Piecing Together the Murder of Dr. George Tiller: Right-Wing Violence Rears Its Head
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According to a statement issued by Planned Parenthood, Tiller bravely performed an invaluable service:
He provided critical reproductive health care services, including abortion services to women facing some of the most difficult medical circumstances. He was continually harassed by abortion opponents for much of his career -- his clinic was burned down, he was shot by a health center protester, and he was recently targeted for investigation, only to be acquitted by a jury just a few months ago. None of this stopped George Tiller from his commitment to providing women and their families with compassionate care that others were unwilling to offer.
Tiller's slaying has also brought forth personal testimonials from the women he helped, not just in his role as abortion provider but as an OB-GYN. A diarist writes on the Daily Kos:
In 1980, I was pregnant with my first child. I had no insurance and couldn't afford a doctor's appointment until I was approved for a medical card. ... Mom told Dr. Tiller, and he brought me into his office where he examined me, free of charge. I can credit him with the very first picture taken of my son.
The last story I have to share is about my friends who could not have children. Dr. Tiller’s office worked with several attorneys in the Wichita area to provide adoption services for his patients who wanted this option. My friends have a 10-year-old boy now, who is loved and adored.
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America aired her concerns about the chilling effect Tiller’s killing would have on women’s health providers throughout the country:
Dr. Tiller's murder will send a chill down the spines of the brave and courageous providers and other professionals who are part of reproductive-health centers that serve women across this country. We want them to know that they have our support as they move forward in providing these essential services in the aftermath of the shocking news from Wichita.
President Barack Obama also issued a statement denouncing the slaying: "I am shocked and outraged by the murder of Dr. George Tiller as he attended church services this morning. However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence."
Some anti-choice groups were quick to distance themselves from Tiller’s killing, while reiterating their opposition to Tiller's work. The president of Operation Rescue, the group best known for organizing sometimes-violent protests outside abortion clinics in the 1980s, said the following, according to the New York Times:
"Our prayers go out to his family and the thousands of people this will impact," [Troy] Newman said in a telephone interview from his home in Wichita.
"Operation Rescue has worked tirelessly on peaceful, nonviolent measures to bring him to justice through the legal system, the legislative system," Mr. Newman said. "I'm a tireless advocate and spokesman for the pre-born children who are dying in clinics every day. Mr. Tiller was an abortionist. But this wasn’t personal. We are pro life, and this act was antithetical to what we believe."
But statements by other extremist abortion opponents went so far as to blame Tiller for his own killing, including one by Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue. Randall stated:
George Tiller was a mass murderer. We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God. I am more concerned that the Obama administration will use Tiller's killing to intimidate pro-lifers into surrendering our most effective rhetoric and actions. Abortion is still murder. And we still must call abortion by its proper name; murder.