An anti-abortion rights group leading the effort to prevent Dr. Mila Means from offering abortion services at her Wichita office are planning an event at a public school tonight—right across the street from where Dr. George Tiller was gunned down in his church in May 2009.
Anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder murdered Tiller while Tiller was serving as an usher at the Reformation Lutheran Church, an assassination that came after years of escalating protests aimed at the doctor. Tiller was the last doctor in town performing abortions, but Dr. Mila Means has been training so she can begin offering abortion services at her practice. A judge, however, has blocked her from proceeding at the behest of the landlord that owns Means' office building. The landlord argues that protestors and demonstrators will create a "nuisance" at the office complex—and this will violate Means' lease. Anti-choice groups have pledged to hold daily protests at Means' office, if she begins offering abortions there.
On Friday night, one of these outfits, Kansans for Life, is hosting a prayer meeting at the Coleman Middle School as part of its campaign against Means. An email sent to supporters this week under the subject line "WARNING" exclaims that Means is attempting to open a new "killing center" and calls on residents to stop it. From the email:
So, when grave evil threatens our community, what should we do? Pray! We NEED God’s protection and guidance. Without it, our city will be plagued by those preying on women and killing children, once again.
That the event is being held in a public school so near the site of Tiller's murder has inflamed some in a community still scarred by the event. Kari Ann Rinker, the state coordinator for the National Organization of Women and the parent of a 6th-grader at the school, argues that the school district should have given the request to use the space from Kansans for Life more consideration before approving it—and allowed the community to weigh in.
Susan Arensman, a spokesperson for the school, says the school facilities are available for community members to rent, and the group went through the usual steps to reserve the space for the evening. "They filed out all the paper work, went through the proper procedures," Arensman notes.
But Rinker maintains that the school should have turned down the request to rent the space, given the nature of the event and its proximity to the church where Tiller was slain. "This community is in denial, embracing those that should not be embraced," says Rinker.