Abortion providers from across the country gathered in Wichita, Kan., this weekend for the funeral of George Tiller. The doctor, who specialized in controversial late-term abortions, was gunned down May 31 at his church in Wichita.
Toni Hawkins, executive director of the Atlanta SurgiCenter, a medical group that provides abortions, called Tiller a hero and said he did not die in vain. Tiller's murder will not change the way abortion doctors do business, she said. "It will make us more firm in our resolve in what we do, and why we do what we do," Hawkins said.
Tiller was one of only a handful of doctors in the country who regularly perform late-term abortions, which are performed as late as the third trimester. The procedure is much more controversial because the fetus is more developed, and sometimes able to live outside the womb. With Tiller's death, there are now fewer than a dozen U.S. doctors who specialize in this practice.
Dr. Leroy Carhart is one of those doctors. Carhart, whose safety was such a concern that he would only speak with ABC News behind closed doors and with security present, said he wants Americans to understand that late-term abortions make up only a small percentage of all abortion procedures. In all, he performed about 2,500 abortions last year. Only 100 of them were late-term.
"It's very much a three day, four day, even five day procedure," Carhart said. "In our procedure, after the first day, the fetus is no longer alive. It's really a miscarriage of a still-born fetus."
On the same weekend abortion doctors are speaking out against Tiller's murder, the man accused of firing the fatal bullet is making statements of his own.
Scott Roeder, who is facing first-degree murder and aggravated assault charges in Tiller's killing, is currently being held in the Sedgwick County Jail. It is from that jail where he phoned The Associated Press Sunday, warning that more violence is possible.
"I know there are many other similar events planned around the country as long as abortion remains legal," Roeder said, although he would not elaborate. Roeder, a 51-year-old abortion opponent, was arrested just hours after the shooting.
Roeder told the AP he has refused to talk to investigators since his arrest, saying, "I just told them I needed to talk to my lawyer." When asked by the AP whether he shot Dr. Tiller, Roeder would only say that he needed to clear things up with his lawyer.
Anti-Abortionists Speak Out Against Murder, but Maintain Tiller Was Wrong
The May 31 shooting was not the first time Tiller had been attacked. His clinic in Wichita has been the target of regular demonstrations. It was bombed once in 1986, and Tiller himself was shot in both arms in 1993. It is because of those attacks that Tiller often wore a bulletproof vest and traveled with a bodyguard.
Carhart, who was a close friend and colleague of Tiller's, plans to continue his work. He currently operates a clinic in Bellevue, Neb. He said nearly every woman who chooses to undergo a late-term abortion has learned something is horribly wrong with her baby.