02 June 2009

What Are We When We Terrorize At Home?

terrorism: "the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government or civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."
United States Federal Bureau of Investigation
On my way home tonight, National Public Radio was speaking with Dr. Warren Hern, a colleague of Dr. George Tiller, killed Sunday morning as he prepared to serve as an usher at his local church. Here's a quote from the NPR story:

Hern is pleased that President Obama spoke out after the murder, but he wants to hear more.

"I think the president of the United States needs to go to a national television broadcast and say to the American public, 'Safe abortion is a fundamental component of women's health care. Anti-abortion terrorism and violence will not be tolerated. We will stop you.'"
The full text of the story can be found here.
As I was listening to the radio, I got so mad I pulled off the road and into a coffee shop to start blogging. Never blog angry, folks: nothing good can come of it. Thankfully, a nosy, annoying coffee shop barista kept me from writing the whole post, so here's my more reasoned take on things.

I'd like to go one step farther than the course of action which Dr. Hern proposes. I'd like to see picket lines at clinics which provide abortion procedures made illegal, defined as an act of terrorism and as such no longer defensible under the right to free speech as set out in the 1st Amendment.

Let me be absolutely clear: I detest the very idea of abortion. But I detest even more the thought that women making such an agonizing decision, and sometimes the men responsible enough to share the burden of such decisions, should be subjected to intimidation, fear-mongering and abuse for the sake of a public display at medical clinics carrying out a fully legal medical procedure.

The definition of terrorism quoted above uses the word "violence." Is all violence physical? No. Should the picture of an aborted fetus shoved in the face of a pregnant woman be considered violence against her rights as a citizen as defined by law? Yes, in my opinion they should be, because the intent behind such displays is to intimidate, frustrate and deny people access to medical treatment guaranteed under the law.

Protests and picketing have their place, and normally I tend to fall more on the demonstrators' side. I thought the demonstration restrictions at the political conventions over the last two presidential elections bordered on tyranny, frankly. I've attended anti-death-penalty protests in the past and will do so again in the future. But picketing Planned Parenthood for providing abortions is like picketing Walgreens for providing condoms: it may be unfortunate that some have to make these decisions, but it is legal to do so under current law, and those who make such decisions should be allowed to do so without the added violence and stress of picket lines and shouting protestors.

Let's face it: Roe v. Wade is not going to be reversed. Frankly, it shouldn't be: there are times when the least harmful course of action involves the terrible choice to terminate a pregnancy. I've lived through such choices with friends, and it is no easy, flippant decision, much as some would like to believe it is. I can't think of anyone who is pro-abortion; even the most ardent defenders of reproductive rights acknowledge that in a utopian world all pregnancies would end in the miracle of a living, healthy child. Using picket lines, blown-up photos of aborted fetuses and protest chants at clinics that provide abortion procedures doesn't decrease the violence, though: it increases it by scapegoating those whose spirits are likely already burdened by regret, pain, and loss.

We can be better than this. We must be better than this, if we are truly pro-life, and, in the end, aren't we all in favor of life?

Grace & peace,

Later note: My beloved pointed out that a few sentences above were unclear. I wasn't angered by anything Dr. Hern said - what angered me was the fact that he felt as though it needed saying. I was angry that we should need to have this discussion at all. Apologies if I misled anyone into thinking I disagreed with what Dr. Hern said - I agreed, and would like to take his suggestions several steps further.


  1. The absolute scariest thing about walking into an abortion clinic as a person who occasionally had to train or meet in that building was to have a stranger sidle up to me in the parking lot and ask me how my kids were doing--by name. My kids were 2 and 6 at the time.

    I knew that the protesters had gained access to my identity and my kids' and spouse's names, probably my address too, just from my license plate.

    That was my experience of terrorism.

  2. I appreciate your advocacy for the rights of others, especially for women who have to make that agonizing decision on whether or not to end their child's life. However, do you realize that you are comparing apples to apples when you criticize those who picket the abortion clinics but then go yourself to protest in regard to the death penalty? Same thing...both are legal.