George Tiller RIP

// 1 June 2009

On Sunday morning, US gynaecologist George Tiller was murdered. He was one of the few providers of late-term abortions in the US.

Christine at Our Bodies Ourselves gives some background – Tiller had faced many years of persecution:

In March, Tiller was found not guilty of illegal abortion. He had faced 19 criminal charges for allegedly violating a state law requiring an “independent” second physician’s concurring opinion before performing later term abortions.

“Tiller, 67, is one of a handful of doctors in the country who terminate very late-term pregnancies and has virtually become public enemy No. 1 to those who oppose abortion. For years, prosecutors and activists have tried to bring him down, and for years, Tiller has survived legal and physical challenges,” wrote Robin Abcarian in a L.A. Times story previewing the trial.

Tiller was shot in both arms in 1993; Rachelle Shannon remains in jail for the shooting. The clinic was bombed in June 1986, and vandals caused extensive damage, including flooding, to the building earlier this month.

“For almost two decades, Dr. Tiller and those individuals who helped provide care to his patients have lived under intense harassment tinged with persistent threats of violence,” Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement issued today. “Even under these adverse circumstances, Dr. Tiller never wavered in his commitment to providing abortion services and other reproductive health care to women and their families, often in the most difficult and heart-breaking circumstances.”

Sara at Bilerico says:

Dr. Tiller faced a lifetime of threats. His clinic was bombed in 1985. He still continued his work because he was saving lives. And one of the few willing to take the constant abuse thrown at him and his family.

Walking into church, a sanctuary if nothing else, he was shot and killed. I am certain the shooter believes he has saved countless babies lives. I am also certain he has cost countless women’s lives.

Shot dead in front of his wife and daughter.

I no longer stand vigil at clinics. I believe deeply, though, that the right to choose was essential in the battle for women’s rights, regardless of whether or not a woman would ever be in the position of making that choice.

No woman ever makes the choice lightly.

Our bodies. Our choices. Over the years, the anti-abortion groups have pressured so many decent doctors out of providing safe access to a medical procedure. Few are brave enough to continue.

Dr. Tiller was brave enough.

My deepest condolences to his family.

Comments From You

Saranga // Posted 1 June 2009 at 4:50 pm

Awful news. My deepest sympathies and condolences to his family.

Gen // Posted 1 June 2009 at 4:56 pm

Awful news, I hope whoever did this is bought to justice promptly. I cannot imagine what his family are going through, especially as this wasn’t the first attempt on his life.

I don’t know how anyone else feels about this, but I think it’s really important that we show abortion providers that we value their work. I know the situation is different in the US, but I’m sure our UK doctors, nurses and staff who work in abortion care could do with a simple card or donation to the charities (BPAS/MSI) letting them know that they do a really important job.

JenniferRuth // Posted 1 June 2009 at 5:04 pm

Dr Tiller was a brave man for continuing to provide such an important service in face of such opposition. So are all the other abortion providers who are persecuted and all the other staff who work at their clinics.

I would have given in after the first time I had been shot…

My utmost respect to him and condolences to his family.

We must call this what is is – domestic terrorism – a war fought over womens bodies.

And it isn’t just a small group of extremists – they may be the ones that carry out these acts of violence but they encouraged by more moderate sources. For instance, Bill O’Reilly has been fostering hatred towards Dr. Tiller for years now. He called him “Tiller the Baby Killer” and linked him to child molestation and rape. He did this to a man who has already had to fend off “pro-life” terrorist attacks for most of his professional life.

Did Bill O’Reilly incite a faction of pro-lifers to violence? I don’t know…but the hate-filled language and the whipping up of strong emotions certainly doesn’t make for neutral reporting.

Bill O’Reilly isn’t the only person in the media guilty of fostering spite and hatred. And the media does have a massive impact on how people think.

There are other abortion providers in the US (and the world over) who are still working in the face of threats and intimidation. What happens when Bill O’Reilly or someone like him picks a new target in place of Dr. Tiller?

At this point, the arguement between pro-choicers and anti-choicers is NOT an equal debate. One side has people in it that foster a culture of violence and has commited acts of terrorism. Of course, those people are a minority but the anti-choicers are going to have to take responsibility for them. Voices like O’Reilly are going to have take responsibility for them.

Shea // Posted 1 June 2009 at 10:48 pm

I will never get over the irony of a “pro-life” movement that kills people in cold blood and rides roughshod over the lives and bodies of women. Say the truth of what you stand for– the social control of women through the usurped control of their reproductive and generative capabilities, without a thought to the lives, dignity or autonomy of the women involved. Any political movement that resorts to violence immediately casts serious doubt onto its credibility and one that kills innocent people without a moments hesitation deserves to be seen for the menace that it is.

I praise this utterly heroic and courageous man, a true hero and humanitarian if ever there was one. My thoughts and condolences go out to his family.

I hope if anything this inspires more medical students and residents to pursue obstetrics and gynaecology and to perform late term abortions where they are needed.

So tragic.

fodigg // Posted 2 June 2009 at 5:54 am

The most successful terrorist campaign in America claims another victim. How is this Christian? How is this just?

Amy Clare // Posted 2 June 2009 at 9:46 am

JenniferRuth, I agree with you completely. There are many people in the US (among other countries) who have a platform in the mainstream media by which they enable and foster such acts of terrorism.

More on that topic here:

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/05/this_is_not_an_isolated_incide.php

maggie // Posted 2 June 2009 at 6:45 pm

Absolutely in agreement with the sentiments above. This despicable murder sends a violent message to American women – we deranged domestic terrorists control you.

My condolences to Mr Tiller’s family.

Sam Rico // Posted 3 June 2009 at 1:30 am

in response to Shea, i dont think that any political movement that uses violence is automatically in the wrong, in some places and at some times it has been necessary, although i do agree that it should be viewed with caution, as violence should not be taken lightly. and obviously if it purposefully endengers or harms innocents, it loses all credibility.

in response to fodigg, Christian and just are not the same thing. this act could very easily be justified as Christian, i would say that it pretty much was. the way forward is outside of religion.

this case is just another of the many that shows the complete shambles which are american gun control laws.

finally, just want to say this man is a hero. i also hope that this inspires people to fight for the pro-choice cause, and expose the other side for what they really. its tragic that its come to this.

Jackie Bather // Posted 4 June 2009 at 11:08 am

As George Tiller performed operations within the USA legal framework, what he was doing was not illegal.It is illegal, however, to shoot a man and kill him because one differs in opinion to him.One only hopes that this form of terrorism does not become common -place here in the UK.

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