Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Contraception, abortion and reproductive rights, oh my!

I’m not sure why, but the concept of women controlling their own bodies seems to utterly terrify a lot of people, even in a good year. And in a bad year, we get a war on women’s rights that makes Vietnam look like a friendly playground engagement between two children.

I can’t read as much on this subject as I’d like, for two reasons: lack of time to track every single state-level attack on women’s bodily integrity and fear of my rising blood pressure getting out of hand and making my head explode.

Back in college, I used to do clinic defense (bear with me, I’m getting back to current events soon). On Saturday mornings we’d go out to a local clinic that provided abortions and keep an eye on protesters. Sometimes we’d even go downtown and get called names by Randall Terry himself (ick feh).

I didn’t do much other than that. I mean, I marched in the March for Women’s Lives, and I paid attention to which politicians I agreed with, but that was pretty much it. I kind of thought we were at a turning point, a point at which most people would eventually agree that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare (as the bumper sticker says).

I wasn’t sure when abortion would become less contentious, but I figured it would happen someday. I didn’t expect us to be moving backward. And I certainly didn’t expect that basic birth control would become controversial! That would never have occurred to me, probably because it’s moderately insane that it has.

Even if you agree that abortion is murder, even if you believe that life begins at conception, even if you agree that women who’ve been raped should be forced to carry the rapist’s child…contraception should be non-controversial.

Even if you’re picketing in front of clinics and voting to make abortion illegal, women’s ability to choose not to have children should be non-controversial.

And most of all, if you don’t like abortion, the best way to keep it from occurring is to provide women with accessible and affordable contraception! Astoundingly enough, women who use contraception are, y’know, less likely to get pregnant when they can’t afford to, don’t want to, or what-have-you. Thus…less likely to get an abortion.

But attacks on Planned Parenthood (which hands out a lot more condoms and conducts more health screenings than it does abortions) are multiplying daily. The Catholic church fought for the right to deny contraception to non-Catholic employees. And Congress came pretty darn close to allowing all employers to refuse to provide coverage for contraception for any reason. That’s not even getting into the Arizona bill that would have allowed employers to ask their employees intrusive questions about their sexual habits and marital status…

Back in 1992, when I was sitting in front of that clinic, I would never have believed this would be happening in 2012. But it is. Violence and harassment against abortion providers (and everyone even tangentially connected to them) is increasing. Women are losing the war to protect their reproductive rights and even their rights to basic health care!

This year is crazy and it’s just getting crazier. And high blood pressure or no, we all need to pay attention if we don’t want to slip further back into the bad old days.

About Mama Mara:

I'm a 40-year-old, work-at-home mother of two. I'm pro-vaccine, pro-medicine, pro-science, pro-choice, and an avid reader of information about all of the above, and I want to combine my love for my children with my love for science.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Terrible New Attack on Abortion Clinic Landlord Delightfully Backfires

By Cassie Murdoch

originally published 5.7.12

While we're all well aware of the fact that there are anti-choice protesters harassing people and doing terrible things every single day in our fine country, it's useful to occasionally be reminded, in order to sense the urgency of the situation, of the awfulness of some of their tactics. And we also need to be reminded of the power of taking action against — or flat-out ignoring — these extremist assholes.
For a fresh view of the depths to which the most vile anti-choicers will sink, all we need to do is talk to Todd Stave, who you might remember as the Maryland man who suffered endless harassment for being the landlord of one of the few abortion clinics where late-term abortions are performed. In response, Stave started Voice of Choice, the awesome organization that gives anti-abortion protesters a taste of their own medicine by harassing them back in the politest possible way (a calm phone call along the lines of "I know where you live"). But Stave says that the people who've been going after him had sunk to a new low, recently distributing a very disturbing flyer around the neighborhood in Baltimore where Stave's in-laws live. His in-laws, mind you, have absolutely nothing to do with the abortion clinic — their biggest "crime" is having a daughter who happens to be married to Todd.

The truly heinous flyer features a picture of Todd and of his wife. It asks — in not one but three alarming fonts! — "Where is [redacted wife's name]? What happened to your neighbor after she met and married… Todd Michael Stave?" And the flier helpfully provides the answer: "She profits from the killing of innocent pre-born babies." The flier includes, of course, the obligatory disturbing images of aborted fetuses, which the protesters are so fond of putting on every sign and poster they make. For good measure, they've added the inflammatory phrases, "Stave Family Abortion Cartel" and "What Will You Do to End THIS Holocaust?"
But the real kicker is that the flyer lists the names and contact info of Todd's in-laws and urges people to call or visit them and ask to speak to their daughter. This is obviously as scary as it is batshit insane. What are you going to do, call them and inform them of what they already know? Did you know your son-in-law is a landlord?!

You can see the flyer by clicking here, if only to understand the magnitude of what these assholes are doing, but be warned, it contains very graphic images.
I spoke with Todd about this latest incident, and he was remarkably calm, which seems to be his gift. He reported that when his mother-in-law discovered the flyer she was horrified, as one would expect, but felt better once a reporter showed up and she realized that, in fact, nearly everyone was sympathetic to their family. One person called her to see what was going on and make sure she was okay, but nobody has yet called or shown up to harass them.

Todd is confident he knows exactly who's behind these flyers. It's a man named William Simpson. He's affiliated with a group called Defend Life, which also organized the protests outside of the school where Stave's daughter goes. But Simpson seems to be acting largely on his own in launching the flyer offensive. This isn't the first time he's done something like this; he was previously in the news in 1997, when he lived in Texas, for filming license plates of cars parked outside strip clubs and mailing the evidence to those people's homes (which he located using DMV records). In other words, he is a quite the class act.
While Simpson is still bringing the fight literally to Stave's front yard, the other group who was first harassing him, the Maryland Coalition for Life, has been thoroughly thwarted by Stave's ingenious payback solution. Stave says they can no longer find people willing to call him at home because they know they'll be flooded with a deluge of calls from Voice of Choice. Sweet, sweet justice. But, of course, Stave is still in the thick of it thanks to Simpson's crazy flyers and continued harassment from Defend Life. In one of the most nonsensical anti-abortion protests imaginable the organization went so far as to have someone camp outside the dental office run by Stave's brother-in-law.

The good news: As awful as these flyers are, they're backfiring in a spectacularly big way. First off, they're not exactly convincing anyone to hate or harass Stave and his family—because how often have you picked up the printed work of a madman and thought, "Huh, this guy really has a point. I will definitely call this stranger and yell at them." But more importantly, these flyers and the protests organized by Defend Life have brought a ton of attention to Stave and Voice of Choice and their attempts to stop all of this madness.
So while you or I might see red were pictures of dead fetuses littered across our mother-in-law's lawn, Stave takes the long view. He's not angry or sad; he's hopeful that the more these people make themselves look nuts (which they're doing a bang up job of, so far), the more people will start to fight back against this fringe anti-abortion element. As he told me, "It brings people back into the center and starts a reasonable dialogue about what to do about it."

The momentum is definitely building behind Stave. He says that after his neighborhood was canvassed with flyers of him in a Nazi uniform (and don't forget the requisite bloody fetus photos!) so much attention was generated — including our coverage — that Voice of Choice has nearly doubled in size. He got a lot of donations and support that he otherwise would have never gotten. He says he even heard from people who are anti-choice but oppose the extreme tactics being used by this scary band of protesters. How's that for a reasonable dialogue?

So, big shout out to the William Simpson, the biggest creep in the land, for finding the line and repeatedly crossing it enough to turn people away. And a bigger shout-out to Stave for continuing to make delicious lemonade out of the heinous, incredibly bitter lemons being hurled at him.