- Associated Press - Thursday, April 3, 2014

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The Wichita clinic opened after the slaying of abortion provider George Tiller has provided about 1,200 abortions in its first year of operations.

South Wind Women’s Center said it served about 1,500 patients for reproductive care, including abortions up to 14 weeks.

The clinic, the only one to offer abortions in Wichita, opened in April 2013 in the same building where Tiller had provided abortions before he was gunned down in 2009 by abortion opponent Scott Roeder as the doctor served as an usher in his Wichita church. Tiller’s clinic had remained shuttered for four years following his death until his widow sold it to an abortion rights group which had raised money from across the country to reopen it.

The Wichita Eagle reported (https://bit.ly/1eehw8I ) that patients came from across Kansas, as well states such as Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.

Patient numbers are “right in line with our projections,” said Julie Burkhart, founder of Trust Women, which opened the clinic. “I feel, of course, positive about that. We have women coming to see us.”

Anti-abortion activists have sought to close down the clinic even before its opening with zoning proposals and complaints about its finances to state regulators.

“I feel that in this line of work, with the legislation that’s become law and the political climate, our work at times feels tenuous at best,” Burkhart said. “It’s disconcerting feeling like another shoe could drop.”

David Gittrich, state development director for Kansans for Life, said he is “very disappointed” the clinic remains open.

“Abortion does hurt women. It’s a bad choice, and it’s something that will stick with them the rest of their lives,” he said. “I don’t think any of them realize that.”

The number of abortions in the state declined slightly last year despite the clinic opening. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said in a preliminary report that 7,479 abortions were performed last year, the second-lowest number since 1987. A total of 7,598 abortions were performed in 2012.

South Wind said it is flying in doctors to provide abortion care. A doctor who helped open the clinic left in May, returning to her practice. Burkhart said she believes in time the clinic will find more people in the region willing to come forward.

Although the clinic is still paying off debt, it is financially “on track,” she said.

Burkhart, who once worked for Tiller, said working in his former clinic seems fitting, but is at times emotional.

“I have these moments walking through the clinic and feel this great sense of loss and I wish he could be here,” Burkhart said. “I miss him every day. He lives on through our work here.”


Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com

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