As The American Prospect's Ann Friedman writes, this has to be understood in context. It is the final, decisive act in "an ongoing campaign of intimidation and harassment against someone who was providing completely legal health-care services." That campaign stretched over decades of protests, lawsuits, violence, and, finally, murder. The different elements were not always orchestrated. But the intent remained constant: To counter the absence of a statute that would make Tiller's work illegal with enough intimidation to render it impossible.
This was, in other words, a political act. Tiller was murdered so that those in his line of work would be intimidated. In conversations with folks yesterday, I heard well-meaning variants on the idea that it would be unseemly to push legislation in the emotional aftermath of Tiller's execution. I disagree. Roeder was acting in direct competition with the United States Congress. And it's quite likely that he changed the status quo. Legislative language and judicial rulings had made abortive procedures legal and thus accessible. Yesterday's killing was meant to render abortive procedures unsafe for doctors to conduct and thus inaccessible.
If a woman cannot get an abortion because no nearby providers are willing to assume the risk of performing it, the actual outcome is precisely the same as if the procedure were illegal. Roeder has, in all likelihood, made abortion less accessible. It would be, in my view, a perfectly appropriate response for the Congress to decisively prove his action not only ineffectual, but, in a broad sense, counterproductive.
That's not to suggest fast-tracking legislation that radically transforms the county's uneasy consensus. But there are plenty of remedies that speak to the question of access alone: Bills that make abortion centers safer and help poor women afford treatment, for instance. We can't stop Scott Roeder from killing George Tiller. But we can stop him from having his intended effect on a woman's ability to choose.