OMAHA, Neb. – A Nebraska doctor said Wednesday that he will perform third-term abortions in Kansas after the slaying of abortion provider George Tiller, but would not say whether he will open a new facility or offer the procedure at an existing practice.
Dr. LeRoy Carhart declined to discuss his plans in detail during a telephone interview with The Associated Press, but insisted "there will be a place in Kansas for the later second- and the medically indicated third-trimester patients very soon."
"I just think that until everything is in place, it's something that doesn't need to be talked about" in detail, Carhart said a day after Tiller's family announced his Wichita clinic was permanently shutting its doors.
Tiller's clinic was one of the only facilities in the country that performed third-trimester abortions. Carhart has run his own clinic in Bellevue, Neb., since 1985, but had performed late-term abortions at Tiller's clinic because of Nebraska's more restrictive abortion laws.
Nebraska law does not allow an abortion if the fetus is considered viable, or able to survive outside the womb. Kansas law allows abortions on viable fetuses after the 21st week if carrying the pregnancy to term would endanger the mother's life or cause a "substantial and irreversible impairment" of a major bodily function. Courts have interpreted a "major bodily function" to include mental health.
Carhart said he has not performed any abortion past the 22nd week of pregnancy at own clinic because he never trained his staff to do them.
"If I have to train the staff and if I have to do them, then that's certainly an option" for a fetus that would not survive outside the womb, he said. Carhart said some of the staff from Tiller's clinic may join him in Nebraska to help with training.
Carhart said he has already seen more patients at his Bellevue clinic since Tiller's was closed after he 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.
Operation Rescue president Troy Newman said his group, which tried for years to put Tiller's clinic out of business, has discussed the idea of buying the tan, windowless building in east Wichita.
"I would love to make an offer on that abortion clinic, and that's some of the discussion that we're having," Newman said Tuesday.
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," attorney Dan Monnat 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.