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George Tiller's Murder Is Our Fault

By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog.

Kansas obstetrician George Tiller's murder this past weekend has lifted the cover off the netherworld of violent, antiabortion extremism. The proliferation of antiabortion violence, which I blogged about on Monday, is a very, very scary development in U.S. history. It is a form of domestic terrorism that merits more state and federal investigation so would-be perpetrators can be stopped before they kill:

Washington - Analysts who study American extremism are pointing to a 1996 arrest report that, they say, links the leading suspect in the murder of Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller to some of the most zealous antigovernment groups in the United States.

Law enforcement officials currently have in custody Scott Philip Roeder of Merriam, Kan., age 51. Thirteen years ago, someone named Scott Roeder, 38, was arrested in Topeka, Kan., and charged with criminal use of explosives after police found fuse cord and a pound of gunpowder in his car trunk.

He also had a homemade license plate on his car proclaiming he was immune from Kansas law - a type of tag that's been associated with the Freemen organization, which rejects the authority of the US government. Freemen in Montana were involved in an 81-day standoff with US marshals in 1996 after they tried to set up their own system of government.

Some extremist groups operate underground as well as above. This report tells the story of one Colorado militant antiabortion group that gained enough above-ground support to mount a state ballot initiative:

In the universe of antiabortion activism, a complex and sometimes toxic stew of passive pray-ins and endless letter-writing campaigns uneasily coexists with much more aggressive and violent means of ending abortion through patient stalking, clinic bombings and murder.

It goes without saying that a well-balanced individual is not going to engage in stalking, amassing an arsenal or spending his or her entire life pursuing a violent act. The recession, which adds stress to all our lives, has an even greater destabilizing influence on those who suffer from mental health disorders, as was apparently the case with Dr. Tiller's alleged murderer, according to family members:

David Roeder, Mr. Roeder's brother, issued a statement on behalf of the family expressing shock and sadness over Dr. Tiller's death, and suggesting that Mr. Roeder had "suffered from mental illness at various times in his life."

Extremism in all forms, and violent extremism in particular, can be investigated, tracked, and in some cases pre-empted. Clearly Roeder had a track record of criminal behavior that could and should have been monitored more closely. It's a shame on our society that he was not stopped before he apparently committed murder.

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By Bonnie Erbe

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