Staff at new abortion clinic worry about potential violence

Southwind Women's Center (KSN File Photo)
Southwind Women's Center (KSN File Photo)

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WICHITA, Kansas–  Since its opening in April, South Wind Women’s Center has been quieter than the staff expected.

Sometimes peaceful protesters hold vigils outside the clinic now offering abortions in Dr. George Tiller’s old building, the same place that was firebombed in 1986 and where Tiller was shot in the arms by an anti-abortion activist in 1993 before the doctor  was fatally shot at his church in 2009.

Pro-choice activists know it could happen again; in fact, a video on YouTube shows Scott Roeder, the gunman who killed Dr. Tiller, talking in prison to David Leach of “The Army of God.”

“If someone would shoot the new abortionists, like Scott shot Tiller, hardly anyone would appreciate it but the babies,” said Leach in the video clip.

Scott Roeder laughed and said, “That’s a very true statement.”

Leach now tells KSN the YouTube clip does not endorse killing doctors in Wichita.  It’s just a reaction to the idea.

“We were just acting with incredulity that anyone would reopen that clinic,” said Leach.

David Leach befriended Scott Roeder shortly after Tiller’s murder.  Leach offers legal defense tips to abortion doctor killers, but claims he doesn’t condone violence.

Others are not so sure.

” I instantly felt a sinking feeling in my stomach,” said Kari Ann Rinker, reacting to the YouTube clip.

Rinker is the former head of the National Organization for Women in Kansas.  She says recent picketing outside the home of South Wind’s executive director that included a sign reading “Where’s your church?” proves there’s a real potential for violence.

” She has every reason to be fearful, and that’s why precautions should be taken locally,” said Rinker.

Concern about violence in Kansas has even gained national attention with the editorial board of the New York Times calling for local law enforcement to be on alert.

South Wind has been fairly secretive about its staff, worried that exposure could make them targets.

The clinic also worked closely with police before opening for business and has stayed in contact about potential problems with protesters.

The Sedgwick County District Attorney has promised to put politics aside and make sure both doctors and protesters follow the law.

“So that the citizens are safe, the people who want to protest are safe, the people who want to use the facilities, the people who work at the facilities, and those who live in the surrounding area are all safe,” said Marc Bennett.

“This time around the law enforcement agencies have cooperated,” said Vickie Stangl, clinic spokesperson.  “They understand this is something to be very concerned about.”

Several new security measures are now in place at South Wind with staff hoping to avoid the problems of the past and keep abortion services available in the future.