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Tiller's work honored in D.C.

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Sep. 29, 2009, at 12:06 a.m.
  • Updated Monday, Nov. 9, 2009, at 4:48 p.m.

Slain Wichita abortion provider George Tiller was honored posthumously in Washington over the weekend with one of the highest honors given by the International Federation of Planned Parenthood Foundation, the group announced Monday.

Tiller was named recipient of the group's Medal of Honor for "outstanding individual contribution to sexual and reproductive health."

The medal was presented at the international group's Western Hemisphere meeting. Tiller's widow, Jeanne, accepted it on her late husband's behalf, according to a statement from the organization.

The award was presented by Alexander Sanger, grandson of Margaret Sanger, a nurse who crusaded for women's access to birth control in the early 20th century and co-founded Planned Parenthood.

"For 30 years, George Tiller stood up to protests, harassment and assaults, even being wounded some years ago in a shooting," Alexander Sanger said. "He kept his clinic doors open to give a choice to women who never imagined they would ever need it — women with a wanted pregnancy that had gone terribly awry as it progressed."

After decades of operating a controversial clinic providing late-term abortions in Wichita, Tiller was gunned down May 31 at Reformation Lutheran Church, where he was serving as an usher for Sunday services.

A Jan. 11 murder trial has been set for accused gunman Scott Roeder, 51, a Kansas City airport shuttle driver and abortion opponent.

Troy Newman, president of the Wichita anti-abortion group Operation Rescue and a longtime leader of opposition to Tiller's practice, said he stands by earlier statements decrying the slaying of the doctor.

But he also doesn't think Tiller deserves any awards.

"He's become St. George to the abortion movement now because he was martyred to their cause," Newman said.

Peter Brownlie, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said he thinks Tiller "certainly deserved the Medal of Honor he received."

He called Tiller's slaying "a terrible tragedy that was a blow to women who need the kind of services that only Dr. Tiller provided."

In Wichita, longtime abortion-rights advocate Diane Wahto said the posthumous honors are heartening to those who worked with Tiller to keep his services available locally and are trying to restore them in Wichita now that he's gone.

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527.

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