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Killer of abortion doctor faces life sentence

WICHITA, Kan. - The man who gunned down one of the few doctors in the United States to perform late-term abortions could be sent to prison today for the rest of his life, but he may have gotten what he wanted: It is now markedly harder in Kansas to get an abortion.

Dr. George Tiller's clinic is closed, leaving the state with no facility where women can have the procedure after the 21st week of pregnancy. A vow by one of Tiller's contemporaries to fill the gap hasn't materialized, and state lawmakers are moving to enact tough new rules to dissuade other physicians from taking Tiller's place.

"The national anti-abortion movement has a tremendous victory here," said Dr. Warren Hern, a longtime friend of Tiller who performs late-term abortions in Colorado. "They accomplished exactly what they wanted and they continue to accomplish it."

Even as Scott Roeder faces a mandatory life sentence for killing Tiller, many ponder the conflicting legacies of his actions. Outside Kansas, abortion rights supporters say there's been a surge in late-term abortion practices by doctors emboldened to pick up where Tiller left off.

"What he really did was murder a doctor in church, and the effect on abortion is negligible," said Dr. LeRoy Carhart of Nebraska, who worked part-time for Tiller. Carhart said he had not given up on opening a practice in Kansas, though he admitted his plans were in a state of flux, given the rules passed late Tuesday night by the Kansas Legislature.

Roeder, 52, of Kansas City, Mo., was convicted in January of first-degree murder for fatally shooting Tiller last May as the doctor served as an usher in his Wichita church. The only question remaining today is whether Roeder's imprisonment will include a mandatory minimum of 25 or 50 years behind bars. - AP

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