In truth, I didn’t know how to describe it. Without warning, I felt as though a part of me had been taken away without my knowledge and I began to feel that our community had lost one of its own. It could have been anyone, really—on some level it didn’t matter who it was, it just mattered that it was someone.
Yesterday, Dr. George Tiller was murdered during a church service in Wichita, Kansas. By all accounts, Dr. Tiller wasn’t anyone particularly extraordinary, so his name shouldn’t sound familiar, but Dr. Tiller did happen to be a physician who performed abortions.
Within hours of the killing, people from all across the nation were discussing the situation and what it meant for the future of abortion in the United States. What were the anti-abortionists’ views? Would there be backlash? Did we all just want to find somebody to blame?
A grandmother in a CNN article said, “What happened to Tiller was justified. He forfeited his life by taking the lives of innocent children.”
Is there some loophole whereby murder is defensible if it prevents the possible death of future beings? How much of that responsibility can you bestow upon yourself?
I freely admit that I do not intimately understand some of the arguments against abortion but I definitely don’t understand how, if life is sacred, killing is ever the solution? I understand disagreements and feeling frustrated with the current situation (Prop. 8, anyone?) but I will never quite understand vigilante justice. Maybe I just buy too much into this system that is supposed to work. I mean, isn’t part of being patriotic believing that America functions on some level? Isn’t part of the beauty of our country believing in the idea that we have the ability to change things through an accepted channel? Perhaps I just haven’t reached the point wherein I feel like I have no other options.
And, in that light, maybe this is a sign that something is seriously wrong. Although one incident can’t speak for the entirety, shouldn’t it be troubling that a segment of the population is resorting to violence to get their message across? Shouldn’t we be worried that people don’t have faith in our governmental processes to hammer these things out? As mad as I am about the whole Prop. 8 thing, for example, I refuse to believe that the solution lies outside the bounds of our established laws. After all, in many ways, doesn’t this situation represent something that Conservatives also decry? Terrorism?
This is not to say that all anti-abortionists are terrorists, of course. But I don’t know how you can argue that killing someone for something that they believe in is not a form of terrorism. Dress it up in all of the religious dogma that you want, and provide yourself with some kind of moral justification so you can sleep at night, but, at the end of the day, when you strip it down, you’ve committed an act of violence that you hoped, on some level, would deter someone else from performing or seeking an abortion. And the sad part is that you probably did your job.
Hell, I went through the same sort of fear when I agreed to take on this assignment. “Were people going to track me down and tell me that I was wrong for supporting this organization? Would I be judged? How much would my personal life be affected by my public life?” And, I suppose that there is always the thought, no longer so unfounded, “What if I were to die as a result of my involvement with Planned Parenthood?”
My teeth scraped over my lip as I thought about what this all meant. “I suppose,” I reasoned, “that if this somehow ended in my demise that at I would have at least died in the pursuit of something worthwhile.”
When I sat and thought about what was going on, I couldn’t say that this girl was entirely mistaken. Sure, her method of lying to caseworkers certainly wasn’t entirely honest but her goal of making an organization accountable was certainly something that I could support.
Yeah, I said it.
True, I write these articles on behalf of a Planned Parenthood affiliate and I initially found myself incensed by what was occurring, but I realized that I was just being defensive and protective of an organization that with which I had come to align myself.
One of the problems with all of this is that Lila’s videos are designed to provoke powerful emotions from people on both sides of the fence and having a strong feeling about an issue is one thing, but acting from that same place only leads to brash behavior.
The reality is, however, that these situations often require a measure of tact. It’s easy for us to sit back and judge this scenario with a clear-cut mentality when we see it played out on YouTube but anyone who has been in a room with a patient (especially a teenage one) knows that things are never this easy. I certainly do not purport to be a counselor but I have had enough experience to know that situations between a professional and a client need to be handled with extreme care, thought, and discretion. How do you serve the greater good when a 13-year-old tells you that she had sex with a 31-year-old? I imagine that the focus of the clinician at that point immediately revolved around the girl whether viewers realized it or not: Was she raped? What is her thought process in wanting to abort the baby? Is a violation of her trust outweighed by my duty to report a crime? How would the reporting of this particular situation affect the willingness of future girls to come forth? To me, the situation depicted in the videos is nothing more than this: the actions don’t always follow the letter of the law but might very well abide by its spirit.
If you’ve seen Lila’s videos and immediately react, take a second and think about what you’ve learned from watching television. On medical dramas, we are routinely bombarded by examples of doctors doing things that are illegal, immoral, or unethical in order to accomplish a goal. Sometimes, efforts to subvert presiding laws cause chaos because the character needs to learn a lesson. Other times, however, things work out because these actions are in the best interest of a patient. We have seen examples of a Chief of Surgery coercing a comatose patient’s wife to pull the plug so that six other individuals could get a kidney on Grey’s Anatomy; Private Practice has had doctors cross boundaries in an attempt to do what they thought was best, and every medical drama in the history of television has had a doctor become too involved in his work due to a personal situation.
How do you know when to uphold the law and when to declare the rule unjust? In the end, it’s a judgment call.
For example, Private Practice just featured a teacher sleeping with her student. When doctors discovered this transgression, they experienced conflict over whether they should report the teacher to the police: Arguments were made that statutory rape was a crime and should always be reported; other doctors mentioned that the relationship was consensual and heard a rejoinder that minors can’t give consent. But, doctors ultimately came to question if the act of reporting would do any good for either party.
The answer? Not so much.
Without question, this whole situation represents a complicated dilemma. Recall a time when you helped a friend cover up a mistake and you might understand the mindset of the Planned Parenthood employees. Thinking about the videos again in this light, perhaps what occurred in these videos wasn’t right but I’m not entirely sure it was wrong.
All I could say was, “I get it.”
I sat in my car as a number of thoughts swirled through my head. It had already been a long day and I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about anything that required any kind of exertion on my part. California doesn’t have seasons so much as it has “Summer” or “Slightly-Cooler-Than-Summer” and despite it being October, I found myself with a desperate wish to be in shorts and a t-shirt instead of my suit.
This was my first visit to a Planned Parenthood center and I couldn’t shake the slight feeling of unease that seemed to hover over my head. I’ve never really had cause to go to a health clinic as I’ve been fortunate to grow up in an environment where my partners and I had good relationships with our doctors. I distinctly remember that my high school girlfriend’s first instinct to obtain birth control pills was to talk to her primary care physician (which was a bit awkward as her doctor knew my girlfriend’s father, and totally blew our cover, but that’s another story). Like anything unfamiliar, the Planned Parenthood visit presented an unnerving situation: “What if somebody sees me going in? What if somebody attacks my car? What if there are protesters?”
On the outside, I appear to be an adult and am presumably able to keep myself together. But, on that drive over to the building, I found myself making things worse as I played the various scenarios in my head. I slowly worked myself into a frenzy as I neared the neighborhood and I briefly thought of just abandoning the trip for another day.
That’s when I realized that if I turned around, the terrorists would win.
I did not think that my small act of cowardice would allow Al Qaeda to overthrow the government, but if I refused to go to Planned Parenthood because I was afraid, then unjustness would win. Had I allowed fear to dictate my actions, I would have lost a fight for something that I believed in along with some part of myself.
In that moment, I came to realize that no matter how much I talk about safer sex education, I can’t always be there to tell everybody that everything will be fine. What I can do, however, is try to make things less scary. I now see why some individuals choose to try to perform their own abortions (which, is not recommended) because if a twenty-something male had trouble going in for business, how much harder would it be for a teenaged girl? I understand the sense of shame that some might feel when approaching a clinic but, at the same time, by simply crossing the threshold, I had also overcome one of my fears and surely that was something to celebrate?
One of the things that I have learned over the years is that anybody who has felt “less than” in their lives, for whatever reason, is a survivor and I feel that we all have the obligation to support those who come after us. So, to all of you who have been able to conquer your reservations and step into a center, I am proud of you. For those of you who are still self-conscious about making the trip, I understand what you’re feeling, and I hope that you, like many heroes-in-the-making before you, realize that you had what it took all along.
I took a breath and pulled into the parking lot of the nondescript building, letting my engine hum as I gathered myself. I put on my sunglasses and braced for the rush of hot air that would envelop my face when I opened the car door. Leaning over to brush off a leaf that had fallen onto my windshield, all I could say was, “I get it.”