Rather than be intimidated or back down from this bullying, Todd Stave, owner of the building where Dr. Leroy Carhart practices, chose to give anti-choicers a taste of their own medicine. He started taking down the names and phone numbers of the people who called him in protest and had volunteers call those people back to “thank them for their thoughts and tell them, ‘No, he will not be shutting Dr. Carhart down,’” Rachel Maddow reported last night.
This piece was amended at 3:24 pm on Thursday, July 5th, 2012 to correct the description of Diane Derzis, who is a clinic owner. An earlier version identified her as a clinic worker.
It seemed one of the most unlikely places for an anti-choice protest — a quiet, suburban middle school during back-to-school night. And yet, there they were, pictures of bloody fetuses in hand, and the picture, name, and phone number of Todd Stave, entrepreneur and owner of a Germantown, Maryland building that houses one the most protested clinics in America: the offices of Dr. LeRoy Carhart, of one of the only doctors in America to openly acknowledge that he performs late-term abortions.
This is a fight that is not new to Stave — his father, Carl Stave, was an abortion provider in the era immediately following Roe v. Wade that operated in the very same clinic. The clinic was firebombed and protesters once gathered to demonstrate outside of his father’s house.
But the targeting of his daughter’s school and the subsequent round-the-clock calls to his home were too much for the normally calm, composed Stave, who decided that enough was enough.
Quietly, he collected names and phone numbers of the protesters and he, along with a small group of friends, decided to turn the tables on those who had for so long been allowed to harass and bully without consequence. Thus, Voice of Choice was born.
Today, Voice of Choice has been featured on the Rachel Maddow Show, NPR, and in the Washington Post. Stave has also been honored by NARAL for his work. Its volunteers are ready and willing to calmly and peacefully make calls, send e-mails, and engage in other forms of direct action against the scores of anti-choice bullies who have become more and more emboldened by the increasing attacks on reproductive freedom.
Most recently, the target was Tony Massey of Denver, Colorado. Massey posted several videos of himself harassing a local restaurant as they delivered food to the Denver Planned Parenthood. In the video, he can be heard yelling things such as, “The killers are keeping you busy!” and “Your company benefits off the murder of little boys and girls!” At one point, the camera focuses on the license plates of the car being used to deliver the food. At the end, viewers are encouraged to contact the owners of Udi’s in protest of their support of the “baby killers.” In response, Voice of Choice encouraged their volunteer base to contact Massey to voice their opinion of his harassment. His home address and phone numbers were provided. In return, almost 500 informed Voice of Choice that they had spoken with or left messages for Massey.
In another recent campaign, a protester named Jeff White was confronted after he had been caught on video physically assaulting an Alabama clinic owner named Diane Derzis as law enforcement looked on and did nothing.
In an environment where many organizations have taken a stance of non-engagement, it is shocking to protesters when some one stands up to their bigotry and misogyny. And they often do not enjoy having their own tactics turned against them. Results have been dramatic and almost immediate, with many of the targets ceasing their harassment.
But they can’t do it without volunteers. Stave estimates that his current numbers stand around 10,000, but he is aiming for ten times that, an army so numerous and far-reaching that it will drown out the voices of hate and misogyny and leave in it’s place an environment where the voice for choice is clear and unmistakable.