Reopening Dr. Tiller’s former abortion clinic

Julie Burkhart of the Trust Women Foundation in Wichita, Kansas on Jan. 17, 2013.
Julie Burkhart of the Trust Women Foundation in Wichita, Kansas on Jan. 17, 2013.
Kevin Murphy/Reuters

Abortion opponents in Wichita, Kan. are fighting to prevent the reopening of an abortion clinic left empty after the 2009 murder of abortion specialist Dr. George Tiller. Local pro-life organization Kansans for Life recently delivered 14,000 signatures on a petition to rezone the site to the Wichita City Council.

Former Tiller spokeswoman and head of The Trust Women Foundation Julie Burkhart purchased Tiller’s former office last September. The organization is currently renovating the building and recruiting doctors in preparation to reopen the newly renamed South Wind Women’s Center.

Anti-abortion activists have worked to keep the city vacant of abortion clinics since the 2009 murder. They’re arguing the move is necessary to keep the area quiet. “At least in a commercial area, there’s plans for parking, traffic, stuff like that will be a place where it should be zoned,” David Gittrich of Kansans for Life told NBC Wichita affiliate KSN- TV. “Now we know the difference between what was there before and what there is after. Before 2009 [there were] lots of police calls, parking problems, lots of pedestrians lots of demonstrations. In 2010, 2011, almost nothing,” Gittrich added.

Upon opening, South Wind Women’s Center plans to offer women abortions up to 14 weeks into pregnancy, according to Mother Jones. Dr. Tiller was frequently criticized by opponents for practicing late-term abortions which are typically performed after the 20th week of gestation.

Trust Women Foundation argues the petition is only an attempt to prevent their clinic from re-opening and that there is no justification to rezone their land. “It’s like really, come on. We’re a town that used to have three abortion clinics,” Burkhart said in an interview with Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones. “Shouldn’t we be able to have at least one OB-GYN practice that offers abortion care? We realized we just needed to pick up the torch and do it.”

KSN- TV reported Kansans for Life plans to add hundreds of more signatures to their petition, while members of the Wichita City Council continue to investigate the issue in preparation for a planning commission meeting set for later this month.

“If they’re truly interested in the welfare of the community and the traffic conditions, then they would stop harassing patients trying to get health care,” said Corey Swertfager of the Wichita chapter of the National Organization of Women.

msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell previously noted the abortion doctor was ridiculed in the media before he was murdered.

“Now, he had lot of enemies, Dr. Tiller, including one nearby in this business who has a very loud microphone, with an audience of millions,” O’Donnell said in an October, 2010 episode of The Last Word referring to Bill O’Reilly of Fox News who  criticized Tiller on his radio show, The Radio Factor.