Radio station lifts ban on abortion clinic ads

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Media conglomerate Clear Channel is lifting its earlier ban on radio ads from a Wichita abortion clinic promoting health care services for women.

The company reversed course Tuesday as supporters of the South Wind Women’s Center prepared to deliver a petition with 68,000 signatures Wednesday, asking the broadcaster to reconsider its earlier decision.

Clear Channel says it recognizes certain advertising may stir passionate viewpoints but that it determined it should use its best judgment to accept and run ads that don’t violate the law or FCC standards.

The company says the nationwide petition did not play into its decision.

South Wind is the first abortion clinic to open in Wichita since the 2009 slaying of Dr. George Tiller.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Supporters of Wichita’s first abortion clinic to open since the 2009 slaying of Dr. George Tiller plan to deliver a petition Wednesday asking media conglomerate Clear Channel to reconsider its ban on the clinic’s radio ads promoting health care services for women.

Clear Channel pulled the South Wind Women’s Center ads, which did not specifically mention abortion, from three local radio stations last month. Center executive director Julie Burkhart said Clear Channel called the ads “divisive.”

Representatives of the South Wind Women’s Center in Wichita pushed back with a nationwide drive that gathered more than 68,000 signatures.

Tony Matteo, Clear Channel operations manager in Wichita, said Tuesday he was unaware of the planned petition presentation before The Associated Press contacted him for comment. He did not immediately respond.

Burkhart is expected to speak Wednesday at the presentation. She is also the leader of abortion rights group Trust Women, which opened the center in April. It is the only clinic that provides abortions in Wichita.

The clinic offers a full range of reproductive health care services, including subsidized birth control for low-income patients, in the same building that once housed Tiller’s clinic. Tiller, one of the nation’s few late-term abortion providers at the time of his death, was gunned down in 2009 in his Wichita church by an abortion opponent. Burkhart worked for Tiller for seven years.

The center collected signatures in partnership with Women, Action & the Media, a national nonprofit that advocates for gender equity in media. The “vast majority” of the signatures collected came from outside Wichita, said Jaclyn Friedman, the group’s executive director.

“We had not heard any stories about this happening anywhere else, but we are concerned about the precedent that could be set if it is allowed to stand — where a private company can decide whether or not local women get information about how to access health care,” Friedman said. “We think that is pretty concerning.”

The clinic began advertising on other Wichita stations in June without incident, Burkhart said.

The ads on Clear Channel stations aired only July 1 before they were pulled. The Clear Channel ad buy was for a month, costing between $1,500 and $2,000.

Burkhart said the petitions are important because the new clinic has tried to “normalize” women’s medical services, such as abortions.

“And I think that is part of our effort to continue to normalize our work as a medical provider and facility — to be able to communicate with women and their families in this community about the services that we offer and to let people in the community know we are here for them,” she said.

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