WICHITA, Kan. - I was 19 when the original Summer of Mercy descended upon Wichita. I had moved to Wichita that very month from a small Kansas town. While I was busy trying to navigate the 'big city' and find my way back and forth from my waitressing job without getting lost, one landmark that I quickly came to rely upon was Dr. Tiller's clinic. I had to drive by it every day and it was impossible to miss with masses of people that were in front of it.
My small town upbringing had not given me cause to ever really think about abortion. I dare say that I hadn't even really formulated a view one-way or the other on the issue. Seeing those shouting people, what struck me most was the mob scene that they created. I knew I didn't like bullies and these people were most certainly bullying the women that entered that clinic.
That is when I decided that I was probably pro-choice. That was when I went to my first pro-choice rally with another young friend of mine. I stood in front of the local mall and handed out pro-choice flyers. It was my first act of grassroots participation. As I grow older, I now recognize that these events not only shaped me, but an entire community.
Kansas NOW held a 'Roe v. Wade Vigil' at the Unitarian Church in Wichita during the midst of Dr. Tiller's murder trial. Local women from around the community came and told their stories about what choice meant to them. We heard from Liz Hicks, who was Wichita NOW President during the Summer of Mercy, which had taken place 18 years ago. She shared her memories of what it was like to defend a clinic under siege and to experience an assault that had never been experienced before.
We also heard from an activist who had no memories of the Summer of Mercy because she had not yet been born. A quiet gasp came over the room as the realization set in for this room full of long time feminists ... it had been long enough ago to produce young activists that had lived their entire lives in the wake of this event. The juxtaposition of these two women was emotional for all.
I am now committed to the pro-choice cause at a level I never could have anticipated at that young age. The more I learn about and live through this female experience, the more certain that I am that we must have abortion to remain free. The more certain I am that we must continue to stand up to these bullies. That is why I will be in Germantown on July 31 for the Summer of Choice. That is why I will proudly stand in front of the clinic of Dr. Carhart. I have a long, strong Wichita tradition to uphold.