Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

I remember the morning of May 31, 2009. I'd slept in, like most Sundays, made myself my usual coffee and a bagel, and slouched into my office chair to check the weekend's emails. News feed. Top headline: "Abortion doctor shot at church." I knew right away who it was.

Dr. Tiller had become the central figurehead in the so-called "abortion wars." The fact that he was one of the nation's few later-term abortion providers made him an easy target. He had been harassed, stalked, threatened, brought to court (but never convicted), and even shot once before. Scott Roeder, the anti-abortion extremist, was the culprit. Found guilty of murder and aggravated assault last January, Roeder is currently serving a life sentence with no parole for 50 years.

What can I say that hasn't already been said? Dr. Tiller gave his life for his work, and his absence in the American medical field is a grave loss for women and their families. It's easy to demonize the women who visited Dr. Tiller when their own privacy concerns keep them from speaking up, but make no mistakes: Dr. Tiller's patients are not faceless enigmas. They are women who faced the most difficult decision they will likely ever face, sometimes never quite knowing whether or not it was the right one. These were rarely your average 12-week abortion patients; these were women who chose to end a pregnancy late in the game, most often due to a wanted pregnancy gone horribly awry. These are women who had no real choice, at least none with a happy ending.

And now, women facing similar predicaments are significantly less able to make what they may perceive as the best choice. Doctors Carhart and Hern have done their part to step it up, but at what cost? They are both being targeted as well, and while I shutter to think that their careers might also end at the hands of some anti-choice lunatic, I think they both know that's a very real possibility. Is it any wonder so few doctors will (or can) provide the services that Dr. Tiller gave his life to provide?

I remember the morning so clearly. Ani Difranco's "Hello Birmingham" echoed clearly in my ears. I remember crying as I wrote the very first blog post on the tragedy. I remember sobbing again, several months later, at an anti-Nazi rally in Greensboro, where I tried (in vain) to deliver a memorial to the American Hero and discuss the consequences of radical right-wing factions organizing.

And so here we are: one year later, Roeder behind bars, but the anti-choicers as organized as ever. Join me in promising Dr. Tiller's death won't be in vain; we owe it to every family who will face that no-win situation to remember and honor his life's work, to destigmatize what he did for the families he helped, and protect that same right for generations to come.

"Women and Families are intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and ethically competent to struggle with complex health issues -- including abortion -- and come to decisions that are appropriate for themselves."

-Dr. George Tiller, American Hero

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Protesting CPCs vs. Protesting Clinics

During a recent Google search, I found several anti-choice organizations have "discovered" us and chosen to make sweeping claims about who we are without contacting me directly. One discussion in particular took place at anti-choice extremist Jill Stanek's blog. I hope my readers here will understand if I do not wish to promote her blog or increase her web traffic, so I'll just advise you to Google search the discussion if you want to see for yourself (or take part in the debate).

This particular article focused on the organizing of protests outside CPCs. One recurring comment accused us of doing what we complain about antis doing outside of abortion clinics.

Which is completely false. Here is a list of what our protesters do, and more importantly, what we definitely do not do:
  • Our demonstrations take place on public sidewalks in front of or near CPCs. We do not attempt to block entrances, driveways, or parking spots.
  • We do not engage with potential CPC clients unless approached first. We do not shout at them as they are entering the center; we feel that most women entering a CPC (and an abortion clinic, as the case may be) are already in a vulnerable place and should have their privacy respected and protected.
  • In the event a potential CPC client approaches us, make every effort to discuss her situation with her, on her terms. If she has a question, we answer it honestly. Our protests in Greensboro (in front of the Pregnancy Care Center) are usually attended by one or two women who have visited the center themselves and can vouch for the false or misleading information they received during their visit.
  • We do not try to convince any client or potential client to choose any pregnancy option. Our protests are made up of pro-choice, pro-feminist women and men who want to make sure women are aware of the services (or lack of services) offered at the CPC.
  • We do not use sound-amplifying equipment to shout down CPC staffers or clients. When approached by a CPC staffer, we remain civil.
  • We do not attempt to frighten any woman away from the center with false information.
  • We do not display graphic images.
  • We do not use inflammatory language or try to incite extreme action.
  • We do not promote or actively engage in any kind of vandalism or arson.
  • We do not promote or actively engage in harassment of CPC staff members, volunteers, or supporters. We do not make death threats, we do not stalk, and we do not publicize the private information of any CPC staff member or volunteer.
  • We do not engage in civil disobedience in an attempt to shut the CPC down or disrupt its operation. Moreover, there has never been an arrest at a CPC protest that CPC Watch endorsed or organized. We obey local laws and remain in places that are not disruptive to passing traffic or pedestrians.
Take a look back at this list and realize that for every "we do not" statement, there has been a documented case of anti-choice protesters engaging in such activity at abortion clinics. That is why we "whine" about the protests in front of abortion clinics: the harassment and fear-tactics, the threats and blockages. No pro-choice demonstration in front of a CPC has ever used such tactics.

We believe women's privacy and choices should be protected, but that they should be educated. Our protests are mostly aimed at educating passersby, and not in any way to make a threat against the CPC.

I hope this clears some things up. And if not, here it is in pictures:

And here it is in video...

Anti-CPC Protest:

Anti-Abortion Protest:

Any questions?