George Tiller, a doctor previously on trial in Kansas for helping distressed pregnant teenagers get an abortion, was just shot near a church in Wichita, KS by a “right to life” advocacy group. Recently acquitted for performing late-term abortion, opposing Kansas law, he found death in his hometown. The Kansas City Star just reported, “Tiller was shot just after 10 a.m. at Reformation Lutheran Church at 7601 E. 13th, where he was a member of the congregation. An anonymous police source confirmed Tiller was the victim.”

The 68 years old physician was the director of a clinic called Women’s Health Services in Wichita and had recently been at the core of the abortion debate regarding the now infamous “right to conscience” : Tiller was one of the only two physicians in the Wichita area to accept to practice abortion, and was thus in high demand from the rapidly growing number of patients requiring his servces. Quickly labeled as a baby killer by the local believers, organized mostly by pro-life activist group Operation Rescue, he was soon put on trial for his practices in a highly mediatized debate in which physician to patient confidentiality, appropriate medical care and morality were discussed in a heated political climate. Operation Rescue claimed that despite being declared innocent after his trial, Tiller would not be let off the hook.

This wasn’t the first time pro-lifers attempted to remove George Tiller from this world. In 1993, Shelley Shannon shot the doctor on both arms outside his clinic, and was sentenced to 11 years in prison for her crime. Although he was clearly unsafe and unprotected in his own town and parish, Tiller continued to provide care, aid, and relief as his oath warrants, until today when activists proclaiming to respect humanity and put life above everything else took the liberty to kill one of their peers, in the name of a principle they obviously do not respect.  Because Tiller stood forward in the path of ultra-conservatism in a Bible Belt state, and because he believed in the welfare of his patients, he earned the respect of many, nationwide, regardless of their profession. Jacob Appel, a professor at NYU, supported  Tiller as “a genuine hero who ranks alongside Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King Jr. in the pantheon of defenders of human liberty.”

The Wichita court declared him not guilty of the 19 misdemeanor charges of which he was accused. Lonesome gunners decided otherwise. And as many defensors of liberty, as many political, social, and cultural figures who fought for what they believed in, he found death on his way, after attending a church service. As of today, “pro-life” activists will have to debate whether it is life they defend, or whether they are fighting tooth, nail and gunpowder for a discriminatory and arbitrary right of life and death over whomever they choose. The right to life has been shot dead in Kansas today, and the one they described as a baby killer is lying in his grave knowing that he saved lives quietly, discreetly, believing he was only doing what his job required and compelled him to do. Today, womankind lost another one of its anchors, another one of its supporters on its path to freedom and independence in a country that hardly ever remembers it was created to uphold equality and liberty for all.

One can only hope freedom knows how to rise from its ashes, and that Kansas will not be left at the hands of doctor-killers.

R.I.P. George Tiller (1941 - 2009)

R.I.P. George Tiller (1941 - 2009)

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