National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

Kan. abortion providers prepare for full week of abortion-rights opponents surrounding clinics

Law enforcement and abortion providers in Wichita, Kansas, are preparing for abortion-rights opponents' plans to come to Wichita from all over the United States for a large-scale antiabortion-rights week of action spanning July 16 through July 23, the Wichita Eagle reports.

Background

Abortion-rights opponents' plans to gather in Wichita, which they have dubbed the "Summer of Justice," comes 25 years after the 1991 antiabortion-rights "Summer of Mercy" blockades. During the "Summer of Mercy," abortion-rights opponents blocked clinic entrances and lined surrounding streets, forcing those trying to enter clinics to try to pass hundreds of abortion-rights opponents. About 2,700 people were arrested during the blockades.

In 1994, Congress passedthe Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which makes it a federal crime to injure, intimidate or interfere with a woman seeking reproductive health care, including abortion care. FBI's website states that the law was enacted in response to "'blockades, arsons, use of chemical irritants, bomb threats, death threats, stalking, and vandalism'" directed toward abortion providers, particularly given the increase in such violence between the mid-1980s and early 1990s.

Security measures prepared in face of abortion opponents' large-scale week of action

Eight local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are making preparations for the national antiabortion-rights gathering, the Eagle reports.

Capt. Brian White of the Wichita Police Department said 100 to 150 officers will be assigned to monitor the action, all of whom will receive a special five-hour training session. In addition, according to White, all 638 of the department's officers will be on call for the week.

White noted that Bleckley Street -- which runs along the entrance to Trust Women South Wind Women's Center, a clinic that provides abortion care -- will be closed for the week (Dunn [1], Wichita Eagle, 7/9).

Clinics will continue to provide care

Abortion providers announced they will continue to provide services as usual during the week, the Eagle reports (Dunn [2], Wichita Eagle, 7/9). Julie Burkhart, founder and CEO of Trust Women, said law enforcement has confirmed they will allow the clinics to remain accessible during the protest (Dunn [1], Wichita Eagle, 7/9).

According to the Eagle, South Wind Women's Center and Planned Parenthood have worked with local police and FBI to coordinate heightened security during the week. Burkhart said she has recently seen an increase in the number of abortion-rights opponents outside of South Wind clinic.

The Eagle reports that abortion clinics do not plan to host a concurrent rally to counter the abortion-rights opponents. Burkhart said, "We are not here to be part of their sideshow -- their circus. This is not fun and games." She added, "Our work is not to oppose [abortion-rights opponents], it's to help people's lives and give people the health care they deserve."

Abortion-rights groups in Wichita last Saturday held a "Repro Rally" in support of reproductive rights. In addition, David Cohen, co-author of "Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism," will do a book reading at a local bookstore on July 21. Trust Women also will hold an RSVP-only celebration on Friday night.

Separately, Planned Parenthood has launched the "Summer of Normalcy" campaign to highlight the normalcy of abortion care, as well as Planned Parenthood's other services. According to Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, the organization has been using the hashtag #KnowWhatsNormal "to try to destigmatize and normalize not only access to those services but the conversation around those services."

Noting that the campaign aims to deescalate antiabortion-rights rhetoric, McQuade said, "We want to open a space for the rational, the calm, the everyday."

Planned Parenthood announced that it will provide volunteer clinic escorts during the week to aid patients entering the organization's Wichita facility (Dunn [2], Wichita Eagle, 7/9).