Dr. Tiller: The lost tapes

In never-before-seen footage, the slain abortion provider explains his career choice

Published January 20, 2010 6:30PM (EST)

Just days before Roe v. Wade's 37th anniversary, and as anti-choice activists flock to Wichita, Kan. for Dr. George Tiller's murder trial, Physicians for Reproductive Choice has released two "never-before-seen" video clips of the slain abortion provider talking about why he chose his line of work. His father's sudden death, and the shocking discovery that the physician had provided illegal abortions, was a major impetus. In the first video clip, he explains:

The women in my father's practice for whom he did abortions educated me and taught me that abortion is not about babies, it's not about families. Abortion is about women's hopes, dreams, potential, the rest of their lives. Abortion is a matter of survival for women.

In fact, by looking through old medical records, he discovered that one of his father's patients died in the 1940s after he refused to terminate her pregnancy and she had to resort to an unsafe back-alley abortion. As he explains in the second video clip, this is what kept Tiller going, despite constant harassment and threats, and even an assassination attempt:

There are all sorts of dangers [for] postal workers, firemen, police officers -- everything has a risk to it. I would prefer, personally, to have a challenging, stimulating and emotionally and spiritually rewarding career that is short rather than having a long one that is filled with ho-hum, mundane mediocrity -- feeling as if you don't make any difference to people.

The release of these videos comes at a critical moment. Not only is Tiller's accused killer Scott Roeder expected to present a manslaughter defense -- "an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force" -- but the woman who shot Tiller in 1993 broke her silence yesterday to issue a public statement from prison proclaiming that the doctor "needed to be killed for the sake of justice." For the sake of justice -- as defined by our legal system, not domestic terrorists -- I suggest watching these videos of a man who put his own life on the line for "the survival of women." 

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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