After George Tiller was murdered by Scott Roeder in 2009, his family decided to close his Wichita clinic and get out of the abortion business--leaving Wichita without an abortion clinic. Well, an abortion-rights group recently bought the clinic and is now hoping to reopen it in the spring. Predictably, the area forced-birthers are up in arms.
Anti-abortion groups are trying to block or delay the reopening of the clinic through a rezoning petition and complaints to the city that permits haven't been issued as required for the clinic's indoor remodeling.After Tiller's death, Burkhart helped form the Trust Women Foundation, which spent almost three years raising money to buy the clinic from the Tiller family. Burkhart fully expects a bare-knuckle battle--her own home has been the target of pickets in the past, and she's been called a murderer in anti-abortion literature.
"Once they get the permits we'll be off to the next thing - we will try to persuade contractors not to work there," said Cheryl Sullenger of the Wichita chapter of Operation Rescue.
The attempted roadblocks cast in front of the clinic before it even opens are not discouraging leaders of the organization that bought the building, where abortions, family planning and other gynecological care would be offered.
"We will continue to move forward to see that women have their rights," said Julie Burkhart, who worked with Tiller's clinic for eight years on political and legislative issues. "It's incredibly important because women in this region need access to good medical care."
The local anti-abortion activists are fighting a rear-guard action to keep the clinic from reopening. Mark Gietzen, chairman of Kansans for Life, is leading an effort to have the area rezoned so the clinic can't open.
Gietzen is part of a petition drive spearheaded by Kansans for Life that calls upon the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission and Wichita City Council to rezone the property so a clinic can't be operated there.Gietzen is being disingenuous. According to Trust Women's legal counsel, several other businesses near the clinic provide medical services. And apparently Wichita's city attorney has called Kansans For Life's bluff--he recently said that Kansas law doesn't allow property to be rezoned to keep an abortion clinic from operating.
Several thousand signatures have been gathered in the online petition drive, said David Gittrich, development director of Kansans for Life. The petitions will be presented next month to show opposition to the clinic and the traffic, parking problems, disturbances and police calls it creates, Gittrich said.
"We can't stop an abortion clinic, but we can stop it from going in there," Gietzen said. No alternate location is being proposed but Gietzen said it should be in a commercial, not residential area.
Additionally, Sullenger--the same woman who, based on all available evidence, was in touch with Roeder before the murder (thus possibly making her an accessory to murder)--has complained that the contractors haven't gotten the necessary permits to make state-required modifications to the building.