Transcript of clip above, recorded in 2001 in Wichita, Kansas:
After I had been there for a little while, patients in the practice began to ask me if I was going to do abortions like my father did, and I was horrified because the only thing worse than a woman that would request an abortion was the physician that would do the abortion. So I was outraged. Why would these nice people, that my dad had been providing quality health care for over an extended period of time, say that he was a scumbag kind of a physician?
Well, so I started going back through the charts, see who had—what chart looked like somebody might have had an abortion. So I began to ask some of these women. And I found out that there were more than one or two. Here’s what happened. In 1945, ’46 or ’47, a young woman, for whom Dad had already delivered two babies, came to him pregnant again right away and she said something to the effect that, “I can’t take it, can you help me?” And those are the two common denominators. That is apparently the way you asked for an abortion from your regular doctor, before abortion was legal—at least, that’s my impression. That was the common denominator. “I can’t take it, can you help me?” Dad said, “No. Big families are in vogue, by the time the baby gets here, everything will be all right.” She went out, had a non-health care provider abortion and came back 10 days to two weeks later and died.
Now, I have had the unique experience of delivering two and three babies for Tiller Kansas, for Tiller Family Practice patients, second and third generation babies. I know what that neat relationship is between a physician and the woman for whom he delivers two or three babies. I’ve had that relationship. It’s a neat relationship. Having had that relationship, I can understand how upset my father was. I do not know whether he did 100 abortions or 200 abortions or 300 hundred abortions. I think it may have been something like 200 over a period of about 20 years, but I don’t know for sure.
I’m a woman-educated physician. I don’t know how many abortions he did, but the women in my father’s practice for whom he did abortions educated me and taught me that abortion is not about babies, it’s not about families. Abortion is about women’s hopes, dreams, potential, the rest of their lives. Abortion is a matter of survival for women.
Watch “Abortion Services Are a Heart Issue,” a clip in which Dr. Tiller explains why he continued to provide abortions despite harassment and violence.