Closed Wichita abortion clinic hires consultant in effort to reopen as interim CEO resigns

Chance Swaim, The Kansas City Star on

Published in Political News

The interim CEO of Wichita’s largest abortion clinic resigned Friday, and the clinic’s board hired a national healthcare consultant in hopes of reopening this summer.

Trust Women Wichita has not offered abortions for nearly a month after its board of directors reportedly fired the clinic’s co-executive directors — Schaunta James-Boyd and Rebecca Tong — and installed two board members — Shukeyla Harrison and Sapphire Garcia — to run the clinic.

The change resulted in a mass exodus of abortion doctors, who reportedly resigned in protest, and directors, who were either fired or resigned after Harrison and Garcia took charge.

Harrison, a doctoral student in leadership studies and instructor at Kansas State University, resigned Friday after about a month on the job, according to a news release from Garcia.

The Trust Women Foundation’s board of directors announced that it hired Health Management Associates, a healthcare research and consulting firm, “to partner with the staff and physicians in Wichita and Oklahoma City to resume patient care,” the release says.

“The board is confident that this step will enable Trust Women to resume patient care this summer,” the release says.

Trust Women did not immediately respond to questions about the news release on Friday.

Garcia has declined to say when she estimates the clinic could reopen.

Trust Women is one of a handful of clinics in the region that provided surgical abortion up to 22 weeks of pregnancy, the legal limit in Kansas. It was among the closest clinics for many patients who live in states that have banned abortion, including Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana.

The nearest clinics that provide abortions past 20 weeks are now in Overland Park, Colorado Springs and across state lines from St. Louis in Illinois, according to Abortion Finder’s website.


Leadership shakeup leads to exodus

After being appointed interim CEO, Harrison began firing directors within the nonprofit organization, former employees told The Eagle. Others who had been with Trust Women for years quit in protest, including 10 of the clinic’s 16 physicians, according to Rewire News Group, an advocacy group that covers reproductive rights. Rewire was first to report that the clinic had stopped providing abortions last month.

Trust Women’s medical director, advocacy director, director of communications and the person who had been covering the duties of a vacant development director position left the organization in May, and the clinic has not been operational for abortion care since around May 20.

Trust Women would not comment on the departures. Former Trust Women employees told The Eagle that the medical director and advocacy director were fired while the other two quit.

Garcia’s Friday news release does not say why the clinic closed or how the consultants will help the clinic begin providing abortions again.

“HMA consultants who have decades of experience in academic medical centers, Planned Parenthood affiliates, independent clinics and federally qualified health centers will begin work tomorrow, partnering with Trust Women staff and physicians until the end of the year,” Garcia said in the statement, adding that Jessica Wannemacher, the clinic’s director of clinical operations, “will be working most closely with HMA.”

Garcia’s statement said Harrison resigned “in conjunction with retaining HMA.”

“The board thanks her for her work, and for taking on the job at a difficult time,” Garcia’s news release says. “We are grateful for Ms. Harrison’s service during this time of change and growth at Trust Women and wish her the best in her future endeavors.”


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