Anti-choice activists have gathered in Germantown, Maryland this week to target a man, a clinic, and a woman’s right to choose. Beginning this past Sunday, Dr. Leroy Carhart and his clinic, Germantown Reproductive Health Services, has become the main target of the anti-choice group Operation Rescue’s “Summer of Mercy 2.0.” Their intent, to shut down the clinic and create an atmosphere similar to that of the first Summer of Mercy that took place in Wichita, Kansas in 1991, has been slow to realize, as their numbers have been small and the pro-choice presence of Summer of Choice has helped to keep them in check.
Supporters of the clinic in response have come to Germantown from as far away as San Francisco, Kansas, Chicago, Montreal, and other cities throughout North America to attend the Summer of Choice, a peaceful pro-choice presence outside of the clinic, organized by FMF, NOW, and other activists. Some supporters came from organizations such as the Socialist Workers Party, World Can’t Wait, or Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights, while others came out on their own, but all came to show their support for Dr. Carhart, his clinic, and all women’s right to abortion access. Despite the terrible heat, everyone has been in good spirits and are enjoying the sense of solidarity and excitement in being with others who seek to defend the clinic from harassment by the anti-abortion group.
Sunday’s pro-choice Kick-Off Walk was attended by hundreds of activists, walking along the 1.3 mile stretch that surrounds the clinic, helping to raise thousands of dollars for Dr. Carhart’s Abortion Access Fund. For the rest of the time activists have been standing alongside the sidewalk in front of the office park while anti-choice activists stand on the other side. The language used by those leading the Summer of Mercy has been fixated on making Dr. Carhart a target of the anti-choice movement, calling him “the new Dr. Tiller” and demanding that his clinic be permanently shut down. We have been persistent in paying attention to their actions, making sure they do not cross onto the private property of the clinic and that the clinic remains safe. The memory of the murder of Dr. George Tiller in 2009 by an anti-abortion activist who had close ties with Operation Rescue was ever-present here. One activist at Summer of Choice held a sign with Dr. Tiller’s picture above the word “HERO,” while another held one reading “Honor Dr. Tiller, Respect Dr. Carhart.”
All Summer of Choice activists took a pledge to remain peaceful and refrain from any kind of engagement with the protesters, though this became increasingly difficult as the antis walked up and down the sidewalk where we were located, holding out rosaries, shouting things like “murderers!” and “where are your children?” while the “Choice Truck” – a huge semi covered on both sides with the typical photo-shopped image of a supposed fetus that looks like something out of a horror film with the words “This Is Choice” constantly circled the block. These things only served to further strengthen our group in the need for our presence there.
With all of that, on top of the grueling heat and dehydration and tiredness that comes with standing along a street holding a sign for 12 straight hours, the inspiration has come not only from the amazing people that come out day after day to stand up for such an important cause, but also from those who have shown their support in other ways – a local church donated coolers full of water bottles and sandwiches on Sunday and last night a local business donated pizzas for everyone. Other times just a honk and a thumbs up from the passing drivers or a “Thanks for being out here!” from passersby were enough to re-energize us, with that enlivening solidarity that occurs when people come together for a common cause that is being so directly targeted right in front of our eyes.
If you’d like to come stand with us to defend the clinic over the next week, please visit the Summer of Choice website for the location and times. We’ll be there all day every day for the rest of the week and hope to have a large turn-out for Sunday afternoon to counter the Summer of Mercy’s event “Cross 4 Life.” While this was originally planned to be their final event, the group recently released that they now plan to stay outside the clinic through next Monday when the clinic reopens. Keep checking the website for more info regarding any need for more support next week. You can also sign up to be on the email list to be alerted when new info is posted, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are unable to attend, please consider donating to Dr. Carhart’s Abortion Access Fund or the Feminist Majority Foundation. Check out our National Clinic Access Program for more information on clinic harassment, and if you’re a student, consider bringing the Adopt-a-Clinic Campaign to your campus in an effort to defend your local clinic from anti-choice harassment. Email your campus organizer for more info!
Photo from Flickr user World Can’t Wait under Creative Commons 2.0