Abortion Providers Across U.S. Honor Tiller

Doctors say Tiller's murder will not affect their resolve to perform abortions.

June 7, 2009 -- 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.

Kara and Matt Black were in that situation four years ago. The couple first learned there was a problem with the pregnancy during an ultrasound at 20 weeks. It then took more time to get a proper diagnosis from specialists. Doctors told Kara and Matt the baby's heart was missing a chamber that fed oxygen to the lungs. Her heart wasn't pumping blood properly and was filtering contaminated blood back into her system.

Kara said she had the option of carrying to term at which point doctors would administer what they called "compassionate care," a process of giving the baby morphine until she passed away. Or they could opt for three open heart surgeries and hope the baby survived.

"They did say that with each open heart surgery you lose a third of your cognitive ability, and she would be severely retarded," Kara said. Doctors told the couple in the best case scenario the baby would live 3 to 5 years, on and off respirators.

"How do you recover from a lost three- to five-year-old as you watch them die slowly?" Kara asked.

Dr. Tiller performed Kara's abortion. The Blacks now have two other children.

"If people knew what he really was doing out there and dropped this fairytale that you get pregnant [and] you get a healthy baby. It doesn't happen like that," Kara Black said. "You know, sometimes your body does not miscarry, and you have to deal with cards that you're dealt."

One week after his death, Tiller's clinic remains closed. On the clinic's Web site, Tiller's family asks that people respect their privacy. They have also issued a statement saying they have no plans to reopen it anytime soon.

The same anti-abortion groups that have spoken out against Tiller's practices have also denounced his accused murderer's actions, saying two wrongs don't make a right. However, they maintain their stance that Tiller was wrong.

Tom McClusky, vice president of the Family Research Council, said that in the anti-abortion movement, any abortion is wrong.

"In the case of late-term abortion, these are children that have arms, have legs, feel pain," he added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.