Dr. George Tiller Didn't Have to Die

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George Tiller did not have to die. He was assassinated while in church in Wichita, Kan., on Sunday, targeted for legally performing abortions. His death might have been prevented simply through enforcement of existing laws. His alleged killer was seen vandalizing a Kansas City clinic, Aid for Women, both the week before and the day before the murder, putting glue into its door locks. The manager of that clinic, who calls himself "Jeff Pederson" to protect his identity, told me he called the FBI and local police both times, but the vandal, the alleged killer Scott Roeder, was not arrested. Pederson had Roeder's first name and his license-plate number. He had images of him on the security video. He recognized him from previous protests.

Pederson said: "The clinic was closed on Memorial Day weekend. A worker tried to get in on Memorial Day but couldn't. The locks were Super-Glued. I went to the videotape and I saw the same guy on the videotape who had done it in 2000." Pederson called his contact at the FBI, agent Mark Colburn. "He [Colburn] said the videotape wouldn't be clear enough, and since I had touched the locks, I had ruined it with my DNA. So I bought new color video cameras."

On Saturday, May 30, the clinic manager said "Scott" struck again: "My head nurse calls me, 5:40 Saturday morning. She had come to prep for the patients. When she was coming back from the store she noticed the Taurus [Roeder's car]. She made her way to the back door. She saw him. He saw her and bolted. She followed him to his car and started talking to him.

"He tried to stand in front of the license plate, but she got it, 225 BAB. As she ran back to the clinic, he shouted 'Baby killer!' at her."

Pederson called Colburn, reporting the second vandalism and letting him know he had better video. Pederson said Colburn told him, "The Johnson County prosecutor won't do anything until the grand jury convenes." The next day, Tiller was murdered, allegedly by Roeder.

I called the Kansas City FBI and reached Colburn. He immediately referred me to FBI spokesperson Bridget Patton. I asked her about the incidents at the clinic and why the suspect hadn't been arrested either time. She said: "I am not sure of the timeline, but whenever an act of vandalism occurs at an abortion clinic, we are notified of that vandalism and respond appropriately."

Tiller's medical practice, which included performing late-term abortions, drew rage, protests and attacks during the decades of his career. His clinic was bombed in the mid-1980s. He survived an assassination attempt in 1993, when he suffered gunshot wounds to each of his arms. Bill O'Reilly on Fox News Channel demonized him as "Tiller the Baby Killer." He was the target of a political prosecution by a former Kansas attorney general, Phill Kline, and was acquitted just months ago on misdemeanor charges that he violated state rules on providing abortions.

Roeder was picked up shortly after the shooting Sunday in his Ford Taurus. On Tuesday, he was charged with first-degree murder.

I asked Pederson if he thought Tiller's murder could have been prevented if the authorities had simply arrested Roeder after he vandalized the Kansas City clinic. Pederson paused. "I don't know," he said.

But Dr. Susan Robinson was adamant. She flies to Wichita every month to perform abortions in Tiller's clinic. She said, "It is generally regarded amongst those who do clinic security, if local authorities are not responsive, if they don't show up or they don't vigilantly enforce the law, that it encourages the anti-abortion people to push it further and further."

She said: "In Wichita, Dr. Tiller was constantly dealing with the same lack of enforcement. Wichita prohibits placing signs on city property. But they allow the anti-abortion protesters to set up dozens of crosses and leave them all day. Dr. Tiller went to the city attorney over the crosses, and complained that people block the clinic driveway. He told me that the city attorney said, 'I would rather be sued by George Tiller than the anti-abortion folks.' "

The 1994 federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) makes it a crime to block or damage a reproductive health service facility.

Enforcing FACE saves lives. George Tiller will be buried on Saturday.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback.

© 2009 Amy Goodman

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I think this shows a great lesson for all of us. Many people have learned the lesson that the police cannot protect you until a crime has happened to you. The Supreme Court has ruled that the police have no liability if they are unable to protect you.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 10:25 PM on 06/08/2009

Sometimes the best protection you can have is to live in a nice neighborhood..lock your car and if necessary, install an alarm system

But you are right, there is a "Threshold" that must be reached before your local police can do anything.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 11:40 PM on 06/08/2009

Of COURSE he did not have to die ~ the headline of this article is a bit absurd and, to me, trivializees the issue.

But to the main topic ~ I have spent many years wishing that someone would PLEASE explain the truth about late-term abortions to the whack-jobs ~ women do NOT get these procedures done because they simply decide late in the game not to have a baby! And that's not even to address the inexcusable past murders of more mainstream termination providers.

Now that Obama has so eloquently addressed the sensitive Mideast divisions that have racked the world for centuries, maybe he can some up with an analogous speech on this equally divisive issue. We need someone to bring sanity to the debate.

As Joseph Welch challenged Sen. McCarthy in 1954, I ask those who take their anti-choice beliefs far too far, I ask, "Have you no sense of decency, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 06:19 PM on 06/08/2009

Exactly. Why does the twisted and inaccurate fairy-tale that the extreme pro-coathanger groups are so effectively pushing get to be the ONLY story they hear?

What are our pro-choice groups doing wrong in that we have not gotten the truth and a clear picture of who really are the patients and what the majority of circumstances are that make up the cases of late-term abortions? Also, why do they get to define what partial-birth abortion is? First calling it partial-birth is entirely a strategy on their part.

Why can't we get the real truth out there?

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 07:27 PM on 06/08/2009

Don't you think that was just a "bit" over the top? I mean stalking the man into church on a Sunday,duing services and pointing a gun and shooting and killing him?

Most of us don't do that right?

The fact is that Scott Roeder was a severely mentally ill person who should have been in a mental hospital. He had the classic symptoms..."Personality Change" Obsession. He had even been violent in the past and had been found to have bomb making equipment in his car , not to mention the fact he was anti tax and anti governent.

Now, maybe I might listen to you when you start to realize that there are folks this sick out there ok?

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 10:29 PM on 06/08/2009

It is my humble opinion that these laws were probably enforced laxly because of the political pressure anti-choice activists brought to bear on local authorities. After all, they were able to bring Dr. Tiller to trial on trumped-up charges of improper referrals. Cowardice led to murder.

Thanks for your article Amy, I read it before on Democracy Now! but it's good to see your byline over at the Huff, I daresay they need more like you around here.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 04:35 PM on 06/08/2009

Thank you for your work, Ms. Goodman. Please don't ever stop.

I am so fed up with these laws not being enforced. I wonder what the GOP percentage is among those in uniform. I do know that a high percentage, relatively speaking, of those in uniform perpetrate acts of domestic violence.

Have also noticed that most serial killers seem to be members of the GOP (such as Ted Bundy, Charles Manson and Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer and oh yeah - BTK, too).

Coincidence? Have fun, trolls.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 03:14 PM on 06/08/2009

Nice Monday morning quarterbacking. It's a big leap from vandalism to murder.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 03:11 PM on 06/08/2009

What the he-doublehockeysticks are you talking about? The guy broke the law, was not arrested, then carried out a plan to murder a doctor. To your point, its obviously NOT a big leap from vandalism to murder, since the SAME person accomplished that leap in ONE DAY.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 03:59 PM on 06/08/2009

Obviously the concept of statistical significance is hard for you to comprehend. Would you feel better if it had been jay walking instead?

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 04:59 PM on 06/08/2009

Roeder didn't have any trouble making that leap.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 04:12 PM on 06/08/2009

So, you want law enforcement to start operating under the premise of the worst case scenario for every crime that is reported? Perhaps the FBI should haul in anyone who drops a banana peel on the sidewalk around the White House?

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 05:59 PM on 06/08/2009

If the FBI or the police had arrested him for vandalism, he would not have been able to kill someone.
Unless you think he had a contingency plan to break out of jail...

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 04:23 PM on 06/08/2009

It's highly unlikely that he would have remained in jail on a vandalism charge.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 05:00 PM on 06/08/2009

Reading comprehension problems, eh? Let me break it down for you: the point of the article is not that anyone who vandalizes an abortion clinic is about to become a murderer.

The point of the article is that vandalizing an abortion clinic is against the law, and if authorities had acted properly to enforce this law, they could have prevented a murder.

Simple enough now? Or does the ringing of the cognitive dissonance in your head make it impossible to hear for the moment?

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 04:29 PM on 06/08/2009

Littering is against the law, too. If we find evidence that he was spotted littering before the murder, but then let go by the police, shall we blame law enforcement for that as well?

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 05:54 PM on 06/08/2009

It's not a big leap that your saying this is connected to your far right opinions.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 08:17 PM on 06/08/2009

If you are counting on the FBI to protect you then you might not have to die but you're gonna die. I can't decide on whether the FBI is another raging Christianist governmental agency like the military, or another incompetetent bunch of political lackys like the SEC, FEMA, DOJ, EPA and the rest of our GOP tainted government. Either way, they protect, you die. Unless of course one of their 'undercover' agents sets you up to be a terrorist mastermind ala Dr. Evil. Geeze, is this a great country or what???

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 02:01 PM on 06/08/2009

Thank you Amy Goodman for your thorough honest fact finding reporting day after day. We need more journalist like you..

Dr. George Tiller was not only a compassionate caring doctor but he was a Martin Luther King for Women and W omen's rights. He saved so many of their lives. It's sad this country doesn't know more about this kind of human being. And even sadder that main stream media is allowed to propagandize such lies and hate like O'Reily's do.

It is time America knew!

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 01:57 PM on 06/08/2009

Enforcement of existing laws...you mean like our immigration laws too...?

How about enforcing the law against torture, or even that old thing we used to call the Constitution..?

Until we complete purge The Justice Dept. of the Federalist Society and other zealot sycophants such as those who attended Pat Robertson's Talmudic Sanhedrin School...of Law and Torture we really don't have a Justice Dept...!

Also everyone should know that attending a church in America is incredibly dangerous, due to all the regular gun play in them...!

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 01:31 PM on 06/08/2009

Amy, Thanks so much for your collumn here. It's quite apparent that not enough is being mentioned that it's never been Dr. Tiller's intent on stopping pregnancies, but rather saving the mother from such awful consequences as a braindead child, or a fetus that has developed abnormally, in the great majority of his cases. This is why his clinic was so important.
The opposition occupies what they believe is a moral high-ground based on the fact that they mention Dr. Tiller as a a doc who just wants to kill as many babies as he can, which is absolutely untrue and wrong on the face of it.

Amy, please visit us here with your comments more often. It's such a joy to hear from you

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 01:22 PM on 06/08/2009

Thank you! The information about the reasons for the abortions that Dr. Tiller performed can not be mentioned enough. Thanks to the misinformation that has been spread about his practice, there are too many people who simply do not understand that his procedures all had very serious and valid medical reasons.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 01:45 PM on 06/08/2009

Please point me to the documentation that provides the data on reasons for late term abortions.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 03:13 PM on 06/08/2009

No woman's life should be scarred by having to bring a teratogenic fetus to term; raising physiologically/anatomically ordinary children is difficult enough, and the Third World is bursting its seams with a surfeit of 'babies.'

Any so-called PRO-LIFE(???) activities more agressive than quiet leafletting should be BANNED!

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 03:40 PM on 06/08/2009

Shall we extend those same limitations to war protestors? union protestors? or anyone else trying to make a difference using their free speech rights? And what exactly do you mean by "BANNED"? Are you advocating some kind of gulag for pro-lifers who are not willing to be restricted by your proposed "quiet" rule?

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 05:51 PM on 06/08/2009

Amy Goodman,

I hope to see your byline more often on HuffPo. Please support the single-payer health care initiative. You can use your bully pulpit so well, and this is one cause that needs every influential spokesperson on board NOW.

Thank you for all you do, day in and day out on DemocracyNow!

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 01:14 PM on 06/08/2009

Thank you, Amy, for probing and exposing this as you do on so many other issues.
Few dare to go where you do.
You're a treasure.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 12:45 PM on 06/08/2009

I listen to Amy nearly every morning, and I agree she is a national treasure. But Rachel Maddow has been making the same point and had this "Pederson" on her show last week, he said the same things there that Amy quotes him as saying here. So there are others who are pursuing this story angle. It is clear that the FBI screwed the pooch on this one. Whether intentionally or just out of incompetence is still open to speculation but they certain;y didn't do the right thing here and arrest Roeder. If he had been vandalizing a bank they would have arrested him that day. They wouldn't have needed to talk about a "grand jury." What is unclear is whether they could have held him after they arrested him or if he would have been bailed out right away. but it might have also been interesting to see who put up his bail when he was arrested. He may have still killed Tiller but the conspiracy surrounding the death might have been more clearly revealed.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 12:59 PM on 06/08/2009

Yes, I know Rachel has been on it too and I appreciate her and the others who are keeping this front and center.
By thanking Amy Goodman, I certainly didn't mean to invalidate or ignore the others who are doing great work, and Rachel Maddow, of course, is in that category.

Thanks to all of them!

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 01:31 PM on 06/08/2009

It is indeed an outrage that had laws been enforced, this might not have happened.

I'm also very disappointed In President Obama's statement (or lack thereof).
No condolences to the family, no assurances that this will not be allowed to happen again - just a political kind of preachy statement:

"I am shocked and outraged by the murder of Dr. George Tiller as he attended church services this morning. However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence."



    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 12:41 PM on 06/08/2009

I agree with you. I was very disappointed by Obama's lack of empathy for the family of Dr. Tiller, and annoyed that he didn't use it as an opportunity to morally balance the country, support women by saying he was behind a woman's constitutional right to choose. Way too quiet from those quarters.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 12:56 PM on 06/08/2009

I thought that the president's comment was spot on. Expressions of sympathy mean most when handled in a personal way, I am sure that he and Michelle addressed that privately.
He speaks directly to the culprit(s) here. That is far more courageous than saying "sorry" to the family. Outrage is the perfect word to describe the situation.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 01:58 PM on 06/08/2009

Don't you dare attack Obama for something with which he had nothing to do. He's doing a great job and has a lot on his plate, with putting this country back together after the debacle of the Bush Administration..

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 01:30 PM on 06/08/2009

Are you furreal or is this spoofy satire?

A critique is not an *attack*.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 01:45 PM on 06/08/2009

Are you kidding me? I have the right to say whatever I want about him. And don't give me that baloney that he has a lot on his plate. He failed to show his support. Period.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 01:46 PM on 06/08/2009

The concepts of terminating a pregnancy and of murdering doctors who do that are really painful to ponder. That pain evokes a desire to take action. What action can one take in the face of pain like this?
I've found that transmuting anger into something positive can lead me into being empowered to do good for the community. Other forms of action just perpetuate the cycle of pain. Tough one, that.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 11:46 AM on 06/08/2009

Good point!

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 01:30 PM on 06/08/2009

I agree...
If you really want to reduce abortions, volunteering your time to provide child care for poor women would do far more than protesting outside clinics. Of course, that is an act of love, not hate, so I am not sure you could get a conservitive to do it...

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 04:30 PM on 06/08/2009

My post above was supposed to have posted as a comment to Michaleenflyn below. Very sorry for the posting error here.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 11:43 AM on 06/08/2009

All the states that used to be "slave states" like Kansas should be allowed to secede from the union and write whatever crazy laws they want. They should be referred to in the future as "Bibleland".

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 11:28 AM on 06/08/2009

That's constructive.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 11:55 AM on 06/08/2009

Ummm....Kansas was a free state as late as 1861, so I am assuming it was never a slave state.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 12:01 PM on 06/08/2009

Sort of. Kansas was the site of riots and bloody fights as to whether it should be slave or free. In fact, there were state Constitutions drafted for BOTH, but eventually Congress took only the free state Constitution.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 12:48 PM on 06/08/2009

Kansas was never a slave state . . . History people. History.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 01:46 PM on 06/08/2009
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