By Associated Press - Tuesday, March 31, 2020

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita-area official wants to temporarily close an abortion clinic to curb the spread of the coronavirus that has sickened residents and staff at another Kansas nursing home.

Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell said Monday that he’ll ask the commission to strip abortion clinics from the list of “essential” businesses that can stay open during the pandemic, thus shuttering the Trust Women Wichita Clinic, The Wichita Eagle reported.

Julie Burkhart, founder and CEO of the clinic, called the proposal “unethical” and “unconscionable.” The clinic replaced the practice of late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller who was fatally shot by an anti-abortion activist in 2009.

“This is nothing more than a political tool they are using in order to shut down abortion,” Burkhart said. “This has nothing to do with caring for people and ensuring that they and their families are not infected with COVID-19.”

O’Donnell presented the proposal even as federal judges temporarily blocked similar efforts in other states.



The governor of neighboring Oklahoma issued an executive stay-at-home order last week that bans abortions except in emergencies or if pregnancy poses a serious health risk to the woman. O’Donnell said women who would usually go to Trust Women’s Oklahoma City Clinic for abortions were traveling to the Wichita clinic instead.

“We should not be having women, and men, travel from other states, potentially bringing the coronavirus into Wichita,” O’Donnell said.

The Kansas Supreme Court last year declared access to abortion a “fundamental” right under the state constitution.

Meanwhile, nursing home operator Life Care Centers of America said Monday that 11 residents and seven workers at the home in Burlington have COVID-19, the Kansas City Star reported. Burlington is about 60 miles (95 kilometers) south of Topeka.

A resident at the Life Care Center in Kansas City, Kansas, was the first COVID-19-related fatality reported in the state on March 12. The company also runs a Washington state nursing home where 22 people died from the virus.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

At last count Monday, state health officials said Kansas has 368 cases, up from 319 on Sunday. State and local officials reported nine deaths, including four in Wyandotte County.

Among the sickened is an active-duty airman assigned to McConnell Air Force Base near Wichita. The airman, the first confirmed case at the base, is being treated in isolation at an off-base home.

Meanwhile, the president of Wichita’s machinists union is urging some of Kansas’ largest employers to stop building planes and start making medical supplies. Cornell Beard, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 70, said in a letter that “this is not a time to be distracted with production schedules and profit.”

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