The loss of Dr. George Tiller on May 31 is compounded today by news that the clinic he ran, Women’s Health Care Services, will permanently close. His family’s decision not to reopen the clinic after Dr. Tiller’s murder is understandable. The fault for the closing of this clinic lies squarely with the anti-abortion movement, bent on denying women their reproductive rights.
Despite decades of harassment, threats, vandalism to his clinic, and being shot once before in 1993, Dr. Tiller cared for countless women over the years — most who were in desperate need. The tragic occurrences that led women to Dr. Tiller will not change because he is gone. Women who discover that their health or lives are at risk later in pregnancy, women with wanted pregnancies that are interrupted by severe fetal complications, girls who are victims of incest or abuse — where will they turn?
As The Washington Post reported today: “The shutting of Tiller’s clinic reduces by one the handful of places in the United States where women could receive a late-term abortion.” NOW called on the Department of Justice to treat the violence and murder as act of domestic terrorism and calls on Federal and local law enforcement to protect health care facilities, doctors, staff and patients at every reproductive health services facility in the U.S. Without strengthened protections against violence and enhanced penalties for murder and harassment, women will face an ever-shrinking number of doctors providing legal, safe, comprehensive reproductive health care services.
The dedicated doctors who do take up Dr. Tiller’s torch surely will face the same threats of violence, actual violence, harassment and intimidation. But their heroic actions will save women’s lives, promote their well-being, benefit their families and even protect future pregnancies.
Reproductive rights are nothing but words on paper without health care professionals and clinics with staff who are dedicated to compassionate care for all women. NOW has long understood this truth, and today we restate our commitment to assuring that women have full access to abortion and birth control in every state in this nation.