TOPEKA, Kansas – The group that tried for years to put slain abortion provider Dr. George Tiller out of business is interested in buying his now-closed clinic in Wichita, its president said, but an attorney for the doctor rejected the idea as a publicity stunt.
Operation Rescue president Troy Newman said that his group has discussed the idea of buying the tan, windowless clinic in east Wichita. He made the comment after the Tiller family announced Tuesday that the clinic would be closed permanently.
"I would love to make an offer on that abortion clinic, and that's some of the discussion that we're having," Newman said in a telephone interview Tuesday from his group's headquarters in Wichita.
Tiller, whose clinic was one of the only facilities in the country that performed third-trimester abortions, was shot May 31 while serving as an usher at his church. Scott Roeder, a 51-year-old Kansas City, Mo., resident, has been charged with first-degree murder and aggravated assault.
An attorney for Tiller wouldn't discuss the proposal. "I'm just not going to respond to every irreverent publicity stunt or comment by these extremists," said the attorney, Dan Monnat.
The clinic building and the land upon which it sits were appraised this year at $734,100 for tax purposes, according to county records available online. Those records show that Tiller and the clinic owned an additional $51,600 in personal property. The owner of the building and property is listed as J & G Enterprises, formed in 1993. Tiller's widow, Jeanne, is named as the resident agent, or the person who would receive legal papers.
Newman's group bought another former abortion clinic in Wichita in 2006 for its headquarters, but he said the group needs to expand. "We need a bigger office," he said.
Tiller's clinic was the site of a 45-day "Summer of Mercy" protest in 1991 that included attempts to blockade it and led to more than 2,700 arrests.
Operation Rescue was founded in the 1980s by Randall Terry, who led the "Summer of Mercy" effort. Terry stopped using the Operation Rescue name because of multiple lawsuits. He and Newman are engaged in a legal dispute over who has the right to use the name.
Newman moved to Wichita in 2002 and brought his anti-abortion group from California to wage an aggressive campaign to shut down Tiller's clinic.
"We would love to see that place established as a center for life, one that nurtures and cares for babies, rather than taking their lives," Newman said of Tiller's former clinic.