The killing of Dr. George Tiller, the courageous abortion
provider from Kansas, has thrown down a moral and a practical challenge to
every human being in this country.
History has been punctuated. The future will pivot one way
or the other depending on what we do.
Either this killing will succeed in creating a climate where
abortion providers cannot do their work and no one else joins them in that
work, or it will be answered by
growing numbers of people waking up, coming off the sidelines, defending our
doctors and our clinics, and reversing the whole dynamic that has led to this
situation where not only abortion, but birth control too, is imperiled.
Between these two possibilities, there really is no lasting
neutral �middle ground.�
Two weeks ago, Notre Dame became a flash point in the
struggle for women�s right to abortion when Obama was invited to give the
commencement address. It provides a concentrated expression of why we keep
losing ground and losing clinics and losing doctors, and losing hearts and
minds, especially of young people who have grown up in a time of complete moral
confusion around abortion. And, in many ways, the events surrounding Obama�s
Notre Dame appearance set the stage for this most recent killing.
When anti-abortion leaders learned of Obama�s invitation to
Notre Dame, they put their movement on an emergency footing. They crowed about
how Obama is the most �radical pro-choice� president ever. Christian fascist,
lunatic women-haters like Randall Terry (who is all over the media now
exclaiming he has no sympathy for Dr. Tiller and calling him a �mass murderer�)
were joined by zombie-like fundamentalist foot soldiers to descend on the
campus. They screamed bloody murder, trespassed and got arrested, projected
their rhetoric all over the national media, and incited their fanatical base
across the country.
On the other side, there were no pro-choice organizations.
That�s right, zero. It seems that,
just like under the Clinton years when abortion access was dramatically
restricted, the pro-choice movement was asleep at the wheel because a
�pro-choice� Democrat is in the White House.
I went to Notre Dame together with a half dozen other
supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Several handfuls of students
and community members who came out on their own joined us in raising a banner,
�Abortion on Demand and Without Apology!� and signs that read, �Women Are Not
Incubators! Fetuses Are Not Babies! Abortion Is Not Murder!�
Meanwhile, Obama was inside the graduation hall pumping out
the deadly illusion of �common ground.� He suggested that every woman feels
morally heart-wrenched by abortion. He suggested that we find �common ground�
in reducing the number of abortions and the number of unintended pregnancies.
Obama said we should find �common ground� around the need to �care and support
for women who do carry their child to term.�
As I analyzed more fully in Response to Obama�s speech at Notre Dame on common ground and abortion, Obama�s speech gave more moral
legitimacy and political initiative to the movement that wants to force women
to bear children against their will.
There can be no �common ground� over reducing the number of
abortions. At a time when 87 percent of counties do not have abortion access,
when doctors are being hunted, and women have to run a gauntlet of obstacles
(parental notification laws, mandatory waiting periods, the thousands of
anti-abortion �pregnancy crises centers,� and financial and travel burdens),
the tremendous need is to expand abortion
access, not to reduce the number of abortions!
There can be no �common ground� on reducing unintended
pregnancies. It would be truly wonderful if all young people received frank and
scientific education about their bodies, their sexuality, and how to form
healthy and mutually respectful emotional and physical relationships. It would
be truly wonderful if birth control were widely and its use was popularized.
However, this is not something that the �pro-life� movement will agree to. The
same biblical scripture that drives them to insist women carry every pregnancy
to term, also drives them to oppose birth control. There is not a single
�pro-life� organization that supports birth control.
When it comes to
abortion, there is only one moral question: will women have control over their
own lives and reproduction, or will we be forced to breed against our will and
subjugated to male patriarchal authority?
If we want to save
the right to abortion, which is essential for women to be free, we must take on
the notion that there anything wrong
with abortion. We must not be pacified by a president who calls himself
�pro-choice� in one breath but refers to a fetus as a �child� in the next,
thereby legitimating the view that �abortion is murder.� We must go out to the
new generation that has never heard people speak positively about abortion and
tell them the truth: abortion saves lives and enriches the lives of women who
are able to choose it free from stigma, shame, coercion or obstacles.
We must take back
the moral high ground and yes, repolarize
things. Everyone seems convinced these days that polarization is a bad thing.
Not so. The current polarization is
very, very bad. The one where anti-woman fascists are unleashed and allowed to
claim the moral high ground and pro-choice people are relying on the mealy-mouthed
�common ground� of Obama is deadly and getting worse.
But a different polarization, one where people
had to decide if they were for forcing women to bear children against their
will or if they were for women�s full emancipation, would be very good.
If people don�t
understand that they have to pick between women�s subjugation or women�s
liberation, then we have to clarify
that for them. The more people see this for what it really is, the more people
will have the chance -- which they don�t have as long as pro-choice people fail
to take the moral and political offensive -- to stand on the side of women and
of humanity as a whole.
I believe -- and
have seen in practice over and over again -- that when people get clear on the
stakes, they will in their great numbers side with women. Even those who today
feel conflicted or even negatively towards abortion can be won to change their
views -- but only if we challenge them.
I am a living
example of this. I was 15 years old and living in a small city in Minnesota
when the first abortion doctor was killed. At the time, I was Christian and
hanging out with members of the Young Life club. Although I considered myself
pro-choice and knew most of my friends were �pro-life,� I never really thought
it mattered. Then I heard my friends empathizing with the man who had killed
the doctor. �Not that I approve of violence,� they�d say, �But I can understand
his motivation. He did stop babies
from getting killed.� All of a sudden, I had to decide whether or not I could
be passive as doctors were hunted and people sympathized with this.
This is what is
going on in millions of minds right now -- over dinner tables, in classrooms,
and on late-night textfests between teenage friends.
For myself, I was
lucky to run into people who were clear about abortion. They helped me
understand scientifically why a fetus is a subordinate part of a woman�s body,
not a �child.� They gave me a positive way to express the outrage I was
feeling. They had posted up signs calling on people to join them in defending
the last abortion clinic in North Dakota when it was under siege by Christian
fascists. I signed up. I learned a great deal. I have never been the same
Right now, people
who thought they didn�t have to concern themselves with the �abortion wars� are
being forced to tune in. What voices, what clarity, what challenge will they
We must raise our
voices now to demand the full emancipation of women. That includes the right to
abortion on demand and without apology. It is possible to discern already that
relying on Obama and seeking �common ground� will lead only to further
disaster. It is time for the people, ourselves, to stand up and fight for the
world we want to live in.
Sunsara Taylor is a
writer for Revolution Newspaper and
sits on the Advisory Board of The
World Can�t Wait. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.