Wichita Abortion opponents gathered outside a Wichita abortion clinic Wednesday to celebrate a Supreme Court ruling upholding a federal ban on a controversial abortion procedure.
"Today the Roberts court opened the door for new prohibitions on abortions," said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue in Wichita. "This is a new day in the abortion battle. After 34 years of innocent children dying throughout the country we now have a new court, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, that has a plan to end abortion in America."
But the ruling was met with disappointment by abortion rights supporters, who fear that without a health exception for the procedure, women's lives are at risk.
"Bush has clearly stacked the court," Julie Burkhart, director of ProKanDo, an abortion rights group, said of the Supreme Court ruling. "It is a sad day."
The nation's highest court ruled that the ban is constitutional despite not containing an exception that would allow the procedure if needed to preserve a woman's health, ruling the law need not give abortion doctors "unfettered choice in the course of their medical practice."
It was in this city where the Summer of Mercy 1991 protests, organized by Operation Rescue, drew thousands of anti-abortion activists for demonstrations marked by civil disobedience and mass arrests.
This city has been a high-profile target of anti-abortion protesters for decades because it is home to George Tiller, one of the few physicians in the country to perform late-term abortions. His Wichita clinic was bombed in 1985, and Tiller was shot in both arms by a protester in 1993.
Lee Thompson, the attorney for Tiller, said he had not had a chance to read and digest the Supreme Court opinion and declined to comment on it. But Thompson said the physicians at the Wichita clinic do not use the banned procedure.
Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, an abortion opponent whose efforts to prosecute Tiller failed over a jurisdictional dispute, said the Supreme Court ruling will amount to a ban in Kansas on doing partial birth abortions. But he said Kansas clinics do not now perform such procedures as described under federal law.
U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), a presidential candidate and abortion opponent, issued a statement applauding the court for its decision, saying he hopes it signals the court's willingness to reverse Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that legalized abortion.
"This ban was enacted to put an end to one of the most grotesque forms of abortion, and it is completely in line with the respect for life that is at the very heart of our constitution," Brownback said. "This is a giant step forward for our nation's citizens, born and unborn."
Burkhart said the decision establishes a sweeping ban on abortion that will ultimately impact women's health care and safety.
"This decision has put the government in charge of medical decisions that should be handled privately between qualified physicians in consultation with their patients," she said. "We are deeply disappointed that the Supreme Court does not have greater respect for the women of this country."
At Kansans for Life, state executive director Mary Kay Culp said the ruling is not about legislators making medical decisions, but about keeping the ideologues who have been running the clinics from making those decisions.
"Real doctors concerned with real medical issues do what they can to save both lives," Culp said.