In the 21 months since abortion provider George Tiller was murdered, Wichita has been without an abortion clinic.
The Operation Rescue truck that displayed pictures of aborted fetuses outside his clinic has been moved to Colorado. The protesters who once gathered outside the clinic have dropped from sight.
But their behind-the-scenes efforts to keep the city an abortion-free zone spilled into the public eye this month after word spread that a new clinic might open in the 2900 block of East Douglas.
Warren Farha, who owns Eighth Day Books at 2838 E. Douglas, saw it first-hand.
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"Protesters started showing up across the street," Farha said. "Not many. Three or four, for a very short period of time."
Farha and other business owners quickly learned the reality of abortion politics in Wichita: If new clinic does open, it will draw protesters.
Cheryl Sullenger, policy adviser for Operation Rescue, said it just makes sense.
"It's a sore issue, especially here in Wichita," she said. "You can't lease space to an abortion clinic and expect everything to be just like over the rainbow. Wherever there's an abortionist, there's going to be pro-lifers. That's just a fact of life."
Kari Ann Rinker, state coordinator for the National Organization for Women, said some anti-abortion groups have no qualms about using intimidation on any landlord who is considering renting to an abortion provider.
"Their tactic is to be enough of a public nuisance that people give in — despite the fact that it remains a legal and necessary health need for women," she said.
After Tiller's death, one doctor — Mila Means, who has a practice on East Harry — stepped forward and began making plans to open a new clinic. Tiller's relatives have said they don't want to see his building used for abortions.
Means has been in training in Kansas City, Kan., and has said she hoped to begin offering abortions again in Wichita as early as this spring. She declined to comment for this story.
Court records show that Means initially planned to offer abortions in her office in a business complex at 9916 E. Harry.
Those plans were dropped after she was sued by her landlord, who claimed that offering abortions in a multi-tenant building would draw protesters who would disrupt the building's other tenants.
The lawsuit was settled when Means agreed not to perform abortions there. By then, the search for a new location was on.
The empty building at 2911 E. Douglas seemed a possibility. Jo and Joe Carmichael are the owners.
Jo Carmichael said the events that have occurred since she considered leasing the building to Means have left her exhausted.
"I'd just rather not talk about it," she said.
She did say that no one has signed a lease on the building.
Rinker, who in her role with NOW has been involved in the search for a new clinic site, said the Carmichaels did not ask to be dragged into the abortion debate.
"They don't want this attention," Rinker said. "They merely own the building."
If Wichita is ever to have an abortion clinic again, Rinker said, it will take a property owner with conviction.
"It's going to take someone willing to withstand this kind of pressure," she said.
"It's a hassle, but they need to find someone who feels strongly enough about it that they're willing to stand up against these bullies. If I had the money, I would buy a building myself and rent it to this woman."
Over on East Douglas, Farha's concerns about seeing an abortion clinic open across the street prompted him to ask the city's planning department if zoning laws might prevent it from opening. He was told they wouldn't. He said he was told that the land is zoned light industrial, which allows medical clinics.
He said he and other business owners in the area remain nervous.
"I'm personally deeply pro-life," he said. "To look out the door every morning and see an abortion clinic would be personally repugnant.
"But I also think it would be a blot on downtown development. There's just the negative perception that an abortion clinic would bring to this neighborhood. A lot of us were very upset about the prospect."