WICHITA, Kan. – Defiant and unapologetic, a man accused of shooting a Kansas abortion provider confessed to the murder Monday, telling The Associated Press that he killed the doctor to protect unborn children.
Scott Roeder, 51, of Kansas City, Missouri, spoke to the AP in a telephone call from jail, saying he plans to argue at his trial that he was justified in shooting Dr. George Tiller.
"Because of the fact preborn children's lives were in imminent danger this was the action I chose. ... I want to make sure that the focus is, of course, obviously on the preborn children and the necessity to defend them," Roeder said.
"Defending innocent life — that is what prompted me. I mean, it is pretty simple," he said.
Roeder is charged with one count of first-degree murder in Tiller's death and two counts of aggravated assault for allegedly threatening two ushers who tried to stop him during the May 31 melee in the foyer of the doctor's Wichita church. Roeder has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go to trial in January.
Tiller family attorney Lee Thompson and groups that support abortion rights decried Roeder as a terrorist who used violence to achieve his political agenda.
"It is precisely this unrepentant domestic terrorism — and those who fund it — that must be stopped or else we will see more clinic violence and people will be killed," the president of the National Organization for Women, Terry O'Neill, said in a statement.
Thompson has said allowing Roeder to use a so-called necessity defense would "invite chaos and be tantamount to anarchy." Courts have prevented others accused of killing abortion providers from using the same argument.
"It is my view legally that it is an absurdity and simply reflects he is doing nothing more than trying to get publicity," Thompson said Monday.
Troy Newman, president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, said Roeder's statements do not reflect the sentiments of most people who oppose abortion.
"The pro-life standard has always been to protect the dignity of human life, all human life, from the moment of conception until natural death," Newman said.
In his more than 30-minute interview with the AP, Roeder did not apologize for the slaying.
"No, I don't have any regrets because I have been told so far at least four women have changed their minds, that I know of, and have chosen to have the baby," Roeder said. "So even if one changed her mind it would be worth it. No, I don't have any regrets."
Asked if he would do it over again, Roeder replied: "We all have a sense of duty and obligation to protect innocent life. If anybody is in a situation where they can, I think it is their obligation."
Tiller, 67, had been the target of relentless protests for most of the 36 years that he performed abortions at his Wichita clinic, where he practiced as one of the few providers of late-term abortions in the U.S. He was shot in both arms in 1993 and his clinic was bombed in 1986.
Roeder's confession came on the same day several strident abortion opponents released their "Defensive Action Statement 3rd Edition" that proclaims any force that can be used to defend the life of a "born child is legitimate to defend the life of an unborn child." The statement's 21 signers demand Roeder's jurors be allowed to consider the "question of when life begins" in deciding whether lethal force was justified.
Among the signers are Eric Rudolph, James Kopp and Shelley Shannon — all serving prison time for targeting abortion providers.
One signer, New Jersey anti-abortion activist Joe Provone, said Kopp, Rudolph and Roeder are "worthy of admiration, gratitude and respect."
"Not everyone possesses their courage or ability as we are all endowed by our God with different gifts and talents," Provone wrote in an e-mail to AP. "Please rest assured I will continue to protest the killing of the unborn in the way I deem appropriate given my own self-appraisal."