Today, the Center for Reproductive Rights issued a statement following the shooting of Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller. Dr. Tiller was murdered entering his church in Wichita, Kansas.As one of the few physicians in the country who provides abortions later in pregnancy, Dr. Tiller has been the target of anti-choice movement for over two decades. Recently, the Center for Reproductive Rights represented two-thousand of Dr. Tiller’s patients when a citizen-impaneled grand jury unsuccessfully attempted to subpoena their medical records. Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights issued this statement:
“I am deeply saddened by the tragic news of Dr. Tiller’s murder. Dr. Tiller has long been a stalwart and fearless defender of women’s fundamental health and rights, providing abortions despite decades of relentless and vicious attacks on his clinic, family and private life. His death is a devastating loss to the reproductive rights movement and to women across this country. We send our condolences to his family and friends.”
In August 2008, the Center for Reproductive Rights nominated Dr. Tiller for the Netherlands government’s annual Human Rights Tulip award for individuals who have shown exceptional moral courage in protecting and promoting the rights of his or her fellow citizens. Here is an excerpt from the nomination letter:
Dr. Tiller, like other physicians who provide abortions in the U.S., is forced to work under circumstances far more dangerous and difficult than other healthcare providers. There is a long history of violations to physicians’ physical security-including murder, attempted murder, and assault and battery-without adequate protection from the state. Physicians providing abortions increasingly are faced with other forms of violence and harassment, including destruction of personal property, smear campaigns, intimidation of family members, and stalking.
The government has failed to take adequate measures to protect Dr. Tiller. Federal and state laws are inadequate to deter many forms of violence and harassment directed at him and his family, and enforcement of protective laws that do exist has waned in recent years. Further, the state and federal government have passed legislation targeting abortion providers like Dr. Tiller with threats of criminal penalties and other sanctions that are not imposed on providers of comparable medical services. State laws in Kansas are specifically designed to impose additional burdens on abortion providers, with an explicit view towards shutting down Dr. Tiller’s clinic. Finally, state actors have allowed private groups to turn state mechanisms like the court system into a tool of harassment against Dr. Tiller.