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the Body Politic
Vol. 1, No. 11 - August 1991, Page 10
Copyright © 1991, 1998 by the Body Politic Inc.

Oz in the Land of Kansas

By Anne Bower

When a tornado took Dorothy from Kansas to the Land of Oz, she left a tranquil, homey community for one of excitement and violence. However, the events in Kansas during the past month make Oz look dull.

Since the middle of July, Wichita has been the scene of another Operation Rescue tornado, this time carrying bus loads of people into, not out of, the state. Adherents from around the country have come to blockade abortion clinics, especially Women's Health Care Services owned by Dr. George Tiller.

Dr. Tiller's clinic is the "court of last resort" for the few women who find themselves in need of a late second trimester abortion. Women referred here often have just learned they carry a severely deformed fetus who cannot be born alive, or who would come to birth with only a chance of a brief life lived in pain and suffering. This doctor and his staff specialize in these difficult cases. It is the height of cruelty to target women seeking abortions under these circumstances.

The story of how this month of pain and suffering unfolded is not new. Talks with Peggy Jarman of the Pro-choice Action League of Kansas over the past weeks have revealed the now familiar scenario.

Operation Rescue used their tried and true tactics of negotiating with the police, and getting them to agree before hand on how protestors would be treated. OR was apparently so persuasive on what good little protestors they would be that the police felt comfortable approaching the three abortion providers in the area and suggesting they close for the one week of protests. The doctors complied.

Talk about giving an inch and taking a mile! A letter dated July 22nd from Randy Terry shows how likely it was that OR was leaving town:

THE ENTIRE CHILD-KILLING INDUSTRY IN WICHITA HAS BEEN SHUT DOWN BY OPERATION RESCUE FOR A SOLID WEEK! NOT ONE PRE-BORN CHILD HAS BEEN MURDERED. NOT ONE MOTHER HAS BEEN EXPLOITED BY AN ABORTIONIST.
- THUS FAR THERE HAVE BEEN NO ARRESTS.
- LOCAL BUSINESSES HAVE RALLIED TO OUR SUPPORT.
- THE TALK OF THE TOWN HAS BEEN PREDOMINANTLY POSITIVE.
After much prayer and counsel, Operation Rescue leaders believe God wants us to stay in Wichita - INDEFINITELY.

These are not the rantings of a man packing his bags. At least not yet.

Randy painted a rather rosy picture on the 22nd, but the bloom is fading. According to Peggy Jarman, the mayor of Wichita and the Governor of Kansas have supported the protestor, but the local citizens are hopping mad. And so are the police.

Ms. Jarman said that after the first week when OR did not leave and the clinics reopened, the arrests began. The charges were minor with people getting appearance tickets and going immediately back on the street. However, the protestors began claiming "police brutality". The next day Mayor Knight forbid the police to use any force in removing blockaders. The police complained to their union representative.

At one point police had to rent Ryder vans to store and haul off blockaders and OR complained bitterly about that situation. The police confided to Ms. Jarman that they wanted OR to negotiate their next contract because "OR has more power in the city than anyone else."

This state of affairs is what prompted Judge Kelly to call in the federal marshals to enforce his injunction. He became convinced that the city government did not have the will to stop the blockading. Never before has a federal judge had to resort to the use of marshals to enforce this type of order.

According to Peggy Jarman, the citizens of Wichita are becoming outraged. Like many Americans, they were willing to let OR make a statement, but this is a tirade. People have been calling the Mayor and Chief of Police with one message, "Get these people out of here." As usual, Randy has over stayed his welcome. Ms. Jarman says that even the Right-to-Life local community has become very concerned how they will be treated after OR leaves.

The bill for local taxpayers is approximately $500,000 so far and climbing. However, the pro-choice community is the beneficiary of a new influx of cash. Ms. Jarman says that people have been sending donations and stopping in to pay as much as $25 or $100 for a bumper sticker. The Pro-choice Action League expects to have a large increase in their already substantial mailing list. They have scheduled a rally August 24th at a local park and are negotiating with some big names as featured speakers.

Ms. Jarman and the Kansas pro-choice community are doing a super job under extremely difficult conditions and seem quite able to handle the situation. However, she did allow as how mail would be welcome. If you would like to write her, Judge Kelly, or Dr. Tiller with words of encouragement and support, their addresses follow. (It would be especially nice for those who have gone through OR blockades as staff, escorts, or patients to drop a line.)

Pro-choice Action League
PO Box 3622
528 South Bleckley
Wichita, KA 67201
Judge Patrick Kelly
Federal Courthouse
401 N. Market
Wichita, KA 67202
Dr. George Tiller
Women's Health Care Services
5107 East Kellogg
Wichita, KA 67218

Randy Terry may have clicked his heels and disappeared for the time being, but the fight will go on in Kansas and America.


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