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Doctors Resign in Protest From Kansas Abortion Clinic

UPDATE, May 23: This story has been updated with a press release from Trust Women.

Abortion services have been halted all week at the Trust Women clinic in Wichita, Kansas, after doctors began withholding their labor over an unexpected leadership shakeup and the appointment of a new medical director they believe is unqualified. At least nine doctors have now resigned from the clinic.

“The clinic has been operating without medical oversight for the last month,” one source said.

Rewire News Group confirmed the details of the situation with multiple sources inside the clinic, all of whom asked to remain anonymous for fear of being blacklisted and therefore unable to obtain employment at other clinics.

Trust Women is a critical regional hub for abortion access. It is one of six brick-and-mortar abortion clinics in Kansas, and one of just four providing procedural abortion care. In Kansas, abortion is legal until 22 weeks’ gestation, making its clinics important access points for people from nearby states where abortion is banned entirely, including Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and others. Telemedicine abortion is also legal in Kansas.

There is no indication as to when or if Trust Women will reopen for abortion care.

A Trust Women spokesperson told Mission Local in 2023 that the clinic typically sees between 650 and 750 patients per month.

The trouble allegedly began in mid-April, when Trust Women’s board unexpectedly fired the organization’s co-executive directors, Rebecca Tong and Schaunta James-Boyd, and installed the board secretary, Shukeyla Harrison, as interim CEO. One source said the only justification they heard for this decision was “compliance issues.” Another source said they never received any formal communication about the leadership changes.

Sources said Harrison then fired the clinic’s medical director, Dr. Christina Bourne. According to multiple sources from within the clinic, no reason was given for Bourne’s firing. They added that in recent weeks, many staff members have been asked to sign new nondisclosure agreements.

On Monday, the clinic’s new medical director was announced: Dr. Ekwensi Griffith, the founder of New Health Kansas, a wellness clinic that offers erectile dysfunction treatment, “medical weight loss,” and other med spa services such as Botox injections, CoolSculpting, and facial fillers. According to the clinic website, Griffith’s training is in emergency medicine, but he has no apparent prior experience in abortion or other reproductive health care.

Job listings for the medical director position remain active on Glassdoor and Indeed as of publishing. “Experience in women’s health and/or abortion care preferred,” the listing reads. It also notes that the medical director will need to “ensure compliance with regulatory standards and guidelines.” Kansas has several onerous regulations abortion providers must follow, including licensing and reporting requirements that do not apply to other types of health facilities.

There is no indication as to when or if Trust Women will reopen for abortion care.

“Our last communication with Trust was in the fall of 2023,” the Missouri Abortion Fund said in a statement to Rewire News Group.

Trust Women was founded in honor of Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider who was murdered in 2009. (The anniversary of his death is coming up next week). After a major fundraising campaign, Trust Women reopened in Tiller’s former clinic space in 2013. The organization also operates a clinic in Oklahoma, which remains open but no longer provides abortion care due to the state’s total ban.

Founder Julie Burkhart, who worked for Tiller, left Trust Women in 2021 and is now the president of Wellspring Health Access, which opened an abortion clinic in Casper, Wyoming, and a co-owner of Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Illinois. Tong and James-Boyd took on leadership of Trust Women after Burkhart’s departure.

Multiple sources said that, in their experience, Tong, James-Boyd, and Bourne were all excellent at their jobs. All said they were shocked by the firings.

Rewire News Group has reached out to nearby abortion providers and abortion funds for comment and will update this story with any new information. RNG also reached out to Trust Women prior to publication and received the following statement shortly after publication.

Trust Women statement


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