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Slain Abortion Doctor George Tiller's Clinic Reopens in Kansas

Update Date: Apr 05, 2013 10:02 AM EDT

Nearly four years ago, in May 2009, Dr. George Tiller was murdered in a Wichita church. Dr. Tiller had become a controversial figure because he was one of only a select group of doctors in the country who performed late-term abortions. Scott Roeder confessed to killing the 67-year-old physician in order to put an end to abortions.

According to Reuters, on Wednesday, Dr. Tiller's clinic reopened. Things were different, to be sure. The picketers had been replaced with people praying. The clinic's name had been changed to the South Wind Women's Center.

The most important difference is the fact that doctors on the premises do not perform late-term abortions. The clinic will only perform abortions until week 14 of a woman's pregnancy - this despite the fact that abortions are legal until the 20th week in Kansas. Julie Burkhart, who worked closely with Dr. Tiller and is a spokesperson for the clinic, explained that this line was drawn because of the physicians' comfort levels. The "vast majority" of abortions occur during that 14-week window, she said. For women seeking late-term abortions, the clinic can provide them with the contact information of clinics in Kansas City and in Tulsa, Oklahoma who can perform the service.

The clinic has three physicians working there, whose names have not been released. It says that it offers gynecological offerings, as well as abortions. The clinic has not begun to schedule abortions yet, which is why picketers have not appeared yet.

Anti-abortion groups attempted to block the clinic's opening. They petitioned for rezoning, and complained that the building did not have the necessary permits for remodeling.

On its end, the clinic says that it is making things easier for women. While it was closed, women who needed abortions need to travel long distances to Oklahoma City or Kansas City for the procedure.

The reopening of the clinic marks the hardening lines in the abortion debate. Several states have made it more difficult to access abortions since Dr. Tiller's death, many of them direct challenges to the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade.

Last month alone, North Dakota enacted the strictest abortion ban in the country, blocking abortions after six weeks. Earlier in March, the Arkansas legislature overrode a governor's veto and blocked abortions after the 12-week mark.

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