Roe v. Wade Back on the Table

Even before the killing today of controversial abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, Kan., voices on both sides of the abortion issue were growing louder.

They are nervous about President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor. None of her decisions provide a clue as to how she would rule on Roe v. Wade, which established the right to an abortion.

On the Sunday morning talk shows, senators who will vote on her confirmation said it is fair to ask her about her views on that seminal case.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said, "I am for a woman's right to choose, and I will ask those questions."

But activists doubt that Sotomayor will answer.

"Nominees to the Supreme Court seem to sidestep almost everything," said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. "It's virtually impossible to get an answer. I think [Justices John] Roberts and [Samuel] Alito would not be on the court now if they had been required to truthfully answer that question."

Tiller, a Committed Family Man

Gandy, who knew Tiller, likened today's act to terrorism. She told that Tiller knew today's event was a possibility.

"This is a terrible loss to all of the women and families who have counted on Dr. Tiller over the years," Gandy said, who added that Tiller was a family man with four kids and 10 grandkids. "Patients are in such dire circumstances, and he says, 'I can't say no.'"

Tiller, 67, had been a target of anti-abortion violence for decades. His Wichita clinic, Women's Health Care Services, was bombed in 1985 and, according to reports, vandalized in May of this year. In 1993, he was shot in both arms outside his clinic but returned to work the following day. He testified at the trial of his shooter, Rachelle Shannon.

In an interview in 1991, Tiller said, "I have a right to go to work. What I'm doing is legal. What I'm doing is moral, ethical, and you won't run me out of town."

But that did not stop Tiller from facing charges stemming from his work; he was one of the few doctors in the country that still performed late-term abortions.

In March, Tiller was acquitted of 19 misdemeanor charges that he performed abortions illegally, failing to follow state law and obtain a second opinion on late-term abortions.

Police have not said if they had determined a motive for the killing of Tiller today.

Kansas state law states that abortion is legal only when a doctor affirms that the fetus can't live independently outside of the mother's womb, also known as determining viability. If the fetus is viable, two doctors must attest that the abortion is necessary for the well-being of the mother's physical or mental health.

"Lesser people dropped out a long time ago and he stayed with it because he was saving people's lives," Gandy told "[Tiller] felt deeply the pain of these women and believe with deep conviction that this decision is one that have to be made by the woman and her family. No woman should have to suffer lifelong health consequences because she can't find the abortion she need."

A Long-Debated Question

Judge Sotomayor will face meetings with senators next week on Capital Hill in her quest to be the first Hispanic and third woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

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