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President & CEO Clare Coleman expresses grief and anger over the senseless murder of a great man.

By now, you will have heard that Dr. George Tiller has been killed.  I struggled all day yesterday with anger and grief.  I would like to share with you some of my thoughts.

Dr. Tiller was one of a few physicians nationwide with a practice focused on third-trimester procedures, when less than 1% of all abortion takes place.  The families who sought Dr. Tiller’s care were facing diagnoses of fetal anomaly or maternal illness that were devastating. 

I did not know Dr. Tiller, but I do know some of the women and men he helped.  The families I know felt cared for and understood in times of bewilderment and grief.  They cried over the pregnancies they desperately wanted, and for the children who were not to be, and they found compassion and gentle care at Dr. Tiller’s office. 

Because of that compassion, skill and bravery, families sought Dr. Tiller out, traveling many hours for his care.  For his compassion, skill, and bravery, he was hunted.  He lived behind walls and under assault.

Dr. Tiller left behind a family – a wife, four children and 10 grandchildren – who had the grace to issue this statement yesterday:  "George dedicated his life to providing women with high-quality health care despite frequent threats and violence.  We ask that he be remembered as a good husband, father and grandfather and a dedicated servant on behalf of the rights of women everywhere."

I hope Dr. Tiller’s family and staff know that there are people they have never met who honor their work and grieve their loss.  Who feel their fear, their despair and their anger.  I am certainly one of those people.

In the 90s, I worked for Planned Parenthood, walking the halls of Congress and traveling around the country in defense of legal abortion.  I became friends with women who were willing to speak publicly about their late-term abortions, the type in which Dr. Tiller specialized.

Last night, I connected with one of those good friends – a woman who lost two very-wanted pregnancies and then saw her marriage fall apart, a woman who has not been able to have a healthy baby – and together we grieved.

My friend emailed later:  “Speaking as a two-time late-term patient, I feel like he could have been *my* doctor (and might well have had to be one day)…just like I feel like all the work you all do could be for me.  This horrible thing that happened today makes all the things that Planned Parenthood does for women just that much more important.  Someone has to help us.  You are that someone.  Your team is that someone.  Every Planned Parenthood team is that someone.”

In that spirit, we at Planned Parenthood stand with Dr. Tiller’s family and staff, in sorrow, in friendship and with resolution.


Planned Parenthood of the Mid-Hudson Valley, Inc.


June 01, 2009