George Tiller, the abortion provider murdered by pro-life extremists
Anti-abortion activists spent years trying to shut down Dr. George Tiller’s clinic, which was one of the only places in the country offering late-term abortions – until an extremist shot him in the face. head while in church in 2009.
In 2009, after more than 40 years of medical practice, Dr. George Tiller had a national reputation. He was the director of one of only three abortion clinics in the United States that offered women late-term abortions — and he had become a target of pro-life activists.
For decades, those who disagreed with the procedures provided by his practice tried to shut down his clinic. Eventually, some protesters resorted to violence to achieve this goal. Tiller survived at least two attacks on her life before an anti-abortion extremist murdered her.
On May 31, 2009, Scott Roeder shot George Tiller in the head as the doctor was handing out bulletins before a Sunday morning church service.
Tiller’s life and death have been steeped in controversy. For more than 30 years he faced constant opposition to his work and his murder sparked a national debate. But the doctor said all he wanted to do was help the women.
How Dr. George Tiller became the target of anti-abortion activists
George Tiller was born in Wichita, Kansas on August 8, 1941. According to the Embryo Project EncyclopediaHe followed in his father’s footsteps and attended medical school at the University of Kansas Medical School. He then completed his residency at the United States Naval Hospital in Pendleton, California, before beginning work as a flight surgeon.
Unlike her father, who was a prominent general practitioner, Tiller planned to become a dermatologist. But after his parents died in a plane crash in 1970, he began to feel pressure to resume the family practice.
While working at his father’s clinic, he heard of a local woman who had died from an illegal abortion — a procedure his father could have safely performed in his office. The story convinced him that he should stay in town and take over the practice to focus on women’s care rather than dermatology.
After several years in his father’s practice, George Tiller opened the Women’s Health Care Clinic in Wichita in 1975 and quickly became the target of pro-life organizations. Tiller offered post-viability abortions in very specific cases: when a woman discovered that the fetus had serious or life-threatening defects or if two doctors confirmed that her life was at stake.
Although the Kansas Coalition for Life held a daily vigil outside the facility for the past five years Tiller was in charge, he faced violence early on. In June 1986, the clinic burned down. He was able to rebuild the practice, but more attacks soon followed.
On August 9, 1993, Shelley Shannon, an anti-abortion extremist, shot Tiller five times as he sat in his parked car. She was sentenced to 11 years for attempted murder and an additional 20 years for her connection to attacks on other abortion clinics.
According to Kansas City Star, Shannon wrote in a letter to her daughter: “I do not deny shooting Tiller. But I deny it was wrong. It was the holiest and most righteous thing I have ever done. I have no regrets.”
Growing protests against Dr Tiller
In 1991, a branch of the Operation Rescue organization moved its headquarters from California to Wichita – specifically to target Tiller’s clinic. They renamed themselves Operation Rescue West and operated under Vice President Cheryl Sullenger.
The organization began its work against the clinic shortly after it moved to the area with what they called the “Summer of Mercy.” During this time, they protested at every abortion clinic in Wichita, but they focused the most attention on Tiller.
The Wichita battleground eventually caught the attention of right-wing news anchor Bill O’Reilly, who frequently campaigned against Tiller on his Fox News show. In 2006, according to Murderpediahe claimed to have information proving that the doctor performed late abortions to cure “temporary depression” because he was “a savage on the loose, killing babies willy-nilly”.
Tiller’s practice made national headlines again in 2007 when he was charged with 19 misdemeanors after being accused of consulting doctors with whom he was financially affiliated on abortion cases. Kansas law required two doctors, neither of whom could be related to the doctor performing the abortion, to recommend the procedure.
Tiller was found not guilty on all counts two years later, but the campaign against him continued online. According to Anti-Defamation LeagueScott Roeder posted this comment on the Operation Rescue website in 2007: “Tiller is the ‘Mengele’ concentration camp of our time and must be stopped before he and those who protect him pass judgment on our nation. “
The comment was flagged and flagged, but Roeder planned to act on his beliefs, as he was obsessed with the clinic and George Tiller.
The Brutal Murder of Dr. George Tiller
Scott Roeder’s obsession with George Tiller continued throughout the doctor’s trial, and it came to a head in 2009. Roeder had long been associated with extremist groups and he believed he was part of an army meant to arrest people like Tiller. When Tiller was found innocent in 2009, Roeder was in the courtroom. He thought the justice system had failed the women Tiller cared for.
On May 31, 2009, Roeder decided to follow up on his internet comment. The day before, he had tried to stick the locks on the clinic doors. But when that didn’t work, he took drastic action. That Sunday morning, Tiller stood at the entrance to his church, as he did every week, to distribute church bulletins as the congregation filled the pews.
Roeder made his way to the church, walked to the door, and shot George Tiller in the side of the head. He was arrested and charged with one count of first degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault.
After 40 minutes of deliberation, the jury found Roeder guilty on all three counts and he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 50 years. In 2016, he was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after the revision of state laws.
After Tiller’s death, Operation Rescue West denounced the violence and denied that Roeder had ever been a member of their organization. However, investigators found Cheryl Sullenger’s cell phone number in Roeder’s car, and she later admitted that she provided him with the dates and times of Tiller’s court hearings.
Bill O’Reilly also denied that his show was an aggravating factor in the doctor’s death. Some of her first public words about the tragedy were, “When I heard about Tiller’s murder, I knew pro-abortion zealots and Fox News haters would try to blame us for the crime.”
Today, Dr. George Tiller continues to be a polarizing figure, and his legacy as an abortion provider continues to surface in debates about bodily autonomy today. But her motto – “Trust Women” – still serves as a rallying cry for women’s rights activists across the country.
After reading about the murder of Dr. George Tiller, learn about the crimes of Eric Rudolph, the anti-abortion extremist who bombed the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Next, find out about the clandestine abortion network called Jane Collective.