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In Memoriam: Dr. George Tiller

June 1, 2010

Cross-posted to PPHP’s MySpace page

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the murder of Dr. George Tiller.  Dr. Tiller, a physician in Wichita, Kansas, dedicated his life to providing reproductive health care to women facing some of the most difficult medical circumstances and complex pregnancies.  He faced violence, intimidation, protests, and threats continuously throughout his career.  He wore a button that said “Trust Women,” and provided buttons with that phrase to his staff.  In his mind, no one but a woman facing an unintended or complex pregnancy could make the decision of what to do but that woman.  And, she deserves to be able to do so in a safe environment that is free of judgment and harassment.

On April 1, Dr. Tiller’s murderer, Scott Roeder, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.  Although the person responsible for Dr. Tiller’s murder is being held accountable, the tremendous loss of Dr. Tiller will be felt for years to come by his family, friends, community, and the women who may need critical care when faced with a complicated pregnancy.  Dr. Tiller was one of three doctors in the U.S. who were willing to provide abortion care late in pregnancy; now only Drs. Leroy Carhart and Warren Hern are left.

Dr. Tiller’s murder is a reminder of the kinds of threats abortion providers face every day.  Nationally, Planned Parenthood appreciates the efforts of the Obama administration and the Department of Justice to work with the reproductive health care community to address these threats and the harassment that our providers, and all staff and volunteers, face daily.  Locally, we appreciate being able to work with local police to make sure everyone expressing their own opinions, and accessing normal health care, can do so peacefully.

The work I do every day is all about creating an environment where these kinds of threats are unimaginable.  Some days I feel optimistic, like when my interns put on a Women’s Health Matters event and get more than 30 college students to take action in support of reproductive health.  Some days I do not, like one year ago yesterday.  And like in 2007 when the Supreme Court ruled for the first time ever to uphold an abortion ban that has no exception for a woman’s health.

What gives me hope is people taking action, so go read this and then send an email to your New York State Assemblymember.  If you don’t live in New York, consider donating to Planned Parenthood or toward the creation of a movie about Drs. Carhart and Hern, or sign up for action alerts from Planned Praenthood nationally. 

Dr. Tiller’s family, friends, community, and patients are in my thoughts this week.  So are Dr. Leroy Carhart, Dr. Warren Hern, and all the providers I work with every day.  My wish is for everyone to stay safe, and to stay courageous.  Women need you.


One final must-read link: The fallacy of the “lone-wolf” murderer – Amanda Robb’s piece in Ms. Magazine, via AlterNet.

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