Having had an abortion when I was just 18 and totally unprepared for an unplanned pregnancy, I am reminded every time new legislation is passed that limits abortions or anti-abortion activists harass women and clinics that this choice is not something to take for granted, that, unfortunately, a fight is required to maintain this legal right to decide for ourselves when we are ready to become mothers. Would I be where I am were it not for the option to terminate an unwanted and untimely pregnancy? Of course not. Because of this, I utilize every chance I am afforded to show my thanks to those who make this option available to all women.
That’s why we’re taking part in Summer of Choice.
As anti-choice activists from Operation Rescue come to Germantown, Maryland for their “Summer of Mercy 2.0,” the Reproductive Health Services clinic, Feminist Majority Foundation, National Organization for Women, and Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice are responding with the Summer of Choice, a peaceful, pro-choice presence during the week of July 31 – August 7 outside of the clinic where Dr. Leroy Carhart, a late-term abortion provider, practices.
Dr. Carhart is being targeted by Operation Rescue, an anti-choice organization, that began the campaign “Kick Out Carhart” last December when the doctor first announced he would practice in Maryland. He had been and continues to practice at his clinic in Omaha, Nebraska, and plans to open a clinic in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Carhart has been the victim of much harassment since he began performing abortions in the late 1980s. Receiving letters threatening his life and the lives of his loved ones and being stalked in airports and at home, Carhart has had to endure a lot for the sake of women’s choice. He is among very few doctors who provide late-term abortions.
He was also close friends with Dr. George Tiller, a late-term abortion provider in Wichita, Kansas, who was murdered by an anti-abortion activist in 2009. Operation Rescue targeted Dr. Tiller at the first Summer of Mercy in 1991, and the group had set up an office across the street from Tiller’s clinic. The group recently similarly leased office space in the same building complex, across the parking lot from Dr. Carhart’s clinic. After Tiller’s death, Carhart became Operation Rescue’s new target.
Only 1.3% of abortions happen after the 21st week, yet they have become a central point of controversy in politics and of harassment and violence from abortion opponents. Late-term abortions are often used as a focal point for antis’ argument against abortion, using pictures of so-called “partial birth abortions” to create a violent and false image in the heads of the American public of what abortion really is. But regardless of the infrequent occurrence of late-term abortion procedures, their availability is absolutely necessary. While more anti-choice legislators are moving to ban late term abortions in their states, it becomes all the more important for us to stand with the doctors who perform them and the women who need them. Ohio is a governor’s signature away from banning all abortions after week 20, joining seven other states – Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Idaho, Indiana, Missouri, and Alabama – with similar legislation, and 39 states that have limits on late-term abortions.
It is imperative that we stand with the doctors, and with the women who undergo these difficult decisions. Now more than ever we must show our support for Dr. Carhart and the Germantown clinic, and while we’re at it, for all women who choose abortion, for all reproductive clinics and doctors who face the daily threat of violence and harassment and who still continue to practice the necessary procedures that uphold women’s reproductive rights. As someone who has utilized that right, I’m looking forward to demonstrating my gratitude. Join me and all of us here at the FMF in showing the antis, the media, and the public that there ARE people who value our right to reproductive choice.
Join us at the Summer of Choice July 31-August 5
Because this event is outside of a clinic, we are asking pro-choice activists not to engage in hostile arguments or confrontations with the antis – we have all learned from experience that it doesn’t get anywhere, and it can also put the clinic at risk. We seek rather to be a peaceful presence in which safety and support are priority.
We’re holding skills training sessions before the week begins on how to stay positive and safe throughout the Summer of Choice: if you’re in DC, check out the session on July 26th; if you’re in Maryland, there’s one in Gaithersburg on July 31st.
Come out for our Summer Celebration of Choice Kick-Off Walk outside the clinic at 1pm on Sunday, July 31st to lead off the week and to raise money for the Abortion Access Fund. We’re planning to be out at the clinic maintaining a peaceful pro-choice presence throughout the week of July 31-August 7, and we’d like to see big numbers throughout, so if you plan to come, please sign up for a time. Check our website for other events being planned for the week.
We hope to see you there!