Revolution #192, February 14, 2010
The Murderer of Dr. George Tiller:
Convicted… After Being Given a Stage to Justify Murder of Abortion Doctors
On January 29, Scott Roeder was convicted of the murder of Dr. George Tiller, the courageous doctor who provided abortions for women. Roeder gunned down Dr. Tiller in a church, shooting him in the head on May 31, 2009. A Wichita jury found Roeder, who confessed to the killing, guilty after just 37 minutes of deliberation.
Dr. Tiller, whose watchword was “trust women,” was one of the few doctors in the U.S. who specialized in performing late-term abortions. Women came to him from around the country, often under very stressful medical and/or personal conditions. Writing in Revolution after his murder, Mary Lou Greenberg described how the walls of the waiting room in Dr. Tiller’s clinic were filled with moving letters of appreciation: “A woman’s anguish in learning of her fetus’ sure-death condition and the comforting compassion of Dr. Tiller; the desperation of another at an unplanned pregnancy and gratitude for the non-judgmental care at his clinic; the loneliness of feeling abandoned and fearful for the future. I will always remember the words of one: ‘Thank you for giving me back my life.’”
The judge in the trial gave Dr. Tiller’s confessed killer almost unconstrained freedom in court to proclaim the killing of Dr. Tiller as justified, and his “testimony” served as both a chilling call for the violent enforcement of forced motherhood, and for others to follow his example. He was allowed to testify that, “Those children were in immediate danger if someone did not stop George Tiller,” invoking a non-existent threat to non-existent “children” to justify the murder of a living, heroic abortion doctor.
After all this was allowed to come out, the judge then ruled the jury could not consider Roeder’s legal argument that he was guilty of manslaughter, but not murder, because he was acting to save “unborn children” who were in “immediate danger.”
Two former Kansas prosecutors, who had hounded Dr. Tiller for years with bogus criminal charges, were called to testify for the defense. The judge ended up ruling that their testimony was not necessary, but the fact that they were called to testify speaks to the connections between the legal hounding of Dr. Tiller and the societal atmosphere that led a Roeder to assassinate him. Dr. Tiller’s clinic, home, staff, and patients were harassed for decades, with an all-out assault starting in 2001 by Operation Rescue, whose leader, Troy Newman, moved to Wichita with the stated purpose of “taking out” Dr. Tiller.
How are we to understand why, in U.S. society today, ghouls from the dark ages like Roeder are engendered, unleashed, and given prime time TV podiums, and a considerate hearing by the mainstream media? Over the past decades, tremendous economic and social changes in U.S. society, along with the protests and social ferment of the 1960s, placed strains on “traditional patriarchal values.” This is one of the key things that have placed great stress on the social fabric that holds U.S. society together. And in response, there have been, from the powers-that-be, moves to forcefully reassert the oppressive view that a woman’s place is defined by being a breeder of children. Moves to restrict and ban abortion are a cutting edge in that.
There is, right now, a great need for that kind of defiant spirit and action—inspired in part by Dr. Tiller’s life—to defend the right to abortion.
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