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“The Assassination of Dr. Tiller” – MSNBC Documentary Narrated by Rachel Maddow

October 29, 2010

The MSNBC documentary The Assassination of Dr. Tiller aired earlier this week. I don’t think there’s a lot that’s new big picture stuff there if you followed the story closely – most repro rights people likely know why Tiller was targeted and about the history of violence against him and other providers. In broad strokes, I think those of us who follow these things all kind of know the story.

The documentary does provide some specifics that may be new or interesting, though. The discussion with members of Tiller’s church and interviews with his staff were interesting, as were interviews with Scott Roeder’s ex-wife proving his backstory on his anti-abortion activities. The material on the ramping up of anti-choice activities beyond the violent act of one man, media coverage of Tiller prior to his death, and tactics including “wanted” posters and attempted isolation/demonization of clinic workers are important.

It’s nearly impossible for me to judge how the film might be viewed by people who are not already aware of the overall story of clinic/anti-abortion violence and interested in the preservation of reproductive rights in the U.S. I’d like to see this become a historical lens, a film played in hushed rooms to illustrate the bad old days when extremists terrorized providers for providing safe and legal care to women because of their personal ideology. Abortion will always be needed, and will always happen – violent acts such as Dr. Tiller’s murder only serve to make it more dangerous and difficult to obtain. The film does touch on this aspect – that the violence and harassment that Tiller and his peers were subjected ends up reducing the number of people willing and available to be abortion providers – making Dr. Tiller’s murder a “success” in the eyes of some.

The film is divided into several parts; the link above will take you to part one – subsequent parts should start on their own. The transcript and subtitle features don’t seem to be available for these videos.

Maddow did an interview with Feministing – in part about the documentary – here.

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