Wichita Life Watch
What can love, prayer and persistent political action do? Just wait a few years and ask any of the more than 100 babies saved from abortion since Mother’s Day 2004 by the Kansas Coalition for Life.
Today those babies are healthy and happy thanks to Project Love, Prayer and Persistent Political Action, the coalition’s seven-year plan to close down Women’s Health Care Services, P.A., one of the busiest late-term abortion businesses in the country.
According to Kansas Coalition for Life statistics, the facility’s medical director, George Tiller, M.D., and his two staff physicians, Leroy Carhart, M.D., and Shelley Sella, M.D., perform an average of 167 abortions each week. Carhart, based in Bellevue, Neb., attracted worldwide attention when he appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court during a campaign to legalize partial-birth abortion. Tiller has operated his facility in Wichita since 1973.
The facility’s website boasts: “Thousands of patients throughout the world have received quality reproductive health care services at our clinic.”
Founded in 2003 by Mark Gietzen, a Boeing company field representative and administrator of a singles website for Christian men and women, the Kansas Coalition for Life has more than 4,000 members. Individuals join by paying a small fee to sign an online pro-life signature ad that states their opposition to abortion and support of pro-life work. Families are given a reduced fee and clergy memberships are free.
The main objective of the group’s plan is to force Tiller to close his doors. They hope to do this by peacefully, truthfully and prayerfully persuading his clients to change their minds as they approach the abortion site’s doors. Already Tiller has been compelled to remain closed on Saturdays — once his busiest day of the week.
Gietzen keeps an intricate schedule of dedicated volunteers who take turns offering sidewalk counseling outside of the Tiller facility for the approximate 106-110 hours each week it’s open. Shifts begin at 4 a.m. and last until late at night or early the next morning.
The building has no windows and is fenced in by a guarded security gate. It’s often open through the night. For every hour the facility is open, at least one volunteer stands by, informational literature in hand.
Judi Weldy is Kansas Coalition vice chairwoman and one of the group’s sidewalk counselors. She spends close to eight hours outside the clinic each week. Like the other volunteers, she’s seen her share of encouraging success stories and heartbreaking disappointments. More than once she’s jumped out of the way of a car whose driver had it in mind to intimidate her.
“I just keep thinking of the prophet Jeremiah,” Weldy says. “Nobody listened to him, either, but he didn’t let that discourage him. I’m not going to let it discourage me, either.”
The Kansas Coalition for Life works in a lawful, straightforward manner. They avoid more radical means of fighting abortion in favor of education, prayer and legislative activism. All volunteers are encouraged to be politically savvy and trained to meticulously follow the Wichita city ordinances for public demonstrations and trespassing.
“Many people think that all pro-life groups are radical groups,” says Father Richard Stuchlik, pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Wichita and an avid Kansas Coalition for Life advocate. “This is not a radical group. They’re a peaceful group trying to inform the public of what’s happening in the Legislature [regarding abortion] and what’s really going on inside those walls.”
It all started when Gietzen, who lives a short distance from the Tiller facility, learned about an abortion clinic in Louisiana that had been closed down by activists. He knew of Tiller’s reputation and decided to try to replicate the Louisiana group’s success in his own hometown.
“If I live in the same city [as Women’s Health Care Services] and can’t do something about it, I’m a pretty lousy human being,” he told the Register.
Gietzen does plenty about it. Every morning just before 7 o’clock, he drives his minivan to the site and places 167 white wooden crosses — one for each baby killed that week — on the city property adjacent to the abortion business’s lot. Every evening at sundown, he drives back to the site to remove the crosses. The crosses are placed with permission from the City of Wichita.
Many see the crosses as a mournful reminder of the atrocities that take place inside the facility walls. Some shout or make obscene gestures as they pass by. Some become angry enough to try to destroy the crosses, as a vandal did one day on MaryAnn Craven’s watch. As she was praying the Rosary, a car pulled up and a man got out. He immediately began pulling the crosses out of the ground and breaking them.
Seconds later, a young couple drove around the corner and the man spoke with the vandal while the woman took pictures. Later, Kansas Coalition for Life pressed charges against the vandal. Craven, who is elderly, called the couple her guardian angels.
“It scared me half to death,” she said about the vandal’s unexpected arrival. “It sure was something when it was happening, but it didn’t stop us.”
The group’s persistence pays off in the number of lives saved. Gietzen keeps accurate records and figures that it takes 106 hours to save one life. Sage Elizabeth is one of those lives.
Sage’s mother, Andrea, came to Women’s Health Care Services for an abortion in December 2004. She spoke briefly with two Kansas Coalition for Life volunteers, but entered the gate anyway. Once inside the facility, she says, she changed her mind but was held against her will by the security guard and office manager for more than a half-hour. Before release, she says, she was required to sign a form forbidding her to speak with anyone at the gate or revealing anything she had seen inside the facility.
Once outside, Andrea discovered that her ride had left without her. She says she called her boyfriend from a payphone but he refused to pick her up unless she’d had the abortion. Kansas Coalition for Life volunteers called Mark Giezten, who not only took Andrea home, but also promised any help she would need if she kept the baby. She did, and today both parents are happy that Sage Elizabeth is alive.
“The saving of Sage Elizabeth’s life was the most remarkable experience in my life,” says Gietzen. “It’s the saves that keep all of us going.”
Marge Fenelon writes from
Kansas Coalition for Life