Wichita abortion clinic temporarily stops seeing patients amid leadership changes

Share this post or save for later
Trust Women and other Kansas clinics have played an outsized role in treating abortion patients from states with bans. The clinic’s new board president says she hopes the pause will be “very temporary.”

WICHITA — Trust Women has temporarily stopped providing abortions and canceled appointments at its Wichita clinic amid leadership changes.

It’s unclear when the clinic — which has served a growing number of people fleeing abortion bans in other states — will reopen to patients.

“The decision to pause operations in our clinic was made last night by the board of directors in the light of the need to ensure that Trust Women is providing optimal care … as we always have,” Sapphire Garcia, who was elected president of Trust Women’s board of directors last week, said in an interview Thursday evening.

Garcia said patients who had appointments canceled have been referred to nearby providers, and she thinks all have been able to secure new appointments. She said the clinic would not reopen to patients until it hires a new medical director.

“We hope that this pause is very temporary in nature,” she added.

Doctors say waiting longer for an appointment can mean a more intensive abortion procedure and a higher likelihood of complications.

Garcia declined to provide information on when the clinic first paused operations and when or why its previous medical director departed.

An article published Thursday by Rewire News Group reported that Trust Women’s board fired its co-executive directors in April and installed a board member as interim CEO, who then fired the clinic’s medical director. At least nine doctors have subsequently quit in protest, the report said.

Garcia said she could neither confirm nor deny any of the personnel changes, citing privacy concerns.

In a release, Trust Women’s board said the organization is making changes in medical protocols, including requiring two physicians and a medical director be present on-site when abortions are performed.

It said the decision followed “a transition in leadership that has required a reexamination of its patient scheduling and clinical care.”

“We want to serve patients and are committed that any delays in patient care because of the new protocols be short lived,” it said.

Trust Women’s Wichita clinic is one of three in the city that provide abortions and one of only two offering procedural abortions. Trust Women also operates a clinic in Oklahoma, which stopped providing abortions in 2022 when the state enacted a ban.

Kansas has six health centers that provide abortions, with a seventh expected to open in the fall. Together, they’ve functioned as critical access points for people seeking abortions from across the South and Midwest in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbsdecision, drawing a majority of their patients from states like Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma, where abortion is now banned.

That’s drawn condemnation from anti-abortion groups and Republican lawmakers, which have attempted to further tighten the state’s abortion restrictions in recent years. Their efforts remain limited by a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision affirming that the state’s Constitution guarantees the right to abortion — a right that voters overwhelmingly declined to remove in 2022.

A Trust Women spokesperson told the Kansas News Service in December that the clinic typically receives between 3,000 and 4,000 phone calls each day — most from patients requesting abortion appointments — at a time when it’s only able to see 40 to 50 patients per day. At that time, over 80% of its patients were traveling from out of state, including over half from Texas alone.

In 2022, over two-thirds of patients who sought abortions at Kansas clinics lived in other states, according to the Kansas health department. The portion is expected to be even higher for 2023, the first full year after the Dobbs decision. More recent research by the Society of Family Planning indicates hundreds more patients are getting abortions at Kansas clinics each month compared with before the decision.

Garcia — who has been a member of Trust Women’s board for nearly a year — said she was elected board president last week due to her background in health equity. She’s the founder and executive director of the Kansas Birth Justice Society, a nonprofit that provides doula care, lactation consulting and other services to local families with the goal of reducing racial disparities in maternal and infant health.

She said the board voted last night to mandate that two of its board seats be filled by physicians who have experience in providing abortions. Two physicians have been selected for the board, she said, and will be officially added next week.

About the changes at Trust Women, Garcia said the goal is to prioritize patients.

“I want folks to know that there’s not always some nefarious reason behind these types of pauses,” she said. “When you’re going through a transition, particularly in leadership, you have to take that moment to pause and reflect and evaluate … what you can do to pivot in the most effective way. And that’s what we’re doing.”

The board’s full statement is below.

“Trust Women is making changes in its medical protocols that will bolster its operations and ensure its patients receive unparalleled care and attention.

This decision follows a transition in leadership that has required a reexamination of its patient scheduling and clinical care. Our organization has a long history of providing clinically sound abortion care to those we serve.

We are committed to those who seek abortion care, particularly where access is a barrier, and we insist that patients receive not only competent care but care delivered in a responsible and equitable way.

Because nothing is more important at Trust Women than our patients, the organization’s board at a meeting last night codified medical protocols for our clinic that will require two physicians and a medical director with abortion experience be present when abortions are performed. The new protocols begin immediately. We want to serve patients and are committed that any delays in patient care because of the new protocols be short lived.

Trust Women declines to discuss the particulars of personnel changes in order to protect the privacy of those involved. Our CEO is Keyla Harrison and our board president is Sapphire Garcia.”

Rose Conlon reports on health for KMUW and the Kansas News Service.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

Don’t miss a beat … Click here to sign up for our email newsletters

Click here to learn more about our newsletters first

Latest state news:


Previous Article

Kansas’ smallest school district prepares to close in warning sign for rural communities

Next Article

Douglas County voters: Here’s a look at candidates who have filed for election so far