June 1, 2009 by

Dr. George Tiller

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Categories: Medicine

gtiller.jpgGeorge Richard Tiller, one of only a few doctors in America who performed late-term abortions, was shot to death on May 31. He was 67.
Born in Wichita, Kansas, Tiller earned a degree in zoology from the University of Kansas and a medical degree from the University of Kansas School of Medicine. He pursued an internship with the United States Navy, serving two years as a flight surgeon at Camp Pendleton in California, then prepared to specialize in dermatology. Those plans changed in 1970 when a plane crash took the lives of his father, mother, sister and brother-in-law.
The sudden loss of his family left Tiller with two new responsibilities: his father’s medical practice in Wichita, and the care of his 1-year-old nephew. As he prepared to close the family planning clinic, Tiller learned of the region’s need for such services. He also discovered that his father had been providing abortions, then an illegal procedure, to women in need. When the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade case legalized the practice of terminating pregnancies in 1973, Tiller decided to perform them as well.
Over the next three decades, Tiller offered reproductive health care and counseling to thousands of women. His practice, Women’s Health Care Services, became known as one of only three clinics nationwide which would provide abortion after the 21st week of pregnancy. He helped pioneer the use of sonogram imaging during procedures, served as a diplomat of the American Board of Family Practice Physicians and founded ProKanDo, a pro-women, pro-choice political action committee that helps elect abortion rights candidates and supports abortion-friendly legislation.
Tiller’s work earned him numerous awards and honors — including The Christopher Tietze Humanitarian Award and the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights’ Faith and Freedom Award — but also the wrath of the anti-abortion lobby. Protesters regularly demonstrated in front of his office, home and church. In 1986, a pipe bomb blew a hole in the clinic’s outside wall and severely damaged its interior.
Tiller was personally targeted as well. He faced, and defeated, a series of legal challenges intended to shut down his practice. His name and photograph were included on “Wanted” posters and assassination lists, and his home address was published on the Web. In 1993, abortion opponent Rachelle “Shelley” Shannon shot him in both arms with a semiautomatic pistol; she’s still serving time for attempted murder.
Federal marshals protected the doctor between 1994 and 1998, and again in 2001 when Operation Rescue urged thousands of activists to blockade his practice. Tiller installed bulletproof glass on the clinic and hired a private security team to protect the patients and staff; however, these efforts failed to stop the demonstrations, threats and property destruction. Just last month, vandals cut wires to the clinic’s security cameras and outside lights, and cut a hole in the roof. Rain poured through the opening and caused thousands of dollars in damages.
On Sunday morning, Tiller was handing out bulletins in the foyer of the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita when a gunman entered and fired one shot at him. The assailant then threatened two bystanders before fleeing the premises. Several witnesses to the attack were able to describe the suspect to authorities and provide a description of his car and license plate number.
Three hours later, police arrested Scott Roeder, 51, and charged him with first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault. Although officials said they believed it was “the act of an isolated individual,” they also plan to look into “his history, his family, his associates.” Roeder was previously convicted of explosives charges after the police discovered a blasting cap, a fuse cord, a pound of gunpowder, ammunition and two 9-volt batteries in the trunk of his car. The conviction was later overturned on appeal on the grounds that the search was illegal.
Despite the arrival of paramedics minutes after the attack occurred, Tiller died at the scene. He was the fourth abortion doctor killed in the United States. Tiller is survived by his wife, Jeanne, who was inside the church sanctuary at the time of the shooting, 4 children and 10 grandchildren. “George dedicated his life to providing women with high-quality health care despite frequent threats and violence,” his family said in a statement. “We ask that he be remembered as a good husband, father and grandfather and a dedicated servant on behalf of the rights of women everywhere.”
[Update – Jan. 29, 2010: A jury in Wichita, Kan., deliberated for just over a half hour before finding Scott Roeder guilty of murdering Dr. George Tiller. Roeder was also convicted of two counts of aggravated assault for threatening others in the church. He faces life in prison for the slaying.]

6 Responses to Dr. George Tiller

  1. Debbie

    I’d just like Dr. Tiller’s family to know how truly shocked and saddened I was to hear of his death… and that I send them my most sincere condolences. Dr. Tiller stood before the world, for many many years, as a principled and compassionate human being. Without him, his patients would not have benefitted from his care and expertise. Dr. Tiller and his loved ones are in my prayers.

  2. Jim

    This was a good man, and his murder was horrible. So many in our nation are sickened by his assassination. What a shame. What a horrible shame.

  3. Lynn

    condolonces to the Tller family,
    I am sorry to hear about the loss of your husband. It’s sad to see someone that you love so dearly depart so soon. God knows and understands our sadness when we lose a loved one. When you go to him in prayer and tell him how you feel he listens. May you and your family find comfort in these words expressed here at 2 Corinthians 1:3,4- Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ the Father of tender mericies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation that we may be able to comfort those with which we ourselves are being comforted by God.

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