By Ethel Peterson
February 5, 2010
DODGE CITY, Kan. - I was moved to write this article after reading the fascinating one concerning third trimester abortions and the flood of comments that followed. It made me think that there are many facts still not revealed about what happens in these cases. My knowledge comes from the time I visited Dr. Tiller's clinic as a new State Representative in the Kansas House. We had been invited, if we were interested in coming to Wichita, to learn what really happens there. I sent in my RSVP and arrived at the gate to present my ID. Dr. Tiller had been shot in the arm previously, so there was, already, a tall fence--a barricade, really, around the clinic. I drove my car to the gate and the guard at the gate allowed me to drive into the compound. There were protesters across the street, holding signs.
I parked my car and was welcomed into the clinic by an attendant, who explained the procedure we would follow. I was allowed to pick a client's case, without a name. It was a mother who had allowed her case to be included so that I might be able to "follow the case along." Then I was introduced to Dr. Tiller. He proceeded to explain the initial process of a client just arriving. He encouraged me to ask any questions along the way. I had lots of them, and he answered every one fully and completely. "My client" had been a young married woman who had learned near the end of her fifth month of pregnancy that there was something terribly wrong with her baby. She lived in the Southern US and had been very uncomfortable with the summer heat and reasoned that was why she had been feeling worse lately. This was her first pregnancy. The doctor immediately sent her to another doctor for consultation and they then sent her to a specialist.
That specialist ran tests and consulted yet another authority. By that time she was well into her sixth month. At last they came to the ghastly decision that her baby's brain was forming partially outside of its head. They were unsure if some other organs might also be forming outside the body.They did not believe the baby could live. The mother and her husband were devastated. This was a much-wanted baby! They talked with her parents. All were very opposed to abortion, but decided they probably had no choice. By the time they had made the decision, she was in her seventh month. They went to their doctor with their decision. He informed them that their state law did not allow third term abortions. He could not perform one.
On that day, they started the process of birthing, but the baby was, of course, born dead. It had suffered no pain. That was the reason for the shots. After the baby was born, the doctor took the child and laid it in the mother's arms. Dr. Tiller presented her with a tiny receiving blanket to wrap the baby in. Using a Polaroid camera, he took a picture of the baby, and one of the mother holding the baby and gave them to her. He had asked them ahead of time of their religious preference, and if they had requested it, he would have had a minister present for a brief service there. As it was, the father said a prayer, and it was over.
Dr. Tiller told me that he had a copy of that baby's picture and that he would show it to me, if I wanted to see it. He warned me that it was not a pleasant thing to see. I asked to look at it. Then he said, "Can you guess what the mother said when she saw the baby?" I couldn't. He told me the mother said quite breathlessly, "Isn't she beautiful?! And look at her tiny little hands. They are perfect." Dr. Tiller's eyes were moist as he said to me, "They all do that. No mother ever sees the awfulness. They all see the beauty! That's the reason I can do this work."
George Tiller's favorite quote was "Trust Women." I think he was right. If you want to end abortions, do the many things we need to do to end the reasons. Provide good solid sex education if your concern is the teens possibly becoming sexually active too early or without any sense of responsibility. But let's quit acting like every pregnant women is just an over-sexed teenager who doesn't know enough to make her own decisions.
This isn't what the anti-abortion folks think, and I understand that. What I don't understand is how anybody in the world can think it is right to walk into a church and shoot a man in the forehead at point-blank range. Roeder thought he shot a baby-killer. He shot a good, Christian man, who was a husband, father, grandfather, friend, and a man of great courage. There are other abortion doctors who have to live in fear. If they are as good-hearted and decent as Dr. Tiller, they will probably continue to work and do their best. I recently received a communication from Julie Burkhart, who worked in Tiller's clinic. She has started an organization dedicated to protecting the lives of other abortion providers in the US. She calls the organization, "Trust Women." How appropriate. I hope we all do!