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Sedgwick County commissioners vote to send letter to governor to stop abortion services during COVID-19 pandemic

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Sedgwick County commissioners voted Wednesday to send a letter to Governor Laura Kelly asking her to stop abortion services at the Trust Women Wichita clinic amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

Commissioner Michael O’Donnell asked for the move, saying that abortion services should be considered elective and not essential.

O’Donnell believes the clinic is recruiting people to come to the clinic from out of state, and he questioned if anyone is being quarantined.

“We are at an unprecedented time with COVID-19 and limiting exposure. We are already putting people that are vulnerable, putting them in a much more vulnerable situation by not knowing if these people practicing at the clinic have the virus, have come in contact with other people with the virus,” said Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell.

The sole vote against the measure came from the one woman on the commission.

“If I am raped in the middle of the night and this goes on for another eight weeks are you going to make me have my rapist’s baby? Are you going to make a woman who is going to die because of the baby, are you going to make her die? Those are the types of things you’re asking,” said Sedgwick County Commissioner Lacey Cruse.

The request from the commission is symbolic, as the commission doesn’t have the authority to alter the governor’s order.

Kelly answered a question about this at her Wednesday afternoon briefing. She said that women’s reproductive health is considered an essential need.

Trust Women Wichita CEO Julie Burkhart argues that the work done at her clinic is an essential part of women’s healthcare and says closing clinics will just cause those seeking services to travel farther for care.

“We are going to see more people traveling to say Colorado or New Mexico if the clinic is shuttered, then the people who are coming also, including telemedicine for the non-abortion services, those folks are going to go without treatment and care as well.”

Burkhart was not allowed to attend the commission meeting, due to the limits on public gatherings, instead, her written testimony was read during the meeting.

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