Reading Comprehension 101

Or, Ms. Jill takes on the issue of anti-choice terrorism and the right-wingers who laugh it off.

SAT Question 1:

If 1, 2, y, and z are listed under the heading “Letters and Numbers,” it should be properly concluded that:

a) 1, 2, y, and z are all letters.
b) 1, 2, y, and z are all numbers.
c) 1, 2, y, and z may be numbers or letters.
d) 1, 2, y, and z are all both numbers and letters.

(The answer is an old multiple choice trick: When in doubt, choose C).

Not too difficult, right? Oh, but apparently it’s quite a conundrum for some of our anti-choice friends out there. You see, Planned Parenthood has found itself under attack from anti-choice extremists for the past few decades. These attacks have taken a variety of forms: Sometimes, they’ve been attacks in the courts or in the legislature; other times, they’ve been physical attacks, like bombings, arsons and murders. So Planned Parenthood has this handy Eye on Extremism page on its website where it lists “Terrorists and Extremist Organizations.” On that list you will find individuals who committed violent acts against abortion clinics and clinic workers with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons. You will also find organizations that take extreme positions on reproductive rights — being opposed to contraception and IVF, for example — and politically extreme positions in general — wanting to establish a “Christian nation” and opposing all international treaties, for example. These organizations also engage in stalking and harassment, or support those who do.

Apparently, if your reading comprehension skills aren’t what they used to be (hey, everyone forgets what they learned in SAT prep class, it’s ok), you interpret the heading “Terrorists and Extremist Organizations” to mean that every person or organization on that list is a terrorist (though you do not, apparently, think that every individual listed is an extremist organization — funny, that). And so you go apeshit and accuse Planned Parenthood of calling pro-life groups “terrorists.” Which, if true, would be indicative of very bad English language skills on the part of Planned Parenthood. After all, if we want to refer to a set of organizations as both extremist and terrorist, we would write, “Terrorist and Extremist Organizations” (or “Extremist and Terrorist Organizations”). The singular “terrorist” and “extremist” would infer that both words are modifiers for “organizations.” But here, Planned Parenthood used the plural “Terrorists” before “and Extremist Organizations,” making it clear that “Terrorists” is a category untue itself and is not, in fact, modifying “Extremist Organizations.”

Or, you could just use some common sense and realize that the heading “Terrorists and Extremist Organizations” is a general descriptive of people and groups who have attacked reproductive choice on a variety of levels, ranging from the courts to the legislatures to actual acts of violence.

I know, I have a headache from trying to figure it all out, too.

The rest of the website is fairly clear. For example, they post “Profiles of anti-choice extremists, political hardliners, and people in the news” as well as “Profiles of 15 Anti-Choice Organizations.” Where exactly they write “Focus on the Family is a terrorist organization” is beyond me.

Personally, I think Planned Parenthood is being too generous in labeling some of these groups “extremist.” The Army of God and Operation Rescue, for example, have been tied to direct, violent action (note to the reading-comprehension-challenged anti-choice set: I am not saying that Focus on the Family is a terrorist organization; however, you are welcome to quote me as saying that the Army of God is). From the horse’s mouth:

“So the abortionist doesn’t get the wrong idea, I don’t plan on talking them to death. I’m going to kill as many of them as I can….I’m not targeting the abortion doctor….I’m going after every one else [sic]. Anyone who works at an abortion location or Planned Parenthood (I don’t care if their location actually performs abortions or not. ALL Planned Parenthood locations are targets.). It doesn’t matter to me if you’re a nurse, receptionist, bookkeeper, or janitor, if you work for the murderous abortionist I’m going to kill you.”
— Posted in Clayton Waagner’s name to www.armyofgod.com, June 18, 2001

Not all of the threats are as obvious as this one, although there are ties between the Army of God and more mainstream groups like Operation Rescue (now Operation Save America). Operation Rescue additionally utilizes harassment and threats as a way to scare people out of working at abortion clinics.

The letter arrived on a Tuesday in march. “Dear Sara,” it read. “It is our information that you are currently an employee of Women’s Health Care Services, a facility that provides abortions.” It went on to suggest that Sara Phares, an administrative assistant at the clinic in Wichita, Kansas, quit her job and repent her sins. “Please know that we are praying for you,” the letter concluded. It was signed “Troy Newman, President, Operation Rescue West.” A week later, hundreds of Phares’ neighbors received an anonymous postcard of a mangled fetus. This is abortion! read the big block letters. “Your neighbor Sara Phares participates in killing babies like these.” The postcard implored them to call Phares, whose phone number and address were provided, and voice their opposition to her work at the clinic. Another card soon followed. It referred to Phares as “Miss I Help to Kill Little Babies” and suggested, in an erratic typeface that recalled a kidnapper’s ransom note, that neighbors “beg her to quit, pretty please.” The third postcard dispensed entirely with pleasantries: “Sara Phares is not to be trusted! Tell her to get a life!”
One Wichita resident, apparently inspired by the postcards, sent Phares letters beseeching her to quit her job at the clinic. Another neighbor, a federal agent, called her at work to express his concern. “Just be careful, ma’am,” he said. “You never know what kind of nuts these things will draw.”

Before long, protesters from Operation Rescue showed up at her house. They parked a tractor-trailer across the street, plastered with twenty-foot-long images of dismembered fetuses. From its speakers came the kind of sweet, tinkling music that lures children from their back yards in pursuit of Dreamsicles. One protester, a somber man in a tan windbreaker with a three-foot crucifix thrust before him, performed an exorcism on Phares’ front lawn, sprinkling holy water on the grass to cast demons from the property. Phares, a small-boned woman with an irreverent sense of humor, joked about the exorcism. “Wish he’d held off on that holy water till after we’d put the fertilizer down,” she said. But her husband wasn’t amused. Since 1994, there have been five assassination attempts on abortion providers at their homes. A few days after the protest, Phares’ husband got out his revolver, loaded it and taught Sara how to use it.

These folks aren’t messing around.

Operation Rescue’s smear campaign against Phares is part of a new strategy to shut down abortion clinics by systematically harassing their employees into quitting. Banned by law from blockading clinics as it did in its early days, Operation Rescue has taken its offensive to the front lawns and mailboxes of clinic workers. In Wichita, members of the group rummage through employees’ garbage in search of incriminating information. They tail them around town as they run errands. They picket clinic staffers at restaurants while they’re inside having dinner and castigate them while they’re standing in line at Starbucks. Operation Rescue is also visiting companies that do business with the clinic and threatening them with a boycott if they don’t sever their ties with the facility. This is America’s new abortion war, and the objective, in military terms, is to cut off the supply lines to abortion clinics and demoralize their troops.

Troy Newman, the head of Operation Rescue, calls it the Year of Rebuke — and if it works in Wichita, he plans to unleash the campaign of intimidation on abortion clinics all across the country. “I want these employees to realize that their lives have changed,” he says. “As long as they’re embedded in the abortion industry receiving blood money, they can’t live a normal life. They just can’t.”

And Operation Rescue has practically been built on harassing one particular doctor:

Since 1999, when he became the head of Operation Rescue, Newman has been determined to come up with a novel strategy to prove himself. So two years ago, he moved his family to Wichita with a single, shining goal: to shut down Women’s Health Care Services. The clinic is run by a doctor named George Tiller, a lightning-rod figure in the abortion wars. Tiller’s reputation for performing late-term abortions draws women from all over the world to his clinic — women whose unborn children have been diagnosed with genetic deformities or whose health makes childbearing dangerous. It also makes Tiller’s clinic the perfect target for Newman’s campaign of intimidation. “Wichita isn’t big enough for George Tiller and me,” Newman declared in a full-page ad he took out in a Catholic paper called The Wanderer.

There’s only one problem: Tiller is a hard man to find, let alone intimidate. After more than a decade as one of the anti-abortion movement’s favorite targets, he keeps a low profile, drives an armored car and lives in a gated community in a house with a state-of-the-art security system. More pointedly, he has made it clear that he’s not susceptible to scare tactics. In 1993, Tiller was shot in both arms by an anti-abortion protester. He returned to work the next day.

Newman is well aware of Tiller’s resilience. That’s why Operation Rescue is going after clinic workers like Sara Phares. The employees have no guards posted at their homes, no cameras monitoring their yards. If Newman can provoke enough of them to quit, his job will be done. He’ll effectively shut Tiller down. Operation Rescue is headquartered in a converted trailer home separated from the railroad tracks by a chain-link fence. On the same lot is a Christian radio station; just across the tracks, there’s a used-truck dealership and a seedy motel. The group’s meeting space is a throwback to a Sixties rec room, complete with Barcaloungers and shag carpeting. On one wall hang Anne Geddes photos of babies frolicking among drifts of peonies. On another is a poster that reads, closed! san diego abortion mills, with a checkerboard of photos depicting eighteen facilities that Operation Rescue worked to shut down. Square sixteen reads, tiller’s clinic here.

Naturally, they aren’t above harassing and threatening clinic workers’ family members as well:

When I arrive, Newman and his small staff of zealous pro-lifers are buzzing with the news that the clinic’s office manager has quit — a result, they believe, of their name-and-shame campaign. The manager had been accosted by a neighbor in a grocery store who recognized her from an Operation Rescue flier that featured her photo. “You’re that baby killer!” the neighbor screamed at her. Then Newman, through investigative methods he’d rather not reveal, discovered where the woman’s husband works. “We think that’s what clinched it,” he says. “He probably realized we were going to picket his workplace. I imagine he’s the major breadwinner in the family, and he didn’t want to risk his job.”

These people actively seek out information about abortion providers and clinic workers, sometimes going so far as to pay “informants.” And then they use that information to scare, harass and terrorize them:

Newman shows me a fax from the National Abortion Federation advertising a job opening for an office manager at Women’s Health Care Services. The fax was intercepted by a mole from Operation Rescue. Newman says he has them everywhere — including inside the clinic. “They’re very, very quiet,” he says. “Some of them even interface with clinic personnel on a daily basis.” Most of Newman’s informants approach him with unsolicited tips; one, for example, is a disgruntled former employee at the clinic. But Newman also casts around for them. He pulls out an ad from a Christian paper, the Wichita Chronicle. The ad reads, “Reward! for information leading to the arrest and conviction of abortionist George Tiller. Do you know of: Insurance fraud? Botched abortion? Tax evasion? Sexual harassment or rape? Substance abuse?” Informants, Newman says, are paid “upward of $100.”

Newman and his staff have spent months compiling a list of more than 200 “abortion collaborators” — companies that do business with Women’s Health Care Services and its employees. They plan to approach every firm on the list — from the guy who mows the clinic’s lawn to the cafe that sells Tiller his morning latte — and lobby them to stop doing business with the facility. At the top of the collaborator list is Wesley Medical Center. Wesley is vital to Tiller’s clinic: It’s where his patients are taken if there is a medical emergency. Newman has written to Wesley’s board of physicians to request that they retract hospital privileges for Tiller’s patients. If they refuse, Newman plans to expose them as Tiller’s accomplices: “We’re thinking of taking out an ad in the local newspaper, naming Wesley’s physicians and accusing them of supporting a baby killer.”

The collaborator list is constantly growing. Just a few days earlier, Newman added a place called Elite Cleaners after his aide-de-camp, Cheryl Sullenger — who spent two and a half years in federal prison for conspiracy to firebomb a clinic — spotted Tiller’s wife, Jeanne, turning into a strip mall near her house. Sullenger drove in behind her. As Jeanne got out of her SUV in front of Elite, Sullenger snapped a couple of photographs of her.

I join Newman and Sullenger on a trip to the cleaners one afternoon. They’re hoping to persuade the owner to refuse to do business with the Tillers. Behind the counter, a redheaded woman in a rhinestone-studded T-shirt is folding clothes. Newman introduces himself and explains who Tiller is. Then he extracts a photo of Jeanne Tiller from a manila folder and lays it on the counter. “We happen to know that Tiller’s wife does business with Elite,” he says, “and we’re here to ask you to stop.”

The girl furrows her brow. “We just clean the guy’s clothes.”

“Babies have to die when you accept his money,” Sullenger says.

They also stalk clinic workers, and go through their trash for any incriminating evidence:

One evening, just after sunset, Newman cruises by the stately brick colonial home of Joan, another clinic employee. She’s the next person on the docket for a name-and-shame campaign. He slows down to examine her license plate, to make sure it matches the number he’s copied from her car in the clinic parking lot. It does. He glances at the curb in front of her house, to see if she’s put out her garbage yet, but there’s nothing there.

Dumpster diving, Newman tells me, is a great way to gather intelligence. Once he determines a neighborhood’s trash night, he drives by in a pickup truck designated specifically for this task, grabs a couple of trash bags and brings them to a garage in “an undisclosed location.” Among the eggshells and pizza boxes, he often finds useful information: cell-phone bills, the name of a clinic employee’s husband and his workplace or, if he’s really lucky, records from the clinic. “I look for incriminating info — maybe the abortionist isn’t reporting all the abortions he performs, maybe he’s keeping the cash and dumping the receipts. Then I report him to the Board of Medical Quality and I get him in a bunch of hot water.” Recently, someone gave him $500 in liquor receipts that they found in Tiller’s trash. “I can’t prove that he drank it all himself, though,” Newman says.

Clinic workers have responded by putting their trash out at the last possible minute. Sara Phares destroys all her paperwork — business letters, church mailings, debit-card receipts, the works. “I shred everything, because you never know what they’ll use,” she says. “I even shred the menus from the pizza place I order from.”

When the smear campaign against her first started, Phares refused to succumb to fear. Lately, though, it’s begun to unsettle her. One day, as she pulled out of the clinic parking lot, she saw Newman smiling at her from his Jeep. He followed her for a few blocks — reminding Phares, once again, that Operation Rescue is watching her.

These people are sick. They are seriously mentally ill:

After a brief prayer asking that Phares hear their message of “gentle rebuke,” everyone caravans over to her neighborhood, five cars plastered with bumper stickers condemning abortion and extolling the Ten Commandments. Bringing up the rear is the Truth Truck. For maximum exposure, they stop on a busy street that funnels traffic toward the cul-de-sac where Phares lives. It’s a treeless neighborhood, its fresh brick apartment complexes christened with optimistic names such as Cedar Lakes. The protesters display their signs for passing cars. “Phares’ Choice,” one proclaims, over a picture of tiny, bloody body parts. Another reads, “Sarah Phares, Abortion Profiteer,” misspelling her name and giving her address. The image on Jeff Herzog’s sign is particularly disturbing: a fetus being grabbed by forceps, its mouth open in a Munchian scream. Within five minutes, a passing car rear-ends another right in front of Herzog. Minutes later, it happens again.

Standing beside the demonstrators, clutching a dirt bike, a black boy about ten watches them intently. “Hi there, honey,” Michelle Herzog says. “How are you?

The boy toes the dirt. “Can I get by?”

“You sure can,” she says. She’s speaking in that honeyed voice that adults use with toddlers. “Do you know why we’re here?”

The boy shakes his head.

“We’re here because there’s a woman in your neighborhood who’s killing babies. And we’re fighting so those babies can live. You know, there was a time that people of your color didn’t have the right to be born, either. And lots of good people fought hard to help them gain rights. Isn’t that a good thing?”

The boy nods, his eyes downcast.

“If you know this lady, you can help us by telling her that we want to help her find a new job. Can you tell her that for me?”

The boy nods again, then slinks past and takes off on his bike.

But this is just Operation Rescue, right? It’s not like mainstream pro-life organizations are supporting this behavior, after all.

Well, wrong. When NOW sued Operation Rescue and other extremist anti-choice groups, Concerned Women for America filed an amicus brief on behalf of the anti-choicers, and refers to Operation Rescue as “a group of peaceful pro-life protestors.” That case, NOW v. Scheidler, had the feminist organization suing Operation Rescue and Joe Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League, another organization on Planned Parenthood’s extremist list. How extreme are they? Judge for yourself (warning: bloody fetus pictures). CWFA is happy to lend them its support. CWFA also relies on information from Operation Rescue to bash Planned Parenthood.

Oh, and Wendy Wright, the president of Concerned Women for America, used to work as the spokesperson for Operation Rescue.

Focus on the Family applauds Operation Rescue. In their position statement about violence against abortion providers, they “join other major pro-life organizations National Right to Life, Americans United for Life, American Life League and Operation Rescue in denouncing any effort to take the life of another human being who has not been found guilty of a capital offense in a legal trial.” Which not only re-affirms their view of Operation Rescue as a mainstream, major pro-life organization, but also fails to make any statement about non-lethal violence, which is revealing.

Life Dynamics naturally supports Operation Rescue (now known as Operation Save America) in its efforts to shut down the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi. The American Life League’s STOPP campaign, which is focused on shutting down Planned Parenthood, welcomes former Operation Rescue members to its team. That former Operation Rescue member is the national director of STOPP. STOPP further congratulates Operation Rescue for their part in shutting down a Florida clinic, and brushes aside accusations of violence. They do, however, profess their support for Operation Rescue’s effective stalking tactics:

According to published reports, “When a patient arrives for a pregnancy test, abortion opponents get the tag number of her car, check the registration and contact the car owner, hoping to talk the patient out of an abortion.” When the word about those tactics got around, Windle said, some women headed to clinics elsewhere.

STOPP offers congratulations to the dedicated pro-lifers in Melbourne, Florida for demonstrating, once again, the effectiveness of persistence and street activities.

And here I thought conservative groups were against supporting those who harass and intimidate their opponents, and who release their personal information (and their family’s personal information) to the public.

These extremist organizations provide false information, and they fan the flames of anti-choice violence. Take the case of George Tiller, if you need another example. Dr. Tiller is widely reviled by anti-choice activists, and was repeatedly shot by one in 1993. But that’s just the act of one individual, right? We can’t possibly hold anti-choice organizations responsible, can we?

Well, consider that Dr. Tiller has been specifically targeted by anti-choice groups, most obviously by Operation Rescue, which has an entire page on its website dedicated to a “Tiller Watch” (warning: fake bloody fetus images). Pro-Life America links to the Operation Rescue site about Tiller. Focus on the Family (totally not a terrorist organization or an organization that in any way helps terrorists!) has a laudatory article about Operation Rescue’s “activism” at Dr. Tiller’s clinic (and again!). People for Life reprints an article that ran in the National Review profiling Tiller as someone who commits infanticide. The American Family Association also has an article about the Tiller and the so-called “Summer of Mercy” in 1991, which in fact served as an unofficial kick-off date for the rash of anti-choice violence over the next few years. The Daily Catholic has an article about Tiller which compares him to Attila the Hun, Ghenghis Khan, Nero, Napoleon, Joseph Stalin, Hitler, and Pol Pot. The Catholic World News also targets him. The American Life League writes about him too. Concerned Women for America is a big fan of Dr. Tiller, writing about him and his “especially brutal” practices multiple times. The National Right to Life Committee enjoys writing about him. Even the Freepers get in on it.

A google search for “pro-life” and “tiller” brings up this website which targets “Tiller the Killer” and posts pictures of Tiller and his wife, as well as maps, directions, and pictures of his home (naturally, they also post his address). The site also posts pictures and information of other abortion providers, and asks readers with more information to send it in.

No connection between anti-choice organizations and individual anti-choice terrorists?

And then we have the case of Eric Rudolph, most notorious for the bombings at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, but who also enjoyed blowing people up abortion clinics and gay and lesbian nightclubs. He evaded capture for five years. How? Anti-choice individuals helped hide him from police. Country music artists wrote songs supporting him. There was even a popular “Run Rudolph Run” t-shirt.

This is terrorism, even if the people committing it aren’t Arab.

And Planned Parenthood has seen its share of anti-choice violence. One report is here (pdf), spanning from 1991 to 2001. From that report:

The 10-year period between 1991 and 2001 was a dangerous time to be a supporter of reproductive rights and freedom. Over those 10 years, anti-choice extremists murdered eight people, including doctors, clinic receptionists, and a volunteer escort. Twenty-two others were wounded, among them abortion providers, office workers, security guards, and law enforcement and emergency response personnel. Sixteen people were the targets of attempted murder, while others were hurt in one of the 15 bombings that affected health clinics during those years. The number of violent incidents that did not cause injury are much higher — between 1991 and 2001 there were 90 episodes of arson and 42 incidents of attempted arson or attempted bombings at Planned Parenthood and other reproductive rights organizations and health care clinics. Over 500 anthrax hoax letters were sent to clinics, many just after the September 11 attacks, and, finally, 10 clinics were vandalized with butyric acid attacks. Below is an excerpted history of 10 years of violence and harassment directed at reproductive rights organizations, health care clinics, and abortion providers taken from each year’s Chronicle of Clinic Violence & Harrassment.

Part of the problem is that the supposedly benign anti-choice organizations help to fuel acts of anti-choice violence. From the report:

Texas: A Planned Parenthood affiliate reported continuous, heavy picketing at one administrative site and rural family planning clinics. The local Roman Catholic bishop is on the board of directors of Priests for Life (PFL) and recently had PFL leader, Fr. Frank Pavone, lead protests. The local Knights of Columbus chapter circulated a letter in Texas, deriding Planned Parenthood and stating that oral contraceptive users are less resistant to AIDS than nonusers. The letter sited Stop Planned Parenthood International (STOPP) and its parent group, The American Life League as the sources of information.

Anti-choice activists want you to believe that there’s no connection between their actions and violence. They’re wrong:

Missouri: Staff from a Planned Parenthood affiliate obtained examples of bumper stickers from a group called “Marksmen for Life.” The bumper stickers have an icon of a minuteman with the words “I’m Pro-Life and I Shoot!” followed by an address.

Illinois: A federal jury convicted Clayton Waagner of possession of firearms by a convicted felon and possession of a stolen vehicle. Waagner used the insanity defense, claiming that he received messages from God. Waagner was arrested after fleeing from a Pennsylvania police traffic stop in 1999, when officers discovered evidence that he had been stalking and targeting abortion providers.

Illinois: The Rev. David Broom, a Catholic priest, allegedly broke into the building housing a health center and approached the building owner while brandishing an ax. The building owner fired his shotgun twice into the ceiling and held Broom at gunpoint until police arrived. Broom was arrested and charged with burglary and felony criminal damage.

Texas: Postcards, which included a picture of a local provider in the return address block and on the back of the card, were mailed to all first- and secondyear medical students at Texas Tech University. The card identified the physician, provided his business address, telephone number, and the date and source of his medical degree. The message on the back of the card included “Abortion — The fastest way to ruin your medical career!!!” The cards were postmarked Lubbock.

California: Authorities have charged Benjamin and James Williams in the June 18, 1999, arson fires at three synagogues and the July 22, 1999, arson at a medical center which houses an abortion clinic. The brothers were previously charged with murdering a gay couple outside Sacramento and are continuing to espouse right-wing religious views in jail.

Pennsylvania: A Planned Parenthood affiliate reports that local protestor Ed Snell has been cited by police for an incident in which an elderly male escort was knocked to the ground and another instance in which the affiliate’s security consultant was shoved. Snell was formerly associated with Gwinnett Right to Life and Citizens for Excellence in Education in Gwinnett, GA. In Gwinnett, Snell’s groups protested at the local school board for the removal of a Judy Blume book and Young Teen magazine. In York, Snell is associated with the group called the “1 per centers” — a group, according to anti-choice literature, willing to engage in direct action, unlike “the other 99% of the anti-aborting movement who would do nothing but talk about the evils of abortion”.

California: A Planned Parenthood affiliate reported that beginning in mid-December, unknown persons have been distributing literature from Opening Lines, an agency based in West Frankfort, IL, in the vicinity of a clinic. The literature alleges that two organ procurement agencies are selling tissue harvested from aborted fetuses for profit, in violation of federal law. Flyers purporting to be price lists of “fresh” fetal organs from two groups, Opening Lines and the Anatomic Gift Foundation (AGF), are circulating in neighborhoods close to the clinic and doctor’s homes. Life Dynamics, the Denton, TX, based anti-choice group that obtained the fetal price lists from Opening Lines and AGF, maintains that it also obtained copies of purchase orders for “fetal tissue or organs” sent by “harvesting firms” to one or more Planned Parenthood affiliates. LDI charges that Planned Parenthood coerces women into having abortions in order to make a profit. The LDI “fetal tissue harvesting” campaign has gained currency with other anti-choice groups such as American Life League (ALL) and Concerned Woman for America (CWA), both of which have issued press releases targeting Planned Parenthood.

New Mexico: A fire was set at the surgical site of a Planned Parenthood affiliate. An accelerant was placed around and under the front door and then ignited, causing about $5,000 worth of damage. Repairs had just been completed from the March 16 arson. Ricki Lee McDonald was arrested and charged with the arson. McDonald had been released from prison about eight– 10 months ago after serving time for arson at Abortion and Reproductive Health Services in Albuquerque in 1995.

Iowa: The local Catholic Messenger newspaper published convicted murderer Paul Hill’s article, “Why I Shot an Abortionist,” along with a paid ad from the Life and Family Coalition listing the names, addresses, and phone numbers of contractors and suppliers working on a Planned Parenthood clinic.

Wisconsin Citizens for a Pro-life Society picketed the home of a physician who works for a Planned Parenthood affiliate. Flyers distributed announcing the event stated, “There is a killer on the loose in your neighborhood!!! He preys on little children! He tears them limb from limb and throws their lifeless bodies in the garbage! He is a paid assassin…”

California: At approx. two a.m., anti-abortion activist Peter Howard drove his pickup truck, loaded with 13 gas cans and three propane tanks, into a medical center. Fortunately, the truck failed to ignite and firefighters were able to put out the flames before the truck exploded. Only minor damage was done to the building. Howard has been charged with “detonating a destructive device” and “terrorism with a destructive device” at an abortion clinic. He is a frequent protester at the clinic.

Louisiana: Dr. Calvin Jackson of a clinic was approached at the entrance, asked if he was the doctor, and then was repeatedly stabbed and slashed. Later the same day, Donald Cooper was arrested outside a clinic. Cooper, a 26-yearold Texas resident, entered a restricted area of the clinic and attempted to flee when police approached. Cooper was jailed on charges of aggravated burglary. On January 3, 1997, police charged Cooper with attempted second degree murder.

Oregon: A state judge issued a permanent restraining order against Paul de Parrie of Advocate for Life Ministries, prohibiting him from stalking the executive director of a clinic.

Washington, DC: The American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA) released the names and addresses of a dozen abortion providers nationwide. The ACLA offered a $5,000 reward “for information leading to arrest, conviction, and revocation of license to practice medicine” of any of the doctors listed, and called the list “The Deadly Dozen.”

Massachusetts: Murders at a Planned Parenthood affiliate and another clinic. Ms. Shannon Lowney, the receptionist at a Planned Parenthood affiliate, was murdered, and three others, a medical assistant and two patient partners, were wounded. Ten minutes later, at another clinic, receptionist Leanne Nichols, 38, was murdered, and an office worker and security guard were wounded.

Those are just a handful of examples. I couldn’t include every assault, kidnapping, arson, bombing and murder. And the anti-choice extremists aren’t stopping yet (article via Feministing):

A third day of anti-abortion rallies and counter-demonstrations in Jackson on Monday saw nine arrests, tires slashed, a false report that a fetus had been found in a downtown bank and a lawsuit filed against the city.

Operation Save America, formerly Operation Rescue, has planned eight days of demonstrations in Jackson aimed at closing the state’s only abortion provider, the Women’s Health Organization at 2903 N. State St.

And guess who’s helping them out:

Stephen Crampton, with the American Family Association Center for Law and Policy in Tupelo, said he filed a motion for a temporary restraining order against the [police] department on Monday. Crampton is the lawyer representing the anti-abortion protesters.

Supposedly mainstream anti-choice organizations are indeed supportive of the more violent ones. And so-calledpro-lifeindividuals (some of whom value life so much that they are also pro-capital punishment and pro-war) are quick to defend violence — or at least look the other way — when it suits their political goals.

So what kinds of threats does Planned Parenthood actually face? Figures from 2001:

6,679 hate mailings and crank calls
33,235 picketings
836 vandalisms
675 blockades with 33,827 arrests
365 invasions
57 burglaries
502 bomb threats
77 attempted bombings or arsons
40 bombings
406 stalkings
322 death threats
112 assault and batteries
3 kidnappings
16 attempted murders
1 maiming
8 murders

Are repeated arsons, stalkings, death threats, kidnappings, assaults and murders for political gain indicative of terrorism? I would say so. Excuse me if I lack patience for those on right ignoring anti-choice violence and then criticizing Planned Parenthood for calling it what it is.


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36 comments for “Reading Comprehension 101

  1. Ignotus
    July 19, 2006 at 6:11 am

    Wow. I knew that the anti-choice movement was full of psychos, but I didn’t realize the level of stuff going on…

    Is there nothing in our legal code to prevent this kind of mass personal harassment and intimidation?

  2. July 19, 2006 at 7:01 am

    Remind me why I shouldn’t leave the country?

  3. Norah
    July 19, 2006 at 7:26 am

    Jesus Christ.

  4. bryna
    July 19, 2006 at 9:17 am

    Is there nothing in our legal code to prevent this kind of mass personal harassment and intimidation?

    I can’t imagine there’s not…couldn’t ‘Sara Phares kills babies’ be considered slander in the least, especially since she’s an admin so there’s really no amount of semantic twisting that could make it true? Picking through someone’s trash is illegal, I’m fairly sure…and I can’t imagine it doesn’t qualify as harrassment if not stalking. I’m kind of surprised they’re not getting hit on all these counts…am I missing something? Is there a lack of evidence?

  5. jayunderscorezero
    July 19, 2006 at 9:27 am

    This is absolutely astonishing and disgusting.

    It’s like Project Mayhem from Fight Club, but with backing from the religious right; it’s simply frightening.

  6. Kelley
    July 19, 2006 at 9:51 am

    Why can’t anti-terrorism and/or stalking laws be applied to these nutjobs? On the other hand, if they can get away with this, why can’t the pro-choice movement start its own widespread information campaign. Start following these nutjobs, get their tag numbers, phone numbers, home addresses. Start sending postcards to their neighbors that there are domestic terrorists in their midst. Let them swallow a little of their own medicine.

    Honestly, I have had enough of coddling these lunatics. First Amendment protections do not extend to threats and harassment.

  7. July 19, 2006 at 10:05 am

    The definition of terrorism is “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.”

    Those anti-choicer bloggers can’t really be that oblivious . . . can they?

  8. Michelle
    July 19, 2006 at 11:10 am

    Sorry to say, but there is no expectation of privacy once an individaul sets their trash out, therefore, no crime if someone picks up your bags.

  9. Sarah
    July 19, 2006 at 11:34 am

    Came over from the link at Ginmar’s LJ.

    Stalking legislation could be used against the people as described above, at least according to this fairly comprehensive rundown I found. They fit all the criteria and stalking is a felony in many places. It’s from 2001 and even then Kansas had some stalking stuff on the books. There might be more now.

    Orders of protection could most likely also be obtained, especially for the more threatening behavior.

    http://www.mincava.umn.edu/documents/ilj_stalk/iljfinalrpt.html

    I also wonder if there are “incitement to violence” type laws that could be used. They don’t seem to threaten directly – though their behavior certainly IS a threat, but they don’t say “I’m going to kill you and your family”, but they push others to do so.

  10. July 19, 2006 at 11:53 am

    Jill, your reading comprehension appears to be worse than ours.

    If you have a list of “Terrorists and Extremist Groups”, and what follows is a list of individuals and a list of groups, which is true?

    a) the listed individuals are being called terrorists
    b) the listed individuals are not being called terrorists

    In addition, you COMPLETELY elide the point that on the list are people like Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito – people who no possible good faith interpretation could call terrorists.

    I don’t expect this comment to appear here, given the past history; if it doesn’t, I’ll make a followup post at CD to discuss the dishonest framing of the issue you’re presenting here. It would be more appropriate that it appear here, however. Your choice.

  11. raging red
    July 19, 2006 at 12:02 pm

    If only the government and the media had a catchy little name for these people like they do with “ecoterrorists.” As far as I know, so-called ecoterrorists stick to property damage like burning SUVs in car lots or burning unoccupied McMansions in housing developments, not relentless stalking and harassing of, say, the owners of the car lots or the people building the housing developments. (I could be wrong, but I’ve certainly never heard of ecoterrorists engaging in the kinds of things that these pro-life wackos are doing.) Not that I condone the property destruction committed by “ecoterrorists” (because they could potentially put people in harm’s way), but I’m just pointing out the discrepancy in media fear-mongering about the two groups, as well as the absence of a publicly announced crackdown by the government on the pro-life wackos (as they have done with ecoterrorists), when the deranged pro-lifers definitely appear to me to be a far more dangerous group.

  12. raging red
    July 19, 2006 at 12:06 pm

    Just to add, the pro-life terrorism is also far more widespread than the ecoterrorism, which is fairly infrequent and basically limited to a couple of groups (E.L.F. and A.L.F.), not to mention endorsed by mainstream conservative organizations, as Jill points out. The Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy and whatnot are not out there assisting and endorsing the tactics of the E.L.F.

  13. DAS
    July 19, 2006 at 12:16 pm

    The second most destructive terrorist attack on the US (counting 9/11 as one attack) was due to domestic, right-wing terrorists. Also, assuming the ‘thrax attacks were not an inside job, they were likely a right wing domestic attack.

    Consistently, domestic right-wing terrorists are a grave threat to US safety and security. The Bush admin says we are at war against any and all terrorists, a war which necessitates the abridgments of our rights as citizens and in which spying on extremist organizations is fair game.

    I presume then that Bush & CO have infiltrated and are working to prosecute, send to Gitmo, whatever, leaders in the extremist and terrorizing branches of the pro-life movement?

    What’s that you say? It would be politically bad for Bush & CO to punish reliable GOP voters? Hmmm … those considerations didn’t stop Al Gore from campaigning to expand the “war on drugs” in 2000 when botched raids (wrong house, wrong whatever) were imprisoning or killing off (innocent) likely Gore voters …

    No wonder people think liberals are effete — we aren’t even politically savvy enough to know when and how to have double standards!

  14. July 19, 2006 at 12:17 pm

    “These people are sick. They are seriously mentally ill:”

    Oh, Jill. Why? That’s a really terrible thing to say, and more than that, it hurts your argument. These folks are freely choosing to act like this, and have no excuse for the harm they cause. Insanity is not a political argument. It’s an ad hominem, and a poor one at that. Mental illness has enough stigma as it is…

  15. piny
    July 19, 2006 at 12:23 pm

    If you have a list of “Terrorists and Extremist Groups”, and what follows is a list of individuals and a list of groups, which is true?

    a) the listed individuals are being called terrorists
    b) the listed individuals are not being called terrorists

    In addition, you COMPLETELY elide the point that on the list are people like Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito – people who no possible good faith interpretation could call terrorists.

    (c) Not necessarily either. “Terrorist” can apply to some of the groups and some of the individuals–particularly since some of the individuals profiled are members and leaders of extremist groups. It is not fair to assume that Planned Parenthood is arguing that the individuals on the list are terrorists. The fact that two Supreme Court Justices who AFAIK have never set fire to anything are on the list is an argument against (a), not in favor of it.

    And as Jill points out, the subheading of the list refers to several different categories of individuals:

    Profiles of anti-choice extremists, political hardliners, and people in the news

  16. HK
    July 19, 2006 at 12:23 pm

    From what I understand, going through someone’s garbage is not illegal. Although it may depend on the state and local laws. I remember a case where police were allowed to go through someone’s garbage b/c they left it out in the street which is a public place and the garbage can belonged to the city, or some convoluted type thing.

    However, I would think they could get these people for stalking and get restraining order, although we know how helpful those can be. And slander certainly sound like a plausible case to make. A civil case could potentially cost the group money they could otherwise be using to send out their stinkin pamphlets.

  17. MissKate
    July 19, 2006 at 1:12 pm

    Okay, I’m not trying to incite terrorism to combat terrorism…

    But do these “mainstream” anti-choice orgs have central offices or state branch offices? Would it be somehow illegal for people to hold protests outside the HQ of Operation Rescue or FotF or CWFA, holding signs calling them out for supporting domestic terrorism and handing out fliers naming some of the facts listed in the above posting about who these nutjob ‘mainstream’ orgs support? I mean, really, that isn’t half the ridiculous unlawful shit the anti-choice people are pulling.

    I’m not saying anyone should be giving out addresses or dumpster-diving or following anyone’s kids to school. But has anyone on the pro-choice side proposed picketting these people’s HQs or offices and calling them out as supporting terrorists? B/c we ought to, and ought to as soon as we can organize to do so. No violence, no intimidation, just a bunch of people holding signs and fliers calling these “pro-life” monsters out for what they are. Get some publicity on the terrorism going on here in the US right now.

    What’d’ya say? Some one respond to this, propose a better idea. Something has got to be done, this ridiculousness can’t go on under the radar forever.

  18. July 19, 2006 at 2:05 pm

    OK, Piny.

    PEOPLE WHO SLAUGHTER KITTENS FOR FUN
    * Jeffrey Dahmer, Adolf Hitler, Piny

    It isn’t fair to argue that I’m calling you a kitten-slaughterer. “People who slaughter kittens for fun” only applies to some of the people on this list. Dahmer and Addie are the kitten-slaughterers. I’m including you because I secretly meant the list to be kitten-slaughterers and feminist bloggers. I just forgot the feminist blogger part of the headline.

    As an alternative to the bizarro world logic, we can use English in its plain sense. If you put “Terrorists and Extremist Organizations” as the headline of a list, you’re presenting a list of terrorists and extremist organizations.

    There is no way to look at this web page and reach the conclusion that PP had no intention of labeling these people terrorists. It’s right there in nice big orange H2 tags.

  19. July 19, 2006 at 2:27 pm

    Let me modify that last sentence – there’s no way to look at this web page and reach the conclusion that PP had no intention of labeling these people terrorists, on the basis of what’s on the page. IE, the semantic intent is clear.

    As Amp noted over at CD, it IS possible that PP designed their page badly and made a mistake, and that this headline is not supposed to be associated with this text. I don’t think that’s the case, but it is possible, and I should acknowledge that.

  20. July 19, 2006 at 3:06 pm

    Jill, your reading comprehension appears to be worse than ours.

    If you have a list of “Terrorists and Extremist Groups”, and what follows is a list of individuals and a list of groups, which is true?

    a) the listed individuals are being called terrorists
    b) the listed individuals are not being called terrorists

    c) the listed individuals are being called one of the following: a) terrorists, and b) extremist groups.

    Robert, you’re more than just a pot calling the kettle black, you’re a pot calling the kettle a pot.

    In addition, you COMPLETELY elide the point that on the list are people like Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito – people who no possible good faith interpretation could call terrorists.

    Elide? I’ve never heard that word before. Could you define it for me, please?

  21. piny
    July 19, 2006 at 3:24 pm

    PEOPLE WHO SLAUGHTER KITTENS FOR FUN
    * Jeffrey Dahmer, Adolf Hitler, Piny

    It isn’t fair to argue that I’m calling you a kitten-slaughterer. “People who slaughter kittens for fun” only applies to some of the people on this list. Dahmer and Addie are the kitten-slaughterers. I’m including you because I secretly meant the list to be kitten-slaughterers and feminist bloggers. I just forgot the feminist blogger part of the headline.

    Except, of course, that Planned Parenthood didn’t forget the latter category.

    A proper analogy would be, “Environmental criminals and anti-environmental lobbyists,” as a heading for a list that includes both corporations in flagrant violation of the law and corporations who devote large amounts of money and time to destroying pollution restrictions. Or “Animal Abusers and Animal Enemies” on a PETA website, with a list of labs that violate the law with respect to their subjects and organizations who lobby against laws that protects lab rats. That hypothetical list would also have to include detailed information on what each listed group or person had done to merit inclusion.

    Let me modify that last sentence – there’s no way to look at this web page and reach the conclusion that PP had no intention of labeling these people terrorists, on the basis of what’s on the page. IE, the semantic intent is clear.

    Yes, it is: PP has collected a list of anti-choice extremists and people who commit acts of anti-choice terrorism, along with information on who’s done what. There’s no “fair way” to look at this page and reach the conclusion that PP intended to label mere extremists terrorists and vice versa. I doubt very much that anyone would come away from this list with the impression that Samuel Alito goes around shooting nurse practitioners, or that PP could possibly have intended anyone to.

    As Amp noted over at CD, it IS possible that PP designed their page badly and made a mistake, and that this headline is not supposed to be associated with this text. I don’t think that’s the case, but it is possible, and I should acknowledge that.

    Then your kitten-slaughtering example is as disingenuous as it is weak.

  22. July 19, 2006 at 3:32 pm

    OK, Kyra.

    Is Planned Parenthood calling Chief Justice Roberts a terrorist, or an extremist group?

    I don’t understand your pot-kettle remark, sorry,

    “Elide” means to gloss over or not mention a salient fact. As in, the right-wing outrage that Jill is attacking is based mainly on the fact that people like Alito and Roberts are being called terrorists – but Jill’s post focuses entirely on the pressure tactics used by some of the groups on the list.

  23. piny
    July 19, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    They’re calling Chief Justice Roberts an extremist–or, if you like, either “an anti-choice extremist,” “a political hardliner,” “a person in the news,” or any combination of the three.

  24. July 19, 2006 at 3:50 pm

    Murders, kidnappings, assault, and arson are “pressure tactics”?

  25. July 19, 2006 at 4:27 pm

    I’ve presented my points, and have included the information that Jill excluded; we can do the pretending-not-to-know-what-words-mean argument another time. Your readers can judge for themselves whether a headline of “Terrorist” means what it says. I appreciate the opportunity to make my case. Thanks.

  26. ginmar
    July 19, 2006 at 4:41 pm

    Yeah, if you’re an apologist like Robert, they are. Love how he shows up and nitpicks to death but that list speaks for itself. Just for reference, let’s look at what Robert’s trying to draw attention away from:

    6,679 hate mailings and crank calls
    33,235 picketings
    836 vandalisms
    675 blockades with 33,827 arrests
    365 invasions
    57 burglaries
    502 bomb threats
    77 attempted bombings or arsons
    40 bombings
    406 stalkings
    322 death threats
    112 assault and batteries
    3 kidnappings
    16 attempted murders
    1 maiming
    8 murders

    This is the pro life movement.

  27. piny
    July 19, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    I’ve presented my points, and have included the information that Jill excluded; we can do the pretending-not-to-know-what-words-mean argument another time. Your readers can judge for themselves whether a headline of “Terrorist” means what it says. I appreciate the opportunity to make my case. Thanks.

    Calling that a headline of “Terrorist” is dishonest.

  28. raging red
    July 19, 2006 at 4:59 pm

    Is Planned Parenthood calling Chief Justice Roberts a terrorist, or an extremist group?

    Oh brother. Neither. Robert, I’m sure you’re familiar with Occam’s Razor? The simplest (and most common sensical) explanation is that this is just an issue of web design and headings that are not 100% perfect. Do you really think Planned Parenthood is trying to call two justices of the Supreme Court (and Karen Hughes, Harriet Miers, etc.) “terrorists?”

    Here’s a hyper-technical piece of evidence to examine: click on the link that says “Biographies” (where Roberts, Alito, et al. are listed). Then look over to the right at the little box that says “Eye on Extremism.” Hey look! There’s another link in that box that says “Terrorists and Extremist Organizations!” Now click on that link. Voila! Notice that on that page, there are links to 15 anti-choice organzations along with profiles of three men whom PP identifies as terrorists, but not Roberts or Alito or any of those folks. It seems that Planned Parenthood’s only outrageous action is that they probably should have used “Eye on Extremism” as their orange heading instead of “Terrorists and Extremist Organizations.” Perhaps you should contact their webmaster right away to correct this, lest Homeland Security get confused and start surveilling Supreme Court justices.

  29. kate
    July 19, 2006 at 8:22 pm

    Indeed Ginmar, tactics of distraction are most effective among the gullible to dilute the reality.

    Obviously Robert places good grammar far above the lives of other living people.

  30. July 19, 2006 at 8:28 pm

    I second what Sly said in comment #14. Equating terrible behavior with mental illness MUST stop. It’s bigotry, pure and simple.

  31. Christopher
    July 19, 2006 at 8:33 pm

    Is English not your first language, Robert?

  32. July 19, 2006 at 9:09 pm

    I imagine if the heading had read “Famous Women and Men”, and it listed Samuel Alito, Robert might think they were referring to Alito as a famous woman.

    What? No?

    Can we please dismiss the ludicrous idea that PP was referring to everyone linked under that heading as a terrorist? We certainly are capable of deciding whether or not a heading of terrorist means what it says. It does. It just doesn’t mean that it applies to all individuals listed thereunder.

  33. July 20, 2006 at 12:02 am

    Sly and Spotted Elephant – I can understand not wishing to link terrible behavior to mental illness. However, I can also understand why Jill linked them here.

    My reading of that was that these people who engage in tactics that cause shame, fear, and occasionally physical harm – while at the same time feeling that this is a “gentle rebuke” and that their actions are morally right and justified by God – are experiencing a disconnect with reality, on some level. But I’m not looking to put words in Jill’s mouth here, just offering my opinion.

  34. July 20, 2006 at 2:07 am

    Oh, Jill. Why? That’s a really terrible thing to say, and more than that, it hurts your argument. These folks are freely choosing to act like this, and have no excuse for the harm they cause. Insanity is not a political argument. It’s an ad hominem, and a poor one at that. Mental illness has enough stigma as it is…

    You’re right, and I’m sorry. Thank you for checking me on that.

  35. July 20, 2006 at 3:14 pm

    I imagine if the heading had read “Famous Women and Men”, and it listed Samuel Alito, Robert might think they were referring to Alito as a famous woman.

    Lesley – bang on. Great example. I don’t think it can be made any clearer than this. Unbelievable how people will pretend to be ignorant in order to say with a straight face “No, they did TOO call him a terrorist…”

    And those stories are terrifying. Makes me want to send supportive letters to clinic workers and doctors everywhere.

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