Tuesday, June 2, 2009
A Thought on George Tiller
The national dialogue concerning the murder of controversial late-term abortionist Dr. George Tiller has covered more facets of this case than I can comprehensively recount here, which is quite frankly why I'm not going to bother doing so. Instead I would like to focus on a little-discussed facet of this issue that has been off-handedly referenced in the media without receiving the closer inspection it deserves.
When anti-abortionists would talk about Dr. George Tiller (either in the intelligent and respectful manner that characterizes civil debate, or through the hyperbolic demagoguery that seems especially popular among the right-wing's most popular talking heads), they would frequently mention that he would provide "abortion on-demand" for $5,000 a pop. I distinctly recall one video of Bill O'Reilly talking about Dr. Tiller pre-assassination and commenting on how any woman, if she just up and feels like it, could slap five grand onto a table and get her abortion performed, no questions asked. Someone paying attention only to the tone and subtext of O'Reilly's raving and ignoring its logical implications (which is to say, the great bulk of O'Reilly's listeners) would walk away from that harrangue thinking that it is easy to obtain an abortion from Dr. Tiller as it is to purchase a strip of beef jerky from a gas station market.
Yet think about it: $5,000 for an abortion? I am hardly an expert on the nuances of pricing medical procedures, but I do know that $5,000 is an exorbitant fee during periods of economic prosperity, to say nothing of the recession in which our nation is currently mired. If one believes (as I do) that abortion is a guaranteed right for all women, then one must pay attention not only to preserving the procedure's legality, but to ensuring that all women have fair and equal access to it. Practically speaking, $5,000 is a terribly difficult amount of money for the overwhelming majority of Americans to produce, especially within a short amount of time (which would doubtless be the case for a woman requiring an abortion, who by virtue of her circumstances will have at most a few short months to pull together that kind of money).
Once again, I hardly claim to be an expert on how minor surgeries such as abortion (early or late-term) are performed, and how the nature of their performance affects their necessary pricing. What I do know is that abortion is a right for all women, not merely the affluent. At a time when issues such as health care reform and Judge Sotomayor's spotty abortion rights record are being discussed in depth, and especially when financial hardships afflict Americans in ways unseen for a generation, it is absolutely necessary that this facet of the abortion debate be adequately addressed.