An abortion clinic opening in any U.S. city would make news these days, but the imminent opening of South Wind Women’s Center in Wichita, Kansas has garnered a special kind of attention. The clinic, which will provide abortions until the 14th week of pregnancy as well as a wide range of other women’s health care services, will be located in Dr. George Tiller’s former clinic.
South Wind is owned by the Trust Women Organization, a nonprofit that was founded in 2010 by Julie Burkhart, who worked with Dr. Tiller for seven years. “We’re going to provide Pap smears, pelvic exams, well-woman care, contraceptive care, pregnancy confirmation and consultation, and STI (sexually transmitted infection) treatment” Burkhart has said. “We want to work with women who are having trouble getting pregnant and women who have been pregnant — the full range of services.” There are three physicians on staff—one local, two that will travel in from out of state—and a social worker that will offer both miscarriage and post-abortion counseling as well as lactation consultation.
Despite providing such comprehensive services, South Wind has been met with protests from anti-choice activists every step of the way. They attempted to have the city rezone the area where the clinic is located; Troy Newman, the president of Operation Rescue, incorporated the name of the Trust Women Foundation before Burkhart could; and according to Burkhart, she has been the target of stalking and fliers that were distributed in her neighborhood. Even more chilling, a pastor put up a sign in Burkhart’s yard with a image of an aborted fetus and the words “Where’s your church?”—a question that Burkhart interpreted as a reference to Dr. Tiller, who was assassinated in his church in 2009.
That is, frankly, terrifying. And it speaks to Burkhart’s courage–as well as the courage of her staff–that they were able to open the clinic at all. There is no question that Kansas is sorely underserved when it comes to comprehensive reproductive health care; according to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2008–the year before Dr. Tiller was murdered–there were four abortion providers in the state, and no providers in 97% of all Kansas counties.
More information about South Wind Women’s Center, including how to help support its work, can be found here.
Sarah's first book, Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement, will be out March 2013. For more information, follow her on Twitter @saraherdreich, or check out saraherdreich.com.