Floor Statement of Senator Shaheen on the Tiller ResolutionJune 17, 2009
Mr. President, yesterday, along with Senator Boxer and Senator Klobuchar, I introduced Senate Resolution 187, a resolution condemning the use of violence against providers of reproductive health care services to women and expressing sympathy for the family, friends and patients of Dr. George Tiller.
Unfortunately, the murder of Dr. Tiller was not an isolated incident. Our country has a history of violence against reproductive health care providers. Since 1993, eight clinic workers have been murdered and there have been hundreds of additional attempted murders, bombings, death threats and kidnappings. Since 1977, there have been more than 5,800 reported acts of violence against providers and clinics.
I remember almost exactly nine years ago when the Concord Feminist Health Center in Concord, New Hampshire was burned in an arson attack. Fortunately, nobody was injured, but other communities have not been so lucky. In 1998, a bomb exploded at a clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, killing Robert Sanderson, an off-duty police officer who worked as a security guard, and severely injuring nurse Emily Lyons. In 1994, Dr. John Britton and 74-year-old clinic escort James Barrett were shot and killed outside a clinic in Pensacola, Florida. Mr. Barrett was volunteering to escort women at the clinic so that they would not have to walk alone past protesters gathered outside. For this kindness he was murdered.
These acts of violence are unacceptable. Not only do they violate our laws and lead to human tragedy, but they dissuade medical professionals from entering a field of medicine that is critically important to women across the country.
Mr. President, I realize that the issue of reproductive choice is divisive and that there are many heartfelt feelings on both sides of the aisle and even within my own caucus. However, I was hopeful that, regardless of our differences of opinion on the sensitive issue of reproductive health and choice, the Senate could come together and quickly pass a resolution that rejects the use of violence against reproductive health care providers. However, this is not the case. My cosponsors and I have tried to pass this resolution by unanimous consent. Unfortunately, some on the other side of the aisle objected. How disappointing that in this country, and in this body, we can't come together to unanimously condemn the use of violence.
My cosponsors and I were urged to eliminate references to women's reproductive health care to get this resolution passed through the Senate. But we are not going to back down. This country should be able to come together to condemn violence against reproductive health care providers. It is a sad day when the elected leaders of the greatest Democracy on earth can't agree to protect those exercising their constitutional rights from violence.
I am please to be joined by 44 of my colleagues on this important resolution. We all recognize that it will be referred to committee and are saddened that we are not able to pass it without objection.
Mr. President, I'd like to now read this simple resolution.
Condemning the use of violence against providers of health care services to women.
Whereas Dr. George Tiller of Wichita, Kansas was shot to death at church on Sunday, May 31;
Whereas there is a history of violence against providers of reproductive health care, as health care employees have suffered threats, hostility, and in order to provide crucial services to patients;
Whereas the threat or use of force or physical obstruction has been used to injure, intimidate, or interfere with individuals seeking to obtain or provide health care services; and
Whereas acts of violence are never an acceptable means of expression and always shall be condemned. Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate---
(1) Expresses great sympathy for the family, friends and patients of Dr. George Tiller;
(2) Recognizes that acts of violence should never be used to prevent women from receiving reproductive health care; and
(3) Condemns the use of violence as a means of resolving differences of opinion.
Mr. President, I find it hard to believe that this language condemning the murder of a health care provider and expressing sympathy to a family in mourning could be objectionable.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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