Helping the women Tiller can't

Money pours in to a memorial fund run by a group the doctor himself donated to, just days before he died.

By Lynn Harris

Published June 3, 2009 3:04PM (EDT)

"I am done with candlelight vigils," Gloria Feldt wrote at Salon in response to the murder -- no, assassination -- of Dr. George Tiller. You may well agree, as do I, that outrage and action in response to persistent, pernicious domestic terrorism should not be solely up to us.

But we do need a salutary outlet for our anger. And we do want to feel that we are helping, at least in a broad sense, the women whom Dr. Tiller no longer can. (We'll see if Dr. LeRoy Carhart  -- yes, that Carhart  -- will step in as well.)

And so, less than eight hours after Dr. Tiller's death -- in response to a flood of angry and anguished inquiries, and the resulting request from Tiller's own office -- the National Network of Abortion Funds created the George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund. "We are honored to be entrusted with this duty," NNAF communications director Erin Kate Ryan told Broadsheet. "After all, this is what we do."

The NNAF is a network of grass-roots groups who raise money to directly help women who find themselves unable to pay for the abortions they need. The Tiller Fund, says NNAF executive director Stephanie Poggi, "will provide assistance to the same women Dr. Tiller served: women seeking abortions in their second trimesters, women facing extreme obstacles to abortion, and women who often must travel from their homes to obtain the abortion care they need." The fund will help cover the cost of the procedures as well as of travel and lodging, she added.

The fund raised $15,000 in its first 24 hours. And as of this morning, the total had reached $19,000 from 300 donors. That's not counting mail-in donations, those collected at Tuesday night's vigil in Philadelphia, or what appears to be forthcoming from a soldier in Iraq who, unable to donate online, e-mailed yesterday to find out what else he could do.

A generous donation from a venerable benefactor also came in via U.S. mail on Monday, the day after the shooting. It was $500 -- and it was sent, days before he was shot, by Dr. Tiller himself.

"[W]ithout financial assistance, the reality of fertility control for these poor women will remain an unfulfilled promise," Tiller had said in an 2003 interview for the NNAF newsletter. "The Network makes the world a better place to live, one woman at a time, by allowing her to decide the most fundamental decision of her life -- when to be a mother."

The doctor's own gift -- remarkably spooky, remarkably generous -- "makes clear that the Memorial Abortion Fund is a fitting tribute to this compassionate provider of critical abortion care," said Poggi.

If you're inspired, you may donate to the fund here. And for the love of God, may there never be a Dr. Carhart fund to match.

Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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