South Dakota Might Make it Legal to Kill Abortion Providers

For two elections in a row, the South Dakota legislature has tried unsuccessfully to ban abortions. Even so, it came as a shock to learn that the state legislature is considering a bill that would legalize killing abortion providers. That’s right: legalize killing abortion providers. I’ll pause for a moment to let that sink in.

House Bill 1171, sponsored by Republican Phil Jensen, would expand the definition of justifiable homicide to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus. But not just your own fetus; no, HB 1171 would allow anyone to kill in the name of protecting “the unborn child of that person’s spouse, partner, parent, or child.” So in theory, if you’re a pregnant woman that wants an abortion but your husband disagrees, he could kill your abortion provider and have that be considered justifiable homicide.

Jensen claims that he merely wants to ensure that the state’s criminal code is operating with consistency in regards to how fetal death is punished. Currently, South Dakota – along with a number of other states – allows for people to be charged with murder or manslaughter for committing crimes that result in the death of a fetus. But there’s a massive difference between counting a pregnant woman’s murder as two crimes, and saying that it’s okay to commit murder in the name of a fetus. [Read more...]

In Memorium: The Tiller Round Up

May 31st marks the anniversary of the murder of Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider from Kansas. Here are some of the many posts that have been written about Dr. Tiller here on Feminist For Choice, as well as across the pro-choice blogosphere.

George Tiller: A Man at the Front Lines – Feminists For Choice
Remembering Dr. Tiller – Feminists For Choice
Debating the Definition of Terrorism – Feminists For Choice
Not a Lone Wolf – Ms. Magazine
When a Lone Wolf is Not Alone – Daily Kos

It’s kind of ironic that this anniversary falls on Memorial Day this year, a day typically reserved for those who have been killed while serving in the military. I don’t want to militarize the discussion, but the fact of the matter is that abortion providers are literally on the front lines of a culture war. Doctors should have to risk their lives in order to provide medical care to women – it’s just ridiculous.

One Year Later

I remember exactly where I was when I found out that Dr. George Tiller had been murdered. I remember what I said to my husband, and I remember calling my parents and sister and sitting on my couch restlessly channel-surfing between CNN and MSNBC while refreshing the New York Times website on my laptop. I craved information, details, concrete words to attempt to make sense out of something so incredibly unreal. One year later, it still seems unreal.

The other night I was making dinner and thinking about how it’s been almost twelve months and I realized that this loss is too big and far-reaching to ever make sense. Dr. Tiller is gone. Say the words again: Dr. Tiller is gone. And think of the reason why: because he helped women and families. How can that ever make sense? It can’t, and it shouldn’t. I’ve been struggling to write this post, but honestly, the words are escaping me.

The death of Dr. Tiller has left such a huge hole that will never fully close, it hurts to even think about. My heart goes out to his family, to his staff, to all the women whose lives he saved. Dr. Tiller’s courage, his compassion, and his dedication to helping others is a constant inspiration to all of us in the pro-choice community to keep working, to keep fighting, and to never give up. [Read more...]

Remembering Dr. Tiller

Today is a good day.  Scott Roeder–the man who, in cold blood and with years of  premeditation–walked into a church and shot Dr. George Tiller in the head–was convicted of first degree murder charges. After only 37 minutes of deliberation, the jury in the case sent an unequivocal message:  there is no level of disagreement with someone that justifies killing them in cold blood.

Like many people, particularly people committed to ensuring that women have access to safe, legal abortion and family planning services, I am celebrating Mr. Roeder’s conviction and looking forward to the day when he is sentenced for his crimes.

But, even as I am thrilled with the outcome of his trial, I think Mr. Roeder is getting way too much attention today.  I am happy he was convicted but I am still mourning the loss of Dr. Tiller–a man who dedicated thirty years of his life to women’s health.  Despite having his clinic bombed, despite having been shot in both arms in 1993 (by another anti-choice zealot), Dr. Tiller continued his practice.  He chose not to let the daily threats, the attempts on his life, the violence with which his foes confronted him on a regular basis, deter him from providing LEGAL and necessary medical care.

[Read more...]

Roeder May Not Be Able to Use “Necessity” Defense

scott roederAttorneys for Scott Roeder, the man accused of killing Dr. George Tiller, may not be able to use the defense that Roeder acted “out of necessity.” According to the Associated Press:

[Roeder] told The Associated Press on Nov. 9 that he shot Tiller to protect unborn children and he planned to present a necessity defense at his trial. He also said one of his two public defenders, Mark Rudy, had given him the “green light” to talk to the media about it.

But the following day, lead defense attorney Steve Osburn told reporters the necessity defense did not exist in Kansas law and the defense team did not plan to present that strategy.

“We have explored that possibility,” Osburn said at the time. “That does not seem to be the approach that is viable, nor is it the approach we intend to use.”

A hearing is set for December 22nd to officially decide if a “necessity defense” may be introduced when Roeder actually goes to trial on January 11th. [Read more...]

Should Scott Roeder Face the Death Penalty?

scott roederLast week I reported that Scott Roeder, the man accused of killing Dr. George Tiller, could possibly use a “justifiable homicide” defense when he goes to trial later this month. Roeder has been charged with first-degree murder and aggravated assault in state court. Under Kansas law, murder is not a capital case unless the murder is committed in the process of committing another crime, or if the victim is a law enforcement office. Roeder is not going to face the death penalty when he goes to trial, which has angered some pro-choice activists. However, the question of whether or not he should be eligible for capital punishment is worth considering anyway.

Paul Hill, an anti-abortion wing nut who murdered Dr. Bayard Britton, an abortion provider in Florida, was executed by lethal injection in 1994. His execution, and the precedent that it sets for Scott Roeder, brings up a very important question for pro-choice advocates. Should people who are convicted of killing abortion providers face the death penalty?

I am personally opposed to the death penalty. I don’t think the state should be in the business of killing people, whether its in the form of military violence, police brutality, or executions. From a purely ethical standpoint, how can you punish someone for killing another person by killing them? It’s a moral contradiction. From a monetary standpoint, it costs lest to incarcerate a person for life than it does to kill them. So if you want to break it down to pure dollars and cents, go for the lifetime sentence. [Read more...]

Roeder May Claim “Justifiable Homicide” Defense

Scott RoederLawyers for Scott Roeder, the man accused of murdering Dr. George Tiller, have said that they might use a “justifiable homicide” defense when Roeder goes to trial. According to the Wichita Eagle:

Roeder has court-appointed defense attorneys, but he apparently has now turned to Michael Hirsh, the lawyer who represented Paul Hill on appeal for killing a Florida abortion provider and his bodyguard in 1994. Hill was executed in 2003 after the Florida Supreme Court rejected Hirsh’s argument that the judge should have allowed Hill to present to jurors his claim that the killings were justified to prevent abortions.

Hirsh confirmed he has spoken once to Roeder in recent weeks about representing him, but he has not yet been retained. Hirsh said he had not researched the facts of the case or Kansas law enough to know whether the justifiable homicide defense could be used but said a jury should be allowed to decide if it is applicable.

Scott Roeder’s actions were hardly “justifiable.” The idea of a “justifiable homicide” is laughable. Either you’re pro-life, or you’re not. Somebody who murders a man in church is not a hero, he’s a terrorist. The Wichita Eagle article speculates that it is unlikely that Roeder will be able to use the “justifiable homicide” defense, because nobody has ever been able to do so. And for good reason. Murder is murder, period.

15 Year Anniversary of FL Abortion Clinic Shooting

219Y-011-011Today marks the 15 year anniversary of the assassination of Dr. John Bayard Britton, a Florida abortion provider, and Britton’s his body guard James Herman Barrett. Dr. Britton and Mr. Barrett were murdered by Paul Hill, an anti-choice fanatic. According to a 1994 story in the Washington Post:

Britton, who authorities said had received numerous death threats for his work at The Ladies Center abortion clinic, was wearing a bulletproof vest after having just been picked up at the airport by the Barretts, of Pensacola.

It was the third shooting at a U.S. abortion clinic since March 1993, when David Gunn was fatally shot in the back as he arrived for work as a physician at another Pensacola clinic.

Hill, 40, who described himself as a former Presbyterian minister, had publicly advocated “justifiable homicide” against doctors who perform abortions and had led demonstrations at the clinic every Friday for more than a year, police and abortion rights activists said.

[Read more...]

Scott Roeder Begins Criminal Proceedings

roeder540Scott Roeder, the man accused of killing Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, began criminal proceedings yesterday. According to the New York Times:

Dr. George R. Tiller was standing beside a refreshment table inside his church, discussing his fondness for doughnuts, when a man walked up, pressed a gun against the doctor’s head and fired, a fellow church member recalled on Tuesday . . .

On Tuesday, Mr. Roeder, wearing a jacket, tie and leg shackles, sat in the courtroom, appearing to listen closely to the testimony against him and jotting notes at times. Tuesday’s testimony suggested that Mr. Roeder, a vocal opponent of abortion, had been to the church several times before, including on the Sunday before the shooting, and that ushers and others had taken note of him as someone who was not a member. On that earlier Sunday, Mr. Hoepner said, Mr. Roeder had placed a written note (with some reference to taxes, which Mr. Roeder has also told friends he opposes) in the collection plate . . . [Read more...]

The Anti-Choice Movement Is Not “Pro-Life”

roeder540This week’s murder of Dr. George Tiller is a tragic reminder that the extreme right wing vigilantes who call themselves “pro-life” are anything but that. Scott Roeder was arrested on Monday in Kansas for shooting and killing Dr. Tiller while Tiller was at church. Roeder was also charged with aggravated assault for injuring two people who attempted to defend Dr. Tiller. If Roeder is “pro-life,” then we are living in bizarro world.

Other abortion providers are likely to become the victims of domestic terrorism. NPR provided some excellent coverage of this on Tuesday’s All Things Considered.

Dr. Warren Hern says he has been getting threats for decades. Hern and Tiller were friends, and like Tiller, Hern performs third-trimester abortions.

“I think there has never been a time it has stopped, but just because things seemed a little quiet never meant to me that we were out of danger,” Hern says. “They are just waiting for the right opportunity. . .” [Read more...]