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Local activists honor slain abortion provider George Tiller

Wednesday, June 3, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 5:27 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Heavy rains did not prevent people from gathering Tuesday night to share memories and thoughts about Dr. George Tiller and the issue of abortion. Tiller, the Kansas physician who performed late-term abortions, was killed Sunday. The vigil was held in McAlester hall on the MU campus.

*Michelle Trupiano is a lobbyist and mid-Missouri spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood. An earlier version of this story misspelled her last name.

COLUMBIA — About 30 people gathered together in MU's McAlester Hall on Tuesday evening, waiting with anxious intensity for the candlelight vigil to begin to honor slain abortion doctor George Tiller.

Members of Planned Parenthood, activist groups and community members joined political figures to remember Tiller for his contribution to abortion rights efforts. Tiller was shot in his church in Wichita, Kan., on Sunday. As those who knew Tiller shared stories of their encounters with him, others reflected on the example of activism he provided.

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“During this time of tragedy, it’s important to grieve, but it’s also important to stand up for what we believe in,” said Michelle Trupiano*, lobbyist and mid-Missouri spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood.

Trupiano* coordinated the vigil, and her opening remarks set the stage for the rest of the speakers. After a moment of silence, former Planned Parenthood executive director Diane Booth shared her experience with abortion before the Roe v. Wade ruling, praising Tiller for his practice and encouraging those in attendance to continue to advocate for abortion rights.

“He was obviously a man I admired,” Booth said. “He literally put his life on the line every day to provide very needed health care for women.”

Other speakers who had encounters with Tiller remembered his happy and energetic personality, in addition to his medical career. MU psychology professor Phillip Wood met Tiller when his wife had complications during a pregnancy and remarked that he was a “loud, energetic man who told really corny jokes.”

Others told similarly amusing stories, such as singing a high school fight song together at a Planned Parenthood conference in Chicago. There was a lively retelling of the time Tiller was shot in both arms outside his clinic. Most of all, people remembered him as a compassionate, driven man.

“I always felt fortunate to spend time with him,” said Sean Spence, who ran for state representative in 2008. “He felt it in his heart in a way that is incomprehensible. I think he should be an example to all of us.”

Despite rain, which forced the vigil to be moved from Peace Park to McAlester Hall, many community members were in attendance who had never had contact with Tiller. Instead, they identified themselves with his practices and came to support the cause he stood for.

“Most of us didn’t know Dr. Tiller,” former state Rep. Vicky Wilson said. “We came not just to pay honor to Dr. Tiller. We came with a renewed fervor. We came because we need a protective place to have our voices heard.”

Community members agreed the vigil provided a way to support abortion rights organizations in the area and further their efforts.
 
“I’m here because it’s important for women and men and people of faith to stand up for the wrongs of this world,” Columbia resident June Deweese said.

Reactions also reflected a certain amount of fear that Tiller’s slaying could hinder progress for abortion rights. Columbia resident Heather Mulikey expressed concern that women might be afraid to get abortions at the clinic in Wichita, one of the few places that provide late-term abortions.

Wilson, on the other hand, said she believes now is the time to take a stand instead of being afraid.

“We’ve cloaked ourselves in fear when we talk about how we really feel about these key issues too often,” Wilson said.

The theme of the evening tended to be that talking about the issue of abortion in any format is a step toward reaching goals.

“We can honor Dr. Tiller by reshaping the debate about abortion,” said Helen Anthony, former member of the board of directors for Planned Parenthood of Kansas City and Mid-Missouri. “Let’s not let Dr. Tiller’s death be in vain.”

Zack Aldrich and Mallory Redinger contributed reporting to this article.


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Comments

Greg Collins June 3, 2009 | 8:58 a.m.

Say, when does this group plan on a similar vigil for the Army recruiter gunned down this week?

Or is the public display of wailing and gnashing of teeth politically selective? As if I need to even ask ...

(Report Comment)
Ro Sila June 3, 2009 | 9:40 a.m.

<Greg Collins June 3, 2009 | 8:58 a.m.
Say, when does this group plan on a similar vigil for the Army recruiter gunned down this week?>

Mr. Collins, when do YOU plan such a vigil? But that would take effort, and flapping your jaw is so much easier, right?

(Report Comment)
Greg Collins June 3, 2009 | 9:50 a.m.

Ooooh, hit a nerve did we? LOL ... good. I enjoy pointing out the hypocrisy in front of the cameras of "activists".

As for vigils, I don't do that myself as the touchy feely crowd has it down to a science.

(Report Comment)
Anton Berkovich June 3, 2009 | 11:20 a.m.

I don't think Jesus ever preached that you should point out hypocrisy in others.

(Report Comment)
CONNIE PONDER June 3, 2009 | 11:35 a.m.
This comment has been removed.
Ray Shapiro June 3, 2009 | 1:13 p.m.

("Heavy rains did not prevent people from gathering Tuesday night to share memories and thoughts about Dr. George Tiller and the issue of abortion.")
Tears from heaven?
Tears from the souls of unborn babes?
How many souls of unborn babies do you think wait to greet Dr. Tiller at the pearly gates?

(Report Comment)
Amber Hanneken June 3, 2009 | 1:25 p.m.

What a joke.

(Report Comment)
Eladio Rodriguez-Sanchez June 3, 2009 | 1:33 p.m.

Given the choice between what happened to Dr. Tiller and what happened to thousands of innocent pre-born babies at the receiving end of his forceps and suction device, anyone in their right mind would choose the former. Even Dr. Tiller's friends and admirers should be honest and acknowledge that. If it were just about giving a woman “choices” about “what happens to her body,” this would be non-issue. But it’s also very much about what happens to that very same mother's son’s or daughter’s body. And what happens there is dismemberment and a very painful, gruesome death.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro June 3, 2009 | 1:53 p.m.

("Local activists honor slain abortion provider George Tiller...
“I’m here because it’s important for women and men and people of faith to stand up for the wrongs of this world,” Columbia resident June Deweese said.)
Do you refer to his murder or elective trimester abortions where there's little risk to the unborn baby and the mother's mortality?
Do you refer to his murder or to those who choose to use abortion as birth control?
Do you refer to his murder or the exclusion of the baby's daddy to be involved in the decision making?
Is there a middle ground where we can attain respect and address pregnancy by protecting the interests of baby, mother, father, family and society or is it only about politics, cash flow for the doctors and the woman in stirrups?

(“We can honor Dr. Tiller by reshaping the debate about abortion,” said Helen Anthony, former member of the board of directors for Planned Parenthood of Kansas City and Mid-Missouri.")
Exactly what does that look like and when's your first focus group meeting?
Of interest:
Abortion bills hard to believe
Thrust of measure demeans women.

By Pamela L. Sumners
Sunday, May 10, 2009
(excerpts):

Real women don’t matter to the anti-choice lobby’s propaganda machine. If it can pretend there is some groundswell of “coerced abortions” out there that legislators need to address, it achieves two objectives: One, it perpetuates the absurd claim that women don’t really choose to have abortions but are the unwitting dupes of others and someday will suffer mental trauma as a result; and, two, compulsory pregnancy (for those with the fewest resources to fight back), which means it can block one more abortion. But once their children are born, Missouri women can’t count on their legislators to fund safehouses or preventive programs for intimate violence or to provide a level of care for their children to pry them from the grip of poverty.
http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/comm...
Pamela Sumners is executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri.

(Report Comment)

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