Two weeks after its scheduled opening date, the Aurora Planned Parenthood is open. Of course, I issue a big thanks and congratulations to all who supported the clinic and helped to make it possible. And I wish the clinic an excellent opening day and many good days to come. It is indeed a victory.
And yet, as the dust settles, I can’t help but remember that it shouldn’t be. This fight should have never existed. And the fact that it did says a lot of scary things about the current political climate.
The city of Aurora considered it prudent to ignore the facts and bow to anti-choice pressure. Though they admit to knowing that the building would be a Planned Parenthood clinic, they still launched an investigation into whether or not Planned Parenthood had lied as soon as anti-choice organizations squawked. There’s absolutely no way to consider that a positive sign.
And perhaps more interestingly and certainly less discussed, I have to question the actual motives of the anti-choice organizations who led this ridiculous crusade. What were they trying to achieve? Did they actually ever believe that they would prevent the clinic from opening?
I certainly do believe that the thousands of protesters who clogged the city were genuine. I believe that the individuals who showed up to town meetings and made fools of themselves were also genuine. I think that they honestly believed that they could do this.
I never did. I know Planned Parenthood, and though they have certainly made mistakes in the past, I know that they’re smarter than to break a permit law. And though I give the anti-choice leaders few points for intelligence, they certainly do know strategy. Did the leaders of Operation Rescue think that they could close down this clinic? I don’t honestly believe that they could have been so naive.
I think that their goal was a hell of a lot larger than that. And that is what makes it so frightening. Though they obviously would have loved to see the clinic shuttered up, they have to know by now that Planned Parenthood does not go down easily.
So what the hell were they trying to do?
They were trying to spend our money. And they did a hell of a good job. They spent Planned Parenthood’s money and the money of all of their donors. They spent our time. Planned Parenthood’s time, your time, my time blogging about it. We quite frankly had no choice but to let them. And because all of their money is spent on PR and the occasional bus to send supporters to a protest, they could afford to. They know perfectly well that since Planned Parenthood actually provides services, they can’t.
They were trying to mobilize their base. And they did a hell of a job with that, too. Oh, the pro-choice base also riled. But now the clinic is open. Those who support reproductive rights are going to dissipate, while the anti-choicers have all the more reason to fight. This is why we can’t lose our vigilance.
They’re thinking big. They’re thinking about their 40 days for life campaign, in which they choose various abortion clinics to harass for a full forty days. Then there’s the apparent call by Chicago Times columnist Dennis Byrne for civil disobedience at the clinic.
Let’s be clear, the opponents’ protests are legal and constitutionally protected. If it comes to “civil disobedience,” the protesters should and will be arrested. Such tactics would drive Planned Parenthood backers wild, but if they don’t understand the use of civil disobedience against laws that are perceived as unjust or immoral, perhaps they should consult Rev. Jesse Jackson, recently arrested for blocking a gun shop door, for an explanation.
Though everything else about Byrne’s column clearly shows him to be erratic and delusional at best, the false comparison is particularly astonishing. Let me say, first of all, that I don’t think that trying to block a single gun shop is particularly productive. Closing a gun shop is not going to stop the gun problem in America. But the only people being harmed by this type of civil disobedience are the gun shop owner and the potential gun purchasers. Though they are indeed engaging in protected activities, it’s nothing to shed tears over. In fact, the incident might even bring publicity to the store, boosting its business.
Blocking a clinic door is something decidedly different. It is, in no way, the same to block a private store as it is to block a health clinic. In the first case, someone might have to wait a day to buy their gun. And though you may disagree with Jessee Jackson’s politics or tactics, I don’t think anyone honestly believes that he might become violent. Anti-choice protesters blocking a clinic door are going to frighten women out of receiving vital medical care. They are prevented not only from obtaining abortions but from receiving contraception (including emergency contraception), having STDs treated and receiving pap smears which screen for cancer. They are often low-income women, which can make a return trip extremely difficult. And sadly, it is not a stretch to believe that anti-choice protesters might become violent. Jesse Jackson blocking a gun store door (though I disagree with it) is about making a point. Anti-choice protesters blocking a Planned Parenthood clinic door is about instilling fear.
A small, reactionary part of me reads the suggestion and wants to say “Do it, fuckers. I want to see your asses in jail.” But it’s not worth it. It’s just not. And I don’t want to pretend that it is.
And so what is my point in all of this? It’s that if you think the fight in Aurora is over, I think that you’re wrong. And how I wish that you were right. My point is that we cannot forget about Aurora, because the antis sure as hell won’t. Historically, we have made the mistake of thinking we’ve won and going back to our lives. And in roll informed consent laws and “partial birth” abortion bans and cities trying to close clinics. Please, let’s learn something here. Let’s stop the trend.