--John Donne, Meditation 17
George Tiller is dead.
I am heartbroken, angry and sick at heart, all at once.I feel as though I've been punched in the stomach.
Tiller has long been a focal point of protest by abortion opponents because his clinic, Women's Health Care Services at 5107 E. Kellogg, is one of the few in the country where late-term abortions are performed.
"It's a terrible loss. I'm just really sad about the whole thing," said a former employee of the clinic who asked not to be identified. "He was a great guy. I understand people were against a lot of what he did, but for those who he helped, they'll never forget the kind of person he was."
He went through a lot to help those people:
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.
The clinic was bombed in June 1986, and 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.
I read about him somewhere years ago and I remember being shocked that anyone would have done such things to such a man and deeply grateful for his service. His story stuck with me ever since. As soon as I read the headline I was hoping that name was ringing the wrong bell, but to my deep sadness, I was right.
(The epigram, I know, is cliche and overused, but it encapsulates the way I feel connected to him and to this.)
As Digby said,
If you think that women should have to endanger their lives in order to give birth to a fetus with no brain, then you probably think this man was a murderer. For the women who went to him, and for whom he put up with a horrifying amount of harrassment and violence before they finally managed to kill him, he was a Godsend.
May he rest in peace.