After the shooting at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood last week (which I wrote about here), one woman, Bryn Greenwood, went to Twitter to discuss the habitual harassment she had observed while working at a Planned Parenthood in Kansas. You can read the Buzzfeed article with her Tweets here, but essentially she talked about threatening phone calls, stink bombs and gasoline, windows being shot out, and protestors harassing employees cleaning up the damage – and this despite the fact that their location didn’t even provide abortions.
Even worse is the fact that these incidents weren’t isolated. In fact, Planned Parenthood (and other abortion providers) experience thousands of harassing incidents every year. This ranges from picketing, phone calls, and trespassing to terrorist threats, bombings, and murder. And hospitals, clinics, and health care providers are supposed to be protected from this kind of behavior by federal law.
Planned Parenthood and harassment are now linked in the mind of the public, and Planned Parenthood staff are now trained to deal with this behavior. However, how can people receive quality healthcare if they have to push through picketers, justify whatever service they’re going to receive, and be evacuated during that service? How can people feel safe when there are perhaps dozens of people outside screaming at them? How can healthcare providers be their most effective when they’re afraid to come into work?
It’s simply unacceptable that Planned Parenthood or any healthcare provider would have to endure this – and it’s even more unacceptable that we allow it. Why does free speech mean having carte blanche to inflict terror on a non-profit and prevent private citizens from accessing the services of their choice? Free speech doesn’t mean infringing on others’ rights; it means getting to say your piece, that’s it. And why do people think that it’s acceptable to try to physically stop a legal, voluntary process from happening? Is it acceptable to grab food from someone’s hand? To rip a blood bag from someone’s arm? To flush another person’s pills? To stone a person going through a divorce? Of course not, and yet all of these actions could have real, moral ramifications no less distressing than a person having an abortion. So what makes it okay to deny access to this specific healthcare provider?
We must condemn these acts of violence and terrorism. We must hold people accountable for what they choose to do to others. We must stop hiding behind free speech and freedom of religion because they have nothing to do with allowing terrorism to continue. They do not make hurting others and shutting down a low-cost healthcare provider acceptable. They are simply shields that people used to hide behind the fact that they are morally bankrupt, that they would rather hurt someone than live in a world with things they disagree with, and that they are bad, vicious people who feel good about hurting others.
And let me re-stress this: this systematic, habitual, continual, unimpeded harassment of Planned Parenthood and those who use it is terrorism. It is an ideological war against actual people and places. It seeks to force a certain kind of morality and world view on others. And it is wrong.