On the 5th Anniversary of Dr. George Tiller’s Murder

On May 31, 2009, Kansas physician and abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was murdered in his local church. Since then, both Kansas and the nation have undergone a transformation when it comes to abortion care. Dozens of clinics have shut their doors, leaving access to legal abortion at a crisis point in some states. Multiple states, including Dr. Tiller’s own home state of Kansas, have banned abortion at 20 weeks post fertilization, at least two weeks prior to viability, despite the unconstitutional nature of the ban. Two states have mandated at least three days wait between initial appointment and an actual procedure, with one more three day wait awaiting a signature or veto, and six states are now one clinic away from having no legal providers.

That’s the bad news. There is good news, too. Dr. Tiller’s death inspired countless med students to add abortion care to their practice, or decide to work in a clinic. Doctors have vowed to continue his legacy to provide terminations in the most dire of pregnancy circumstances, refusing to back down in the face of violence against one of their own. His own clinic has reopened, not only bringing back abortion care to that area of the state but also full spectrum reproductive health for pregnancy prevention and trans health as well.

Five years can be a long period legislatively, especially when you consider the 300 bills to restrict abortion access just since 2010. When Dr. Tiller was alive there were no “Pain Capable Unborn Child” bills declaring erroneously that a fetus feels pain at 20 weeks. There were no “Women’s Safety” bills shutting down abortion clinics for reasons like doctors not having unnecessary admitting privileges to local hospitals, or because they didn’t have locker rooms for doctors to put their scrubs in or doorways wide enough for a full stretcher and not just a wheelchair.

Five years is a long time in the activist world as well. Since Dr. Tiller’s murder the Personhood movement has spread out of Colorado and into other states, and Abolish Human Abortion has popped up to be yet another sidewalk group intent on engaging and harassing patients wanting an abortion, and spreading their crusade to churches and schools as well.

Five years, meanwhile, has not been a long time for a reproductive rights movement that still mourns his death and the loss of his talents and his courage. It’s a loss you can still hear from Kate Michelman, former NARAL president, who wrote about her memories of Dr. Tiller in Salon. “Just a couple of weeks before his death, I heard from Dr. Tiller, and the reason for his call said so much about him. He was the one being stalked and escorted by bodyguards, but he wanted to know how I was doing. Today, George Tiller, I’m doing poorly. Our world is doing poorly for having lost you. But your courage will inspire us to draw on our own strength and carry out the work for which you gave your life.”

It’s an open, empty space you can feel when Carole Joffe, historian and friend of Dr. Tiller writes on the anniversary of his death about the legacy he left behind. “The bottom line, of course—the crucial question to ask about George Tiller’s legacy—is whether the women about whom he cared so deeply and whom he understood so well are currently able to receive high-quality, respectful care at later stages of pregnancy,” writes Joffe. “[T]he road ahead for providers and their allies to not only preserve George Tiller’s specialized service, but simply to stay open, is hardly an easy one. Nevertheless, many of those who knew Dr. Tiller as a colleague and friend are no doubt fortified by remembering one of his favorite sayings: ‘Attitude is everything.’” It’s a legacy you can feel in the hashtag on Twitter when reproductive rights advocates share their memories and their hopes for the future.

I never knew Dr. Tiller. I never visited the Wichita clinic when he was alive. Instead, I saw it for the first time in October of 2013, when it had been reopened for just six months. While I was there, clinic workers gave me a tour, and in the basement, put aside in a dark corner, was a box filled with hand knit baby hats and blankets, each in its own individual bag. They explained to me that when he was counseling those who were about to terminate the pregnancy of a wanted child that wouldn’t survive birth, each expecting mother would receive a blanket and hat, knit by a previous patient who had been through the same ordeal, and that later he would encourage each of them to knit a package for another mother to come to know she wasn’t alone.

I never knew Dr. Tiller, but I wish I had.

Photo credit: Wikimedia commons


Jim Ven
Jim V8 months ago


Jerome S
Jerome S8 months ago

thanks for sharing.

SJ Burrows
Sherry Burrows3 years ago

Kudos to those of you who correctly identified Roeder and those who encouraged him---the zealots of Hate Media, including News for Dumb Fux---as the domestic terrorists they are. Organized religions, ALL of them, have but one purpose, no matter what their dogma, "rules," and policies are. That is to establish a priest caste who then uses the serfs' ignorance to control them, thus allowing the priest class to profit and remain in control. When little was known about how things worked, it was simple for the religious oligarchs to pretend that they knew, and then use their "knowledge" to keep the worker bees in line. Now that scientific study is a reality, and it is possible to form accurate theories about things like gravity, physics, and evolution and then test those theories, the priest caste has to work much harder to keep knowledge out of the hands of the masses.

During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, women wore miniskirts, went to engineering school in Moscow, and were given many of the freedoms that Russia accorded to women. Because independent, strong women raise independent. strong children who question authority and engage in acts of protest that frighten the hell out of the religious oligarchy, freedom of women has to be brutally quashed for any fundamentalist religion to succeed at brainwashing the masses. Thus the Taliban forced women out of the workforce, making them completely dependent upon their male relatives or husbands, putting them in burkhas and u

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm3 years ago

Sharon D nailed it. When You kill someone who you disagree with on religious grounds you have become a religious terrorist. Run by raw emotion and not intellect. Jesus doesnt want us killing people. Let ye who have not sinned throw the first stone. Its amazing how some just discard the parts of his teachings when it is inconvenient to hear them.

Tiller was MURDERED for doing a LEGAL act whether YOU like it or not. Whats next…..shooting cops because we dont want the speeding ticket?

Dennis D.
Past Member 3 years ago

John M. Life is a process.. It does not begin at conception. It started million, perhaps billion of years ago on this planet.. As for you opinion. that is all it is. your opinion on how effective abstinence is yourself. It does not mean every one is going to celibate or even be abstinent.

A woman making a medical decision is no one business. That include you too, doofus.

Dennis D.
Past Member 3 years ago

The sickest thing I witnessed was the days after Dr. Tiller had been murdered. The antichoice trolls were rejoicing in this good man murder. Praise for the scum roeder was in just about every post.

Want to now i have no real respect for the so called prolife here on the 'net. That is why.

Dr. Tiller was a good man and physician. He helped woman to get pass a pregnancy that had gone very wrong. How many lives did he save.. Every last one of those women.

Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage s3 years ago


pam w.
pam w3 years ago

I wish I could have helped protect him. He didn't deserve any of it.

Why do religious terrorists think that THEY have the power to kill, maim and ruin lives? Because their god told them so?

Yet qanother reason to understand that religion ruins everything.

Teresa W.
Teresa W3 years ago

'Pro-life' ends at birth. For such 'pro-lifers', life after birth doesn't count any more.

Janis K.
Janis K3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.