George Tiller and Late Term Abortions

George TillerIt’s been five years since Dr George Tiller was murdered. In one way, he is just another victim of senseless violence. In another, he a symbol for something very big: the abortion debate. It’s strange to think about it. I was about to write, “Tiller was murdered because he performed late term abortions.” But would any conservative be all right with me saying, “America was attacked on 9/11 because we set up military bases in Saudi Arabia”? I don’t think so. But both are the proximate causes. And I’m glad to bring up Dr Tiller, who was a hero. But not for that reason. We need to talk about late term abortions.

I admit it: I mostly talk about zygotes, because the social conservatives are so extreme that they even want to ban birth control. But late term abortions are really the crux of the matter. If you listened to Bill O’Reilly (And other than being a complete idiot, why would you?) you would think that all an eight month pregnant woman had to do was show up to his clinic, fork over five grand and he’d cut that viable baby right out of her. Of course, that wasn’t true. And I’m a big believer in the First Amendment, but O’Reilly is culpable in the murder of Dr Tiller. And I hope that O’Reilly’s Catholic religion is true so that he burns in hell for eternity. But I don’t want to get sidetracked.

Late term abortions are not done for the convenience of the mother. They are done when the fetus is not viable and when it threatens the life of the mother. That’s how you can tell that libertarians are part of the conservative movement: everything is simple to them. To the social conservatives (which is pretty much all of them including most who call themselves libertarian), the fetus has full rights as a citizen. They don’t even think about the competing interests of the life of a clearly viable mother and what is often a dead fetus.

A year and a half ago, I wrote about Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist living in Ireland. She was pregnant with a non-viable fetus. And she was dying as a result of it—it was poisoning her blood. But abortion is illegal in Ireland. She had miscarried, yet the heart of the fetus was still beating. So no doctors would remove the fetus. And she died of blood poisoning. Since then, some minor reforms have been passed in Ireland, but I have a better idea: don’t be a woman in Ireland. Or increasingly, America.

But that’s what late term abortions are about. They aren’t about girls who just keep putting off that abortion they are so looking forward to. They are medical problems. When the children are viable, they are viable for short periods of time. Wanna know how long a baby born without a brain can live? Up to two and a half years, although usually they are stillborn or live at most a day or two. I mean: they don’t have brains. But there are lots of other perfectly good reasons for late term abortions. But the monsters in the anti-choice movement don’t think about actual people; they are focused on a higher ideal—higher than the pain and suffering of actual human beings.

So that’s what George Tiller was doing. He had a medical practice that was even more heartbreaking than those of pediatric oncologists. He was literally doing God’s work, trying to minimize the damage done by bad genetic and environmental luck. And he was murder because of it. And many people were happy about it, because of their ignorant “ideals.” Because there can’t be enough Savita Halappanavars who die unnecessarily in excruciating pain in the name of what some cleric somewhere decided was what God wanted.


Yes, I am very angry. But in truth, I would never consign a soul to the fires of hell for eternity. Not Hitler. Not Stalin. Not Pol Pot. Not even Bill O’Reilly.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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