched, but I can’t help but do my part to mention that from what I have read, Dr. Tiller‘s work was not just a matter of very late term pregnant women stumbling in deciding at the last minute they just didn’t feel like having a child after all. No, from what I have read it seems that many tests were always ran, second consultations were requested, and the procedure was for those women who had discovered that the child they were carrying would be born significantly disabled, mentally incapacitated and/or plagued with a very difficult and life-shortening disease. In short, many things that don’t show up until that point of a pregnancy have thus shown up for these women, and they have been forced to face the decision. Will they, or can they, devoted the time, effort, sacrifice and devotion to care for a child that cannot care for him/herself and may not even be aware of him/herself much at all either? Certainly women, men and families raise such children every day and many find such work rewarding and heart fulfilling, and of course many of the people in such situations found themselves without a choice or a preemptive decision in such a regard. Yet can we tell others that do know beforehand what they will be getting into that they must make that decision for themselves? That at the very least they must bring such a child to full term and put him/her up for adoption in the hopes that someone else will seek out and care for them, and failing that leave them to be cared for by the state? Should we be able to tell all others they must have no choice in such a matter? (Keep in mind that at the 22nd week we’re still not dealing with a fully formed human child that would live on their own outside of the mother’s body either.) So should the state strip all women from any choice in the matter when it is indeed such a heartbreaking and difficult decision that none of us would ever hope to have to make ourselves? I don’t think so, and evidently Dr. Tiller did not think so either.

No, the term “late term abortionist” is so loaded that I feel the media strips Dr. Tiller of some honor by negating him to such a term. Here is a man who was violently, ruthlessly gunned down while worshipping in his Lutheran Church on a Sunday morning, a church where both he and his wife were both regular attendants and active, as deacons and choir singers respectively. Here’s a man who has been shot and injured before, and as soon as he recovered he was back at work stating that his community had taken care of him and he wanted to be back at work to care for them. His clinic was bombed, he regularly received death threats and had to be escorted by a body guard much of the time. Yet he honestly believed he was doing work to help others.  Work that sought to help those that were looked down on by much of the world, the desperate and sad, those left to make the hard choices with often little support. He felt he was doing good work and he was gunned down in church for doing so.

I’m ending this article with some excerpts from Christian writer and philosopher Anne Lamott’s chapter on abortion from her book “Grace (Eventually),” which I happened to run across while reading on Sunday.

In this excerpt she was at a panel discussion with two other Christian writers and speakers, both of the somewhat liberal lean (for their particular denominations at least), one an evangelical the other a Catholic. During a question and answer session a man stood up and  asked how they (Lamott and the other speakers) could reconcile their “progressive stance on peace and justice with the ‘murder of a million babies every year in America.’” Lamott’s co-panelists proceeded to address the question, speaking heavily of such a painful issue but that focus should instead be placed on other “pro-life” matters like “capital punishment, the war in Iraq, poverty and HIV,” and that the efforts should go to “reducing unwanted pregnancies, the need to defuse abortion as a political issue,” etc.

Lamott-  “I announced that I needed to speak out on behalf of the many women present, including myself, who had had abortions, and the women whose daughters might need one in the not-too-distant future–people who must know that teenage girls will have abortions, whether in clinics or dirty back rooms. Women whose lives had been righted and redeemed by Roe v. Wade…I actually feel, and said that it was not a morally ambiguous issue for me at all….Then I said that a woman’s right to choose was nobody else’s goddamn business…Plus, I was–I am–so confused about why we still have to argue with patriarchal sentimentality about miniscule zygotes, when real, live, already born women, many of them desperately poor, get such short shrift from the government now in power [the symposium was during the Bush administration]. …But as a Christian and a feminist, the most important message I can carry and fight for is the sacredness of each human life, and reproductive rights for all women are a crucial part of that. It is a moral necessity that we not be forced to bring children into the world for whom we cannot be responsible and adoring and present. We must not inflict life on children who will be resented; we must not inflict unwanted children on society.”


One Response to “Thoughts on Dr. George Tiller, Writings of Anne Lamott”

  1. Nellie said

    nice post, good job

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