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OCTOBER 30, 2009 11:35PM


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Letter of protest to the producers of Law and Order:


I was unable to catch the original broadcast of your episode titled “Dignity” (sic) as I was traveling across the state to attend an abortion clinic escort training session, learning how to defend women seeking basic medical care with some dignity from hordes of pushing, shoving, yelling, threatening, religiously motivated lunatics.  Out here in the real world, abortion clinics are still being besieged by mobs that have only increased in number and in threats since the election of Barack Obama and the assassination of Dr. George Tiller last May.


Not even 5 months have passed since Dr. Tiller was shot in the head while standing in his church on a Sunday morning. When I finally watched “Dignity” I was appalled by the shameful and criminal justification you’ve articulated for the murder of one of the most courageous and heroic doctors in this country (literally: the show mounted a justifiable homicide defense for the “fictional” murderer of the “fictional” Dr. Tiller).


It is truly a sign of the times we are living in that a “liberal” show created and set in New York City, the capital of the empire, should reflect the most reactionary sentiments in this country right now. This has once again proved the point that

“[n]ow that ‘common ground’ has become ‘killing ground,’ they [the anti-abortion movement] need to be stopped, not conciliated with, through mass public condemnation, and a growing movement to protect abortion providers.”


Millions of viewers have seen “Dignity” and are being affected by its message. Any claims of poetic license are beside the point. No one would argue against fantasy or the right to create inventive stories. This is about using an entire show to slander and defame a man who was just murdered and to provide a platform for the most extreme sections of the anti-abortion movement that just murdered him! I won’t repeat all the analyses of this disgusting episode that others have passionately written.


However, a few basic facts:


-       Fetuses are not babies. 90% of all abortions happen in the first trimester, when the embryo or fetus is this size or smaller: oooooooooooooo

-       Late second or third trimester abortions are provided for women who truly need them and often had no one else to turn to than Dr. Tiller; including women living in NYC. Without his experience and legal ability to perform these complicated procedures, many women would have literally died.

-       Because fetuses, defined by their dependent and biologically integrated status in relation to the pregnant woman, are not babies, abortion is in no way comparable to murder. Portraying abortion providers as bloodthirsty baby-haters who jump at the chance to stab newly born babies in the head with scissors is ridiculous, harmful, and throws fuel on the fire built by those inciting violence against doctors and clinics.

-       Without safe and legal access to abortion, women die: not just in the past in the U.S., but around the planet today, 67,000 women die because of unsafe abortions. Many more are injured.

-       There is not a single anti-abortion organization in the country that supports birth control: all of them oppose using any form of birth control as well as abortion. This should tell you that this is about women’s role in society as fundamentally being defined by our ability to bear and raise children, rather than pious concern for unwanted fetuses.

-       This is not about the fetus’ dignity, but the woman’s! Outlawing abortion, or making it de facto unavailable through the murder of enough providers will not prevent abortions; it will only prevent safe and legal abortion.


It is not fanatical or hypocritical, as your writers suggest, to forthrightly assert that women are not incubators and should not be forced to bear unwanted pregnancies. In fact, it is completely consistent with a worldview that sees women as fully human to trust them to decide whether and when we want to become mothers.


Dr. George Tiller risked his life and ultimately lost it for his decades of service in the spirit of the button he wore daily: “Trust Women.” It is more than sickening that you have decided to lend your support to a movement that seeks not “dignity” for babies, but the subjugation and degradation of all women.


If you want to express your displeasure over this episode, write to the executive producer of Law and Order, Rene Balcer, at 100 University City Plaza, University City, CA 91608.




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I am in your amen corner. Keep up doing the good work. You are a tiger.
More people need to know about this. This moral relativism used in this episode is so dangerous to the lives of women and the doctors who provide them care!
I watched this episode when it aired. I share your perspective on the scenario that the show presented. I will say this: I was not all that surprised as the show consistently takes real-world events, twists them a bit, and then show both sides of the equation, which I do not present as a defense for what I also thought was a, perhaps, biased view.

One point that struck me was the testimony of women who had babies that they knew ahead of time would suffer and die. Their testimony was not about the babies, at all, but about the women’s feelings of joy at having the baby. One woman even talked about how she held her baby in her arms and watched it die an agonizing death due to its inability to breathe, she watched it as it gasped for its last living breath and died in her arms, and she described this as some sort of wonderful experience for the mother. I was appalled that the storyline did not capitalize on the DIGNITY of that scenario.

For those who might be interested, I wrote a post quite some time ago called:

What is dignity? Is it a useful concept?

It addresses a number of social, ethical dilemmas and how the word “dignity” is perhaps misused and abused by both sides of each dilemma. It fits quite well with this.

Excellent post. I saw the episode and was enraged as well. R