Clinic of Murdered Kansas Abortion Doctor Will Be 'Permanently Closed'

The clinic where slain Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller worked will be "permanently closed," his family's attorneys said Tuesday.

Tiller. 67, performed late-term abortions at Women's Health Care Services Inc. in Wichita until he was gunned down by an anti-abortionist in church May 31.

Operations at the clinic, one of only a handful in the country that provides third-term abortions, had been suspended since his murder and its future was uncertain.

Abortion opponent Scott Roeder, 51, is in jail on first-degree murder and aggravated assault charges in the killing.

A cable news network said that in an interview Tuesday, Roeder called the clinic's closure "a victory for all the unborn children."

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Lee Thompson and Dan Monnat, attorneys for Tiller's family, said in a statement that "effective immediately, Women's Health Care Services, Inc., will be permanently closed.

"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 read. "That is a legacy that will never die."

The family said it plans to honor Tiller's memory through work at private charities.

Nebraska doctor LeRoy Carhart, who had worked at Tiller's clinic, had said earlier that he was interested in continuing to do so, but Tiller's family took time to decide.

Dr. Warren Hern, one of the few remaining doctors in the country who performs late-term abortions, said the closure of the clinic was an "outrage" and he feels the loss for Dr. Tiller's family and the patients he served.

"How tragic, how tragic," Hern said when contacted by phone at his Boulder, Colo., clinic. "This is what they want, 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? Where does it stop?"

Hern blamed comments from anti-abortion groups for Tiller's death.

"The anti-abortion fanatics have to shut up and go home. They have to back off and they have to respect other people's point of view. This is an outrage, this is a national outrage."

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 original Operation Rescue group, responded to news that Tiller's clinic would remain closed with, "Good riddance." He said history would remember Tiller's clinic as it remembers Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration 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."

In the interview with the cable network, Roeder refused to 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 Tuesday with The Associated Press.

Troy Newman, who resurrected the Operation Rescue name and based the group in Wichita, called the announcement that the clinic would close permanently "a bittersweet moment." He had condemned Tiller's killing as vigilantism.

"Operation Rescue was just two months away from getting Tiller's medical license revoked, and that would have accomplished the same goal," Newman said in an e-mail.

A complaint before the State Board of Healing Arts, which licenses and regulates doctors in Kansas, alleged that Tiller violated a state law that required him to obtain a second opinion from an independent physician. It also accused Tiller of engaging in unprofessional or dishonorable conduct.

A spokeswoman for the board has said since Tiller's death that the case likely would be closed.

Family members said they wanted to assure Tiller's previous patients that the privacy of their medical histories and patient records will remain "as fiercely protected now and in the future" as they were during Tiller's lifetime.

A former Kansas attorney general who was investigating Tiller's clinic obtained, through a judge, access to redacted medical files that did not include patients' names.

Some of those records were used in the recent misdemeanor criminal case against Tiller over whether he obtained an independent second opinion for late-term abortions. Tiller was cleared of those criminal charges, but the case against his medical license was pending.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.