Update: A jury in the Wichita, Kansas, case of Scott Roeder quickly reached its verdict today, taking 37 minutes to decide that the defendant was guilty in the first-degree murder of physician George Tiller.
Pro-choice groups applauded the decision. “Justice was served,” said a statement from Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of The National Abortion Federation. “We hope this verdict will be a deterrent to those who may be considering following in Roeder’s footsteps.”
Afterward, Dr. Tiller’s attorneys issued a statement on behalf of the doctor’s family, asking that “George can be remembered for his legacy of service to women, the help he provided for those who needed it, and the love and happiness he provided us as a husband, father and grandfather.”
Tiller’s loss is already being felt by the women he served and by his colleagues, who frequently referred difficult cases to him. While his murder clearly gives reason for other abortion providers to fear for their safety, some have vowed to step up and fill the gaps left by the absence of Dr. Tiller’s clinic, which closed after his murder.
“He inspired countless other physicians to take up the mantle of abortion provision,” said Suzanne Poppema, a retired abortion provider, who serves on the board of directors of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health. Poppema says she knows of several doctors who, in the wake of Tiller’s death, have decided to get training to do the kinds of abortions he provided. “Together, we will continue George’s legacy of trusting women and offering them expert, compassionate care.”
The murder trial of Scott Roeder, confessed killer of abortion provider George Tiller, is being conducted as a case of savior against savior, which is in fact the title of the GQ piece detailing the events of May 31, 2009, the day Roeder shot Tiller in church. The piece begins on a disturbingly even-handed note: “Both men believed they were doing right…” And, though the judge has ruled that the jury will not be able to consider the killing either manslaughter or second-degree murder, the trial, which began last week in Wichita, Kansas, has unfortunately headed in a similar direction, with Roeder testifying today about his antiabortion beliefs, his religious awakening while watching The 700 Club on TV and his frustration with the legal system–as if any of this could way justify killing.
Perhaps Tiller, a family physician who ran an abortion clinic and one of the few doctors in the country to openly perform the procedure in the third trimester, did have some of the savior in him. His colleagues often referred to him as “Saint George,” because he would frequently take cases no other doctor would, like that of an 11-year-old incest survivor. And he clearly believed deeply in what he was doing, as evidenced by the recently released video, in which he describes the predisposition to provide abortion as an “inner calling.”