The murder of Dr. George Tiller—an abortion rights advocate who practiced medicine and performed abortions in Kansas—as he attended church services Sunday morning, has prompted this statement from President Barack Obama:
I am shocked and outraged by the murder of Dr. George Tiller as he attended church services this morning. However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence.
It's fairly unusual for the White House to comment on this type of local story. But the news of Tiller's murder, allegedly by an anti-choice activist apprehended this afternoon by local and state police, has reverberated across the country in a matter of hours—and inflamed a longstanding debate about abortion rights in America.
Obama had encouraged tolerance and good-faith dialogue on the issue in his controversial May commencement speech at Norte Dame University. But Tiller's murder may place even greater national attention on aborition in coming weeks, particularly given the upcoming Supreme Court vacancy which Obama seeks to fill with Judge Sonia Sotomayor.
Ann Friedman of FEMINISTING shared her first thoughts on the topic:
The loss of Dr. Tiller is deeply upsetting, and Cara rightly identifies this as a terrorist act. It is the culmination of an ongoing campaign of intimidation and harassment against someone who was providing completely legal health-care services. I've been paying attention to the more militant strains of the anti-choice movement, so this news shouldn't have shocked me as much as it did. But, like Cara, I have friends who work and volunteer in abortion clinics. When violence against abortion providers was hitting a fever pitch 10 years ago, I was not strongly pro-choice identified. I remember reading about the murder of an abortion providers, but it certainly did not affect me the way this news has. Whether it's rational or not, today I'm afraid for everyone who works in a reproductive health clinic. And not only those that provide abortion.
I am also worried about what Tiller's murder means for women in Kansas and elsewhere in the country who need the services that he provided. The simple fact is there are almost no doctors who provide late-term abortions, especially in rural parts of the country.
(Photo, via Getty Images: An activist from the Faith and Action, an anti-abortion religious group, takes part in a prayer for Judge Sonia Sotomayor in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on May 26, 2009.)
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