Patients Remember Dr. Tiller

A few blog posts and comments from Dr. Tiller’s former patients:

A comment here:

I looked at the woman as she cried about the baby she wanted so badly, & looked in horror at the films showing the cancer eating the child alive. The pain this child must be in & the cries of the parents as they don’t want to let go. Then I hear Dr. Tiller say…”You are so amazing…all the pain your baby is in & you are going to selflessly take that away. You are being strong for him. You are giving him peace he will never know.” 2 days later I cleaned & dressed that little boy before the parents viewed him. The ghastly tumor that had grown through his chest & out his spine a horrific parasite, & a stark reminder of the life he could never have. I watched this little angle at peace & I cried. For all of them. And I felt blessed to be a part of such a wonderful man, who could look in the face of utter hopelessness, & give them comfort. That child was taken home & lovingly laid to rest. That day is how I will remember Dr. Tiller. May his family find the peace he gave so openly.

Another Heartbreaking Choice:

The week we spent in Kansas was one of the toughest weeks of my life, one that I will never forget, nor will I choose to forget, but through my tears of sadness, love helped us through.

We returned home just two days ago, and the pain is ever so fresh, and the memories vivid. A piece of me doesn’t want the pain to ever go away because it is one way for me to stay connected to my son. My beautiful, angelic son, Nathan Jack. Seeing him was one of the hardest things I have ever done, not being able to watch him grow up, or call me “Mommy” is something I will always grieve over, but knowing that we protected and saved him from an existence of hospital stays was our responsibility as loving parents.

We are forever grateful to the Women’s Health Center, the amazing doctor and all staff for being our heaven when we were living in hell.

And another:

I was almost 26 weeks. I showed up for my ultrasound by myself. I was scanned for almost 2 hours. This is when my life forever changed. The scan showed that her little brain was severely calcified, parts were not symmetrical and there was fluid. The doctor took me into a room to talk to me. I told her “please just tell me the truth I need to know.” The Doctor said that she had no idea what this meant but that she felt something was terribly wrong. Within two weeks her brain had gone from “normal” to massive problems. I was sent up to Genetics. The counselor told me that the genetic doctor wanted to talk to me. I requested that they wait until my husband got there. The conversation with this doctor was the same, she felt that something was terribly wrong, but they had no idea what it was. “This looks like the tip of the iceberg” we were told.

The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life was to decide to terminate this pregnancy. This all happened on a Wednesday.

Friday we had to go and talk with some perinatologists. They told us that they had never seen this before and that they could not tell us what the outcome would be. We did not even get a percentage of what her life would be like. They told us that she possibly could die in utero, die shortly after birth, or be a vegetable. They told us that we could wait another two weeks and have another scan and possibly an MRI. How could I go on another day? It killed me to feel her move around inside. This was so awful.

We had another appointment with the doctor that performed the terminations. We were told that with my conditions and the lateness of the pregnancy he did not feel he could give me the care that I required. That’s when we were referred to the Women’s Clinic in Wichita, Kansas.

I was 27 weeks by this point. I was terrified. The moment I met the doctor, all of that ended. He was a wonderful and loving man. I came in on Monday and gave birth to our baby girl on Friday. We were able to hold her after, and say our goodbyes. That doctor will always be in my heart.

This happened two weeks ago and sometimes I feel like this isn’t real. I miss feeling her inside me. I miss singing or talking to her, touching my belly and have her respond. The hardest part now is that I will never get to see her smile or laugh or to watch her grow up A day does not pass that I don’t think of her. I miss her so much.

More Kansas stories here.

Another at Balloon Juice:

In 1994 my wife and I found out that she was pregnant. The pregnancy was difficult and unusually uncomfortable but her doctor repeatedly told her things were fine. Sometime early in the 8th month my wife, an RN who at the time was working in an infertility clinic asked the Dr. she was working for what he thought of her discomfort. He examined her and said that he couldn’t be certain but thought that she might be having twins. We were thrilled and couldn’t wait to get a new sonogram that hopefully would confirm his thoughts. Two days later our joy was turned to unspeakable sadness when the new sonogram showed 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. We were advised that our options were to deliver into the world a child who’s life would be filled with horrible pain and suffering or fly out to Wichita Kansas and to terminate the pregnancy under the direction of Dr. George Tiller.

We made an informed decision to go to Kansas. One can only imagine the pain borne by a woman who happily carries a child for 8 months only to find out near the end of term that the children were not to be and that she had to make the decision to terminate the pregnancy and go against everything she had been taught to believe was right. This was what my wife had to do. Dr. Tiller is a true American hero. The nightmare of our decision and the aftermath was only made bearable by the warmth and compassion of Dr. Tiller and his remarkable staff. Dr. Tiller understood that this decision was the most difficult thing that a woman could ever decide and he took the time to educate us and guide us along with the other two couples who at the time were being forced to make the same decision after discovering that they too were carrying children impacted by horrible fetal anomalies. I could describe in great detail the procedures and the pain and suffering that everyone is subjected to in these situations. However, that is not the point of the post. We can all imagine that this is not something that we would wish on anyone. The point is that the pain and suffering were only mitigated by the compassion and competence of Dr. George Tiller and his staff. We are all diminished today for a host of reasons but most of all because a man of great compassion and courage has been lost to the world.

And The George Tiller I Knew at Daily Kos.

These are just a handful of stories, but they help to reveal the complexity of what Dr. Tiller did. The mainstream media has cast him as a “controversial late-term abortion provider,” which is technically accurate. But those late-term abortions he provided were for women in desperate and often tragic situations — women with health complications that made pregnancy dangerous, or women whose much-wanted pregnancies took a turn for the worst. Anti-choicers have latched onto the fact that Tiller’s clinic provided funeral services — if that’s the case, they point out, how is it not clear that Dr. Tiller was killing? In fact, those services were part of the healing process for many families who came to Dr. Tiller in one of the darkest moments of their lives, and who were making unthinkably difficult choices. It’s a tragedy that Dr. Tiller was one of only three physicians providing the late-term therapeutic abortion services that he did. It’s shameful that anti-choicers cast him as a “murderer” for helping women in need. I’ll say it again: The responsibility for George Tiller’s death surely falls on the shoulders of the person who actually pulled the trigger. But when pro-life groups did everything but give him a gun, their hands are hardly clean.

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46 comments for “Patients Remember Dr. Tiller

  1. June 1, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this, Jill.

  2. June 1, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    This was a beautiful tribute to Dr. Tiller. My hope is that this can serve to help show the truth about a man who has been completely dehumanized by the fanatical religious right anti choices to the point that his murder is something to celebrate.

  3. Mac G
    June 1, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Very Touching. Thanks for compiling the emotional aspects that so many demonize.

  4. Nicole
    June 1, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Dr.Tiller saved my life when a very wanted pregnancy went wrong. He kept me alive to care my 2 beautiful children who were waiting at home to love me. Not waiting to be orphaned. Love and appreciation for all that Dr. Tiller and his staff face to stand up for what they believe in.

  5. Bec H.
    June 1, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    I cried reading those stories. Thank you for finding those and posting them. My mother has a similar story… which is also why I am the youngest child of two instead of the middle child of three. Thank you very much, Jill.

  6. June 1, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Heartbreaking. And it’s probably selfish of me to say this, given that a human being has been killed, but the fact that there are now only two doctors in the US providing medical care of this nature makes me never want to get pregnant again, lest something happens where I would require these services and have no access to them.

  7. JPlum
    June 1, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    These stories bring tears to my eyes. Yet a lot of ‘pro-lifers’ will read stories like these, and feel nothing at all for the people involved in these tragedies.

  8. Rhonda
    June 1, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Those stories were heartbreaking.

  9. June 1, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    Unfortunately these deeply conflicted concerns and agonizing choices are completely irrelevant in the binary world occupied by rightards. Only sluts get abortions who must be punished by pregnancy. One wonders how many champagne corks were popped by “pro-lifers” at the news of this murder. They only seem to be concerned that we may politicize this political assassination.

  10. Bitter Scribe
    June 1, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    After reading these stories, my bafflement at the “pro-life” mentality is deeper than ever. Do those people think women go for late-term abortions because they can’t make up their minds? Or because, I don’t know, they won a free Hawaiian cruise and don’t want to risk giving birth at sea?

    Professional concern trolls like The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle keep telling us that, even if we support abortion rights, we still have to understand the mentality of “pro-life” assassins. Fuck that. Those people make absolutely no effort whatever to understand what women like the ones in this post are going through; why should we care about understanding them?

  11. June 1, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    Terrorists and terrorists sympathizers hate us for our freedom.

  12. June 1, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Thank you for posting these stories. We lost a good, brave man yesterday.

  13. call2930
    June 1, 2009 at 4:47 pm
  14. JessSnark
    June 1, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Oilfieldguy, while I completely agree with your outrage at right-wingers’ worldview, please don’t use ‘rightards” or any other -tards word as an epithet here at Feministe. The bloggers and commenters here are working against the use of such language because it insults people with mental disabilities. Please find a non-ableist substitute.

    Thank you, Jill, for this post.

  15. Sara
    June 1, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    Thank you for sharing these stories.

  16. June 1, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Do those people think women go for late-term abortions because they can’t make up their minds? Or because, I don’t know, they won a free Hawaiian cruise and don’t want to risk giving birth at sea?

    Yes. Go to your average abortion debate and I can guarantee that an anti will throw out “so if the woman in nine months pregnant and wants to have an abortion just because she doesn’t feel like being pregnant anymore you’re fine with it, right?” sometime during the proceedings. I’ve had a standing invitation for anyone to provide me with proof of a perfectly healthy woman with a perfectly healthy fetus having a third trimester abortion “just because.” That invitation, I might add, has stood for five years.

  17. June 1, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    I shared some of these stories (and another from Metafilter on lj yesterday. One woman told me she had now changed her mind about late-term abortions b/c of it. So many people are just ignorant about the realities of late term abortion, and how necessary Dr. Tiller’s was.

  18. Harumph
    June 1, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    ..Why were there only three? Is it up to a doctor’s personal feelings to decide if s/he wants to provide late term abortions?

  19. June 1, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    ..Why were there only three? Is it up to a doctor’s personal feelings to decide if s/he wants to provide late term abortions?

    Yes. Because MOST people aren’t enthusiastic about getting SHOT by right-wing fanatics.

    The Fanatics have controlled this so completely that soon there will be NO ONE who will save women’s lives when their pregnancy goes wrong.

  20. June 2, 2009 at 5:28 am

    What a horrible world. I had no idea that Dr. Tiller was such a diamond in the rough, or that he had sacrificed so much for women’s reproductive freedom. I agree with Vanessa, and I don’t think it selfish to point out that for half of the population of the United States, the number of people who are willing to provide us with a life-saving procedure if tragedy strikes is now down to two.

    It’s truly sickening that anyone could politicize the heart-wrenching and personal choices of those women away, while pretending that this callous and disgusting murder was anything but a political manifestation of a culture’s hatred of a woman’s reproductive freedom.

    I grieve for a world who has lost a brave and selfless man. And I grieve even more because I feel like the battle is lost. When people can go on camera and defend the cold-blooded slaughter of someone who had the audacity to use their medical education to grant women the reproductive choices they require, I feel like we’ve lost.

    I have studiously avoided the news today, and I will tomorrow, because of the emotions stories like the ones you posted inspire in me. I can’t help but feel anything but a hopeless crushing agony.

    Are women so reviled that even our physicians must be hounded off the mortal coil? Dr. Tiller paid the ultimate price for a medical defiance of the patriarchal colonization of the female body. I feel nothing but despair at the knowledge that now there are only two brave doctors to service the needs of a nation of millions.

    What a travesty. Rest in peace Doctor George Tiller.

  21. Katherine
    June 2, 2009 at 7:24 am

    Oh, what is going on in America? Where I live, in England, all the women in the stories you have given us would have been able to have abortions on the NHS, without any trouble at all. The doctors who provided the abortions would not be named by the press, they would not be attacked or threatened and there are certainly many more than three of them.

    What has happened to America? Is it religion that has made America so terrible?

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  23. Rob Stein
    June 2, 2009 at 3:01 pm


    I’m a reporter at The Washington Post. I was wondering if anyone who was treated by Dr. Tiller or underwent a similar procedure elsewhere might feel comfortable being interviewed for a story that I’m working on in the wake of Dr. Tiller’s death. If you are, please contact me at 202-334-7338 or


    Rob Stein

  24. Jane
    June 2, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Thank you for putting this together. As someone who wants to be an Ob/Gyn, these stories, and the amazing life of Dr. Tiller inspire me to keep all options available to women who need help.

  25. Justine
    June 2, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    We have lost a wonderful, courageous, selfless man. I hope that the stories that his patients have shared of their gut-wrenching decisions reach the eyes and ears of those who would wish these women, their babies, and caring health-care providers harm in the name of their twisted, self-righteous beliefs. Unfortunately, I believe with great sadness that these people are too close-minded to even think to read something that may enlighten them and cause them to question their unjust, inhumane beliefs. I am crying as I type this. George Tiller, you are an angel.

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  27. June 7, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    I can only hope that this will inspire more people to get into this kind of work, to fill a void and provide a service so desperately needed by many. I can’t imagine the pain of having to lose a much-wanted child. There need to be more compassionate, wonderful people like Dr. Tiller who can provide care and love to those faced with a most difficult choice.

  28. justine
    June 8, 2009 at 9:17 am

    thank you to all the women and men who have shared their personal stories. please keep on sharing. this is what needs to be done to put a “face” on all the “abortion stories” and paint a picture of the enormous heart of the “controversial late term abortion provider” we all lovingly remember of Dr George Tiller.

  29. shelley
    June 10, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    I never knew of Dr. Tiller til this horrific murder was comitted. I am deeply shocked and horrified that such hateful people are capable of doing such a thing. I pray to God that each and everyone of those who have been involved in such a crime….. end up where they belong. Hell is not good enough for them! May he RIP

  30. Joe White
    June 11, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    There is no ‘mental health exception’ in Kansas law.

  31. June 11, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Joe — it’s not explicitly in there, but the courts ruled that the health exception includes mental health, and Dr. Tiller did perform abortions for that reason.

  32. Joe White
    June 11, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    No court has ruled that the Kansas law included a mental health exception.

  33. June 11, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    You’re right, Joe, my bad. The Kansas attorney general is the one who has interpreted and upheld the law that way.

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