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Next 6 to 12 months crucial for South Wind Women’s Center, says founder

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, April 4, 2013, at 8:14 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, August 28, 2013, at 10:12 a.m.

A print inspired by a George Bernard Shaw quote that Wichita physician George Tiller was fond of greets visitors to South Wind Women’s Center: “Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.”

Julie Burkhart, founder of Trust Women and a former employee of Tiller’s, said Tiller gave the print to her years ago. She framed it to hang in the lobby of the South Wind, which plans to begin offering abortions as soon as next week.

South Wind opened Wednesday in the building where Tiller worked until he was shot and killed May 31, 2009, at his church by an opponent of abortion, Scott Roeder. It will offer women’s health services, including abortions up to 14 weeks of pregnancy.

The quote also is written on a dry-erase board in Burkhart’s office, along with reminders to focus on “Solutions, Not Problems.”

Trust Women raised almost $750,000 and got what Burkhart called a “small line of credit” to open South Wind. Supporters include Roeder’s ex-wife, Burkhart said. They were not married at the time Roeder shot Tiller.

“This is still a pretty tender time,” Burkhart said Thursday. “Getting through the next six to 12 months will be very important for us. Opening a clinic, that’s not being done widely across the country. It’s really moving against the grain.”

Burkhart said she is “still in a little bit of disbelief” that abortion care is available again in Wichita.

“I’m intensely aware of our anti-choice opponents,” she said. “I know they are wanting to wreak havoc with our business.”

Kansans for Life circulated petitions to try to have the building near Kellogg and Oliver rezoned to prevent the clinic’s opening. The Metropolitan Area Planning Commission voted 6-4 in February not to rezone the building.

David Gittrich, state development director for Kansans for Life, said the opening of the clinic was a “sad day for Wichita and a shame for the state.”

Burkhart has not named the three doctors who will be working at South Wind – two OB/GYNs and a family practice physician.

She said under state law, patients seeking an abortion will be given the name of the doctor who will perform the procedure 24 hours before the appointment. She said South Wind’s website, not yet operational, also will include physician information.

Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion group, named one of the doctors on its website, www.operationrescue.org, and posted a recording that it said was an interview with her on Monday.

Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, told The Eagle on Thursday that he recently called Cheryl Chastine, who is listed as the resident agent of Wichita Medical Center, identified himself as a reporter and recorded the conversation.

Wichita Medical Center was incorporated in Kansas last month, records show. Burkhart said it is the physicians practice group that has an agreement with South Wind Women’s Center to provide health care services to patients.

Newman said he writes a blog for Operation Rescue and, in that role, considers himself a reporter. The blog post said an investigator posed as a reporter but did not name that person.

The Eagle was unable to reach Chastine on Thursday. Records for the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts show Chastine was licensed Jan. 17 to practice medicine in Kansas. The Eagle has filed a request under the Kansas Open Records Act for Chastine’s license application.

Newman said Operation Rescue will protest at South Wind.

“Once they start doing abortions, we will treat them like an abortion clinic,” he said.

The Eagle interviewed one of the doctors – who was not Chastine – last month. She is serving as the center’s clinical coordinator and did not want to be named at the time for safety reasons.

Visitors to South Wind must go through security when they enter the building. A security guard will search purses and bags.

Burkhart said the guard won’t force someone to turn over their bag or purse, but a bag or purse will not be allowed in the building without being searched. A patient or visitor who does not want a bag searched would have to leave it in their car or at home.

Visitors are also checked with a security wand. South Wind has round-the-clock surveillance.

Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or dgruver@wichitaeagle.com.

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