VIDEO: Rachel Maddow and Frank Schaeffer on Anti-Choice Violence

Emily Douglas

Rachel Maddow guest Frank Schaeffer says that while he doesn't think that more extreme wings of the anti-choice movement collaborated with alleged killer Scott Roeder or knew he planned to murder Dr. George Tiller, anti-choice groups do know who commits vandalism against clinics, who glues the doors shut, who might plan to throw firebombs.

Rachel Maddow follows up on her dogged reporting on anti-choice extremism and violence:

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Her guest, Frank Schaeffer, a former religious right activist, says that while he doesn’t think that more extreme wings of the anti-choice movement collaborated with alleged killer Scott Roeder or knew he planned to murder Dr. George Tiller, anti-choice groups do know who commits vandalism against clinics, who glues the doors shut, who might plan to throw firebombs. 

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Says Schaeffer, "They know they have some people who are wackos in and around their meetings…and they know perfectly well that some of them may go to the next step.  So if they’re not doing something about curbing that, and working with law enfrocement, they’re really then part of the problem."

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Harassers Re-double Attacks On Jackson Women’s Health Organization As Hospitals Refuse Admitting Privileges

Robin Marty

More posters, more harassment at the only public abortion clinic in Mississippi as Jackson Women's Health Organization runs out of options.

“Please, Mommy, don’t kill me!”

The words have become a standard refrain on the sidewalks in front of Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO) on the days where abortions are to be performed. While doctors and clinic staff scramble to keep open the only public abortion clinic in Mississippi, nothing changed for Operation Save America and their followers, who were once more on the streets of Jackson.

Now nearly ten months into their year long “States of Refuge” campaign, Operation Save America has yet to actually create an “abortion-free state” as they say they intend. Instead, they have succeeded mainly in harassing doctors and patients, terrifying little children, and annoying parents who would prefer their sons and daughters not be exposed to highly magnified and gory photo-shopped posters of “fetal remains.”

The group arrived in Mississippi directly after the election with plans to protest at Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the state’s sole public abortion provider. However, the protesters also set their sites on local high schools, which they picketed with their signs as students headed in to class for the day.

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Cal Zastrow, one of the “States of Refuge” organizers, said they needed to inform high school students of the “truth” of abortion because he saw too many teen girls arriving at the clinic.

“High School girls are coming in here and killing babies, so we want to educate them before they come here and kill their children,” he told WLTB.tv. “Already this week, I’ve seen three different high school sweatshirts on girls in the city here come here and murder their children.”

Schools were forced to bring in additional security to deal with the activists, but otherwise their hands were tied, despite parental complaints.

Many of the anti-choice activists were from out of state, but one well-known local face joined the activities as well—Les Riley, the anti-choice presence behind Personhood Mississippi. Riley has promised another attempt at a Personhood amendment in 2014, and says he is already working on the language to make that happen. With Personhood supporter Phil Bryant in the governor’s office, it’s no surprise that Personhood will be rising again.

All attention is focused on JWHO, who is in danger of being closed due to a TRAP law passed in the state legislature during the 2012 session that requires hospital admitting privileges, something the clinic has been unable to obtain. Operation Save America has been gleefully counting down the days to January, when they believe the state will finally be abortion-free. Rusty Thomas told Christian News Network:

“They [JWHO] were kind of shrewd and were able to make adjustments, so that they could [be classified as] a medical facility to give them six months to comply,” he explained.

If the facility is not able to comply by January 16, 2013, it can be shut down by the state under the law.

“The state has the authority to step in and say, ‘Are you in compliance?’ If not, shut it down!” Thomas said.

Thomas even encourages the nation’s anti-choice community to come to Jackson to protest the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, believing the clinic’s closure could be timed to coincide.

Will JWHO make it to the 40th anniversary of Roe? At this point, the question once more rests in the hands of the courts. The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) has announced that the clinic has finally run out of options, and that every available hospital that could provide the necessary admitting privileges for clinic doctors has refused to consider doing so. According to the CRR’s legal filing, hospitals shied away from offering privileges pointing either to a prohibition against what they define as “elective abortions” within their own organization, or fear of reprisal from outside sources should they associate with the clinic. Refusals often read:

“The nature of your proposed medical practice is inconsistent with this Hospital’s policies and practices as concerns abortion and, in particular, elective abortions; … [and] The nature of your proposed medical practice would lead to both an internal and external disruption of the Hospital’s function and business within this community.”

CRR attorneys have filed a new motion against the law to stop it from going into effect, but as the year comes to a close it remains unclear if 2013 may in fact be the first year abortion won’t be—at least ostensibly—publicly accessible in all 50 states. (Ostensibly because access is determined by far more than just the existence of one clinic in a city, state, or locale of any size.)

As the courts consider whether the “undue burden” limits of Planned Parenthood v. Casey are finally met by ending access to abortion in Mississippi, harassment at the clinic is likely to escalate, especially in light of the anti-choice zealots who have already been on the sidewalks.

“Protesters” at the clinic itself have been a who’s who of jailed anti-choice terrorists, all congregated in one location. A self-congratulatory video compiled by Missionaries to the Preborn Iowa, who worked with OSA to harrass the patients and employees of JWHO (and yes, even the person who takes their medical waste), identifies many of those who “counseled” on the sidewalks of the clinic, such as Dan and Donna Holman, Cal Zastrow and his family, and others.

Dan Holman, member of “Missionaries to the Preborn Iowa” Holman advocates for “justifiable use of force,” claiming those who reject it as an option are “pro-life heretics.”

Flip Benham and Joe Scheidler are among the pro-life leaders who have publicly condemned Paul Hill for using force to save children. These men have done much good in the past, but they are in grave error regarding the use of force. To condemn the use of force to protect unborn children is a tacit admission that their lives are not worth defending. It is to say that that some have more of a Right to Life than others. It is a frank admission that pre-born children are somehow sub-human. If they truly believe the life of the unborn is worth less than the life of the abortionist than why defend the babies at all? Some say that the abortionist might repent and become another Bernard Nathanson, or a Carol Everett. How many children is their salvation worth? Would you give your sons or daughters to a baby-killer hoping he will come to repentance? Would we hold this principal true for any other serial killer? The abortionist’s salvation is not worth the life of one innocent child!

Dan has been arrested numerous times, including an arrest for an outstanding warrant after placing a “citizen’s arrest” on a girl who tried to spray paint over the graphic images on his van. His wife Donna has been arrested several times for harassment in front of an Iowa Planned Parenthood, with courts eventually recommending psychological screening, which her husband refused on her behalf. Michigan’s Cal Zastrow and his wife have been long involved with the “rescue” movement and subsequent arrests, which he dismisses by arguing that “Whatever consequences befall us for rescuing are trivial compared to children getting their limbs and heads cut off.” Randy Crawford also has been cited for harassment outside Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa, running in the same circles as the Holmans.

The Holmans, Crawford, Zastrow, and others had already toured the state together to urge a vote for Amendment 26, then touting themselves as “Pro-Life Mississippi.” Now, once more hitting the streets of Jackson, the band is working to pressure and harass anyone associated with the clinic, even if it’s just residents of the same city on their way to class at school.

The hospitals have turned down the requests for admitting prividges based in part on the potential “external disruptions” that could be caused by being associated with pregnancy terminations. Now, not only is the clinic in danger of being forced to close, but they have to worry that the outside agitators — sensing a potential victory — may grow even bolder, too.

Analysis Sexuality

Teachers (Allegedly) Behaving Badly: More News on Inappropriate Sexual Behavior Between Teachers and Students

Martha Kempner

Just as we have sexual harassment laws to protect employees from inappropriate behavior by employers, we need rules to protect students.  And the news from across the country this week confirms this.

Last week, I wrote about a decision by the Arkansas Supreme Court which overturned a law that made it illegal for a teacher to have consensual sex with a student even if the student was over 18.  The court said that while such a relationship may be reprehensible the state couldn’t legislate sexual behavior between adults.  I disagree because I don’t think age is the most important issue when it comes to consent and sexual relationships. (See my piece on age of consent laws for a discussion of legislating sex between teens.)

In the case of teachers and students, the issue is the balance of power. Regardless of the age of the student or the age difference between teacher and student, the balance of power is inherently tipped toward the teacher. Just as we have sexual harassment laws to protect employees from inappropriate behavior by employers, we need rules to protect students.  And news from across the country this week confirms this.

Yet another case of a high school teacher allegedly having sex with a student made national headlines this week when Sara Jones formally pleaded not guilty to sexually abusing a student and “unlawful use of electronic means to induce a minor to engage in sexual activities.”  The case has caught the attention of national media at least in part because Ms. Jones served as the head cheerleader for the Cincinnati Bengals last year.  Moreover, she has already been the subject of a sex-related scandal for which she was interviewed by ABC’s 20/20 and CNN’s Anderson Cooper.  In 2009, Ms. Jones sued the online gossip site TheDirty.com and its operator, Nik Richie, after it posted “unflattering” pictures of her and alleged that she’d had sex with all of the Bengals players, that she had two STDs, and that she’d had sex in her classroom. Though she initially won an $11 million settlement, in a bizarre twist, it turned out that her lawyer had technically filed suit against the wrong site (TheDirt.com instead of TheDirty.com) and they must retry the case.   

I think the media’s fascination with Ms. Jones’s behavior though is even simpler than that.  We are always curious about cases in which a female teacher allegedly has an affair with a male student.  Who can forget Mary Kay Letourneau, Debra LaFave, or even Pamela Smart. I believe that our ears perk up when we hear about these cases because deep down there’s a sense that there is no victim; girls with older men are victimized, boys with older women are just lucky.

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And this phenomenon may certainly be at play here because the young man in question has said that “nothing happened” and refuses to serve as a complaining witness. In fact, his family is not only backing up his story but came to court in support of Ms. Jones and sat next to her while they waited for the case to be called. It is hard to imagine this happening in a case where a male teacher is accused of having sex with a 16-year-old girl. The case goes to trial in June, though without a “victim” prosecutors may have an uphill battle.

Other news about teachers behaving badly came out of New York City where the Department of Education (DOE) released a report detailing 16 incidents in which teachers were accused of inappropriate behavior but received a lesser punishment than the DOE had recommended.  Not all of the cases were of a sexual nature but a significant number were.  Take that of the high school health teacher in Manhattan who joked about life for homosexuals in prison by forcing a male student to bend over a desk, coming up behind him to simulate anal sex, and saying: “I’ll show you what’s gay.” Then there was the science teacher who brushed up against a student so close that she said she could feel his genitals and the English teacher who sent a student romantic poems written in Russian. Perhaps most disturbing is the Bronx math teacher who seemed to become obsessed with a female student; he texted and called her more than 50 times in a four-week period and, over the winter holidays, “parked himself at the McDonald’s where she worked.”

The report focuses on the system in which decisions about disciplinary actions are left up to an outside arbitrator rather the school system itself. In the cases mentioned in the report, these arbitrators opted for lesser punishments than were suggested by the city such as fines, suspensions, or formal reprimands. Attorneys for the teacher’s union as well some of the teachers themselves argue that this system is necessary in order to assure due process. One of the biggest concerns with it, however, is that teachers with a history of inappropriate behavior can move schools and stay in contact with students, without anyone knowing of their history. This issue took center stage in recent months as seven school employees in the city have been arrested for sexual offenses involving students.  Just this week, an assistant principal in the Bronx was accused of groping two girls.  As the New York Times reports, “In two of those cases, the employees had a history of behaving improperly around students, but simply moved to another school and kept working.”

I am a steadfast believer in due process. Just like anyone else, a teacher accused of behaving inappropriately is innocent until proven guilty. That said, I think these cases show once again that it’s not about age as much as power and we do have to protect young people from those in positions of authority.  Sarah Jones is being charged under a Kentucky law that makes it a felony “for a person in authority to have even consensual sexual relations with someone under 18.”  Whether it’s laws like this and the one struck down last week in Arkansas or school system rules like those proposed by New York City’s school chancellor to make records of previous inappropriate behavior more readily available, it is our responsibility as adults to protect young people… even young men.