WICHITA, Kansas Little more than a week after a gunman murdered George Tiller, a well-known late-term abortion provider, the doctor's family has announced the clinic will not reopen.
"Notice is being given today to all concerned that the Tiller family is ceasing operation of the (Women's Health Care Services) clinic and any involvement by family members in any other similar clinic," read the statement, which was signed by Tiller attorney, Daniel E. Monnat.
Tiller was gunned down May 31 while he was ushering at his church. Scott Roeder, a 51-year-old man with ties to anti-government groups, has been charged in the murder. Roeder was also said to be an opponent of abortion. There had been speculation Tiller's clinic, which operated for three decades, could reopen as early as this week.
"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 added. "That is a legacy that will never die. The family will honor Dr. Tiller's memory through private charitable activities."
The attorney added that the family would be issuing no more statements on the matter.
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, issued a statement supporting the Tiller family.
"It is a sad day for our country when family members who stood by their husband and father as he endured countless anti-choice attacks are forced as a result of his murder to make a decision like this one," Keenan said. "What happened to Dr. Tiller is part of an ongoing pattern of extreme anti-choice violence and intimidation that seeks, by any means necessary, to deny women access to the safe, legal abortion care they need. This use of inflammatory rhetoric and acts of violence must stop."
Tiller's clinic had been the focus of ongoing abortion protests because the doctor was one of only a few nationwide that still performed gruesome late-term procedures. Although hundreds of protesters assembled peacefully outside the clinic for years, there were several violent attacks there, including a shooting, which wounded Tiller in both arms. Pro-life leaders said those attacks were initiated by people not associated with their ministries.
In addition to the protests, Operation Rescue led protracted efforts to shut down the clinic through the court system, but suffered a defeat earlier this year when a jury acquitted Tiller of multiple counts of performing illegal abortions.
"We are thankful that Tiller's clinic will not reopen and thankful that Wichita is now abortion-free," said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. "It is our sincere prayer that threats to open another third-trimester abortion clinic in Kansas will not come to fruition so that the healing process for this state and community can begin.
At the same time, Newman denouncedas he did immediately following the fatal shootingTiller's murder.
"This is a bittersweet moment for us at Operation Rescue," he said. "We have worked very hard for this day, but we wish it would have come through the peaceful, legal channels that we were pursuing. We believe we were very close to seeing disciplinary action taken against Tiller's license that would have closed this clinic through due process."
According to Operation Rescue, a staff member received two letters from the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts dated June 1, informing her that complaints she filed before Tiller's death were still open and the investigations still pending. The complaints named Tiller and his employee, Shelley Sella, who also performed abortions. The letters were automatically generated prior to Tiller's death.
According to Newman, Sella is being investigated for her role in a September late-term abortion that caused substantial complications.
"Since the woman involved suffered life-threatening injuries, issues involving Sella's participation in this botched abortion must still be addressed by the board," said Newman.The shooting prompted some in the pro-choice community to denounce pro-lifers for their silence over the shooting. But immediately after the shooting many pro-life groups, including Priests for Life, Care Net Pregnancy Care Centers, Stand True, Susan B. Anthony List, American Life League, 40 Days for Life, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, Vision America, Pro-Life Action League, Presbyterians Pro-Life and Dr. Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., all issued statements condemning Tiller's murder.