By James Tillman

WICHITA, KANSAS, November 11, 2009 (—Scott Roeder told the press on Monday that he killed the late-term abortionist Dr. George Tiller.  He also said that he would defend himself in court by the so-called necessity defense, which would involve showing that he had to break the law in order to prevent greater harm.

When specifically asked by the Kansas City Star if he killed Tiller, Roeder replied: “That is correct.”

Roeder has been charged with first-degree murder for the May 31st shooting of Tiller in his church, in addition to two counts of aggravated assault for allegedly threatening two ushers who attempted to stop him.  His scheduled trial date is January 11, 2010; he has pleaded not guilty.

Despite his confession, Roeder says that he has no intention of changing this plea.  “There is a distinction between killing and murdering,” he said. “I don't like the accusation of murder whatsoever, because when you protect innocent life, that's not murder.”

“Because of the fact preborn children's lives were in imminent danger this was the action I chose,” he told the Associated Press. “Defending innocent life – that is what prompted me. It is pretty simple.”

His confession caught Roeder's public defender by surprise.  “I'm not sure if we've had a parting of our thoughts here or what,” said Steve Osburn. “We'll have to talk with Scott and see what's going on in his head, I guess.”

Osburn does not believe Roeder's appeal to the necessity defense is likely to succeed. “There's no such thing as the necessity defense,” he said. “This is a fictional defense made up by these people.”

Others phrased their view less strongly, but no less negatively.

“It's a stretch,” said William Eckhardt, a University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor. “It's just very unlikely that it will be accepted. I guess the best way to say it is they're freak cases and they're rarely allowed.”

Several previous attempts by pro-lifers to use the necessity defense in Kansas, in cases involving trespassing or the blocking of abortion facility entrances, have been rejected by courts.  In 1993 Elizabeth Tilson invoked the necessity defense after she was arrested for blocking access to a Wichita abortion facility; the case went to the Supreme Court, which rejected the defense and said that accepting it would “not only lead to chaos, but would be tantamount to sanctioning anarchy.”

Roeder also stated that he does not regret killing Tiller: “I've already been told that there's at least four women that have changed their minds and are going to have their babies.”  Even had there been just one woman who changed her mind, he continued, he would believe that to have been sufficient.

Thus, when asked if he would do it again, Roeder replied that 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.”

Despite such reasoning, pro-life groups and organization across the world have condemned the murder of Tiller as “heinous,” “deplorable,” “cowardly,” “senseless,” and “unconscionable,” in a nearly universal chorus.

Troy Newman, head of Wichita-based Operation Rescue, said that Roeder's defense struck him as ridiculous.

“My first reaction was, 'Hey, Roeder, this isn't 'Law and Order.' Or Hollywood,” Newman said.  “No matter what his defense is, it is not representative of the pro-life movement, and I wish he'd stop trying to identify with people who abhor people who use violence to justify their religious beliefs.”

Newman has said that condemning all pro-lifers for Roeder's actions would be like condemning all Muslims for the actions of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged gunman in the mass shootings last week at the Fort Hood.

“We wouldn't think of labeling every Muslim, millions and millions of them,” he said. “Why is it when one person acts alone that we want to label the entire pro-life movement?”

See related coverage:

Abortion Proponents “Exploit” Tiller Killing, Label Pro-Life Advocates “Domestic Terrorists” 

UK, American, Canadian Pro-Life Groups Condemn Tiller Murder 

A Portrait of an Alleged Murderer: The Life of Suspected Tiller Killer Scott Roeder