Salon's Kate Harding has collected a number of first-person accounts from women (and families) who were patients of the recently murdered Dr. George Tiller. As I understand it, he was one of only three providers of late-term abortions in the USA, and widely considered the most expert practitioner in this extremely controversial area of health care. Snip:
Susan Hill, President of the National Women's Health Foundation, who knew Dr. Tiller for over two decades and referred girls and women to his clinic, said in a phone interview, "We always sent the really tragic cases to Tiller." Those included women diagnosed with cancer who needed abortions to qualify for chemotherapy, women who learned late in their pregnancies that their wanted babies had fatal illnesses, and rape victims so young they didn't realize they were pregnant for months. "We sent him 11-year-olds, 12-year-olds who were way too far along for anybody [else] to see," said Hill. "Eleven-year-olds don't tell anybody. Sometimes they don't even know they've had a period."
Since the news of Dr. Tiller's murder broke, personal narratives from people who used his services have been appearing around the Web. A commenter at the blog Balloon Juice told the story of finding out in the eighth month of his wife's pregnancy that she was carrying conjoined twins. "Conjoined twins alone is not what was so difficult but the way they were joined meant that at best only one child would survive the surgery to separate them and the survivor would more than likely live a brief and painful life filled with surgery and organ transplants." They chose to terminate the much-wanted pregnancy, rather than bring a child into the world only to suffer and die. "The nightmare of our decision and the aftermath was only made bearable by the warmth and compassion of Dr. Tiller and his remarkable staff."
A commenter on Metafilter tells a similar story: "My wife and I spent a week in Dr. Tiller's care after we learned our 21 week fetus had a severe defect incompatible with life. The laws in our state prevented us from ending the pregnancy there, and Dr. Tiller was one of maybe three choices in the whole nation at that gestational age." He went on to share his memories of Dr. Tiller. "I remember him firmly stating that he regarded the abortion debate in the US to be about the control of women's sexuality and reproduction. I remember he spent over six hours in one-on-one care with my wife when there was concern she had an infection. We're talking about a physician here. Six hours…. The walls of the clinic reception and waiting room are literally covered with letters from patients thanking him. Some were heartbreaking — obviously young and/or poorly educated people thanking Dr. Tiller for being there when they had no other options, explaining their family, church, etc. had abandoned them."
Also by Harding, in today's Salon: "Protecting abortion providers: A friend of George Tiller's says the doctor knew something bad was coming. Why couldn't anyone stop it?"
Image of Dr. Tiller taken from a Wayback Machine cache of drtiller.com. Site is now offline.