In the News
“Pro-Lifer” Murders Doctor
Abortion provider Dr. George Tiller is gunned down in church
Dr. George Tiller faced nearly daily death threats, had to hire a bodyguard, rode around in an armored car, and was called “Tiller the Baby Killer” by Bill O’Reilly. Today he is dead. Murdered during a church service, by a man who claims he is “pro-life.” The grim irony of that claim should not be lost on any of us. The alleged murderer, Scott Roeder, is a middle-aged man who, according to the Washington Post, “is known in anti-abortion circles as a man who believes that killing an abortion doctor is justifiable.”
Tiller has long been a favorite target of the anti-choice movement because he is one of the few doctors in the country that performed late-term abortions. Far from being the whimsical choice of a woman who’s suddenly decided at eight months that she no longer wants to be fat, these abortions are generally performed on women whose pregnancies put them at risk for death or who are carrying fetuses that have been diagnosed with crippling disease or deformity. To have an abortion so late in the game is a highly personal choice that nobody could make easily.
One former patient’s husband wrote a moving account of their dealings with Dr. Tiller after the fetus his wife was carrying was diagnosed with a severe defect “incompatible with life” at 21 weeks (too late to terminate a pregnancy in many states). He shared some of their memories on Metafilter:
I remember he spent over six hours in one-on-one care with my wife when there was concern she had an infection. We’re talking about a physician here. Six hours.
I remember being puzzled about a T-shirt he was wearing, which said “Happy Birthday Jennifer from team Tiller!” or something similar. Turns out it commemorated the birthday of a fifteen-year-old girl who was raped, became pregnant, and came to Tiller for an abortion. As luck would have it, she was in the clinic the same week as her birthday. So the clinic threw her a party.
The walls of the clinic reception and waiting room are literally covered with letters from patients thanking him. Some were heartbreaking – obviously young and/or poorly educated people thanking Dr. Tiller for being there when they had no other options, explaining their family, church etc. had abandoned them.
His murder on Sunday wasn’t Tiller’s first brush with violence. In 1993, the doctor was shot in both arms by a woman named Shelley Shannon. He went back to work the very next day. Anti-choice zealots, Operation Rescue, have been quick to distance themselves from Tiller’s murder, but up until he was killed they had a stalking page on their Web site called “Tiller-Watch,” which they immediately pulled.
Dr. Warren Hern, a Colorado physician who is probably the only other doctor in the country – if not the world – who performs these late-term abortions, is understandably incensed. He told the Colorado Independent, “I’m profoundly sad and I’m furious and I think the American people need to understand that we have a fascist movement in this country. We don’t have to invade Iraq to find terrorists. They’re right here killing abortion doctors.”
Vigils are being held in honor of Dr. Tiller around the nation this evening.