Abortion Doctor Assassinated while at...

Abortion Doctor Assassinated while at Church

May 31, 2009 Read more: www.nytimes.com 1,884

George Tiller, a Wichita doctor who was one of the few doctors in the nation to perform late-term abortions, was shot to death on Sunday as he attended church, city officials in Wichita said.

Dr. Tiller, who had performed abortions since the 1970s, had long been a lightning rod for controversy over the issue of abortion, particularly in Kansas, where abortion opponents regularly protested outside his clinic and sometimes his home and church. In 1993, he was shot in both arms by an abortion opponent but recovered.

He had also been the subject of many efforts at prosecution, including a citizen-initiated grand jury investigation. In the latest such effort, in March, Dr. Tiller was acquitted of charges that he had performed late-term abortions that violated state law.

The shooting occurred at around 10 a.m. (Central time) at Reformation Lutheran Church on the city’s East Side, Dr. Tiller’s regular church.

Wichita police said that the shots were fired from a handgun in the church lobby during the morning service. The authorities gave few details, but said they were searching for a powder blue Taurus made in the 1990s that had been seen leaving shortly after the shooting. They said witnesses had described seeing a white man departing.

Leaders of national abortion rights organizations, meanwhile, expressed outrage. Some described Dr. Tiller as one of the only doctors in the nation who performed third trimester abortions when the life or health of a mother was at stake, and said that his death would make it even harder for women in such circumstances to end their pregnancies.

“Dr. Tiller was a fearless, passionate defender of women’s reproductive health and rights,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, based in New York, which had worked on a legal case related to Dr. Tiller. “It’s time that this nation stop demonizing these doctors, and start honoring them.”

At St. George Orthodox Christian Church, next door to Dr. Tiller’s church, members said they had often been concerned about being so close to a church that often was the scene of protests because of Dr. Tiller’s presence. Dr. Tiller had attended the church for a long time, they said, and had contributed significantly to construction of the current facility, which was built in about 1996.

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