by Max Brantley
Here, from American Prospect, is the article I've been looking for in mainstream newspapers about the nature of the work of Dr. George Tiller, targeted for murder because he performed late-term abortions. It includes a link to more stories from women who badly wanted children, but ended pregnancies late in their terms because of grievous abnormalities.
The article quotes Arkansas's Bill Harrison, the Fayetteville physician who's been targeted by anti-choice demonstrators because he performs abortions.
Tiller's death is an incalculable loss to women's health care. There are two other clinics that do late-term abortions, but neither are known for taking patients regardless of their ability to pay or for ministering so comprehensively to their emotional needs. Tiller's murder leaves a void that could imperil women across the country.
Late-term abortion is often spoken of as the most morally dubious aspect of the abortion debate. Many people who are nominally pro-choice, particularly politicians, are quick to condemn it, to treat the work that Tiller did as repugnant even if it's legal.
Ironically, though, many of the procedures Tiller did were as far away from the much-reviled concept of "abortion on demand" as one could get. Unwanted pregnancy can, to some extent, be prevented. A pregnancy that goes horribly wrong cannot. Almost anyone of child-bearing age could end up needing Tiller's services. And now some of them will be forced to carry pregnancies to term against their will even when their fetuses can't survive outside the womb.
Bill Harrison, an abortion provider in Arkansas, referred hundreds of patients to Tiller over the years. "To do what George does is like doing major cancer surgery," he says. "It's a subspecialty all its own. It took a real organization to do it safely and effectively and cheaply like he did it." Over the years, Harrison had 20 or 30 patients who were so poor that he had to give them money for gasoline to get to Wichita. "I would call him and tell him about the patients, and he would say, 'Send them up,'" he says. "Obviously if they couldn't pay for gasoline, they couldn't pay for anything, and he did the abortions anyway."
Dr. Harrison, who I hope will be writing an article for us about his friendship with Tiller and his reaction to his killing, tells me he'll be in Wichita this weekend for the funeral. It will be held in the city's biggest church. Tiller's home church, where he was slain, can't accommodate the crowd that wants to attend.