When I learned the other day that Dr. Tiller’s clinic Women’s Health Care Services would not reopen with new providers, I found the news extremely depressing and lamented the significantly reduced access to much-needed, and sometimes life-saving, abortion care.
Now, against the odds, it turns out that another brave abortion provider is stepping in to take Dr. Tiller’s place, and provide late abortions in Kansas (h/t):
A Nebraska doctor said Wednesday that he will perform third-term abortions in Kansas after the slaying of abortion provider George Tiller, but would not say whether he will open a new facility or offer the procedure at an existing practice.
Dr. LeRoy Carhart declined to discuss his plans in detail during a telephone interview with The Associated Press, but insisted “there will be a place in Kansas for the later second- and the medically indicated third-trimester patients very soon.”
“I just think that until everything is in place, it’s something that doesn’t need to be talked about” in detail, Carhart said a day after Tiller’s family announced his Wichita clinic was permanently shutting its doors.
Tiller’s clinic was one of the only facilities in the country that performed third-trimester abortions. Carhart has run his own clinic in Bellevue, Neb., since 1985, but had performed late-term abortions at Tiller’s clinic because of Nebraska’s more restrictive abortion laws.
Dr. Carhart was a long-term friend and colleague of Dr. Tiller, and had worked with him on past occasions. He had also previously been a part of plans to reopen Dr. Tiller’s clinic and provide services there along with two other doctors, before Dr. Tiller’s family ultimately decided that the facility would not reopen. Apparently determined to ensure that late abortions are still available in the state (which has significantly less restrictive late abortion laws than many others), he has now developed alternate plans. And I know that I, surely along with countless other advocates, am breathing a huge sigh of relief. The women and otherwise identifying people (some intersex and genderqueer individuals and trans men, for example) who will unfortunately need late abortion services have likely just been spared a lot of additional pain and/or health risk.
Dr. Carhart also has a long history as a reproductive rights hero. He has been an abortion provider since 1985, has long provided late abortions himself, and reports an increase in patients at his clinic since Dr. Tiller’s murder less than two weeks ago. And you may recognize his name from the infamous Gonzales v. Carhart Supreme Court case, which upheld the ban on so-called “partial birth” abortions. Dr. Carhart had challenged the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act on the basis that it provided no exception for a patient’s health. Though the case was lost at the highest level, it was a correct and absolutely necessary challenge. Now, he is stepping in to fill Dr. Tiller’s shoes, knowing full well the kind of terror that is almost certainly awaiting him, merely for his determination to provide a legal medical service.
So, thank you Dr. Carhart. I am beyond grateful for your strong commitment to reproductive health and rights. And I can only believe that Dr. Tiller would be extremely pleased.