You might not know this name, but if you are in any way involved in women's issues, you should. Dr. George Tiller has been a quiet hero in the women's movement, in unlikely Wichita Kansas. He has been performing third-term abortions to the great consternation of the pro-life movement. Today, while he was attending church, he was brutally murdered - in the lobby of the Reformation Lutheran Church, where he faithfully attended. This was not the first attempt on this man's life. He had both of his arms shot in 1993, and since then has been wearing a bullet proof vest, but has continued to do his job.
In a breathtakingly sarcastic statement, the New York Times quotes:
Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion group that has led opposition to Dr. Tiller’s methods, denounced the killing on Sunday, as did other national groups opposed to abortion. “Our prayers go out to his family and the thousands of people this will impact,” Mr. Newman said in a telephone interview from his home in Wichita.
My reaction hit me stronger than I expected. Once, I temped for an organization that raised funds to help elect women candidates. They host a large national event, and Dr. Tiller happened to be on my call sheet as someone to invite to this event. His number was masked and I had to go through a number of channels just to leave a message, but even then I don't think I realized what this man was doing.
What Dr. Tiller did was bring hope to the hopeless. I don't care what any right wing wacko tells you, no woman has an abortion as a fun afternoon activity. This isn't an alternate to brunch and pedis with the girls. This is a life-altering decision. I have been lucky to have never had to make this choice for myself, but I will defend any other woman's need to make this choice.
What has happened today is a tragedy. This man has put his own life in danger to defend the most simple concept - that a woman be able to make decisions for herself. That women be trusted to make the best decisions they can. That they be able to determine what is right for their body. That they be able to work with a doctor to determine the best course of action for their health.
I barely need to mention the hypocrisy of killing another in the name of pro-life. I'm not sure what gives these people the right to determine which life is more valuable, and they clearly have a hierarchy, and as a 31 year old woman of child bearing age, I shudder to ask where I fit into this scale. Currently police believe they have found a suspect, but this case will likely be in the news for the next few days.
His death means that there is one less man in this world that trusts women. He trusted them enough that he would help them make one of the most difficult decisions in her life - and it lead to the end of his own.
My deepest sympathies go out to his wife and four children, and grandchildren.
If you are in DC, please join us in Dupont Circle tonight at 9pm for a candle-light vigil to this hero of women.