Abortion doctor killer faces sentencing amid debate

By Carey Gillam

KANSAS CITY (BestGrowthStock) – The sentencing on Thursday of an anti-abortion activist who gunned down a Kansas doctor comes amid a bitter U.S. debate over abortion that nearly derailed landmark healthcare reform legislation last month and is expected to remain a factor in U.S. midterm elections.

Scott Roeder faces a minimum mandatory life sentence after his first-degree murder conviction for shooting to death one of the nation’s few late-term abortion providers.

The 52-year-old Kansas City man’s killing of Wichita doctor George Tiller last May has been a rallying point for both abortion opponents and abortion rights supporters. His sentencing comes as both sides are grappling with how to strengthen their positions politically after the heated healthcare debate.

“It is going to be a major issue in the elections. It will certainly be,” said National Right to Life Committee executive director David O’Steen. “And it is going to be a major issue in the legislatures.”

New abortion-related laws are pending in several states including in Kansas and Nebraska, where lawmakers on Tuesday passed bills aimed at limiting late-term abortions, generally considered procedures occurring after 20 weeks of gestation.

The moves come after the U.S. Congress narrowly passed sweeping healthcare legislation late last month only after including last-minute concessions to abortion opponents in the U.S. House of Representatives. Those opponents have been vilified by anti-abortion advocates by threats and protests.

“These events reveal just how deep-seated the debate over abortion is in American politics,” said John Green, senior fellow with the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Center for Reproductive Rights president Nancy Northup said Tiller’s murder was a “stunning reminder” of the lengths abortion opponents will go to, coupled with the moves in Washington and the states.

“The last year has been a harrowing one for those who support abortion rights,” Northup said. “This will continue to be a major political issue.”

Roeder’s sentencing is to get under way Thursday morning. Prosecutors have asked the judge to require Roeder to serve at least 50 years before being eligible for parole. But supporters who say the doctor’s death saved unborn babies want leniency.

“I believe the American people are finally waking up that when a woman has an abortion she is killing her unborn child,” said anti-abortion activist Donald Spitz. “This is causing the pendulum to swing back to saving the lives of the unborn instead of snuffing them out.”

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(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Abortion doctor killer faces sentencing amid debate