Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A Pagan Reflection on Dr. George Tiller's Murder

There are many thoughts which swirl around in my head about Tiller's murder, both feminist and pagan, and yet I am still too distracted by my own grief around my aunt's murder to articulate my thoughts very well. Thankfully, Jason from The Wild Hunt stepped up to do what I could not.

An excerpt:
I agree with Starhawk when she says that pregnancy and birth is a profound and holy mystery. That it is an encounter with goddess (or The Goddess), where weighty decisions concerning life and death are made, and that outside attempts to legislate or control a woman’s pregnancy and birth is to deny her “deepest spiritual self”. Sometimes, in the crux of that holy moment, a potential life is rejected. We may not always agree with or like this situation, but the sacred power of choice can’t be denied, lest we deny a woman’s moral agency in the matter of birth. Throughout recorded history husbands, rulers, family, religious leaders, and various laws have tried to regulate and control that agency, but despite this, women have found ways to choose the time and manner of bearing children.

In the years since abortion was politicized, we’ve grown used to inflammatory rhetoric like “baby-killer”, “genocide”, “murderer”, and “butcher” being used to describe doctors who perform abortions. Then those same groups who paint the doctors as genocidal tyrants are “shocked” when someone takes them seriously. After all, who wouldn’t want to kill Hitler, right? Not realizing the complex ethical and emotional decisions behind each and every one of these controversial procedures.

“My wife and I spent a week in Dr. Tiller’s care after we learned our 21 week fetus had a severe defect incompatible with life. The laws in our state prevented us from ending the pregnancy there, and Dr. Tiller was one of maybe three choices in the whole nation at that gestational age. My wife just called with the news of his murder, weeping. I can’t really come up with some profound political statement just now, so let me just list some memories of Dr. Tiller. I remember him firmly stating that he regarded the abortion debate in the US to be about the control of women’s sexuality and reproduction … I remember being puzzled about a T-shirt he was wearing, which said “Happy Birthday Jennifer from team Tiller!” or something similar. Turns out it commemorated the birthday of a fifteen year old girl who was raped, became pregnant, and came to Tiller for an abortion. As luck would have it, she was in the clinic the same week as her birthday. So the clinic threw her a party. The walls of the clinic reception and waiting room are literally covered with letters from patients thanking him. Some were heartbreaking - obviously young and/or poorly educated people thanking Dr. Tiller for being there when they had no other options, explaining their family, church etc. had abandoned them.”

Now this man has been eliminated. Murdered, assassinated, snuffed-out, because he had been labeled a murderer and a Nazi by anti-abortion groups looking to inflame their followers, and cable television hacks looking to boost their ratings share.


I yearn for a post-Christian America because I yearn for a country where no one group feels privileged and empowered enough to interfere with the lives and medical decisions of women.