Dr. George Tiller murdered in Wichita

Terrorized by anti-abortion fanatics for almost 20 years, the doctor was killed in the lobby of his church

Published May 31, 2009 5:32PM (EDT)

A suspect is in custody, but even though we don't yet know his identity, it seems safe to assume that Dr. George Tiller, of Wichita, Kan., is the latest victim of right-wing American terrorism against abortion providers and supporters. To underscore the hypocrisy of Christian right terrorists who wrap themselves in Jesus, Tiller was murdered in the lobby of his church Sunday morning, just after 10 a.m.

There were several witnesses to Tiller's murder, and reportedly police even have the license plate of the car he drove away in, so it seems likely he'll be caught. It's safe to assume the killer was a so-called pro-life wingnut, because Tiller has been the victim of an organized crusade against his doing his job: providing abortion and other reproductive health services in Wichita. He was one of the nation's few late-term abortion providers. (A smart reader reminded me that Fox's Bill O'Reilly crusaded against Tiller for years.)

Tiller was already shot, in both arms, by an antiabortion fanatic in 1993. I am going to borrow liberally from this morning's dispatch in the Wichita Eagle, because it describes, clearly and more dispassionately than I ever could, the sick crusade of harassment that culminated in Dr. Tiller's murder. The Eagle also has live Twitter updates on the murder, and you can follow all the Twitter conversation following #tiller. (Warning: There are some sick people rejoicing on Twitter also.) My heart goes out to his family and friends.

From the Eagle:

Tiller has long been a focal point of protest by abortion opponents because his clinic, Women's Health Care Services at 5701 E. Kellogg, is one of the few in the country where late-term abortions are performed.

Protesters blockaded Tiller's clinic during Operation Rescue's "Summer of Mercy" protests during the summer of 1991, and Tiller was shot by Rachelle Shannon at his clinic in 1993.

Tiller was wounded in both arms, and Shannon remains in prison for the shooting.

Tiller's clinic was severely vandalized earlier this month. According to the Associated Press, his lawyer said wires to security cameras and outdoor lights were cut and that the vandals also cut through the roof and plugged the buildings' downspouts. Rain poured through the roof and caused thousands of dollars of damage in the clinic. Tiller reportedly asked the FBI to investigate the incident….

Tiller and his clinic have faced continuous threats and lawsuits. A Wichita jury ruled in March that he was not guilty of illegal abortion on 19 criminal charges he faced for allegedly violating a state law requiring an "independent" second physician's concurring opinion before performing later term abortions. Immediately following the ruling in this criminal case, the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts made public a similar complaint against Tiller that was originally filed in December 2008.

By Joan Walsh

Related Topics ------------------------------------------