STOKING FIRE: Heard the One About Jimmy Kimmel? The Antis Are After Him

Eleanor J. Bader

If you’ve ever watched Jimmy Kimmel Live [JKL], it probably didn’t occur to you that the Brooklyn-born comedian/talk show host would one day become a target of anti-choicers.  But he has.

If you’ve ever watched Jimmy Kimmel Live [JKL], it probably didn’t occur to you that the Brooklyn-born comedian/talk show host would one day become a target of anti-choicers.  But he has.

Kimmel first aroused anti-choice ire back in January when he created a parody of a Focus on the Family ad that aired during the Super Bowl. As you’ll recall, the FotF spot featured football great Tim Tebow and his mother discussing how happy they were that mother Pam “chose life” rather than aborting the pregnancy that turned out to be the Heisman trophy-winning athlete. In Kimmel’s hilarious Americans for Choice send-up, an unemployed 35-year-old slacker lives in his parent’s basement. The tag line: They don’t all turn out like Tim Tebow.

Immediately after the spoof was posted, the antis issued a flurry of anti-Kimmel rants. Then, like all things Super Bowl, the world moved on and even the most determined anti-choicers seemed to forget about the performer. That is, until late June when more than 100 protesters—members and supporters of a 12-year-old group called Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust—turned up in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, which just happens to be across the street from the JKL studios.

The protest outside Grauman’s was the culmination of the Survivor’s annual 12-day “boot camp for pro-life training” [cost: $475 per person] led by anti-choice heavy weights Troy Newman of Operation Rescue, Rev. Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, Brandi Swindell of Generation Life, and Joe Slovenic, a long-time activist whose involvement in the movement goes back to 1993’s Impact Team, described by Time Magazine as “the nation’s first formally-trained class of abortion protesters.”

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According to the Survivor’s website, the group—intended to mobilize Christian teens and young adults “to rescue the next generation”—believes in “education and action” and opposes not only abortion but also the pill, IUD, Norplant, and “other abortifacients.”

The protest outside Grauman’s took an ugly turn when a freelance camera crew hired by JKL showed up on a highly-trafficked corner adjacent to the anti-choice picket line to film a sketch for the show. A video posted on YouTube reveals that as the crew set up shop—including several large Klieg lamps—the Survivors sprang into action, objecting to sharing the street with the filmmakers; within minutes both sides became loud and belligerent. At one point Survivor’s co-founder Jeff White—clad in a tee-short reading Intolerance is a Beautiful Thing—began screaming that the crew were “jerk-wads,” “union thugs” and “leftist Teamsters.” As words flew, the film crew turned on the lights—the same lights actors and performers work under each day without damage to either their skin or psyche.

Not so the Survivors. To hear them tell it, the crew intentionally set out to burn them. While they admit that no one was actually hurt, one protester, 18-year-old Ryan Bueler, charges that his rubber wristband melted from the heat.

The bracelet quickly became Exhibit A in Mahoney, Newman, and White’s media arsenal and they wasted no time in sending word to anti-choice activists and conservative media outlets, claiming that “peaceful pro-life demonstrators” were being hurt by “sadistic” Hollywood liberals.      

Overnight, protests were organized; several days later Survivors and others were bellowing outside Kimmel’s home and studio, demanding an on-air apology from the talk show host. In addition, several survivors scored free tickets to a Jimmy Kimmel Live taping and stood up in the middle of the filming to state their case. The four—teens Walter Gazave and Marissa Streett and adults Brandi Swindell and Beth Hockel—were escorted out, handcuffed, and detained but, in the end, JKL staff declined to press charges against them. 

Not surprisingly, the story doesn’t end here. Shortly after the disruption, Mahoney and Slovenic met with JKL personnel and got them to promise that they will never use the offending film crew again. Still unsatisfied, Timmerie Millington, spokesperson for the Survivors, says that the group plans to file a lawsuit against the lighting crew and is being represented by the Life Legal Defense Foundation, a California nonprofit “composed of attorneys and other concerned citizens committed to giving helpless and innocent human beings of any age, and their advocates, a trained voice in the courtrooms of our nation.”

While Millington declined further comment on the specifics of the not-yet-filed lawsuit, she did note that this is not the first time Life Legal Defense has aided the Survivors. LLD sued the city of Birmingham, Alabama in February, 2009 following the arrest of nine Survivors who had organized a “truth picket” outside Parker High School. The nine did not have a permit and told the Court that they didn’t need one.  As they saw it, they were simply exercising their First Amendment rights. Standing on the sidewalk with graphic pictures of bloody fetuses, handing out patently-false pamphlets about the alleged dangers of abortion, and accosting students as they attempted to enter their school building was within the purview of free speech, they argued.

In early July 2010, Judge L. Scott Coogler agreed.  The city subsequently issued a statement saying that the Birmingham police will “not arrest, threaten to arrest, or interfere with the group’s free speech activities as long as these activities are lawful and don’t block pedestrians” when the Survivors return. 

And Jimmy Kimmel Live?  The show, as they say, goes on.

Commentary Abortion

What One Week on an Abortion Fund Hotline Taught Me About the Economics of Stigma

Jessica Mack

To say abortion is stigmatized in this country is to state the obvious. But we have a special brand of taboo that we foist atop even that stigma, which is the taboo of having someone else pay for a service you need – especially if it’s an abortion. Yet while abortion may be legal, but if you cannot afford it, it’s inaccessible.

Here in the US, where Americans spend an average of $110 million on fast food each year, some will spend $10,000 for breast implants, and still others will drop $90 on yoga pants, somehow covering the costs of an abortion is one of the most lavish and morally egregious things you can do. Recently, I completed my first shift as a hotline advocate for the CAIR Project, where we proudly do just that.

The CAIR Project is a volunteer-run non-profit abortion fund, which provides financial help to women seeking abortions. It is part of the National Network of Abortion Funds. Women call us from Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington and we help them with small grants of $50 to $200 (vouchers are faxed directly to the clinic, so no money changes hands).

If you want to witness the collision of poverty in America, sexual health stigma, and the fissures in our healthcare system, volunteer for an abortion fund. Granting money is a privilege, and doing it for something so critical as abortion access – so heavily under assault in this country – is an honor. And if you want to counteract anti-women sentiment and policies in this country, donate to one. Abortion may be legal, but if you cannot afford it, it is not accessible. 

For a week, I fielded about six calls a day from women across the Pacific Northwest. These were women in tight spots: in high school, homeless, unemployed, undocumented, disabled, down on their luck, about to head into the army, just found out their wanted pregnancy had a fatal defect, rape survivors, or just having a hard time pulling together several hundreds of dollars in a few days. It really ran the gamut.

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To say abortion is stigmatized in this country is to state the obvious. But we have a special brand of taboo that we foist atop even that stigma, which is the taboo of having someone else pay for a service you need – especially if it’s an abortion. Three years after Roe v. Wade, the Hyde Amendment was passed in 1976, prohibiting federal Medicaid coverage of abortion, in most circumstances. It was in this spirit that the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act was passed last year. And if you think the US would only limit financial support for women seeking abortions in the US, you’re wrong. The Helms Amendment, passed in 1973, makes sure that not a dime of US foreign aid goes toward abortion services in other countries – even if it’s legal and even if unsafe abortion is a leading cause of maternal death. In fact, the failure to provide funding and program support for those conditions for which even Helms allows exceptions means that women who have been raped — such as victims of rape in war — and those whose lives are threatened by pregnancies gone terribly wrong are denied support by U.S.-funded programs.

The idea that an abortion shouldn’t be paid for by the government comes from the broader stigma of abortion – that it’s a luxurious service we seek after we (women) do something bad. It’s this notion that receiving financial aid for the consequences of our promiscuity or carelessness only reinforces for lack of virtue. Or, more simply put, it’s a financial slut- shaming.

Yet spend a week on an abortion fund hot-line and you will awaken to the reality of abortion and economics, and believe me, it’s not what you might think:

Myth #1: Women who need help paying for their abortions for are “gold diggers” or just looking for a hand-out

Abortion funds are critical safety nets, but we are not made of money. The funding we offer women is nominal and more often we offer financial advice. Far from expecting or receiving full funding, women almost always come up with some money themselves, even if it’s just $6, and go to great lengths to do so. Women regularly borrow money from friends or family (not an easy thing to do); one woman had her dog up for sale, while others try to sell DVDs or jewelry. Some put off rent, delay other bills, or take out credit cards. Some women reschedule their abortion procedures for the following week just to give themselves more time to raise funds.

Myth #2: Women are happy to have their abortions subsidized and they expect it (or will lie to get financial help)

Every woman I spoke to was extremely stressed out. No one was happy to be calling a financial services helpline (though they were grateful it existed). Not being able to afford something that you need and want is tough. Not being able to afford something you really need is excruciating. Over the phone line, I heard a client reflect back to me the stigma that society had placed on her. After explaining that we could not provide full funding for her procedure (only because we didn’t have enough money), she interrupted apologetically: “Of course! And I wouldn’t expect you to have to pay for my abortion.” Because society tells us that if we as sexually active women make our bed, we’ve got to lie in it. One grant I doled out was $54. The woman at the other end of the line could not have been more grateful. There is no entitlement – although I wish we lived in a society were women could feel entitled to have their abortions paid for – but rather women are truly appreciative for any support. (Did you hear that, Kanye West?)

Myth #3: If a woman can’t afford an abortion, it’s her own fault and she should bear the consequences

Though the consequences of an unintended pregnancy are most often borne by a woman along, she did not get to pregnancy alone. In short, it is not the woman who fails, but rather it is an entire society that fails her. What causes unintended pregnancies? Sometimes a women can’t afford birth control, which in this country is hidden at the end of an expensive obstacle course of doctor’s appointments and prescriptions. In other cases, inadequate sex education has left individuals ill-equipped to navigate sexual risks. And sometimes a woman was raped. Sometimes birth control just doesn’t work. And finally, it’s often state policies that put women in precarious positions. For example, there are only two abortion clinics in Idaho, which means women may have a day’s drive to get to an appointment. In addition, state law mandates an informed consent class followed by a 24-hour waiting period. That’s gas or bus fare, a hotel room, and possibly childcare. These intrusive policies create additional financial hurdles for women and mean any given abortion will be later and possibly more expensive than without such obstacles.

Myth #4: Abortion clinics are only in it for the money

This is a favorite punch line among anti-choice advocates, but unfortunately it’s just not true. How much does an abortion cost? Well, it ranges from about $500 to more than $5,000, depending on the stage of the pregnancy and other factors. But almost all of the abortion clinics we work with will do whatever they can to help a client out of a tough financial situation. Some clinics offer payment programs. Others will simply eat the cost, especially if a woman needs an abortion for a health reasons. More often, clinics offer immediate discounts for their services. That’s right, an abortion discount. Doesn’t sound like a very successful business model, right? That’ because it’s not a business, but is about women’s rights, lives, and futures. Bottom line. 

Roundup: Fireworks and Frivolity – Kimmel Catches Abortion Protestors on Tape

Robin Marty

It's not quite the dog days of summer yet, but some protestors are complaining that they can't take the heat from a talk show host's crew.

It’s been a hot weekend of festivities, fireworks and protests. 

Yes, I’m talking about the Jimmy Kimmel show!

Turns out that Friday a group of anti-choice protestors got into a filmed kerfuffle with a crew from the Jimmy Kimmel show.  According to Huffington Post:

Via Fishbowl LA comes this video capturing an altercation between Jimmy Kimmel’s production crew and pro-life group SurvivorsLA outside the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. The group describes itself as “a Christian, pro-life activism organization dedicated to educating and activating high school and college age individuals.”

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The group claims that Kimmel’s crew “turned high intensity spotlights onto a young teenager peacefully practicing his first amendment rights”, though it is difficult to make out from the video.

The Examiner thought the story sounded a little over the top.

A pro-life group called Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust were peacefully protesting outside of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood when a crew from the Jimmy Kimmel Show arrived to do some filming. The pro-life youth activists weren’t in the film crew’s way — whatever they were shooting was across the street — but then for no reason other than to be ideologically sadistic, the crew turned a hot spotlight on Ryan Bueler, one of the young protesters. Bueler refused to be intimidated and for 15 minutes stood under a light hot enough to partially melt a bracelet he was wearing.

Huh.  Melted a plastic bracelet, huh?  That seems like a bit much.

Most of the reports on the even were coming from the side of the protestors, so Examiner went a step further and managed to find someone on Kimmel’s crew who could give a little more detail on what may have happened.

Well, it just so happens that we’re pals with someone on that very crew of Jimmy Kimmel Live employees (who wishes to remain nameless, by the way, but I can assure you– they work for the show), so I contacted the worker and asked for a statement.  Here’s what they told me:

What happened that day was we were shooting a bit where Tom Cruise ziplines over Hollywood blvd from the Kimmel building to the sidewalk by Grauman’s. The protestors say we were shooting across the street, which was true, but we were ALSO shooting on the OTHER side of the street as well, where one of the oodles of protestors were, which was not a “peaceful” protest.

We obviously had a permit to put lights there and light the shoot location. Since the protestors however want to make it all about themselves, they thought (or figured they’d turn it into a story by thinking this) we were pointing the lights at them instead of what we were rehearsing/shooting, so a protestor took it upon himself to try and pull the light down. If the protestors were bothered by our lights, they could’ve moved away and the lights would not at all have followed them. We’re a professional crew, so to think we would bully them is absolutely outlandish.

Long story short, it’s pretty simple. We were lighting the action, the protestors wanted to stand in the light and say we were pointing it at them. Pretty stupid.

So, there you have it.  Of course this side of the story’s just as biased as the version told by protesters, but was anyone else sort of suspicious when the “Survivors of The Abortion Holocaust” (as they’re referring to themselves, clearly a group not prone to exaggeration) were claiming that they were just minding their own business, “peacefully” protesting, and that some random film crew from a latenight talk show attacked them for no good reason?  I think we were all kinda wary of this story yesterday, but after the report by our inside source above, I’m calling shenanigans on this whole thing.

Of course, no story is complete without the video itself, so here you go!

Mini Roundup: A majority of Australians support late-term abortion. Wait, no, half of them are against late-term abortion.  Well, at least pretty much everyone agrees that before 24 weeks abortion should be decriminalized in the country.

July 2, 2010

GOP Sens. Question Kagan About Role In Abortion Policy During Clinton …  – Medical News Today

The Signpost at the Crossroads – First Things

Spain court will study challenge to abortion law – Central Florida News 13

Pro- and anti-abortion rights groups look toward election – Politics in Minnesota

Prelate Protests Abortion in US Military Hospitals –

Jimmy Kimmel Production Crew Fights Abortion Protesters – Huffington Post

NOW Endorses Elena Kagan for Supreme Court, Ignores Abortion Distortions  –

Kagan’s Influential Medical Opinion – National Review Online

Oral Statement of Dr. Charmine Yoest of Americans United for Life During Kagan … – Christian News Wire

Health-care reform has pros, cons – Catholic Courier

Feminist Issues Addressed at Kagan Hearing – Ms. Magazine

No Truces on Abortion: Social and Economic Issues Must Go Together –

MP renews abortion debate – TVNZ

White House ties new pregnancy assistance fund to ‘common ground’ abortion plan – CNN

Abortions in Minnesota fell 4 percent in 2009, state reports –

Mixed response to call for abortion law change – TVNZ

Senate Republican Leader, Moderate GOPer to Oppose Pro-Abortion Kagan –

Male Birth Control Pill Coming, But Will He Remember to Take It? – The Stir

More Women in Need of Publicly Family Funded Planning Services – Docuticker

HIV Activists Pressure US Government over AIDS Funding – Voice of America

IVF: The uncomfortable truth – The Guardian

Should there be a limit on Caesareans? – BBC News

July 3, 2010

GOP targets antiabortion Democrats who backed health-care overhaul – Washington Post

Updated: ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ crew in hot water after confrontation with … –

Is Elena Kagan Morally Blind? – American Thinker

Family Life: Labour Abortion Bill “Disaster” For NZ – Voxy

Domestics Gain Rights; Iran to Stone Adulterer – Women’s eNews

New Antiabortion Plates Ignore Fact: Best Way to Choose Life Is Probably to … – Bostonist

Family First: Liberalised Abortion Laws Will Undermine Child Abuse Message – Voxy

Defense Bill Would Allow Abortions at Military Hospitals – AllGov

Demonstrators in Spain protest new abortion law – AFP

Protests over Spain abortion move – The Press Association

Abortions in county, state drop in 2009 – Austin Herald

Elena Kagan’s partial-birth abortion scandal. – William Saletan – Slate Magazine – Slate Magazine

Half of Australians against late-term abortions: study  – ABC Online

Spaniards protest new abortion law – USA Today

Exclusive: ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ crewmember speaks out on fight with abortion … –

Gender Auditing the National HIV/AIDS Strategy –

July 4, 2010

Anti-abortion law demonstration Five hundred people gathered outside the … – Barcelona Reporter

Abortion shouldn’t be a crime: poll – Sydney Morning Herald

Defending and redefending our civil liberties – The Times of Trenton –

Spain court will study challenge to abortion law – Las Vegas Sun

Majority of Australians Support Late Abortion – MedIndia

Obama Keeping Supreme Court Hard Left – The North Star National

Support growing for lawful abortions –

Frail teen’s first hours are focus of a fight over who has more respect for life – Palm Beach Post

Should abortion be legal on request for women up to 24 weeks into a pregnancy? – New Zealand Herald

Spain’s new abortion law goes into action in midst of protests – Buenos Aires Herald

Preventing Maternal Deaths in West Africa – World Press Review

Opinion: G8 nations need to stem the vast tide of deaths in childbirth – San Jose Mercury News

July 5, 2010

Abortion law reform needed, Greens say – Sydney Morning Herald

How Do We Prevent Abortion? Obama Thinks One Way Is To Help Pregnant Women –

Spain’s unrestricted abortion law takes effect – The Associated Press

Kenya: Lawyer Criticises Clerics Over Abortion –

Spain court will study challenge to abortion law – Jamaica Observer

More than 1000 HIV/AIDS patients throughout Ohio to lose benefits – Plain Dealer

White House Ties New Pregnancy Assistance Fund To ‘Common Ground’ Abortion Plan – WIBW

Speaking Truth On Behalf of Ethiopian Women – Huffington Post