[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/06/09/kansas.tiller.clinic/art.tiller.clinic.gi.jpg caption="Flowers are left outside Tiller's clinic in Wichita, Kansas, after his death. "]
Tanya M. Acker
Dr. Tiller’s murder was an act of domestic terrorism and the terrorist who committed it has claimed there will be more attacks. Threats and even acts of violence against abortion providers have become far too common. Each one should remind us of the precarious nature of a right that many women take for granted and that many wrongly assume is guaranteed forever.
Those of us who describe ourselves as pro-choice have far too often ceded the definitional debate to those who would deny women the freedom of choice.
As a woman who supports abortion rights, I proudly consider myself pro-life. I support the lives and life choices of women who insist upon the prerogative to make their own reproductive decisions. I believe their right to do so arises not only from the Constitution, but from their status as autonomous, free-thinking beings.
I am also proud to be a board member of a health care organization that devotes its resources to providing a full range of health care services to its patients. While the organization provides abortion-related services, 97 percent of its activities are not related to abortion, and help both male and female patients (including cancer screenings, STD testing, non-abortion-related birth control, and prenatal care).
Women make a variety of choices with respect to their health and reproductive lives and deserve the right to continue to exercise their liberties in this arena without the threat of violence and harassment that has become endemic to this debate.
I respect the opinions of those who peacefully oppose abortion. I respect their right to eschew the abortion option for themselves and to provide alternatives and counsel to women who seek it. Similarly, I would ask that they, too, respect the personal and private decisions that women make for themselves – without interfering with the exercise of that right, or vilifying them or their doctors in such a way that may incite others to violence.
Dr. Tiller’s murder should make us all think hard about how the public conversation about this very private issue should proceed going forward. To the extent that those who oppose abortion have as their goal the reduction of unplanned pregnancies – as opposed to simply the demonization of women and their doctors who make choices with which they may disagree – there is a common ground to be found.
Indeed, most unplanned pregnancies result from a dearth of information and resources available to the women most in need of both. To those who are interested in preventing abortion, I would respectfully suggest that focusing efforts on remedying these educational and resource deficiencies would be a far more useful exercise than leveling violent insults from either the pulpit or the right-wing TV studio.
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