January 13, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – After years of protests and prayer vigils, pro-life activists in Rockford, Illinois can finally breathe a sigh of relief – the notoriously bizarre Northern Illinois Women’s Center (NIWC) has announced that it will close permanently.

“The staff is very saddened by the closing,” said the owners of the facility in a statement released this morning to the Rockford Register Star. “We are not done grieving this loss and still are struggling with surrendering to the idea that we will not be able to do this work tomorrow or the day after.”

The statement comes on the heels of news that the facility was prepared to reopen its doors after it reached a settlement with state health officials earlier this month, after being shut down late last year for health violations.

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However, the Register Star reports that the director of NIWC said that the decision to shut down permanently was due to “a lack of support from the community, the political climate surrounding the abortion issue both locally and nationally and the challenge the clinic would face in rebuilding staff,” in the words of the Register Star reporter.

“We thank God that Rockford’s long nightmare is over,” pro-lifer Kevin Rilott, who has led pro-life vigils outside the NIWC for years, told LifeSiteNews.com. “This abortion mill killed tens of thousands of babies and wounded countless women.  Their closing is a gift from God.”

NIWC has long been the scene of ongoing protests from pro-life activists. The facility achieved national notoriety in the pro-life community for its personalized, taunting messages and mocking signage, including hanged and crucified rubber chickens in the windows. The owner of the facility has been known to mock pro-lifers while dressed in a devil costume, or even to emerge from the facility wielding a running chainsaw to drown out pro-lifers.

Rilott said that he believes that, in part, the shutting down of the facility can be blamed upon such actions on the part of its staff.

“The idiotic signs that Wayne Webster posted in the clinic windows exposed to full public view the lies of abortion and hidden evil that motivate the murder of babies,” he said in a post on the Pro-Life Corner website.

However, he said that ultimately the credit should be given to two people: “Jesus Christ and the many people who prayed and worked in countless ways for years for an end to the killing in the NIWC.”