February 14, 2013 — Julie Burkhart -- an abortion-rights advocate and former colleague and friend of slain abortion provider George Tiller -- is preparing to reopen his Wichita, Kan., clinic in the face of substantial opposition from antiabortion-rights groups, the New York Times reports (Eligon, New York Times, 2/13).
Wichita has not had an abortion provider since Tiller was shot to death by an antiabortion-rights activist in 2009. Burkhart has led the Trust Women Foundation in efforts to re-establish a clinic after she became sole owner of the building last fall. Currently, the nearest abortion provider in the state is about 200 miles away (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/9).
Although Tiller provided abortions later in pregnancy, Burkhart said the new clinic will offer the procedure only up to 14 weeks. The staff will include one full-time physician and two doctors who will fly in to offer care at the clinic, which also will offer other women's health services.
The Times reports that the clinic faces numerous legal hurdles. For instance, a new Kansas law restricts abortion coverage, requires abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals and imposes several other requirements, such as the size of rooms in abortion clinics. Some of the law's provisions are on hold because of a legal challenge. Conservatives in the state Legislature also hope to advance a measure that stalled last year and would add many more restrictions on abortion providers.
Antiabortion-rights activists also are working to halt the clinic's progress. For instance, Operation Rescue plans to encourage residents to ask that the local hospital, Wesley Medical Center, not extend admitting privileges to the clinic's abortion providers. Meanwhile, Kansans for Life Development Director David Gittrich has formerly petitioned Wichita city officials to change the zoning rules to prevent the clinic from operating in its current location.
Burkhart told the Times, "I'm not going to be intimidated out of what I feel passionate about," adding "We can't let fear rule our lives" (New York Times, 2/13).