Ground Zero in Wichita: Dr. George Tiller and the Continued Attack on Women
I have been on this Abortion Rights Freedom Ride (ARFR) for twelve days. I met up with the riders in Minneapolis; we then traveled to Fargo, North Dakota and Bellevue, Nebraska. At each stop we met people who recognized that abortion rights are in a state of emergency. We talked with abortion clinic personnel, groups of free-thinkers and atheists, various members of NOW and other locals who were interested in our banners, our riders, and our message. Currently we are in Wichita. This is not just another stop for me. Events in the past, as well as the tensions of today, add meaning and depth to my time in this city.
Most people know the story: On May 31, 2009, Dr. George Tiller, one of the very few doctors who still preformed late-term abortions, was shot and killed in his Wichita church. Dr. Tiller’s wife, Jeanne, was in the choir at the time. The Wichita police arrested Scott Roeder of Merriam, Kansas. Roeder, a member of the anti-abortion terrorist group Operation Rescue, was subsequently found guilty of murder and two counts of aggravated assault for threatening other church members with a gun. He was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for fifty years.
The murder of Dr. George Tiller brought into focus a number of horrifying realities. First, it became clear that the idea of abortion was, indeed, under attack. Although many fought for and won the right to safe and legal abortion in the early 1970s (Roe v Wade, 1973), the social and political climate now denounced this right, calling it the “murder of an unborn child” rather than the reasoned choice of a woman. This twisted logic seemed to justify the murder of an abortion provider and whipped anti-abortion fanatics into a frenzy.