The fifth anniversary of the murder of Dr. George Tiller passed Saturday, and American opinions on abortion — the issue that cost Tiller his life — remain divided as ever.
Tiller, "the nation’s pre-eminent abortion practitioner," was gunned down in his Wichita, Kansas church on May 31, 2009 by Scott Roeder, a man so fervent in his opposition to abortion that he decided Tiller had to die.
"I did what I thought was needed to be done to protect the children," Roeder, said at his trial. "I shot him."
Tiller was one of the few doctors in the country who performed late-term abortions — the termination of a pregnancy after a fetus could survive outside the womb.
This Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 photo shows a security camera outside South Wind Women’s Center in Wichita, Kan. Reopened in April 2013, the clinic was closed four years earlier after its owner, Dr. George Tiller, was killed by a man claiming he’d acted to save the lives of the unborn. That act of violence left even some abortion supporters wondering if it would be just too dangerous to start over. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
The clinic Tiller operated was closed after the shooting, but it reopened in 2013 and now, five years on, the abortion clinic exists side-by-side with a pro-life clinic called Choices, which offers counseling on alternatives to abortion.
"We are here next door to provide a visible, viable medical alternative to what they're considering," Scott Stringfield, Choices' medical director, told NPR. "By God's grace we've influenced and impacted many, many women."
In this Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 photo, South Wind Women’s Center executive director Julie Burkhart stands in the entryway of the Wichita, Kan. clinic which was once owned by slain Dr. George Tiller, pictured at left. She reopened the clinic which was closed since Tiller's death four years ago, despite Kansas adopting some of the toughest abortion laws in the country in the interim. How this clinic reopened in this staunchly red state is a story that reveals the changing dynamics of the abortion debate around the country: Supporters are navigating around - and challenging - new laws. Anti-abortion forces are buoyed by new political clout in statehouses. And both sides are entrenched as ever, fighting the same war they did decades ago. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
While the abortion debate remains divisive, the situation in Wichita seems to show something approaching uneasy peace.
Pro-life groups strongly condemned the shooting of Tiller and violence against abortion providers in general, while on the other side of the fence from Choices, Tiller's former clinic no longer offers late-term abortions — since Kansas banned the practice in 2011.
Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter