Remembering Dr. Tiller in the Abortion Debate

Two years ago yesterday, Dr. George Tiller of Wichita, Kansas, was murdered for his work as a well-known abortion provider.  Dr. Tiller was renowned for the high level of care that he provided to women for many years.

Despite the tragic end to Dr. Tiller’s career, he is remembered for providing safe reproductive services in a region where not many doctors will perform abortions.  This is significant in a time when women are turning to unsafe providers for lack of other options.

Abortion is a common medical procedure. One-third of American women will have an abortion by the age of 45.

At this rate, it is likely that every person in America will know at least one woman who has had an abortion.

Doctors who provide abortions face many difficulties today.  In many communities, anyone who is in any way connected with providing abortion care – doctors, nurses, even building landlords and custodians – and their families live in fear of violence from anti-abortion groups.  On May 26th, a man from Madison, WI, was charged with a federal misdemeanor count of trying to injure people providing reproductive health services.

Although anti-choice groups in Wisconsin are distancing themselves from the man’s act, this story is one example of how the threat to abortion providers and clinics is still alive and real. However violence is not the only issue that the pro-choice medical community faces.

With the battle over health care still warring today, organizations such as Planned Parenthood face the threat of being defunded by the federal government- even though no federal money goes to abortion care because of the Hyde Amendment. The federal money that Planned Parenthood receives goes toward cancer screenings, routine sexual health check-ups, STI testing, sex education, and other desperately-needed services.

In Pennsylvania, some law-makers are trying to restrict access to safe, compassionate abortion care in the Keystone State.

HB 574 passed the state House on May 11 and would regulate abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical facilities, forcing them to make costly renovations and increase staffing despite no proven benefit to patient safety.

In light of this legislation, Dr. Tiller’s method of providing care is important to remember. He insisted on quality patient care for women and administered this care viewing every woman as an individual and unique case. He is also noted for going above and beyond standard patient care:

George bravely immersed himself not only in the specialized medicine of later abortions but also in the complicated lives of his patients. Sometimes, for legal or medical reasons, he couldn’t accommodate a patient’s request for an abortion and helped arrange adoption. The work he did was far from simple, like many other kinds of health care.

Now two years later, Dr. Tiller’s work is still stigmatized and under attack by lawmakers at the state and national levels of government. Although abortion is still legal, future laws could impact the way that it is practiced not only in Pennsylvania, but in other states as well. It is important to oppose these changes and fight to keep reproductive health care safe and accessible.

Call your PA State Senator today and tell them to vote no on the Mensch Amendment to SB 732, which would end abortion care after nine weeks of pregnancy in freestanding clinics.

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The Women's Law Project creates a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives. To this end, we engage in high-impact litigation, advocacy, and education.
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