WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The family of slain abortion provider George Tiller said Tuesday that his Wichita clinic will be “permanently closed,” effective immediately.
In a statement released by Tiller’s attorneys, his family said it is ceasing operation of Women’s Health Care Services Inc. and any involvement by family members in any other similar clinic.
“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 family said.
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Tiller was shot to death May 31 while serving as an usher at the Lutheran church in Wichita that he regularly attended. Scott Roeder is being held on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated assault in Tiller’s death.
Tiller’s family said it will honor his memory through private charitable activities.
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.
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 said he began receiving death threats when he opened his first outpatient abortion clinic in 1973, which has prompted him to take security measures that includes “working behind four layers of bullet proof glass.”
“I will never be safe the rest of my life,” Hern said. “No matter what I do. Even if I close my office. They’ve told me, don’t bother wearing a bulletproof vest, we’re going to go for a head shot.”
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.”
Randall Terry, the founder of 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.”
Current Operation Rescue president Troy Newman, who had condemned Tiller’s killing as vigilantism, called the announcement “a bittersweet moment.”
“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, but it did not say he’d botched any abortions.
A spokeswoman for the board has said since Tiller’s death that the case likely would be closed.
Associated Press Writers P. Solomon Banda in Denver and John Hanna and Carl Manning in Topeka, Kansas, contributed to this report.