A Hurrah for Dr. George Tiller


This is coming a wee late but is fantastic news. After years of harassment and public shaming through what seemed to be a neverending trial, charged on 19 counts of misdemeanor by the state of Kansas, Dr. George Tilller came out on top and was acquitted on all counts on Friday.
A background: While Tiller is one of the few late-term abortion providers in the country, Kansas law allows late-term abortions only when two independent doctors sign off on the procedure. Prosecutors charged Tiller of having a financial relationship with the doctor that he frequently received authorization from. This, in fact, was nothing more than an anti-choice witch hunt over a law that exists to undermine women’s ability to make their own decisions and make abortion providers’ jobs harder. (This is not to mention Tiller’s clinic was subsequently closed during the trial and he was also shot.)
According to the Times, it only took 45 minutes for the jurors to acquit him on Friday. Unfortunately, the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts is now “investigating” complaints related to the same charges. But today, we pay homage to Dr. Tiller and congratulate him on his acquittal. In other words, halle-freakin’-lujah.

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24 Comments

  1. era4allNOW
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Awesome! I remember I sent him a supportive card maybe two years ago in the midst of all of this, and I was so excited to get a thank you card back with his signature on it. He totally rocks! What extraordinary bravery and courage he has had through all of this awful mess. Yay Dr. Tiller!! Thank you for being so many women’s hero. I just hope it ends here.

  2. HL Chilly
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    I am confused. Can anyone tell me why they support late-term abortions as a feminist right?

  3. Lynz
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Hey Chilly,
    It’s more than a feminist right, it’s a human right. Late term abortion (24 weeks gestation and later) only happens in the most dire and desperate situations. We’re talking about non-survivable birth defects, situations where a woman’s life/health are in substantial danger or both, because sometimes a severe birth defect can actually endanger the life of the mother. These women and families literally have nowhere else to turn. These are usually planned and wanted babies and these terminations are the result of heartbreaking situations and diagnoses. It’s a matter of life and death to many women. That’s why it is a feminist right, that’s why it’s a human right.

  4. dykelawyer
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    Late-term abortions are often wanted pregnancies. Many involve fetal demise, or pregnancies that simply will not survive outside the womb. Many also involve serious threats to the mother’s physical health. For hundreds of such women every year, George Tiller’s clinic is the only option. That means flying out to Wichita and spending a couple thousand dollars on the procedure, which may require a two- or three-day stay. People don’t go through that just because they’re too indecisive or lazy to get a $300-dollar procedure at a local clinic during the first trimester.

  5. Amanda Marcotte
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    That anti-choicers especially hate a man who focuses on therapeutic abortions—those done to save a woman’s life or health—tells you all you need to know. They hate all abortion doctors, but they especially hate those who allow women to live.

  6. Thomas
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    DL has it right. My spouse knows Tiller slightly. He treats a lot of women who get very late news of very serious abnormalities, and who either need to terminate to save the fetus from a short, miserable life or to save themselves from harm in the birth process. For this, he has been targeted more than any other provider in the nation. But he never flinches. He’s a hero.

  7. myheartisagapinghole
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Where did you send the card? Just to his business address? I’d like to send a thank you to him as well. Or better yet: Is there a way to nominate him for a Thank You Thursday spot?

  8. nestra
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    I’m just wondering, if his practice consisted mainly of women who were indecisive and just decided on an abortion in the third trimester because they wanted one, would it be considered less of a feminist concern? Less a human right? Less heroic? Why or why not?
    If not, why does it even bear mention? Why the subtle insinuation that there are acceptable reasons to have late term abortions (as opposed to unacceptable or unsavory ones)?

  9. nestra
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, this was supposed to be a response to Lynz, Amanda Marcotte, and dykelawyer, not to the original post.

  10. pleco
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    It’s less an issue from the feminist perspective than it is from the pro-life perspective. Here is a group of people who purport they care about the lives and health of children and mothers, and then they turn around and target one of the people whose primary practice base revolves around the health of children and mothers, as opposed to “convenience” abortions.
    Would late-term abortions be less justifiable if they were performed for women who simply wanted control of their lives back? I don’t really know. It’s not a situation I can ever imagine myself being in, nevermind what I would do. But absolutely the right of individual women to decide for themselves must be preserved, and these women should not be forced to submit to the public why they are getting these abortions (invasion of privacy). This is what being pro-choice means. It is pro-individual.

  11. bluesweatshirt
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    I spent the summer of 2001 interning with Dr. Tiller. That experience single handedly changed my life. He is such an incredible person and amazing doctor. The walls of the waiting room clinic are covered with framed thank you notes from women who, because of him, got their life back. I am so relieved that women will still be able to travel to Wichita to have such life saving surgeries.

  12. Amanda Marcotte
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    It’s rather repugnant to suggest that such a large number of women are stupid enough to wait for so many months to wait. What’s your game? Are you such a sexist as to think that it’s easy to swallow that women can easily be dismissed that way? Or are you so sucked into ideological game playing that you forgot that these are real people suffering from real problems?
    The divorce analogy must be invoked yet again. That divorce is necessary doesn’t make women who file for it Jezebels who are only causing pain because they’re that evil. It’s not fun for them, and they deserve the same benefit of the doubt we extend to men.

  13. KS Elizabeth
    Posted April 1, 2009 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    Actually Vanessa, I don’t remember hearing anything about Dr. Tiller getting shot during this trial. Dr. Tiller was actually shot in both arms in 1993 by a pro-life activist.
    There were the protestors and the anti-abortion van outside of the courthouse, but nothing out of the ordinary for the protests that take place outside his clinic. I think things would’ve gone down quite differently if the jury had found him guilty. The local news covered it, but it was quietly dismissed only a few days later.

  14. Brianna G
    Posted April 1, 2009 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Because at that point, the baby is fully capable, or almost fully capable, of surviving on it’s own outside the womb, and the question would then be, why not deliver early instead? Why bother to end the pregnancy by abortion when you can end it just as easily by an early induction, maybe in a few weeks at most? No one wants abortions to happen, and if they don’t HAVE to happen, we obviously want to discourage them.
    Doctors won’t perform late-term abortions without good reason because a) late-term abortions can be dangerous for the mother, b) an early induction could be performed resulting in two healthy and separate patients anyway (or the baby could then die of natural causes if they were really preterm), and c) unlike early abortions, late term abortions are highly traumatic for mothers, since the aborted fetus looks like a baby (unless there is deformity) and the experience bears some similarities to a birth (and in some cases, women will even lactate afterwards, causing further trauma).
    So yes, it would be less of a feminist concern (because there is a safer, less traumatic alternative he should be offering them instead). And I would also consider women’s access to healthcare to be more important than their access to non-health-related abortions anyway, and much more important. Both are vital, but one (healthcare) is much more essential to her life and happiness.

  15. Brianna G
    Posted April 1, 2009 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    The law specifically states that they can’t happen unless it’s basically the baby’s life or the mother’s health, or some horrible birth defect of the baby. The fact that a woman has to go to Kansas, Boulder, or LA to save her life or health or to spare her baby untold, horrific suffering is definitely a feminist right. I mean, a woman in DC who learns that her child has, for example, Tay-Sachs and will suffer horrifically for their short life has to travel to KS? That’s insane.
    Most people don’t support elective abortions of healthy pregnancies after an early delivery with a surviving child is possible, feminist or not.

  16. nestra
    Posted April 1, 2009 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I wasn’t suggesting anything about the women who would choose a late term abortion, for whatever reason. I think the people who suggest there are acceptable reasons for having one and unacceptable reasons are doing that pretty good all by themselves.
    Do you not realize that saying some reasons for having an abortion, at any time, are valid while invalidating other reasons (apparently the reasons of those “stupid women” you wrote about) is the same reasoning used by pro-life groups? You are just drawing the line at a different place?

  17. nestra
    Posted April 1, 2009 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    So at what point do you draw the line? Before it looks like a baby or has a change of survival?
    Slippery slope…

  18. nestra
    Posted April 1, 2009 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Very good points. If the doctor should be celebrated, it is for providing the service he does. Period. Not because he mostly provides the service for “good” women with “good” reasons. To do otherwise underscores the notion that some abortions are more justifiable than others. That bothers me in the same way that the “it doesn’t even look like a baby” argument does. Once it does look like a baby, where do you go?

  19. puckalish
    Posted April 1, 2009 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    KS Elizabeth, I don’t think Vanessa was suggesting that he got shot during the trial, but that having gotten shot is an additional thing he’s had to suffer through.
    I’m curious as to what you mean by “I think things would’ve gond down quite differently…”

  20. puckalish
    Posted April 1, 2009 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Amanda,
    I think that nestra’s actually just raising the question of whether we’re playing the anti-choicer’s game by placing a value judgment on whether one abortion is more “justifiable” than another.
    To a degree, I see the point; on the other hand, considering that anti-choicers choose to frame the debate in a certain way, pointing out the hypocrisy of their choices, even in terms of their own stated values is an important action.

  21. saintcatherine
    Posted April 1, 2009 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    You know, I get this, but I also have deep problems with the idea that abortions are performed for sex-selection (mostly on girls) or to weed out the disabled. I know that the general idea in feminism is that abortion rights have to be protected under any and all circumstances, for any and all reasons. (Thinking about the “pro-life feminist” post, I agree that it is why more people are reluctant to call themselves feminist)
    I just can’t understand why it is ok to to discriminate against the disabled before birth (but post-viability) — and in the case of late-term abortions, disability is a real reason why they are done — but not after birth.

  22. era4allNOW
    Posted April 1, 2009 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    myheartisagapinghole, I don’t remember! I remember feministing at the time, however, provided direction on how to send cards. I will try to remember to look at home for the addy, but perhaps someone at feministing could help out? I doubt I still have it around. I still have the card, but not the envelope. And I am positive the address was for his practice (not his home!). Maybe it’s possible to even find it online, not sure.

  23. Lynz
    Posted April 1, 2009 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Here’s the addy:
    5107 East Kellogg
    Wichita, KS 67218

  24. OldManSweaters
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed today…at his church.

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