The Center for Grassroots Oversight

This page can be viewed at http://www.historycommons.org/context.jsp?item=us_health_care_tmln_131


Context of 'May 31, 2009: Associates of Accused Abortionist Killer Say He Believed in Justifiable Homicide'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event May 31, 2009: Associates of Accused Abortionist Killer Say He Believed in Justifiable Homicide. You can narrow or broaden the context of this timeline by adjusting the zoom level. The lower the scale, the more relevant the items on average will be, while the higher the scale, the less relevant the items, on average, will be.

Randall Terry, a former used-car salesman and anti-abortion activist, forms a group he calls “Operation Rescue” in Binghamton, New York. Terry is a protege of Joseph Scheidler (see 1980 and 1985). Terry’s organization focuses on what it calls “rescues,” usually full-scale blockades of women’s health clinics. In many of these actions, hundreds of activists will be arrested. (Kushner 2003, pp. 38-39)

In January 2001, Michael Bray poses with the ‘Gas Can’ Award given to him by the Army of God for his advocacy of violence against abortion clinics.In January 2001, Michael Bray poses with the ‘Gas Can’ Award given to him by the Army of God for his advocacy of violence against abortion clinics. [Source: Ms. Magazine]Michael Bray, a radical anti-abortion activist and convicted clinic bomber, publishes A Time to Kill, a book giving religious justification for the murder of abortion providers and their staff members. (Kushner 2003, pp. 39) The book maintains that there is a “biblical mandate” for the use of “deadly, godly force to protect the unborn.” (Clarkson 12/2002)

The FBI arrests Scott Roeder, a member of the anti-government Freemen militia group, after deputies find a bomb-triggering device in his car, along with fuse cord, a pound of gunpowder, ammunition, a blasting cap, and two nine-volt batteries, one of which is wired to the bomb trigger. Roeder, a Kansas resident, is charged with criminal use of explosives, driving with a suspended license, and failure to carry registration and insurance. His car does not have a legitimate license plate; instead, it has a tag identifying him as a “sovereign” citizen and immune from state law. Many Freemen members use similar plates. (Associated Press 4/17/1996) In 2009, Roeder will murder an abortion provider (see May 31, 2009, May 31, 2009, and January 29, 2010).

Fellow anti-abortionists say that Scott Roeder, arrested in connection with the murder of late-term-abortion-providing OB/GYN Dr. George Tiller (see May 31, 2009), has long been a hard-line opponent of abortion. Kansas anti-abortion activist Regina Dinwittie, who was ordered by a judge to cease using a bullhorn within 500 feet of an abortion clinic in 1995, says: “I know that he believed in justifiable homicide. He very strongly believed that abortion was murder and that you ought to defend the little ones, both born and unborn.” Dinwittie recounts Roeder confronting Dr. Robert Crist, who worked at the Kansas City Planned Parenthood clinic in 1996: “He stared at him for approximately 45 seconds. Then he [Roeder] said, ‘I’ve seen you now.’ Then he turned his back and walked away, and they were scared to death.” (Thomas 5/31/2009) Dinwittie says she herself is “glad” of Tiller’s death, saying, “I wouldn’t cry for him no more than I would if somebody dropped a rat and killed it.” (Hegeman and Fisher 6/1/2009) After attending Tiller’s trial, Roeder told fellow Kansas anti-abortion activist Eugene Frye that the whole process was “a sham.” Frye says, “He felt justice had not been served.” (Bauer and Thomas 6/2/2009) “In this situation, Scott viewed Tiller as the violent person,” Frye said. “Scott didn’t see himself as that. He saw this man as perpetrating murder on these innocent babies.… Scott had that conviction.” (Bauer and Thomas 6/5/2009) Dave Leach, publisher of the Iowa magazine Prayer and Action News, which has said “justifiable homicide” against abortion providers can be supported, and to which Roeder subscribed, says: “Scott is not my hero in that sense; he has not inspired me to shoot an abortionist. But definitely, he will be the hero to thousands of babies who will not be slain because Scott sacrificed everything for them.” (Hegeman and Fisher 6/1/2009) In signing a petition against Tiller in September 2007, someone giving the name Scott Roeder wrote, “Tiller is the concentration camp ‘Mengele’ of our day and needs to be stopped before he and those who protect him bring judgment upon our nation.” (Scott Roeder 9/3/2009) In 1996, Roeder, then a member of the anti-government militia group known as the Freemen, was arrested on charges of possessing explosives (see April 16, 1996).

Scott RoederScott Roeder [Source: Kansas City Star]After his arrest in connection with the murder of late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas (see May 31, 2009), Scott Roeder is charged with one count of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault. The latter charges are for pointing a gun at two men who were eyewitnesses to the murder. Roeder requests that the court appoint counsel for him and is referred to the public defender’s office. (Finger and Sylvester 6/2/2009) District Attorney Nola Foulston explains that the state will not seek the death penalty, as Kansas law sets out seven required criteria for a capital charge, none of which fit the Tiller murder. The maximum sentence for first-degree murder in Kansas is life imprisonment. (Staff 6/4/2009) In 1996, Roeder, then a member of the anti-government militia group known as the Freemen, was arrested on charges of possessing explosives (see April 16, 1996). In 2010, Roeder will be convicted of murdering Tiller (see January 29, 2010).

Phoning the Associated Press from his jail cell, Scott Roeder, the suspect in the murder of late-term abortion provider George Tiller (see May 31, 2009), says, “I know there are many other similar events planned around the country as long as abortion remains legal.” He refuses to elaborate. A Justice Department spokesperson says the threat is being taken seriously, but Troy Newman, president of the anti-abortion organization Operation Rescue, dismisses it, saying, “This guy is a lunatic.” (Hegeman 6/7/2009) In response, Judge Warren Wilbert raises Roeder’s bond amount from $5 million to $20 million, citing concerns that Roeder could “perpetuate, participate or enact any more violence on his own or in concert with others.” The judge explains that his decision is influenced in part by police having discovered weapons and explosives in his possession in 1996, which he said he planned to use on an abortion clinic (see April 16, 1996). (Hegeman 6/14/2009)

The pro-choice organization Physicians for Reproductive Choice releases two video clips featuring Dr. George Tiller, the abortion provider murdered by an anti-abortion activist (see May 31, 2009). The clips show Tiller explaining why he chose to provide abortions as part of his work. In the clips, Tiller, who called himself a “woman-educated physician,” harked back to his father, a doctor who during his practice offered then-illegal abortions. Tiller said: “The women in my father’s practice for whom he did abortions educated me and taught me that abortion is not about babies, it’s not about families. Abortion is about women’s hopes, dreams, potential, the rest of their lives. Abortion is a matter of survival for women.” By looking through his father’s medical records, Tiller learned that his father denied an abortion to one patient in the 1940s; the woman, a mother of two, told his father, “I can’t take it, can you help me?” Tiller’s father refused. The woman then sought out an unsafe “back-alley” abortion and died in the process. “There are all sorts of dangers [for] postal workers, firemen, police officers,” Tiller said; “everything has a risk to it. I would prefer, personally, to have a challenging, stimulating, and emotionally and spiritually rewarding career that is short, rather than having a long one that is filled with ho-hum, mundane mediocrity—feeling as if you don’t make any difference to people.” (Clark-Foley 1/20/2010; Alex DiBranco 1/21/2010)

A Wichita, Kansas, jury convicts Scott Roeder of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Dr. George Tiller, one of the few doctors in the country to perform late-term abortions (see May 31, 2009 and May 31, 2009). The jury only deliberates for 37 minutes before handing down its verdict. Roeder admitted shooting Tiller during the trial, said he felt no remorse whatsoever for his actions, and instead justified them by saying he saw no other way to prevent abortions. Roeder will receive a sentence of life in prison; prosecutors say they hope to add restrictions to his sentence that will prevent him from coming up for parole for 50 years. Dr. Tiller’s widow, Jeanne Tiller, says in a statement, “At this time, we hope that George can be remembered for his legacy of service to women (see January 20, 2010), the help he provided for those who needed it, and the love and happiness he provided us as a husband, father, and grandfather.” (Davey 1/29/2010; Stan 1/29/2010)
Roeder Traced Belief to Conservative Televangelist - During the trial, Roeder said that he became a fervent Christian in 1992 after watching televangelist Pat Robertson’s 700 Club. He said he fell to his knees at the end of the show, during the customary appeal to viewers to “commit your life to Christ.” From then on, Roeder said, his Christian views went “hand in hand” with his opposition to abortion. Reporter Adele Stan writes, “The interesting thing in all this is not that Roeder converted to Christianity, but that he did so via a ministry whose definition of Christianity is the demonization of those who oppose the views of those who embrace one particular theological strain of Christianity.” (Stan 1/29/2010)
Abortion Rights Organizations Say Roeder's Conviction Sends Powerful Message to Perpetrators of Violence - Abortion-rights organizations applaud Roeder’s conviction, saying it sends a clear and powerful message to those who would commit violence against abortion providers, and add that it also points up the need for more intensive law enforcement and investigations into those conspiring to commit such violence (see May 31, 2009). “They need to take this investigation to the next stage,” says Katherine Spillar of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “We don’t have rigorous enough enforcement.”
Anti-Abortion Organizations Split on Verdict - Some anti-abortion organizations call the trial unfair, and say that the guilty verdict will breed more violence. Troy Newman, president of the anti-abortion organization Operation Rescue (OR—see 1986), denounces Roeder as a “cold, calculated, and despicable” killer, and says Roeder does not represent the anti-abortion movement. However, Randall Terry, the former head of OR, calls the trial a “scam” and contends that Roeder had never been allowed to “really tell his side of the story.” Terry, who now leads a far-right anti-abortion organization called Insurrecta Nex, says Roeder should have been allowed to use descriptions and images of aborted fetuses to help jurors understand why he felt compelled to kill Tiller. Others take Terry’s position even further. “People had said if he were acquitted it would be open season on doctors,” says convicted clinic bomber Michael Bray (see September 1994). “But if you want to see what’s going to stimulate people to do something, you’re inviting more of the same by not giving him a fair trial.” Bray and other abortion opponents say Judge Warren Wilbert erred in not allowing the jury to consider a charge of voluntary manslaughter if it decided that, under Kansas law, “an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force.” The judge refused to allow that charge to be considered. (Davey 1/29/2010; Stan 1/29/2010)


Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike