I just heard on the radio on my way home that Scott Roeder, who murdered Dr. George Tiller in cold blood last May and was convicted of first-degree murder in only 37 minutes in January, was today sentenced to a “Hard 50” — Kansas imposes a mandatory life sentence for Murder 1, but the judge had to choose whether Roeder would be eligible for parole after 25 years, or after 50. It’s excellent news that the judge imposed the harsher of the two possible sentences in this case; as the prosecuting attorney explained, Roeder is a domestic terrorist, and it’s right that the full force of the law be brought to bear. Our justice system must take right-wing Christian terrorism every bit as seriously as it takes right-wing Islamic terrorism, and this is a good step.
A good man was murdered yesterday.
Dr. George Tiller of Wichita, Kansas was one of only a handful — perhaps two, or three, or four, there doesn’t appear to be a clear consensus — of doctors in the entire United States who perform late-term abortions.
Yesterday, as he was walking into church services, someone shot and killed him.
Tiller has been a major target of the anti-choice movement for a very long time. He has lived with near-constant death threats, frequent vandalism, and other intimidation and demonization, for many years; in 1993, in an earlier attempt on his life, he was shot in both arms, but recovered and returned to practice.
Only a couple of months ago, he was acquitted of trumped-up misdemeanor charges brought in an attempt to prevent him from helping women.
He has been attacked by Bill O’Reilly, persecuted via the Kansas legal system and, now, murdered for doing his duty as a doctor as best he saw it to help women who, on top of being faced with terrible, heartbreaking decisions, were being bombarded from all sides by messages that they were bad, unworthy people who deserved no help.
They did deserve help, of course. They do deserve help. Dr. Tiller was one of very few people willing to help them; and now that number is smaller.
It’s important to understand this about late-term abortions: they are a procedure that is simply never performed except for reasons of medical necessity. They are performed when the mother’s health is gravely imperiled by the pregnancy or the prospect of giving birth, or when the fetus suffers from congenital deformities or defects which will ensure its life is very brief and very painful, or when the fetus is already dead to save the mother the trauma of delivering a stillborn baby, or sometimes when the mother’s only chance to survive cancer is to enroll in an experimental treatment which doesn’t accept pregnant women. No one ever, ever wants late-term abortions to be necessary; but sometimes they are.
Now that there is one fewer doctor who performs these procedures in the country, many women will be unable to have this necessary procedure performed. Some will be bankrupted trying to pay for medical care for an infant which cannot survive. Some will be plunged into depression over delivering a corpse or watching helplessly as their babies die. Some — dozens? perhaps a hundred or more? — will die along with their fetuses, due to the birth complications that made the abortion a necessity.
The domestic terrorist who murdered Dr. Tiller has killed them too.
I was going to add links to this post, but so much has been written that I hardly know where to start. Virtually every political blog on my blogroll has one or more posts about it, should any readers want more.
So I’ll just point to Jill Filipovic’s list of suggested organizations to donate money to in Dr. Tiller’s honor, to Sara Robinson’s explanation of how terrorism like this is a natural consequence — indeed, the goal — of decades of right-wing eliminationist rhetoric, and to Ann’s list of things we can do.