A 51-year-old man, identified by police as Scott Roeder, has been charged with the murder of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller. Tiller was gunned down in Wichita, Kansas at his church yesterday.
Diane Derzis owns the New Women Health Care Clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, a clinic that provides abortions and has for more than three decades. She spoke to Kiran Chetry on CNN’s “American Morning” Monday.
Kiran Chetry: You knew Dr. Tiller for years. What was your reaction when you heard about this shooting?
Diane Derzis: Absolutely stunned…also not surprised. We've all known that something like this was going to happen. The question was who was it going to happen to?
Chetry: Your clinic was the one that was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama, by Eric Rudolph, the suspect now serving time because of that.
Chetry: What is it like going to work knowing you have a target on your head?
Derzis: It's been like that for many years. You know, every abortion provider in this country knows what kind of atmosphere we work in. We have these people in front of the clinics…These antics would not be allowed in any other business, but it's part of what we do. I think you would have the hundreds of abortionists tell you the same thing that we are all proud of what we do, we love what we do, that we do serve women. And that we do so knowing what the risks are.
Chetry: When you say you love what you do, can you explain more about that for people who understand what a contentious situation it is. It's a choice that no one wants to have to make, people make it obviously. But when you say you love what you do, explain that.
Derzis: You know, you can't meet and talk with the women that we see on a daily basis and not know that what you're doing is right and moral…And Dr. Tiller, the women he saw…he was the last resort. These were women who had wanted to be pregnant, who valued their pregnancies and for whatever reason were forced to terminate. And I think that's the important thing is we know what kind of a role we place in the community…no one would choose to do this for a job. It's a calling.
Chetry: This is something that's been roundly denounced, this shooting, by pro-life activists as well, including Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition. He said, “It's tragic. The probability is that someone who opposed abortion did this. The reason we are pro-life is because we hate violence on any level. I don't know of one legitimate pro-life leader who would not unequivocally condemn this.”
Derzis: That's a lie.
Chetry: You don't believe those words?
Derzis: Absolutely not. These people…the rhetoric these people espouse calls for our deaths every day in front of these clinics. He's saying that only because of the timing of this particular shooting. Randal Terry, you also hear him calling George Tiller a mass-murderer. They have websites, they have wanted posters. These people have put the target on our chest, on our backs.
Chetry: You don't differentiate people who are opposed to abortion and pro-life for their religious reasons versus those who are promoting violence? I know the websites that you're referring to where there's a line through people who have been killed. You don't differentiate between the extreme and people that just hold the position?
Derzis: Make no mistake, there are so many people in this country who are pro-life and are decent, hard working, good people. But the people by and large who stand in front of these clinics every day have their own agenda and that agenda is to do away with abortion in whatever way they can. The election of Barack Obama put them in a corner. They're losing and the only way they see to take care of this is to kill us. This is just the first of what I foresee as many more.
Chetry: This is certainly an uncomfortable question to ask but it makes you wonder. In all the articles I was reading, it was said that Dr. Tiller was one of three doctors in this country who perform late-term abortions. So there’s two more, I guess you could say. And the targets are out there. So what happens, God forbid, if there’s more violence? Would that end the ability for late-term abortions?
Derzis: I would hope not. I think what you see, these providers know, again, what the risks are. But they've decided to take their medical training and help women. Now I hope that you're going to see more physicians stand up to take George Tiller's place. Now that would be the ideal thing.