Monday, June 1, 2009

An Open Letter to Bill O'Reilly, et al

Dear Mr. O'Reilly,

I would like to take this moment to condemn your actions against the late Dr. George Tiller, the abortion provider in Wichita, Kansas who was murdered yesterday in his church.

I am familiar with your tirades against the doctor, and railed against them during his life while he continued to provide women and couples with a choice. Now that Dr. Tiller has been murdered, I wish to add an extra dimension to my opposition to your continued misunderstood rants about abortion: your show, watched by thousands nightly, is complicit in Tiller's murder.

Understand the word "complicit" does not mean I think you killed Dr. Tiller. Former President Bush is complicit in the murders of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, but of course that does not mean he pulled the trigger. Given your celebrity status, your unrepentant anti-choice hatred, added to your refusal to understand reasons for later-term abortions, is far more effective in fueling violent actions against abortion doctors than are radical groups like Operation Rescue or the Army of God. You carry a strong influence over the way people think and act, and you know this. I believe "every day" conservative commentators like yourself, those who consistently targeted Dr. Tiller specifically, have as much of a hand in creating clinic violence and violence against providers than you'd readily admit.

Mr. O'Reilly, I do not believe you understand late-term abortion like you think you do. On your program, you suggested a woman would seek an abortion because she was "depressed ... feeling a bit blue." As someone who suffers from clinical depression and has been taking a medication that makes me want to avoid pregnancy for the safety of the fetus, I can tell you depression is hardly just "feeling a bit blue." In browsing the internet for testimonials about how Dr. Tiller saved women's lives, I came across this:
My pregnancy brought back the depression I thought I had conquered. By the time I entered the fifth month, I was having suicidal thoughts. While my doctors were positive the hormonal changes during pregnancy had everything to do with it, none would prescribe any sort of medication that worked. By my 22nd week, I was so overcome with unimaginable depression that I would have done anything to stop it. Just before my 24th week, I attempted suicide. The blood loss was so intense that they swore I'd have a miscarriage; but I did not. The doctors suggested institutionalization, but we couldn't afford it, so they suggested abortion. I was in such pain that my husband and I made the decision ... Dr. Tiller's clinic literally saved my life.
Surely you and your outright sexist comrades would readily denounce this as a woman who was "irresponsible" for the well-being of her child, but you obviously have no idea what depression is like, how it affects the body and mind, and how it can pose great risks to those suffering from it.

I have two hopes for the way we move forward following Tiller's murder. One is that people realize the importance of late-term abortion, the reason people choose it, and how "elective late-term abortion" is not just fickle women getting to their seventh month and saying, "Gee, I don't want to do this anymore." "Elective" can mean a woman or couple who gets to later pregnancy and discovers a defect or disorder in their fetus that may not affect the woman's health, but they choose abortion anyway because of the horrors that birth will bring to the baby. This choice should be protected.

My other hope is that people begin to realize the weight their words carry, such as when you spoke about what Tiller would face come "judgment day." I'm positive you will appear on your show tonight and denounce the killing of Dr. Tiller the way other vehement anti-choice forces have already done, but to do so without addressing the role your show played would be seriously hypocritical. Sure, you and very few anti-choicers or "pro-lifers" would go so far as to murder another human being, but the anger and passion involved with how you verbalize those beliefs can and sometimes do create monsters, monsters like the Army of God and the man who shot Dr. Tiller Sunday morning.

I have also viewed on your show a few of the women who were at one time clients of Dr. Tiller's clinic. You did your very best to demonize the doctor, to make his clinic seem like a place where only bad things happen. I remember you asking a fourteen year old girl if Dr. Tiller ever even spoke to her. She shook her head no. You did not ask about the support she received from the nurse staff, the counselors, etc, and you fail to realize how difficult it can be to "connect" with your patients when you work in the environment Dr. Tiller was somehow able to survive in. Protesters outside, consistent threats of violence, vandalism... hell, Dr. Tiller himself was shot in the arm, twice, in 1993, and yet through it all he continued to practice. Excuse him if the constant negativity towards him made him a little jaded. Besides, how easy is it to take extra time with patients when you're one of three doctors in the country that does the kind of work Dr. Tiller did? Women came from across the country to Tiller's clinic, and his practice was rushed and crowded by necessity, not because Tiller was some sort of heartless practitioner. And who's to say he wouldn't have taken extra time with each one of his clients if anti-choice forces like yourself didn't demonize his work to the point where only the thick-skinned are able to survive?

Any way you slice it, you and other rabid anti-choice factions of the media should feel ashamed of yourselves for the role you most likely played in the murder of Dr. George Tiller yesterday. And yet I'm sure you will move around it, claiming you "didn't mean" what you said when you spoke of the doctor's "judgment day" and claimed he was a "disgrace upon everyone who lives in Kansas." Your constant targeting of one specific provider, putting him directly in the public lens, helped to equate Dr. Tiller himself with the whole concept of late-term abortion, an equation that inevitably led to his untimely death at the hands of a radical anti-choice murderer.


Lauren Guy McAlpin
Crisis Pregnancy Center Watch
Project Coordinator

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