WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Media conglomerate Clear Channel lifted its ban Tuesday on radio ads purchased by Wichita's first abortion clinic to open since Dr. George Tiller was killed in 2009.
The broadcaster reversed course as supporters of the South Wind Women's Center prepared to deliver a petition Wednesday with 68,000 signatures, asking the broadcaster to reconsider last month's decision that yanked the ads, which promoted health care services.
Based on a "thoughtful discussion" with the clinic, Clear Channel said it made sense to take a closer look at the criteria it uses to determine whether an advertisement should air. The company said the petition did not play into its decision.
Tony Matteo, Clear Channel operations manager in Wichita, said that while the company recognized that certain advertising may stir passionate viewpoints, it determined that "as a responsible broadcaster we should use our best judgment to accept and run ads that do not violate the law or FCC standards and which are not intentionally hateful or incendiary."
Sarah Anderson, a spokeswoman for abortion rights group Trust Women, which opened the center in April, said South Wind was verbally notified late Tuesday afternoon of Clear Channel's reversal and would likely cancel Wednesday's event in which it planned to deliver the petition.
Julie Burkhart, the clinic's executive director, was not immediately available to comment on the late development. Burkhart is also the leader for Trust Women.
South Wind is the only clinic that provides abortions in Wichita, and it also offers a full range of reproductive health care services, including subsidized birth control for low-income patients. It is housed in the same building used by 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.
Burkhart said earlier in the day that 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.
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.
South Wind 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.