Abortion foes return to Wichita

MSNBC News/July 16, 2001

Wichita, Kansas -- Abortion opponents marched at five Wichita churches Sunday, confronting worshippers with large signs showing aborted fetuses and spreading their message with bullhorns.

As part of the weeklong Summer of Mercy Renewal, nearly 30 demonstrators went to Reformation Lutheran Church, which is attended by Dr. George Tiller, one of the few physicians in the country who still performs late-term abortions.

Tiller's clinic was bombed in 1985 and he was shot and wounded two years after the first Summer of Mercy was staged in Wichita 10 years ago. Demonstrations also are planned at his clinic this week.

"He is told what he is doing is righteous. He is told he is going to heaven," said Troy Newman, director of Los Angeles-based Operation Rescue West. "Tiller has a guilty conscience - that is why he runs to churches."

By the end of the day, about 1,000 abortion opponents gathered at the Word of Life Church across town for a worship service.


Bloody Photographs

"I don't think we need to have a civil war over this," said Wes Wolken, associate pastor of Word of Life Church.

But he added, "I think there will be a lot of patience tried before this is over with - city police, us, them."

Tiller was not at Reformation Lutheran during the demonstrations, which upset church members, particularly children who saw the bloody photographs.

Keith Martin said children in his Sunday School class were "crying like crazy" after passing the demonstrators to get to church. "I don't think any First Amendment idea is being conveyed to them," he said.

"I think what they would like us to do is ask the Tiller family to leave our church - that is hardly Christian," said church member David Johnson. "To put those signs out there is to frighten God's children."

Newman said it was not the demonstrators' intention to upset children. "Every one of these children understand abortion is murder - that is why they are upset," he said.

Demonstrator Megan Cloud, 16, of St. Louis, held pictures of fetuses. She said the pictures bother her, too, and she hates to look at them.


'An all-right Thing'

"But these kids are growing up, and their parents are allowing them to see this as an all-right thing," she said.

Protesters also went to nearby Chapel Hill Fellowship, where Mayor Bob Knight attended the service. Knight declined to talk to a reporter: "I am not here to do interviews, I am here to go to church."

Knight has said he would hold leaders of Operation Save America, organizer of the Summer of Mercy Renewal, responsible for any disturbances during the week of protests.

Demonstrators also targeted Metropolitan Church because of its support of homosexuals, and marched at two churches that have supported abortion rights, United Methodist Church and Congregational Church.

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