Vigil for Dr. Tiller in Lawrence Kansas (image from the Lawrence Journal-World)
Many members of the pro-choice community have urged the Justice Department to treat Sunday’s events as an act of domestic terrorism. At first, I thought “of course!” As I’ve done more reading and heard the perspectives of some constitutional law scholars interviewed in the media I’ve become considerably more ambivalent about this. Make no mistake, I feel that Dr. Tiller’s death is deeply tragic, but I remain unsure about labeling this event as “terrorism.” I have two concerns about the expanding definition of terrorism, one is tied to civil liberties and ‘thought policing’ and the second is more political.
First my concerns about calling Dr. Tiller’s death terrorism: On Monday, Rachel Maddow interviewed George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley. He suggested that under the Bush administration the definition of “terrorism” expanded to include many, many crimes. Turley also feels that murder or assination are not exactly the same thing as terrorism especially given that the Supreme Court has protected violent speech. Perhaps a better category would be to call Roeder’s crime a “hate crime” defined as:
Hate crimes… occur when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group, usually defined by racial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, gender identity, or political affiliation.
A “hate crime” can take two forms: “hate crime” generally refers to criminal acts which are seen to have been motivated by hatred of one or more of the listed conditions. The second kind is hate speech, which is speech defined as crime. While hate crimes are rarely debated, the hate speech concept is controversial, as criminalizing speech can be seen as impugning freedom of speech. Incidents may involve physical assault, damage to property, bullying, harassment, verbal abuse or insults, or offensive graffiti or letters.
I’ve been thinking about re-starting this blog for some time, 6 months is longer than I thought I’d be gone. However, the tragic events of this past weekend motivated me to come back to this space. I’ve cross posted this at my crafty/personal blog, BashfullyDesigned.
You can watch the entire segement at the Rachel Maddow show website (I couldn’t get the MSNBC video player to embed).
The news of Dr. George Tiller’s death shocked me. After an incredible and peaceful Sunday with friends the news came up on my Twitter feed and my first thoughts were “no no no.” There is little commentary for me to add to the many moving and touching tributes paid to Dr. Tiller in the past two days. I will say only this– in the summer I spent working for Planned Parenthood I never met anyone motivated by anything other than a deep compassion for women and their families. So much hatred and invective gets spewed at brave men and women who have chosen to help women in desperate circumstances.
I am deeply upset that in 21st century America women need to be escorted into clincis for routine medical procedures (abortion only makes up about 2% of Planned Parenthood’s services), that compassion for women is now a political act, and that moral cowardice characterizes a group of people who claim to have God on their side. How dare they kill a man in his own church! How dare the anti-choicers claim that this is a justifiable act. Anyone who thinks that doctors “talk women into” aborting a fetus has never spent time with the doctors, nurses, and abortion counselors who work in American clinics. They listen to terrible stories of abuse, of cancer and fetal deformity, of families on the bring of bankruptcy and they hold these women’s hands, keep their stories, and support the choices of all women without judgement.
After the jump I’e posted some links to a variety of stories on Dr. Tiller, his death, and how the new generation of pro-choice activists need to confront this challenge. Please consider donating to Medical Students for Choice and/or Physicians for Reproductive Choice. As they say, “without providers there is no choice.” You can also ask President Obama to revive the National Task Force on Violence Against Health Care Providers. Continue reading