December 4, 2009 — Nebraska-based abortion provider LeRoy Carhart has "taken up the cause" of serving women in need of abortions later in pregnancy to fill a void left by the murder of George Tiller, the New York Times reports. Since Tiller was fatally shot in May, Carhart has hired two people who worked at Tiller's clinic and trained his own staff in performing late abortions. Carhart said he has begun performing some abortions "past 24 weeks" and is prepared to perform them later if they meet legal requirements and if the procedures are medically necessary. He said, "There is a need, and I feel deeply about it."
Antiabortion-rights groups have redirected their protests toward Carhart, a longtime colleague of Tiller's who regularly assisted at his Wichita, Kan., clinic. Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, said he has traveled from the group's headquarters in Wichita to Nebraska several times in recent months to establish the area as a new battleground for the abortion debate. Newman said of Carhart, "We're trying to get criminal charges against him, to get his license revoked and to get legislators there to look at the law."
Carhart said he has increased security measures, both at the clinic and in his personal life. He makes only short, unscheduled trips out in public and has hired a full-time security consultant, among other precautions. "They have never targeted me more," Carhart said of antiabortion-rights advocates. He added, "But to me, the most dangerous response would be for me to stop what I am doing. The thought that killing Tiller might also succeed in closing another clinic -- that's my main reason for keeping open."
Other doctors who perform abortions later in pregnancy said that threats have increased and that they have stepped up security at their clinics since Tiller's death. Abortion-rights supporters have emphasized that there is a need for abortion later in pregnancy, such as in cases of severe genetic defects and extreme health circumstance; some had been concerned that few providers would be willing to offer the services after Tiller's murder. Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, said Carhart is "standing up, and so are some others" (Davey, New York Times, 12/4).