Remembering Dr. Tiller

Today is a good day.  Scott Roeder–the man who, in cold blood and with years of  premeditation–walked into a church and shot Dr. George Tiller in the head–was convicted of first degree murder charges. After only 37 minutes of deliberation, the jury in the case sent an unequivocal message:  there is no level of disagreement with someone that justifies killing them in cold blood.

Like many people, particularly people committed to ensuring that women have access to safe, legal abortion and family planning services, I am celebrating Mr. Roeder’s conviction and looking forward to the day when he is sentenced for his crimes.

But, even as I am thrilled with the outcome of his trial, I think Mr. Roeder is getting way too much attention today.  I am happy he was convicted but I am still mourning the loss of Dr. Tiller–a man who dedicated thirty years of his life to women’s health.  Despite having his clinic bombed, despite having been shot in both arms in 1993 (by another anti-choice zealot), Dr. Tiller continued his practice.  He chose not to let the daily threats, the attempts on his life, the violence with which his foes confronted him on a regular basis, deter him from providing LEGAL and necessary medical care.

George Tiller had a wife.  Children.  Grandchildren.  Patients.  A community.  People who loved him personally and who depended on him professionally.  He was in church the day he died–acting as an usher, welcoming people and handing out pamphlets.  I’m not a religious person, but I respect what people’s faith means to them–I respect the fact that a church is supposed to be a sanctuary, to protect you from harm.  There was no protection for Dr. Tiller.  There is nothing that can protect his family from the pain of his loss.  There is nothing that can erase the images of his murder from the minds of those that witnessed it–people who were just going about their daily lives, attending church with him.

And there is nothing that can change the fact that he helped countless women over the years, particularly given the difficultly of many of their situations–medical, social, economic circumstances–he stood for them, for their right to self-determination and for their right to control what happened to their bodies.  That is a gift, one that I will never forget.  I never had the pleasure of meeting him, nor did I ever need his services…I hope I never do.  Especially now that there is one less person willing to provide them.

Rest in Peace, Dr. Tiller.  For me, today is about you, way more than it is Scott Roeder.  You are sorely missed.  I hope against hope that this verdict gives your family some peace too.  And, I can only dream that your death was not in vain, that it remains a reminder to those of us who would otherwise be complacent, convinced that our right to choose was preserved, forever, by Roe v. Wade.   In losing you, we know that is not the case.

Comments

  1. I love Dr. Tiller!

  2. I want to start by saying that, while I am MOSTLY prolife, A)I am NOT here to bash or toss around vitriol, and B)I am NOT a right-wing extremist who would glorify Scott Roeder or who thinks birth control pills are murder. I just want to promote dialouge. On this website, the valid arguments are made that women should have the ability to terminate a pregnancy if their health is at risk, or even if the baby would be so deformed that there would be no hope for a normal life-I do not mean minor defects either. I agree with both of these-the health of the woman should always come before the unborn baby if the choice has to be made-it is ridiculous that the extremists would argue otherwise, because either way the baby would die if the mothers health was at risk-so it would obviously be better for the mother to live than for both of them to die. Furthermore, even though it isn’t mentioned much here, I do think that in the case of rape or incest a woman should have the choice of ending the pregnancy-only early in the pregnancy, because that is plenty of time to decide, and these woman should be treated better themselves, meaning they should be given adequate counseling(and by that I mean getting the whole picture, not being coerced by nurses who want to secure the fee for the practice) If we really want to take care of women, we should make sure that they are given all of the tools to make sure they are satisfied with their choice. It is impossible to undo an abortion, and all of the research I have seen points to the conclusion that a huge portion of women are destroyed emotionally by their decision to get an abortion, and don’t feel as though they were given all the facts. HOWEVER, from the research I have done, a large number of women get late term abortions for frivolous reasons. Also, I find it hard to believe that so many people other than the fringe would be so against late-term abortion if it were only done in cases of health issues for the mother or baby. In the WORDS of George Tiller himself, according to a couple of sources, in 5 years time he had performed over 10000 abortions between 24 and 36 weeks(which all meet the definition of late term), only 800 of which were due to fetal anomalies or health issues for the mother. He also said that hardly ANY were due to rape or incest(which is to be expected, because if a woman is tormented enough by her rape that she wants to end the pregnancy, one would think she would want to go ahead and do so early on in the pregnancy). So, in 5 years, he performed over 9000 abortions for trivial socioeconomic and financial issues. I think that I have a reasonable open mind on the topic, since unlike most prolifers I acknowledge that there are many cases in which an abortion is a reasonable and understandable choice-even a noble one in the case of parents who make the heartbreaking decision to end a very wanted pregnancy to prevent their child from suffering. HOWEVER, this is NOT a black and white issue and there are many gray areas. I am thus not ashamed to go on this board and proclaim that it should NOT be acceptable for a woman to abort her child for FRIVOLOUS reasons. Indeed, our culture has led many to take human life lately-I have read of women getting LATE-TERM abortions because they wanted to go to rock concerts, they broke up with there boyfriend, they were depressed, etc. These are not sufficient reasons for ending a life. I am not anti-woman, I am very pro woman, because I repeat woman should have the choice to terminate in cases of rape, incest, and health issues for them and the baby. However, I have made the disturbing observation that many who claim to be pro-choice are adamently against things such as counseling, second opinions, etc, all of which are necessary to help a woman make an informed choice that is the right thing for HER. The fact that so many women are broken because they felt they were talked into or coerced into an abortion seems to be dissmissed. That brings me to an important point-babies are NOT the only victims of abortion, and we as feminists(yes, I AM one) should all be concerned about all of these poor women who fall through the cracks because our society has FAILED them, by trivializing abortion and leading them to believe it is a decision that can and should be made on the fly. My conclusion from my research is that the VAST majority of abortions are for trivial reasons, NOT the very valid and understandable reasons that you mention here. In those trivial cases, babies are dying for the crime of being inconvenient, and many women are dying inside from it-I have read many examples of the brusque treatment that women get at abortion clinics, and any true feminist should be OUTRAGED that these women are not treated with the compassion that they so need and deserve when making what should be a very serious carefully thought out choice.

  3. I love Dr Tiller. I hope someone will continue in his footsteps to finish the wonderful work he started. He was a saviour to women everywhere.

    To the pro-lifers: You have no right to judge what other women are doing with their bodies. If the idea of abortion (at any stage) upsets you, then you have the choice to never have one.

    Strangely enough, many pro-lifers change their minds completely about late-term abortions when they find themselves in a situation where they may not be able to proceed with a pregnancy.

    By being pro-life, you are effectively putting the life of the foetus (irrelevant how “formed” it is) before that of the woman. And the concept of “life” in reference to the woman, includes her mental wellbeing (a foetus has no mental concept which is basic scientific fact). Perhaps if you witnessed a woman close to you (your daughter perhaps), suicidal (looking to end her own life) because she could not cope mentally or emotionally with an unwanted pregnancy, then perhaps you would open your mind slightly.

    The foetus should not have any rights save those given to it by the woman carrying it. Abortions at any stage of the pregnancy should be the woman’s choice. You are a woman, Christie. Regardless of what you say, I am sure you would rather your daughter have the choice, as opposed to the government or society.

    It is also irrelevant how “formed” the foetus is at the time of abortion. It’s not a puppy that one can send back to the pound after it is born. Once it is born, it is a dependant human life. I am sure you pro-lifers aren’t offering to look after the babies of these women should they continue with an unwanted pregnancy. The women are making a responsible choice by not continuing with an unwanted pregnancy in the first instance.

    As a woman, I am sure you understand how difficult a decision it would be to have an abortion. I was 9 weeks pregnant when my husband of 6 months left me. Had I not miscarried 4 days after he left, I would have terminated. I am Catholic. I was pure until I got married. But life is not always a pretty picture. I was suicidal at the prospect of having a child on my own. Now after the miscarriage, I am starting to smile again, a little each day. I am starting to feel alive again. Had I been further along in the pregnancy and my husband had deserted me then, I would not have been able to go on. Had the option to terminate not been there, I would have ended my life.

    The right to terminate should be MY choice. Not yours.

    You claim you are a feminist – you are not. Feminists believe in women’s rights, yet you are advocating to hand the rights of our bodies over to the government.

    You nor anyone else has any right over my body. We are not going back to the days of backyard abortions because of people like you who wish to force their views onto other people. I am NOT forcing my view onto you. Your view is effectually removing my rights to my body, which is my basic civil right (the foetus on the other hand does not have such civil rights until it is born). I am telling you that you have a choice. You are telling me that I do not. If you are not happy with the idea of abortion, then you never need to have one.

    Women must stop pulling each other down. We need each other. We are sisters. We should not be judging each other. An unwanted pregnancy should not be deemed punishment to a woman for having sex. Taking responsibility for one’s actions includes aborting a foetus that is unwanted.

    A wanted pregnancy is a blessing. An unwanted foetus is a parasite.

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