the price of abortions in America

Dr George Tiller was one of the final three doctors in the entire United States prepared to perform late term abortions. Now he’s been shot dead.

His murder wasn’t entirely unexpected, given the constant harassment suffered by US abortion providers. The Daily Beast has an account of what Tiller had previously been through.

Tiller’s clinic became a last resort for women from “all over the world,” including a 10-year-old rape victim, [Tiller’s lawyer] told the jury. It also became a special target for antiabortion groups, such as Operation Rescue, and its terrorist offshoot, the Army of God.Monnat showed the six-person jury a montage of photographs from Tiller’s past: the damage to his clinic from a 1986 bomb placed on the roof; some of the 2,000 people arrested during the 1991 protests outside the clinic; and Tiller being carried away on a stretcher in 1993 after being shot in both arms by an abortion opponent. “I don’t know why he’s still doing it,” says Diane Wahto, a retired teacher from Wichita who volunteered escorting patients past protesters before Tiller hired a private security firm. “He’s past retirement age. I think he doesn’t want the anti-choice forces to make women suffer.”

The suspect in custody is  51-year-old Scott Roeder of Merriam, Kansas, alleged to be a former member of the Montana Freemen, a right-wing militia group. But what would have given someone the idea that Tiller deserved to be shot to death? Well, here’s Bill O’Reilly of Fox News outlining how Tiller operated a ‘death mill’.

As Salon explains:

There’s no other person who bears as much responsibility for the characterization of Tiller as a savage on the loose, killing babies willy-nilly thanks to the collusion of would-be sophisticated cultural elites, a bought-and-paid-for governor and scofflaw secular journalists [as Bill O’Reilly]. Tiller’s name first appeared on “The Factor” on Feb. 25, 2005. Since then, O’Reilly and his guest hosts have brought up the doctor on 28 more episodes, including as recently as April 27 of this year. Almost invariably, Tiller is described as “Tiller the Baby Killer.”Tiller, O’Reilly likes to say, “destroys fetuses for just about any reason right up until the birth date for $5,000.” He’s guilty of “Nazi stuff,” said O’Reilly on June 8, 2005; a moral equivalent to NAMBLA and al-Qaida, he suggested on March 15, 2006. “This is the kind of stuff happened in Mao’s China, Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union,” said O’Reilly on Nov. 9, 2006.

No, Bill O’Reilly didn’t call for Tiller’s death. But if the guy was a Nazi baby killer, well, his assassin presumably reasoned that he should do whatever necessary to prevent such a person performing his evil work.

Meanwhile, Talk Left has a very different account of the service Tiller provided.

Two days later our joy was turned to unspeakable sadness when the new sonogram showed conjoined twins. Conjoined twins alone is not what was so difficult but the way they were joined meant that at best only one child would survive the surgery to separate them and the survivor would more than likely live a brief and painful life filled with surgery and organ transplants. We were advised that our options were to deliver into the world a child who’s life would be filled with horrible pain and suffering or fly out to Wichita Kansas and to terminate the pregnancy under the direction of Dr. George Tiller. We made an informed decision to go to Kansas. One can only imagine the pain borne by a woman who happily carries a child for 8 months only to find out near the end of term that the children were not to be and that she had to make the decision to terminate the pregnancy and go against everything she had been taught to believe was right. This was what my wife had to do. Dr. Tiller is a true American hero. The nightmare of our decision and the aftermath was only made bearable by the warmth and compassion of Dr. Tiller and his remarkable staff. Dr. Tiller understood that this decision was the most difficult thing that a woman could ever decide and he took the time to educate us and guide us along with the other two couples who at the time were being forced to make the same decision after discovering that they too were carrying children impacted by horrible fetal anomalies. I could describe in great detail the procedures and the pain and suffering that everyone is subjected to in these situations. However, that is not the point of the post. We can all imagine that this is not something that we would wish on anyone. The point is that the pain and suffering were only mitigated by the compassion and competence of Dr. George Tiller and his staff. We are all diminished today for a host of reasons but most of all because a man of great compassion and courage has been lost to the world.

Again, there used to be three doctors in the whole US prepared to perform late term abortions. Now there’s only two.

Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is a Walkley Award-winning writer, broadcaster and former editor of Overland.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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  1. I found this story tragic enough BEFORE I knew there are only two doctors left in the States prepared to perform late term abortions. Soon, I suspect, there will be none.

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