Thursday, October 04, 2007

it's not over: Harassment in Aurora

i almost did something bad today.

a coworker showed me a mailer she got in the post sponsored by the folks at Pro-Life Action League. it was chock full of ridiculous inflammatory misinformation about Planned Parenthood ("they encourage sex before marriage! they think babies are smelly!") and it made me so angry that i did something that was a little nuts:

i looked up the home address in aurora of eric scheidler, the communications director for Pro-Life Action League and son of joe scheidler, the zealot patriarch leading the local charge against the folks at Planned Parenthood.

i copied the address. i thought about posting it here and telling pro-choicers to use it and send the scheidlers a little taste of their own harrassment.

but i had an icky feeling. in a rare moment, i felt shame at taking a political fight to the doorstep of a family of 10 (they have 8 kids) to scream at them for hating people like me, for thinking that their grip on righteousness allows them to harrass and violate the privacy of women like me.

why don't the pro-lifers feel that shame?

Real Time: Harassment in Aurora

(p.s. pro life folk say Planned Parenthood slandered joe scheidler with one of their ads. this interview with eric zorn says otherwise.)


lunalibre said...

WRT "why don't the pro-lifers feel that shame?"...well, it's because they haven't tried to put themselves in the place of ANYONE else. They haven't tried to feel the anguish of a woman who chooses abortion. They haven't tried to feel the desperation of someone who has no where else to turn for health care. Joe Scheidler has his traditional family with (presumably) a stay-at-home mom with their eight children. They simply can't empathize with anyone who lives a different life.

I think anyone with an OUNCE of empathy is pro-choice.

And kudos to you for not stooping to their level. I can understand the temptation, but as a mother of two kids, congratulations for not scaring their family.

Jeff said...

I'm sorry, I don't think your level of shame has anything to do with whether you are pro-life or pro-choice (I am speaking as a former pro-lifer. Actually I still might be. I don't know exactly where I stand). I think it has something to do with your level of shame. I know for a fact there are plenty of pro-lifers who DO feel that shame, and I'm guessing there are plenty of obnoxious pro-choicers out there.

I don't think it's constructive to demonize pro-lifers. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn't mean they can't have empathy or restraint.

Nonetheless, this guy sounds like a big fat jerk.

ding said...

hm. i don't know if copying license plates and following people home to protest in their neighborhoods is a sign of empathy or even good impulse control.

i agree (a little bit) that it might not be fair to 'demonize' pro-lifers, but this is the picture we're presented with - fanatical, harrassing, obsessive and, unfortunately, threatening women and the people who work in these centers. it's not as if bullet-proof glass was just a design whim on the part of the planned parenthood folks.

in their own words scheidler's group says their goal is to stop abortion by any means - scaring contractors, following employees, going to homes, defaming people to their peers and neighbors.

i don't see restraint in that and i don't think that's me demonizing them.

Stranger said...

So glad you came to your senses, I hate to see people stoop low to the obvious lowness of others.

Besides, you don't want to be sue

Jeff said...

I'm not defending scheidler's group. In this case, there's no need to demonize-- they do it themselves.

I just don't like lumping all pro-life people in that category. This is a heated enough issue that we should treat people with respect (unless for some reason they have lost it completely through despicable outward practice as you are describing). Saying that ALL pro-lifers don't have empathy or that ALL pro-lifers "feel no shame" (ie, have no restraint) is inaccurate and harmful.

Let me again stress that I'm NOT defending the practices of this radical pro-life group. In fact their practices disgust me and I'd like nothing more than to see them shut down. I'm just saying they are the vocal, visible minority.

ding said...

thanks, jeff. you're right. it is hard to make these distinctions when what we're presented with is so on the fringe. it's like, during all the 'values' hoopla a few years ago, it was a popular conception that progressives couldn't also be people of faith. as a person of faith, though sometimes my faith can be shaky, i was a little frustrated that Values were only seen through a fundamentalist lens.

just as a point of curiosity, what do you think is the position of the silent majority of pro-life advocates who aren't like scheidler's folks?

Jeff said...

The example that jumped into mind was a circumstance that I don't remember the details of nor the woman involved. I was pretty young at the time, and my parents have always been very strongly pro-life (and until recently I was also very strongly and traditionally pro-life). There was a woman in my church in some kind of tough situation with an unwanted pregnancy (not a rape case, though), and I remember very vividly my mother saying "Whatever happens we'll be with you, and there for you." i.e., we'll still love you if you get an abortion, we won't judge you, etc. Maybe that's not the way the silent majority behaves, I dunno. What I do know is that, having grown up as a pro-lifer amongst pro-lifers, I have never met anyone willing to go to the extremes these people go to. The worst might have been sympathetic, but most do not approve of such tactics under any circumstances.
I should say that it's possible I overlooked the extremism around me, and this is of course anecdote, which isn't evidence. But in my experience, pro-life people have the best of intentions and are caring, loving people.

Anonymous said...

But in my experience, pro-life people have the best of intentions and are caring, loving people.

I think so, too, Jeff. On that note, christians do not hate homosexuals at least the majority of God fearing ones. Really they don't.

ding said...

thanks, anon, but if we could leave the gay stuff for a gay post, that would be great. i don't want to get derailed here.

jeff, or anon, what do you think could be done to make this pro-reproductive justice and pro-life conflict less acrimonious? how can the two sides be less wary of each other?

(and i don't think it's about the pro-reproductive justice folks changing their minds...)

Jeff said...

Well, sure, once I solve the pro-life v. pro-choice debate, I'll move on to the Middle East... ;)

I don't know. I think some compromises should be made by both camps. For instance, one move pro-choice groups could make would be to make it a stated goal to reduce the total number of abortions while retaining legality. My understanding is that there are a lot of pro-choice people out there who don't necessarily approve of abortion but think it should still be legal.
One thing pro-life groups should absolutely do is separate themselves from this ridiculous notion of birth control being evil. I guess there are a number of christian sects that think it is immoral for whatever reason, which is silly. We need more scriptural education in general, anyway. And of course we need some groups to openly condemn some of these "the ends justify the means" tactics.

Of course, the simplest and most direct thing that can be done is to debate the issue respectfully. It does no one any good to insult either side. It's true that our point of view seems obvious to us; but the corollary is that THEIR point of view seems obvious to THEM. I've gone through a lot of shifting of points of view recently and it's given me a lot of respect for the "other guy" (or gal, of course). It's also true that there are people who are closed-minded and will never learn, but my thought is this: always, always, always give the benefit of the doubt. Even someone who looks extremely stubborn could be at the beginning of a journey to enlightenment. So be kind beyond what they deserve. In the end, you'll come out on top and looking good, and they might come out changed for the better.

It's easy to call names, generalize, and dismiss. It's hard to respect, have empathy, and kindly but firmly argue your points. But in the end, it's worth it.

Anonymous said...

That is the main problem that all christians think a like and the other side of the argument all think a like. Would I truly want someone having the right to tell me what I should do with my own body? Don't I have the right to say that God, not me, created man in His own image, and He alone has the right to end a life?

There will never be an happy medium, NEVER! I agree totally with Jeff, it's how we choose to argue our differences. Do we really care for the other person or group? Do I condemn a pro-choicer being a child of God, or is that God's area? What should my responses be to those who are choosing to abort a fetus?

The gay argument is because I see it as the same. Do we hate the sin and love the sinner? Can the two be separate?


ding said...

anon: while i can understand, and grew up hearing, that position (love sinner/hate sin) i have often found that it's a religious folly - and a disingenuous one.

for those of us who think that homosexuality is not a choice, there is no dividing line between the person and what his/her life is; for the religious person who hates the sin, it's hard to find evidence of loving the 'sinner' when so often the 'hating the sin' appears as discrimination, which adversely affects the 'sinner'.

so, as an analogy of how the faithful are to treat those who don't share their faith, it doesn't quite work for me.

what's more useful to me is the instruction jesus gave his disciples before he ascended: spread the gospel, but where the gospel is not wanted or heeded, shake the dust from your feet and move on.

is that useful as an analogy for how both sides should treat one another?

ding said...

jeff: i think it's understood by reproductive justice advocates that one can't unlink prevention from this whole equation. in fact, we're conscious of other connections in our fight for reproductive justice for women and girls in whatever situation they find themselves in.

access to birth control is a crucial battle in this fight to keep women as autonomous as possible, but we're finding more and more blocks to this as the seemingly-monolithic pro-life camp has begun to agitate for less access.

from our point of view, if our side compromises on a position, it sets a precedent for limiting the range of a woman's reproductive options - birth control when she needs it, examinations, STI screenings and abortion services (because she may need it.)

my problem with how reproduction and reproductive health is discussed in this current climate is that the conversation begins and ends with Abortion, as if that's meaningful. to me, and for many of us, it's not. abortion is the end of the conversation and the end of a range of decisions a woman has made about family planning or reproduction.

i agree that it's more useful to think about these things holistically, with a concentration on how to make sure that a woman has all she needs so that abortion isn't the first thing she thinks of but the last. our side just thinks that's understood.

you know?

Jeff said...

I know what you're saying, ding. I may not be typical, but for me it was very much NOT understood that the pro-choice position was that abortions were to be a sort of last resort. I think being very explicit in that would go a long way, but of course I could well be wrong. And I don't think that compromising on a position makes you look weaker, I think it makes you look more appealing to the opposite side. People aren't going to listen to you if you are very extreme.

In any case, it would make me extremely happy to see a pro-life group working together with a pro-choice group on informing women of their preventive options and making sure those options were available.

One thing I will say is that I don't understand the pro-choice crowd's virulent opposition to abstinence. Obviously it's extremely stupid to teach abstinence as the only form of birth control. However, I think that for single women, it should be presented realistically as an option-- the best IF you can hack it. And if you want to try it, how about some good advice as to how it can be done? And as for other birth control options, you're going to need those ANYWAY once you're married, so why not talk about those, too? And, let's hand out the morning-after pill (since it works by preventing ovulation, not by "abortion"), because even if you are abstinent, you might get raped. So I think you can teach birth control without implying that you're probably going to fornicate.

Anyway. I'm probably hopelessly optimistic about the flexibility of most pro-choice and pro-life groups.

ding said...

re: abstinence: i actually don't think teaching abstinence is a bad thing. i think the way abstinence is taught is rather stupid. i mean, we're talking about celibacy. that's what it is and that's a much different thing than just saying no to sex. it's a thoughtful position to take toward sexuality and is worthy of thoughtful consideration - not to be injected with weird notions of gender roles and propriety.

as part of a comprehensive educational plan about sex and sexuality i think adolescents would find the concept of abstinence interesting. (my personal opinion is that teenagers and sex is a cocktail for disaster but that's because i think most teenagers are nuts.) but to think about abstinence as an intellectual and physical lifestyle that has nothing to do with being a 'good girl' or an article of faith is too hard, it seems, for folks to comprehend.

for instance, why not teach abstinence but also teach about empowered pleasure? (in an age appropriate way, of course.) i think that would be interesting and go a long way toward creating a healthy attitude toward sexuality.

(growing up as a fundamentalist baptist, i know i would have found that useful. but thank goodness for my mother's romance novels, instead!)

anyway (before i derail myself) it would be nice if both sides could step back and say to each other, 'We respectfully disagree; good luck.'

thanks, jeff! i think we just demonstrated the concept of 'civility.'