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2009-06-10

Genetic Counselor Blasts National Society of Genetic Counselors For Not Putting Out a Public Statement Condemning Dr. Tiller’s Murder

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We speak with a genetic counselor who has been a member of the National Society of Genetic Counselors for the past three years. She is critical of the NSGC for not putting out a public statement condemning Dr. Tiller’s murder.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined on the telephone by a genetic counselor. For the past three years, she has been a member of the National Society of Genetic Counselors. She is speaking out today, because the Society, she says, has not put out a public statement condemning Dr. Tiller’s murder. She wishes to remain anonymous. We called the National Society of Genetic Counselors to get a public statement, to find out about this public statement and why it hasn’t been issued. We asked them to —- wanted to ask them to be on the program, but they didn’t respond.

We welcome you to Democracy Now! Talk about what your work is and why you feel that the National Society of Genetic Counselors should be putting out this statement?

GENETIC COUNSELOR: Well, I mean, genetic counselors can work in a lot of different settings nowadays. Things have really diversified. But when the field sort of started up in the mid—'70s, the primary work setting was the prenatal setting. And, in fact, that still is the primary work setting for the vast majority of genetic counselors, meaning that they work in a clinical setting, and they work with pregnant women, and they help pregnant women.

They help to facilitate decision-making processes sometimes, in cases where genetic testing may be warranted or the option of genetic testing, where sometimes there are ultrasound findings that come up. And women find themselves in situations where women and — I should say, couples find themselves in situations where they're facing a decision about their pregnancy.

So the National Society of Genetic Counselors and genetic counselors, in general, are probably making — were probably making the vast majority of referrals, because of their patients’ choices, to Dr. Tiller’s clinic. So it seems to me that it would have been appropriate for the National Society of Genetic Counselors to issue a public statement condemning his murder.

AMY GOODMAN: And what happened?

GENETIC COUNSELOR: They didn’t make one. And when I inquired about that, I was initially told that it wouldn’t be in their best interest, and I got a pretty vague response. And then I was informed that there were some genetic counselors who specifically requested they not make a public statement.

AMY GOODMAN: Why?

GENETIC COUNSELOR: Well, I think there was some fear, and I think that’s exactly the problem, you know, that Dr. Hern mentioned, that there’s this climate of fear now, and it’s because of these extreme extremists, these anti-choice people, that everybody’s now even more afraid. And not only just the actual providers, but people who are indirectly related to sort of referring people to these clinics aren’t even willing to admit their involvement. And I think that’s really a shame, because the entire basis of the field of genetic counseling is to help facilitate choice and for people to make decisions that are best for them.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, the association didn’t have to be for or against abortion to issue a condemnation of Dr. Tiller’s murder.

GENETIC COUNSELOR: That’s right, exactly. And in fact, of course, there are certainly genetic counselors who consider themselves to be pro-life, and that’s OK, but I think that, as you said, you know, you don’t have to support abortion per se, but certainly it would have been appropriate to condemn his murder, at the very least. That was my feeling.

AMY GOODMAN: But what has the National Society of Genetic Counselors done?

GENETIC COUNSELOR: They’re starting a memorial fund. And they sent out a letter to all of its members kind of, you know, condemning his death, but just within our profession. So it really hasn’t reached the public.

And I think it’s just really sad, because I think the public already lacks — very much lacks understanding of what it means to be pro-choice. People think that if you facilitate choice or you are pro-choice, that means you’re pro-abortion.

And I think the field — in my opinion, the field of genetic counseling is a pro-choice field to go into. Not everybody agrees with me on that. But in my opinion, whether or not you would make a decision to have an abortion yourself is really irrelevant if you’re in a position to support a woman or a couple’s choice to make whatever decision they feel is right about their pregnancy.

AMY GOODMAN: And why didn’t you want to be identified today?

GENETIC COUNSELOR: I mean, primarily I didn’t want to be identified — I really don’t want to alienate people in my profession. It’s really a small profession. People really tend to know each other. And I just thought that this was better this way. I’ve had strong feelings about this issue from, you know, the get-go. And I’m not alone in that. But I felt like this was a good opportunity to have my voice be heard without having everybody kind of figure out who it is and, you know, make it become more gossipy than anything else.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Warren Hern, is this of concern to you, the Society not issuing a public statement?

DR. WARREN HERN: Yes, I think it — I’m very distressed to hear this. I’m actually a member of the National Society of Genetic Counselors, and I have gone to a number of their meetings and made presentations. Dr. Tiller and I both had exhibits at these meetings, so that people can be informed. And it’s very interesting. Some people are very interested and very supportive, and other people have been very hostile in their attitudes. Dr. Tiller, in fact, sponsored talks and made a presentation. I went to one of his talks that he gave to the Society in Savannah, Georgia, several years ago.

And in about — I’m not sure when it was, but in one meeting in Washington, DC, Dr. Kenneth Edelin was invited to speak to this group. Dr. Kenneth Edelin is a courageous, fabulous doctor from Boston who risked his life and had — to help women and was persecuted and prosecuted for this in Boston. But he was asked to speak, and he was an incredibly eloquent speaker at this meeting. And the person who invited him was, in fact, invited to leave the organization. And there were many people who were very angry that Dr. Edelin was invited to speak. So, you know, it’s very controversial within that organization.

And yet, you can’t — Dr. Tiller repeatedly made the point that it’s not moral to do genetic testing and understand the health of the fetus without offering women the choice. And, of course, he was a vigorous person who helped women who had to make this terrible choice.

And I see these patients also. In fact, last week and this week, I have been seeing patients who had been scheduled to see Dr. Tiller and who were horrified to find that the doctor they were going to see had been shot, killed, assassinated. So, these women are desperate, and they have — they have desired pregnancies, they want to have a baby, they don’t want to have an abortion, but they have — they face terrible choices that the genetic counselors have helped them identify. And they need help. And it’s just a tragedy.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Tiller’s murder has certainly been an issue on Capitol Hill. On Tuesday, Democratic Congress member Louise Slaughter of New York introduced a resolution in the House condemning his murder. Several lawmakers spoke in one-minute statements on the House floor. This is New York Democrat Carolyn Maloney.

    REP. CAROLYN MALONEY: The consequences of Dr. Tiller’s murder are a tragedy, not only to his family, not only for women in Kansas, but for women everywhere, especially in areas of our country where there are relatively few medical providers. Dr. Tiller is the eighth abortion provider to be murdered since 1977, and he was one of just seven doctors in the entire state of Kansas. Where will women go for the medical help that they need?

    We have seen throughout history that hate is not just ugly, it can be deadly. I hope that leaders on both sides of this debate will look at the savage killing of Dr. Tiller and call to account those who would use hate, intolerance and fear to divide us. My heart goes out to Dr. Tiller’s family and friends, and my prayers are with them.

AMY GOODMAN: New York Congress member Jerrold Nadler was the last to speak in support of the resolution.

    REP. JERROLD NADLER: This resolution condemns the murder of Dr. Tiller. It condemns the murder of people who are murdered in church and places of worship. It condemns the practice, and it has become a practice, of seeking to change the laws of this country, of seeking to intimidate women from availing themselves of their rights, or their constitutional right to an abortion, of intimidating doctors from availing themselves of their constitutional right to perform medical procedures that are legal, that they believe are moral, by threats of murder and mayhem.

    I was glad to hear Mr. Smith say that the pro-life movement is nonviolent, and I’m sure that most of it is. But unfortunately, it’s clear that there are some people, a small minority, who believe themselves part of the pro-life movement, who are not nonviolent. And I trust that everyone in this House today — and these people have engaged in conduct that have killed, murdered, several providers of abortion, simply for doing what they believe to be the right thing, what I believe to be the right thing, and more importantly, what the law allows them to do, and to intimidate other people from doing this.

    This resolution, which I trust every member of this House will vote for, says that we do not believe in trying to change the law by violence; we do not believe in domestic terrorism, defining terrorism as an attempt to change the law through murder and violence and mayhem; believe in constitutional [inaudible]. And if we do not — if every single one of us does not believe in that, then we have no moral superiority over the terrorists that we condemn around the world. So I trust everyone will vote for this resolution to express our horror at what was done in this instance; to express our belief that social change, if necessary, will be brought about by peaceful democratic debate and by votes, not by bullets, and that this country stands for the evolution of law by debate and by consideration and by democratic means. And I urge everyone to vote for this resolution.

AMY GOODMAN: The House resolution passed by a vote of 403-to-0. And, Dr. Hern, is it enough?

DR. WARREN HERN: Hello?

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Hern, is it enough?

DR. WARREN HERN: Yeah, look, look, I’m listening to these statements. This is very interesting. The last statement talked about changing the law through violence. Now, wait a minute. The anti-abortion movement is a terrorist, fascist movement. They do not believe in the rule of law. They reject the rule of law. They’re not trying to change the law through violence. They reject the American Constitution. This is a very dangerous movement.

And it’s not just a minority. Tens of millions of people in the churches around this country believe that Dr. Tiller got what he had coming to him. They believe in violence. I mean, this is the Christian — some of the Protestant Christian churches, fundamentalist churches, and some of the Catholic leaders have used this hate speech to vilify Dr. Tiller and other doctors. And this has directly led to this violence. Wait a minute. The American anti-abortion movement wants a Christian fascist theocracy, that the only difference between this movement and the Taliban is 8,000 miles, the fact the Taliban wants a Christian — wants a fascist Islamist theology — theocracy. This is a — people need to understand what is going on here. This is a violent movement. They don’t care for the laws; they reject the laws.

AMY GOODMAN: This issue of domestic terrorism, do you feel that it has been addressed in this way by the Obama administration?

DR. WARREN HERN: Not adequately.

AMY GOODMAN: What needs to be done?

DR. WARREN HERN: I think that the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances laws need to be applied vigorously.

AMY GOODMAN: The FACE Act, the Federal Access to Clinic Entrances.

DR. WARREN HERN: Yeah, the FACE Act. But I mean, I’m not even sure that that’s enough. We need to go prevent these assassinations from occurring. I mean, catching this guy and putting him in jail, that’s OK. That’s a minimum response, as far as I’m concerned. But this guy was on the radar for weeks, years.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, he had broken the FACE Act twice in a week. The day before Dr. —-

DR. WARREN HERN: Yeah, yeah. He confronted one of my -—

AMY GOODMAN: — Tiller’s death, he —-

DR. WARREN HERN: —- medical colleagues, another medical colleague of mine in Kansas a long time ago. I mean, this guy has been a danger.

AMY GOODMAN: He super-glued the locks of the Kansas City women’s health clinic the day before Dr. Tiller was killed.

DR. WARREN HERN: Yeah, that’s a violation. He should have been — he should have been arrested.

AMY GOODMAN: And the manager of the clinic — the manager of the clinic called the FBI and told them.

DR. WARREN HERN: Yeah. They did nothing. He should have been arrested.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you say you believe President Obama should give a national address on this?

DR. WARREN HERN: Absolutely. This is a national crisis. This is a very important point in American history, where the anti-abortion movement has ratcheted up the level of violence, and they have shown that they are willing to accept any level of violence, including assassination of a doctor in church. What have we come to? Kansas is on its way back to the Dark Ages. But, you know, let Kansas go back to Dark Ages, but we, you know — and also, this was a consequence of the official persecution of Dr. Tiller by Kansas authorities, Kansas attorney general, Kansas legislature, the Kansas Board of Healing Arts. I mean, this is fascism. It is the use of the coercive power of the state to crush an individual.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Warren Hern, I want to thank you for being with us, director of the Boulder — what is the name of your clinic, Dr. Hern?

DR. WARREN HERN: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: The name of your clinic?

DR. WARREN HERN: It’s the Boulder Abortion Clinic, is the name of my clinic.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for being with us. I also want to thank a member of the National Society of Genetic Counselors, who wishes to remain anonymous, who was on with us, as well, a genetic counselor.


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