But at the state level, it’s a different picture, as the Republicans who swept into many of the nation’s statehouses in the 2010 Tea Party revolution have passed an ever-increasing number of provisions—a record 92 provisions in 24 states in 2011—creating onerous regulations for abortion providers, raising the bar for what women must do before having the procedure, and cutting off Medicaid coverage of its expense. Those pressures, along with the prospect of protests or even violence, have discouraged new doctors from entering the field, so that the number of providers has plunged by a third since the early ’80s to less than 1,800 nationwide, leading Time magazine to declare this month that “at the state level, abortion-rights activists are unequivocally losing.”
In Wichita, perhaps the ground zero of the abortion wars, Julie Burkhart is working to open a new clinic in the shell of the one that had been owned by her boss and mentor, Dr. George Tiller. Women’s Health Care, which he’d opened in 1975, was shuttered in May 2009 when Tiller, who unapologetically performed late-term abortions and had been a longtime target of anti-abortion protesters, was shot and killed by one of them, Scott Roeder, while the doctor was at Sunday services at the city’s Reformation Lutheran Church.
The last abortion provider murdered in America, Tiller literally left a huge hole in the map, with the closest remaining providers—in Kansas City and the Oklahoma towns of Norman and Tulsa—all about 200 miles away.