Pro-life protesters are holding a 40-day prayer vigil outside a murdered abortion doctor’s Kansas clinic in order to persuade women not to have the procedure.
The “40 Days for Life” campaign is the 13th of its kind. Protesters will pray outside of Dr. George Tiller’s former Wichita clinic, the new South Wind Women’s Center, which reopened in April.
Tiller, 67, was shot in the head on May 31, 2009, by anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder during Sunday service at the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita. Tiller served as an usher there. He also provided late-term abortions at one of only three clinics that offered the procedure in the U.S. at the time.
“All of our vigil participants are asked to sign a statement of peace, conduct themselves in a loving and Christ-like manner, stay in public right-of-ways and stay within the law,” said Kara Shaw, a Wichita resident organizing the vigil, according to ThinkProgress.
No stranger to violence from anti-abortion groups, Tiller’s clinic was firebombed in 1986.
After his assassination, many women came forward to tell their stories about why they had a late-term abortion and how the procedure might have saved their life.
One woman said she had twins, one of whom had died. She was advised that if she delivered the other, it would likely kill her, Huffington Post reported. Another woman had two partial-birth abortions when she learned that her babies had birth defects that would kill them soon after they were born — they had “no faces, with no way to eat or breathe.”
One women told the Washington Monthly that she had an abortion at eight months when she discovered she had conjoined twins. One of the twins was dead and the other was unlikely to survive.
“At best only one child would survive the surgery to separate them and the survivor would more than likely live a brief and painful life filled with surgery and organ transplants,” the mother wrote. “We were advised that our options were to deliver into the world a child who’s [sic] life would be filled with horrible pain and suffering or fly out to Wichita Kansas and to terminate the pregnancy under the direction of Dr. George Tiller.”
A few protesters have approached women on the clinic property since the reopening, but a security guard on the premises handles those incidents.
“We’re very pleased we’ve been able to operate,” said Julie Burkhart, a former colleague of Dr. Tilller’s and the executive director of the clinic. “We haven’t had any incidents at the clinic. Things are going very well.”
Burkhart said protesters recently brought a Shetland pony “bearing anti-abortion signs” and paraded it up and down their street.
“The thing we are not looking forward to is the fact that their presence outside our clinic serves to intimidate and shame women who are coming in for health care services,” Burkhart said. “Just the fact people feel they have the moral authority to show up and try to dictate to women how they’re supposed to live their lives, that’s unsettling.”