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Difficult decisions made tougher


She was 15, pregnant and scared.

A mob was shouting and waving pictures of dead babies. Protesters stood between her and the abortion clinic in Jackson, Miss.

So Summar Fury and her boyfriend drove around the block, parked far from the crowd and devised a plan to reach the clinic door.

It didn't work.

"They rushed up to me, screaming, showing me these pictures of really graphic things," she said. "I couldn't even look at them. I was so scared, I was shaking.

"Then this guy ran up to us, he had this jar in his hand with something chopped up and gross in it and he said, "Look what I found in the garbage out back. This is what they'll do to your baby.' "

Fury was unmarried, had no job and felt she was too young to raise a child. Still, the decision to have an abortion was difficult.

"I was a child. I didn't want to bring a baby into this world and have to go on welfare and not be able to give a baby the life it deserves," said Fury, now 18 and living in the Tampa Bay area. "I did it for the right reasons."

At first she thought the decision would be the toughest part, but the trauma she suffered outside the clinic was worse, she said.

She fainted after the abortion procedure, recovered, then had to brace herself once again before heading out through the crowd.

They rushed her again, this time calling her "baby killer" and yelling "You're a murderer! How does it feel?"

She tried to ignore them as she held on to her boyfriend.

"I wish every person in the world could feel the pain I felt," Fury says now. "Here I was 15, a child, and I had to deal with all of this. No one deserves to be treated that way.

"To this day, I have dreams of those abortion protesters calling me a baby killer."

Every day at clinics around the country, women experience such assaults.

Years of escalating violence and the recent murders at clinics have left fewer doctors who will perform an abortion. So some women must travel hundreds of miles to a clinic. Once there, they face the added fear of protesters.

After Laura Ward of Fort Walton Beach found out she was pregnant again just months after giving birth, she and husband Mic made the decision to have an abortion. That meant going to Pensacola, known in the Panhandle as the "Selma, Alabama" of the anti-abortion movement.

One doctor had already been killed and she knew from the news what kind of greeting she could expect. "I had chosen the Ladies Center because it was not the clinic where the other doctor was killed," she said. "But it was still frightening."

She was the first patient that morning. To her surprise, no protesters were present when she went in, but they soon arrived. Inside, clinic workers constantly checked the windows.

"They were always watchful of what was going on outside," she said. "They were incredibly sweet, but there was this tension. Outside those walls are pounds of hatred coming at you and they go to great lengths to protect you. It was comforting and disconcerting at the same time."

The doctor came in and shook her hand. She looked at his name tag because she never wanted to forget him. Dr. J Bayard Britton, it read.

"He asked me how I was doing. He told me he knew it was a hard decision," she said. "When it was over, he patted me on the leg and said everything was going to be all right. I felt he was someone who cared who I was."

Two weeks later, on July 29, he was dead.

As he arrived at the clinic that morning, he and his two escorts were gunned down. Only one survived.

When news of Dr. Britton's murder reached her, Ward was feeding her 6-month-old baby and watching TV.

It hit her hard.

Among the faces of protesters she had seen outside the clinic, she searched her memory for Paul Hill, the ex-communicated Presbyterian minister charged with Britton's murder. He wasn't there when she was, she concluded, and that relieved her.

"It's so dangerous, you can feel it," she said. "And it shouldn't be that way. It's such a difficult decision in the first place and then to go through all that, it just makes everything worse."

Ward, a stay-at-home mom with two children, had been a "quiet supporter of a woman's right to choose." With Britton's death, that changed.

"He felt so strongly in what he believed in, he ended up dying for it," she said. "That he died because he was helping people like me _ that had a powerful effect on me."

She sat down at her computer and wrote a letter to the Pensacola News-Journal, vowing never again to be silent about her beliefs.

"It is no longer enough for me to say I support abortion, I had an abortion and the person who helped me is dead because of it," she wrote. "From this day forward, I will openly, non-violently stand in opposition to those who would kill anyone for their beliefs. And for the rest of my days I will move through life with the name of Dr. J Bayard Britton stamped on my heart."