Dr. George Tiller is one of the few doctors in the country willing to perform certain kinds of late-term abortions – women fly in from all over the world to see him. This alone would make him controversial, especially in a town like Wichita, but he also has consistently defied the Pro-Life movement and organized against them. He was widely reviled, and had even been shot and wounded before by an anti-abortion activist from Oregon. So in a sense, this tragedy is not a total surprise.
This is huge – in his absense, Dr. Tiller’s clinic is unlikely to survive him. The only other doctor there flew in once a week from Florida. This means if you are a woman who lives in the high plains who needs an abortion – you’d better have money for a couple trips to a major city.
We tried many times to secure an interview with Dr. Tiller for our movie. He’s a fascinating figure, who discovered after his parents’ death in a plane crash that his father had been performing illegal abortions, and slowly took over his practice after passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973. Unfortunately for us, he stopped speaking to the media some years back, because he was constantly under some kind of investigation or lawsuit.
“What’s the Matter with Kansas?” covers the Pro-Life movement and its highly influential role in Kansas politics and the conservative movement. Dr. Tiller loomed large for us – we were friendly with both his friends and his enemies, and would often see both in the same day. However, none of the activists we spoke with condoned any sort of violence in pursuit of their cause — they were all very clear on this point.
For our part, we are saddened and horrified at the loss of Dr. Tiller, and extend heartfelt sympathies to his family, friends and colleagues.