Protest, Harassment, Terrorism—Regardless of the Name, It’s Wrong

So-called “sidewalk counseling,” the practice of harassing women seeking abortions with non-medical, unwanted “advice,” and stalking the medical professionals and volunteers who assist them, has been praised by anti-choice believers and tolerated as much as possible by pro-choicers as an alleged freedom of speech.

But when those protests follow doctors home? How is that anything other than straight out harassment and potential terrorism?

A provider openly discusses the fear that both she and her family feel when anti-choice zealots follow her home into what should be her personal space.

Sending hate mail to my home is terrorism. Showing up outside a clinic administrators home and protesting outside of her house and coming on her property is terrorism. Calling a clinic landlord at home and comparing him to Hitler is terrorism. Shooting and killing a physician in his church or home is terrorism. These things happen and continue to happen in the world of abortion care. It is not OK.

I don’t know how long it will take before I stop being nervous when I check my mail. I don’t know how long it will be before I stop worrying that when I drive up to my house it might be vandalized. I do know that I will not stop working in abortion care. I do know that I will continue to push back on the stigma around abortion care by talking publicly about my experiences. And I do know now that my neighbors have my back and are supportive regardless of how they feel personally about abortion. And that my friends and family will do anything to keep me safe– even send me links to video surveillance services and offer to stand guard outside my house.

If anything this random, ugly piece of hate mail brought a lot of love into my life. And I suppose I’m grateful for that. But it’s still not OK.

Sending thinly veiled letters threatening violence was seen by one judge as not a FACE act violation because the sender wasn’t representing a “true threat.” But how can harassment removed from a workplace and brought straight to a person’s home be construed as anything else?

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  • crowepps

    The Judge missed the point — there wasn’t any way at all for the *victim* to be confident that the threat received wasn’t real or that the person writing the letter was a blowhard instead of a nutjob.

  • squirrely-girl

    Fact is, judges are rather poor… well… judges of the psychological propensity of an individual to be an actual risk or threat to another person… they’re trained to interpret the law, not human motive. 

    I have the utmost respect for the judiciary… until they start pretending they’re doctors or psychologists. 

  • crowepps

    The argument was, as I recall, that the woman wasn’t really planning to put a bomb under the doctor’s car, but instead *only* warning that was a possibility — which came across to me as kind of like the enforcer from the Mafia mentioning how it would be ‘a real shame if something happened to a nice place like this’ —


    Threatening people with harm if they continue to provide services you disapprove of, services which are entirely legal and constitutionally protected, is a terrorist tactic and *must* be suppressed with vigor.  People have an absolute right to freedom of speech when it comes to opinions — they do NOT have an absolute right to freedom of speech that forces others to comply with their requests through threats of harm.