Anti-Choice Zealots Go After Clinic Owner's Children -- Here's How He's Fighting Back
When those who provide health services for women and their families, including young children, get targeted personally by anti-choice activists, how do they make it clear that such behavior is unacceptable without stooping to the level of their opponents?
One clinic landlord in Germantown, Maryland is planning a coordinated response against his harassers. He is taking this measure after anti-choicers picketed him and his children at the kids' school, displaying a huge sign accusing him of being a "baby-killer" in plain view of all the other parents and children on open school night.
Perhaps most disturbingly, the sign carried the landlord's name, phone number and photograph. (For the sake of their privacy, we are not printing his name.) Given the hostile environment and the threat of violence facing abortion providers and those connected to them, this sort of distinguishing personal information can literally be quite threatening if put in the hands of the wrong zealot.
School officials in Maryland were disgusted with the protest.
“The idea that a group of protesters would target a school because the child of someone they are targeting attends the school...is fairly despicable,” Montgomery County schools spokeswoman Lesli Maxwell told the Washington Post.
Earlier this summer, we reported on the harassment, intimidation and threats abortion doctors are facing around the country, specifically at the Germantown Reproductive Health Services clinic, where a "Summer of Mercy" was planned to protest and harass workers, patients and the practice of abortion provider Leroy Carhart. "Summer of Choice" was an effort by activists to counter them.
Well, summer of protests or no summer of protests, Carhart is still there and fortunately, nothing material has changed for women who desperately need reproductive health services.
Now one of the clinic's co-owners is facing the kind of intense personal harassment and scrutiny that is common as a ramp-up tactic in the anti-choice movement. Last week, members of the "Defend Life" community received the following directive, which included the personal contact information of the landlord and the names of his wife and children:
Although [the landlord] and his wife [redacted] have been blessed with two incredible children, [names redacted] he was not raised in an environment that taught him about the sanctity of human life. His heart was surely hardened as his father [an abortion provider] killed innocent babies day after day. It seems Carl did teach his son one thing, he can make a lot of money in child killing.
Lest the threatening rhetoric and disclosure of personal information give you pause, the directive did include this caveat:
Make sure when you reach out to [the landlord] you do so in a Christian manner. Make sure your conversations and correspondence should reflect the love and forgiveness of Christ. Remember, you can be firm and loving at the same time.
While the calls he has received have been polite, apparently, these protesters' "Christ-like" behavior doesn't exclude the kind of personal harassment in which the protesters have engaged, targeting his kids at their school.
Since the campaign kicked off, writes the landlord in an email to AlterNet and other bloggers and writers, "I have received about 25 phone calls, 4 letters, and about 100 emails. I have the names and contact information from each of the people reaching out to me."
So he's decided that it's time to call back, politely, with thanks for the prayers and wishes he has received, and with the hope that a phone call and email will literally bring home to his "gentle" opponents what it's like to have that safe personal space invaded--even by so-called well-wishers.
Here's the email the clinic landlord sent out to prospective volunteers for his grassroots campaign:
I would like to organize a campaign to call and email each of these “concerned citizens” back. It would be 100 times as thoughtful if each of the people who called or emailed me got 100 calls or emails from people who lovingly and in a Christian way said to them:
1) The family truly appreciates your prayers.
2) Your opinions and pleas have been heard but
3) Defend Life has unfortunately misinformed you about the [family]'s legal rights regarding their ability to evict or terminate the lease of the clinic.
I will consider this phase I. Once I get further information about the protesters that showed up at the school I will ask for the same effort regarding their efforts.
I have set up this email (firstname.lastname@example.org)... solely for this effort. Please let me know if you are willing to help. You do not need to give me any more information than your email address if you do not want to, however, I will keep all information confidential.
His efforts at a friendly personal pushback strike me as brilliant.
How many anti-choicers would still be in the "persuasion" business if they knew the "discussion" would carry on to their own homes, where their families reside? And more importantly, how would they react knowing that there are others on the opposing side who are as gently and firmly devoted as they are?
Some would surely continue, but others might be moved by a dose of sudden empathy for their opponents.