“Late abortion is not a failure of contraception. It’s for medical reasons,” Eleanor Smeal, the president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, who has worked to defend abortion providers like Tiller against harassment and violence since the mid-1980s, told me this week. “We’ve made pregnancy a fairy tale where there are no fetal complications, there’s no cancer, no terrible abuse of girls, no cases where to make a girl go all the way through a pregnancy is to destroy her. These are the realities of the story. That’s what Dr. Tiller worked with — the realities.”
We as a nation cannot continue to provide a hospitable environment for the likes of Roeder because the thought of what happens to fetuses in late abortions turns our stomachs. We have to accept that sometimes terrible things happen to young girls. We have to face the fact that sometimes desired pregnancies go tragically wrong. We have to weigh our repugnance for late abortion against the consequences for women and girls of being denied life-saving medical treatment.
Only a tiny handful of doctors in this country will, like Dr. Tiller, provide abortion services for girls or women who are advanced in their pregnancies. These doctors aren’t well known to patients or even to other doctors, but they’re closely monitored by anti-abortion groups, who know where they work, where they live and where they worship. Roeder may have been a lone gunman, but in the largest possible sense, he did not act alone. The location of Tiller’s gated community was prominently featured on an easily-accessed Web site, along with a map of the streets surrounding his house. It was really only a matter of time before someone was unbalanced enough to take the bait.
Most Americans, I’m sure, do not believe that a 9-year-old should be forced to bear a child, or that a woman should have no choice but to risk her life to carry a pregnancy to term.
By averting our eyes from the ugliness and tragedy that accompany some pregnancies, we have allowed anti-abortion activists to define the dilemma of late abortion. We have allowed them to isolate and vilify doctors like Tiller.
We can no longer be complicit — through our muted disapproval or our complacency — in domestic terror.
And another article about the terrible results of not having access to safe and legal abortions, in Tanzania.