In the wake of Dr. George Tiller‘s murder, a number of women’s health advocates shared their stories with Our Bodies Ourselves. Here are some of their reflections on the work of an abortion provider.
The assassination of Dr. George Tiller is both tragic and chilling, a caring physician deeply committed to women’s reproductive freedoms, murdered in his own church. I understand that there is a diversity of opinion on the issue of abortion, but there should be no diversity of opinion regarding murder.
I have lived through a similar assault in Brookline, Mass., several years ago and faced my children asking me if I would be killed at work today. All of us in the medical community who support reproductive rights and who either do abortions or refer our patients to our respected colleagues for abortions, are horrified at this assault to human decency and to our safety and the safety of our patients.
This moment is a giant step backwards as we all struggle to maintain an open society where women can obtain the health care they feel then need and clinicians can provide that care without fearing for our lives. The expressions of dismay from the foes of abortion sound disingenuous to say the least. Spreading hatred and spewing violence towards people who believe in a woman’s right to choose lays the groundwork for this type of despicable crime and endangers us all.
- An obstetrician-gynecologist
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I knew George Tiller when he returned from an internship in the Navy to take over his father’s general practice in Wichita after his father, mother and other members of the family were killed in a small plane crash. We were colleagues and friends in medical practice and in the general practice residency at our hospital.
He was a conscientious, virtuous and competent family physician, a credit to the discipline, who became committed to women’s reproductive health, including but not limited to terminations of pregnancy. He persevered in an uncommon way against relentless harassment, threats and violence and paid the martyr’s price for what he believed in wholeheartedly.
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Resistance in World War II, would I have risked my life? Would I have protected my colleagues if arrested? If abortions suddenly became illegal again in the United States, would I learn to perform them?
The need would be great, and as a primary care physician, I could learn the skill. I haven’t had to answer that question, although even with legality, the need is great.
I am deeply sad, terrified, and horrified, that in the United States in 2009 a physician was assassinated for offering women a legal medical procedure whose necessity was arrived at by mutual agreement. We can no longer consider the words of anti-reproductive rights terrorists to be idle threats.
- Massachusetts obstetrician-gynecologist