If there’s been one constant in Kansas politics for the last 30 years, it’s that Republicans seeking statewide office must be unequivocally against abortion, and for overturning Roe v. Wade.
Any wavering, any change of heart, is a vulnerability for opponents to exploit. Nominee for governor Kris Kobach had to defend the strength of his anti-abortion record during the Republican primary earlier this year.
It wasn’t always that abortion had so much political power. But in 1991, in Wichita, the Summer of Mercy changed everything.
Many people believe the anti-abortion protests triggered the state’s shift to the right, energizing conservatives and setting the stage for the political rise of Sam Brownback.
“The protests are pretty much what got people … out of the pews, into the streets and then into the political arena,” says Judy Thomas, who covered the protests as a reporter for the Wichita Eagle.
Brownback’s no longer in office, but the forces that got him elected in 2010 are still around — and they’re still shaping Kansas politics heading into the 2018 governor’s race.
Were you in Wichita during the Summer of Mercy? We want to hear from you. Share your memories and thoughts of the event on the Kansas News Service Facebook page.
Among those heard in this episode:
Julie Burkhart, founder and CEO of Trust Women, @julieburkhart
Judy Thomas, journalist, @judylthomas
Mark Gietzen, chairman of the Kansas Coalition for Life, @markgietzen
Mary Kay Culp, the leader of Kansans for Life, @kansansforlife
Susan Wagle, Kansas Senate president, @senatorwagle
My Fellow Kansans is a production of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR in Kansas City, KMUW in Wichita, Kansas Public Radio in Lawrence, and High Plains Public Radio in Garden City.
The podcast is written and reported by Jim McLean, edited by Amy Jeffries, and mixed by Matthew Long-Middleton.
The production team includes Beth Golay, Nadya Faulx, Scott Canon, and Grace Lotz. Primary Color Music composed our theme.
Madeline Fox contributed reporting and gathered audio for this episode.
Thanks to Trust Women and Mary Nelson in Special Collections at the Wichita State University Library for providing much of the archival audio heard in this episode.
Special thanks to Neal Carruth of NPR and the NPR Training team.