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Foundation buys former Tiller clinic to provide abortion services

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Sep. 25, 2012, at 8:33 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, Sep. 30, 2012, at 11:11 a.m.

The building that housed the practice of murdered abortion provider George Tiller has been sold to a foundation planning to re-establish abortion services in Wichita, The Eagle has learned.

Documents filed with the Secretary of State’s Office on Tuesday indicate that the Trust Women Foundation is now sole owner of the building at 5107 E. Kellogg that previously housed Tiller’s clinic, Women’s Health Care Services.

The foundation is run by Julie Burkhart, an abortion-rights activist and former Tiller employee. Her group has been working to re-establish a clinic to provide abortions and fill the void left when Tiller was shot to death by an anti-abortion activist in 2009.

Burkhart did not return calls seeking comment.

However, she did sign a document on behalf of Trust Women that was filed with the secretary of state, indicating a change of ownership of a company called Kellogg Investments LLC. The limited liability company owns the clinic building.

Kellogg Investments’ most recent annual report in 2011 showed it was wholly owned by Tiller’s widow, Jeanne Tiller.

The new document filed with the secretary of state on Tuesday identified Trust Women Foundation as the sole owner of the limited liability company.

Erin Thompson, a lawyer for Jeanne Tiller, confirmed the family sold the building that had housed her late husband’s clinic and would have no further involvement with the property.

“That’s all the information I have,” Thompson said.

The new registered agent for Kellogg Investments is Topeka attorney Robert Eye.

In addition to the document filed with the secretary of state, Kellogg Investments also filed a document with Sedgwick County requesting that future property tax bills be sent to Eye’s office.

Contacted at his office in Topeka, Eye said he could not comment on plans for the building at this time.

Eye represented Ann Kristin Neuhaus, a physician and former Tiller associate whose medical license was revoked by the state Board of Healing Arts in June over allegations that she had not adequately examined patients she referred to Tiller for abortion services. Before a late-term abortion can be performed on a patient, state law requires two doctors to certify that the woman’s health would be permanently damaged by continuing the pregnancy.

The building’s sale appears to confirm rumors in Wichita’s anti-abortion community that as many as three abortion providers are planning to set up in the city on at least a part-time basis.

David Gittrich, development director for the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life, said he had heard that abortion providers might be starting a practice in Wichita but was unable to confirm that.

Mark Gietzen, president of the Kansas Coalition for Life, said in a statement this week that his group, which coordinated years of daily protests outside Tiller’s clinic, would restart its efforts should another abortion clinic open in Wichita.

“KCFL volunteers intend to be on-site to offer financial help, housing, and other forms of direct support to abortion-bound women who feel forced into having an abortion by circumstances beyond their control,” Gietzen said in the statement.

The former Tiller clinic has been vacant since June 2009, shortly after Tiller was slain by Scott Roeder, who lived in the Kansas City area.

Roeder was convicted of murder and is serving a life sentence.

On Tuesday, there was no sign of activity or renovation at the building.

In order to reopen as an abortion-providing facility, the clinic could have to meet hospital-grade health and safety requirements that the Legislature has passed since Tiller’s death.

The new law regulates factors ranging from the size and temperature of examination rooms and medications that must be kept on site, to the widths of doors and the minimum square footage of the janitorial closet.

Also, at least one of the physicians practicing at the clinic would have to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the site.

State officials have been temporarily blocked from enforcing the new regulations by pending lawsuits charging that the rules are excessive and medically unnecessary, violate clinic operators’ due-process rights, and place an undue burden on women seeking abortion services.

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527.

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