Another video coming at you from our friends over at LadyPartsJustice.com holding Governor Scott Walker accountable for hatin’ on the ladies. In this episode, one dude wants to know why Walker lets pharmacists refuse to give you birth control pills but they can’t deny dudes their boner pills? Anyone have any ideas why this might be?
I had never even heard of the so-called “notorious” abortion doctor George Tiller. When I crossed the Kansas-Oklahoma border for my first year at the University of Kansas, it wasn’t as if there was a billboard along I-35 saying “ABORTIONS” with a lit up arrow pointing and flashing. In fact I didn’t hear about him until several years later when I took a year off from school to work on my first political campaign. My candidate got a big check from Tiller and wondered if she should give it back. I didn’t want to show my ignorance not knowing who this major donor was, so I looked him up later wondering why it mattered. Ah how I miss my adorable liberal innocence.
Several years later, EMILY’s List came to Wichita to do a training for state and local women running for office, in part funded by the generous donations that Dr. Tiller made to their causes and candidates. By then I was well aware of the good doctor.
I was excited to participate, not as a candidate, but as a staffer who wanted to learn state level campaigning and meet other female leaders. The training was held in a Unitarian church they had rented out and I arrived very early. I pulled along the curb, grabbed my backpack, and began to walk inside. There were two older people across the street with a video camera on a tripod filming me. I had no idea why they were there but it made me feel incredibly uncomfortable.
Toward the end of the training a small trim man came into the room as we shared drinks and cookies. Women seemed to gather around him shaking his hand and saying hello. Dr. Tiller was introduced to the room and took a moment to say a few words. He spoke about being the father of daughters, about being a husband, about his life being surrounded by women. “Women are smart,” he said. “They are strong, they are brave, and I trust them to make their own healthcare decisions.”
I think I was the youngest person in the room, or near to it, so when I heard the male voice say hello while we both perused the lemonade, I was nervous and excited. I reached to hug him (southerns are huggers no matter which state we’re in). I told him thank you for helping Kansas women, Kansas candidates and activists, and for being a strong contributor for protecting a woman’s right to choose.
Later that night while having drinks with the EMILY’s List staffers at their hotel, I talked about hugging him and feeling like he was wearing a bunch of layers of clothes or something. Padding maybe, I wasn’t sure. One of them smiled at my innocence, “That’s his bullet proof vest, he wears it everywhere. He’s been shot in his arms and legs by anti-choice people.”
Five years ago today, Dr. Tiller was gunned down while greeting friends at his church on a beautiful Sunday spring morning. For a short time the clinic closed, but now in its place stands a new one, still providing women’s health services that these activists killed him for. Friend and ally Julie Burkhart is bravely leading the cause in his place, reminding us to “trust women.”