Celebrating the Summer of Choice

By Autumn Reinhardt Simpson

I really do have to hand it to my husband. He’s suffered through so much just to make me happy. He’s tagged along to death row, opened our house to unknown Japanese protesters and supported me in all my endeavors, however foreign to him. This past weekend found him accompanying me to Germantown, Maryland for the inaugural Summer of Choice hosted by Abortionclinics.org.

Summer of Choice is a direct answer to confrontational anti-abortion rights group Operation Rescue, which has focused on Dr. Le Roy Carhart for its “Summer of Mercy 2.0,” the next generation of mass harassing tactics intended to shut down targeted reproductive health centers for good. Dr. Carhart’s Germantown clinic decided to close for the week, rather than have his patients walk the gauntlet.

Sunday, July 31st was the Kick-Off Walk, which was attended by approximately 200 supporters of women’s health from across the country. In attendance were students, grandparents, politicians and people of all stripes. My husband, ever the good sport, allowed himself to be slathered in pro-choice and feminist stickers (as well as copious amounts of sunscreen) and took to the streets with us. We walked a route of about one mile around Dr. Carhart’s clinic, waving signs and getting lots of honks and shouts of support. The police presence was strong and very respectful (interesting observation – nearly all the Montgomery County officers I saw during this event were women! Right on, Montgomery County!)

The anti-choice crowd decided to hold their event at 6 PM, long after many of the pro-choice crowd left to attend a poetry reading at a local church. However, there was one anti-choice person in a dark blue shirt sporting the phrase “pro-life” walking along the route, videotaping us and making sarcastic comments. Luckily, this was all we saw of the anti-choice side for that day. But their presence could be felt in other ways. Part of our hot and sticky route took us past a sign for a local “crisis pregnancy center,” a grim irony that was not lost on us. After posing for photos, we quickly moved on, eager for shade and water.

The beauty of an event such as the Kick-Off Walk was that it not only raised money for the Abortion Access Fund, but that it brought many people together who were not aware of the opportunities for action to be found in their own backyards. I met a man from Richmond, VA who was interested in joining my clinic defense team and another walker put the idea in my head to look into training to become a victim’s advocate. For “lone defenders” like myself, such gatherings are as source of knowledge and energy.

The Kick-Off Walk was great and the rest of the week has been filled with activities and chances to show support to Dr. Carhart and other providers. This weekend, others will gather for continued peaceful pro-choice presence. At a time when state legislatures are persistently undermining women’s access to healthcare, it is so important that we stand with the brave providers who face harassment and threats of violence every day. So grab a friend or two and go stand for choice this weekend.