Vigil for Life’s “ABP Alert:” What Happens if You Forget to Tell Your Harassers You Don’t Want to be Harassed?


A couple of weeks ago, I shared an email “ABP” issued by the radical Wisconsin anti-choice group Vigil for Life (VFL). To quickly recap, VFL “sidewalk counseled” a woman seeking services at a Madison Planned Parenthood. However, when the woman left, the VFL volunteers (or as they say “prayer warriors”) neglected to get her name.

So, Laura and Steve Karlen who run VFL, issued the following description of the young woman with direction to call if she were spotted:

Have you seen the pregnant mom? The young pregnant woman, probably in her 20s, had a darker complexion with dyed red hair and tattoos on her neck and right shoulder. She also had some facial piercings. The woman looked obviously pregnant. We pray that she will never decide to come back to Planned Parenthood. Please let us know immediately if you have seen a woman with this description.

Lisa Subek of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin had the opportunity to share this email with Madison Police Chief, Nobel Wray. Subek said in an email, “According to [Wray], it is legal to send such an email but could be considered harassment if the individual who is the subject of the email told the so-called “sidewalk counselors” she didn’t want further contact from them. She could have filed a complaint regarding the email.”

So, does this mean one must opt out of harassment by radical anti-choice zealots? That we must be clear with those “sidewalk” counselors who scream at us as we enter a woman’s health clinic that we don’t want them to stalk us later?

Subek said Wray did understand concerns about emails like these, but continued: “I’m not surprised by this answer, but it certainly makes me think about our legal definition of harassment and how we do not do enough to prevent it or to protect victims.”

Wisconsin code defines harassment in the following way:

Striking, shoving, kicking or otherwise subjecting another person to physical contact; engaging in an act that would constitute abuse under s.48.02 (1), sexual assault under s.940.225, or stalking under s.940.32; or attempting or threatening to do the same. (b) Engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts which harass or intimidate another person and which serve no legitimate purpose.

Vigil for Life certainly has the ‘no legitimate purpose’ part nailed.

VFL’s website explains that, the Karlens’ began “coordinating” Vigil for Life after the 2009 40 Days for Life campaign. According to Wisconsin state filings, VFL was incorporated in 2009. It is currently delinquent in filing a state required annual report. Emails to Vigil for Life and a call to Mrs. Karlen were not returned.

We do know that Vigil for Life protests in front of Madison clinics Monday through Friday. It boast such followers as Ralph Lang, the man who was planning an attack on Planned Parenthood to: “lay out abortionists because they are killing babies.” Lang attended several of VFL’s “vigils.”

VFL is also affiliated with Pro Life Wisconsin is currently pushing a personhood amendment in the state. Green Bay State Representative, Andre Jacque introduced Joint Resolution 77 on November 16. This is among scores of new personhood legislation being introduced throughout the country on the heels of Mississippi’s failed personhood amendment. In order for any amendment to be added to the ballot, it must pass two consecutive sessions of congress. So, even if the personhood amendment passes the legislature in 2012, it must then pass in 2013 to make the ballot for the statewide Wisconsin election in 2014.

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