WICHITA, Kan. - The Wichita clinic of slain abortion provider George Tiller, one of only a handful of clinics in the country that provides third-term abortions, will be permanently closed, his family said yesterday.
Operations at Women's Health Care Services Inc. had been suspended since Tiller's death last month, and the clinic's future was uncertain. In a statement released by Tiller's attorneys, his family said that it would close permanently and that relatives would honor Tiller with charitable activities.
"We are proud of the service and courage shown by our husband and father and know that women's health-care needs have been met because of his dedication and service," the family said.
Tiller was shot to death May 31 while serving as an usher at the Lutheran church in Wichita that he regularly attended. Abortion opponent Scott Roeder, 51, is being held on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated assault in Tiller's death.
Warren Hern, one of the few remaining doctors in the country who performs late-term abortions, said that the closure of the clinic was an "outrage" and that he feels the loss for Tiller's family and the patients he served.
"How tragic, how tragic," Hern said when contacted by phone at his Boulder, Colo., clinic. "... They've been wanting this for 35 years."
Asked whether he felt efforts should be made to keep the clinic open, he said: "This was Dr. Tiller's clinic. How much can you resist this kind of violence? What doctor, what reasonable doctor would work there?"
Tiller's clinic had been a target of regular demonstrations by abortion opponents. Most were peaceful, but his clinic was bombed in 1986 and he was shot in both arms in 1993. In 1991, a 45-day "Summer of Mercy" campaign organized by Operation Rescue drew thousands of abortion opponents to Wichita, and there were more than 2,700 arrests.
Randall Terry, who founded the antiabortion group Operation Rescue, said "Good riddance" when he heard Tiller's clinic would be shuttered. Terry stopped using the Operation Rescue name after numerous lawsuits in 1990. He said history would remember Tiller's clinic as it remembers Auschwitz and other Nazi camps.
"What set him apart is that he killed late-term babies," Terry said. "If his replacement was going to continue to kill late-term children, the protests would continue, the investigations would continue, the indictments would continue."
CNN said that in an interview yesterday, Roeder did not answer questions about his alleged involvement in Tiller's death but added that if he is found guilty, the motive would be protecting unborn children. Roeder refused to discuss Tiller's death or his alleged involvement in it during a jailhouse interview earlier yesterday with the Associated Press.