Dr. George Tiller, a 67-year-old doctor who operated a woman’s clinic in Kansas, was shot and killed while he was serving as an usher at his church on Sunday morning. Tiller was one of the few U.S. physicians who still performed late-term abortions and it is believed that his killer may have been motivated by militant anti-choice opinions. Tiller had previously come under attack by anti-choice activists: his clinic was often picketed by protesters, his clinic was bombed in 1986 and he was shot in both arms by an activist in 1993. Tiller was also the target of sweet n’ cuddly pundit and noted women’s activist Bill O’Reilly who called Tiller’s clinic a “death mill,” his work “Nazi stuff” and Tiller’s alleged performance of abortions on young rape victims a form of protecting and encouraging rape. If Tiller’s killer is found to be motivated by anti-choice opinions, Tiller will be the fourth doctor to be killed over abortion since 1993. The previous three killers (perhaps it is interesting to note that they were all male, as were the doctors they killed) were all convicted of murder.
Although Tiller was the subject of attack by headdesk-stupid conservative pundits and anti-choice activists, he was not the bloodthirsty baby murderer that his critics painted him to be. Tiller was also acquitted in March of this year of 19 counts of performing procedures unlawfully. In an interview in the mid-90s, Tiller said that he would not perform elective abortions in cases where there was a chance of the fetus’ survival (he considered this to be after the second term, late terms abortions are performed in the third term). In cases where late-term abortions had to be performed, they were done at the discretion of the doctor. Peter Brownlie, the president of the Kansas-City regional Planned Parenthood, said that Tiller’s late-term patients were “almost always in circumstances where something had gone horribly wrong with the pregnancy.” Tiller was also the grandfather of 10 grandchildren and an active member of his community and church. His family released a statement after his death that asked that Tiller be remembered as “a good husband, father and grandfather and a dedicated servant on behalf of the rights of women everywhere.”
Scott Roeder, a 51-year-old man from Kansas City, Kansas has been charged with killing Tiller and two accounts of aggravated assault. He is currently being held without bond and is expected to appear in court this week. His motivation for the attack has not been made completely clear as of yet although it is strongly believed that he was motivated by militant anti-choice beliefs: the car he was arrested in had a red rose sticker, a symbol used by anti-choice activists, and people who knew Roeder said he felt that the murder of abortion doctors was justifiable homicide. He also had plenty of nutty right-wing conspiracy theories.
Anti-choice groups have condemned the murder as “cowardly” but the event has drawn, as one would imagine, mixed responses on the internet. A post about Tiller’s murder on Fox Nation drew out the trolls who said that Tiller’s killers “should of dragged his sorry corpse through town and hung it from the highest tree. GO PENGUIN’S [sic]” and that Tiller is “lucky” it happened to him instead of someone murdering his grandchildren as an act of “retro-active [sic] abortion.” Fox Nation, proving that they posses souls, took down the reader comments.
Is this going to usher in a new era of protection for women’s clinics across the country? Are women going to have to be escorted by security guards just to go get a pap smear and some birth control pills at their local clinic? Are clinic workers and doctors going to have to fear for their life for simply providing women with legal and safe abortions?