- (Photo: AP Images / Jeff Tuttle, Pool)
Scott Roeder on Thursday admitted before a jury to shooting and killing a late-term abortion doctor.
He justified his action, stating that he needed to protect the children.
“There was nothing being done, and the legal process had been exhausted, and these babies were dying every day," said Roeder, the defense's only witness, according to The Kansas City Star.
"If I didn't do it the babies were going to die the next day."
The Kansas City native considers abortion – "from conception forward," as he defined it murder. He had been thinking about killing Dr. George Tiller, who was one of the few late-term abortion practitioners in the country, for more than a decade.
"It is not man's job to take life. It is our Heavenly Father's," Roeder, 51, said. "He gives and takes life."
Though Roeder describes himself as a born-again Christian, several prominent Christians have come out since the May 31, 2009, murder condemning the violent act. While Tiller was the target of many pro-life protests, most groups do not justify his killing.
"[V]iolence in the name of protesting abortion is immoral, unjustified, and horribly harmful to the pro-life cause," Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., a preeminent evangelical, said at the time of the murder. "The horror of abortion cannot be rightly confronted, much less corrected, by means of violence and acts outside the law and lawful means of remedy."
Following the murder, pro-life organization Operation Rescue released a pledge to engage only in "peaceful" protests "free of any actions or words that would appear violent or hateful" – principles that the organization say are "Christ-centered."
In his defense, Roeder was seeking to convince jurors to convict him of voluntary manslaughter, which is defined as "an unreasonable but honest belief that deadly force was justified," and carries a less severe penalty than murder.
Defense attorney Steve Osburn argued, "He killed Dr. Tiller because that was the only way to save the lives of the unborn. These were honestly held beliefs and he had no choice."
But Sedgwick County, Kan., District Judge Warren Wilbert ruled Thursday that jurors will not be allowed to consider the less serious charge.
Jurors are hearing closing arguments Friday.
Roeder is charged with premeditated, first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault for threatening two ushers who tried to stop him after the shooting. He has pleaded not guilty.
The shooting took place at Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, where Tiller worshipped. Roeder had visited the church the previous evening, the week before the murder as well as in 2008 but Tiller was not present on those three occasions.