Commentary Abortion

Anti-Choice “Wailing Wall” Gets it Wrong. Very Wrong.

Merle Hoffman

Jewish leaders are responding to the anti-choice movement's misappropriation of the Holocaust for their agenda.

Cross-posted with permission from On The Issues Magazine

Comparing blastocysts, embryos, and fetuses to Jews in the gas chambers and or black American slaves is an old trope of the anti-choice movement. Indeed, I have been called Hitler by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell on national television and current anti-choice protestors in front of Choices Women’s Medical Center are generous with using the swastika on their signs.

So it was not a surprise to learn that an “abortion wailing wall” was being constructed in Wichita, Kansas — “bleeding Kansas” — where my dear friend and long time abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was shot down three years ago when he was at church on Sunday.

Now, if we issued statements every time someone in Wichita, Kansas acted against women’s right to choose, we would do little else at On the Issues Magazine. But, last week, the Anti-Defamation League alerted the nation to this new, so-called “wailing wall,” modeled on Jerusalem’s Western Wall, one of the most sacred sites for all of Judaism.

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The league almost never comments on matters related to the abortion debate, so attention must be paid. Executive director Abraham Foxman was blunt:

“Over the years we have seen a number of anti-abortion groups compare abortion to the Holocaust, but this takes the misuse of Jewish symbolism and history to another level… Members of the pro-life movement are entitled to their opinions, but we wish they would not express them at the expense of Judaism’s holiest site and the Holocaust.”

When I learned about Foxman’s statement, I thought of the day more than 20 years ago when I asked Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel, author of Night and many other works, about the increasing tendency of anti-choice forces to compare women making the choice of abortion to perpetrators of the Holocaust. In an interview that contained many topics, Wiesel was unequivocal that those of us providing abortions shouldn’t be terrorized by such talk:

“A woman who feels she cannot go on, and with pain and despair she decides that she has to give up her child, is this woman a killer? Really really. But look, you cannot let these words hurt you. You have to be strong not to pay any attention because those who do that call you a Hitler and relate it to the Holocaust prove that they do not know what the Holocaust was.”

It is in gratitude for such support that I think, with admiration, of Dr. Mila Means and others in Wichita as they battle the ‘Spirit One Christian Center,‘ which has a long history of anti-choice terrorism. It is up to us to occupy the abortion debate with truth, clarity and courage.

News Law and Policy

Anti-Choice Extremist Argues She’s a “Minister” to Tiller Assassin, Scott Roeder

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Lawyers for the Department of Justice are still working on putting together the pieces of a network of domestic terrorists targeting Witchita, Kansas.

Anti-choice extremists continue their effort to render the Constitution meaningless, arguing that a woman who gave jail-house “counsel” to convicted murder Scott Roeder does not have to disclose the substance of those conversations with Roeder in the case against her because they are protected by the clergy-communicant privilege and the First Amendment.

Angel Dillard is accused of of sending threatening letters to Dr. Mila Means, a Wichita doctor training to offer abortions in the area after the 2009 murder of Dr. George Tiller. According to reports, Dillard told Means in a 2011 letter that thousands of people across the country were looking into her background. “They will know your habits and routines” the letter read. “They know where you you shop, who your friends are, what you drive where you live. You will be checking under your car everyday- because maybe today is the day someone places an explosive under it.”

The government wants to know what, if any connection Dillard has to Roeder, the Tiller murder and what other acts of domestic terrorism the two discussed. Roeder was convicted of murdering Dr. Tiller and, while serving his prison sentence, had several communications with Dillard and Rev. Michael Bray. Bray, an Ohio anti-choice radical, promotes the use of lethal force in the battle over abortion rights, and spent four years in prison in connection with attacks on several abortion clinics in the Washington D.C. area.

Dillard argues she doesn’t have to tell them. In an affidavit filed to try and protect the communications, Dillard claims God had called her to reach out to Roeder and serve as a minister to him. According to reports, during their first meeting together Dillard claims she signed into prison logs as a ministry visitor but later, through those ministerial visits became Roeder’s friend. However, just because the two were friends, Dillard argues, doesn’t change the fact that she was still a “clergy” person to Roeder. Should the government be allowed to discover the substance of her communications with Roeder it would send a chill into all ministerial efforts in jail and prison settings generally.

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The government claims Dillard is no member of the clergy and therefore can’t protect those communications from discovery in the case against her. Furthermore, the government argues, even if Dillard had signed prison logs as a minister, there’s no evidence she is actually ordained, nor has Dillard produced any proof she is an actual minister. Finally, the government argues, even if she was qualified as a clergyperson, she and Roeder would have reasonably believed their conversations were being monitored and recorded which would undo any possibility of those communications remaining secret.

Testamentary privileges like ministerial privileges, or doctor-patient privileges, are designed to recognize the need to have open channels of candid communication, but are specifically not supposed to be used as a means to promote and protect otherwise unlawful behavior. In Dillard’s case, it’s easy to see why.

Dillard has good reason to want to keep the substance of those conversations secret. The Department of Justice has an open grand jury investigation into whether Dr. Tiller’s murder was connected to a broader effort by anti-abortion radicals to re-engange in acts of domestic terrorism against abortion providers and patients. And while no indictments have been handed down yet, the fact that the Obama administration has not backed off the links between Dillard, Bray and Roeder is further evidence of a more serious approach to domestic terrorism and clinic violence than the previous administration.

It’s unlikely that Dillard will be successful in protecting all of her communications from disclosure, but she may luck out and keep a few from the government’s lawyers. And if she does, the victory won’t be in shielding from disclosure a visit or two with a convicted murder, it will be in further emboldening the extremists in the right to try and distort reasonable constitutional religious protections in the name of their violent anti-woman agenda.

Commentary Abortion

“No on Anti-Choice Amendment 6:” The Right Move for Florida

Samantha Daley

Amendment 6 is an attack on reproductive rights. It would change the Florida Constitution to outlaw public funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or where the life of the mother is affected.

Cross-posted with permission from Choice Words.

As a young woman of Color residing in Florida, I’m very interested in and affected by the anti-choice antics in Tallahassee. When I heard about Amendment 6, I just had to tell the world about the next attack on reproductive rights. This attempt directly affects me as a young Black woman. I’m constantly facing stereotypes and attacks on my rights, and this I will not accept. I will not allow politicians to infringe upon my rights, and I will do everything in my power to keep politicians out of my doctor’s office!

Amendment measure 6 would change the Florida Constitution to outlaw public funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is directly affected. In essence, this amendment would bring politicians out of Tallahassee and into your vagina. This amendment would stop those who pay for their own insurance and who are covered from receiving this vital medical procedure. Also, the murky wording of the bill leaves a lot of room for interpretation. This amendment wouldn’t even allow a woman who is pregnant with any debilitating disease, like cancer, for instance, to be treated, even though cancer is directly affecting the life of this woman.

I think most people, above all else, would like to keep politics out of our homes and out of our doctors’ offices. This amendment would completely strip women in Florida of privacy. It’s also a clear attack on those in lower socioeconomic classes. Those individuals would be greatly hindered from receiving the treatment they need from their insurance if this amendment passed.

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To gain an even better understanding of Amendment 6, I spoke to Lisa Murano, deputy campaign manager and field director of the No on 6 initiatives in Orlando. She emphasized that, “We need to be reminded that people (mostly older men) are attacking our rights and autonomy constantly from many angles. I have found myself working in the political realm to right the legislative attacks.”

I also inquired about why Murano entered this policy work in the first place, and here is what she had to say, “I am involved in the women’s-rights movement because as a young woman, I feel that we need to stop taking our rights for granted and work to protect ourselves. We have seen attacks on women’s rights for years, but in the past two years, those attacks have been ramped up to levels we have never seen before.”

This bill is just one of the many attacks on women’s rights, and if we don’t put up a united front and stop this, rights that we believe are commonplace and essential may begin to be challenged. What are our opponents going to attack next? What is this world coming to where we can’t even keep politicians out of our vaginas?

As a young woman, I am directly targeted by this this bill, as are my friends and other young women like me who are under their parents’ insurance and can’t afford procedures fully out of pocket. What supporters of Amendment 6 also don’t seem to recognize is that when you take away necessary resources, women and families can become desperate and may seek unconventional and unsafe ways to go about getting the care they need. If what’s best for women is really the main priority for those people that support Amendment 6, how will this help women? You take away their resources, their privacy, and in essence put their backs against the wall.

This is not just a women’s issue, this is a family issue, and a direct attack on the families of Florida. If you believe that any medical decision should be left to a woman and her family and not politicians, VOTE NO ON 6, because that’s what it really comes down to.