LAKEWOOD, COLO.—On Thursday, the House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on the threats Muslim “radicalization” poses to America.
Meanwhile, a woman seeking healthcare at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Denver, or anywhere in the country, was screamed at as she walked through the door. How about some Homeland Security for her?
Every day in this country, reproductive healthcare providers at Planned Parenthood clinics, and abortion doctors at other facilities, and the patients who need them, are routinely harassed and threatened. When did this become OK?
Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider in Kansas, used to wear a bulletproof vest to work. He made the mistake of not wearing one to his church, which is where he was shot and killed. How many other civilian professionals have to wear a bulletproof vest to do their job? [See which members of Congress get the most from pro-choice groups.]
We have so normalized the anti-choice extremism in this country that a certain level of mundane, daily ugliness has become unremarkable. It’s a yawner to policymakers, unfit for congressional hearings or regular news coverage.
And if the harassment inside the building isn’t enough, now policymakers are forcing harassment inside the building. Texas Republicans in the state legislature voted this week to force any woman seeking an abortion—even if she’s a victim of rape or incest—to undergo a sonogram and a lecture about the fetus. Similar laws have passed and are likely to pass in other states. Because, apparently, women are too dumb to think through the implications on their own.
This harassment even extends to ballot measures. Last fall I worked on the No on 62 Campaign, part of a broad-based coalition opposing an anti-choice amendment to the Colorado Constitution. Part of our training for the No on 62 Campaign included a briefing by Planned Parenthood security officers, many of whom have worked in law enforcement for years. [See which members of Congress get the most from pro-life groups.]
The Planned Parenthood clinic in Denver where we often met—and this is a pro-choice city in a pro-choice state—is ringed with a 10-foot-high fence, cameras, and manned by a guard at the gate. Every day, a group of about a dozen people parks outside with grisly pictures and bullhorns and screams at anyone—patient, provider, visitor—who enters the clinic. Even our campaign headquarters were the object of nasty phone calls—our pregnant admin person, who answered the phones, got called some ugly names at least a couple times a week. It became a humorous game of epithet bingo—“Have you been called a fornicating whore today?”
Our press conference in Colorado Springs was hijacked by the opposition, who shoved people out of the way to grab the microphone and start yelling. Our Facebook page was hijacked by the opposition posting gruesome pictures and accusing us of being “No on 62 Nazis,” and put up their own Facebook page stating the same. And when I accompanied one of our spokespeople, Jeremy Shaver from the Interfaith Alliance, to a debate, there were armed guards in the room keeping an eye on the other side. [Check out a roundup of this month's best political cartoons.]
It’s not the posturing about “outside agitators” that worries me. It’s the acceptance of a level of hatred directed at women, especially poor women, seeking reproductive healthcare and abortions. And it’s the acceptance of threats and violence directed at the doctors, staff, and healthcare workers trying to provide it to them.