The staff at Trust Women, a leading pro-choice and reproductive justice foundation based in Wichita, Kansas, work to ensure that women have access to and control over their reproductive rights.
Julie A. Burkhart is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Trust Women. She worked side by side with Dr. George Tiller for seven years. She first began working with him as the Chair for the Wichita Choice Alliance. It was there that she led the community response against the anti-choice organizations that were attempting to “finish the job” and shut down Women’s Health Care Services, Dr. Tiller’s clinic, during the 2001 Summer of Mercy Renewal. Ms. Burkhart was the spokesperson for his clinic between 2002 and 2006.
In 2002, Dr. Tiller created ProKanDo, establishing what would become the largest political action committee in Kansas. Ms. Burkhart built and for seven years directed the organization, which engaged in legislative and political work on behalf of physicians and women’s rights constituents. Ms. Burkhart now continues Dr. Tiller’s vision for reproductive justice through Trust Women.
Before working for Dr. Tiller, Ms. Burkhart was at ground zero during the infamous Summer of Mercy in 1991. She worked at the Wichita Women’s Center, which was heavily targeted by Operation Rescue, the Lambs of Christ and other anti-choice extremists. Driven by political justice, she went on to manage a number of political campaigns in Washington State as well as work for the Washington State Democratic Party and the Washington Senate Democratic Campaign Committee.
Ms. Burkhart holds a bachelor’s degree from Seattle Pacific University and a master’s degree from Wichita State University, both in political science with an emphasis on African studies.
Ms. Burkhart is a frequent speaker and commentator on reproductive justice issues and has appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show, MSNBC Live, the Alan Colmes Radio Show, Democracy Now, The Young Turks, NPR and various local news and radio programs. She also has had opinion pieces appear in a variety of newspapers such as the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, CNN and Kansas City Star. She has been quoted and interviewed by national press including the New York Times, the Washington Post, MORE Magazine, Mother Jones, ThinkProgress, Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times, the Huffington Post, Pacific Standard Magazine, PBS News Hour and international media such as Annabelle in Switzerland and ARD in Germany. She has been interviewed in extensive pieces by MSNBC and for various documentaries.
Rebecca Tong is the Director of Development at Trust Women. She worked as a non-profit advocacy and political organizer with Grassroots Campaigns, Inc. (GCI) for three-and-a-half years. Most recently, she was as a regional director with GCI, contracted to run fundraising and membership building operations on behalf of national non-profits such as Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. Ms. Tong ran a petition campaign that successfully created a ballot measure to overturn Citizens United in Colorado; and she ran a large GOTV operation out of Boulder for the 2012 election cycle. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Illinois Wesleyan University in political science and international development studies.
Deb Gruver is the Director of Communications at Trust Women. Ms. Gruver worked as a newspaper reporter for 26 years, most recently at The Wichita Eagle, where she covered crime, consumer issues, politics and county government. She spent the last year of her time at The Eagle writing a series of stories about child abuse and neglect titled “In Need of Care.” The work won the Wichita Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section’s Liberty Bell Award for making a difference in the community. Ms. Gruver is a former board member of the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government and the Kansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. She serves on the board of directors of the American Collegiate Society for Adapted Athletics. Ms. Gruver studied journalism at the University of Kansas and has worked as a reporter and editor in Kansas, Wyoming and Indiana. One of her concentrations of study at KU was women’s studies.
Tamber Hepner is the Director of Advocacy and Outreach at Trust Women. She is originally from Newton but has spent much of her adult life as a Wichita resident. Before joining Trust Women, she worked as a behavioral consultant and studied to be a board-certified behavior analyst, working with children with developmental disabilities. She holds a teaching master’s degree from Wichita State University. She served as the clinic director of Trust Women South Wind Women’s Center before moving to advocacy. Advocacy and outreach allow her to marry her hobby of political activism with her professional skills.