Honoring Dr. Tiller ~ by fml and Servalbear

Abortion Gang and The Provider Project have a blog project in progress to honor Dr. George Tiller. They have asked contributors to their collective blog to respond to this question:

How can the pro-choice and reproductive justice movements better support the people who have later abortions and providers who perform them?

Here’s the short answer ~ the correct answer:

Make Your Voice Heard by Speaking Up.

  1. Voice your support to access abortion at any time for any reason. We don’t know what a family is facing with a pregnancy and shouldn’t guess. They will make the decision that is best for them.
  2. When you hear a misrepresentation about common reasons for later abortion, counter with the correct information.
  3. Write about the facts of later abortion in a public forum.
  4. Be prepared to answer questions from clients with facts.


  1. Vote for pro-access candidates in every election.
  2. Be familiar with the law in your state and who has voted for bills restricting abortion access.

Thank Later Abortion Providers.

  1. Donations to help with anti-abortion protest-related expenses
  2. Donations to national or local abortion fund organizations, such as National Abortion Federation, to help patients needing more expensive later abortions.
  3. Volunteer to escort at the clinic of a later abortion provider.
  4. Write a letter to the provider to express your gratitude they are there

Servalbear wrote that ~ in fact, she asked me {fml} to collaborate on this one and then ended up writing the whole article without any input from me until now ~ 10:00 Friday night before we post.  

Confession ~ I’ve been avoiding doing it.  I don’t want to write about later abortions.  I have some ambivalence here.  Some emotional discomfort.  

I think I shouldn’t feel that way.  I think I’m wrong to feel that way.

But it is was as if the stigma had stained my perceptions here.  I vaguely imagined the things that antis say might be true about late term abortions.  

However.  Ten o’clock Friday night, I really can’t put it off any longer.  So I read Servalbear’s information, the facts she presents.  

What is a later abortion? Quite simply, it is an abortion performed after the 20th week of pregnancy. This is incorrectly called a “partial-birth abortion.”

NPR explains in an article from 2006.

  • But “partial-birth” is not a medical term. It’s a political one, and a highly confusing one at that, with both sides disagreeing even on how many procedures take place, at what point in pregnancy, and exactly which procedures the law actually bans.  …
  • The term was first coined by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) in 1995 to describe a recently introduced medical procedure to remove fetuses from the womb. 
  • In 1995, Rep. Charles Canady (R-FL) included the term as part of a bill he proposed that would make it a federal crime to perform a “partial-birth” abortion.

How common are later abortions? According to the Guttmacher Institute, later abortions are not common at all. 88% of all abortions performed in the US occur within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Only 1.5% of all abortions in the US occur at 21 weeks or more. That’s a very small percentage.

Where can a client access a later abortion? The short answer is only in a few places. Many states have passed legislation to ban abortion past 20 weeks.

 Guttmacher Institute states, “Only 11% of all abortion providers offer abortions at 24 weeks.”

Why would clients choose a later abortion?

There are a variety of reasons, but the most common is due to life-threatening conditions for the woman or the fetus. Many fetal anomalies are not identified until an ultrasound is performed at 21-23 weeks. There isn’t much time between the time of these tests to accurately diagnose problems that will take the fetus’ life before, or within minutes, of birth and the 24 weeks most states restrict for later abortions.

The myths about why clients would choose a later abortion almost always translate to the client being in denial of the pregnancy or being irresponsible and delaying too long. This isn’t the typical case. Later abortions are usually a wanted pregnancy that turns to anguish.

Orlando Women’s Center publishes this statement on their website which spells out the difficulty of these decisions.

  • Patients end pregnancies early for several reasons:
  1. Prevent pain and suffering of a sick, unborn baby
  2. Stop the pain and suffering for family members, friends and you
  3. To bring closure and start the healing process (guilt, depression, anger, and acceptance) required for members of your family and you to go through
  • We recognize the grief, sorrow, and suffering that this health care has caused you and your family. Most families or individuals have never faced a catastrophe of this magnitude.
  • At our Women’s Centers, numerous patients and loved ones we see are confronted with these complex issues where they were prepared to have a healthy child and suddenly they are faced with the prospect of terminating the pregnancy.
  • There are people who believe that fetal abnormalities are part of life and God’s plan even if lethal to the fetus. They feel that some way and somehow couples are to accept the process of bringing a child into the world and carry the Psychological and perhaps physical scars forever of having a baby with severe abnormalities that are incompatible with life. Dr. Pendergraft, other Physicians, and the medical staff who work in the Women’s Centers believe the decision to carry a pregnancy to term with severe complications is a personal matter and should be a decision that is made between the patient and her Physician. 

As I read the facts, the myths in my mind fade away.  Instead, I think about my grandmother.  My grandmother had experienced a stillbirth.  

Many years later, she told my mother, “I knew the baby was dead.  I could tell it quit moving.  Your father (my grandfather) was so upset and angry, he blamed the doctors.  But I knew long before that.”

After reading Servalbear’s facts, I thought about the times that a fetus will die in utero and not be expelled right away.  I think of the anguish of carrying a child one knows is dead.  And the stigma fades away too.

Why do later abortion providers need our support? These physicians are dedicated to providing the health care patients need. The level of commitment includes working with daily threats of violence and even death. Why wouldn’t we support them?

Jody Jacobsen wrote an article published June 2, 2009 in Reality Check, titled “Late-Term Abortions: Facts, Stories and Ways to Help.”

  • Dr. Tiller was one of the few doctors providing late-term abortions to people in need in part because he was a committed, ethical, moral medical professional who took seriously his oath to serve the best interests of his patients, and because he was dedicated to supporting women’s rights even at the risk of his own life and even under unimaginable daily pressure and threat.

Another later abortion provider is Dr. LeRoy Carhart. He has continued providing later abortions despite enormous obstacles placed in his way by anti-choice legislation and protesters.

This is from an article written by Lena H. Sun published July 24, 2011, in the Washington Post

  • As one of the few doctors in the nation who openly acknowledge performing abortions late in a pregnancy, and because he wants to expand his services, Carhart is the top focus of antiabortion groups. He took on that role after Kansas doctor George Tiller, his friend and mentor, was fatally shot by an abortion opponent in 2009.

Which brings us back to the original question:

How can the pro-choice and reproductive justice movements better support the people who have later abortions and providers who perform them?

~  Make Your Voice Heard by Speaking Up.

~  Vote

~  Thank Later Abortion Providers

What other ways can you think of that would be helpful?


Additional references:
State Policies on Later Abortions, Guttmacher Institute.
Bans on “Partial-Birth” Abortion, Guttmacher Institute

3 thoughts on “Honoring Dr. Tiller ~ by fml and Servalbear

  1. Pingback: Honoring Dr. Tiller: A Collective Remembrance  | Abortion Gang

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