Dr. Tiller was murdered a little over a month after I started working with Planned Parenthood. I’m not going to lie; I was terrified to go to work. I had been apprehensive about my new position within a clinic that provided abortion services to begin with, but when he was killed, I began to get really scared. I wasn’t anxious in the “oh man, what if people judge me for assisting with abortions” sort of way, but rather in the “am I going to come to work one day and leave in a body bag” way.
My first job with the office was in high school, doing tech support, ghost cloning hard drives, and generally troubleshooting for the practice. As I got older, I started working for them as a receptionist and completely loathed it. Sure, I have a great “phone voice” and interact well with people, but I wanted to be involved in the “action.” So, as I got older, I was trained to work as a medical assistant and phlebotomist in the practice, and really loved what I did. This is what eventually spurred me to go on to become an EMT and go to nursing school.
So, when I was offered a position at Planned Parenthood, I was happy to take it. I was going to be working in the clinic as a medical assistant and phlebotomist, working with women who were seeking birth control, prenatal care, pap smears, and *gulp* abortion. Please don’t misunderstand. I had always been pro-choice, but being in favor of reproductive freedom is one thing; being a part of abortion care is something completely different.
So, when news of Dr. Tiller’s slaying flashed across my television screen, my stomach dropped. Here I am, 19 years old, and thinking about the fact that at 8:00am the next morning I’ll be driving past a group of protesters, some of whom may or may not want my coworkers and I to end up like Dr. Tiller. I went into work that next morning nervous and ready to tender my resignation. “Terribly sorry,” I’d say, “but I’m just not willing to risk my life to work here.” They’d understand, right?
I don’t know how I didn’t notice the plaque before that day, but for some reason it was staring me straight in the face that morning. I know it wasn’t put there in memory of Dr. Tiller, because I was the one opening the clinic that day and no one had been there since the news of his death had spread. I don’t tend to believe in “signs,” but I don’t know how else to interpret it. There it was in our break room, mounted on the wall next to the refrigerator. In bold blue ink, the plate read “’They may define the way I die, but they will not the way I live.’ –Dr. George Tiller.”
Well, that was it. How the hell could I turn my back on this clinic now? Years after Dr. Tiller spoke those words, they gave some college girl the courage to stand by what she believed and not let the anti-choicers intimidate her out of what was possibly the most important job she had ever had.
A few months later, I got promoted from simply being a clinic assistant (taking blood pressures, giving injections, etc.) to also being an abortion assitant, where I was in the room assisting the doctor with procedures. Again, when I was put in this position, I was terrified. Perhaps I’d be targeted more, now that the antis could claim there was “blood on my hands,” or some other form of ridiculous rhetoric. I almost didn’t accept the job because I was so anxious.
But my first morning in the new position, and every morning since, I looked in the mirror and reminded myself that they will not define the way I live.
Perhaps that’s what prompted me to start my blog; I feel the need to share my experiences with people who may be searching for the courage they need to find in their own lives. So, if you’re reading this, and you need someone to tell you that it really is worth it to stand by what you believe, take this as your “sign”; I was lucky enough to have one, and I am forever thankful for it.
I am Dr. Tiller.