Dr. George Tiller, a man described by an associate as "a quiet, persistent, capable visionary," was shot while attending church today in Wichita, Kansas. He was 67.
According to witnesses the killer, a white male, left the scene in a 1993 blue Ford Taurus (Kansas license plate 225 BAB). A suspect, Scott Roeder, 51, has been detained by the police.
The motive for the killing is thought to be political. Dr. George Tiller has been repeatedly threatened by terrorists in the past for performing medical procedures involving pregnancy termination many politicians have sought to ban. Recently the state of Kansas brought charges against him for allegedly violating the law in regard to getting second opinions; this apparently politically-motivated attack failed when the jury took less than an hour to acquit him on all charges. More recently terrorists attacked his clinic, causing thousands of dollars worth of damage.
Self-described "pro-life" groups, many of whom have savagely denigrated the doctor in print in the past, were quick to distance themselves from the murder. The state executive director for Kansans For Life said, "Kansans for Life deplores the murder of Dr. George Tiller ... We value life, completely deplore violence, and are shocked and very upset by what happened in Wichita today." Troy Newman of Operation Rescue observed, "We are shocked at this morning's disturbing news that Mr. Tiller was gunned down. ... We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning." (Apparently Troy Newman couldn't resist getting a plug in for his cult, as he added inappropriately, "We pray for [Dr.] Tiller's family that they will find comfort and healing that can only be found in Jesus Christ.") Phill Kline, the former Kansas Attorney-General responsible for the baseless charges brought against the doctor said, "I am stunned by this lawless and violent act which must be condemned and should be met with the full force of law. We join in lifting prayer that God's grace and presence rest with Dr. Tiller's family and friends." (Another inappropriate bit of product-placement for religion, by the by.)
I personally would like to believe that this is the true face of the so-called "pro-life" movement. However, comments like the following give one pause:
here is a man who made his living off of murdering innocent children. he made his living off of undermining the value of life. with that being said, it seems like they sure are making a big deal about this kansas man dying. sorta seems more like equality to me than anything. at least dr. killer, i mean dr. tiller, had a chance to live life. unlike all of the innocent children that he robbed that from. obviously not a very convicted Bible believing man. i doubt he was involved in his church for any other reason than being able to pull a "good guy" political card.
And then there's
This guy wasn't pro-life. He was pro-choose to kill. Than again Mr. Tiller knew he was being stalked by someone, I read that on a few articles. Tragic it had to end before he repented for killing the sons and daughters of others. My heart grieves, another lost without knowing Christ, because someone thought they had the right to take it.
Tiller the Killer will not kill one more baby.
Ah, yes, naked hatred directed against anybody who would actually dare help people in need—that's the face of the "pro-life" movement I've seen and come to know and detest.
But I prefer to remember a man who "dedicated his life to providing women with high-quality health care despite frequent threats and violence," as a statement from his family put it. In the face of not just threats, but actual physical attacks (a "pro-life" terrorist shot him in an earlier attack, and his clinic was bombed) most people would have given up and gone into a safer line of work. Dr. Tiller stayed the course, fought the good fight, and ultimately paid for doing what is right with his life. He will be missed—which is a lot more than I can say for his detractors.
Update: Mike Dunsford at The Questionable Authority has "A few more measured thoughts on Dr. Tiller's life, career, and death" up. He says what I was attempting to say, but he says it better. Damn, I hate it when people do that.
Update: See also entries on the subject from Evolving Thoughts (great title), Dr. Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge ("pre-born children"? Does that make Newman a pre-dead corpse?), Adventures in Ethics and Science (raw thoughts indeed), and Greg Laden's Blog (Eleanor Smeal writes about the doctor).