From the March-April 2014 issue of News & Letters:
Woman as Reason
Court, fanatics besiege clinics
by Terry Moon
In June the U.S. Supreme Court will decide if buffer zones around clinics that offer abortion are a violation of freedom of speech. Court watchers say they look ready to rule the zones illegal. That would be a tragedy. In a strikingly disingenuous—or criminally ignorant— statement, Justice Antonin Scalia said, speaking of anti-abortion fanatics who mob women entering clinics, “These people don’t want to protest abortion. They want to talk to the women who are about to get abortions and try to talk them out of it.”
The New York Times contributed to masking the viciousness of these so-called “sidewalk counselors” with an article (“Where Free Speech Collides with Abortion Rights,” Jan. 12) that painted the lead plaintiff in the case as a grandmotherly 77-year-old who “posed no threat.” Had they spent any time at all in front of clinics where Operation Rescue, Save the Storks, Abolish Human Abortion, Operation Save America, Pro-Life America, National Right to Life, and oh, so many more, harangue, harass, threaten, film, jam leaflets in unwilling hands and through car windows, and scream at women through bullhorns and loudspeakers, they might have printed a more objective view.
‘FREEDOM OF SPEECH’ IS POLITICIZED
One cannot but be struck with the different attitude to and treatment of anti-abortion fanatics as against workers on strike who want to stop scabs from going into a factory and taking their jobs. Anyone who has walked a picket line knows that police will be right there to escort scabs though the line into the factory. If a worker steps out of line, she’s arrested immediately. If a worker doesn’t keep moving, if she blocks the factory door for an instant, she’s arrested. But police, for the most part, give anti-abortion fanatics free rein. That’s one reason buffer zones were needed in the first place.
Imagine if a worker set up loudspeakers to scream threats into a factory. They’d be stopped immediately. But outside a clinic in Huntsville, Ala., a fanatic set up a loudspeaker because, to quote him: “I want the word of god to penetrate this building.…I’m here to warn you to flee the wrath of god to come. I’m here to warn you of the wrath of god to come.” Clearly, politicized “freedom of speech” has been granted to anti-abortion fanatics but withheld from workers, who would certainly not be allowed “to talk to the [scabs] who are about to [take my job] and try to talk them out of it.”
The man spewing harassment and threats in Huntsville is no isolated incident. Cosmopolitan recently posted an article, “6 Women on Their Terrifying, Infuriating Encounters with Abortion Clinic Protesters” (http://www.cosmopolitan.com/celebrity/news/abortion-clinic-protesters), that the Supreme Court should take to heart.
The article quotes Brittany from Colorado, who went to a clinic when she was 21 with her aunt. She relates that they “noticed a few men, all in their 50s or 60s, milling around the parking lot…” and one “made a beeline for us with a fistful of pamphlets. My aunt said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ and he got irate, screaming, ‘How can you do this? You’re killing your baby to continue on your whore lifestyle, you jezebel!’
‘SURREAL AND TERRIFYING AT ONCE’
“Suddenly we were surrounded by five other men,” Brittany continues, “That’s when the baby-doll parts starting hitting us. They had a box filled with torn apart baby dolls covered with red paint. All three of us were hit—in the head, chest, torso. As they were pelting us, they yelled, ‘This is what you’re doing to your baby! Look at the street! It’s strewn with the blood of your baby. That’s your baby scattered across the street!’ It was surreal and terrifying at once.” She thought she’d feel better inside. “But,” she wrote, “as I sat in the waiting area, I could hear every single girl get out of her car and do that walk of shame. That was the worst part of the day.”
These groups do great harm, be it posting pictures of a 14-year-old going into a clinic on their internet page for, literally, the world to see, as more than one group has done, or by making a day that is already difficult for women, much more so.
The majority on the Supreme Court seem to be purposefully forgetting that anti-abortion fanatics have bombed and burned down clinics and shot and killed doctors as well as clinic receptionists, translators and guards. They are domestic terrorists that neither our government nor law enforcement treat as such.
There is no doubt that the fight for safe, accessible, affordable abortion will continue. We demand the U.S. Supreme Court not make that struggle more difficult.