When Dr. George Tiller of Wichita, Kan., was shot on May 31, the bullet that killed him pierced the hearts of Sherry and Vald Svekis of Sarasota as well.
Tiller was allegedly shot because he has performed abortions for decades.
The Svekises knew Tiller, not just as a physician, but as a compassionate doctor who helped them when no one else would.
The year was 1985. The Svekises, then living in Boca Raton, were thrilled to be expecting their second baby. Their first son, Patrick, had died of multiple heart deformities when he was just 40 days old. But when Sherry went for an ultrasound at 24 weeks, she was devastated to learn that the baby she was carrying would not survive birth. She was diagnosed with amniotic band syndrome, her womb crisscrossed with fibrous growths that left no room for the baby to develop. Sherry’s life was threatened.
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“This baby was wanted very much,” Sherry told me. “We were devastated.”
The Svekises had two choices — Tiller’s Wichita clinic or going to Belize. The Svekises chose Tiller.
“It seemed like the end of the world,” Sherry said.
Tiller understood, said Vald. “He was very empathic, he made us feel at ease because of his professionalism. We were there for three days and went through counseling. We had a chance to talk to him at length.”
Tiller’s own views on abortion, according to Vald, will likely surprise many people, especially his critics. “He didn’t think it was right to have abortions, but his first priority was to give every woman a chance to be in charge of her reproductive rights,” Vald said. Despite the odds, Sherry survived the procedure.
One year later, Tiller called Sherry and Vald to see if they would like to adopt the baby of a client who decided not to have an abortion. The Svekises passed on Tiller’s offer, but soon after Sherry gave birth to a daughter and then a son. Had Tiller not helped Vald and Sherry, they say, who knows if she would have been alive to give birth to the children who have made their lives complete.
This was an abortion in support of life, an act of compassion by a doctor who deeply believed in the right of women to choose their fate.