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Wyoming Banned Abortion. She Opened an Abortion Clinic Anyway.

U.S.Wyoming Banned Abortion. She Opened an Abortion Clinic Anyway.

It was not such an implausible idea, back in 2020, when a philanthropist emailed Julie Burkhart to ask if she would consider opening an abortion clinic in Wyoming, one of the nation’s most conservative states and the one that had twice given Donald Trump his biggest margin of victory.

In fact, Ms. Burkhart had the same idea more than a decade earlier, after an anti-abortion extremist killed her boss and mentor, George Tiller, in Wichita, Kan., where he ran one of the nation’s few clinics that provided abortion late in pregnancy.

Dr. Tiller’s work had drawn the wrath of the nation’s anti-abortion groups — his clinic had been blockaded, bombed and flooded with a hose before he was shot to death while ushering his regular Sunday church service. When she reopened it instead of moving, the death threats and stalkers shifted to Ms. Burkhart, or, as they called her, Julie Darkheart.

Running a clinic in a red state had worn her down, and she was looking to put Wichita and all it represented behind her. But if Wyoming was even more conservative than Kansas, she understood that it was more Cowboy State conservatism, shaped by self-reliance and small government, less interested in regulating what people do behind their drapes.

So she said yes.

Then, three months before Ms. Burkhart planned to open her clinic in 2022, the Wyoming Legislature, pushed by a new Freedom Caucus, joined a dozen other states in passing a trigger law that would ban abortion as soon as the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

After the court ruled, other abortion providers in states with trigger bans moved their clinics to safe havens in Illinois, Maryland or Minnesota. Ms. Burkhart, rather than leave the front lines of the abortion wars, pushed on in Wyoming, making her the only person in America to open an abortion clinic in a state that bans abortion.


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