Thinking about Dr. Tiller

1 Jun

A compilation of thoughts and reflections from abortion gang bloggers:


I remember vividly where I was when I heard that George Tiller had been shot. Already, only two years later, it is becoming the same kind of moment for me as September 11th – you could tell when it happened that it was going to be huge. The feeling of it never really left you. I think it a lot more likely that 9/11 will become our generation’s Kennedy assassination (“where were you when you heard?”), but it doesn’t mean Dr. Tiller’s murder didn’t change everything. And I’m only being a little bit facetious.
Everything we do now, as abortion providers and activists, is seen through the lens of his murder. Every security decision is visceral and urgent. But every patient care decision has changed now too. Now he is our saint – “Saint George” as he was known in life – and if there is a silver lining to his assassination it is that he is always on our minds. “Trust women” as a guiding philosophy has been elevated and sanctified more than it ever was before. What would George do? is what we ask ourselves when faced with a difficult patient, a heartbreaking case, a referral that necessitates a little more time and attention. It was Dr. Tiller’s last gift to us, that in losing him we realized the high standard of patient care that he set; and in an attempt to preserve his memory, we try to meet, and exceed, that standard. Thank you Dr. Tiller.


The entire situation makes my heart hurt, and what is scary is the WI man plans an attack execution style so close to this sad anniversary. I know one thing, though, Dr. Tiller would not want any choice activist to buckle- not at a time like now, when we need to shore up our efforts and really make a stand. The antis are getting progressively violent, targeting doctors, women, children, medical schools, and so much more with their phony “fetal pain” bills and endlessly redundant “no tax dollars for abortion” bullshit and so on and so forth. If Dr. Tiller were here today, he would be getting ready for work tomorrow, just as he always did, despite the grave danger he was always in. And that’s what I intend to do, to honor Dr. Tiller with my re-renewed pledge to stay committed and focused in pro-choice activism.


What I learned the most from Dr. Tiller is tenacity. He did not let threats deter him in the work that he knew was right. He also inspires me in my work as an advocate to end violence. We will not achieve reproductive justice without an end to a world that condones violence in relationships, violence against those with whom some don’t agree, gender violence and violence in language and rhetoric that insights others to violence. Dr. Tiller’s legacy is that we can’t let the threat of violence deter us from our work, even if that threat is very real.


The biggest thing that touched me about Dr. Tiller is his persistence to do the right thing. After his clinic was fire-bombed in 1986, he placed a sign on the clinic that plainly said “Hell no, we won’t go” and sent a clear message that no matter what they threw at him, Dr. Tiller would continue doing what he believed in. Two years ago he was murdered, but his persistence and spirit lives on.


When the two towers fell in New York City, I was told that moment would be my generation’s “Where were you?” the way JFK’s death was for the children of the 50s and 60s. When Dr. Tiller was shot, I wondered – and still wonder – if that was our moment, this generation of struggling, difficult, constantly thwarted young activists who seem hemmed in on all sides by powers great than ours that do not share our aims and goals. It was, for me, the moment I realized that I was not safe; that the people I love are not safe; that the people I work with are not safe. It was the moment I decided to do what I believe is right anyway, not with a sense of passion and determination, but with a realism and a sadness that has never really left me. Dr. Tiller was arguably one of the greatest advocates and activists for reproductive justice in the country, and he was taken from the people who loved and needed him suddenly and brutally. He stands, for me, with Martin Luther King Jr. and Harvey Milk. Like those deaths, I do not believe sense can be made of this one. But I do believe that his death, like his life, gave a purpose and a direction to a movement.

One Response to “Thinking about Dr. Tiller”


  1. Anti-Choice is Anti-Awesome: Weekly Reader - November 26, 2012

    […] off! Here are the things I've been reading the last two weeks:Alberta's battle against STDs.Some reflections on Dr. Tiller's death, on the second anniversary.An amazing clinic escort in Fredericton on anti-abortion lobbying and […]

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