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A Woman's Choice, a Nation Divided

Aired June 5, 2009 - 23:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening and welcome to a special 360.

A man sits in jail tonight accused of committing what amounts to an act of domestic terrorism. Even as he awaits trial, we're learning more about Scott Roeder, charged with walking into a church, pulling a gun and murdering an abortion provider, Dr. George Tiller.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You said he became obsessed with Dr. Tiller, right?

WOLFGANG ANACON, SCOTT ROEDER'S ROOMMATE: Yes, he did. It was almost his calling to do something about this particular doctor.


COOPER: Also tonight, you'll meet a friend and colleague of Dr. Tiller's.


DR. WARREN HERN, DIRECTOR, BOULDER ABORTION CLINIC: I decided that performing abortions was the most important thing I could do in medicine and that I do it because it matters.


COOPER: Performing abortions even though for the last 35 years he says he's gotten up every morning expecting to be shot dead.

You'll hear from a woman who's had every reason, medical and legal, to have an abortion but instead chose otherwise.


DIANE ELDER, CHOSE NOT TO HAVE LATE-TERM ABORTION: The nurse woke me up at 5:00 a.m. and said, "Diana, I think you might want to get up now. The baby's having trouble breathing, and this might be her time."


COOPER: She chose to give birth to a baby she knew would not survive. You'll also meet a woman who made exactly the opposite choice.

She, George Tiller, Scott Roeder all of them on the front lines in America's long-running, bitter and deadly struggle over abortion.

Their stories and more tonight on this Special 360: A WOMAN'S CHOICE, A NATION DIVIDED."

We begin with the incident that reopened this epic battle, a killing in Kansas in the sanctuary of a church.

Dr. George Tiller performed late-term abortions and it made him a marked man. He was shot, his clinic bombed, but he vowed to never give in.

GEORGE TILLER, ABORTION PROVIDER: I have a right to go to work. What I am doing is legal. What I'm doing is moral. What I'm doing is ethical. And you're not going to run me out of town.

COOPER: His work was his life. And on a Sunday morning in May, he died for it. An assassin shot Dr. Tiller to death while he was serving as an usher at his Wichita Church.

The reaction was instant. President Obama said he was shocked and outraged by the murder, and from the front lines of the battle, explosive rhetoric.

RANDALL TERRY, ANTI-ABORTION ACTIVIST: I grieve for Dr. Tiller because he left this life perhaps without proper preparation to face God. The thought of him leaving this life with blood on his hands for having killed so many thousands of children and not having been prepared to meet his Maker is a dreadful, terrifying thought.

NICKI GAMBLE, ABORTION RIGHTS ACTIVIST: There is a conversation and a dialogue that goes on about abortion that hasn't been very healthy or respectful. I worry that that's another potential killer on the prowl.

COOPER: Charged with the murder, Scott Roeder, a 51-year-old former factory worker with ties to at least one extremist group. His ex-wife says he became obsessed over the anti-abortion movement.

LINDSEY ROEDER, ROEDER'S EX-WIFE: He was so supportive of other people who had killed abortionists or killed clinic workers that I knew how he felt about -- that Dr. Tiller or any other abortion doctor shouldn't be allowed to live.

COOPER: The killing has re-ignited a fiercely divisive national debate. And at the center, the deeply personal choices a woman has to make.

Lynda Waddington, who learned the baby she was carrying had multiple anomalies, decided to have a late-term abortion and defends her right to do so.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LYNDA WADDINGTON, HAD A LATE-TERM ABORTION (via telephone): This is a pregnancy that was planned, a pregnancy that was wanted and loved and it was tantamount to having a loved one on life support and making that decision whether to end the life support or not.


COOPER: She chose to terminate her pregnancy.

Diane Elder did not, told her child had a severe genetic defect she gave birth to a baby who lived for just 12 hours.


ELDER: I wanted my baby to have a natural death. I did not want my child to die at my hand.

When a baby is a fully formed, living baby, I don't think that really we've ever had the choice to take a life at that stage.


COOPER: Now a friend of Dr. Tiller, a colleague for many years, as well as the man who may end up carrying on his practice. Dr. Leroy Carhart currently practices at the Abortion and Contraception Clinic of Nebraska.


COOPER: Doctor, you knew Dr. Tiller, your thoughts upon hearing of his assassination.

DR. LEROY CARHART, LATE-TERM ABORTION PROVIDER: Just what a horrific and terrible loss to everyone, to the women of this country, to my family, to his family, to his grandchildren, to his patients. Just to the world.

COOPER: Why do you think this particular procedure is important? Because as you know, less than ten doctors in the United States perform abortions in the third trimester.

CARHART: I think that number is probably correct, yes. And I think that for the women that need abortion -- Dr. Tiller believed and taught that abortion, you know, it's not a cerebral matter. It's not a reproductive issue.

Abortion is a matter of the heart. And if you don't understand the woman's heart, you don't understand anything at all about abortion. It doesn't make sense. I think you have to understand for that woman that needs to choose abortion in the third trimester, for whatever her reasons are, the option has to be available.

There is no time that abortion is not hundreds of times safer than delivery, in normal, routine delivery settings. Why should anyone be forced to go through -- continue a pregnancy for even another day or another week or another two or three months if the pregnancy cannot survive?

COOPER: You told our producer that your practice often turns people away who don't meet the criteria for an abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy. What is that criteria, though? Why would you turn somebody away?

CARHART: We -- you know, we turn people away at any gestation if we feel that they haven't thought the matter through completely, if they have not explored all their options, if there are other things they can do.

We just offer them some time to think, some time, and I don't know that we forced them out of the office. But by the time we're through talking, they agree that they need to go home to think farther. And many of them don't come back.

COOPER: All of the people you performed this third trimester abortion on have some medical reason or whether it's health of the mother, the condition of the fetus -- is that correct?

CARHART: I believe, yes, that everyone met the -- I think, our moral standard. I think -- you know, I think abortion is a moral issue. I think it is a religiously viable issue that both God and whatever you believe in plays a role in the decision when you make abortion.

Many faiths agree with the principles that if -- you know, a woman carrying a term to pregnancy -- I'm sorry, a woman carrying a pregnancy to term faces a chance of death in this country anywhere from 15 to 20 out of 100,000.

That number is minuscule in abortion practice even in the third trimester in this country. We come nowhere as close to that.

I don't think that -- I can't conceive that you would suggest a woman go through that much of a greater risk to have a child that can't survive than you would to have her -- allow her to terminate the pregnancy.

COOPER: And finally, I'm not going to ask you about your own personal security needs and requirements, but do you fear for your life?

CARHART: I think everyone -- well, first of all, in America, if marine recruiters can't work in safety in the south, then everybody in America needs to fear for their life as long as our society tolerates terrorism.


COOPER: Another abortion provider, Warren Hern, has felt the danger for decades. He says he's gotten up every morning for the last 35 years expecting someone to shoot him dead. He runs the Boulder Abortion Clinic in Boulder, Colorado.

He's not ashamed of the name. He does, however, take extreme precautions. There's bulletproof glass on the windows installed after a shooting. You pass through four separate doors on the way in through the front door.

Dr. Hern uses another entrance. This is not a normal medical practice or life to live.


COOPER: If you worry about being shot and expect to being shot any day at work, at home or elsewhere, why do you continue to do what you do?

DR. WARREN HERN, DIRECTOR, BOULDER ABORTION CLINIC: At one point I decided that performing abortions was the most important thing I could do in medicine and that I do it because it matters. And it matters for the health of the woman, the health of her family, for health of our society and now it matters for freedom.

The assassination of Dr. Tiller was not the act of a lone, deranged gunman acting alone. This is the result of 35 years of anti-abortion harassment and terrorism and hate speech and rhetoric and harsh names and exploitation of the abortion issue as a political issue to get power.

And this is the inevitable result of this kind of hateful behavior by the anti-abortion movement.

COOPER: You're painting with a very broad brush, though, the anti- abortion movement. There are many in the movement who today said they abhor what the suspect did.

HERN: No, that's hypocritical nonsense. These people got exactly what they wanted. They've been trying to get the doctors killed. They've celebrated the assassinations of the doctors, they make shrines of it.

The assassins are national heroes in that group. And you heard one guy say that Dr. Tiller -- he thought Dr. Tiller got what he deserved.

COOPER: Why do you defend that procedure? Why do you perform that procedure?

HERN: There are many women who come for late abortions in fact -- have desperate circumstances with a desired pregnancy. They want to have a baby, not an abortion.

But the pregnancy is fatally or catastrophically complicated. And nobody is able to make that decision except the woman in consultation with her physician.

COOPER: Do you see a lot of women electing not for or out of, you know, genetic problems with their fetus, but because of other reasons, they just decide late in the term, late in the pregnancy they don't want to have a baby?

HERN: I think that -- what I see is an incredibly complicated situation. These are very difficult and painful decisions for the women. And they're under tremendous stress. And many times these pregnancies are threats to their lives.

And people need to back-off and understand that this is a -- first of all, having safe abortions available is a major public health issue. And we have solved it in the 20th century. We're going backwards now. And this is a major medical problem for women.

COOPER: Are you scared appearing on television?

HERN: Well, look, I'm speaking to you and I appreciate your interest in this subject, because I feel that in a free society, it's what we have to do.


COOPER: Just ahead tonight, what we're learning about Dr. Tiller's practice and his final moments.

Also, new information about the alleged assassin, Scott Roeder: his close association with extreme anti-abortion forces, his grudge with the government and more. Some of the revelations coming only on 360 from the woman who married him and who now says she saw the danger signs.


L. ROEDER: Anti-abortion issues came up and he started becoming very religious in a sense that he finally -- he was reading the Bible. But then after we were divorced his religion really took on a whole new right wing of itself.




We're learning new details about Scott Roeder, the man accused of killing Dr. George Tiller. Some of the most astonishing information is coming from the suspect's ex-wife. I'm going to bring you my interview with her in just a moment.

But first the shooting itself and what may have driven one man to murder.

Randi Kaye reports.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The man accused of killing Dr. George Tiller at his church had been here before. A church usher tells us he remembers seeing Scott Roeder at church services before the day of the shooting.

Roeder's troubles began more than a decade ago. In 1996, a judge described him as a significant threat to the safety of the community. Roeder's car had been stopped in Topeka; reportedly inside, bomb- making equipment, a military rifle, ammunition, and a gas mask.

(on camera): "Keeping them Honest," why was this guy on the street? He pleaded not guilty and was sentenced to two years' probation for criminal use of explosives, but his lawyer argued on appeal that his car had been illegally searched and won. So in 1999 the case was dismissed; Roeder, a free man.

(voice-over): This anti-abortion activist has known Roeder for more than a decade. He says he's gentle, kind and happy-go-lucky.

ANTHONY LEAKE, FRIEND OF SCOTT ROEDER: He was a confessing Christian. And he always had his Bible, which wasn't uncommon. He professed faith in Jesus Christ.

KAYE: Does he believe his friend could have killed Dr. Tiller?

LEAKE: Anybody that's concerned about the lives of innocent -- lives of innocent children probably has the capability of doing something like this.

It was the best thing that could have happened for George Tiller and it's the best thing that could have happened for those babies that were scheduled to be murdered at his hand.

KAYE: Roeder, who is divorced, appeared in court on video link. He hasn't entered a plea and his court-appointed lawyer refused to discuss the case when we called.

SCOTT ROEDER, ACCUSED KILLER OF DR. TILLER: What was the name of the court-appointed attorney, please?

KAYE: Roeder got a taxpayer-funded attorney because he's apparently broke. On this court affidavit, he wrote he had just $10 to his name. Until his arrest, he was making $1,100 a month working at Quicksilver Airport Delivery, one of four jobs in the last six months.

(on camera): If Roeder did kill Dr. Tiller, could authorities have seen this coming?

A man calling himself by that name posted messages on this anti- abortion Web site, "Operation Rescue." One of them about Dr. Tiller says he needs to be stopped. Another message calls his clinic a "death camp."

(voice-over): Roeder was also a member of the Montana Freemen, a Christian anti-government group that was against paying taxes. The suspect's family has said even though he suffered from mental illness at various times in his life, they didn't think he was capable of taking another person's life.

But a different picture may be emerging: that of a cold-blooded assassin haunted by hatred for a doctor and the abortions he performed.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: So who is Scott Roeder, now, awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges? His ex-wife, Lindsey, says he's not the man she married. All the same, she says there were signs and signals dating back years that are chilling to look back on now.


COOPER: Lindsey, I appreciate you being with us. You said you were shocked and mortified to hear that your ex-husband was charged with Dr. Tiller's murder, but you weren't surprised. Why?

L. ROEDER: Well, it was quite a startling thing to open the door to the ATF and have them tell me that. But over the years, he was so anti-abortion and -- so anti-abortion and anti-government and anti- tax. And he was so supportive of other people who had killed abortionists or killed clinic workers that I knew how he felt about -- that Dr. Tiller or any other abortion doctor shouldn't be allowed to live.

COOPER: And when you see the mug-shot that we're showing now or you see the video of him in court, is that the man you knew?

L. ROEDER: No, that's not the man I married. That's not the man I married. It's the man I divorced. But it's not the man I married. It's not...

COOPER: And when did he start to change and how did he start to change?

L. ROEDER: We were married in 1986. And the first few years were fine. It was about 1991/92 when he basically couldn't cope with everyday life.

When he couldn't make ends meet, he couldn't pay the bills. And didn't know why he couldn't do that. And someone told him that if he didn't pay his federal taxes, if those taxes were left in his check, he could make ends meet.

And then he started investigating that. And someone told him that it wasn't ratified properly in the Constitution, that it was illegal. And he went from there and got into the anti-government, got into the militia, got into the Freemen.

And along those lines, anti-abortion issues came up. And he started becoming very religious in a sense that he -- he finally -- he was reading the Bible. But then after we were divorced, his religion really took on a whole new right wing of itself.

COOPER: There's another woman who said he was schizophrenic and didn't want him near her daughter. Do you think he has mental problems?

L. ROEDER: Yes, I think he has -- there's mental illness there. When he was 19 or 20, he was diagnosed at that time with possible schizophrenia. I don't think he's schizophrenic. I think he's obsessive. I think he's bipolar.

I know that in '94, in '95 -- I think it was -- he became very upset and depressed one Sunday afternoon. It was when we were separated. It was before we were divorced but separated and he was actually talking about ending his life.

Someone he knew was going to get an abortion. That was coincidentally that day. He had tried to talk her out of it. I don't know what became of that. But I had to call his family in from out of town to come get him and put him in a hospital, but he refused treatment.

COOPER: And you say that he paid a surprise visit to your son. He didn't spend a lot of time with your son over the years. Your son's over the age of 18 now. What seemed off about him then?

L. ROEDER: Well, the fact that it was on a Friday, that my son was going to go with him on a Friday was unusual. But I thought it showed signs of hope that he was becoming more realistic. He normally didn't go out on a Friday night with our son because it's the beginning of his Sabbath.

COOPER: Do you think now he just wanted to spend time because he knew what he was going to do?

L. ROEDER: He wanted to spend time with him.

COOPER: How is your son doing now? I mean, how are you doing?

L. ROEDER: We're devastated. Our hearts go out to the Tiller family. No one -- no one should be shot. No one should be shot in their church.

And my son has gone through every emotion humanly possible in the last 24, 48 hours. From anger to rage to humiliation, to guilt, the guilt of could I have seen it Friday night? Could I have done something? His views are as polar opposite from his dad's as you can get. He doesn't...

COOPER: I -- I'm sorry go on.

L. ROEDER: He doesn't agree with his father's views. He's not -- he doesn't -- he didn't agree with Dr. Tiller's late-term abortions either, but you don't -- you don't shoot someone in the head for it. You let the legal system handle it.

COOPER: Well, Lindsey, I know it's hard for you to talk, but I know it's important for you to and I appreciate you coming on tonight. Thank you very much. I wish you strength in the days and weeks ahead and strength for your son as well.

L. ROEDER: Thank you very much for the chance.


COOPER: When we come back, what the protesters for and against sometimes can't hear in all the shouting and name-calling; the voices of the women and the agonizing choices they make.


WADDINGTON: I think those who are anti-abortion have been very successful in painting the picture of who I am and who other women are who have late abortions. And it kind of ticked me off because it's not accurate. I mean, supposedly I'm just a person who woke up one day and had a back pain or a leg cramp and decided to have an abortion.


COOPER: Her story and Diane Elder's. She chose not to have an abortion even though she knew her baby had no chance to live.


ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Erica Hill in New York. Back to Anderson and A WOMAN'S CHOICE, A NATION DIVIDED in just a minute.

But first this "360 Bulletin."

President Obama at Germany's Buchenwald concentration camp today, paying his respects along with German Prime Minister Angela Merkel and holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These sites have not lost their horror with the passage of time. As we were walking up, Elie said, "If these trees could talk" and there's a certain irony about the beauty of the landscape and the horror that took place here. More than half a century later, our grief and our outrage over what happened have not diminished. I will not forget what I have seen here today.


HILL: The President is now in France where tomorrow he will meet with his French counterpart and join in ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

Mixed news on the economy; 345,000 jobs lost in May. It is 200,000 fewer than expected, but the jobless rate rising again. Now at 9.4 percent, that is its highest level in more than 25 years.

Racing legend Roger Penske is buying Saturn. GM would continue actual production of the three best-selling models. The deal could though, save as many as 350 dealerships and 13,000 jobs.

And talk about a windfall, a troubled South Dakota rancher now out of money trouble. He's taking home $88.5 million after becoming the sole winner of a nearly quarter billion-dollar Powerball Jackpot. He says he'll keep on ranching.

I'm Erica Hill. That's your update at this hour and more headlines throughout the hour.

Now back to Anderson and "A WOMAN'S CHOICE, A NATION DIVIDED."


COOPER: You're about to hear from two women who faced the same gut- wrenching decision; whether or not have a late-term abortion more than halfway through their pregnancies.

Lynda Waddington faced that question 14 years ago. She was a happily married mom of a toddler who is eagerly expecting her second child. Around 20 weeks into her pregnancy, tests showed that her fetus was missing its brain and skull. Doctors told her the child would not survive outside the womb.

After days of debating what to do, Waddington and her husband decided to end the pregnancy. In an open letter last year to then-Senator Obama, Waddington wrote that it wasn't a decision she made lightly, that it didn't bring her family joy or relief.

It was, she wrote, "The best of several horrific options." She didn't want to talk with me on camera because of the death threats she says she's received in the past. Take a look.


COOPER: What's your reaction to the murder of Dr. Tiller?

WADDINGTON: My gut reaction is just sadness. To think that someone who had helped me in such a horrible time in my life, an event that most likely saved my own life, could be gunned down and killed for that is just surreal and profound.

COOPER: The -- as you know the argument against late-abortions is that, it's tantamount to murder of a fetus that could be viable outside of the womb. You say it's clearly just not that simple. Explain.

WADDINGTON: Well, I think those who are anti-abortion have been very successful in painting the picture of who I am and who other women are who have late abortions. And it kind of ticks me off because it's not accurate.

I mean, supposedly I'm just a person who woke up one day and had a back pain or a leg cramp and decided to have an abortion. And that definitely wasn't the case. This is a pregnancy that was planned; a pregnancy that was wanted and loved. And it was tantamount to having a loved one on life support and making that decision whether to end the life support or not.

COOPER: You wrote a letter last summer to then-candidate Barack Obama. And you took issue with his position on late-term abortions which at that time he said that states should be able to restrict or prohibit those procedures as long as there's an exception for the health of the mother. Why do you think he's wrong? I mean, why should it be more than just the health of the mother? WADDINGTON: No, I don't think that statement is necessarily wrong inasmuch as I wonder who gets to decide what those health concerns are. I mean, there are some people who believe that pregnancy, if God wills it, should be a death sentence for women. There are other people who believe that terminal defects like I experienced should be allowable to terminate a pregnancy. But there are other people, you know, who want to cut that line off that depression. Women are suicidal. I don't think that's a decision government should ever be making, ever.

COOPER: That is the argument you hear probably most often, from even some people who support abortions in general, that if it's just the mental health of the mother, the depression of the mother, then that's not legitimate enough reason. And you say that's not true. That's inappropriate.

WADDINGTON: I do believe that's inappropriate. I think that's a decision that the mother and the doctor and the family should be able to make on their own. We wouldn't look at someone suffering from cancer and say that you're too depressed to make your decisions regarding your family and your life. Why do we put that on women?

COOPER: We're going to have to leave it there. Lynda Waddington, appreciate you being on the program tonight by phone, and thank you very much for speaking with us.

WADDINGTON: Thank you for having me.


COOPER: Just ahead, you'll meet another woman who received devastating news about the baby she was carrying but made a much different choice.


ELDER: She was born missing part of her brain. She had one club foot, one rocker bottom foot. She had just everything that goes along with that condition, which is bad. But we were very taken aback when we found that when she was placed in our arms, we were happy. We were -- we were incredibly happy.


COOPER: Also, when can a fetus actually live on its own? A key question in the debate over late-term abortions. 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta joins us for that.


COOPER: Before the break you heard from Lynda Waddington who learned about five months into her pregnancy that her fetus had a catastrophic birth defect. She had an abortion.

Diane Elder received equally devastating news late in her pregnancy but made a much different choice even though she, too, had every right to have an abortion.


ELDER: I wanted my baby to have a natural death. I did not want my child to die at my hand.

COOPER: What did your baby have?

ELDER: My baby had a syndrome called Trisomy 18 which is a very severe chromosomal abnormality that is incompatible with life. That's the phrase the doctors used.

COOPER: And you found this out at what stage of the pregnancy?

ELDER: I was somewhere in the fifth month of pregnancy.

COOPER: And, obviously, I mean, devastating news.

ELDER: It was devastating. I found out on Mother's Day. And all I can remember is collapsing to the floor because I had been trying for this baby for a very long time. So it felt like a cruel -- almost a cruel joke to me that this happened.

And so I went forward with the pregnancy another four months. Probably the most difficult four months of my life. We were prepared for basically a monster because we were told she was going to not have a brain, and she was going to have possibly cleft palate, club feet. And she was born with all those things. She was born missing part of her brain. She had one club foot, one rocker bottom foot. She had just everything that goes along with that condition, which is bad.

But we were very taken aback when we found that when she was placed in our arms, we were happy. We were incredibly happy. My husband was with me. A lot of family and friends showed up right after the birth. She was passed around from arm -- from arms to arms.

I told the hospital I did not want any extraordinary measures taken because I wanted what happened to her to be natural. I didn't want to try to force her to stay alive with needles and tubes if that would cause her pain and just prolong a very difficult life. But I didn't want to kill her either. So I just decided to completely turn myself over to nature and let it take its course. She never suffered.

COOPER: How long did she live?

ELDER: Twelve hours. The nurse woke me up at 5:00 a.m. and said, "Diane, I think you might want to get up now. The baby's having trouble breathing; and this might be her time." And she put Angela into my arms.

COOPER: You named her?

ELDER: Yes. Angela. Angela Diane Elder. And Angela looked -- it was funny, because she was able to make eye contact with me and it seemed as though she were looking into my eyes. I could hear her breath becoming more and more shallow, sort of a rattling breath. And then she took two large breaths and then a very large breath, literally sat up and then fell back, and she was gone. And it was a very difficult moment even at this time.

COOPER: Do you regret it, looking back on it?

ELDER: Not in one -- not one minute of it. She died peacefully with no pain. The suffering was hours for two weeks, of course, at least two weeks; really a whole year. We were in mourning for her, as you would grieve over any loved one who dies. That's a normal part of life. We felt very clean when it was over and as though the situation was -- there was closure. There was a resolution.

COOPER: Obviously, other women, other families in that situation make different choices. Do you believe that women should have the right to make that choice?

ELDER: When a baby is a fully formed, living baby, I don't think that really we've ever had the choice to take a life at that stage. I think that that's a fully formed baby. I mean, I think you had some of the pictures up there. You saw her. She was a fully formed baby. She was born early, by the way. She came out at eight months.

COOPER: And when you heard about Dr. Tiller's death, your thoughts?

ELDER: Oh, I think that was awful. No one has the right to do that, particularly not someone who considers themselves to be an advocate for life. How can they take another life? Inexcusable.

COOPER: I appreciate you coming on and talking about this. I know it's not easy. Thank you very much.

ELDER: Thank you so much.

COOPER: Thanks for your strength.


COOPER: A woman's choice in her own words.

Up next, the medical facts on the issue that's at the heart of the late-term abortion debate. At what point is a fetus capable of living on its own outside the womb? We'll talk with 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta.

Hundreds of people have gathered at vigils to remember Dr. George Tiller; his supporters honoring his memory. But as we know, he had his enemies.


LAVANDERA: You say he became obsessed with Dr. Tiller, right?

ANACON: Yes, he did. It was almost his calling to do something about this particular doctor.


COOPER: The former roommate of Scott Roeder speaks out. He says they both had ties to an extremist group that was against abortion.


COOPER: So we just heard two women describe how they handled arguably the most difficult decision an expectant mom well into her pregnancy can make.

Lynda Waddington and Diane Elder both learned that the babies they were carrying had birth defects so severe they were incompatible with life. Both pregnancies were planned and celebrated. Both babies deeply loved and mourned. One woman had a late-term abortion, the other did not.

The fact that neither woman knew about her baby's deadly defects until late in her pregnancy goes to the heart of the bitter debate over late-term abortions. 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta joins us now.


COOPER: Sanjay, a lot of people obviously very uncomfortable with these later term abortions or third-trimester abortions because the fetus may actually be capable of living on its own at that point. Medically speaking -- because a lot of people are fudging the facts on this thing on both sides of this debate -- medically speaking, when does the fetus reach the point of viability outside the womb?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, when you talk about medical aspects of this, there are some areas where there's agreement among doctors. When it comes to viability specifically, typically a pregnancy lasts 40 weeks. They say just beyond the halfway mark, 22 weeks prior to that the fetus is not viable.

They also say after 27 weeks, after 27 weeks of development, the fetus is viable. It is that gray area in between, Anderson, between 23 and 26 weeks or 22, 27 weeks, it's a little bit murky, but that's the gray area.

One piece of context I should give you as well, Anderson, if you look at abortions across the board, just about a percent of them are performed in that late stage period. Most of them, over 90 percent of them, are performed prior to 18 weeks. So that's a little bit of context as well.

COOPER: Well, part of the reason there are so few is that 37 states ban later-term abortions in some way. All of them have exceptions, though, for the mother's health. How often is the mom's health really an issue? And what kind of conditions might, you know, endanger her life?

GUPTA: It's a great question. I can tell you the answer to that question has changed as medical technology has improved. It used to be the exception for mother's health, but talking to a lot of experts, they say hardly ever nowadays is maternal health really a cause -- or a reason for abortion.

COOPER: Hardly ever?

GUPTA: Hardly ever.

There are certain things: if a woman has heart failure, for example, which is worsened by the pregnancy; if they had kidney failure which is worsened by the pregnancy; if they have something known as pre- eclampsia, which can be sort of a malignant hypertension caused by pregnancy, those can be some reasons.

But the thing is, Anderson, most times what you'll hear from a lot of doctors is that they can take care of a lot of these problems or they will deliver the baby and treat two patients instead of one. Instead of talking about abortions, they talk about a pre-term delivery, treating mom and baby as two separate patients.

COOPER: One of the more controversial aspects about this, I guess, is that some people are citing mental health issues like depression as a reason to go ahead with a later-term abortion. Is that a valid reason?

GUPTA: Mental illness is a legitimate medical concern, but if you just look at the numbers, about a percent of all abortions being performed in this late stage, and of that percent, a very, very small fraction being performed for things like mental illness, most doctors are going to refer the woman to a psychiatrist. There are medications that are used to treat depression, anxiety that are now can be used safely during pregnancy. Some of these medications weren't available even a decade ago. So it does happen.

But again, with the previous question, it is pretty rare.

COOPER: We've talked to two women who were faced with fetuses with genetic problems, very severe genetic problems that ultimately would end up killing them.

What kind of illnesses are incompatible with life in a fetus? I mean, these are two illnesses these women talked about which I had never heard of.

GUPTA: Yes. Typically they might sort of be what you think of. When you have organ failure or lack of organ development that is so catastrophic that the child could not be born and live a normal life or live at all.

Something known as anencephaly is something where the brain just simply never develops. So besides not having the brain, you're not having any of the functions of the brain including your ability to monitor your own heart rate, blood pressure. And organs, if they don't develop, they're simply incompatible with life. So there are a few conditions that fall under that category.

COOPER: I want to talk a little about the method that is being used because there are many different methods that are used in these later- term abortions, very controversial. Dr. Tiller's method for performing later-term abortion was to actually inject a heart drug into a fetus to stop its heart, induce labor, and then wait for the mom to deliver the stillborn baby. I hadn't realized that was the way he was doing it. And it sometimes takes two to three days for the mom to deliver a stillborn. Is that how later- term abortions are normally performed?

GUPTA: That is one of the ways they are performed. That is a legal way that it is performed. There are some other ways as well, Anderson, which frankly are -- they're just -- they're kind of gruesome to talk about in the way that this is actually done.

But the way that you just described, injecting a medicine to stop the heart and then inducing labor is one of the more common ways that it's described. You know, we hadn't been able to confirm exactly if Dr. Tiller did all of his later-term abortions this way or not. But that's what I've heard as well.

COOPER: All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, appreciate it. Sanjay thanks.

GUPTA: Thanks, Anderson.


COOPER: Up next, what makes alleged assassin Scott Roeder tick? Hear from his former roommate who got a call from Roeder just days before the shooting of Dr. George Tiller.


ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Erica Hill with a "360 Bulletin." Our special A WOMAN'S CHOICE, A NATION DIVIDED continues right after these headlines.

First, a retired state department veteran and his wife in court today where a judge ordered them held without bail on spy charges. Newly unsealed court documents alleged Walter and Gwendolyn Myers conspired to act as agents of the Cuban government and that the alleged spying went on for nearly three decades. Officials not yet specifying the information they believe the Myers passed on to Havana.

New details of Air France 447's final moments: automated messages from the airbus 330 showing conflicting air speed indications. That means the flight crew may have been flying too fast or too slow without knowing it. Air France today is beginning the work of replacing air speed sensors on its fleet of airbus jets.

A tragedy in Mexico this afternoon: fire ripping through a day-care center in the city of Hermosillo; it's in the northwestern state of Sonora. 27 children dead, more than 100 others hurt. The fire apparently started in a warehouse next door.

And swine flu claiming another life; the eighth so far. The victim, name withheld, was 65 and had a preexisting condition that made the flu more dangerous. And you may want to hold it for real. Or make sure you go before you board because it's not a joke. The Irish low-cost carrier RyanAir is planning to charge passengers for using the lavatory. The CEO Michael O'Leary says it will cost you a pound for the potty and he's already inquired with Boeing about installing -- get this -- credit card readers on lavatory doors. Good luck with that one.

That's going to do it for now. Back to Anderson and "A WOMAN'S CHOICE: A NATION DIVIDED" after this short break.


COOPER: Welcome back to 360. Our special "A WOMAN'S CHOICE: A NATION DIVIDED."

The debate is no doubt explosive. As we saw in Wichita, it can turn deadly. Scott Roeder is charged with murdering Dr. George Tiller. Roeder had ties to far-right groups that are considered a breeding ground for hate.

A friend of Roeder who lived with the suspect says the two were soldiers in an organization called the "Army of God." And he may offer the most chilling account to Roeder's extreme transformation.

Ed Lavandera investigates.


ANACON: I should have picked up on that, that something imminent was going to happen, but I didn't.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This man says he understands Scott Roeder; that when they met, they shared the same vision.

ANACON: We saw the destruction of the American values system and the people that were responsible for it. And we decided to take some action to counter the things that were being done to this country.

LAVANDERA: His name is Eddie Ebecher, but he says in the right-wing underground he is known as Wolfgang Anacon.

(on camera): Anacon says he met Scott Roeder almost 15 years ago. He says they met in North Dakota during a meeting of the group known as the "Montana Freemen." At the time, Roeder's marriage was falling apart. His ex-wife blamed his growing obsession with these so-called patriot groups.

(voice-over): The "Montana Freemen" were part of the anti-government Christian Patriot Movement. But Anacon tells me he watched his friend start to change, that Roeder's wrathful faith was growing.

(on camera): Did this religious aspect of his life, did this consume every second of his life?

ANACON: Yes, it did. He was constantly praying, constantly reading the Bible, constantly talking about the Word. It was -- the foremost thing in his life was Yahweh.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): A soldier in the "Army of God, an extremist anti-abortion group. It advocates relentless force, applauds violence.

ANACON: I consider Scott as a soldier in Yahweh's Army.

LAVANDERA: Anacon says Roeder's final step began a few years ago when they were roommates. He says he saw Roeder focus his own wrathful anger on one man, Dr. George Tiller.

(on camera): You said he became obsessed with Dr. Tiller, right?

ANACON: Yes, he did. It was almost his calling to do something about this particular doctor.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): he witnessed the obsession when he once joined Roeder at an anti-abortion rally in front of Dr. Tiller's clinic.

ANACON: I feel that Scott had a burden for all the children that were being murdered and that he wanted to release the children from that kind of torture in the future. Apparently Scott let himself be used as an angel of vengeance, yes, an angel of destruction.

LAVANDERA: Roeder has not pleaded guilty or been put on trial yet. But on its Web site, the "Army of God" celebrates the murder of Dr. George Tiller and calls Scott Roeder an American hero.

Ed Lavandera, CNN.


COOPER: We know there are no easy answers and the debate over abortion will go on for decades to come. We hope though that the stories you heard in this 360 Special showed that at center of this battle are women who want you to know about the most difficult choices they made and why.

Thanks for watching. I'm Anderson Cooper. I'll see you next time.