Remembering Dr. Tiller: Four Years Later

By Carmen Rios

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.

By Carmen Rios

Carmen splits her time disparately between feminist rabble-rousing, writing, public speaking, and flower-picking. She is currently Communications Coordinator at the Feminist Majority Foundation, the Straddleverse and Feminism Editor at Autostraddle, and a writer with FORCE. Carmen is a SPARK alum and former Managing Editor of THE LINE Campaign blog. She's part of an oncoming anthology about girls' activism.

1 comment

  1. To this day, I truly mourn Dr. Tiller’s death at the hands of an assassin. I never met him. But he was murdered simply for being a doctor that performed abortions. Abortions are LEGAL in America and have been for 40 years, as everyone knows.

    Something I’ve noticed since first voting for Bill Clinton in 1992, my first time to vote, as I’d just turned 18, any time there is a pro-choice, pro-woman president in the White House, the anti-choice violence seems to pick up. And since these anti-choicers know they have no chance at overturning Roe vs Wade at the federal level, they begin slowly chipping away at abortion rights at the state level. It’s insidious.

    I will always fight for a woman’s right to choose. I want to make sure that my niece and all the women who come after her, have the right to a safe, legal abortion, just as I did. When I had my abortion at 21, I was close to finishing my college degree. I carefully thought out my choices regarding my unplanned pregnancy and chose abortion. When making the appointment and going to the clinic to get this done, not once did I even think of those nefarious forces who believe I shouldn’t have had that right. Rest in peace Dr. Tiller. You are gone, but never forgotten.

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