I didn't really plan on writing a diary today. I am supposed to be working. The first notice I got that the buffer zone legislation had been overturned was from Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
I kind of shrugged. You know why? Because I expected it. I tried to go back to work but I just can't.
I can't because I was directly involved in the passing of that legislation at a city level, while I worked for an abortion provider, as Director of Security. And I was Director of Security the day Dr. George Tiller was shot.
So for those of you who write "not a student of abortion clinic violence lol" listen up, because I am. And I'm going to tell you how it is.
For those of you who are familiar with the FACE Act (Freedom of Access to Clinics Act), you will know that the reason it was passed was because of the violent protests in front of clinics. In many cases, the protestors would chain themselves to the door and keep women from entering, sometimes by force, by grabbing and touching women and threatening bodily harm. Carrying signs and singing are not covered by the FACE act (free speech), but threats are. You can't threaten women trying to access a reproductive health facility.
So what's a threat?
Well, "you're going to Hell" is not a threat. However, one of my "favorite" tactics was for the protestors to bring a bully breed dog with a spike collar and have it sit with him all day.
Is that a threat or intimidation?
How about if the dog is growling at people? How about if that dog is now near the entrance?
Is recording who enters and exits and writing down license plate numbers a threat? How about if they are standing next to you and recording your facial expressions as they tell you to stop being such a slut?
How about following you home? Is that threatening?
How about picketing a physician's house and passing out fliers to your neighbors "just so they know what kind of person lives next door?"
What about open carry states? Now you can open carry right up to the clinic door, maybe even into the clinic.
Oh, and they did get in the clinic sometimes. They might make an appointment for themselves, drop off literature in the waiting room, and then leave. Sometimes they would come in for abortions themselves, and then go right back out and protest the next day.
We had one guy who loved to jump out of the bushes at staff and scream about Hell at them while they were trying to go to work. We had staff members who had their tires slashed repeatedly, nails driven into their tires, and acid attacks on the property and bomb threats. We had people threaten contractors trying to do work on the facility. This finally brought the Department of Justice to our doorstep, who looked at our security and said, "hey, you have a great security program, keep it up." AKA, we're doing all we can do.
So why don't we just get help from the police?
Well, the police were kind of on the protestors' side. They would come out and joke it up, say "don't do that, har har", and that was that. One time a protestor threw himself in front of a car and said that a patient tried to run him over and the patient was detained by police and almost arrested. We had protestors try and touch people. Those folks would quickly get corrected by other protestors who know exactly how far to push it.
Another fun thing I dealt with was our package carrier writing "BABY KILLERS" on our packages, and some of them mysteriously being opened and "lost".
After Obama was in the White House the DOJ finally got around to prosecuting under the FACE Act. But finally we ended up having to petition for a buffer zone due to protestors who were dressing up like clinic escorts so that patients would get confused as to who worked for the clinic and would accidentally hook up with a protestor to hear all about why she is going to Hell and all kinds of misinformation about the abortion procedure.
Abortion doctors have a joke that Kevlar vests are pointless because they all shoot for the head now anyway. And now they can walk right up to a doctor walking into work. And anti-choicers know exactly when the docs get there, what they look like, and where they live.
I also always laugh when someone says the violence and intimidation stats are low. Those statistics are underreported. Wikipedia's summary of how many violent events have happened? Way too low. There is no formal documentation project related to threats, violence, and violations of FACE. There are a few private projects but participation is not required. Just in my two years as DoS I saw the statistics go up, and went completely insane after Obama was elected. Fun fact: If there's a "real Christian" in the White House violence tapers off because of the Federal anti-abortion access legislation that gets passed. They feel validated and in control and don't harass individual women as much.
Almost daily I was recording threats to patients and staff and staff's family. I worked with a woman who was AT the Massachusetts clinic the day the violence happened there and she was getting nervous. People trying to get in the door when patients opened them. After all of the anti-choice activity and infringements upon patients and their rights I recorded -- oh, and I recorded and documented and documented and recorded -- there was one day when I no longer had any tolerance for an anti-choice belief system. And that was the day that one man yelled to the young child of a woman who was coming for a Pap smear: "They are going to kill you in there."
That was the day I broke. I left that job not too long after that. I realized that nothing is going to stop the coming violence, and for the rest of my life when the inevitable happened on my watch I would never be able to live with it because I would feel responsible for not being able to protect staff and patients. Anti-choicers have been very successful, because everyone else minimizes how often this happens and how terrible it is. Everyone thinks the nail bombs are few and far between. Because everyone has been so apathetic, and believes abortion happens to sluts and other people, that the only moral abortion is my abortion, that there is no good medical reason for it, that the only women who have abortions are selfish upper class women who don't want to mother or poor welfare queens who have 8 kids anyhow and use it as birth control -- women are going to die, and people are going to get shot, stabbed, and blown up. To try and do something from a place of impotence is the reason why we worked to create a buffer zone in the first place, and the reason why FACE exists, and we did it because a lack of protection is the reason why George Tiller is dead.
Funnily enough, the FACE Act also covers houses of worship.