On May 31, 2009 , George Tiller was assassinated while attending his church in Wichita, Kansas. A man named Scott Roeder has been arrested and charged with his death. I went to the candlelight vigil held in Wichita, in Bricktown the day he was shot. About a thousand people from all walks of life attended, including religious adherents, agnostics and atheists. There was a peaceful feeling among the crowd, and except for the standard appearance of the Westboro Baptist Church's sideshow, it was a nice time to reflect upon the life of a family man, who devoted his life to what he felt was right. Helping women with their reproductive health is a worthy and important aspiration.
Thousands of people gather in a nearly spontaneously manner after the assassination of Dr. George Tiller May 31, 2009 in Wichita, Kansas. The peaceful protest was held in the Wichita Bricktown area and had many people of different faiths and no faiths at all speak of the way Dr. Tiller supported a woman's right to control her own body. There were only minor protests from other points of view and even they were treated peacefully.
At the vigil, even the abortion rights supporters said that abortion is not the best idea for a woman to have to choose , but it is a right to have the choice and therefore, should be safe. That is what Dr. Tiller gave his life for.
At one time , I was far on the other side of this issue. In 1996, I lived in Andover, Kansas which is a suburb of Wichita. On my days off, I would walk around the Center for Woman's Health Clinic, praying for various things, such as Dr. Tiller to change his mind about performing abortions; or to have the clients change their mind about having the procedure. I felt that a human life was being taken in the procedure. A discussion, of this point, could take awhile, so I am going to skip it, for now.
I am glad that , over the past few years, I came to realize that having safe and legal abortions helps women make difficult choices they have to make with their doctor. My feeling now is, a man has the choice to have sex with a woman, safe or not. A woman has the choice to have the baby or not. It was around the legacy of Dr. Tiller that my ideas were formed.
Sadly, my desire to apologize to him will never come to fruition. I thought about how I could meet him , tell him my story and admit how wrong I was, how much I supported his work. The vigil allowed me to release some of the feelings I had been dealing with. The idea that it was organized at the last moment and was well coordinated with the Wichita Police and the local media, indicates the influence Dr. Tiller's life had on the community of Wichita, was a one of peace and harmony.
While I watched the crowd and saw people talking about all sorts of issues, three younger woman approached me and said it was nice to see a man supporting a woman's choice. For some reason, this let my emotions flow forth and I began to cry. I told her it had been a long journey, to get to this point. I also told her that my mother would be upset if I didn't come, as she was such a supporter of a woman's right to choose. When I told my mother that I went, she was touched and said “thank you” for going.
I have no idea what the outcome of his murder will be, how it will effect the movement on either side. But, I do know that I was touched by his life. It seems like a lone religious radical is responsible for taking the law into his own hands. As has been said before, dogma can make otherwise reasonable people do unreasonable things.
It was quickly after the assassination of Dr. Tiller , that the Right to Life group began condemning the killing of Dr. Tiller. It was then they wanted people to know they were not supporting that sort of action. They preferred to have their points of view take place through laws and court actions. Soon after, the talk changed to, How is this going to shape the abortion debate in America?
I really cannot tell at this time how the murder, of Dr. Tiller and the trial of the accused, will affect the abortion debate in The United States. While I was at the candlelight vigil, I felt that many of the religious abortion supporters still couldn't bring themselves to abandon their faith and see that it is not a God that will or won't protect them. It is the people in this world that you must rely upon to take safe actions to protect yourself. Maybe if Dr. Tiller had decided to abandon faith in total he would still be alive Today.
Instead of being at church , he could have been home, playing with his grandchildren and still be providing quality and safe health care to women in need. This didn't happen, though. Now there is one less abortion provider in the Untied States. The idea of going into practice and physician planning to go into woman's health care is a very frightful one.
I cannot tell, but I do know that for late-term, problem pregnancies there are only two doctors that can help those women in need. Plus, the Tiller family announced that the Women's Health Care Services Inc. will close permanently.
Regardless of your point of view , and regardless of how hard lawmakers tried, Dr. Tiller was not guilty of breaking any laws. Even when the Kansas Attorney General made up 19 charges against him, all the charges were ultimately all dropped.
One thing I did find strange was how people that attended the vigil kept saying , “this was not how Jesus would act” or “this was not God's will”. I would have to say this is not how a human being should behave, but whomever did this seems to have been able to hide behind religion to let his radical views grow until he was able to enter the Reformation Lutheran Church and shoot Tiller in the head. Tiller was known to wear a bullet proof vest. The shooter may have known this and aimed for the head to make sure the shot would result in death.
One final note, when I was in college at Wichita State University, in 1985, I dated a girl that was pregnant from a man she met while in Army. She wanted an abortion. I encouraged her to have it done. I went with her to Planned Parenthood, in Wichita, and when she went to have the procedure. According to the attendant, the gestation was at 12 weeks. It was a hard option for her to choose and a painful procedure to endure. She was thankful that she had the choice. She was also grateful that I was there for her, during the difficult time.
While I didn't have the burden of choice she had to make, she did ask my point of view. She also talked to her mother, who gave her the money to pay for the procedure.
What Dr. Tiller's murder tells me about the purpose of religion , is that it allows people of disparate views to be able to associate and talk about their shared points of view. This can let people with radical views slip under the radar, so to speak, until they are ready to strike. It also provides religious radicals a false sense of empowerment and/or justification, when the people they associate and identify with seem to be in agreement.
On this level I agree with Hitchens , that all religion is harmful. Even liberal and moderate adherents are the picket fence that allows radical views, to build and hide behind.
Coming next time:
DEATH ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH part twenty one