Scott Roeder, the man convicted in 2010 of the premeditated first-degree murder of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, had his prison sentence lightened last week from the prosecutor’s requested 50 years to 25 years served before eligibility for parole.
Roeder’s was one of many sentences vacated after the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that only juries, not judges, could hand down increased punishments to convicted offenders. His re-sentencing hearing was set to take place today, but prosecutors reached the new deal after consulting with Tiller’s family and examining Roeder’s health and realistic life expectancy.
Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed in the foyer of his Wichita church by Scott Roeder in 2009 after undergoing decades of harassment and threats from anti-abortion extremists, including the 1991 Summer of Mercy, a six-week long protest led by the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, during which nearly 2,700 extremists were arrested for blockading the doors to his clinic. He was one of only a few doctors in the United States who was willing to perform late-term abortions.
A few years after Dr. Tiller’s murder, his mentee, Julie Burkhart, reopened his Wichita clinic under the name Trust Women South Wind Women’s Center. This summer, with the help of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Clinic Access Project (NCAP), Burkhart kept the doors to her Wichita clinic open in the face of hundreds of anti-abortion extremists who flocked there from across the country to recreate the 1991 “Summer of Mercy.”
A statement released by Burkhart last week reads, “There is not a day at our clinics that we don’t remember Dr. Tiller and his dedication to women.” She continued, “Dr. Tiller’s assassination most certainly left a hole in the reproductive rights movement, but we remain committed to this critical work in his honor and memory.” In September, Trust Women South Wind opened a new clinic in Oklahoma City, the largest metropolitan area in the country previously without an abortion provider.
Threats, vandalism and acts of violence against abortion providers, which was already high, has increased in the last year following the 2015 release of fraudulent videos by the so-called Center for Medical Progress (CMP), an anti-abortion group that falsely accused Planned Parenthood of illegally selling fetal tissue.
Last month, a Missouri man was sentenced to 63 months in jail and ordered to pay a restitution of $700,000 for setting fire to a local mosque and attempting to burn down the town’s Planned Parenthood clinic twice, a violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrance (FACE) Act, which makes it a federal crime to intentionally damage a reproductive health clinic because of the services offered there.
Also in October, a Maryland man plead guilty to vandalizing a women’s healthcare facility by spray painting “Baby Killer,” “Kill Baby Here,” and other comments on a Baltimore clinic in what he admitted was an attempt to intimidate women from accessing reproductive healthcare services.