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Providers Worried About Further Intimidation, Antiabortion Violence


 

A Kansas man with ties to antigovernment groups and antiabortion protests, Scott Roeder, 51, has been charged with murder and aggravated assault in Dr. Tiller's slaying.

Following the shooting, U.S. Attorney Eric Holder activated the U.S. Marshals Service to increase security for “clinics and individuals” providing abortion services.

The number of U.S. abortion providers has been declining for many years, resulting in a situation in which 87% of U.S. counties (97% of nonmetropolitan counties) had no abortion provider as of 2005, reported the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a policy and research organization.

More than half of abortion providers (82% of large providers) experienced harassment in 2000, with abortion care depending on individuals like Dr. Tiller, who “risked his life on a daily basis,” said Guttmacher president Sharon Camp, Ph.D. “For the women he helped over the years, as well as those who will now have nowhere else to turn, this is an incalculable loss.” The majority of recognized antiabortion groups immediately condemned the killing as incompatible with their antiabortion stance.

“We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning,” said Troy Newman, director of Operation Rescue, a Kansas-based activist antiabortion group. The group also distanced itself from former Operation Rescue leader Randall Terry, who said that Dr. Tiller was a “mass murderer [who] reaped what he sowed.”

Other individuals, many in anonymous Web postings, expressed satisfaction following the murder, equating it with abortion.

Kansas community activist Regina Dinwiddie, who had protested at Dr. Tiller's clinic, told the Los Angeles Times, “If anybody needed killing, George Tiller needed killing. The gut reaction from everybody who doesn't have their thoughts filtered by fear is 'Yahoo!'”

The National Task Force on Violence Against Health Care Providers, formed by then-Attorney General Janet Reno following the 1998 murder of abortion provider Dr. Barnett A. Slepian, lists nearly 60 safety tips for providers, including, “Do not allow your vehicle to be boxed in. Maintain at least 8 feet between you and the vehicle in front, and avoid the inner lanes.”

Dr. Stanwood said that several physicians had vowed to reopen and staff Dr. Tiller's clinic in Wichita. However, at press time, Dr. Tiller's family announced in a statement that the clinic would be closed permanently.

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