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Anti-Abortion Protester Loses Lawsuit Against Wichita Abortion Rights Advocate

Sean Sandefur
KMUW/File photo

A jury on Tuesday ruled against an anti-abortion activist in his lawsuit against a prominent Wichita abortion rights advocate.

The eight-member jury found that Mark Holick didn't prove his claim of malicious prosecution by Julie Burkhart, the head of the pro-choice group Trust Women.

"I believe strongly in the free speech rights of everyone, but the jury, in this case, recognized that we all have a responsibility to each other not to cross the line to fear and terror," Burkhart said in a statement released by her legal team after the verdict was announced.

Holick’s lawsuit against Burkhart stemmed from a protection from stalking order she took out against him in 2013. In their closing statement, Holick's attorneys said the order was not about Burkhart's safety, but rather a way to silence Holick and other protesters.

"All of the pastors were afraid it would happen to them," attorney Donald McKinney said. "It's like a third-world country."

Holick alleged the order was unlawful and hurt his reputation, and was seeking more than $750,000 in damages and attorney’s fees.

Burkhart’s defense argued she was in fear for her life after Holick and his Spirit One church held two demonstrations in front of her house and along her street. The incidents took place as she was preparing to open the South Wind Women’s Clinic at the same site as George Tiller’s former clinic. Tiller was killed by an anti-abortion protester at his church in 2009.

Burkhart's attorneys said she was deliberately targeted at home.

"Imagine how you would feel," attorney John Hall said to the jury. "You have to consider everything she knew at the time. Violence toward abortion providers isn't speculative, isn't abstract. This is real."

Holick had been arrested multiple times during anti-abortion protests, including at Tiller's clinic, and while protesting at LGBT events and mosques.

Burkhart's protection order was voluntarily dismissed in 2015.

Follow Nadya Faulx on Twitter @NadyaFaulx. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

Nadya Faulx is KMUW's Digital News Editor and Reporter, which means she splits her time between working on-air and working online, managing news on KMUW.org, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. She joined KMUW in 2015 after working for a newspaper in western North Dakota. Before that she was a diversity intern at NPR in Washington, D.C.