UPDATE 2-Killer of U.S. abortion doctor gets life in prison

* Doctor’s family lawyer calls murder “domestic terrorism”

* Convicted murderer says he killed to stop abortions

* Abortion seen as key issue in congressional elections
(Adds sentencing outcome, quotes, details)

By Carey Gillam

KANSAS CITY, April 1 (BestGrowthStock) – An anti-abortion activist
who murdered one of America’s few late-term abortion providers
was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday in a case that
galvanized both sides of the bitter U.S. debate over abortion.

Sedgwick County District Judge Warren Wilbert said
52-year-old Scott Roeder would serve a minimum mandatory life
sentence without the possibility of parole for at least 50
years.

Roeder was convicted in January of first-degree murder and
aggravated assault after shooting dead Wichita-based abortion
provider George Tiller last May. Roeder shot Tiller in the face
as the doctor attended Sunday church services.

Tiller was one of a few U.S. doctors who performed
late-term abortions, and Roeder admitted stalking him for
months.

In the years before he was murdered, Tiller had been
wounded by a gunshot, assaulted, and anti-abortion activists
protested outside his home.

At the sentencing, Tiller family lawyer Lee Thompson called
the murder an act of “domestic terrorism,” and said the
doctor’s belief in women’s rights had led him to continue his
practice despite the constant threat of violence.

“He respected and trusted the right of women to make their
own decisions,” said Thompson. “He was committed to it. He gave
his life to the rights of women.”

Roeder saw himself as a foot soldier in a war against
abortion and said he felt compelled to kill Tiller.

“It is no secret George Tiller killed unborn children for a
living. I stopped him so he could not kill again,” Roeder said
in a statement he read to the court. “It was the most agonizing
and most stressful decision I’ve ever had to make.”

RALLYING POINT

Tiller’s killing has been a rallying point for both
abortion opponents and abortion rights supporters.

Both sides want to boost their position before November’s
congressional elections after a bruising battle over healthcare
reform in Washington.

Anti-abortion Democrats voted for the legislation only
after President Barack Obama agreed to sign an executive order
reinforcing an existing ban on federal funding for abortions.

“(Abortion) is going to be a major issue in the elections,”
said David O’Steen, director of an anti-abortion group called
the National Right to Life Committee.

New abortion-related laws are pending in several states
including in Kansas and Nebraska, where lawmakers voted on
Tuesday to limit late-term abortions, which are generally
considered procedures occurring after 20 weeks of gestation.

“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.

Abortion rights in the United States have been set back by
Tiller’s murder and legal proposals at the state and federal
levels, said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for
Reproductive Rights.

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

Supporters of Roeder had hoped for leniency at his
sentencing. “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.

It is just that kind of rhetoric that encourages the type
of violence that killed Tiller, said Suzanne Poppema board
chair of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health.

“The very language the anti-abortion movement uses
encourages violence,” said Poppema, a family doctor.
“Anti-abortion activists must own the consequences of calling
abortion doctors murderers … and of talking about the ‘war’
they’re allegedly fighting.”

Investment Analysis
(Reporting by Carey Gillam; editing by Chris Wilson)

UPDATE 2-Killer of U.S. abortion doctor gets life in prison