Reporting from Wichita, Kan. – This morning’s memorial service for slain abortion doctor George Tiller was a peaceful celebration of his life, which culminated when his wife of nearly 45 years, Jeanne, stood alone on the altar and, in a strong clear soprano, sang “The Lord’s Prayer,” which she dedicated to “the love of my life.”
Many in the overflow crowd at College Hill United Methodist Church wept audibly as Tiller’s widow, willowy and elegant in a lace blouse and white linen skirt and clasping a white hankie, hit several impossibly high notes. Sunday, when Tiller was shot in the vestibule of their Lutheran church, she had been preparing to sing in the choir. Tiller’s closed casket was draped in white cloth.
On the altar, a photograph of a smiling Tiller was displayed next to a large wreath with the words “Trust Women,” a favorite Tiller saying. His love of axioms and aphorisms was a leit motif of the service, during which he was eulogized by a friend of 50 years and his four adult children, two of whom are physicians. To them, and to his 10 grandchildren, he was known as “Papa.”
I can’t imagine what it was like for Mrs. Tiller to sing so beautifully at her husband’s memorial. I’m a singer, and I couldn’t do it. I hope she gets lots of love, help, and support from friends and family (and complete strangers) in the time to come. Also, I hope she gets protection from the kinds of wackos who would stake out her house just to get a little screen time on the evening news for their “cause.”
Without Dr Tiller, a lot of women would have suffered, and a lot of children would have suffered too, because in many of his late-term cases, women had to choose to abort a wanted child because something had gone horribly wrong. In one case I know of, a woman had to choose between abortion, hysterectomy, or death. It was certainly the least of three evils, as she went on to have kids and was grateful that Dr Tiller was able to help her.
Without doctors willing to perform abortions at all (which the anti-abortion movement would certainly love to see happen) we can look forward to scenes like this.
Public health in Africa, as it relates to family planning, is in a shocking state, partly due to lack of funds and support (thank you, Presidon’t Bush) and partly due to local beliefs.
Geography is not the only obstacle. An assistant medical officer, Telesphory Kaneno, said: â€œTalking about sexuality and the sex organs is still a taboo in our community. For a woman, if it is known that she is taking contraceptives, there is a fear of being called promiscuous.â€
In interviews, some young women from the area who had given birth as teenagers said they had not used birth control because they did not know about it or thought it was unsafe: they had heard that condoms were unsanitary and that birth control pills and other hormonal contraceptives could cause cancer.
I wonder who told them that? Yes, I linked to a “friendly” website as opposed to a very unfriendly one.
Don’t think for one moment that this debate is “just” about abortion. It’s about control of women’s sexuality, and it’s about religious fundamentalism fighting what it perceives to be a last-ditch action. It’s always struck me as odd that the anti-abortion groups were made up of Protestant evangelical/fundamentalists, and Catholic traditionalists. These two groups won’t share Communion with one another, but they’ll walk a picket line together. I think they feel threatened when laws get on the books that contradict Biblical inerrancy; they want abortion equated with murder, otherwise their main argument against it goes away.
But is abortion murder? Not every faith tradition believes so. There’s an interesting paper on the Jewish perspective that gives several different points of view – even one that condemns me for avoiding parenthood. Still, very much worth a read for another view from the religious standpoint.
It’s no coincidence that enforcement of the FACE act, the federal law that protects abortion clinics and doctors from protestors, was lax in the Bush years. Now we’re in a post-conservative era, by all indicators – and the conservatives and the Religious Right are beside themselves, trying to move policy and opinion their way against a rather large but unengaged majority. They’re everywhere in the news and on the Internets, backpedaling on the murder of Dr Tiller, but arguing that the murderer had justification according to their views. Meanwhile, a lovely lady sang at her husband’s funeral. Is that justice?