Monsters Without Hearts

For years anti-reproductive rights goons have been trying to take out Dr. George Tiller. His Kansas clinic was bombed in 1985. A “pro-life” fanatic shot him in both arms in 1993. Patients trying to enter his clinic are viciously harassed.

Now the state of Kansas is trying to convict Dr. Tiller for violating Kansas abortion law, and opening arguments in the trial began yesterday. Robin Abcarian writes in the Los Angeles Times, “by day’s end, it was clear that the case could hinge on such nonmedical issues as who paid for copy paper and toner, the meaning of a hug and whether selling a beat-up sedan to a colleague can constitute proof of guilt.”

Copy paper? Hugs? Indeed, yes.

Kansas law prohibits abortions when the gestational age of the fetus is 22 or more weeks, and the fetus appears to be viable. In compliance with Roe v. Wade, Kansas law provides that an abortion may be performed post-viability if “an abortion is necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant woman or that a continuation of the pregnancy will cause a substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.” The state also permits late abortions if continuing the pregnancy would cause “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major mental function.”

If a Kansas physician decides that continuing a late-term pregnancy would harm a woman, he still must get a second opinion from another physician who is “not legally or financially affiliated” with the first physician. This is a critical point in Dr. Tiller’s trial.

Dr. Tiller is one of the very few physicians in the country who performs abortions after six weeks’ months’ gestation. He faces 19 misdemeanor counts of breaking the Kansas law because, the state alleges, he had a legal or financial affiliation with the physician who provided a second opinion in 19 late-term abortions.

The second physician, Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus, does see patients in Dr. Tiller’s offices, “for security reasons,” she says. Many of her patients are emotionally fragile teenagers who can’t face the Operation Rescue hate squads that surround the clinics. But she maintains she does not use Dr. Tiller’s staff and even pays for her own copy paper and toner.

The prosecution made much of a 1994 Toyota that Dr. Tiller sold to Dr. Neuhaus for $300. A sweet deal, the prosecutor sneered. Dr. Tiller’s attorneys showed that $300 was the appraised value of the car, which needed $3,000 worth of body work.

The states attorneys even said that a hug Dr. Neuhaus gave Dr. Tiller was indication of a financial or legal arrangement. Mocking the prosecution, the defense attorney asked Neuhaus, “When you saw [Tiller] this morning and gave him a hug, did you mean to convey that you were legally or financially affiliated with him?”

The Second Rape

The current legal challenge is not the first one Dr. Tiller has faced. Anti-reproductive rights organizations have expended considerable time and energy trying to find a legal weakness in Dr. Tiller’s practice so that they can shut it down.

For example, in 2004 the attorney general of Kansas demanded broad access to Dr. Tiller’s patient files so that he could fish for evidence that rape and sexual abuse of minors was not being reported to the state. Dr. Tiller was willing to release such files as long as information that would identify the patient was blocked out, but that would not do for the attorney general. He was prepared to further disrupt the lives of emotionally fragile girls and women for the sake of his crusade. The attorney general eventually obtained 90 patient records, but charges against Dr. Tiller based on those records were dismissed by a judge.

Now let’s go back to our present case and Robin Abcarian in the Los Angeles Times:

One of the 19 patients in question was 10 years old. Many of Tiller’s patients are women who discover late in their pregnancies that they are carrying severely impaired fetuses.

One of the 19 patients in question was 10 years old. In 2006 Dr. Tiller was a target of Bill O’Reilly, who also mentioned a 10-year-old patient on “The O’Reilly Factor.”

“In the state of Kansas, there is a doctor, George Tiller, who will execute babies for $5,000 if the mother is depressed. And there are rapists impregnating 10-year-olds who are being protected by abortion clinics. It doesn’t get worse than that. This is the absolute shame of America.”

It turns out O’Reilly was just plain lying about what Tiller said. But I want to go back to that 10-year-old.

The thinking on the part of anti-reproductive rights activists is that the emotional state or wishes of a rape victim, including a 10-year-old, are not important.

I think everyone agrees that it’s ideal when a person who has been sexually molested or raped can face the perpetrator in court. And all of us want to see sexual predators taken off the streets. But sometimes the victim is so traumatized, so emotionally fragmented, that she is not prepared to endure a trial. In my opinion, violating that person’s privacy and forcing her to go through a trial is the worst kind of jack-booted government interference with one’s life. Like a rape, it is a denial of her individuality, her personhood, her value as a human being. It amounts to a second rape.

And if underage girls know they will be dragged into court if they go to an abortion clinic … back to the coat hanger.


And then there are women who discover late in their pregnancies that their babies will be born with severe deformities. Under Kansas law, a baby who has no chance of living without being hooked up to machines for the duration of life is still “viable.” So, a woman carrying a baby who is doomed to die within hours or days of birth is still carrying a “viable” baby.

Under those circumstances, many women cannot bear the heartbreak of carrying the pregnancy to term, and anyone with a heart ought to understand that. For that matter, anyone with a heart ought to be able to understand why a rape victim might be unwilling to carry a pregnancy to term. And anyone with a heart ought to respect the wishes of a victim in regard to prosecuting the assailant.

There are compassionate people who favor legal restrictions on abortion. But when dealing with “right-to-life” fanatics — those who actively are trying to shut down clinics by any means — you’re dealing with monsters without hearts. Nothing matters to them but the Cause.

In her Los Angeles Times article, Robin Abcarian says anti-reproductive rights activists have packed the courtroom and are visible outside the courthouse, praying. They should pray for hearts.

See also:

Kimberly Sevik, “One Man’s God Squad,” Rolling Stone (online), July 28, 2004

“Dr. George Tiller Abortion Trial Jury Selection Begins: Kansas Criminal Late-Term Abortion Law Violated?” Findlaw, March 16, 2009

4 thoughts on “Monsters Without Hearts

  1. Dr. Tiller must have immensely strong convictions to be able to withstand 25 years of continuous harassment. Kansas seems to have lost its compassion for any but the unborn.

  2. maha,
    They also call us “monsters without hearts.”
    The difference is that thir “monsters” only care for the child until it comes out of the womb. Not even the mothers health – witness the 9 year-old girl and the Catholic Church recently. After that, mother, child, and other family members are on their own.
    While we “monsters” care about the health of the mother, the ability of that mother to raise a child, the health of the child, etc.
    So, who’s the monster here?

  3. In the sixth paragraph, you say “performs abortions after six weeks’ gestation.” — Do you mean six months?

  4. Gulag, you are absolutely right about them not caring for the child – or the mother – after the child is born. In many cases, the motive is to separate them and make the children available for adoption (another scam our dear right-wingers are deep into).

    Many may not be aware that adoption is a $3+ billion industry in the U.S. The demand is staggering, and these “people” go to great lengths, often illegal, to procure product for their clients.

    I can tell you from the anecdotal experiences of thousands of adult adoptees and exiled mothers, this does neither separated party any favors. I can also back it with 2+ decades of research.

    I suspect a lot of this maniacal fetus-saving is a byproduct of a growing lack of respect for women in this country. We have been backsliding for decades (not that we had ever gotten that far, anyway). Save the babies, screw the mothers.

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