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  Summer 2009

In Memory Of Dr. George Tiller
He Supported Women's Dignity

(On May 31, 2009, a US terrorist assassinated Dr. George Tiller at his church. Domestic terrorists had previously bombed Tiller’s clinic in 1985 and shot Tiller in 1993. The murderer had been arrested the night before for damaging another clinic, but he was released immediately.)

 When I think of Dr. Tiller and his clinic I think of compassion. What Dr. Tiller and his staff did each and every day was to give women their dignity.

At Notre Dame President Obama said, 'As citizens of a vibrant and varied democracy, how do we engage in vigorous debate? How does each of us remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we consider right, without demonizing those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side?'

Upon Dr. Tiller's murder, Randall Terry, who led protests against Tiller's clinic in 1991, issued a statement, 'I am more concerned that the Obama Administration will use Tiller's killing to intimidate pro-lifers into surrendering our most effective rhetoric and actions.'

This rhetoric includes describing Dr. Tiller as 'a mass-murderer' and abortion as a kind of 'slaughter.' It also includes describing Dr. Tiller, as Bill O'Reilly did, as 'guilty of Nazi stuff.'

This rhetoric of 'mass murder' and 'slaughter,' killing and genocide, is commonly used by a religious and political organizations that oppose abortion. It is language that is demonizing and dangerous.

Is this really how we think of women who have abortions, some lucky enough to do so with the support of caring doctors? Do we really believe that pregnant women who end their pregnancies-- and the health care providers who help them--are no different from Hitler or Pol Pot? Do we really think that the individual decisions of pregnant women are the same as, or worse than, government-sponsored genocide?

This rhetoric, largely unchecked over the last 30 years, distracts attention from key facts about the women who have abortions. Sixty-one percent of women who have abortions are already mothers. By the age of 44, 84% of all women have become pregnant and given birth. American women, many of whom have had or will have abortions, do 80 percent of the childcare and two-thirds of the housework. They do this work without any form of formal compensation, without any guaranteed pensions, and without any form of insurance or healthcare should they need it.

Dr. Tiller was amazing. In addition to his determination and his extraordinary courage, he knew and appreciated who his patients were. He knew them as loving women, daughters, and mothers who are the backbone of their families and, to a large extent, our country.

Many women who traveled to Dr. Tiller's clinic were did not want to have abortions, or even support abortion rights. Many were women with wanted pregnancies. But they learned that their baby had no brain, or kidneys growing on the outside of their bodies, or 'severe fetal cardiac malformations.'

They were women who could not face two or three more months of pregnancy with people patting their bellies and saying, 'Oh honey you must be excited. When are you due?' Some women deal with such crises by continuing to term even knowing the baby cannot survive. Others find that their dignity depends on being able to end the pregnancy.

Some women who went to his clinic were extremely young. Some struggled with health problems and disabilities that would be exacerbated by a pregnancy they did not recognize until late. All together they represented women with the least desired and rarest abortions, ones late in pregnancy.

Dr. Tiller was extraordinary. When I met him he talked about why women have abortions and how they understand them in terms of their religious faith and spirituality. He described his efforts to serve them with respect. He made possible rituals that would allow them to say goodbye to fetal life that they valued.

Some women who returned from his clinic felt that they had been treated better through an abortion they wished they had not needed, than through a birth that they had anticipated with joy.

There will be some who will explicitly or subtly endorse Dr. Tiller's murder as a matter of necessity, justified to stop what they will claim is worse killing.

I am tired of a public debate that treats seriously the claim that pregnant women, mothers, and the people who support them are killers. I am tired of a debate that trivializes genocide by saying that what women do to deal with their reproductive lives is worse.

What I want instead is to honor George Tiller, a man who honored women. And I want instead to honor those who value fetal life, but who do not lose sight of the women who give that life. And I want to honor those who would never dream of murdering a doctor, who was among the few to give those women the services, respect, and dignity they deserved.

Lynn Paltrow
National Advocates for Pregnant Women


 Trust Women: Dr. Tiller wore a button that simply said, Trust Women. NARAL Pro Choice America will send you a wristband with the same slogan for any size donation. Go to their website at: prochoiceamerica.org.


Results of 30-years of Domestic Terrorism against Pregnant Women:

  • 8 murders

  • 17 attempted murders

  • 41 bombings

  • 175 arsons

  • 406 death threats

  • 5,800 acts of vandalism

  • 13,995 harassing phone calls and hate-mail incidents

Women’s Health Clinics spend thousands of dollars on bulletproof glass, armed guards, security cameras, and metal detectors. And pregnant women in 87 percent of counties in America do not have access to an abortion provider, though abortion is legal.

After Tiller’s murder, Randall Terry of Operation Rescue threatened "random acts of violence against things, against facilities, things happening in the streets, acts of vandalism..." and "...reprisals against the individuals...deemed guilty...of pushing this tyranny."  July 21, 2009

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