Yesterday on Morning Edition, National Public Radio’s national morning news magazine, a story ran about the Justice Department taking a “tougher stance” on abortion protesters.
The story profiles the work of the Department of Justice’s National Task Force on Violence Against Health Care Providers. The task force, created to combat the supposed scourge of violence against abortion workers back in 1998, prosecutes violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, but was almost never utilized after President Bush was elected in 2000.
Since President Obama took office in 2008, it’s been a different story. The task force has been revitalized and has already filed eight cases of FACE violations. Planned Parenthood and National Abortion Federation representatives make clear in the story that they’re working with the task force to encourage further persecution of Americans who oppose abortion.
FBI at Cedar Rapids Protest
Eric Scheidler talks with FBI agents in Cedar Rapids, IA [Photo by Sam Scheidler]
We saw evidence of this task force at work last year when we protested Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards’ appearance at a fundraising banquet in Iowa. At the last minute, as we were on our way to the protest, a story broke in the local press that Planned Parenthood had been collaborating with local law enforcement and the FBI to “ensure the safety of Richards and those attending the anniversary banquet.”
In the same breath, Planned Parenthood’s representative acknowledged that they had not had a single incident of violence in its 30 year history in Iowa, which raises the question of why he would so suddenly be so concerned. It was, of course, all bluster and an attempt to direct people’s attention away from the violence that is Planned Parenthood’s bread and butter: abortion.
Even more strangely, we had contacted the police weeks before the protest informing them of our plans and offering to cooperate any way we could and heard back nothing. But when we showed up for the protest, FBI agents were there informing us of restrictions on where we could and couldn’t be.
The protest was executed peacefully and smoothly, despite law enforcement’s last-minute infringements on our plans, showing once again that pro-life violence is a straw man. But for a few fringe elements, the myth of the violent pro-lifer is simply that, a myth, perpetuated by Planned Parenthood and their abortion cronies and blown out of proportion with such salesmanship that even the FBI believes it.
Crack Down Has Nothing to do with Activism
The insidious element to this story is that it paints all pro-lifers and pro-life activities with a broad brush.
In reality, the FACE Act has an incredibly limited scope: people trying to physically stop women from entering an abortion clinic. The League and every reputable pro-life organization stand firmly against actual violations of FACE such as violence against abortion clinic buildings or staff or physically trying to stop women from entering the abortion facility.
Prayer, protest and sidewalk counseling within the constraints of local ordinances are still perfectly legal and protected by your 1st Amendment rights. You are well within your rights to pursue these peaceful methods of fighting abortion, despite the NPR story’s intent to make it seem like the government is cracking down on all pro-life activism.
Be Not Afraid
The League’s message to pro-lifers who might be intimidated or scared away from life-saving pro-life activism, prayer and counseling at their local abortion facility is this: Be not afraid.
Those words, beloved by Blessed Pope John Paul II, are even more fitting given that the late Pontiff once declared the fight against abortion the most important work on earth. We must not let anything dissuade us from trying to stop the horror of abortion and persuading our fellow Americans to see it for what it is.
Far from discouraging us, articles like this should inspire us to work all the harder. So find your local abortion facility and get involved in fighting abortion there. If you’re not sure what to do, you can contact your local pro-life group or take a look at the League’s Marching Orders page or the sidewalk counseling page for ideas on how you can get started.