Through most of July and August, hundreds of ordinary men and women risked arrest to shut down the infamous Women’s Health Care Center in Wichita, a city located in the south-central part of Kansas.
As of August 15, what the national office of Operation Rescue originally planned to be a week-long series of pro-life rescues had stretched to a month and showed no sign of coming to an end.
Earlier this year, Operation Rescue/National targeted Wichita for a campaign of rescues called Summer of Mercy, said spokesman Gary McCullough. He went on to explain that no rescue had taken place in a mid-western city before. Wichita is also the site of the Women’s Health Center, a ‘clinic’ run by George Tiller, notorious throughout the U.S. for his second and third term abortions, Mr. McCullough added.
Information provided by Operation Rescue/National that George Tiller kills virtually newborn children by means of a lethal injection directly into the fetal heart elicited a tremendous response from Kansas residents.
“There have been 2,078 people arrested here over the past 32 days,” Mr. McCullough told The Interim. Most of these have been on minor counts of trespassing and vagrancy, he noted.
Except for one incident of police brutality when mounted officers charged into a crowd of rescuers seated on the pavement, arrests have bee gentle and orderly. Operation Rescue organizers have co-operated and consulted with the Wichita police department, said Mr. McCullough, reckoning that if “we keep our people in line, they [the police] won’t beat us up.”
Community support for the rescuers is widespread. States Mr. McCullough, “The mayor of the city, Bob Knight, is pro-life and a Christian.”
On August 3, Bishop Eugene Gerber, expressing complete solidarity with the rescuers, joined 84 other clergymen in blocking the entrance to the Wichita Family Planning Clinic.
What is most gratifying to Operation Rescue is the support of Kansas Governor, Joan Finney.
“To those who have been demonstrating in Wichita this summer, when we come right down to it, it is the character and courage of our state which is at risk,” Gov. Finney said August 2, addressing a crowd of pro-life activists in the city, adding “We shall not achieve the ideals for which this is founded as long as Kansas turns its back on the powerless, the helpless, the unborn.”
Judge Patrick Kelly
It is the behaviour of Federal Judge Patrick Kelly which has transformed the Wichita events into a showdown between the abortionists and the pro-life activists of Operation Rescue.
In late July, Judge Kelly issued a federal injunction to prohibit the blocking of Wichita’s three abortion ‘clinics’. Judge Kelly called in federal marshals to enforce the order and maintain access to the ‘clinics’ when the Wichita police chief refused to comply with the injunction.
On August 6, however, the U.S. Justice Department filed a brief stating that Judge Kelly had grossly abused his power by intruding in matters that are of a local and state matter.
Later the same day, on ABC’s Nightline news program, Judge Kelly expressed “disgust” with the Justice Department’s decision. He has defied it since then, following through on a threat made earlier that rescuers “should say farewell to their family and bring their toothbrush, and I mean it, because they are going to jail.”
Judge Kelly, a lapsed Catholic who told his pastor that he wouldn’t allow his religion to influence enforcing abortion on demand, sees himself as a kind of ‘Lone Ranger’ standing against lawlessness and bloodshed, Mr. McCullough explained. “I will do all that’s in my power that will bring order to this city and put this Operation Rescue venture to rest,” Kelly told The Wichita Eagle.