There is a new women’s clinic opening this weekend in Oklahoma City, a city that for years has been the largest metropolitan area in the country without an abortion provider.
The Trust Women South Wind Women’s Center has faced countless challenges in their quest to open the first women’s clinic in the city in over 40 years. It took almost a year before executive director Julie Burkhart found a bank that would lend her a small line of credit to begin construction. Then the Oklahoma State Health Department proceeded to continuously revise the facility requirements for a medical license, leading to a costly game of cat and mouse in order to keep up with the evolving demands.
When Trust Women South Wind was finally able to break ground in January, with a group of contractors who were vetted and aware of the type of facility they were constructing, the anti-abortion extremists began to protest in front of the future clinic. The anti-abortion extremists stalked the contractors, even going to their churches to harass their pastors. Burkhart contacted law enforcement and erected a fence, but so far the anti-abortion extremists have been undeterred.
Burkhart is no stranger to anti-abortion extremists’ harassment and intimidation. In 2009, her mentor, Doctor George Tiller, was shot and killed by an anti-abortion extremist while handing out Sunday bulletins in his church. And this summer, with the help of Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Clinic Access Project, Burkhart kept the doors to her Wichita clinic open in the face of hundreds of anti-abortion extremists who flocked there from across the country to recreate the 1991 “Summer of Mercy” with the goal of blocking women’s access to the clinic.
Oklahoma is not a friendly state for reproductive healthcare access. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 48 of the state’s 77 counties did not have a single OB-GYN in 2014. The number of OB-GYNs per 10,000 women in Oklahoma is nearly a third less than the national average. In addition, the Governor has signed into law 20 anti-abortion bills in the last six years, with measures ranging from a 72 hour waiting period to a ban on telemedicine for administering medication abortion.
Trust Women South Wind is one of the few new clinics to open in the United States in recent years; over 150 clinics have been forced to close since 2011.
But just because the clinic doors are opening does not mean that the harassment has stopped. Just yesterday anti-abortion extremists stood outside of Burkhart’s home with signs that read “repent,” intimidating and frightening her family. Feminist Majority Foundation is helping Trust Women South Wind raise funds to install an adequate security system for the clinic, so that, at the very least, patients and staff can be safe when they are going to work or accessing healthcare. Please consider making a contribution, because without clinics there is no choice.