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The legacy of Dr George Tiller

Posted in Attitudes to disability, Ethics, Termination by Matt at WelcometoIllinois on June 7, 2009

I have pondered whether or not to make reference to the murder of Dr George Tiller, also known – to some – as Tiller the Killer, thanks to his willingness to perform late term abortions, and to others as a hero who helped those in need of help when others refused to do so.

In particular, his simple statement “Prenatal testing without prenatal choices is medical fraud” resonated with me, although ultimately I decided that the issue was beyond the scope of this blog.

However, Patricia E. Bauer has linked to a discussion in DoubleX magazine involving Ayelet Waldman, author of Bad Mother, and Elizabeth Weil, a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine.

The discussion covers the issues surrounding late-term abortions with a specific reference to Down’s syndrome and with honesty and candor, attempts to widen the debate with the hope of finding some common ground. It is certainly though-provoking. Perhaps that, ultimately, will be the legacy of Dr George Tiller. We can but hope.

I’d encourage everyone to read the discussion in full:

  • Part one: Kansas Stories: What Late-Term Abortions Are Really Like
  • “I guess I should start by telling you what happened to us. I’m not telling to get your sympathy, but so we can have a conversation, the one that really needs to be had, about what late abortions are really like and why women have them.”

  • Part two: The Truth About Late-Term Abortions
  • “It’s only once you join the Dead Baby Club that you realize how tragically large it is.”

  • Part three: When Is Abortion Not OK?
  • “Which babies have defects so serious we think it’s OK to decide they can’t live? What do you think about a baby with cystic fibrosis? What about a blind or a deaf one? We all know great people born in horrible bodies. Should we be allowed to say, no thanks, I’d rather try again for a better-formed kid?”

  • Part four: The Abortion Restrictions I’d Accept.
  • “Every child should have access to clear and honest information about sex, and to birth control. Every woman should have access to prenatal care and to the health and other services that remove the economic imperative from the decision about whether to have a baby.”

  • Part five: Elizabeth Weil and Ayelet Waldman Ask Readers to Weigh In
  • “How do we capitalize on Obama’s promise of change—and the galvanizing horror of Tiller’s assassination—to move ahead the country’s abortion debate, particularly with regard to the late ones?”

  • Part six: Are We Saying That Society Would Be Better Off Without Down’s Syndrome Babies?
  • “It’s so much easier to vilify a fantasy, but when the object of your loathing turns out to be your friend or your sister, then suddenly things become much more complicated, suddenly you become capable of seeing shades of gray when once the world looked black and white.”


    5 Responses

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    1. […] Continued here: The legacy of Dr George Tiller […]

    2. starrlife said, on June 7, 2009 at 12:34 pm

      Thanks for a thought provoking and difficult discussion topic. I am a person who has had an abortion earlier in life and then had a child with DS. My choices were all about whether I had what I believes it takes to have a happy and healthy child within as stable a life as I could provide. I did not do amnio and am happy with all of my choices. Life gives you relatively few choices and I’m grateful for the ones I have. I think it is about the balance of individual rights vs societies as a whole not about morality (well I guess that is what morality is isn’t it). You are correct. Everyone wants to simplify these things. The same people who would think I was a “special” person for raising my beautiful special needs child are the people who would condemn me for having an abortion- I am both people. Having the ability to make choices is hard and leads one to dig into our deepest recesses. In the end we have to live with all of our choices, the good and the bad. George Tiller was not a saint, hero or villain. He was following the law, he was doing his job, he was there for those who made those choices. His murderer/killer was an insane person who was just looking for an excuse to promote himself and his own beliefs narcissistically in a context of ideology rather than real people.

      • welcometoillinois said, on June 7, 2009 at 4:59 pm

        Thanks for the honest and interesting perspective. While I understand why people have strong feelings on issues like this it is beyond me why they feel the need to force those feelings on other people and moralise. There is such a huge difference between the US and the UK on this issue. In the UK abortion is considered much more a matter for the individual – even if you have strong feelings that it is wrong you respect the right of the individual to come to their own decision.

    3. starrlife said, on June 7, 2009 at 7:18 pm

      Your post got me thinking and I linked mine to yours!

    4. nohiddenmagenta said, on February 3, 2010 at 7:59 am

      Thought you might appreciate the following perspective:


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