Dr. George Tiller: Remembering a Hero

Today marked the fourth anniversary of Dr. George Tiller’s assassination. Dr. Tiller was shot in the head while attending his church. He was killed for no other reason than that he was an unapologetic abortion provider. He was gunned down because he trusted his patients and listened to their needs. He was murdered because he did was almost no one else in this country would (and will) do: provide late-term abortions. Dr. George Tiller was a hero.

Though I’ve been working on reproductive health, reproductive rights, and reproductive justice issues for years, it’s generally been at the broader legal and policy levels. It’s only been within the last year or so that I’ve delved into the messy (but much more rewarding) world of personal contact with the amazing individuals who provide the health care I’ve desperately been trying to protect and promote.

Unfortunately, while delving into this messy world has come with some amazing perks, it also comes with a downside in the form of increased anxiety. Over the last year, I’ve become personally close with a number of amazing abortion providers from around the country. These men and women put their lives on the line every day, providing compassionate care to women, and I worry each and every day about the safety of my newfound friends and heroes.

Almost each week I hear about another threat or attack against another clinic or provider: a Kansan preacher standing outside of Julie Burkhart’s (the new owner of South Wind Women’s Center, and former employee of Dr. Tiller) home holding a sign saying, “Where’s your church?”; Army of God Member, David Leach inferring that someone should murder the new providers at South Wind Women’s Center; Troy Newman of Operation Rescue violating Illinois recording statutes to surreptitiously record and “out” the newest abortion provider at South Wind Women’s Center; and the conviction, just today, of a man who plotted to kill a provider at a Planned Parenthood in Madison, Wisconsin.

And I’m tired of it. I’m tired of worrying every moment that a friend or colleague will be harmed by an antichoice extremist. I’m tired of worrying that a woman in need won’t be able to access the health care she needs because of an antichoice extremist. I want my friends and colleagues to be able to go to work every day and provide the safe and compassionate care they provide without worrying about arsonists or gunshots or explosions. And I want women to be able to access safe abortion care without worry about antichoice protesters blocking their path, or clinics being blown up or burnt down, or their doctors being shot.

In short, I want the law to do its job and protect the brave men and women who work tirelessly to provide reproductive healthcare to the men and women who need it most, even in the face of such horrific dangers.

Is that so much to ask? That the legal system do it’s job?

Four years on, isn’t it time that we truly respect the memory of Dr. Tiller by demanding that we protect abortion providers from the harassment and violence they face daily from antichoice extremists? Isn’t it time that we honor his memory by forcing our congressional leaders to enforce the laws they have already passed to protect abortion providers, and to strengthen those laws to ensure a tragedy such as the murder of Dr. Tiller never happens again?

Dr. Tiller was a hero. His colleagues are heroes. And I can think of no better way to honor their service than to protect them from the likes of Operation Rescue and other antichoice extremists.

Till next time,

– H

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© Heather Parker and Antigone Awakens, 2012-2013.


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