Anti-choice scare tactics

August 3, 2010

IN LATE July, a Planned Parenthood clinic in Chicago had to temporarily close due to a bomb scare when a mysterious box, which turned out to contain a dead possum, and a scrawled note was discovered outside. Details about this crime and another that occurred in early July can be found at the Huffington Post.

Even though an estimated 40 percent of women will have an abortion in their lifetime, women are made to feel ashamed and guilty for having one, not to mention scared for their safety. It's no thanks to the legislative measures that have incrementally restricted access to abortion since the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion--such as banning federal funding for abortion and instituting mandatory waiting periods and parental notification requirements--that such a hostile climate exists.

Undoubtedly, the individuals seeking and providing health care at the Chicago clinic the morning of July 22 felt both threatened and defiant in the face of this heinous act. It is impossible to say definitively what was experienced because personal accounts of the clinic closing and police intervention are nowhere to be found. The silence is quite deafening.

There are plenty of valid reasons to justify why people would not want to speak out, such as not wanting to expose yourself to stigma, feeling that no one would be on your side anyway and fearing that you would foment even greater displays of hatred from the anti-choice bigots.

Since I live in the neighborhood where this occurred and had an abortion there, it is all too easy for me to imagine what it might have been like to be there that morning. Imagine: you wake up after sleeping restlessly with mixed feelings of dread and relief. You think, "I can't wait until this is over. I wonder what is going to happen to me." You grab a book by your favorite author to keep you company while you wait--no one you know is accompanying you. The friends you were able to confess to couldn't get time off work, not that you'd ask anyway.

You live pretty close so you just walk to get there. As you approach the clinic, the street to turn down is blocked with barricades and cones with flashing lights. Multiple cop cars, parked every which way in the middle of the road, signal a worrisome event. You walk through the blockade and act like you're not doing anything wrong. A cop says, "Ma'am, this street is closed."

You say, "I have an appointment at Planned Parenthood, how do you suppose I get there?" trying really hard not to sound sarcastic. He wags his head saying, "Sorry, the clinic's shut down, gotta come back another time hun." Sweat emerges instantaneously on your face and eerily chills the surface of your skin. Blood swells your legs, your heart beats loudly. Your sympathetic nervous system is in full gear, like that time you watched your little brother get beat up.

Today's got to be the day or you'll have to opt for the surgical procedure over the less-invasive pharmaceutical one. Someone in scrubs heads your way with information. It's not until you've been directed to another clinic by the staff person and you find yourself struggling to focus on your novel in the waiting room that whispers of why the clinic was closed begin to circulate. A box, a note, a dead animal, a bomb scare...Seriously?

Your eyes remain trained on the book in your lap but all you can think of is fighting the asshole responsible for this. You don't want to engage in a civil debate about "viability" and "personhood" and "fetal pain." You don't want to reconcile secular and religious conflicts through compromise. You don't want to hear another fucking politician say, "bipartisanship." You want to give the motherfuckers who still think in 2010 that you don't deserve an equal chance at deciding your life a taste of their own medicine.

But, you would never do that; that wouldn't settle any scores anyway. The rational voice in your head that really wants to see change in this world recalls the history that paved the way for legal abortion clinics like the one you're at now.

All the work it took seems daunting. It seems like it would be too slow, too knotted with fits and starts. It would take patience to persevere, courage too.

You think, "The sooner we start the better."
Marilena Marchetti, Chicago

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