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. who ate my avocado
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Yes, bluesweatshirt. Thank you for your courage and compassion. Do something good for yourself today — you deserve it.

  2. TurquoisePeanut
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    All I’m feeling right now is a kind of horrified, sickened rage.
    This kind of terrorism is the ultimate refuge of those who have no other leg to stand on to defend their nonsensical, hypocritical, hateful views.

  3. SaynaTheSpiffy
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    This picture can be found on the web. Here’s a link at Life and Liberty for women but be warned: THE FOLLOWING LINK CONTAINS GRAPHIC, GORY, DISTURBING IMAGES: http://www.lifeandlibertyforwomen.org/abortion_pictorial.html They see all those fake fetus pictures and decide to fight fire with fire, I guess. The first pic is the one you described and it’s a well-known picture of a woman dead from an attempt at self-induced abortion. The others are illustrations and stories about illegal/unsafe abortions.
    Again, though: DO NOT CLICK THE LINK IF YOU ARE EASILY UPSET.

  4. Marc
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    I sure hope the killer gets this story written about him:
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,96286,00.html

  5. AngryFeminist_16
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    There are no words for this. How awful.
    I just finished watching a documentary, ‘Soldiers in the Army of God’, which is about the radical anti-choice movement, people who consider it justified to murder abortion providers. I’d recommend it. It’s got interviews with zealous anti-choicers and people like Paul Hill, who murdered an abortion provider in the late 90s. It’s terrifying that there really are people who consider this moral.

  6. MJP
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    If you are in the Boston area, please come to the vigil tomorrow night. Info below:
    Boston Vigil for Dr. Tiller
    Join the Boston community in sharing our grief and celebrating the life of Dr. George Tiller, a true hero for women across the country.
    Monday, June 1st
    6pm
    St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral
    138 Tremont St., Boston
    Across from the Park St. T stop
    Please help us spread the word via email, Facebook, Twitter, and texts.
    Facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=88629078374&ref=nf
    Twitter hashtag: #BostonVigil and #Tiller (this one is attracting some unpleasant tweets, however)
    Dr. Tiller was shot and killed Sunday morning while serving as an usher at his church in Witchita, Kansas. Since the 1970s, Dr. Tiller has provided critical abortion and reproductive health care at great personal risk. In doing so, he has saved the lives and futures of countless women and girls across the country. His murder is a tragedy for his family, friends, and colleagues. It is also a tragedy for the women who need his care and for the entire community of health care providers and advocates, and for all of us who believe in a woman’s right to dignity and self-determination. Please join us in honoring this great man who truly lived by his motto to “Trust Women.”

  7. Captiver
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, bluesweatshirt. Thank you.

  8. Liza
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    I don’t, because I don’t support the death penalty. But I hope he suffers and rots in prison for the rest of his life.

  9. Liza
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    If anyone hears about a tribute or vigil or anything in New York, please let us know – I’d love to attend one.

  10. Liza
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Some of them do, some of them don’t.

  11. mugsandpugs
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    If you are in the Portland area, please come to a vigil tomorrow night for Dr. Tiller.
    Monday June 1st
    9:30 -10:00 pm
    Pioneer Courthouse Square
    Please help us spread the word.
    Facebook event:http://www.facebook.com/inbox/readmessage.php?t=1065847648969&f=1&e=-12#/event.php?eid=105663331102

  12. yahoo
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    i can’t breath.

  13. Synna
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    International news – Sydney Morning Herald has the story.

  14. Christina
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    I am shaking right now. What a loss this is… to his family, to his community, and to all of the women to whom he was so very dedicated. RIP Dr. Tiller. And thank you.

  15. rustyspoons
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    I’ve seen that documentary. Chilling.
    Like many here, my thoughts are with Dr. Tiller’s family and friends. I hear they have a suspect in custody? May justice be swift and fitting.

  16. hecate66
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    Fuck you, you crazy, anti-choice, wingnut, zealots, fuck you. I hate you, I fucking hate you! Fuck you!

  17. hecate66
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for providing me the space to get that out. I’m stuck at home alone working on a paper and feeling anxious, jittery, and furious since finding out about this. I can’t seem to discharge enough emotion, it refills as soon as I do. Does anyone know of any vigils planned in Philly?

  18. Appy
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, bluesweatshirt.

  19. everybodyever
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    I’m not, of course, defending it, but from what I can tell the stock explanation by which anti-abortion terrorists defend their violence has them fashion themselves as latter-day John Browns. With that analogy, they insist they use violence as a last and necessary resort in a crusade against what they consider crimes against humanity.
    Nevermind that they’re totally, totally wrong.

  20. AnatomyFightSong
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    I would love to hear people’s thoughts on how we can mobilize to (non-violently) fight back. How can we turn this terrible tragedy into an opportunity to strengthen the pro-choice movement?
    Donating to Med Students for Choice is a great idea. Another very worthy organization is the National Network of Abortion Funds, which helps low-income women pay for abortions:
    http://www.nnaf.org/
    Other people have talked about volunteering as clinic escorts…

  21. Toni
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    I just heard about this. I need to tell my dad as he knew George. My dad used to coach girls’ basketball and his daughter was on the team. He told him that his father was also an abortionist, despite it being illegal at the time.

  22. mugsandpugs
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    There is also an opportunity to volunteer as a patient advocate for some Planned Parenthoods. These volunteers act as a support system for women going through the surgical abortion process. Contact your local PP to see if they have this position and if there is an opening.

  23. Toni
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Not to mention that Tiller has been shot twice before. At least that’s what my dad told me who knew Tiller.

  24. Furiousfemale
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    After hearing the news I’ve also considered volunteering at a clinic again. I volunteered at the Boston PP clinic a few years ago and I thought THOSE protesters were scary. Though their “work” pales in comparison to what was done to Tiller and his clinic over the years

  25. MJP
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    There is a Fund already in existence. The National Network of Abortion Funds runs a National Reproductive Justice Fund that specifically helps women facing the greatest barriers to abortion care. All too often, these are women who are later in their pregnancies and who have to travel to obtain an abortion. We work closely with Dr. Tiller’s clinic, and all other providers who provide care in the 2nd trimester and beyond.
    If you’d like to donate to this fund, please do so at http://www.nnaf.org/donate.html. You can specify in the designation space that you’d like it to go to the National Reproductive Justice Fund in honor of Dr. Tiller.

  26. johanna in dairyland
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    My heart breaks for Dr. Tiller’s family, church, community, and patients. My prayers are with them, and with all the men and women who daily put their lives on the line to provide safe abortions in this country.
    My ass is back on the clinic defense line as soon as I can find out where to sign up.
    And to think, all those Fox News commentators browbeat Secretary Napolitano for that report on extreme right wing domestic terrorism, and look what happens …

  27. AveMaria
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    As a pro-life young woman who believes in the dignity of ALL human life, I am deeply saddened by this terrible news. The person responsible for this horrid act is NOT pro-life, no matter what he/she may think. Violence is never the answer! My sincerest condolences go out to Dr. Tiller’s family. I am so very sorry for your loss.
    I leave you all with a quote from Roman Catholic Cardinal John O’Connor:
    “If anyone has an urge to kill someone at an abortion clinic, they should shoot me…it’s madness. It discredits the right-to-life-movement. Murder is murder. It’s madness. You cannot prevent killing by killing.”

  28. Hannah
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    Words cannot express how I feel about this.
    Why don’t these freaking anti-choice extremists practice what they preach? “Thou shalt not kill,” my ass.
    I’m glad that Obama came out and said that this is not OK. In fact, I think he said it pretty perfectly: “However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence.”

  29. mugsandpugs
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Portland, OR vigil has been changed to start at 8:00 pm! Thanks for promoting it!

  30. Sabina
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    international even. I first heard about it on german radio.
    And I was *literary* stunned.
    I wish you the best of luck that you don’t end, where we are…

  31. Gretchen
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Thank you.

  32. BackOfBusEleven
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    I was about to suggest the same thing, but I don’t know if it’s a good idea. Anti-choicers use pictures of still births and fake fetuses and label them “choice.” If pro-choicers took the pictures of women who died from self induced/pre-Roe abortions, they’d be real women. That’s kind of exploitive.

  33. BackOfBusEleven
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    I just hope you realize that Dr. Tiller provided late-term abortions for women with problem pregnancies. His patients could have been seriously injured or died because of these pregnancies. Yes, “cute little innocent babies” can cause serious damage or death in the pregnant women they inhabit. Think about that before the next time you pull the lever to limit a woman’s right to reproductive freedom.

  34. BackOfBusEleven
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    Any pro-life organization that does not publicly decry this murder shouldn’t call themselves “pro-life.” As if they should have in the first place, but especially now.

  35. allegra
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    This is un-fucking-believable. And in CHURCH? Gah. The poor man and the shit he’s been through just to help women. I hope he finds peace. Anti-choice wingnuts sure haven’t allowed him much thus far.

  36. iceses125
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    This comment has been deleted.

  37. Daisy
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Tiller was an inspiration. Women all over our country have lost a friend today.
    He understood our lives were just as valuable as anyone else’s.
    Godspeed good man.

  38. iceses125
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    [THIS COMMENT HAS BEEN DELETED.]

  39. Siby
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    If you support this dreadful act of violence, then you are most certainly not “pro-life”.
    I don’t have much to say to misogynists because they’re almost always too bigoted to change, but how can you call this man a murderer? He saved womens’ lives. He gave people hope. He actually valued women, unlike the anti-choicers who think we’re just walking incubators. We’re talking about women who had nowhere else to go. For some, it was either abortion or their own death.
    Usually anti-choicers understand this when they start to grow up and are able to think of the situations that these women are in.
    This event has made me decide that I will do my best, try my hardest, to go to medical school and eventually become an abortion provider. I’m not thinking about “killing babies”. I’m thinking about saving women. If I end up helping even just one woman, and I walk out of that abortion clinic and get murdered like Dr. Tiller was today, then it will be worth it. It will be worth it if I help even just one woman, give her her life back.

  40. Siby
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    This is an extremely ignorant comment.
    “Do you feel that guilty for having abortions that you want to see other women kill their flesh and blood!?”
    I don’t think most of us have had abortions. Out of the ones that have, I don’t think most of them regret it or feel guilty about it. Just because we don’t think women are walking incubators doesn’t mean we feel guilty about some prior event. Try to think outside of the box for once. These women aren’t waltzing into abortion clinics saying “oh joy, I’m going to have my 10th abortion today!!! I totally can’t wait. I’m gonna have a party when I get home, and then work on getting pregnant for another abortion!” as anti-choicers seem to think. For some of these women, this decision determines whether they’ll get to live on or whether they’ll die because of complications in their pregnancy.
    I don’t know how your god has anything to do with this. Why do you think your god is pro-life? It says nothing like that in the bible. Who knows, if your god does exist, maybe it actually values the lives of women more than those of fetuses.
    Belief in god has nothing to do with this at all. I hate to break it to you, but you’re bible is so unclear and contradictory that your god, your entire RELIGION, is up for interpretation. Just because your preacher says so doesn’t mean it’s right. There is no “right” in religion, it’s all interpretable. This Doctor probably interpreted his god as a pro-choice one.
    Your point is moot.

  41. Ann
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    An FYI, folks. If this thread draws more anti-choice trolls overnight, please just ignore! We’ll clean house in the morning.

  42. BackOfBusEleven
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if any of Dr. Tiller’s patients will speak out against his murder and talk about their experiences. But perhaps it’s unsafe for them to talk about it.

  43. mistercathead.wordpress.com
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    Look at your comment, I am just wondering that if you live in this planet too short or you just choose selectively distort the true meaning of giving birth.
    No one in the world like to have an abortion (why will somebody pay to have surgery anyways?! surgeries are not fun at all!) but all of these women who choose have abortion are also someone else’s child, parent, spouse, lover, siblings, colleague, friend… They have also contribute to this planet, why you choose not to see this fact and keep spitting venom on them?
    As for George Tiller, he choose to save women’s life throught the mean of providing abortion. He never take the opportunity of giving birth as granted, and didnt outweight the baby’s right over the mother’s right. Of course in the religious circumstense he might as well be a sinner, BUT LET’S FACE IT, SO YOU ARE A SINNER TOO, JUST LIKE HIM. So STOP JUDGING.

  44. argon
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    I’ve heard various talking heads on the news declare this does a lot of harm to the pro-life movement, that this set back their cause five years and erases their recent gains, and so on.
    You know what? I have to disagree. I think there are only 3 clinics in the country that perform late-term abortions, correct?
    Now we’re down to 2.
    No matter what they say on TV, I’m pretty sure the anti-abortion crowd is celebrating tonight.

  45. Alessa
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    PRO-LIFE?! Those assholes. Those hypocritical, self-righteous, idiotic, ASSHOLES.
    WHAT OF HIS FAMILY? THEY ARE PUTTING A VALUE ON LIVES IN THIS, AND PLAYING THE GOD THEY ADVOCATE. I AM DISGUSTED, SICKENED BY THIS!

  46. Alessa
    Posted June 1, 2009 at 1:23 am | Permalink

    Thank you for your comment, and your distinction here. Whether we disagree on whether abortion should be legal or not, it is universally agreed that what happened today was downright, terribly wrong.
    Your courage for posting is appreciated here, at the very least, despite our drastic differences in opinion.

  47. Alessa
    Posted June 1, 2009 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    A pro-lifer for murder? How lovely.
    No one has the right to use my body, change it, and potentially endanger it, even if their life depends on it. People are not forced to give kidney transplants to save another persons life under the law, and for good reason. Forcing pregnancy on women is the exact same thing.
    Respect my right to own my own body. I respect the right for you to own yours. There is absolutely no gray area here.

  48. mercurygirl
    Posted June 1, 2009 at 1:48 am | Permalink

    No one who needed Dr Tillers compassionate care, wanted to be there.
    No one wants to have brain surgery either.
    Im glad we have brain surgeons, ( imagine a world where the religious rights said ‘its wrong to operate on brains!, lets kill brain surgeons for playing god!’)
    I am so sad and angry that Dr George Tiller was murdered today. He was one of my heros.
    A friend of mine worked with him, she said he was more dedicated to women’s lives than anyone she had ever met.
    How dare they take away this man and try to stop such important work?
    We must all step up and look squarely at the need for late term abortions, we must stand firmly in support of this choice, as unpleasant as it is to look upon.
    They lost their case in court,so they took him out. NPR said there is only one more such provider in the country. How can they have gotten so far in the attack on our lives?
    Can we fully embrace motherhood when this option is taken away? when we can be forced to bear a child, to bring into living a being we dont want to give birth to?

  49. Alessa
    Posted June 1, 2009 at 1:54 am | Permalink

    Oh my god. Who is that other provider, and who the hell is protecting them?

  50. ikkin
    Posted June 1, 2009 at 3:22 am | Permalink

    I had a similar discussion with a friend of mine a few months ago about how we disagreed about abortion and what it is for a woman to choose. I know you’ve gone way beyond condemning the women (to condoning actual murder) but I think what I shared with my friend could be useful. I know it is hard for you to think about someone ending the life of a baby, since that is how you see pregnancy — a tiny little baby inside of a woman, but as adults we have to think about these things so we can make adult decisions. Please re-think your misguided anger.
    The following was a response to my friend when she told me she didn’t want to speak to me anymore after Barack Obama won the 2008 election:
    I saw your grandmother the other day at an event celebrating Obama’s inauguration in Lampasas. I gave her congratulations on her new grandchild, and expressed how happy I was that you were so pleased in the joy of motherhood. I know we’ve always disagreed on this topic, but now that we’re older, and especially since you had experienced the difficulties of parenthood, I thought your opinions may have changed to permit some understanding for women who do not find themselves in as happy of situations.
    Firstly, I think a separation must be made between a baby and pregnancy itself. I know this is hard, especially since you now have a personal connection with the joy of motherhood, but there is an important difference. I imagine that when you think of abortion, you think of a life ending — as if someone has their own little Elaina inside of them that they have chosen to kill, and that isn’t the truth of the matter. It is slanderous to suggest that when it is perfectly possible that someone who has had to make that difficult decision could read something like this and be accused of murder when she did no such thing.
    Pregnancy has the potential to have an end result of a baby, but it is not a baby until the fetus has reached an ability to sustain itself outside of its mother’s womb, and a fetus, prior to this stage, is not a baby. In the first trimester, the most common stage in which women terminate a pregnancy, a fetus is a collection of cells that work towards its growth and development, but the fetus has no central nervousness, and it has no self-awareness. At this time, the pregnancy is more closely related to being a growth within a female’s body, and so it is her body to do with what she pleases. Be comforted that most women choose to carry their pregnancy to full term and enjoy the happiness of parenthood. It is a matter of psychology at the same time; if a woman finds out she is pregnant, it is common for her to take joy in the fact that she has a “baby” inside of her, but she thinks of her pregnancy in this way because she wants a baby. You say parents-to-be shouldn’t return their gifts, but surely you can understand that pregnancy isn’t always a gift.
    Secondly, you brush off the idea that if a woman is raped, it would be somehow just as easy to carry the pregnancy to term as your pregnancy was. It is unjust to take the life of something you consider to be a baby, but what about the woman? She’s been raped and something has definitely been taken from her than she can never get back. Women go to therapy for years after being raped and never fully recover their sense of self-worth or natural sense of sexuality, but can you imagine how much harder it would be to be carrying your rape inside of you for nine months? And endure the pain of birth as more pain inflicted on you from your rape? And see the traits of your rapist in your child’s face? And be forced to see your rapist again and again in a custody or child support battle? Can you imagine Elaina having to call a rapist her father? What would you tell her when she asked who her father was? Moreover, if Elaina grew up and – God forbid – she was the victim of rape, would you ask her to keep the baby?
    But finally, what I cannot stand in any sense is to hear people put down women who have had abortions as if they could not someday become a loving mother. My mother was sixteen when she got pregnant for the first time, and as poor as we were when I was growing up, I shudder to think the condition her and her child would have been in if she had chosen to carry that pregnancy to term. Six years later, she chose to have me, and it was an honor to be her child (regardless of her past) and I could not imagine a mother giving more love to their child than she gave to me.

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