After just 37 minutes of deliberation, a Kansas jury found Roeder, 51, guilty of premeditated, first-degree murder for killing abortion provider Dr. George Tiller on May 31.
During the trial Roeder testified that, “There was nothing being done, and the legal process had been exhausted, and these babies were dying every day. I felt that if someone did not do something, he was going to continue.” Judge Warren Wilbert ruled out a voluntary manslaughter defense, which would have been based on the belief that Roeder thought his actions were justified. Still, defense attorney Mark Rudy told the jury, “No defendant should ever be convicted based on his convictions.”
Roeder was also convicted of two counts of aggravated assault for threatening ushers at Tiller’s church after the murder. He will receive a mandatory life sentence, with the possibility of parole in 25 years, though prosecutor Nola Foulston says she will push for a “Hard 50” sentence, requiring Roeder to first serve 50 years before parole. Roeder may also be indicted on federal charges.
NARAL Pro-Choice America released a statement reading, in part,
Our thoughts are with Dr. Tiller’s family and friends. Even though this conviction brings a murderer to justice, it won’t replace the husband, father, and grandfather they lost last May. […] We also call on opponents of a woman’s right to choose to end the practice of inflammatory rhetoric and tactics that inspire this kind of violent action from the most extreme factions of the anti-choice movement. No other abortion provider’s family should have to endure the tragedy of seeing their loved one killed for providing an essential and legal health service to women.
With Dr. Tiller still dead and abortion providers living in fear, I’m hard-pressed to celebrate this decision. However, I am truly thankful the jury decided as they did.
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As Julia mentioned, today is the Fifth Annual Blog For Choice Day and we’ve been given the task of answering “What does ‘Trust Women’ mean to you?”
Here’s my go at it-
As I reflect on the meaning of Dr. Tiller’s favorite slogan on this 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it occurs to me that this is not about abortion. It was never was about abortion. It never will be about abortion. What we are fighting for– and what Dr. Tiller simply, silently, and courageously requested through the pin on his lapel–was choice, freedom, autonomy, equality, trust.
Our nation, one made by and for adult citizens, has become one imagined only for fetuses and children, where a mass cultural fixation has turned women into children and babies into citizens. All citizens are not created equal and our rights are not freely granted. This is evident in the legislation that forces women to view ultrasound images, get consent from a parent or spouse, or wait twenty-four hours after having traveled hundreds of miles before they may terminate their pregnancy. This can be seen in the ability of pharmacists to deny a woman her birth control. This is obvious in the literature of Crisis Pregnancy Centers and pro-life organizations which falsely and frighteningly suggests that women are more likely to contemplate suicide after having an abortion. It is clear in the prevailing attitudes, practices, and policies make clear that women are not, and should not be, responsible for themselves.
But to trust women and their ability to decide what they want with their bodies is not a simple matter if more choices do not exist. Beyond abortion, we need the opportunity to educate, to provide safe homes and communities, to access health care, to have affordable childcare, to see family planning or STD clinics, and to receive equal pay for equal work.
We must not only trust women to make decisions but we must also afford them with the opportunities to do so. I trust women to make the decision that they feel is best for themselves, their families, and their lives, but that decision can only be a real decision when choices exist.
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