Kansas Abortion Doctor Slain at Church
By Scott Butterworth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 31, 2009 4:58 PM
George Tiller, perhaps the most prominent of the handful of doctors in the United States who perform late-term abortions, was shot and killed at his Wichita, Kan., church this morning, his lawyer said.
Police arrested a suspect in the slaying several hours later, the Wichita Eagle reported.
Tiller was shot as he served as an usher during Sunday morning services at Reformation Lutheran Church, Dan Monnat told reporters in Wichita. The gunman drove away in a 1993 blue Ford Taurus, authorities said.
Several law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, were called in to help with the case, said Wichita police Capt. Brent Allred.
About four hours after the shooting, police reportedly stopped a vehicle matching that description about 160 miles from Wichita, the Eagle reported. The vehicle is registered to an owner in a Kansas City suburb.
Tiller was one of the few doctors willing to abort fetuses after the 26th week of gestation, when they are potentially able to survive outside the womb.
That made his Wichita clinic a frequent target of anti-abortion protests over the last two decades. It was heavily damaged in 1986 by a pipe bomb. No suspect was ever arrested in the case. Anti-abortion protesters with the organization Operation Rescue blockaded Tiller's clinic during the summer of 1991; 2,700 arrests resulted.
Tiller's picture was plastered on "wanted" posters distributed by abortion opponents, and in August 1993, he was shot as he drove away from his clinic. The assailant, a woman from Oregon, asked reporters after her arrest, "Did I get him," adding later to a police officer, "If ever there was a justifiable homicide, this was it."
Tiller was wounded in both arms, but he returned to work the very next day. His assailant was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Tiller received protection from the U.S. Marshals Service for more than two years.
Monnat said that Tiller had asked federal prosecutors to step up investigations of vandalism and other threats against the clinic out of fear that the incidents were increasing and that Tiller's safety was in jeopardy.
In early May, Tiller had asked the FBI to investigate vandalism at his clinic, including cut wires to surveillance cameras and damage to the roof that sent rainwater pouring into the building.
The Rev. Frank Pavone, the national director of the anti-abortion organization Priests for Life, said that he was "saddened" by the news of Tiller's slaying. But Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, called Tiller "a mass murderer. We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God."
Leaders of the anti-abortion movement announced a news conference for 10 a.m. Monday in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, to discuss Tiller's death.
The National Organization of Women called for a day of mourning Monday, urging people to wear white armbands in memory of Tiller and "as a visible expression of determination" to keeping abortion safe and legal.
"Bringing the killers to justice is not enough," said NOW president Kim Gandy, who demanded that "the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security . . . root out and prosecute as domestic terrorists and violent racketeers" those who target abortion providers.
The president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Cecile Richards, called Tiller "an integral part of our community," adding that his death "is an enormous loss for . . . women and their families across America."
In 2006, Tiller faced criminal charges in connection with his practice. State Attorney General Phill Kline, a vocal abortion opponent, filed the charges, accusing him of performing 15 illegal late-term abortions on patients ages 10 to 22. But the charges were swiftly dismissed by a judge, who ruled that Kline had overstepped his authority.
Kansas Abortion Doctor Slain at Church