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Weekly Pulse: Will the feds dare call it terrorism?

The fallout from the assassination of women's healthcare provider Dr. George Tiller continues. As Zack Roth of Talking Points Memo reports, the Justice Department will investigate whether Tiller's shooter, an anti-choice zealot, violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act or any other federal statutes. But little has been said about investigating the killing as an act of terrorism, a federal crime. The Oklahoma City bombers were investigated by the FBI and tried under a 1994 federal anti-terrorism statute, and that was before the PATRIOT ACT, which presumably makes it even easier to prosecute terrorism as a federal crime today.

Tiller's murder was terrorism by any reasonable definition of the term. It was a politically-motivated act of conspicuous brutality, designed to suppress abortions through fear. The feds will probably stop short of investigating Tiller's murder as a terrorist attack. That designation would unleash vast federal powers to investigate large swathes of the radical anti-choice movement and hold accountable anyone who gives them the slightest aid and comfort. The feds are simply not prepared for the political fallout that would ensue if, say, Operation Rescue were officially designated as a terrorist organization.

But Tiller's assassination seems to be working as an intimidation tactic. On Tuesday, Dr. Tiller's family announced that his clinic, one of only three facilities of its kind in the country, will close its doors forever. Tracy Clark-Flory writes in Salon that the terrorist got exactly what he wanted:

"A lesson in the effectiveness of terrorism: Dr. George Tiller's Kansas clinic is closing permanently,according to his family's lawyers. In a statement Tuesday, the family said: 'We are proud of the service and courage shown by our husband and father and know that women's healthcare needs have been met because of his dedication and service.' They will continue to honor his memory "through private charitable activities" -- in other words, the type of activism that is less likely to get a person killed."

 Of course, the intimidation won't stop at a single act. As his clinic notes in Mother Jones, the alleged assassin is inciting further violence from his jail cell:

"The fact that the family made clear that it would not be involved "in any other similar clinic" suggests that they are traumatized and fearful--in a word, terrorized. And no wonder, since Roeder, as I detailed yesterday, has issued warnings from his jail cell of further attacks on abortion providers--an act which, coming from just about any other comparable source, would certainly be deemed terrorism, and treated accordingly."

Making explict the link between Tiller's murder and larger political goals, the Associated Press headline calls the closing a "tainted victory" for the larger anti-choice movement.

Professional anti-choicer Ross Douthat sparked controversy in an op/ed for the New York Times, insinuating that Dr. Tiller might still be alive if pro-choicers didn't make such a big deal about protecting late-term abortions. Hilzoy of the Washington Monthly tackles some Douthat's errors, starting with his misleading implication that third trimester abortions are unregulated. Without that premise, Douthat's argument falls apart, since he's arguing in effect that pro-choicers have created a free-for-all in which anyone can get a late term abortion for any reason.

Amanda Marcotte of RH Reality does a great job exposing the misogyny behind the anti-choice myth of frivolous late-term abortions. If you think that women are flighty, irrational, fundamentally unserious beings, you expect them to opt out of pregnancy on a whim after months of gestation. The imagined problem of casual late-term abortions reveals what anti-choicers really think of women, that they are lesser beings who need to be controlled by the state. Dr. Tiller's motto was the exact opposite: Trust women.

by Lindsay Beyerstein, TMC MediaWire Blogger. This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care.

Visit Healthcare.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on healthcare affordability, healthcare laws, and healthcare controversy or follow us on Twitter.

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