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ABORTION NEWS | Abortion Providers Concerned About Access to Services in Wake of Tiller Death

ABORTION NEWS | Abortion Providers Concerned About Access to Services in Wake of Tiller Death
[June 3, 2009]

Abortion providers are expressing concern about future violence and access to abortion services later in pregnancy after the shooting death on Sunday of Kansas abortion provider George Tiller, the AP/San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Tiller was one of a handful of abortion providers in the U.S. who performed abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy. Tiller's family members said they are unsure if they will reopen the clinic, which was closed after the murder (AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/3). Dan Monnat, the attorney representing Tiller's family, said that the family's "hope is that the valuable work of Dr. Tiller will be able to continue," and that their "focus ... is to determine what is in the best interests of the employees and the patients" (Riccardi, Chicago Tribune, 6/3).

Physician LeRoy Carhart said that he would like to continue to provide women with third-trimester abortion services at Tiller's clinic, where he regularly traveled for a few days every three weeks to see patients. Carhart said that Tiller's clinic was the only location where he performed abortions in the third trimester, and it is unclear whether he will be able to continue to offer the procedure because of the clinic's closing. Carhart added that the continued availability of third-trimester abortion is uncertain, as many physicians in the younger generation of abortion providers are hesitant to take up the cause. Few schools and universities offer programs to train physicians to perform the procedure, and those who might be interested are concerned about violence, Carhart said (AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/3). According to NPR's "All Things Considered," U.S. marshals have been sent to protect abortion clinics and providers throughout the country in the wake of Tiller's murder.

Some abortion-rights supporters called on officials to do more to draw attention to the effects of violence on access to abortion services. Abortion provider Warren Hern, a friend of Tiller's who also performs the procedure during the third trimester, said that President Obama needs to do more than condemn Tiller's murder and violence against abortion providers. He said that Obama "needs to go on a national television broadcast and say to the American public, 'Safe abortion is a fundamental component of women's health care. Antiabortion terrorism and violence will not be tolerated. We will stop you.'" Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said, "We need to hear from our officeholders, from doctors, from religious leaders, from the community." She added, "(W)e can't stop the voices of those who will continue to vilify and demonize, but what we can do is we need to have more voices standing up for these doctors" (Lohr, "All Things Considered," NPR, 6/2).

Suspect Charged

Kansas prosecutors on Tuesday formally charged Scott Roeder with murder for allegedly killing Tiller, the Chicago Tribune reports. The charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison because the crime does not fit the state's legal requirements for the death penalty, Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston said. The charges against Roeder also include two counts of aggravated assault for wielding his firearm at two individuals who tried to stop him (Chicago Tribune, 6/3).