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On Sunday morning, US gynaecologist George Tiller was murdered. He was one of the few providers of late-term abortions in the US.

Christine at Our Bodies Ourselves gives some background – Tiller had faced many years of persecution:

In March, Tiller was found not guilty of illegal abortion. He had faced 19 criminal charges for allegedly violating a state law requiring an “independent” second physician’s concurring opinion before performing later term abortions.

“Tiller, 67, is one of a handful of doctors in the country who terminate very late-term pregnancies and has virtually become public enemy No. 1 to those who oppose abortion. For years, prosecutors and activists have tried to bring him down, and for years, Tiller has survived legal and physical challenges,” wrote Robin Abcarian in a L.A. Times story previewing the trial.

Tiller was shot in both arms in 1993; Rachelle Shannon remains in jail for the shooting. The clinic was bombed in June 1986, and vandals caused extensive damage, including flooding, to the building earlier this month.

“For almost two decades, Dr. Tiller and those individuals who helped provide care to his patients have lived under intense harassment tinged with persistent threats of violence,” Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement issued today. “Even under these adverse circumstances, Dr. Tiller never wavered in his commitment to providing abortion services and other reproductive health care to women and their families, often in the most difficult and heart-breaking circumstances.”

Sara at Bilerico says:

Dr. Tiller faced a lifetime of threats. His clinic was bombed in 1985. He still continued his work because he was saving lives. And one of the few willing to take the constant abuse thrown at him and his family.

Walking into church, a sanctuary if nothing else, he was shot and killed. I am certain the shooter believes he has saved countless babies lives. I am also certain he has cost countless women’s lives.

Shot dead in front of his wife and daughter.

I no longer stand vigil at clinics. I believe deeply, though, that the right to choose was essential in the battle for women’s rights, regardless of whether or not a woman would ever be in the position of making that choice.

No woman ever makes the choice lightly.

Our bodies. Our choices. Over the years, the anti-abortion groups have pressured so many decent doctors out of providing safe access to a medical procedure. Few are brave enough to continue.

Dr. Tiller was brave enough.

My deepest condolences to his family.