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Maddow on 'The Assassination of Dr. Tiller'

Msnbc host Rachel Maddow talks about hosting the msnbc documentary on "The Assassination of Dr. Tiller." She answers questions on why the crime is more than about the murder of one abortion provider and why abortion is a substantive issue in the 2010 midterms. 32366143

What drew you to this story?
Rachel Maddow, msnbc host:
We covered the murder extensively when it happened, both because Dr. Tiller was such a well-known and widely threatened figure, and because Scott Roeder was linked to a number of different political and protest groups. One of the things that was hard to report on at the time was the widespread evidence of people celebrating the murder -- it was all over the Web on Twitter, on Facebook, on blog comments. Those anecdotal observations didn't necessarily fit into the daily news coverage of the murder -- but it's one of the things that stuck with me, that made me want to look into the story in more depth.

What is your impression of Scott Roeder? Do you believe that he acted alone?
Scott Roeder testified in his own defense at his trial, and has commented extensively on his crime and his motivations -- The Assassination of Dr. Tiller presents so much of that primary-source material that viewers will be able to form their own (relatively unmediated) impressions of him. The producer and director of the film, Toby Oppenheimer, was able to obtain an incredible library of footage, and access to a lot of people who knew Mr. Roeder well. As for whether or not anyone else is culpable in the crime -- as the documentary was being finished, it was reported that a federal grand jury is investigating whether to indict anyone for conspiring with Mr. Roeder.

As a student of the battle between the choice and the anti-abortion movement, who is winning right now?
It's hard to define "winning" in a fight like this. Roe v. Wade does still stand -- which prohibits outright bans on abortion. That said, anti-abortion forces have succeeded in restricting the availability of abortion through lots of means short of outright prohibition -- everything from punitive regulations targeted at clinics, to waiting-periods and invasive notification mandates for women seeking abortions, to physical intimidation and harassment of abortion providers. My personal sense from reporting on the fight is that the side fighting to make abortion illegal feels like it is on the rise, and the side fighting to keep it legal and accessible feels beleaguered. Morale isn't everything -- but that's my impression.

What are the key political fights being waged now on this issue?
Surprisingly, abortion is turning out to be a substantive issue in the 2010 midterm elections. At least five Republican candidates for U.S. Senate (Joe Miller, Christine O'Donnell, Rand Paul, Ken Buck, Sharron Angle) have endorsed not just the criminalization of abortion, but criminalization so strict that they would not allow abortion to be an option even for women who were impregnated as a result of rape or incest. Even as the Right has become more and more solidly anti-abortion in recent years, not allowing exceptions for rape or incest was considered to be a very extreme position until... well... I think it still is. But now it's the position of a lot of top-of-the-ticket GOP candidates. That's provided grist for Democratic attack ads -- even though abortion-rights are an issue that Democrats for years have been mostly unwilling to campaign on.

What is important to understand about the tactics of anti-abortion protestors?
The First Amendment protects not just our right to speak freely, but also our right to assemble peaceably, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. As Americans we all have the right to protest, and to do so on our own terms, in our own way, even when other Americans disapprove of our views or the way we choose to express them. Vigorous, even raucous protest isn't just tolerated in America -- it's valued; it makes us stronger. Harassment, intimidation, and violence shouldn't be confused with the noble tradition of American protest -- they're crimes, and they should be investigated and prosecuted as such.

airs Monday, Oct. 25, 9 p.m. ET on msnbc.