STOKING FIRE: Extremist Anti-Choice Groups Plan Five-State Assault


The fanatical fundamentalists are at it again. Not to be outdone by Catholic bishops clamoring for ever-increasing fetal protections, Flip Benham’s Operation Save America has teamed up with Go Stand Speak, LifeLink, Jeremiah Cry Ministries, Personhood USA, and Repent America to  make five states—Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming—abortion “refuges.”

The five were chosen because each has just one reproductive health clinic. What’s more, the campaign to make these states abortion-free will link grassroots activism—raucous picketing, complete with billboard-sized pictures of bloody body parts–with a media crusade geared to maligning those who support freedom of choice.

According to OSA’s website, the groups will return to Jackson Hole, Wyoming from May 16th to 20th and will visit Little Rock, Arkansas from September 12th to 16th and Jackson, Mississippi from November 7the to 11th. They’ll also be in Charlotte, North Carolina during the Democratic National Convention, July 21st to 28th. As of this writing, both North and South Dakota appear to have been spared a direct appearance from OSA activists.

But lest you write off these protests as same-old/same-old, please know that they’re not. OSA’s latest effort comes with a newsworthy difference–scope. The group has not only done outreach to legislators in each targeted state, they’ve also contacted 950 evangelical churches to solicit financial and on-the-ground support.

Their appeal to largely African-American congregations included a copy of Maafa 21, a 137-minute documentary produced by Mark Crutcher of Life Dynamics Inc. in 2009. The film presents abortion and birth control as central components of a Caucasian plot to annihilate people of color; it further lambasts Planned Parenthood as a purveyor of racism and hatred of the poor. Predominantly white churches received The Abortion Matrix, a 10-part, 195-minute film, released in 2011, that posits the reproductive justice movement as a satanic cult comprised of witches and goddess worshippers.

While I have no idea who bankrolled this undertaking, the missive that accompanied the DVDs—signed by Benham and OSA Assistant Director Rusty Thomas—is clearly meant to rev up the fire-and-brimstone set. The Civil War took 630,000 lives, it begins, as payback for slavery.

”What do you think the toll will be when God Almighty demands an accounting for all the innocent blood that America has shed since the infamous Roe v. Wade decision,” the letter asks.

Released to coincide with the 39th anniversary of the Roe decision, the letter came at a time of such intense anti-feminist backlash that even the most absurd anti-woman pronouncements seem capable of gaining traction. And rest assured, the just-released Abortion Matrix is nothing if not absurd. The more than three-hour long narrative takes swipes at supposedly anti-Christian lawmakers and leaders, among them Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Barack Obama, and Margaret Sanger—but saves its most shrill condemnation for clinic workers, AKA members of Wiccan religious orders.

“Witchcraft is endemic to the abortion industry,” narrator Eric Holmberg declares. “It is a key component in a vast conspiracy in the tradition of paganism.”

Luminaries of the feminist spirituality movement including Starhawk, Zsuzsanna Budapest, and Ginette Paris are slammed, not only as man-haters, but also as proponents of infanticide. As the film unfolds the kind of music typically heard in campy horror flicks envelops the viewer. Throughout, Holmberg describes a litany of evil. Looking the viewer straight in the eye, it’s as if he wants to share a dastardly secret. Yes, he assures viewers, the goddess Aphrodite demands child sacrifice—or, in today’s parlance, abortion. Close-ups of a Florida clinician’s bumper sticker—In Goddess We Trust—is, he says, proof of this phenomenon.

Abigail Seidman, the daughter of a Midwestern clinic worker turned anti-abortion activist, is trucked out as the star witness. Clinic employees, she rails, are heathens who see abortion as a necessary rite of passage. Among her more inane assertions: Each spring, several staffers at an unnamed health center intentionally become pregnant so that they can have abortions. This, she reports, is meant to appease the blood lust of the female deities these vixens worship.

Yes, that’s really what she says.

Toward the end of The Abortion Matrix a section called Defeating Jezebel reveals the filmmaker’s political intent: Activating the fundamentalist base to stop abortion by whatever means.

“Without out-and-out spiritual warfare, what are our chances for victory where one million children are sacrificed each year?” Holmberg bellows. The imperative to act is boosted by an injunction to “heavenize the world…Deliver blows as hard as we can hit…Nothing but forked-lightening Christians will count,” he concludes.

You can imagine Benham’s glee at seeing The Abortion Matrix. In fact, its presentation of God-fearing Christians battling Godless baby-killers underscores the message he’s been delivering for 35 years. Furthermore, by sending copies to churches and legislators he’s made clear that he sees the film as a useful tool in the campaign to make some states abortion free.

Whether fundamentalists will take Matrix – or, for that matter, Maafa 21– seriously or laugh it off the screen is hard to predict. That said, Vicki Saporta, CEO and President of the National Abortion Federation, believes that Benham’s efforts are a direct violation of his current legal status.

“This effort is obviously meant to intimidate abortion providers so that they will stop providing care to women,” she begins. “It flies in the face of Benham’s 18-month probation which began in August 2011. At that time the judge ordered him to curtail his intimidating behavior.”

NAF is presently investigating this possible infraction. Meanwhile, if anyone knows how to turn antis into frogs, this seems like the perfect moment to cast a spell.

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