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"What's the Matter with Kansas?" movie clips show abortion doctor George Tiller and foes

June 3, 2009 |  6:58 pm

We've been covering the murder of Dr. George Tiller, the Kansas physician who was one of only a few providers of late-term abortions in the country, if not the world.

We were in the very tense Wichita courtroom last March when after only 45 minutes a jury acquitted him of breaking Kansas abortion laws. So our curiosity was piqued by a story in Salon today about a movie based on the popular Thomas Frank book, "What's the Matter with Kansas?"  It sought to explain why a traditionally liberal state had turned conservative in recent years, although in truth, given the fact that its recent Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, currently the secretary of Health and Human Services, is a pro-choice Democrat, one has to say it's a place where conservative and liberal strains keep the state in a perpetual political pendulum.

In the 1990s, the state became a ground zero in the abortion wars when Tiller and his clinic, Women's Health Services, became a focal point for the protests of abortion foes. Scott Roeder, a 51-year-old man with ties to right-wing militia groups, has been charged with murder and awaits his fate in a Wichita jail.

Salon posted a clip from the documentary, by Laura Cohen and Joe Winston, which features interviews with Dr. Tiller and his foes including Troy Newman, the California pastor who moved to Wichita from San Diego to put Tiller out of business. And there's an interview with Mark Gietzen, who protests legal abortion by driving a panel truck around Wichita festooned with photographs of aborted fetuses.

To get a sense of the calm, purposeful way that Tiller thought about the path he had chosen -- which lead to one previous assassination attempt as well as bombings of his clinic -- the clip is revealing. As is the button he wears: "Attitude is Everything."

The movie will have its premiere in August.

Here's a clip:

-- Robin Abcarian

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