Yesterday, Scott Roeder — the anti-choice extremist who assassinated abortion provider and reproductive rights leader Dr. George Tiller last year — was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole for 50 years.
We’ve been waiting for the last year to hear this sentencing after the shock, devastation and fury over Dr. Tiller’s murder swept over the reproductive rights and justice movement. And now Roeder has finally been brought to justice, although he couldn’t go down without some self-martyrdom:
During the trial Roeder made lurid threats that God “will avenge every drop of innocent blood, ” and that God’s judgment against the US would “sweep over this land like a prairie wind.”
The judge opted to sentence Roeder to the “hard 50″ of 50 years without parole, rather than a lighter sentence of 25 years, because of evidence that Roeder had systematically stalked Dr Tiller before killing him.
Earlier, Roeder had attempted to turn the hearing into a platform for an anti-abortion diatribe, but was stopped by the judge, who said: “It is your opportunity to convince me you need a lesser sentence. It is not a soapbox for your political views.”
I don’t doubt that that anti-choice extremists will use this as an opportunity to further martyr Roeder as a hero, but more importantly, let’s not forget that the anti-choice movement has had a long history of inciting violence and terrorism; this sentencing is also a reminder that we must continue to support and protect the remaining abortion providers that choose to stay and fight for women’s health — like Dr. Leroy Carhart. Dr. Tiller’s family made a statement on the verdict:
This crime was cruel and heinous not only because it took our husband, father and grandfather; but because it was a hate crime committed against George – but also against all women and their constitutional rights.
We only can hope that this sentence will serve as a deterrent to those who have conspired and continue to conspire to murder abortion providers. Certainly everything possible should be done by the prison system to insure that this man does not continue to foment hatred and violence from his prison cell.
Dr Tiller’s story is being told every day in the lives of the women he helped. His legacy cannot be diminished by the act of a single terrorist.
I felt it appropriate to put this video that Physicians for Reproductive Health shared with us earlier this year, where Dr. Tiller talks about why he is an abortion provider. It still touches me, despite the many times I’ve seen it.
Also check out Rachel Maddow, who had a segment last night on the hearing, featuring an interview with Tiller’s colleague, Julie Berkhart.
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Dr. Tiller talks about why he is an abortion provider.
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Approximate video transcript after jump.
It’s not what’s out there that makes a difference, it’s what’s in here. It is what you want to do if you have an understanding that this is a matter of survival for women and you are interested in helping women survive, then this is for you. It is not for you, if it is not an inner calling, it just isn’t. It doesn’t work that way. It’s not the technical component, it’s not the intellectual stimulation, abortion services are a heart issue. It’s a heart issue, and if you have a willing heart to help women in catastrophic situations, you can be an abortion provider. You can qualify and have a satisfactory life. There are probably more physicians who get shot working in an emergency room than are abortion clinics. There are all sorts of dangers – postal workers, firemen, police officers. Everything has a risk to it. I would prefer, personally, to have a challenging, stimulating, emotionally and spritiually-rewarding career that is short, rather than have a long one that is filled with ho-hum, mundane mediocrity, feeling as if you don’t make any difference to people. You will make a difference in women’s lives… if making a significant difference in women’s lives is important to you, having a career as an abortion provider will be an emotionally gratifying and tremendously stimulating occupation for you. If it’s sort of something you select intellectually, it’ll turn to salt in your mouth really quick and you’ll be gone.