Chicago Stands Against Tiller’s Murder, Stands Up For Women

 By Lina Thorne

 I had gone to Wichita before… in the summer 2001 with pro-choice activists from around the country to defend Dr. Tiller’s clinic from the onslaught of raving, fanatical, Bible-waving crazies. I saw the glazed eyes, heard the bloodthirsty cries for “God’s retribution” and waded right into the middle of the throngs of praying, wailing Christian Fascists and watched another woman boldly attempt to place an “Abortion On Demand and Without Apology” sticker right on the shoulder of Flip Benham (who had written to Dr. Tiller that spring, “God has made it very clear in His Scripture that if we shed blood in the womb we will reap bloodshed in the streets (Hosea 4:1-6, Ezekiel 35:6). That we are reaping bloodshed in the streets, the front page of every newspaper in the country will attest.”).
I saw the fences and the anti-abortion “counseling center” called “Choices Medical Clinic” right next door to Dr. Tiller’s Women’s Health Care Services. I stayed up all night on watch at the height of the hysteria to guard against a violent attack. Sitting on that sidewalk with a handful of other young activists in the middle of that tense night, I wouldn’t have guessed that years later, supposedly at the dawn of a new era of “change” and “unity,” I would have gotten word that Dr. Tiller was gunned down at the age of 67 while standing in the foyer of his church on a sunny morning.
more photos from Chicago
Even then, I don’t think I truly understood how precious Dr. Tiller was. How much was at stake for women if they had no other options when confronted with the need to end a late-term pregnancy. How few, and important, the doctors who could and would perform this procedure really are. Now, after seeing the fascists of this country appointed to the highest offices of the government, guiding policy, reshaping the culture of the armed forces, preaching both on street corners and from the largest megaphones of cable news shows, hearing them time and again scream, “whore!” when I and other women stood up in public against their hatred, after seeing the pictures of women in Afghanistan confronting crowds of men also screaming, “whore!” when they marched against the legalization of rape, after sitting in a tiny crowded clinic waiting room myself, looking around at the tense and anxious faces, and feeling so angry that so many women my age were burdened by such needless guilt… it hit me really hard when I heard the news of our loss. Now, as we speak out against the mass use of torture and bring out enlarged pictures of the atrocities carried out in our names onto the streets, we always meet people willing to parrot Cheney’s argument: “torture is righteous and ethical.” But we women who want to control our own bodies and decide what happens to us are the ones with a morality problem?
Not enough people recognized what we lost on Sunday, but a number of us did, and we didn’t keep it to ourselves. World Can’t Wait Chicago joined with Revolution Books to pull together an emergency response protest and public commemoration of the life of Dr. Tiller, a “caring, courageous abortion provider,” as our signs said. The call to action was picked up and promoted by other individuals, groups, and websites. On Monday, we gathered at the State of Illinois Center behind a beautiful banner from Revolution Books: “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology.”
We spoke out: young women from high school, older women who had been through the struggle to gain legal access to abortion, men who believed in justice and a world free from violence against women, nurses and medical students training to provide abortions as basic healthcare that no woman should feel shame about needing. New chants were created on the spot: “We honor Dr. Tiller – murdered in cold blood! Without abortion women can’t be free!” “Today is a declaration! Women need emancipation! Not the Bible’s subjugation! Yes, abortion – with liberation!”, “Dr. Tiller was a hero to the people for giving women a choice! Abortion is a human right, stand up and raise your voice!” We marched through the loop and over the river to Tribune Plaza and back, many of us carrying signs with Dr. Tiller’s picture.
Pro-choice groups in the area had come out and publicized the event, including Illinois Choice Action Team, Chicago NOW, NW Suburban NOW, Chicago Abortion Fund, Personal Pac, the ACLU, ISO, and Medical Students for Choice. Many had heard about the event from the Feministing website, which announced vigils taking place around the country. Altogether about 75 people joined in.
One of the nurses who spoke talked about working with Dr. Tiller for years: he had always been there for her patients, when she needed to refer someone in need. Women like a 15 year old girl she knew whose boyfriend kept breaking promise after promise to pay for an abortion, causing her to cancel appointments in Chicago repeatedly…leaving her in the lurch in the second trimester with no place to turn. “Dr. Tiller lost money on providing abortions all the time anyway,” she revealed: but Dr. Tiller provided this girl with an abortion for less than 50% the cost, saving her life. “When this girl said her mother would kill her if she found out, I believed it was literally true.” This was the kind of caring, courageous person who was taken from us on Sunday. Where will women in need turn now that he’s gone? Will we see that time has long passed to seek common ground with people who would do this?




World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.