TOPEKA, KN -- Abortions in Kansas decreased by 11 percent in 2009, according to a preliminary report by the state's Department of Health and Environment.
But contrary to the opinion of some pro-choice leaders, the drop of 1,170 reported abortions -- from 10,642 in 2008 to 9,472 last year -- was the result of more than the closing of George Tiller's Wichita clinic following his murder, according to Kansans for Life, the state's leading pro-life organization. Tiller, whose clinic specialized in late-term abortions, was shot to death May 31 by Scott Roeder, who was convicted in January of first-degree murder. All major pro-life organizations denounced the killing.
"It really comes as no surprise when you lose an abortion provider very suddenly," Sarah Gillooly told the Kansas City Star. Gillooly is the public affairs manager for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. "The tragic death of Dr. Tiller was an enormous loss for women in Kansas," she said.
However, Kansans for Life pointed to two factors in the abortion reduction, beyond the closing of Tiller's clinic:
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-- The work of 76 pregnancy help centers in the state, including 19 offering free ultrasound screenings.
-- A new law guaranteeing information rights for pregnant women, including the right to view an ultrasound before having an abortion.
"Last year approximately 32,000 women contacted these [pregnancy help centers] and were helped in a variety of ways -- before, during and after delivery," Kathy Ostrowski, Kansans for Life's state legislative director, said in a written statement.
"Although we have no way to calculate how often women are requesting to see the fetal ultrasound inside abortion clinics -- now permitted under law -- this is an important deterrent to abortion."
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Tiller probably was the best-known abortion provider in the United States. His clinic was a major reason Kansas was described as "the late-term abortion capital of America." The clinic advertised on its website it had "more experience in late abortion services over 24 weeks than anyone else currently practicing in the Western Hemisphere, Europe and Australia." Women traveled to his clinic from throughout the United States and various foreign countries in order to have abortions even in the third trimester.
The number of abortions 22 weeks or later in pregnancy declined from 323 in 2008 to 121 last year, according to the state data released March 23. Of those abortions in 2009, 67 were of viable unborn babies, 66 on women from out of state. In 2008, 192 were on children who could have survived outside the womb, 188 on non-resident women.
With the shutting down of Tiller's clinic, Kansas has four abortion clinics, according to Kansans for Life: two in Overland Park; one in Kansas City, Kan.; and one in Lawrence.