Six years ago today, Dr. George R. Tiller, who operated one of the only clinics in the United States where women could obtain late-term abortions, was murdered in the foyer of his church in Wichita, Kansas by “pro-life” extremist Scott Roeder. (Though sentenced to life in prison, Roeder continued to threaten abortion providers from behind bars). In the aftermath of Tiller’s murder, many abortion providers redoubled their efforts to provide needed services, including some who chose to honor Tiller’s legacy by openly providing the services he provided to women in difficult, sometimes heart-breaking, circumstances.
In the six intervening years, the abortion-access landscape across the U.S. has grown ever more difficult to navigate. Twenty-week bans (like the one just overturned by a federal appeals court in Idaho, and the “pain-capable fetus” bill recently passed by the U.S. House) are sweeping across the nation. Parental notification, up to and including two-parent consent, is becoming the norm in many parts of the country. A Presidential candidate is touting the virtues of mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds for abortion patients. And onerous three-day waiting periods are being proposed from Missouri to South Dakota to Mississippi, with the goal of preventing as many abortions (mostly for low-income and rural pregnant women, who have the least ability to travel to abortion clinics repeatedly or take multiple days off work) as possible.
Meanwhile, abortion clinics are still being targeted by anti-choice terrorists. In 2011, Madison, Wisconsin police arrested a man with a gun who said he planned to kill workers at Madison’s Planned Parenthood clinic and then head on to Milwaukee to do the same. The next year, “suspicious fires” broke at at women’s health clinics across Georgia and in New Orleans. In 2013, a federal judge ruled that an anti-abortion extremist had the right to deliver bomb threats to an abortion provider in Wichita, Kansas. And just two months ago, the only remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi (which may have to close down because of a potential new law requiring abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital), was vandalized, and its security cameras dismantled, by intruders who also sought to cut power to the building. Those are far from the only cases of anti-choice attacks since George Tiller’s murder, and the truly shocking part is that this coordinated assault on abortion service providers is usually treated as a series of isolated, unrelated incidents, rather than a coordinated effort to silence abortion providers and put them out of business.
Today, allies around the country are remembering George Tiller’s life and legacy, as well as noting how far we still have to go to ensure that no one is terrorized for providing or accessing reproductive health care services. Here is a small sampling.
From Refinery 29: George Tiller Remembered.
From Talking Points Memo:How Dr. Tiller’s Death Haunts Abortion Providers Six Years Later
Rest in peace, Dr. Tiller. Your work will not be forgotten.