Dr. George Tiller, Martyr

Dr. George Tiller

I don’t do abortions.

I learned to do them, of course, as most gynecologists of my generation did, and I did them as part of my residency. That experience convinced me that abortions were not consistent with my view of providing patient care. I referred those of my patients who wanted abortions to other providers, and I never did another termination again.

Despite my personal views on abortion, I am horrified, appalled, and deeply outraged by the assassination of my colleague George Tiller. I am also profoundly humbled by his ultimate sacrifice. Tiller knew his life would probably end like this. He had already been shot, his clinic had been bombed, and he constantly received death threats. Yet none of that deterred him from standing for what he believed in.

It is a curious fact about conservative Republicans of this era, that they think the law applies to everyone but them. Abortion is legal, yet they try to interfere with it on a daily basis; legal access to abortion is the result of the political will, and is grounded in the American Constitution, yet conservative Republicans feel free to ignore the parts of the Constitution that don’t suit their prejudices; murder is the ultimate crime, yet they tacitly and actively encourage the murder of abortion providers. Many conservative Republicans feel that religion is so important that they attempt to defy the Constitutional separation of Church and State, yet they apparently have no problem violating the sanctity of a church to commit murder.

Terrorists always believe that the end justifies the means. Make no mistake about it; Operation Rescue and similar anti-abortion organizations are terrorist groups. They use the tactics of terror — harassment, threats, and violence — to impose their personal beliefs upon the rest of the country, which has explicitly rejected those beliefs. And while we’re being honest, let’s acknowledge that conservative Republican celebrities like Bill O’Reilly, tacitly encourage and support terrorism.

George Tiller was far braver than most of us could ever be. He believed that access to late term abortion is, in addition to a legal right, part of the reproductive freedom to which all women are entitled. He was willing to put his life on the line to defend that right, and he paid the ultimate price. He knowingly risked death to stand firm for his vision of healthcare. Who among us would be willing to risk so much for an abstract principle?

George Tiller was martyred by anti-abortionists, who, in addition to flouting the law, are foolish enough to believe that killing doctors will stop abortions. Of the million plus abortions performed in this country every year, almost all are first trimester or early second trimester abortions, and murdering Dr. Tiller will stop not a single one of those. Dr. Tiller was a specialist in late abortions, but there are other such specialists both here and in other countries. Anyone who had the means to get to Dr. Tiller has the means to get to the other providers.

What have the anti-abortion terrorists accomplished? They have revealed themselves as the terrorists they are. They have aroused the horror and support of Americans who might otherwise have little concern about abortion rights. They have strengthening the cause of abortion rights in this country. In other words, anti-abortion terrorists have accomplished absolutely nothing, except the senseless murder of a good man.