An Abortion Clinic Opens in Wyoming, a State Banning Abortion

While new abortion bans undermine the freedom of countless women countrywide, Julie Burkhart has taken up the challenge to set up an abortion clinic in a state where abortion is banned.
Free public domain CC0 photo.
Free public domain CC0 photo.

When the recent Roe v. Wade decision overturned the decades-old right to abortion, abortion clinics operating in conservative states were given two choices: voluntarily move out or be forced out by protests. In the state of Wyoming, known for a strong conservative political background, clinics relocated to Illinois, Maryland, and Minnesota, states known to permit abortion. However, technically, the abortion clinics themself weren’t illegal (only abortion was). So Julie Burkhart, the founder of the Trust Women Foundation, ignored the abortion ban and opened an abortion clinic in Wyoming, becoming the first to run a clinic in a state banning abortion. 

Ms. Burkhart, dubbed Julie Darkheart by those who criticized her past movements against the abortion ban, knew the struggles of operating a clinic in a famously red state. When her late boss and mentor, George Tiller, was shot and killed at a church after months of having his clinic in Kansas exhaustingly flooded, bombed, and protested against, she did not close the clinic. Instead, she took over all operations and reopened it, which led to her receiving  death threats and stalkers who condemned her efforts. 

Then, in 2020, an unnamed philanthropist contacted Ms. Burkhart, proposing that she should open an abortion clinic in Wyoming. The state is known for being the most conservative in America, but she accepted the challenge of opening a clinic, believing that Wyoming’s conservative views arose from what she described as “Cowboy State conservatism.” In other words, the residents are more concerned about creating a smaller government and individuality and less about how others manage their personal lives. Although abortion would have been legal at the time she received the request, the state legislature of Wyoming had previously passed a trigger law that would ban abortion once Roe v. Wade was overthrown. In 2022, the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling decided that the Constitution did not protect the right to an abortion, and states had the individual choices to ban abortion.  The trigger law set in Wyoming was activated, encouraging abortion clinics in the state to move to nearby areas. However, Ms. Burkhart followed with her decision.

“I really reject the notion of putting facilities only in the safe states, because the only way we’re going to preserve rights in this country is to go to these really uncomfortable places,” said Burkhart in The New York Times

Under the name Wellspring Health Access, the clinic is surviving despite the protests and legal uncertainties that are surrounding it. However, the process has not been easy for Burkhart and her team of health officials and abortion advocates. In May of 2022, a 22-year-old college student set fire to the clinic that was undergoing construction, according to NBC News. This act not only delayed the clinic’s opening but undermined the team’s efforts and reset their steps.  

In fact, according to The New York Times, “Ms. Lichtenfels, who recruited Ms. Burkhart, said there was no question the arson had taken a toll on her: having to make sure donors and staff members did not give up, all the while not knowing who had committed the crime or what else they might be planning.”

However, on the other side of the conflict is the fact that more awareness is being raised amongst Wyoming residents who previously did not understand the situation well enough aside from their political opinions. As the issue is resurfacing on the internet, many mothers of unwanted pregnancies are sharing their experiences. The harshness of being forced to have a child despite being sexually assaulted or unable to afford any more than their provisions are just some of the arguments being presented. Furthermore, abortion bans do not seem to prevent mothers from having abortions; in reality, the mothers tend to resort to poorly facilitated clinics or illegally abandon their babies upon birth. As a result, people are starting to believe that the choice should not be allowed or denied by the government, as explained by The New York Times.

This controversial issue is one that is influenced by religious beliefs, political views, and personal experiences. Nevertheless, the steps being taken by Burkhart and her team are vital to preserving abortion rights from completely disappearing in conservative states like Wyoming. While anger from both sides loom with their respective values, Wellspring Health Access is awaiting a trial for April challenging Wyoming’s abortion laws.

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About the Contributor
Jehee Nam
Jehee Nam, Staff Writer
Jehee Nam ('27) is a Staff Writer for The Echo. She worked as a copyeditor for Tiger Tales, the TMS school newspaper and is excited to continue her work as a writer. In her spare time she enjoys listening to a variety of music and talking to her friends.