George Tiller, a Kansas doctor who was one of the few physicians in the country to perform late-term abortions, was shot dead today as he walked into a Wichita church to attend services.
Tiller was a frequent target for anti-abortion protesters. Abortion opponents had tried to block former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' confirmation as federal Health and Human Services secretary because of support she'd received from Tiller.
Update: Later reports indicate that Tiller was shot while handing out programs as an usher while standing in the church foyer. The suspect, Scott P. Roeder, was apprehended three hours later and will be charged Monday.
A provider of abortions for more than three decades, Dr. Tiller, 67, had become a focal point for those around the country who opposed it. In addition to regular protests outside his clinic, his house and his church, Dr. Tiller had once seen his clinic bombed; in 1993, an abortion opponent shot him in both arms. He was also the defendant in a series of legal challenges intended to shut down his operations, including two grand juries that were convened after citizen-led petition drives.
AP has a story up looking at political fallout, including concern from abortion opponents that Tiller's assassination takes the issue off the table for the Sotomayor confirmation.
While many anti-abortion leaders swiftly issued statements condemning the shooting, their expressions of dismay were not echoed by Randall Terry, a veteran anti-abortion activist whose protests have often targeted Tiller.
"George Tiller was a mass murderer and we cannot stop saying that," Terry said. "He was an evil man -- his hands were covered with blood."
Terry said he was now concerned that the Obama administration "will use Tiller's killing to intimidate pro-lifers into surrendering our most effective rhetoric and actions."
A month ago, Terry was arrested protesting President Barack Obama's appearance at the University of Notre Dame commencement. The president's graduation speech was dominated by abortion issue -- and an appeal for the nation to seek common ground instead of vitriol.