Dr. George Tiller, age 67, was shot and killed Sunday morning while entering his church.
Tiller, a doctor at the only clinic that performs later-term abortions in the mid-west, and one of two abortion clinics in the state of Kansas, has been a focal point in the abortion debate because of the questionable legality of his practice and his opposition to a state law requiring an "independent" physician's opinion before a woman could obtain a later-term abortion. He was found not guilty in March.
In 1993, Tiller was shot in both arms by radical anti-choice extremist Rachelle Shannon, but he continued to practice. His Wichita clinic, Women's Health Care Services, is the only clinic in the mid-west that provides later term abortions, and one of two abortion clinics in the state of Kansas. The clinic has been the target of vandalism, illegal blockades, bomb threats, and other forms of violence, and the staff receives consistent death threats from extremists.
Late-term abortions are never an easy decision for a couple, especially when that decision has been politicized and demonized by anti-choice extremists. In nearly all cases, the abortion is performed to either save the woman's life, because her baby will be born stillborn, or (most commonly) because tests reveal a lack of fetal development or a birth defect that, unfortunately, ensure the baby will only live a very short, very painful life upon birth. Often the parents choose late-term abortion because, after much medical counseling and deliberation, they realize it would be better to terminate the pregnancy instead of bring a child into the world only to suffer in its short life.
Dr. Tiller provided services rarely seen amongst late-term abortion doctors: he performed the controversial (yet far safer) intact dilation and extraction procedure, allowing couples to view the fetus before cremation, something that women describe as positive because it gives them closure on the pregnancy. He even staffed a chaplain to counsel clients or even baptize the fetus before cremation, if the couple chose to do so, and offered women and couples time alone with their fetus to pray and say their goodbyes. In this way, Dr. Tiller provided great levels of comfort to couples who were suffering with their choice and suffering even more due to the lack of understanding and complete lack of compassion amongst the protesters outside the clinic.
I wish to extend my greatest thanks to Dr. Tiller, a man who battled bureaucracy and politically-motivated restrictions, to save women's lives and offer women and couples a light of hope at the end of a very painful tunnel. Our thoughts and prayers go out to your family and friends, and to your colleagues at WHCS.