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 Kulwicki 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 provider, 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 who 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.