Boulder abortion provider deplores decision to close Tiller’s Kansas clinic

Antiabortion protesters led in prayer. (Photo/Matthew Bradley, Flickr)

Antiabortion protesters led in prayer. (Photo/Matthew Bradley, Flickr)

One of the last remaining providers of very late abortions in the country said it was an “outrage” the murder of Dr. George Tiller last week has led to his family’s decision to close the clinic he ran in Wichita, Kan.

“How tragic, how tragic,” Boulder physician Warren Hern told The Associated Press after Tiller’s family made the announcement Tuesday. ” “This is what they want, they’ve been wanting this for 35 years,” Hern said, referring to anti-abortion activists he earlier termed part of a “fascist movement.”

Asked whether he felt efforts should be made to keep the clinic open, [Hern] 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, who runs the Boulder Abortion Clinic, has been under increased protection from federal marshals since Tiller was shot to death at a Wichita church last Sunday. Attorney General Eric Holder ordered agents to step up security for clinics and doctors who provide abortions in the wake of Tiller’s murder.

“The anti-abortion fanatics have to shut up and go home,” Hern told the AP. “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.”

Attorneys for the Tiller family issued a statement Tuesday saying the Wichita clinic, Women’s Health Care Services, which has been shuttered since Tiller was shot to death, will remain 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 Tiller family said in the statement. They said they will honor the abortion provider’s memory with private charitable activities.

The clinic’s closure leaves the nearest abortion provider three hours away for Wichita women, The Wichita Eagle’s Dion Lefler reports. That makes Wichita “more typical” of medium-sized cities in the Midwest, Lefler writes, noting that 96 percent of Kansas’ counties already lacked an abortion provider before the Wichita clinic shut its doors.

“A three-hour trip time is not unusual for many women in America, especially if you look at places like Mississippi and Arkansas, where substantial populations don’t have an abortion provider,” said Jenny O’Donnell of the Abortion Access Project.

The man accused of killing Tiller told CNN that the clinic’s closure was “a victory for all the unborn children.” Scott Roeder, 51, wouldn’t admit to shooting Tiller in a jailhouse interview with CNN’s Ted Rowlands, but said if he winds up being convicted in the slaying, “the entire motive was the defense of the unborn.”

[Roeder] said the closure would mean “no more slicing and dicing of the unborn child in the mother’s womb and no more needles of poison into the baby’s heart to stop the heart from beating, and no more partial-birth abortions.”

One of the few leaders of the anti-abortion movement who has hedged his condemnation of Tiller’s assassination told the AP he was glad the clinic would remain closed.

Randall Terry, who founded the original Operation Rescue anti-abortion group, responded to the news by saying, “Good riddance.” He said Tiller’s clinic would go down in history the way people remember Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps.

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Ernest Luning

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