I am thinking about Dr. Tiller today.
A couple days ago I pointed out to my partner the story of the man in Madison who was arrested while on his way to shoot an abortion provider. We talked about my safety as a person who works in abortion care - and perhaps more so as an outspoken advocate/activist for abortion rights. I may have scoffed a little; our clinic has amazing security. "But I worry more about your safety outside the clinic," he said. Dr. Tiller was shot in his church.
I don't think about my safety on a daily basis. Part of that is living in Canada (although Canadian doctors have been shot, and I work in a clinic that was once firebombed). Part of it is not being an actual doctor. But I think most of all it's the fact that life goes on. If we all thought about the threat to our safety all the time, no one would do this - just like no one would be a police officer, or any other job where there is danger involved. I am certain Dr. Tiller didn't spend a lot of time preoccupied by whether he might get shot. Most of the time I think he thought about doing his job.
My partner and I don't talk about it much. Sometimes it just hits us though. Just like it hit me that time, that the things I do can affect his career in the law. It's trickier than I thought, navigating a life together. Sometimes I think about the things that Dr. Tiller's wife must have sacrificed to be with him; what kind of ideas you would have to give up, seeing your husband leave for work each day in a bulletproof vest. I wonder if when he died, it felt, to some extent, inevitable - the only thing that could replace the tension was grief.
I remember vividly the day he died. But I also remember when he was alive - reading interviews with him, seeing his "abortion is a matter of the heart" quote on the kitchen wall in the Fredericton clinic every day, how his clinic always had the best swag at NAF conferences - mugs and pens and paperweights. I remember when I saw him at a conference, with his bodyguards, and he was such a kind and gentle person. It is hard to accept him as a martyr because there was still so much work to be done. I hope we can get it done without him.
Many thinks to the abortion providers, the doctors, nurses, counsellors, clinic managers and staff, and activists for the work that you do in spite of the risk. Thank you for trusting women.
RIP Dr. George Tiller.