Four years ago today, Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider from Wichita, Kansas, was killed during a service at his local church.
Dr. Tiller’s death served not only as a reminder of the violence that faces abortion providers and their patients on a daily basis but also as a spotlight on how much still needs to change in this nation to keep women’s bodies safe from the control of their lawmakers and peers. Even recently, abortion bans have been attempted and enacted across the United States that restrict access and complicate the process for women seeking out what is currently a legitimate and legal medical procedure. And overseas, we have watched as women’s lives remain on the lines against governments that refuse to give them autonomy over their bodies and choices with which to make smart decisions for their own lives.
The legacy of Dr. Tiller is his work – which was incredible. An anonymous writer shared her story as one of his patients this week as part of Abortion Gang’s memorial blog roundup in his honor:
We went to see a later abortion provider 70 miles away and were again told no. We traveled three hours to another clinic, but I was just days beyond their limit. Another no. But they had one last little tiny bit of hope. As we left the clinic one of the women behind the counter handed me a card with a name and a phone number written on it: Dr. George Tiller, XXX-XXX-XXXX. Little did I know, this card would change my life. […]
I was lucky to have Dr. Tiller provide my abortion. I was lucky to have been taken care of by his incredible staff. I was lucky to be part of the program he had built for his clients, including counseling, care, and love that was needed during a very difficult time. When it was time for us to return home, I remember feeling conflicted. I didn’t want to leave this safe space. I wanted to stay here with the people who understood and supported what I had just been through, but I knew it was time to go home, and I knew I had support in Wichita whenever I needed it. I was ready to move on and not let this experience hold me back. Thank you Dr. Tiller for your wonderful care. You are missed every day.
Dr. Tiller was one of the only providers in the country who cared for late-term patients. He did this with pride and dignity, and his practice honored women’s experiences and their truths. Says Carol Joffe:
“It comes down to who is the patient. Is the woman the patient, or is the fetus the patient? One or other is the patient. I’ve never heard a fetus talk to me. I’ve heard thousands and thousands of women share their pain, their desperation, and their hopelessness.” These words were spoken to me some twenty years ago by Dr. George Tiller, as I was researching a book on abortion providers’ experiences before and after Roe v Wade. Tiller, who was brutally assassinated in his church on May 31, was one of the most compassionate– and feminist– individuals I have ever encountered.
Today and every day, we hope to honor Dr. Tiller’s memory by listening to and trusting women, and fighting for their independence and equality. Dr. George Tiller, you will never be forgotten – and you are sorely missed.