Topeka The family of slain abortion provider Dr. George Tiller announced Tuesday that Tiller’s women’s health clinic in Wichita would be shut down permanently.
The decision prompted calls by abortion rights advocates for someone “to pick up the torch” in providing reproductive health services.
“While many anti-choice organizations may claim this as a victory, no person’s death at the hands of an extremist should be considered as such,” said Marla Patrick, state coordinator for the Kansas National Organization for Women.
“Our dedication to safe and legal abortion services remains unwavering,” Patrick said.
Tiller, whose clinic provided late-term abortions, was fatally shot May 31 while serving as an usher at his Wichita church. Anti-abortionist Scott Roeder, 51, is being held in Sedgwick County on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated assault in Tiller’s death.
Gap in services
Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri said the closure of Tiller’s Women’s Health Care Services “creates a significant gap in access for women and families in Kansas — no one is providing that service between Kansas City and Denver.”
In 2008, a total of 10,642 abortions were performed in Kansas; 323 were at 22 weeks or more gestation, according to state records.
Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the closing of Tiller’s clinic will be a problem for women.
“Persistent harassment including violence, threats and intimidation, and legal restrictions on abortion, deter new doctors from entering the field and force skilled physicians out.
“The Center for Reproductive Rights hopes that other doctors will be brave enough to come forward and continue Dr. Tiller’s critical work of providing services to women,” Northup said.
Continue the probes
In a statement, Kansans for Life, which opposes abortion rights, said of Tiller’s Women’s Health Services in Wichita, “This facility was on the verge of being closed by the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts, so it is especially tragic that Tiller was murdered.”
KFL was referring to allegations made in a disciplinary petition filed by a panel of the Healing Arts Board.
The allegations were that Tiller failed to get referrals for late-term abortions from an independent physician, as required by law. Tiller denied the allegations, and had been earlier cleared of similar charges by a Sedgwick County jury.
If the full Healing Arts board had agreed with the allegations against Tiller, his medical license could have been revoked or suspended, but a hearing on that case had not yet been scheduled when Tiller was slain.
Kristi Pankratz, a spokeswoman for the Healing Arts Board, said the agency will close the petition in the Tiller case.
“With the death of Dr. Tiller there is no action to go against his medical license,” she said.
The allegations before the Healing Arts Board involved 11 late-term abortions in 2003 to patients aged 10 through 18.
Kansans for Life called on the board to revoke the medical licenses of other doctors who worked at the clinic. But Pankratz said there were no disciplinary petitions filed against those physicians.