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Stay-at-home order prompts push for abortion clinic closure

KSN Digital Extra

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Sedgwick County commissioners will discuss the stay-at-home order restrictions on Wednesday and whether some businesses should remain as “essential.”

Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell said the Trust Women Wichita clinic could be contributing to the spread of the coronavirus.

“This past weekend the Governor of Oklahoma said that abortions were not considered essential services,” said County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell. “So what’s happened is, all these individuals are coming from Oklahoma to Kansas to have their abortions. That just creates an obvious problem, because we’re bringing in people that may have been exposed to the coronavirus. That’s the reason it was closed in Oklahoma City.”

O’Donnell said while the topic of abortion will be discussed at Wednesday’s meeting, the county can not ultimately make the final decision.

“The governor issued an order just a few days ago that said it superseded the local opinion,” said O’Donnell. “Therefore, our local ordinance is really null and void at this point. The only thing we can do is to say that abortion services are not considered essential. We have no power to actually close anything down on our own. That power rests, either with the governor or with the chief health officer.”

Trust Women Wichita’s CEO Julie Burkhart said abortion clinics are an essential part of healthcare.

“That is something that’s been is an essential part of healthcare,” said Julie Burkhart, Trust Women CEO. “That’s been determined by the World Health Organization, and by many US-based healthcare professional entities. All of these professional entities agree that abortion care and reproductive healthcare is essential. That is not something that should be rolled back and scaled back at this time, it’s something that we must continue to provide.”

Burkhart said closing the Wichita clinic will only hurt those in need of services. Which will cause those seeking services to travel further for care.

“What he’s referencing in terms of what’s happened in Oklahoma and Texas, that is why we are concerned about what is now on their agenda,” said Burkhart. “Putting people out on the road when they’re supposed to be sheltering in place unless they need to receive essential healthcare is putting those people and their families at greater risk for contracting COVID-19.”

Burkhart said when the Trust Women’s clinic in Oklahoma closed due to being deemed as “nonessential” patients reschedule their appointments to the Wichita location.

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

Burkhart said Trust Women clinics served over 2,400 patients in 2019 and over 13,000 since opening in 2013. She said not only do patients rely on the clinics, but her staff does too.

“I had a conference call with all of our staff members on Sunday night,” said Burkhart. “People were in tears, they were angry. They’re concerned about people, they want to come to work every day and help people in this community, as long as they can.”

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