Tiller’s abortion clinic temporarily closed

? As Dr. George Tiller faces criminal charges that he performed illegal abortions, his clinic has been closed because of vandalism, his attorneys said.

The temporary closing of Women’s Health Care Services in Wichita has been applauded by anti-abortion advocates, but abortion rights advocates say it has proven a hardship to some women.

“Women who have more difficult termination cases either come to Kansas or Colorado,” said Julie Burkhart, executive director of Pro Kan Do, which is Tiller’s political action committee.

With the closing of the clinic, Burkhart said, “That has left these women across the country with only one option.”

But the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue has been “thanking God” that the clinic was shut down.

The group has kept a running count of the days since the clinic closed last month.

Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy adviser for Operation Rescue, said she didn’t think the clinic was shut down because of vandalism, but added she wasn’t sure why it has been closed.

Sullenger also disagrees that the clinic’s closing has been a problem for women seeking an abortion.

Most women who receive late-term abortions at Tiller’s clinic are from out of state, she said, and so they would be willing to travel elsewhere.

Women’s Health Care Services is one of the few clinics in the United States that provides late-term abortions. It is the target of frequent protests, and Tiller was shot outside the clinic in 1993.

On July 4, unidentified vandals drilled a hole in the roof of the clinic, stuck a garden hose through and flooded a room, according to police. The suspects glued the water spigot to keep it going, police said.

“It caused a lot of damage,” said Gordon Bassham, a spokesman for the Wichita police.

No arrests have been made.

He said the clinic’s security cameras captured the images of two masked suspects but no other details.

Some women who would have gone to Tiller’s clinic have gone to one operated by Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri in Overland Park, officials there said.

“Not being able to access that service locally is an inconvenience at a minimum and has the risk of causing delays,” said Peter Brownlie, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

In June, Tiller was charged with 19 misdemeanor counts for allegedly failing to get an independent second opinion on some late-term abortions. Tiller has said he has done nothing wrong.

His attorneys said the clinic was closed because of the vandalism and increased protests. In a statement, they said Tiller temporarily closed the clinic “to make absolutely certain that these acts of sabotage have not created any physical or medical risks to his patients.”

Burkhart said the clinic will resume operation next week.