The sun has been blazing this summer, but the pro-choice community in Albuquerque is turning up the heat on Operation Rescue. Since Troy Newman declared our fair-minded community the new ‘abortion capital’ and pledged a higher-profile presence here, we have been bracing ourselves for the inevitable assault on our sensibilities. Sure enough, he and I have been sparring in the editorial pages of the Albuquerque Journal.
Apparently, Newman’s presence here has hit some nerves. Approximately two months ago, Planned Parenthood of New Mexico received an articulate, passionate letter from an 18-year old college student named Clayton Jarrett who was angry about the invasion of his community by these extremist ideologues. While meeting with Clayton, we decided to partner with him on a good old-fashioned rally.
Last Friday, between 150-200 pro-choice activists came out in the summer sun for our Rush Hour Rally Against Clinic Violence. As I looked out into the crowd, I saw a sea of friendly faces – our amazing, dedicated staff, escorts, volunteers, coalition partners, elected officials, youth activists and old friends. It is this diverse fabric of friendship that sustains us during challenging times. And with Operation Rescue in the picture, there are challenges. Our integrity is questioned, our patients cruelly harassed and our staff threatened.
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We asked our friends to stand with us and speak with a unified, clear and resounding voice to tell Operation Rescue they and their tactics are not welcome in our tolerant community. We were not disappointed. In the sweltering late afternoon heat, they lined the street full of rush hour traffic, took to the median and proclaimed, “Not in my community!”
Our friends on Friday included a representative from Congressman Martin Heinrich’s office, a representative from Lt. Governor Diane Denish’s office and Albuquerque City Councilor & former PPNM board member, Rey Garduno, who all spoke words of support, thanks and encouragement. Also there were state representatives Jerry Ortiz y Pino and Benjamin Rodefer. We opened the rally with a moment of silence for victims of clinic violence and Joan Sanford of the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice closed with a prayer.
We asked our friends to come and stand in the sun with us last Friday, but I’m calling on them to stand in the light with us every day. I’m asking them to come out of the shadows and be proudly and loudly pro-choice. Operation Rescue is desperate to define us on their terms, but we will not let them do that.
When our opponents call us liars and murderers, our friends need to speak up with the truth. When they call our health centers ‘abortion mills’ and ‘death camps’, our supporters need to call them out. When they call us racists and liken us to Hitler, our allies need to reject their preposterous claims. When they threaten and attempt to intimidate us, all of us need to call them out – not in our community!
It is not enough to believe pro-choice anymore. It is time to be pro-choice. Let our friends’ actions define us. It is time for every one of us to write opinion pieces to every publication in our state, blog, tweet, Facebook and widely proclaim support for access to safe, legal abortion. We can’t afford silence, and we must push back.
Together, we need to call on our opposition to get past the fomenting rhetoric. This community, like many others across the country, has real problems to deal with on a daily basis. New Mexico has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country, and our country has the highest unintended pregnancy rate in the developed world. The United States leads the world in creating new contraceptive methods, yet we keep them unaffordable and just out of reach of the millions of women who need them. We have staggering unintended pregnancy rates, yet we resist teaching our kids how to protect themselves.
No one does more than Planned Parenthood of New Mexico to address these issues in our community and prevent the need for safe, legal abortion. It’s time for all of our friends and supporters to engage their voices to tell this story, loudly and proudly.
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