It does not seem that very long ago that I spoke with Dr. Tiller on the telephone. After hearing the details about my unborn son's anomalies, Dr. Tiller gave my doctor his home phone number so that I could reach him personally.
It's been nearly 14 years, but I still vividly remember lying on the couch, one hand on my 31 week pregnant stomach and the other gripping the phone, tearfully talking to Dr. Tiller. My husband and I had just found out the very worst news we could have ever received. Our son, Connor, whom we loved and were anxiously awaiting, had horrific abnormalities. In short, we learned through high tech ultrasound that he had only a brain stem and would most likely not survive birth. Devastation would be the most accurate word to describe what I was feeling.
Dr. Tiller talked to me. He spent nearly 30 minutes on the phone with me, detailing the procedure--from the moment a patient arrives until she leaves--in simple, informative terms. Part of the "process" was how to protect myself and be aware of the protesters who lined the path to his clinic. Until he informed me about "physical safety", I had not thought of others. I had thought merely about myself, my husband, and my baby. I recall being so confused and then my confusion turned to anger and then back to utter despair. Who did these people think they were? I loved Connor. I wanted Connor. To think that I would be met with hatred and such misunderstanding in such an unbelievably difficult time... Who did these people think they were?
I was, of course, a distraught parent with a million questions, going through an emotional roller coaster, but Dr. Tiller took the time and care to talk to me.
Dr. Tiller was a brave, kind man who helped thousands and thousands of women in their darkest, saddest hour. The anti-choicers are certainly allowed to call him any name they want. They can grasp at their fiery rhetoric and furious slogans, but he was not what they dubbed him. He was a man. A doctor. A human being who cared for women when they had nowhere else to go. He knew the risk and danger he and his family endured due to his choice, but he went to work each day anyway. For Women. He took a stand for what he believed was right.
It is time now, for the anti-choicers (all of them) to think about what they really stand for. It is time for them to examine the rhetoric and methods they use. Even if a group does not condone violence against doctors or women who seek abortions, each time they use the words, "murder" or "murderers" they are being not just untruthful but are inciting hate and violence. They incite the kind of hate and violence that led one sick man to gun down a fellow human being in cold blood at his church yesterday.
Fourteen years ago, I made a choice. I stayed in Ohio and ultimately did not travel to Tiller in Kansas. Due to my own failing health (nothing makes pre-eclampsia worse than mental anguish and traveling around to pick out funeral homes and teeny coffins), I was induced at 32 weeks in a hospital less than 10 miles from my home. My son, Connor died in birth, 15 minutes before being born. That was my choice. I took my own risks. When I made the decision I made, some told me they were "proud" of me. Some have even called me a "hero" for giving birth to Connor. But the real hero... the person who truly deserved people to be proud of him is the man who risked his life to give mothers like me a choice. The man who ultimately died bringing devastated women a choice... he was the hero.
Today, thinking back on Connor, I want to thank Dr. Tiller. For having been there. For simply... having been there.