Senate: Violence bad, unless abortion-related

Lawmakers balk at a bill condemning Tiller's murder

By Lynn Harris
June 24, 2009 6:25PM (UTC)
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Just wanted to make sure this was on your radar: As noted yesterday, the Senate is debating a resolution condemning violence against women's healthcare providers. Mmmhmm, debating. The bill, introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., states that "acts of violence should never be used to prevent women from receiving reproductive health care." Bingo: It's the word "reproductive" that's radioactive.

It could even be a "dealbreaker," as the Minnesota Independent put it, for some Republicans and antiabortion senators. In fact, in a bit of Senate-fu, one anonymous senator (and by "anonymous," we're guessing, we mean Vitter, Coburn or DeMint) has put a "secret hold" on the bill to prevent it from coming to a vote. Opponents (such as Family Research Council president Tony Perkins) claim the bill's intent is to "glorify" abortion, which perhaps would have been accurate regarding the earlier draft in which the A-word was written in glitter pen.


A watered-down -- actually, churched-up -- version of the bill passed earlier this month in the House. It condemned the murder of Dr. George Tiller, along with six other murders that occurred in places of worship. It did say that "violence is deplorable, and never an acceptable avenue for expressing opposing viewpoints." No mention of abortion or women, except in comments  made by its author, Rep. Louise Slaughter. For better or for worse, the (frankly, clever, at least in terms of expediency) "worship"-ful language seems to have served as an effective legislative Trojan horse.

Still -- remember -- it's not like the Senate version uses the word "shmashmortion" in the first place. (And as Planned Parenthood duly reminds us, "reproductive healthcare" other than abortion is the lion's share of what they do.) It doesn't even really go that far toward "honoring" Dr. Tiller, per se, as some have said in its favor. It's an important statement, but it's largely symbolic. Most of all, as it stands, it seems to be serving primarily as a litmus test. Well, two. We're seeing (again) how low certain lawmakers are willing to stoop -- and (perhaps) how far out of mainstream acceptability their positions have begun to fall.

"I am at a loss as to how any member of the Senate could oppose an anti-violence resolution," said NARAL president Nancy Keenan. "It doesn't ask any member of the Senate to change his or her position on abortion. It just reiterates a core American value that, even on issues where there is intense debate, violence is never an option. I commend Sens. Shaheen, Boxer, and Klobuchar, as well as the other 40 senators who co-sponsored this resolution, for their leadership, and urge the senators who refused to support it to come out of the shadows and explain why."


Sens. Shaheen, Boxer and Klobuchar were asked to soften the language in the bill. Their response: Nothin' doin'. If you're so inspired, let them know they have your support. 

Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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