Gynecologist specializing in abortion care who has worked in Dr. Tiller’s clinic since 2005.
Days before she heads back to Wichita for her colleague Dr. George Tiller’s funeral, Dr. Susan Robinson reacts to the news that another abortion clinic had warned the FBI of the suspect in Tiller’s killing. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: That was Ani DiFranco singing “Birmingham” about the bombing of the Birmingham, Alabama, women’s health clinic that killed an off-duty police officer, critically wounded a nurse there.
We go for a moment to California to Dr. Susan Robinson. She would fly in every month to Dr. Tiller’s clinic in Wichita to also perform abortions with him, to help him out. We spoke to her on Monday on Democracy Now!
But, Dr. Robinson, I just wanted to go to this issue — I know you’re going to be flying in to Wichita on Saturday for the funeral of Dr. Tiller — this issue of the authorities responding. What difference does it make when federal and local authorities respond to violations, to illegal actions around a women’s health clinic?
DR. SUSAN ROBINSON: Good morning, Amy.
Let me start by saying I’m speaking for myself; I’m not speaking for the clinic. I’m just — I’m speaking as an individual abortion provider.
But in general, amongst people who do clinic security, it’s generally regarded as the truth that if local law enforcement is less than enthusiastic or less than vigorous or less than careful about pursuing people who violate the law, that those people become more and more aggressive and more and more —- they push the envelope more and more.
And I’m listening to what Mr. Pederson has to say and thinking to myself, this is a clear violation under the FACE Act. This guy repeatedly violated federal law, including he was caught violating federal law the day before Dr. Tiller was shot. And this shouldn’t have been ignored. It was basically -—
AMY GOODMAN: Just to make it clear, the FACE Act, the 1994 Federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances, known as FACE, makes it a crime to block or damage a reproductive health service facility.
DR. SUSAN ROBINSON: Correct. And, in fact, they specifically mention gluing locks. So, I don’t know. Here’s a guy caught, you know, breaking a federal law, very clearly, by a nurse. The FBI is called. He’s caught on camera several times. They know who he is. You know, what piece is missing here that this guy wasn’t apprehended the day before Dr. Tiller was shot?
AMY GOODMAN: And what did Dr. Tiller find in Wichita, when he would call the authorities? Explain the level of activism. I mean, not talking about laying roses or — but talk about what you found of grave concern, what Dr. Tiller was concerned about.
DR. SUSAN ROBINSON: OK. Well, in the city of Wichita, it is illegal to put a sign on public property, like a yard sale sign. If you put a yard sale sign on city property, they’ll pull it up, and they’ll fine you.
So, these anti-abortion protesters — and let’s not call them “pro-life.” You know, they’re not pro-life; they’re anti-abortion. These anti-abortion protesters would come every morning. They had little kind of holder locations drilled in the grass in the easement between the sidewalk and the street, which is city property. And I don’t know how many, over a hundred, 150 or so, I would guess, and these are little receptacles where they would put crosses. And so, as the patients would drive up to the clinic, they’d be faced with this forest of crosses. So — and then they would put a table blocking the sidewalk next to the driveway entrance. And then, in a no parking zone directly across from the clinic entrance, they have a huge panel truck with grisly pictures of aborted fetuses and a thing about “abortion is in an Obama-nation” and a picture of Dr. Tiller going — helping a patient into an ambulance one time when we did a transport to the hospital.
All of these things are illegal, and yet they would not stop them. They said the crosses are not signs; they’re religious symbols. Well, I think they’re religious symbols like a cross on the lawn of a black person that you set on fire is a religious symbol. I mean, they were not being used as religious symbols.
You know, a truck, all the time — sometimes would park overnight there in a no parking zone. They wouldn’t do anything about it. The protesters would sometimes walk very, very, very, very, very slowly across the driveway so that cars coming in, patients’ cars coming in, would have to stop if they didn’t want to hit the protester. But as long as the protester kept moving even a half an inch at a time, that’s regarded as not impeding. Well, you know, the FACE Act, that we were just talking about, forbids impeding cars from going in and out. And if that’s not impeding, I don’t know what impeding is. So, nothing would be done about that.
AMY GOODMAN: Did Dr. Tiller go to the authorities?
DR. SUSAN ROBINSON: Yeah. Oh, there’s a couple of other things I have to mention. There’s a guy who gets out there every Wednesday with a bullhorn, and he stands on the sidewalk on a table, looking into the parking lot with a bullhorn, and as patients come in, he says, “Hey, you there in the pink shirt, you know, you’re going to kill your baby today!” or “Hey, you there in the Lincoln, you know, I thought only poor people got abortions!” Or, you know, like that.
And then, there’s sometimes a guy with a bugle or a ram’s horn who stands out there making a huge racket that can be heard inside the clinic. You know, I think this is a residential area. I think they have noise laws. But none of this would be — none of this would — they just refuse to address this. The city refuses to address this.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Dr. Tiller, did he go to the local authorities?
DR. SUSAN ROBINSON: Yeah, he did. And I asked him about this, and he said to me that he had a meeting with the city attorney. He did not say when it was, and he didn’t say who it was. But he said, “And they said to me, we would rather be sued by George Tiller than by the anti-abortion people.”
AMY GOODMAN: Why?
DR. SUSAN ROBINSON: Well, I guess because George Tiller is playing with his own money, and they’re all playing with house money. When I asked him, that’s what he said. “I’m playing with my own money, and they’re playing with house money.”
AMY GOODMAN: What does “house money” mean?
DR. SUSAN ROBINSON: Well, if you’re the city of Wichita, it means that it’s not coming out of the pocket of the guy who’s actually involved in the lawsuit.
AMY GOODMAN: And when did Dr. Tiller tell you this story, Dr. Robinson?
DR. SUSAN ROBINSON: About a month ago.
AMY GOODMAN: About a month before he was murdered.
DR. SUSAN ROBINSON: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Robinson, thanks very much for joining us, as you head off to the funeral of Dr. Tiller on Saturday.