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On Sunday, Dr. George Tiller, who performed abortions in his Wichita medical clinic, was shot and killed in his church while serving as an usher. KSMU’s Matt Evans spoke with Missouri leaders on both sides of the abortion debate to get their reactions.
Before Sunday, it had been 10 years since an abortion doctor had been killed. Tiller’s abortion clinic is one of three clinics in the nation that perform abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy. Although the Missouri Right to Life organization opposed Tiller’s practice, Southwest Region Director Dave Plemmons says there is no reason to resort to violence.
“We certainly never have and never will advocate the use of violence when it comes to opposing abortion. It is completely epithetical to our mission, our purpose, and there is no justification of violence to prevent the violence of abortion,” said Plemmons.
Dr. Tiller was a nationally known late abortion provider whose clinic was the focus of many anti-abortion protests and threats. Tiller’s clinic was bombed in 1986 and Tiller was shot in a protest in 1993. Paula Gianino, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, said her organization is taking steps to improve the security of doctors and staff at the abortion clinics in Missouri, but wouldn’t share any specifics with the media. Gianino also said that women had lost one of the most caring, excellent, and committed doctors she’s known.
“We’re shocked and horrified and saddened by Dr. Tiller’s murder. Many of us knew him and many of us referred patients to him. And those patients we referred to him were some of the most vulnerable in our community,” said Gianino.
Gianino says many doctors associated with Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region are angry and saddened, but are committed to continuing their practice as before.
The Wichita police have a 51-year-old man in custody as a suspect in Tiller’s death. For KSMU News, I’m Matt Evans.