Saturday, June 20, 2009

Anti-Abortion Terrorists

The murder of Dr. George Tiller and subsequent discussions have me recalling incidents where my own ob/gyn has feared for his life.
Dr. Tiller was in the foyer of his church when a 51-year-old man shot and killed Tiller for performing abortions. A radical pro-lifer felt justified in killing a physician - a grown, well-educated man that was meeting a medical need in a legal and safe manner. Such vigilantism is pious and sacrilegious, going against the very nature of pro-life mantras. Members of pro-life organizations speak of perpetuating life, yet they have no concern for quality of life. Jim Buie addresses the issue using a very personal example, with his recent article in Newsweek.
When I first met my gynecologist, I was impressed with the questions he asked. He wanted to know about me, what I wanted for the future and whether I had concerns. It wasn't the usual rubber stamp process and he looked me directly in the eyes. When I became pregnant with my second child, he became well-informed about my first pregnancy and considered me high-risk. While I knew he deeply cared about my baby, I also knew he focused on me as the patient. I did not become a mere host, secondary to the potential developing person.
I never felt rushed in his presence. During one visit, when I had questions, he put down the pen and file, sat down, looked at me squarely and said - "okay - what's on your mind." He was paged three times for a phone call and never flinched, never took his eyes off of me. The nurse poked her head in the room, and said, "Dr. X is on the phone for you!" My doctor calmly said, "Tell him I will call him back." Complete focus - what every patient dreams of - was mine.
His care and concern stayed with me and when I found out a local group of anti-abortionists were harassing my doctor (one of only two physicians performing abortions in the area at that time) and his family, I was livid. I cheered when the local paper reported he was filing a law suit and called his answering service to leave a message of support. Even the operator seemed pleasantly surprised at my message of goodwill, indicating she had been fielding a majority of hate calls.
Because of the intrusions he has suffered at the hands of zealots, I have respected his privacy and avoided asking direct questions about his experience. Still, I learned that protesters gathered regularly at his home, blocking the driveway, following his children, and presenting in a threatening manner. He finally moved to a gated community where all visitors are screened.
In an interesting twist, my mother recently moved to a retirement community and her next door neighbor happens to be one of the protesters sued by my physician. I haven't dared inform the neighbor of the odd connection. I know her as a wonderful woman who has a heart of gold, yet mom has held witness to this neighbor's piousness when she gets on her anti-abortion soapbox. She believes innocent children are being taken to slaughter by the millions and lets her opinion be known whenever possible.
In her mind, the protesters quietly pray for divine intervention. Yet, medical professionals have died at the hands of zealots justifying their actions in God's name with the belief that abortion is wrong. Instinct has us learn to avoid danger by avoiding those who could potentially cause harm. To stalk someone and then gaze in disbelief when accused of harassment and threatening behaviors is incredulous.
Regardless of individual beliefs, we can not begin to understand the decision that is made by each woman pursuing an abortion. To further compound the issue by interfering with a woman's right to quality medical care is barbaric. Most of all, doctors should not have to fear for their lives to provide those rights.

1 comment:

  1. I just watched a movie on Turner Classic Movies yesterday entitled "The Carey Treatment." Although it is a murder mystery, thriller, the underlying story was the incorrect prosecution of a doctor who performed abortions for $25 instead of having the women use back alley practitioners.

    Fascinating discussion of the issues.