Breaking: Abortion provider George Tiller murdered

Dr. George Tiller, an outspoken advocate for abortion rights and one of the few late-term abortion providers in the country, was shot dead in church this morning.

Cara writes at Feministe,

This is the first time an abortion provider has been murdered in over a decade. I have friends who work in abortion clinics. This is terrorism. And right now, I just don’t have the words.

The loss of Dr. Tiller is deeply upsetting, and Cara rightly identifies this as a terrorist act. It is the culmination of an ongoing campaign of intimidation and harassment against someone who was providing completely legal health-care services. I’ve been paying attention to the more militant strains of the anti-choice movement, so this news shouldn’t have shocked me as much as it did. But, like Cara, I have friends who work and volunteer in abortion clinics. When violence against abortion providers was hitting a fever pitch 10 years ago, I was not strongly pro-choice identified. I remember reading about the murder of an abortion providers, but it certainly did not affect me the way this news has. Whether it’s rational or not, today I’m afraid for everyone who works in a reproductive health clinic. And not only those that provide abortion.

I am also worried about what Tiller’s murder means for women in Kansas and elsewhere in the country who need the services that he provided. The simple fact is there are almost no doctors who provide late-term abortions, especially in rural parts of the country. I was in Nebraska several years ago to interview Dr. Leroy Carhart (whose challenges to abortion-restricting laws went all the way to the Supreme Court), and Carhart and Tiller were the only two late-term providers in their region. If one wanted to go on vacation or got sick, the other had to fill in. There was no one else. Perhaps it would be a fitting memorial to Dr. Tiller to contribute to Medical Students for Choice, and encourage more doctors with a deep commitment to reproductive rights to become abortion providers.

UPDATE: More from the NY Times, Bastard.Logic, Pandagon, Matt Yglesias, SarahMC, Andrew Sullivan, and Pro-Science.

MEMORIAL VIGILS: See here.

Previous posts on Dr. Tiller:
A Hurrah for Dr. George Tiller
Judge in Tiller case has anti-choice history
The Attacks on Dr. Tiller Continue

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130 Comments

  1. Nina212
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Do you know if this has made national news?
    I was actually just thinking about this issue especially after seeing Operation Rescue leader, Randall Terry, on tv speaking out against Obama’s visit to Notre Dame. His comeback and this atrocity have to be linked somehow…

  2. Sasha
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    It has made national news. Google search shows. Plus MSNBC broke in to announce it. CNN hasn’t said a word.

  3. Gopher
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Horrible, horrible. Anti-choice zealots have used terrorism, lies, distortions, exaggerations and misogyny to try and deny us our rights. Things like this make me wish they had a taste of their own medicine.

  4. Mollie
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    This is devastating =’(

  5. Mina
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    “The loss of Dr. Tiller is deeply upsetting, and Cara rightly identifies this as a terrorist act.”
    Indeed.

  6. BROWN TRASH PUNK!
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, “pro-life,” my ass. Anti-choice fascists never cease to amaze me with their hypocrisy.
    May George Tillman RIP…

  7. Jessica Lee
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Although I have never heard of George Tiller until I read this, I am deeply saddened that someone who wanted to help improve women’s lives was killed by a religious zealot who couldn’t handle that. I was also very angered by the Bill O’Reilly video, and I couldn’t even finish it.
    Abortion is a very hard topic for me to debate with people, since it is so emotionally charged. However, I hope that both pro- and anti-choice advocates alike can comprehend the horror of this murder.

  8. susanstohelit
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    I feel sick. How can you oppose abortion as “murder” and justify murdering abortion providers. Horrible. My heart goes out to his family and to the women who will be affected by his death.

  9. UhOhitzSaro
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    It’s on cnn.com ‘s main page, that’s where I read about it.
    So sad. My thoughts go out to his family and friends.

  10. Daniel Koffler
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Did Randall Terry publicize the names of specific physicians like Bill O’Reilly did? That seems to me to be the crucial distinction between protected speech — loathsome though it certainly is — and a deliberate incitement to violence that ought to be prosecuted.

  11. raspberrying
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Wow. This is heartbreaking.
    Very “pro-life,” indeed.

  12. SarahMC
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Tiller gave his life in the service of women’s health. Think about that. :shudder:
    May he RIP and may his murderer(s) be brought to justice. What devastating news.

  13. Marc
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I am fucking sick to my stomach. Pro-life my ass.
    I got to meet Dr. Tiller about a year and a half ago at the Feminist Majority Foundation yearly meeting in DC. He was a wonderful speaker and gave a presentation about the lives of women he saved, as well as his career and the threats he faced. After he was finished speaking, he came and sat at the table I was at. I got to shake his hand.
    Just last week, I thought of sending him a thank you card, but could not find one appropriate.
    For those who say that we liberal feminists need to move beyond reproductive rights, let this be a wake-up call. Our fight continues.
    And thank you to Dr. Tiller and all those who work to save women’s lives.
    If there’s a charity being set up, please let me know.
    Marc

  14. Mina
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    When I checked half an hour ago the BBC didn’t have the news but now it does: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8076253.stm

  15. Flowers
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    I gave $50 to Medical Students for Choice in memory of Dr. George Tiller. Hopefully his death can result in the funding of more reproductive health providers.

  16. Liza
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    This is awful. I am at work right now and I almost started crying when I found out. I guess this hits me because I lived in Buffalo when Dr Slepian was murdered and I remember what that was like.

  17. PamelaVee
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Hypocritical, psychotic woman-hating COWARD. I hope they find the person.

  18. bluesweatshirt
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    I’m worried about the patients that are scheduled to have abortions at his office tomorrow and are in a race against time to have access to a procedure.
    I’m worried that this will energize anti-abortion terrorism.
    I’m worried about my safety as an abortion provider and all the abortion providers in this country.

  19. Liza
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Dr Tiller was already known because of his trial last year.
    If someone publicized his name and because of that he was killed, I think that person should be held responsible. But I bet in this case no on needed to publicize him; he was already public.

  20. Siby
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Wow, this makes me so sad. Maybe this will motivate me to get off of my ass and go to medical school, so I can become an abortion provider.

  21. Lhynnan
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    News has broken over the pond, just seen the news story on BBC news channel… this is truly anti-humanitarian terrorism

  22. Siby
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your service as an abortion provider.

  23. wax_ghost
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    I’m hoping that this will gird those who are pro-choice in Congress to write further protections for abortions and abortion-providers into law. Maybe they will wake up and realize that it’s not enough to make it legal; it has to be protected as well, just like many other hard-won rights.

  24. Kathryn
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    My thoughts are with his family and friends. This is truly tragic.
    I haven’t fully read the comments, but I’m sure I’m repeating the sentiment: pro-life my ass.
    This is TERRORISM and should be treated as such.

  25. Zanashay
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    I am shocked, outraged, and saddened by the news of Dr. Tiller’s murder. I heard him speak in a workshop at the NAF annual conference last year. He seemed an extremely intelligent and compassionate man. My heart goes out to his family.
    I hope authorities find and convict whoever is responsible for this. I will be even more outraged if justice is not served simply because Dr. Tiller devoted his life to helping women who had nowhere else to turn.

  26. Omniel
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Wow, this is sad. I cant believe people actually think of middle-eastern people when they hear terrorist. This shows they exist in christian and most likely caucasian form. D :

  27. AnatomyFightSong
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Tiller was so brave. For years he was harassed, stalked, threatened, and even shot at, yet he kept going to work so he could help women who were in the worst of circumstances — the patients nobody else would take. I can’t think of anything more selfless.

  28. waitscratchthat
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Ditto.

  29. AndyLC
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=110047731954#/group.php?gid=110047731954&ref=nf
    I created a facebook group about George Tiller’s murder and am hoping others will join to spread the word about the anti choice violence that is still very real in our society.
    You Cannot Oppose Abortion Providers BY MURDERING THEM – RIP George Tiller

  30. Imitrex
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Just to be clear, what are you advocating? That pro-choice persons start murdering pro-life advocates?

  31. Mollie
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 3:44 pm | Permalink
  32. dino83
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Such a sad day for all who advocate for and provide abortion services. My thoughts go out to his family and may he rest in peace.

  33. KS Elizabeth
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    They caught the suspect in Gardner Kansas around 2 PM central time. The Wichita police are holding a press conference around 4 PM about it.
    Here’s the link to the local paper: http://www.kansas.com/news/breaking/story/833730.html

  34. Ariel
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    My heart broke when I saw this. My heart goes out to his family and his patients. May he rest in peace and his killer be brought to justice.

  35. ikkin
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    In their opinion, we already do. (See: ALL TEH DEAD MIRACAL BABEHS.)

  36. fitnessfortheoccasion.wordpress.com
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Not really. If they did they’d believe in the same penalties for women who had abortions as those who commit real murder.

  37. Courtney
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    So sad. Thanks for posting Ann.

  38. YouCan2
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    I would like to suggest a fund being set up for women in need of late term abortion services in Kansas who are going to be affected by Dr. Tiller’s death. The ones affected right now and even ones in the future who now have nowhere to go now. Perhaps the fund could pay for travel expenses.
    I think this fund would see a lot of monetary support come in, since anyone who cares about women’s reproductive rights in this country is going to be trying to find some way to deal with this news and to find some way to not let this act have the effect that the murderer intended.
    Anyway, I don’t really have the connections or know-how to start such a thing, but I thought I’d suggest it here and hopefully someone working in the reproductive rights field might see it and run with it.
    On a different note – I’d like to share a couple positive thoughts in the face of this saddening news:
    1)This murder is only going to turn more people off of the “pro-life” movement
    2)Perhaps it will encourage more students to become abortion providers in the future.
    This later point is saying something, since what other profession can you think of where the fact that people have been murdered for what they do could actually encourage more people to go into the field? But I know that anyone considering being an abortion provider in the first place, cares deeply about these issues and so I do think that will be the effect of this shooting.

  39. fitnessfortheoccasion.wordpress.com
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps we ought to consider using images in a similar fashion to anti-choicers? If we could get permission from their families, photos of murder victims with the words “pro life movement” above, and “murdered” stamped in red, could be just as visceral as the pictures of fetuses at protests.

  40. Gopher
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Why do you want to know? You in bed with the enemy or something?

  41. Gopher
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    They do believe in the same penalties.

  42. ikkin
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    This is so incredibly sad and tragic. What sickens me most is that the people who took the life of George Tiller do not understand real death, real murder, or how it affects real people. What happened in Dr. Tiller’s office was between a woman, her doctor, and her fetus. What happened in Dr. Tiler’s church today affects his family, his community, and the Nation as a whole. May he finally find peace in death as we have no peace in this battle against childlike fundamentalism.

  43. fitnessfortheoccasion.wordpress.com
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to disagree. I wrote about it a little bit here (http://fitnessfortheoccasion.wordpress.com/2009/05/31/the-problem-with-calling-abortion-murder/), but check out this video directly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uk6t_tdOkwo

  44. Thealogian Heather
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Dr. Tiller for standing on the side of life–grown adult women’s lives. Thank you for creating a clinic that took on the cases that very few other doctors had the courage to take on. Thank you for creating a clinic that emotionally and psychologically supported the women whose late-term abortions were often heart-wrenching experiences. Thank you Dr. Tiller’s staff, family, and supporters in Kansas who stood by this brave, moral man. I will hold you all in my thoughts and I am so so sorry that we live in such a cruel world where this man over the coming days (a hero) will be defamed by the anti-choice terrorists who feel that it is their right to control the bodies and lives of men and women simply because of their twisted and demeaning religious beliefs that have very little to do with justice or wisdom, but blind obedience to a parody of a evil, petty patriarchal god. Bless you Dr. Tiller and Thank You.

  45. Logrus
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    This should be investigated and treated the same as is done with terrorists theological groups with Islamic affiliations. Find out if this guy went to a specific religious sects meetings/worship and infiltrate them to see if there is any message being given out to incite or direct this kind of action and if this is so you shut them down and add anyone involved to a terrorist watch list. If warranted arrest and try them all.

  46. Captiver
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    I’m a pro-choice activist and have long followed Dr. Tiller’s battles. Every day, I check out anti-abortion web sites in order to keep up with what these groups are working on, what plans they have, I read their inflammatory language about “the culture of death” and about “murder” and “slaughter” of the “pre-born”; as they call me and other women who have had abortions, as well as doctors like Dr. Tiller, murderers and killers. To that extent, I cannot be surprised. To that extent, I find absolutely hollow the disavowal of murders like this one from anti-abortion groups. I know this struggle will never end, but at times like these I feel hopeless if not helpless. I feel utterly shocked. I feel personally devastated that we could not protect Dr. Tiller. That every day this intimidation, this language, drives more providers away, stops others from taking part. Well, I feel absolutely gutted and sad and horrified. Dr. Tiller has been battling this for decades now. He kept going. I cannot imagine how hard it has been for his family, for him. And now he is gone. And, as one person posted on the Facebook page mentioned above, What Can We Do?

  47. thanxgoodall
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Me too.

  48. who ate my avocado
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    In the book “Our Bodies, Ourselves” there’s a horrible picture of a woman who died getting an illegal abortion pre-Roe. I’ve never seen it anywhere else. I wonder how many pro-lifers have seen that picture?

  49. Gretchen
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    I am appalled and deeply saddened by this tragic news, particularly as a Kansas resident. My thoughts and sympathies go out to the family and friends of Dr. Tiller.
    I hope this terrorist act will backfire against the anti-choicers, but I have a worrying feeling that this will just give them more hypocritical, ignorant, hate-fulled fuel for their disgusting fire.

  50. bifemmefatale
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Terry protested at Tiller’s clinic often in the 90s and has stories up on his site mentioning Tiller.

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