Courts & Crime

Abortion debate sides agree that Tiller's killing was not justified

WICHITA — Activists on both sides of the abortion issue say that despite his claims that his actions were necessary, Scott Roeder was unjustified in killing Wichita abortion provider George Tiller.

Abortion-choice supporters called the act cold-blooded murder, while abortion opponents said it flies in the face of what their movement stands for.

On Monday, Roeder admitted to reporters from the Associated Press and the Kansas City Star that he had shot Tiller to death May 31 while Tiller was serving as an usher at Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita.

Roeder said his defense will be that his actions were necessary because "pre-born children were in imminent danger" from abortions performed at Tiller's clinic in Wichita.

People who support abortion rights were heartened that Roeder confessed but disappointed he showed no remorse.

"I'm glad he confessed and admitted his crime," said Warren Hern, a Boulder, Colo., physician who provides abortion services, "and I hope that he has a sentence that reflects the horror of his crime."

Hern had known Tiller as a friend and colleague for years and recently saw his family at a memorial service during a National Abortion Federation meeting in Denver.

"It's a terrible loss," Hern said Monday. "I think this is the worst thing that's happened in the whole abortion controversy since the beginning."

Troy Newman, president of the Wichita-based anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, has condemned the killing and said he rejects Roeder's claim that it could be justified to prevent abortions.

Newman said he's aware of so-called "defensive action statements" that have been circulated for years, calling the killing of abortion providers justifiable homicide, but he strongly disagrees.

"It's not a pro-life position, whatever they're calling it," Newman said. "Anything that takes the life of a human being is not a pro-life action."

Newman said only a tiny fraction of abortion opponents believe it is justifiable to kill doctors.

"It's so small that statistically speaking, it's nonexistent," Newman said.

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