As Sady just noted at In These Times, 2012 is going to be a year of anti-reproductive justice laws, specifically targeted at effectively ending abortion in the United States. In shocking news, a recent study concluded that when abortion is illegal, rates of unsafe abortions rise, and globally, we are having a serious problem with access to safe abortion services. Conservatives in the United States are warring not just on the right to access reproductive health care, but also quite literally the right to be alive with their proposals to ban abortion. Scaremongering and dramatic tactics are going to be on the increase among anti-choice ‘activists,’ and they’re coming out swinging already: An Oklahoma legislator just introduced a bill to ban the use of fetal tissue in food.
Because, you know. Fetal tissue in food is a pressing public health issue that requires immediate action.
We’ve just been reminded by Rick Santorum that pregnancy after a rape is ‘a gift from g-d,’ indicating the extreme to which some anti-choicers will go to protect ‘the sanctity of life.’ For people who think life is a gift from the heavens, though, they’re surprisingly cavalier with the lives of people providing reproductive health services:
Since 1977, the National Abortion Federation has documented eight murders, 17 attempted murders, 41 bombings, 175 instances of arson, 391 invasions, 100 butyric acid attacks, 662 anthrax threats, 523 instances of stalking and 418 death threats against clinic workers. (source)
Message received: If you provide reproductive health services, including abortion, you wear a target on your back. Abortion providers and the staff who assist and support them, from receptionists to nurses, do things like wearing bulletproof vests to work. Consulting with security services to discuss safety issues. Making sure their numbers are unlisted.
Meanwhile, people seeking abortions and reproductive health services are forced to run a gauntlet to get them, while clinic escorts do their best to protect them from the abusive and horrific tactics of protesters trying to limit their access to reproductive health services. You should not have to look at pictures of dead fetuses to pick up a prescription, people, any more than you should have to go to work in a bulletproof car.
Abortion providers and their support teams care so much about making sure people get access to the health care they need that they are willing to risk their lives to provide it. Dr. Tiller was threatened and shot at before his assassination, for example, enduring the kind of abuse that would make most people throw their hands up in despair and go ‘okay, enough.’ Abortion providers have stepped up to fill gaps in reproductive health services, to cover for people who have been murdered or terrorised so much that they can’t work.
Which is why the latest from Operation Rescue gives me chills. The extremist organisation is creating a database of service providers, their locations, and personal information, which is basically like a Rolodex for stalkers, protesters, and of course readers who will decide to put the violent rhetoric of the anti-choice movement into violent action. Recent years have seen an escalation in violence against reproductive health care providers and this website represents a very real threat, one that appears to be under evaluation by government agencies and law enforcement to determine if it violates the law.
This is terrorism. Seriously:
While reproductive rights organisations have long been labeling it what it is, the media seems more reluctant. These attacks on reproductive rights are not just ‘radical,’ they are not the work of ‘activists,’ they are not ‘worrying,’ they are terrorism. And they need to be reported as such, because we need to start talking about why only some things are defined as domestic terrorism in the United States, and why only some people are held accountable for acts of terrorism.
It is not coincidental that the people behind terrorism aimed at shutting down access to reproductive health care are usually white, Christian, and middle class. That plays a significant role in why their actions, which involve things like threatening people with death, attempting to bomb facilities, and suggesting they have access to bioweapons, are apparently not considered terrorism. Quite simply, a failure to label domestic terrorism as such when it involves white, middle class Christians is a reflection of racism and the other -isms that dominate social attitudes in the US, because you can damn well bet that if the people involved were nonwhite or people of colour, low-income, and/or non-Christian, they would be treated as the enemy, and the government as well as the media would be vilifying them.
Instead, the vile tactics of the anti-abortion movement have been tolerated for an extended period of time, and this has given members of the movement a considerable degree of boldness and bravery. Dr. Tiller was shot in broad daylight in church. This is terrorism. And it’s time for everyone, not just the reproductive justice movement, to start talking about it like it is. This is terrorism. This is terrorism. This. Is. Terrorism.
It’s also time for everyone to stop distancing themselves from the effects of violent rhetoric by attributing violent action to ‘crazy people.’ Members of the anti-abortion movement are not crazy. They are domestic terrorists who are willing to stop at nothing to achieve a political aim, and they use their rhetoric to inflame their movement, justify their actions, and draw followers. This is terrorism.