"The only difference between the American anti-abortion movement and the Taliban is about 8,000 miles."
Dr Warren Hern, MD
I have to admit that sometimes I get nervous doing this work. I try not to. And I do things purposefully not to freak myself out about potential violence towards me or my colleagues by generally avoiding news articles on individuals like Scott Roeder, who murdered Dr. Tiller. Take today, for example; I read part of an article posted by Center for Independent Media entitled "Des Moines Anti-Choicer Hopes to Free Alleged Tiller Assassin." Firstly, I don't like the title. This "anti-choicer" is a terrorist who advocates "justifiable homicide" (the disgusting term used by said terrorist group[s] who state murdering abortion doctors/workers is just fine and dandy). This individual actually publishes a newsletter called "Prayer Action and News" which promotes murdering doctors. This asshole is trying to get Dr. Tiller's murderer (not assassin) acquitted. Asshole.
So, though I was annoyed by the title of the article because I believed it was too soft/forgiving, I also I thought it was disarming (excuse the pun!) to read about yet another publication advocating the murder of abortioneers; as a result, I felt a bit scared and didn't want to finish reading the article. This doesn't help with my general distrust - and sometimes paranoia - about the general public. I mean, how many people have bomb threat cheat sheets next to their phones at work (to document bomb threats), let alone actual protocols and procedures on how to handle such calls. How normal is it to have one of the local US Marshal's cell number programmed into your phone? Today, I noticed the purple "ANTHRAX" brochure next to the designated area where we open mail (because, yes, we must have a "designated area" and a designated person who opens all mail. This person is trained to open mail.)
Usually, I don't really notice this stuff. It becomes normal. Every once in awhile, though, I stop and think, "Shit. This really isn't normal. It's really f^cked up we have to deal with this everyday." I spoke with a family planning nurse today who works for a different organization. She said, "People think we do abortions here. We get nasty looks sometimes. I don't know how you can publicly say what you do. How hard that must be." Up until that point in the day, I had been living in blissful abortion-la-la land where I thought everyone was happy to talk about abortion, where no one was judgmental, and no one would be a target of hate or violence. Swiftly, my little la-la land bubble burst and I fell solidly onto the ground, picked myself up and re-entered reality.
But I hate this reality. I hate this schism. I hate that I get scared sometimes because there are literal lunatics out there that live and thrive off of hate (which is sooo not what abortionland is about: abortionland is filled with the most compassionate, loving, generous people I know). So I agree with the statement made by Dr. Hern at the beginning of this post. The reality is, we need to be protected. We need to have a terrorist watch list. And we need to feel safe to go to work and not have stupid purple ANTHRAX brochures, or how-to-open-the-mail trainings, or feel nervous/scared to say aloud, "I work for xyz." I don't like that I live in a very safe, quiet, family-friendly neighborhood but must get an alarm system for my house (not because of fear of breaking-and-entering, but for fear of being followed home by crazy antis).
My biggest wish at the moment is this: to come up with an "I Had A Dream" speech, like MLK's, but instead of it being about racism, have it be about abortion. I think I would start it out like, "I had a dream where doctors, nurses, healthcare professionals, clinic escorts, fund-raisers, all abortion providers, could work free from fear, free from harm, free from worry. A dream where abortion workers could drive safely to their homes, without concern of being followed/video-taped/harrassed or having their homes broken into. A dream where doctors were not murdered outside the lobby of their church. A dream where receptionists were not murdered at their place of work. A dream where bombs didn't go off in garbage cans outside clinics. A dream where protesters did not exist. I had a dream that women had access to abortion in every county and that they were free of charge, without parental consent or 24-hour waiting periods. A dream where clinic workers could arrive safely to work, without need of video cameras, alarm systems, bullet-proof windows and doors. A dream where doctors did not have to wear bullet-proof vests and could freely do their life work, with passion and love, far from fear. A dream where little girls and grown women could hold hands and say aloud, "I had an abortion" and feel proud, and not faded by stigma...." I could go on...and on...for ages.
But maybe that's what we all need: an I HAD A DREAM - an ABORTION Dream, speech. No one thought MLK's speech would make a difference. It has. Who knows. Maybe it could help all of us, too. I had a dream...