Dr. George Tiller, a physician who performed abortions, was murdered in Kansas today by "an all-purpose right-wing nut" named Scott Roeder. Dr. Tiller's been a special target of right-wing figures like Bill O'Reilly because he's one of the few physicians who is willing to perform late-term abortions and Tiller had already been shot once by right-wing activists. Consequently, a lot of the commentary has been on the role of the right-wing media in tipping unbalanced people like Roeder into becoming murderers. For example, Jim D. Adkisson, who killed two people at a progressive Tennessee church, read books by Michael Savage and wrote in an apparent suicide note about the need to kill as many liberals as possible.
But I think it's more important to take an opportunity to give credit to George Tiller for being a courageous man and making an important contribution to human welfare. Abortion is an important social asset as well as a legal right in American society. The fact that women are not forced to carry pregnancies to term has helped open up new vistas of freedom for American women and has been an incalculable benefit to our society as a result. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have always been mistaken in the idea that the number of abortions should be reduced to some "rare" minimum. Given that the material in a pregnant woman's uterus is a "fetus," a woman has as much right to control and/or dispose of that material as she has a right to contraception, regulating her periods, or anything else to do with gynecological health.
The right likes to claim that "50 million babies have died" since Roe v Wade. That's nonsense. It's much more the case that millions of people in the U. S. owe their lives to earlier abortions. A large percentage of the women who have abortions then go on to have one, two, or more children when they are more prepared to raise children. How many of those children would not even have been conceived had the earlier pregnancies come to term? It has to be in the millions. A pregnancy coming to term if a major event in people's lives. It means that future couples who might had a baby don't meet, marriages might not have besustained, break-ups and divorces might not occur, and the necessary sex might not happen. Contraception and abortion aren't the only things that prevent births. Previously born children also prevent births. If there have been 50 million abortions, that means that several million children born since 1973 owe their existence to the opportunities created by previous abortions.
If anything, there should be more abortions in this country rather than less. Abortions should be much more available in red-state areas like Kansas, Kentucky, South Dakota, and Mississippi. Those are the states that have the highest percentages of unwanted pregnancies. Abortions should be more available as a normal medical service to poor women and other women shouldn't feel so guilt-ridden about abortions that they choose to forego abortions that they would otherwise have done.
George Tiller deserves a lot of credit for performing abortions at all. I'm sure he could have made more money and had a more peaceful life doing some other kind of medicine. But he especially deserves credit for continuing to perform abortions and late-term abortions after the first armed attack on him by a pro-life activist named Shelley Shannon in 1993. I'm sure Tiller knew that he could be murdered at any time. But he kept providing abortion services to women in Kansas despite the vigilante death sentence hanging over his head. It's significant that Tiller died while attending a Christian church, the Reformation Lutheran Church of Wichita, Kansas. Not unlike Jesus, he died for the benefit of others.