June 10, 2009
By MONICA DAVEY
The Wichita abortion clinic run by a doctor who was shot and killed will remain closed permanently, his family said on Tuesday.
Dr. George R. Tiller’s clinic was one of the few in the country to provide abortions to women late in their pregnancies, and for decades, women had traveled there from all over the nation and from overseas. It was also the only remaining abortion clinic, even for first trimester abortions, in the Wichita region.
“The family of Dr. George Tiller announces that effective immediately, Women’s Health Care Services, Inc., will be permanently closed,” according to a statement issued on Tuesday morning by the family’s lawyers. “Notice is being given today to all concerned that the Tiller family is ceasing operation of the clinic and any involvement by family members in any other similar clinic.”
After Dr. Tiller was shot and killed on May 31 as he served as an usher at his Wichita church, abortion rights advocates – including at least one abortion provider in Nebraska – had said they hoped others might step in and keep Dr. Tiller’s clinic open to provide late-term abortions. Abortion rights advocates had the loss of such a clinic would be devastating to families of women who learned late in pregnancy of catastrophic health issues.
Even some abortion opponents, who had long devoted their efforts to closing down Dr. Tiller’s clinic, said they did not wish to see it happen under these circumstances. Last week, Troy Newman, the leader of Operation Rescue, had said that closing the clinic now would send a worrisome message. “Good God, do not close this abortion clinic for this reason,” he said in an interview with The New York Times. “Every kook in the world will get some notion.”
Scott P. Roeder, an outspoken opponent of abortion, is in a Wichita jail, charged with murder in Dr. Tiller’s death.
Immediately after the shooting, the Tiller family had announced that the clinic was closed for the moment, but provided no long term plan until Tuesday.
In the statement, the Tiller family said it wished to assure his previous patients that it would work to keep their medical histories and patient records “as fiercely protected now and in the future as they were during Dr. Tiller’s lifetime.”
The family also said Dr. Tiller’s work would be honored through private charitable work. “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 statement said. “That is a legacy that will never die.”
Abortion rights advocates said they believed the nearest abortion provider to Wichita may now be about three hours away, near Kansas City.