An employee of Austin Women's Health Center in Austin, TX came to work this morning to find a "suspicious package" in the parking lot. She called the police – which any abortion clinic staffer knows to do – who found that the package was, in fact, a bomb. The explosive device was then disarmed while a "nearby apartment complex was evacuated and traffic halted on the interstate" that runs by the clinic, according to a Reuters story.
Both the FBI and the ATF were brought in. Why weren't abortion clinics around the country immediately informed? Maybe because the most this story warranted, as far as national media goes, was a short piece that came through the wire via the Associated Press and Reuters.
So, we've got the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and a bomb planted in a high-traffic area. This is certainly worthy of national news, no? Well, not if it's a bomb meant for an abortion clinic obviously.
Why are incidents like this treated as mere blips on the national news screen rather than certain stories of domestic terrorism at work? If a bomb had been discovered in the parking lot of the Washington Post or the New York Times would it warrant more extensive coverage? What if there was a history of explosive devices being planted in the vicinity of the buildings that housed large mainstream media outlets? Likely we would have a swarm of reporters with shrieking headlines of terrorism at work.
Somehow, when the bomb is planted in the parking lot of a women's health center where abortions are performed the story slides by, relatively unnoticed. Except, of course, by those of us who work – or have worked – at abortion clinics. As a former abortion clinic staffer for almost seven years, I can tell you these kinds of scares are not treated mildly. We know exactly what this means. It's not a cryptic message and it is not treated as a benign symbol meant only to strike fear with no teeth behind it.
When you've worked with courageous, strong women who have had their workplace and their co-workers ripped to shreds by a bomb that has exploded and that was meant to maim and kill, you do not take these sorts of threats lightly. When you meet Emily Lyons and see her brave, yet heart breaking struggle, to push past her experience as the victim of an exploding bomb, you do not take this threat lightly. When you come to work every day to hold women's hands, hear their stories and care for their health, but first must walk past your smiling police officer that guards the door, and be buzzed in through the security doors, you do not take this kind of a threat lightly.
And, of course, as Shakepeare's Sister points out there are the women who come to these health center seeking care but finding harrassment:
And I imagine when you’re a woman who will have to navigate that security, who may have to be escorted by a volunteer from the sidewalk to the door through a crowd of demonstrating lunatics, to get an abortion which is your legal right, you don’t take this kind of a threat lightly, either.
I'm not sure what will prod the national news media to cover these incidents as domestic terrorism. I do know that the more pro-choice advocates rally behind those who work at abortion clinics as the truly heroic in this movement, the less likely it will be that these sorts of stories go unnoticed. So, email the clinic and let them know that even if the mainstream media doesn't consider this newsworthy, it's of utmost importance to you.
Please check out these other amazing pieces about the bomb scare and it's glaring void in the national news: