My friend went to Wichita, Kan., this week to have an abortion.
She was six months pregnant, and Wichita has one of the few clinics in the country that will do abortions that late in a pregnancy.
My friend did not want to have an abortion. She very much wanted to have her baby.
But her doctor told her there was no hope. The baby growing inside her would never live. Even if it were born alive, it would die after a couple of hours. It had a hopelessly deformed heart.
Could the doctor be wrong? Yes, it was possible. Maybe the baby would live longer than two hours. Maybe it would live as long as two months.
That, in all candor, was the only hope the doctor could give my friend: That if she were very, very lucky, she could watch her baby struggle and suffer and die for eight weeks.
My friend, her husband, and the doctor all talked. It was not an easy or a quick decision they came to. They all knew the consequences, physical, psychological and, yes, even moral, of what they were doing.
Then in an atmosphere of sadness, but calm, my friend made the decision to have the abortion.
So she flew to Wichita. And she flew into hell.
You may have read about it or seen it on TV. For three weeks, protesters from Operation Rescue have blockaded abortion clinics there.
They have formed howling mobs, have flung themselves under cars, have sat in doorways and have blocked sidewalks. They have screamed and yelled and heaped abuse on the women going in to the clinics to have abortions.
That is one goal of Operation Rescue, founded by one-time used car salesman Randall Terry four years ago: To intimidate, harass, terrorize and blockade women from getting abortions.
My friend is now trying to decide if she wants to tell the full story of what happened to her in Wichita. Right now, she is still too full of horror and anger.
Having spent much of my professional life pushing people into telling me stories, I do not want to push her. When she is ready to decide, she will. If she decides to talk, I'll tell you her story.
But I can tell you this now: At the clinic, which she managed to enter, her fellow sinners were a 13-year-old girl who had been raped, perhaps by a member of her own family, and a woman whose fetus was growing organs outside its body.
And these are the callous, terrible, uncaring women who go to abortion clinics and "murder."
For those who believe abortion is always, always wrong, I wonder which ones would have come forward and offered to adopt the rapist's baby? Which ones would have been willing to care for the baby with the heart and lungs outside its chest?
Would lines have formed?
A lot -- not all -- but a lot of these people who care about a fetus in the first nine months of its existence seem to lose interest after that.
My friend had her abortion. And if the members of Operation Rescue imagine that she feels victorious today, I can tell them she does not.
Nor does she feel joy or even relief. I can only imagine what she feels. I can only sympathize with my friend; I can't empathize with her. I can only try to imagine what it must be like to be pregnant for six months and then have to get an abortion.
some really think she did this because she is evil? That is what the members of the mob shouted at her.
But do they know her? Do they know her husband? Do they know her family? Do they know any of them as people? Do they care?
No. I think they do not care.
They care only for their own zealotry and self-righteousness and the purity of their own wills. They care only that God has spoken to them and to no one else.
And so they will make the decisions for every woman, everywhere, every time, every place. They will decide for us all.
That is the America they want.
And, in this instance, that is the America George Bush wants to give them.
A federal judge had issued an order forbidding the mobs from blockading the abortion clinics in Wichita.
But on Tuesday, the Justice Department filed a friend of the court brief arguing that the judge's order was beyond his authority.
In the 1950s, President Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne to Little Rock, Ark., so that mobs could not prevent black children from attending Central High.
In the 1960s, President Kennedy sent federal marshals to Oxford, Miss., so that mobs could not prevent James Meredith from attending the University of Mississippi.
In the 1990s, President Bush sends his Justice Department to Wichita to support the mobs.
Asked Wednesday to comment on whether he was not encouraging lawlessness, George Bush replied from Kennebunkport: "This isn't a matter for the president to be concerned about, especially on his first day of vacation."
The blockades in Wichita have ended now, but the leader of Operation Rescue promises they will resume. "God's will commands us to rescue the innocents, and God's law is always higher than man's law, especially when human life is at stake," said Randall Terry.
Terry promised a whole new array of tactics in Wichita and around the country. Personally, however, I hope he keeps one tactic the same: I hope the blockaders keep flinging themselves under cars.
6* Because maybe one day I'll be driving.