The Dangerous Complacency of Victory

In the midst of shared elation over the election of Barack Obama
— the transcendence of the moment, the breaking of the racial barrier
and a new puppy in the White House — I remember that
complacency can result from victory.

the election, I have heard many people say, "Now, I don’t have to worry
about the Supreme Court," as if women’s reproductive
freedom will be secure because there is a "friend in the White House."
But the Supreme Court is far from the "Holy Grail" of abortion rights.

we can look forward to the appointment of Supreme Court
justices that are less likely to overturn Roe than McCain’s
choices would have been. But we have to be continually vigilant about
the guerilla tactics that may make Roe irrelevant, if not non-existent.
There can be no rest for those who work for reproductive justice and
for millions of women living in terror and danger in this country and
around the world.

I mark the firebombing of Bill Baird’s clinic
in 1979 during Jimmy Carter’s presidency as the beginning of radical
anti-abortion violence. Since then, I (and other providers) have been
living in a state of existential dread because there is nothing like
the threat of an unexpected, violent death to focus your mind. Since
the first bombings in 1977, that’s always been possible. Some of the
most difficult political times for reproductive rights, and me
personally, occurred during the Clinton years. Violence of all kinds
against abortion clinics was high.

While Clinton was President, there were 84 abortion clinic bombings. The first murder occurred: Dr.
David Gunn was shot to death by Michael Griffin. In fact, all of the
murders of abortion clinic providers occurred during the Clinton

What the National Abortion Federation (NAF) terms as
incidents of "extreme violence" reached 53 in Clinton’s tenure, while
there were only six during the Bush presidency.

It was during the Clinton years that I bought a shotgun and a handgun and learned how to use them.

was in 1994 that defrocked Rev. Paul Hill gunned down Dr. David Gunn’s
successor, Dr. John Britton, in Pensacola, killing him and his
bodyguard, James Barrett, and injuring Britton’s wife, June.

And it was in 1994 that federal marshals were stationed at the clinic where I work, Choices, for three months and other clinics around the country in response to the Pensacola killings.

I sat down to write this, an "alert" from NAF flashes on my screen. I
haven’t seen one of these in a while, but I am not surprised at its
content. It states that with the election of Barack Obama, all abortion
providers should immediately do the following:

  • Review
    security protocols with staff and make sure contact information for
    federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies is up-to-date.   
  • Keep lines of communication open and ensure that staff members report any suspicious activity
  • Make sure staff members responsible for opening and closing
    know how to respond if they notice something unusual or out of the
  • Take note of any change in protesters,
    including new or different protesters and any significant change in
    their numbers or the frequency of their demonstrations.
  • Make sure all security equipment (including alarms, cameras, lighting, recording devices, etc.) is in working order.

now, you may ask, while the majority of the country is awash in
jubilation at the election of a pro-choice progressive president?

there is nothing like the feeling of resentment and powerlessness to
fuel the fires of rectitude and righteousness of the right.

Because now is the time for potential aggressive and fatal activism to rise from the anti-abortion movement.

lost their "friend in the White House" may lead to the same ingredients
that were present during Clinton’s terms — feelings of frustration,
alienation, disengagement from the power structure, marginalization,
anger and hopelessness. They are the perfect cocktails to drive some on
the right to radical action.

Obama, being eminently reasonable,
will search for "common ground" on this issue, as on others, in an
attempt to bring unity. Many on the right will take some comfort in his
description of sexuality as "sacred." But can there really be common
ground with individuals who would deny women the right to some forms of
birth control, which they continue to describe as chemical warfare and
seek to criminalize doctors who perform abortions?

So as I take
a moment — just a moment — to share the joy and expectation of this
extraordinary historical time, I know that my battles continue and, in fact, some
may have only just begun.

This article was first published by On The Issues magazine.

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  • invalid-0

    Editor’s Note: Comment edited due to violation of our commenting policy.

    When one protects innocent people from being murdered, in this case the 32 babies the babykilling abortionist was going to murder, with lethal force that is defensive action.
    SAY THIS PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I am a sinner and am headed to eternal hell because of my sins. I believe you died on the cross to take away my sins and to take me to heaven. Jesus, I ask you now to come into my heart and take away my sins and give me eternal life.

  • invalid-0

    “…there is nothing like the threat of an unexpected, violent death to focus your mind.” What exactly do you think abortion is? And please stop calling us “anti-abortion”. We would prefer to be called by our rightful title of “pro-life” – not that I expect you to understand what that means.

    “CHOICES has been there for hundreds of thousands of women assisting them in what is one of the most difficult and profound decisions OF THEIR LIVES.” Am I to assume that you actually care about these womens’ lives and feelings? Correct me if I’m wrong, but the abortion “industry” is just that – a business. The only thing a business cares about is their bottom line.

    My heart goes out to ALL the women you exploit. I guess it’s by no accident that the “doctors” and “nurses” on your website are white, but the poor, distraught, frightened women you portray as “patients” are minorities. I hope and pray that they wake up to see that you are performing exactly what Margaret Sanger envisioned – a ruthless machine to eradicate the African/American and Hispanic races from American soil.

  • invalid-0

    You seriously believe abortion providers would risk being killed by wingnuts such as the anonymous poster above because they make such huge profits? I think you know that’s nonsensical. Bear in mind also that it’s not just doctors who are endangered by wingnuttery, but also receptionists, security staff, volunteers and so on. If you think they’re raking in massive profits, you are sadly misinformed.

  • invalid-0

    first of all, “anonymou”, paul hill DID murder 2 human beings. murder is the unlawful killing of a person. unless some major, unbelievable change in u.s. law has occured that i’m not aware of, shooting a person in any other circumstance than self-defense is MURDER. no one has the right to murder another person because you disagree with what they do. well, except for our government, ‘cos paul hill was LEGALLY killed by the state of florida for his crimes in 2003.
    secondly, you are an ugly, vicious hypocrite. anyone who is warped enough to defend a man who murdered two people, two people with families and loved ones, is truly a heartless, twisted deviant. and how much more twisted i feel you are for thinking yourself a christian. you clearly know NOTHING about jesus’ teachings, or selfishly ignore the teachings such as “turn the other cheek”, “love your enemies”. not that i believe you should be so consumed with hatred as to consider doctors, escorts, and women your enemies – but, you obviously hate them so deeply as to defend a murderer.
    and thirdly, in response to your condescending prayer you think visitors to this site should say: here’s one last teaching of jesus i think you perverse charlatans who have hijacked a beautiful religion do your best to ignore(luke 6:42):

    “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you don’t see the beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you’ll see clearly enough to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

  • invalid-0

    right. the day anti-choicers like you stop using words like “murderer”, “baby killer”, etc. – then MAYBE pro-choicers will CONSIDER listening to your demands. please.
    pro-life, huh? when was the last time you feed a poverty-stricken child? how about the last time you did something to help a homeless family? it’s so easy to type out nonsensical comments on a reproductive rights site, not so easy to actually HELP a REAL child or person in need, huh?
    and you can claim that you’ve done actual things for real people all you want, and i won’t believe you. why? ‘cos i’d have a really hard time believing that a person who could read about violence and murder is still so ugly & twisted, the only comment they think to leave is more ugly stupidity. well, maybe you helped someone once, until you discovered they’re not your religion or something, then you probably hated them.
    funny how you people are so, so sure a zygote is a human being, yet are consumed with a vile hatred with actual people. sick. you are sick. i just pray that at least a few of your type wake up before it’s too late. you’re sick, shellalady.

  • invalid-0

    Shellalady, women have been having abortions for millenia. They weren’t specifically invented for use as American weapons of genocide. In fact, it’s often poor minority women who are unable to get abortions, so your implication that pro-choicers are into eugenics is nonsensical.

    Does your heart also go out to those women with no access to legal, safe abortion, who were so desperate they resorted to a dangerous procedure done by an untrained person (even herself) and died or suffered severe injury?

  • invalid-0

    Anonymous, are you rev Spitz of the terrorist group ‘Army of God’?

    You have clearly lost all perspective. It’s dishonest for you to be referring to yourself as ‘pro-life’ when you think murdering staff at abortion clinics is perfectly reasonable. I’d use the term ‘pro-foetus’, if I were you. It’s a little more honest. You could also rename your group ‘Foetus First’. It’s kinda catchy!

    I have no intention of praying to your god. I’m an atheist. Your bible is much like a Grimms fairy tale.

  • mellankelly1

    Anyone who condones murdering innocent doctors could hardly be considered "pro-life" by any stretch of the word.  The extremists who wish to criminalize abortion and support murdering people are rightly labeled "anti-abortion" (pro-violence or hypocrite would sum it up pretty well also.)  Those who wish to find ways to reduce the need for abortion but fully support women and their basic rights as people (including their right to decide the course of their own pregnancies) could be considered "pro-life" and/or pro-choice.  Further, your rhetoric does nothing but support the premise that people like you are unstable, self-righteous control-freaks who won’t let a little something like truth get in their way.