Roeder's crime carried a mandatory life sentence, but Judge Warren Wilbert could have decided to make Roeder eligible for parole in 25 years. Instead, he agreed with prosecutors that aggravating circumstances like Roeder's stalking of Tiller (Tiller's wife, Jeanne, is pictured above) and the fact that the murder took place in Tiller's church justified a "hard 50" sentence. Now, as Drew Grant of Mediaite says, "the 52-year old former airport driver will most likely die in prison." Also, writes Salon's Lynn Harris, "Throwing the book at Roeder sends the clearest possible message that nothing — not even his stated belief that his actions prevented the "murder" of millions more — mitigates his crime."
Roeder has, however, achieved two victories of a sort. As the AP points out, he was able to use his sentencing hearing to do something he couldn't do at trial — talk at length about abortion. He spoke for 40 minutes before the judge finally cut him off, giving detailed descriptions of abortion and telling the court, "If you were to obey the higher power of God himself, you would acquit me." In a final bit of theater, he shouted "Blood of babies on your hands" as he was being led away.
Roeder's more substantive, and more disturbing victory, is this: it's now impossible to get a late-term abortion in Kansas. And only three remaining clinics in the state — all around Kansas City — offer abortion at all. Just as Roeder's sentencing won't restore Dr. Tiller to his family, it won't bring women's reproductive rights back to a state — or a country — where they're now at risk. As Carey Gillam of Reuters notes, Roeder's crime and subsequent trial have brought the issue of abortion back to the fore. All those who support women's right to choose now must work to help them freely exercise that right, and to ensure that the clinicians who provide abortions can do so in the safety they deserve. Roeder's sentencing is a victory for supporters of abortion rights, but the very fact of his crime — and the numbers of pro-life advocates who spoke out in favor of it — show that these rights are far from secure.
Doctor's Killer Sentenced To Life In Prison [CNN]
Abortion Doctor Killer Scott Roeder Speaks At Sentencing [Mediaite]
Killer Of Abortion Doctor Gets Life In Prison [Reuters]
Scott Roeder's Life Sentence: What It Means [Salon]
Abortion Doc Killer Sentenced To "Hard 50" [CBS/AP]
Abortion Doc's Killer Gets Life Sentence [MSNBC via AP]