Reflecting on the killing of Dr George Tiller
-Josephine Quintavalle worked for many years directing a pro-life crisis pregnancy centre in London and is a founder member of the ProLife Alliance, a campaign group opposed to abortion.The opinions expressed are her own-
My first reaction to the murder of Dr Tiller I have to admit was not so much sorrow for the taking of his life and compassion for his family, but a sense of despair as to how it would affect proceedings at a Court hearing I was involved in the next day on behalf of the ProLife Alliance; how it would be capitalized on by our Department of Health.
We were attending a Tribunal Hearing in London related to the provision of abortions for disability, asking for full statistical disclosure on all such abortions as performed under the UK Abortion Act 1967. Following a Freedom of Information request we had won the right to this information but the DH said ‘No’ and the case went to appeal.
We arrived with background notes on the murder of Dr Tiller, certain in the knowledge that the Department of Health, who argue that they are withholding details of late abortions as a protection for the patients and doctors involved, would be triumphantly waving reports of the unlawful killing of this unfortunate abortionist.
Which of course they did. A newspaper article was immediately circulated to the parties, implying that the Kansas murder was not an isolated incident but symptomatic of the kinds of extreme behaviour which can be attributed to the pro-life movement (invariably described as anti-abortionists) in any country in the world. For this very reason, they argue, it is their duty to withhold any statistical information which might make it easy to identify those involved in abortion provision in the United Kingdom.
Inevitably it was raised when I was cross-examined the following day. In response I expressed the sentiments of millions of pro-life colleagues around the world. We call ourselves pro-life because that is exactly what we are. We defend the right to life of all human beings from conception to natural death, including of course the unfortunate Dr Tiller.
We are deeply sorry he was killed.
How anybody could identify a specific doctor from anonymised statistics was never explained by the DH as our case continued, but in relationship to Dr Tiller this was hardly relevant. He was a well-known public figure, and clinics doing late abortions in the USA can be found very easily by internet searches, much the same as in the UK.
In lamenting the violence of his death, we nevertheless passionately oppose attempts to turn him posthumously into a civil rights’ hero, even a martyr, as many newspapers are attempting to do, trumpeting his contribution to what they euphemistically describe as reproductive choice. Reproductive choice in these terms means death for the unborn child.
Some years ago Dr Tiller acknowledged having performed over 60,000 terminations in his career as an abortionist, many at a stage in pregnancy when the baby was already viable. Anybody interested in the ghastly specifics should read the account of a patient (Kelly) who had a late abortion at his clinic when she was 13. It is not easy reading and she herself is full of regrets.
No, Dr George Tiller was absolutely not a hero, but he should not have been killed.
Vigilante justice of this kind – thankfully rare – is as much an attack on human life as is abortion.
Abortion is not so rare; there have been 7 million in the United Kingdom since 1967.