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‘Vigils alone will never be enough’

June 2, 2009

I’d like to follow up on Elizabeth’s post about Dr. George Tiller’s murder by sharing this piece from Salon by Gloria Feldt, former president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

She writes that although it is “good and necessary” for people to gather at candelight vigils to honor Tiller, we must do more to prevent violence in the future.

“The change we need in our culture’s attitudes toward women’s reproductive justice has to happen both top-down and bottom-up. When it comes to decrying Tiller’s unspeakable murder, I want to hear it from Congress. I want to hear it from clergy, the medical profession, the media and civic leaders: ‘This kind of violation will not be tolerated. Period.’”

An excerpt:

The silence overall from leaders so far has been deafening, as attorney and longtime Arizona volunteer for reproductive rights causes Leon Silver pointed out. And if our leaders remain silent, I can tell you with perfect assurance what will happen next. There will be more violence.

Dr. Tiller’s friends, family, patients, colleagues and the many pro-choice activists who have supported him over the years need the vigil in Wichita and those springing up elsewhere to mourn the 67-year-old doctor’s death and celebrate his exceptional life. The larger community of reproductive health professionals and activists, including those who bravely escort women safely into and out of health facilities for abortions, need to cry and hug and lift one another up on the wings of their convictions that they are doing God’s work, saving women’s lives in the fullest sense of the word. I am with them in spirit.

But when it comes to changing a culture that has marginalized abortion by shaming women and hounding, even murdering, the doctors and clinic staff who provide safe abortions, when it comes to changing a culture bent on shaming women who are, in all good conscience, making the most moral of personal decisions—candlelight vigils alone will never be enough.

President Obama so far has issued the following statement: “I am shocked and outraged by the murder of Dr. George Tiller as he attended church services this morning. However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence.”

Like Feldt says and Elizabeth wrote on here, mourning is not enough. We need to ask President Obama to do more to protect abortion providers and reproductive justice.

Let’s act to ensure this domestic terrorism ends now.

What else can we do to encourage leaders to take action?

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