WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — One of Kansas’ four remaining abortion clinics has closed amid a hostile political climate, financial challenges and apathy among younger women when it comes to abortion rights, its outgoing manager said Monday.
The Aid For Women clinic in Kansas City, Kansas, disclosed on its website that the clinic closed Saturday. Patients are being referred to two clinics in suburban Kansas City and one in Wichita. Abortion services may also be available from other health care providers in the state, but Aid for Women was one of only four places in Kansas that publicizes that it performs abortions.
Clinic manager Jeff Pederson said in a phone interview Monday that there are enough abortion clinics still open to absorb its patients — for now. “Although I suspect another may eventually close, at least another one. It is just a matter of time,” he said, declining to elaborate.
Anti-abortion group Operation Rescue hailed the clinic’s closing. The Wichita-based group filed a complaint with the state regulators in 2012, alleging Aid for Women failed to report child sexual abuse. A lawyer for the clinic denied those claims. Operation Rescue says said it was told last week in a letter from the Kansas Board of Healing Arts that the case was ongoing.
“There is no doubt that in addition to the faithful presence of local pro-life activists outside that facility, our case contributed to his decision to retire and shut down his seedy abortion operation, although I doubt that he would ever admit it,” Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, said in a statement Sunday.
According to Operation Rescue, Kansas had seven abortion clinics in 2001.
Pederson said if people want access to services like those previously provided at his facility, they will need to do something about it.
“The generation of patients whom we have helped need to step up and carry the torch instead of assuming clinic workers will always fight their battle, the battle for the right to have safe, legal, easily accessible birth control and abortions, and without having to travel to a few enlightened Democratic States,” Pederson said in a statement.
An online note posted on the clinic website said the clinic manager and physician have both decided to retire. Pederson, 53, declined to discuss his own plans and said he did not know what the clinic’s doctor was planning.
“I am tired of it,” Pederson told The Associated Press. “It is the most politically expedient thing I could do.”
Asked what finally prompted the decision to close Aid for Women, Pederson cited a lack of support from younger patients, whom he said he can’t even get to register to vote. He cited their “lack of gratitude, taking everything for granted.” It has been older women who have supported abortion rights, he said, such as those who helped reopen in Wichita the clinic that had been shut down when abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was gunned down by an anti-abortion activist in a Wichita church in 2009.
In a 2012 interview, Pederson had said the clinic had been the subject of regular harassment by anti-abortion activists, including Scott Roeder, who fatally shot Tiller. Pederson said Roeder, who is serving a life prison sentence, was caught on surveillance video putting glue on the clinic’s locks 18 hours before he killed Tiller.
“I am tired of getting beat up when I go to the Legislature, I am tired of getting beat up going to court (on) frivolous lawsuits,” Pederson said Monday, adding he was also tired of dealing with a state regulatory board that wouldn’t quell baseless complaints. “Just tired all the way around.”
Asked if Aid for Women would have been able to stay open financially had it not been for all those challenges, Pederson replied, “Probably not.”
“I just know we are not all in the best of shape,” he said of the abortion clinics. “And I am just, I am just, the canary in the mine.”