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Dr. George Tiller Murdered in Wichita - Suspect in Custody

07/03/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Dr. George Tiller Murdered in Wichita, Kansas, Suspect in Custody

Yesterday
the reproductive health community was devastated to learn of the murder
of Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas abortion provider subjected to decades
of anti-choice harassment (and shot in the arms before). KansasCity.com
has more on the alleged killer: "Scott P. Roeder, 51, of Merriam, was
arrested on Interstate 35 near
Gardner nearly four hours after Tiller was shot to death just after 10
a.m. in the lobby of Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita. Roeder was
a member of an anti-government group in the 1990s and a staunch
abortion opponent... Authorities said they expected Roeder will be
charged today in Sedgwick
County with murder and two counts of aggravated assault. Federal
charges also are possible." KansasCity.com offers more details about
Roeder, including that "In April 1996, Roeder was arrested in Topeka
after Shawnee County
sheriff's deputies stopped him for not having a proper license plate.
The deputies said they searched the car and found ammunition, a
blasting cap, a fuse cord, a one-pound can of gunpowder and two 9-volt
batteries. One of the batteries was connected to a switch that could
have been used to trigger a bomb. Roeder was found guilty and
sentenced in June 1996 to 24 months of probation with intensive
supervision. He also was ordered to dissociate himself from
anti-government groups that advocated violence."

Links to Operation Rescue?

Though Operation Rescue immediately denounced the murder
-- "We are shocked at this morning's disturbing news that Mr. Tiller
was
gunned down...Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful,
legal means,
and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice. We
denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning" --
links between suspect Scott Roeder and the anti-abortion group are
already emerging. On The Daily Beast, Michelle Goldberg reports, "The man arrested for Tiller's murder, Scott Roeder, posted
at least one comment on the Web site of the antiabortion group
Operation Rescue suggesting that antiabortion activists attend Tiller's
church en masse. According to local news reports, he had the group's
phone number on a Post-It in his car when he was arrested. He could be
a lone lunatic, but he might also be part of a movement that's
reemerging after years of relative dormancy." (Michelle and others have called attention to a comment posted on a cached Operation Rescue webpage by a person identifying as "Scott Roeder.")

LifeNews's take on the murder? "Just hours after the shooting death of late-term
abortion practitioner George Tiller and without a potential suspect,
leading pro-abortion organizations immediately blamed pro-life advocates
for George Tiller's death."

And the AP reports
that anti-choice leaders worry that Tiller's murder will tamp down on
questioning of Sonia Sotomayor's position on abortion rights during her
confirmation hearings.

Many anti-abortion groups condemned the killing
of Tiller, a
prominent abortion provider who was shot dead at his church in Wichita,
Kan. But they expressed concern that abortion-rights activists would
use the occasion to brand the entire anti-abortion movement as
extremist.

They also worried that there would now be an effort to
stifle anti-abortion viewpoints during questioning of Supreme Court
nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

 

Calling the murder of Tiller "a kind of terrorism that works," Matthew Yglesias assesses the impact of anti-choice violence: "Random murder of civilians in order to coerce political concessions
doesn't have a great track-record. But direct action terrorist violence
against abortion providers has, I think, proven to be a fairly
successful tactic. Every time you murder a doctor, you create a
disincentive for other medical professionals to provide these services.
What's more, you create a need for additional security at facilities
around the country. In addition, the anti-abortion protestors who
frequently gather near clinics are made to seem much more intimidating by the fact that the occurrence of these sorts of acts of violence."