It turns out, Huntsville street preacher James Henderson was absolutely correct about the danger of abortion clinics drawing a bunch of unsavory people who shouldn't be near children. We saw that just this morning at multiple locations in the Rocket City. Henderson and his confused band of misfits were joined early this morning at the Huntsville clinic's old location (one that's now a private OB/GYN office) by the Operation Save America group that drove up from Montgomery for a little fresh air and sidewalk bullying. Later, they turned up at the actual clinic which, to their consternation, had been well-protected by a variety of tarps, moving vans, and RVs that protected patients from the sidewalk shouters.
Both of these locations are near schools and child care centers, and that's the rationale that Henderson gave when he tried to convince the city to stop the clinic from moving. Foiled at the local level, he convinced Ed Henry to introduce a bill specifically targeted at the Huntsville clinic. At the public hearing on the bill, supporters repeatedly cited their own bad behavior as something "school children" shouldn't be exposed to.
Which is pretty amazing when you consider that they regularly show up with children in tow - including today.
One important thing they failed to mention to the media and to the police is that they were planning to host Howard Scott Heldreth, a violent sex offender, at today's protests. Heldreth was at the old clinic location in downtown; he later traveled with the group to the actual clinic on Sparkman Drive.
But surprise! After law enforcement officers were alerted to his presence, Hildreth was informed that he had until 3pm to register with the county as a sex offender or try out the accommodations at the local jail.
Hildreth preferred to beat a path to his car instead of comply, and took a large number of the Montgomery contingent with him.
The protest broke up soon after, but not before wasting a huge amount of taxpayer money:
Huntsville City Schools had to dispatch security guards to keep, the protesters off school property
Three city employees spent their work day monitoring the volume of the protesters bullhorns and mics.
At least 16 marked police cars and other unmarked cars, and several dozen police officers (totals for both locations) spent the morning babysitting protesters who insisted on trespassing, jaywalking, breaking noise ordinances, and - oh yes - welcoming a sex offender.
Of course, Huntsville's criminal has a record that pales next to the "pro-life" luminary who showed up in Montgomery. They had the dubious pleasure of hosting John Brockhoeft, a violent, unstable individual with a long and sordid history in the movement:
As part of a militant group known as the Army of God, Brockhoeft set fires to two local abortion clinics in 1985 and planted a pipe bomb at the temporary offices of one of them in 1987.
The attacker's identity was a mystery until federal agents arrested Brockhoeft in Florida with bomb-making materials in his car in May 1988. [...]
Brockhoeft's days of setting fires and planting bombs came to an end in May 1988, when agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms arrested him near Pensacola, Fla. Tipped off by his first wife, agents stopped Brockhoeft's car and found steel pipe, explosive chemicals and detonators – which he planned to use to blow up an abortion clinic in Florida.
During a subsequent investigation, Brockhoeft was indicted on five counts of arson and one count of attempted arson for attacks in Cincinnati and Columbus.
To this day, he is coy about whether he was involved with five other attacks at clinics in Cincinnati and around Ohio the late 1970s, all of which remain unsolved.
More photos of today's protests in Huntsville are on the flip. Review our coverage of Roy Moore's keynote speech to the OSA convention.
Even if you missed the excitement, you can still do your part to support the women of Alabama. Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates (ARRA), a statewide advocacy group is hosting a fundraiser called "Adopt an Anti." It has a devliish premise:
You pledge to specific amount for each protester present on any day between July 11 - July 18 (for example, ten cents per protester).You can decide to donate for one day or multiple days.(donation form is below)
An ARRA member will count the number of protesters present at the clinic or city hall on each day and we will then send you a bill for your day/pledge. The total will be the amount you pledged times the number of protesters present. For example, if you pledge ten cents for Friday in front of the Huntsville Women’s Center and there are 100 protesters present, we'll send you a bill for $10.00.We are creating multiple creative ways to be sure that the protesters know that you are using their presence to support abortion care and the right to abortion!
You can also specify a particular anti-choice protester you wish to sponsor.
People who are really concerned about children tend to take a holistic approach: supporting policies that strengthen families, fight poverty & injustice, boost education levels, and increase access to health care. You know... all that stuff that Jesus was so interested in....
"Damn the legal bills! Full speed ahead!" seems to be the guiding principle of the 2015 legislative session, and multiple speakers at Wednesday's Rally for Women's Lives touched on that topic. It's amazing really: the legislature's chief responsibility is to pass state budgets, but with just five meeting days left in the session, there's no consensus in sight.
Mobile attorney Amy Andrews addressed this very issue when she listed the legal bills that other states have run up while defending their own anti-abortion bills:
In 2011, Kansas spent nearly $400k in six months. Since 2011, Kansas has spent $1.2 million to defend anti-abortion legislation. A law signed last month is expected to cost an additional $350-450k. You think it's a coincidence that Kansas public schools are closing early this year due to lack of money?
As of January 2014, North Dakota has spent $200k defending anti-abortion laws.
Arizona spent $297k.
South Dakota spent $378k.
Texas spent $650k.
Idaho has spent over $1 million.
"Alabama does not have that kind of money to be throwing around," Andrews noted.
But throw it around we will if the pending package of anti-choice bills passes, promised Randall Marshall. He's the Legal Director of the ACLU of Alabama and has quite the track record of facing off in court (successfully!) against our Attorney General's office. (Refer to our coverage of the TRAP lawsuit for some delicious tidbits.)
Marshall wrapped up the rally with a warning for state legislators. Referring to the huge legal bills taxpayers in other states are stuck paying, he promised:
It's going to be the same for Alabama. We are not yet done with previous lawsuits with the State of Alabama, but it will cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars - and it will continue to cost the state that kind of money if they pass more unconstitutional restrictions on women's right to choose.
Here's more information about the package of pending legislation:
As we watch this dreadful session of the Alabama Legislature stagger to a merciful end, many people are shaking their heads and asking: "how did we get to this point?" At Wednesday's Rally for Women's Lives, Jeni Tanner-Jordan provided one answer: too few of us turned out to vote.
Pointing to the Statehouse, she said:
"The men in that building have made it obvious that they don't care about us. You've heard about the bills; you've listened to the stories. Our current representatives are shouting from the rooftops that, as long as they're in charge, women don't stand a chance."
Rallying, walking the halls, talking to legislators, making phone calls, etc. are all important and empowering, she continued, but the most important thing the people of Alabama can do is VOTE. "But we're kidding ourselves if we think the majority of our current legislators will suddenly change their misogynistic views."
Here's where real change will come from:
"If they refuse to represent our views, we'll elect people who will. Today, I'm standing here to remind you to cast your vote in all elections and at all levels. Our representatives might ignore a phone call or an email, but they can't ignore our votes. They have to listen. [...] Speak out about why voting matters. If someone you know isn't registered to vote, help them get registered. Voting is the most powerful statement you can make.
Vote like your life depends on it, because in Alabama it does!"
During last year's primary, the Democratic primary ballot for most races was empty. The general election ballot wasn't much better: it was filled with Republican candidates running unopposed at all levels of government.
If this legislative session hasn't taught us a lesson, nothing will. Democrats have to start fielding candidates for every office, at every level. There's not much time either. The 2016 primary elections are in March 2016 and candidates have to qualify to run this November.
I applaud the work that Ms. Tanner-Jordan is doing to remind everyone of the importance of voting and the power it gives us to change the state. But we need candidates.
Unlike many party regulars, I'm not afraid of contested primaries. Indeed, I welcome them because they bring attention to the candidates, the party, and stimulate discussion of the issues. A primary campaign doesn't have to be a mud-fight - leave that to the GOP presidential candidates.
Without contested races in the primary, we don't give Democrats any reason to turn out and vote. Those who do go to the polls and see a virtually empty Democratic ballot instead vote in the Republican primary. It makes the Democratic Party look weak, discourages great candidates from spending the time and money to run, and helps Republicans nominate more mainstream candidates.
Planned Parenthood Southeast hopes to pack the Alabama Statehouse with pro-choice citizen lobbyists on Wednesday, May 20. Not up to the long drive to Montgomery by yourself? No problem! Meet new friends and travel in style on a bus provided by Planned Parenthood. You'll even get a t-shirt!
Join Alabamians from across the state for Planned Parenthood Southeast's Rally for Women's Lives! If you're sick and tired of politicians sticking their noses where they don't belong, then you need to be here on May 20th and bring your friends.
There are three pieces of bad legislation for women being bandied about in our legislature and we're here to fight every one of them! There's The Abortion Ban Bill that would ban abortions as early as 4-6 weeks into a pregnancy before a woman may even know she's pregnant, The Abortion Clinic Closure Bill which would close every abortion clinic in the state with one exception because of their distance from public schools, and The Health Care Discrimination Bill which would make it legal for health care professionals to deny care to individuals whose morals they disagree with.
Following the rally, our citizen lobbying program, Women in The Halls, will go inside the State House building to speak with legislators. Our lives are too important to sit this one out!
A bus, a t-shirt, and good company. Lobbying doesn't get any easier than this.
Traveling on your own? Here are the details:
Rally outside at the Alabama State House (11 South Union St. Montgomery, AL 36140) then lobbying inside the Statehouse. Wear track shoes in case you need to give chase to reluctant legislators (just kidding).
Alabama's new test for health care services is to ask "What would Dr. Frankenstein do?" and make laws to stop him. So says Eric Johnston, who authored HB-491. After Wednesday's hearing, perhaps we should call it the "Protect Igor's Job" act.
"Abortion, embryonic stem cell resarch, human cloning, and sterilization. Those are all "Frankenstinian" kinds of things. Like Dr. Frankenstein, he didn't mind doing what he did, but there are those of us who do mind doing certain things."
If the "choices made by fictional characters" is going to be a new state standard for lawmaking, then here are some other important issues that Mr. Johnston needs to get moving on:
Train safety: Look at what happened to Anna Karenina!
Defense against the dark arts instruction in the public schools: We don't want any child to suffer the way Harry Potter did.
Principles of household budgeting and credit management for wives. Emma Bovary spent Charles into the poorhouse.
If you recall, HB-491 is the bill that allows health care workers to refuse to perform certain duties associated with the position they applied for - but still get paid. If they get fired for non-performance, they get to sue their employer! Nice work if you can get it - and not do it, right?
It's hardly the "employer-friendly" legislation we've come to expect from the legislature, but apparently it's necessary because fictional characters tend to misbehave and act unethically. We don't want that happening around here!
This sort of nonsensical reasoning is par for the course with Eric Johnston-inspired legislation.
It there's a lifetime limit on the amount of stupid legislation one person is allowed to draft and submit to the Alabama legislature, then he has surely exceeded it.
Are you starting to see a pattern here? He's against imposing any sort of "foreign" religious law, but that doesn't apply to Christianity, because.... why? Perhaps he has Bethlehem, PA mixed up with the original or something.
This legislative session surely can't end soon enough.
There were two entertaining themes from yesterday's House Committee hearing on HB-527. First is that opponents of the clinic apparently believe that the anti-choice protesters are an unstable, violent group of sociopaths capable of shooting, bombing, and causing untold injury and emotional suffering to the children exposed to their antics. Second is that Judge Myron Thompson, the federal judge who struck down most of the state's TRAP laws and scathingly criticized the protesters, has entered the canon of anti-choice rhetoric.
The threat of violence and mayhem is a valid concern: three of their regular attendees have been convicted of violence against clinics, including a particularly violent Huntsville incident:
In 1984, Father Edward Markley a Catholic priest, already had a history of multiple arrests when he entered the Women's Community Health Center in Huntsville and assaulted two clinic workers. Markley has been spotted multiple times among the protestors outside the Alabama Women's Center.
An Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates (ARRA) member was on hand for yesterday's public hearing on HB-527, the "Shut Down the Huntsville Clinic Act," and graciously shared the video with LIA.
Geez Henderson.... with friends like these.... Horn also seemed confused about the nature of the civil rights movement: was it really to ensure that all children had a "safe school environment?"
"... according to Judge Myron Thompson, that has had a history of violence. If you're pro-life or pro-abortion, you may have been a part of that violent situation. There have been bombings, as Judge Myron Thompson has said; there have been shootings, mayhem around the clinic - violent protests.Our children should not be exposed to that. I'm not asking you to make a decision about abortion. I'm asking you to support children.
Many people have marched for those rights of equal opportunity for our children to be able to have a safe education.
The City of Huntsville is still under desegregation and applying for unitary status so that kids who don't live in environments that are harmful get the same type of quality environment as others.(editors note: that sentence is not a misprint).
In the sad legal tradition of Alabama, a Madison County ADA, Bob Becher, stood up, asked that a blatantly unconstitutional, punitive bill be "pushed through", and presented himself as a "spokesman" for an entire school. Or did he?
I'm here as a parent of a child at AAA (the Academy for Academics and the Arts). Over the years, people have come to me as kind of an unofficial spokesperson for the school. So I'm here representing teachers and parents who can't take off work.
Note that these hardworking opponents must work double shifts because they weren't able to show up at the Huntsville zoning board hearing to protest either.
In the previous location, I drove by the clinic on my way to and from work, every day and I've seen the signs that are held up - the pictures of aborted fetuses and I've seen the confrontations.
You don't have to take Judge Thompson's word for it, when he talked about the antagonistic behavior between these two groups, and it's never going to end. It's not going to go away and kids can look out the window and see this happening. And they can't turn away because they drive by there every morning and every afternoon.From 4 1/2 year olds to fourteen year olds.
I'm asking you to push this through so they can have their abortion clinic somewhere else, but not right across the street from a school that serves children.
It's important to note here that the previous location of the clinic was just a stone's throw from Huntsville Middle School and Becher wasn't upset about those children being exposed to the commotion. Why is that? Because they weren't his children perhaps?Let's give him the day's NIMBY award and send him on his way.
The third speaker, Cindy Adams, seemed to be warning the committee that, if left unchecked, anti-choice protesters might lose it one day and storm the public school, terrorizing the students in the same way they harass and intimidate the people who work at and visit the clinic.
The Alabama legislature may have abandoned their anti-GLBT efforts, but dagnabit, somebody better get their civil rights restricted or the session just won't be a success! So naturally, their next stop is birth control and abortion.
We already have the fetal heartbeat bill pounding away in committee, but that's not nearly enough distraction from pressing issues like the state budgets, infrastructure problems, education, and amending the Alabama Accountability Act to bail out Bob Riley.
Alabama's next PSA (Please Sue Alabama) bill is HB-491, this session's incarnation of last year's "Health Care Worker Conscience Bill" aka the "I don't want to do the job you hired me to do and there's nothing you can do about it" bill.
As we noted in 2014:
For some reason, the State of Alabama thinks it's fun and easy to pick on women and limit their health care choices, but the wording of this bill, cuts both ways (so to speak). What's going to happen the first time a doctor refuses to prescribe Viagra for an unmarried man or a pharmacist denies his prescription refill based on the "moral" belief that an aging single guy doesn't have any business tomcatting around?
And, for a political party that likes to tout its "business friendly" policies, can you imagine what a nightmare this law would be for hospitals, medical offices, and pharmacies? Imagine trying to draw up a work schedule:
"Let's see, Sally won't fill birth control prescriptions without seeing a marriage license first, but Joe will, so we'll put them on shift together. Bob won't assist with fertility treatments unless the couple is Christian, married, and heterosexual and Kelly is morally opposed to sterilization and refuses to assist with tubal ligations. Then there's Andrew, the Christian Scientist, who doesn't do anything but sit all day but I can't fire him....."
HB-491 has the same guidelines, exceptions, and gives any employee the ability to sue their employer if the business, for some bizarre reason, expects them to do the job they're getting paid for.
It's an odd position for the "party against frivolous lawsuits" to hold, isn't it? A far simpler, cheaper solution is for people who have "religious objections" to health care to not pursue a career in health care. So simple. No bill required, no lawsuits to follow.
But when do our legislators ever take the easy path?
LOL... Nothing says "I'm opposed to abortion" more than sending money to Chinese companies, right? That's what one radical anti-choice group did with its extra cash. Certainly, they won't help struggling families feed & clothe their children. No, the Pro-Life Action League bought 500 CHINESE-made handcuffs & sent them to women's clinics across the country. The clinics in Huntsville & Montgomery report getting a set along with a note encouraging them to "get out of the abortion business."
Look! It even includes a number to call! Although I have to note that offering counseling by mail (not to mention the free toys) is preferable to screaming at women from the sidewalk, but it's not really a good use of donors tax-deductible contributions. Do you suppose those donors realize that the organization is sending money to China - the "Great Satan" of forced abortion?
An ARRA volunteer drove College Girl up to the state capital, where she arrived 14 weeks pregnant at the home of another volunteer who hosted her while she was in town. Although she’d already had the state-mandated ‘counseling’ at her local Planned Parenthood clinic, she still needed to have a state-mandated ultrasound, and there was necessary lab work to be done. Her procedure was also more expensive than most because of a medical complication, but the volunteers raised every penny needed to take care of her. [...] If you need help accessing your reproductive RIGHTS in Alabama, or know someone who does, do not hesitate to contact ARRA. Their website is here and their Facebook page is here. You can also find them on Twitter here.
ARRA's financial aid fund is running low; they're hoping to collect $5,000 to replenish the fund. The goal is 500 $10 contributions in honor of the handcuff stunt.
Because I had no help nor support from any of my family or friends on my decision. - See more at: http://www.breitbartunmasked.com/2015/01/26/arra-alabamas-underground-railroad-for-reproductive-freedom/#sthash.Ei81oV0a.dpuf
Because I had no help nor support from any of my family or friends on my decision.
How would you rather your tax-deductible donations be used? To help women who have nowhere else to turn or to subsidize the activities of the handcuff charity?. Go figure - the handcuff folks get just 2 stars from Charity Navigator. ARRA doesn't have a ranking yet, but none of these volunteers are in it for the money.
See a close-up of the Chinese handcuffs on the flip.
Alabama's Big Daddies in the House - Aderholdt, Brooks, Byrne, Palmer, Rogers, & Roby - are better at making health care choices than American women. At least that's how they voted today. If, by some miracle, this becomes law, thank your Republican Congressional parents when you can't buy the insurance coverage with your own money that you think is best for you and your family.
And this is the party that railed about "putting government between you and your doctor" and "government takeover of healthcare?" You betcha.
Taking a page from the Alabama Legislature's book of "outlawing things that are already illegal," the House decided to make federal funding for abortions (the Hyde Amendment) even more illegal! In fact, they took it a bit farther. In their view, not only can the federal government decide how federal funds will be spent - they're going to decide how you can spend your own money. This isn't new. We've been fighting some version of this silliness for years. From 2011, for example:
You know when the GOP says "it's your money?" What they really mean is that it is your money - unless it's part of a government tax break. If you don't have to pay taxes on the money, then Boehner and company - including Alabama co-sponsors Mo Brooks and Joe Bonner - think they get to decide how you spend it.
That's the case with HR-3: under the GOP's bill, if you pay for an abortion with your "own money" - out of your own HSA or cafeteria plan - then be prepared to provide the proof that you needed it. Not proof that you were pregnant, but actual written proof that you meet the right-wing test: rape or incest.
They're all for state's rights, but screw your family's right to decide what insurance coverage you need.
It wasn't exactly a "Profiles in Courage" moment in the Alabama State Senate on Tuesday. Senators voted 30-2 to pass Greg (Ultrasound Salesman) Reed's bill (SB10) to prohibit elective abortion coverage from the state health insurance exchange. They know better than you what health coverage you need and how you should be spending your own money.
That's right campers - this isn't employer-sponsored insurance. This isn't Medicare or Medicaid. This is you writing a check to a private health insurance company each month and Greg Reed and the Alabama legislature telling you what you can buy. And what you can't.
So much for the party of personal responsibility & freedom from regulation.
What's especially shocking are the votes of Alabama's Democratic Senators - some of whom spoke at the anti-SB12 rally held in Montgomery last month.
This is happening on the national level now. The House leadership got smacked down by some of its own Republican women members for their 20-week "almost no exceptions" anti-abortion bill. But not because it was stupid you understand: because they didn't like how the wording "looked." Apparently, it's ok to be extremist as long as you don't look extremist on choice. Kind of like a "pro-choice Spanx" vote."I may be anti-choice, but this bill makes me look extreme, so I'll complain about it to leadership."
The House bill would also restrict small businesses from getting an Affordable Care Act tax credit if they purchase employee health plans that include abortion coverage on the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP exchange.
Screw "states rights" and "burdensome government regulation!" We need to penalize women and businesses if they purchase the insurance policies that House members don't like. After all, that group of non-physicians certainly knows better than we do what sort of health coverage we need, right?
A featured speaker at Friday's "Stand for Life" anti-abortion rally shared a personal list with the 40 or so people assembled. According to Daniel Bearden, there are fates worse than abortion: attending public schools, learning about "secular humanism," voting for the wrong candidates, and joining the Roman Catholic church. Seriously. A triumph of ecumenism and tolerance, it wasn't.
Street preacher James Henderson began the proceedings by instructing the crowd on "what the Lord would have us do here." Not surprisingly, his list included "continue our work of sidewalk counseling." Struggling to be heard over the roar of passing cars and buses, Henderson continued with his list:
Rededicate ourselves to the goal of closing all abortion clinics.
Make Huntsville "abortion free."
"Most of all, the Lord has called each of us to be Christian witnesses in the same way as our Lord, Jesus Christ."
At that point, a lone heckler raised a salient point: "If you want that, why don't you act like it? If you want to stop abortion, why don't you learn how to treat people?" Henderson called for the police - even though that pesky First Amendment does give a person the right to stand on a public sidewalk and yell. It's rude, but not illegal - kind of like using bullhorns to shout at women going into medical clinics.
She left the group, but it gave Henderson the perfect opportunity to play the victim card and start whining about the treatment his "pro-life heroes" have received from clinic escorts. In his description, his group peacefully stood, prayed, and counseled (often at ear-splitting volume with bullhorns, but he left that part out) "in spite of smoke pots, duck calls, verbal abuse, and false charges that could have led to arrest." Except, oops! they DID lead to arrest and resulted in this fetching mug shot of Joyce Fecteau, who attended the rally in street clothes instead of her preferred "concentration camp inmate" costume. Henderson called her arrest "the result of false charges," but the arresting police officer might disagree.
"Nothing will stop this group from standing uncompromisingly for life against every abortion, for any reason."
Things got really weird when the son of an anti-choice activist (who passed away last year & was honored at the rally) got up, thanked the group for the "kind words about my father" and then started a wide-ranging condemnation of everything from public schools to the IRS to the... ahem... Roman Catholic Church. Given that an official from the Knights of Columbus was about to tee up and accuse pro-choice supporters of "wanting abortion on demand all the way through 9 months" and that at least half of the small crowd appeared to be Catholic (the rosary beads are a giveaway), this moment was more than a little AWKWARD!
"As terrible as abortion is in every case, there are worse things that can happen to a person. Even Jesus said that it would have been better for Judas if he hadn't been born. What is our goal for children after they're spared an abortion? Do you want them to be brainwashed in public schools in the church of secular humanism? Do we want them to grow up to vote for leaders who take away our freedoms? To vote for IRS agents who will take money away from us to favor Socialism? Do we want them to be spared an abortion so they can be baptized in a worthless effort to wash away their sins and take part in a Mass which shamefully crucifies Christ over again or be saved by their own works?
No, these children need to know the gospel! That Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and it is his righteousness imputed to us by grace that saves us - not our works that are potentially improved up on by Christ's efforts. That's why my father is in Heaven today, because of God's grace."
A later speaker segued into another topic - evolution. Major Fecteau (husband of Joyce) proclaimed himself a "creation scientist," which is certainly listed somewhere as the prime example of an oxymoron. Fecteau read Bible verses that warned about "believing in myths and fables," And I'm not sure, but I think he also quoted from "The Princess Bride."
It's "inconceivable" that this crew has and credibility in the community or in the legislature, but at least two local elected officials - Rep. Mike Ball & Rep. Mac McCutcheon - were on hand, spoke, and are eager to carry water for Henderson & company as they seek to enact a "2,000 buffer zone between schools & women's clinics" because, well... just because it's another way to make it more difficult to open & operate clinics.
Look for this bill to be front and center in the legislative priority list. It's specifically targeted at Huntsville's clinic and the supporters are delusional enough to think that the legislature can pass a bill that will retroactively close the clinic that opened (across the street from a closed public school) in 2014.
Judge Alan Mann today dismissed "with prejudice" a lawsuit filed by anti-choice activists against the City of Huntsville. The suit alleged that the city was violating its own zoning ordinances when it allowed the Alabama Women's Center to open at its new location. The judge saw it differently, and the clinic (which reopened in late October) is now free to continue to provide reproductive health services to the women of Alabama - and soon, possibly women from Tennessee.
It's the second bit of good news pro-choice advocates have had in the past few weeks. One bright spot in a otherwise dismal mid-term election was the defeat of local political opportunist Chris Horn, who tried to turn the clinic's location in a majority-minority neighborhood into an election issue that would get him to the Alabama Legislature. Voters saw through that charade though and elected Anthony Daniels instead. Really: all you had to do was drive by the clinic and see that the "neighborhood" wasn't protesting - only this crew of regular faces of anti-choice Huntsville.
The dismissal of this lawsuit is no small victory for the clinic owner. Remember what he has been through. Not just having to relocate his business due to the TRAP laws, he's had to put up with this sort of clapTRAP:
This has to be galling for head protester & pseudo-preacher James Henderson, who told the judge in this case that he was sure he was "more qualified" to interpret zoning regulations than the city's long-time zoning board administrator, James McGuffey. Henderson was also recorded giving legal advice to a federal judge who called out the Huntsville protesters' bad behavior: "Mind your own business and stay out of ours."
Well, Mr. Henderson... take that advice to heart. Mind your own damn business and let the women who visit the clinic make their own medical decisions.
Kudos again to the brave men and women of the Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates who volunteer at clinics across Alabama, track legislation, lobby, and advocate for women's reproductive health issues. They're on the front lines in this battle and they're true heroes for justice. Why not join them?
Guess who thronged the sidewalks to protest on the first Saturday that the Alabama Women's Center was open at its new location? Not the neighbors. Not the local business owners. Imagine a surreal, twisted remake of "Grumpy Old Men" & you'll get it. It was just the regular, "weaned on a pickle" faces of anti-choice Huntsville. Doesn't this guy look happy to be there?
This was a "big shock" to clinic supporters (snark), because the opponents were vocal and confident when they told the Huntsville Zoning Board that the "neighborhood" didn't want the clinic in the new location. They offered two reasons.
Local politico Chris Horn cited neighborhood concerns at the meeting. He spoke on behalf of "hundreds" who hadn't bothered to show up at the meeting. Later, a priest who lives 100 miles away played the race card. Watch a video clip of the hearing.
And yet, the first Saturday after the clinic opened, here's the crew who showed up:
Do they look remotely like the same group that was protesting in October 2013 & who appear on a weekly basis?
Crikey! Some of them are even wearing the same clothes. Kind of like their "oppress women" uniforms.
Towards the end of the protest, their leader, James Henderson, snatched one of FIVE bullhorns used by the group & made a speech. Yes campers, 14 people came armed with FIVE bullhorns. Isn't that special?
While we have video of Henderson's ranting, I'm not posting it. He can get his 50 seconds of fame somewhere else. But he reported that he had been at Saturday's meeting of the Madison County Republican Men's Club & confidently promised his motley group of acolytes that "Governor Bentley's office" would intervene in the clinic zoning dispute.
"Delusional" barely describes the man. No matter how little authority local governments have under the Alabama Constitution, they can regulate zoning. That's not the purview of the Governor's office.
North Alabama women once again have a convenient location for health screenings, tests, and abortions. The Alabama Women's Center has reopened in its new location. The previous building didn't comply with the state's new TRAP laws, and the clinic's owner fought a long battle with protesters and state & local government agencies to relocate.
This was not an easy process. Opponents fought the clinic at every turn with outrageous arguments and even accusations of racism:
While the clinic has been closed, North Alabama women have had to pay the TRAP tax and travel to Tuscaloosa or go out of state. Not surprisingly, that presented a time and financial challenge for many, but hundreds of donors and volunteers (heroes & heroines, all) stepped up to help pay expenses and ferry patients to more distant locations.
Congratulations to the clinic owners, employees, and dedicated volunteers from the Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates (ARRA). It would have been so easy to give up and walk away, but y'all stood strong in the face of verbal harrassment, legal threats, and delays.
The good guys (and gals) won one for themselves and for the women of North Alabama.
Isn't this just the face women need to see before & after they leave the "Reproductive Health Services" clinic in Montgomery? Ladies, meet David. He cares so much about your health that he spends his valuable personal time picketing and trespassing on private property in order to yell "babykiller" and other epithets through the windows of the clinic.
We're not kidding about trespassing. He was so proud of being arrested for trespassing that he filmed it. He explained to police that he had "no choice" because the sprinkler sprayed the sidewalk. And yet, he had a choice whether or not to be on the sidewalk in the first place. Details, details.
This self-righteous street preacher is a fixture at Montgomery's sole women's clinic. That's nothing unusual: most clinics have a regular gang of protesters. We've reported extensively on the faces of anti-choice Huntsville. But there's always a ringleader who can be counted on to be over-the-top in behavior & rhetoric.
In Huntsville, we have the oozing self-importance of Rev. James Henderson, who offers free legal advice to federal judges. Montgomery has David here. Judging from his stance in this photo taken yesterday, he also appears to be an aspiring Victoria's Secret model - as soon as he, ahem, grows a pair. Eat more Twinkies son, you'll get there....
The clinic escorts in Montgomery invite y'all to participate in a photo caption contest for David. Suggestions include:
Secret Shopper at Frederick's of Hollywood
"Do you carry something in a nice DDD?"
"Why don't the ladies dig me?"
Share your suggestions in the comments! The clinics escorts can have posters made. Maybe the winner can receive an autographed copy!
Seriously though, people like this are the reason we have FACE laws (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances) and why some states instituted strict buffer zones around clinics. Protesters want courts to believe that they only want to pray, counsel women, and offer them alternatives to abortion. Some undoubtedly are telling the absolute truth. However, they do nothing to reign in the obstreperous, judgmental majority of protesters who do their best to shame and upset women entering the clinics - potentially causing them physical harm.
The court found the interest in protecting patients in and around the clinics was compelling, especially given physicians' testimony that amplified sound can cause anxiety and high blood pressure, hindering patients' recovery.
Huntsville's only women's clinic is closed temporarily, so what's a bored abortion opponent to do? Why, protest at the previous location of course. The fact that it's occupied by a female OB-GYN who is pro-choice just puts the cherry on top. For months, we've been following the saga of Huntsville's Alabama Women's Center as it struggles to comply with the TRAP (Targeted Regulations Against Abortion Providers) bill passed by the GOP supermajority. (Part of the bill was struck down by a federal judge. Read coverage of the hearings here.)
As of now, the clinic remains closed, pending final inspection and approval from state & local government. Not surprisingly, the state is taking its time sending someone up here and the city is now embroiled in a lawsuit over the zoning.
That's right campers! The supermajority's TRAP law is costing taxpayers money at the state and local levels. That's quite the twist on their pledge of "fiscal responsibility."
So, with the actual clinic closed, what's a dedicated anti-choice protester to do with his/her time? Maybe they could volunteer to help with the many humanitarian needs in our community: the hungry, the homeless, the kids needing mentors, sick people without medical care, elderly & homebound residents who need a helping hand.....
NOPE. This Huntsville group has decided to go "back to the future" and protest at the old clinic location. You know: the one where abortions are no longer performed and the place where a private physician has set up an OB/GYN practice.
This isn't the first time protesters have tried to disrupt this doctor's private practice. They picketed her old office as well - directly across from a middle school school. Why their intense interest and determination to disrupt a private medical practice?
She used to be a physician at the clinic, but folded under the pressure & threats from the anti-choice zealots. It's understandable: many doctors have to make the same choice to protect themselves, their families, and employees. But here's the thing: the protesters won. They forced her to stop working at the clinic - but they're still harrassing her and her patients.
It seems that these goons just can't stop yelling at pregnant women - even women who are hoping to carry their pregnancies to term.
The word "bully" just doesn't seem to cover it.
The photos accompanying this post were taken yesterday outside the doctor's office. If you're confused by the "White Abortionist" sign, just understand that the doctor's last name is hyphenated and the protesters apparently have problems with proper punctuation.
URGE - Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity - invites young (age 17-25) Alabama activists to attend the "Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute" training in Tuscaloosa next month. The weekend-long retreat will "introduct young activists to the reproductive justice movement and basic organizing skills.
URGE envisions a world where all people have agency over their own bodies and relationships, and the power, knowledge, and tools to exercise that agency. URGE builds this vision by engaging young people in creating and leading the way to sexual and reproductive justice for all by providing training, field mobilization, and national leadership for a youth-driven agenda
At a meeting of the Huntsville Zoning Commission Tuesday night, James Henderson, Executive Director of the Christian Coalition of Alabama decided to take a traditional approach & blame federal judges for his problems. Traditional, that is, for Alabama. We're the state remember, that likes to thumb our nose at Washington with one hand while we pocket federal cash with the other.
Judge Thompson's opinion (PDF) specifically called out Huntsville clinic protestors for creating a hostile, violent atmosphere outside the clinics (noisy too - note the bullhorn), outlined the state's "history of violence & threats againt abortion doctors," and noted that the "protests in Huntsville go beyond run-of-the-mill political protests."
Apparently, being called out on their bad behavior injured the tender feelings of Henderson & his crew because several mentioned the judge during their speeches to the board. But only Henderson offered specific instructions:
"He should mind his own business and stay out of ours."
Except that, Jenderson's "business" is denying women their constitutional right, so who better to get involved than a federal judge?
The "faces of anti-choice Huntsville" swarmed the city zoning board hearing last night in a last ditch attempt to keep North Alabama's lone women's clinic from reopening in a new location. In a breathtaking display of chutzpah, speaker after speaker - some of whom live more than 50 miles from the proposed location - went concern trolling. They cited concerns about "the neighborhood" and "disruptions" caused by protests at the previous clinic location.
Why yes.... block the sidewalks, bus in scores of children, bellow at passersby through a bullhorn, and assault clinic escorts.... and then complain about the "tension & violence" associated with the clinic.
The Huntsville clinic has been closed since the end of June, forcing many women to go out of state. The clinic owner found a new location that complies with the TRAP laws - the same laws that the demonstrators lobbied so hard to pass. But it's still not good enough. While some speakers tried to pretend it was just "concern" about the neighborhood, others were pretty candid. They don't like abortion & don't want a clinic to open anywhere.
One speaker, GOP legislative candidate Chris Horn, even obliquely referred to the events in Ferguson, MO as an example of what can happen when neighborhood residents don't have a voice. Except that residents do have a voice - and a forum where they could have exercised their rights last night. However, of all the opposition speakers, only Horn actually lives in the neighborhood. The next closest speaker is more than a mile from the new clinic location, and the main speaker, Rev. James Henderson, lives in Morgan County.
In spite of repeated requests to stick to the topic at hand - zoning - and avoid wading into the abortion debate or causing a disruption, many speakers just couldn't help themselves. A favorite moment was when a monk from Cullman stressed that neighborhood residents don't want this clinic! The next speaker? A woman who lives .8 miles from the clinic & who spoke in favor of the location. oops....
Another favorite moment: Rev. Henderson railing about "Wiccan witch smoke" being used against his group.
Watch the video clip for a sample of the evening's activities. In spite of all the Sturm und Drang, the zoning board voted against the appeal. Reverend Henderson, unwilling to give up his time in the limelight, promises a court challenge.
Note: I'll also have video up with the remarks of clinic supporters, but have to tend to other matters today. Coming soon!
It was a motley crew: the leader was a guy with a theory of "post-abortion syndrome" & a Home Ec degree. Others included: the plastic surgeon who screwed up Linda Tripp's face lift; a male emergency room doctor who needs to be "told" why a woman has come to the hospital with complications; a sociologist who thinks it's no big deal if poor women have to travel hundreds of miles & spend days in hotels in order to get a legal medical procedure; & a North Carolina obstetrician & professor who travels the country (for money) supporting TRAP laws as "the current standard of care."
Let's start with the ringleader: Vincent Rue, who collected a whopping $82,890 from Alabama during 2013 & 2014.
Rue has a long and sordid history as a professional "anti-abortion expert." He's a psychotherapist (or is that "psycho" therapist?) who coined the term "post-abortion syndrome" to refer to a form of mental illness women experience after getting an abortion. Which would mean, essentially, that he believes one in three American women is mentally ill. He's also a proponent of giving men veto power over their partner's abortion (because of the "damage" abortion does to men, you understand), meaning that he thinks men have a "right" to control women's reproductive choices. Hey girls! They may transfer the sperm to you, but they still own it!
Rue, who holds a doctorate in family relations from the University of North Carolina School of Home Economics, has claimed that "abortion reescalates the battle between the sexes" and "abortion increases bitterness toward men." For decades, he has strived to convince mainstream researchers to recognize "post-abortion syndrome," a supposed mental illness resulting from abortion.
But "after submission for peer review by scientists with the Center for Disease Control, the National Center for Health Statistics and other scientific institutions, [Rue's] study was found to have 'no value' and to be 'based upon a priori beliefs rather than an objective review of the evidence,'" according to Daniel Huyett, a federal judge who disregarded Rue's testimony in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a landmark 1990 abortion case that eventually ended up before the Supreme Court. "His testimony is devoid of…analytical force and scientific rigor," Huyett added. "Moreover, his admitted personal opposition to abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, suggests a possible personal bias." Rue "possesses neither the academic qualifications nor the professional experience of plaintiffs' expert witnesses," another federal judge wrote in 1986 after hearing Rue's testimony in another landmark abortion case, Hodgson v. Minnesota.
Rue has testified, written reports, and coached witness during abortion lawsuits since the mid-1980's. In the past two years alone, he's pocketed over $200,000 in taxpayer money from Alabama, North Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Next up, we have emergency room physician Dr. James Anderson, who was paid $16,350 to essentially repeat testimony that Vincent Rue prepared for him. Anderson defended the "admitting privliges" requirement in Alabama's TRAP law because women might be "embarrassed" to admit they'd had an abortion (reckon why?) and he wouldn't know why they were bleeding unless the doctor who performed the procedure was on hand. What a medical marvel he is!
Dr. Anderson has a history of being Rue's mouthpiece (think of the scene in "Chicago" where Roxie sits on lawyer Billy Flynn's lap). From the Mother Jones article:
Rue engaged James C. Anderson, a Virginia emergency room physician, to testify not only in Wisconsin, but also in Alabama, Alaska, North Dakota, and Texas.
Rue often drafts written testimony for his star witnesses. In Alabama, Anderson testified that Rue had written his supplemental report to the court—Anderson had merely signed his name to it. When pressed by the judge, Anderson revealed that Rue had provided most of the research for his main report, too.
According to Anderson, Rue helped coordinate witnesses to defend Alaska's 2010 parental notification law.
A few days earlier, in Alabama, Anderson testified that he didn't know courts had disregarded Rue's testimony.
"You say you don't know his employment or any organizations that he belongs to," the judge asked Anderson. "Why do you trust him?"
Another member of Rue's crew, Dr. John Thorp, is a North Carolina ob/gyn & professor at Chapel Hill. He collected $34,131.25.
Dr. Thorp has allegedly researched the "physical harm" done to women by abortions. His study on that harm was refused by peer-reviewed journals & only saw print when he placed it in a "pay to publish" journal.
Thorp ran into some trouble when he testified in Wisconsin. Turns out he has problems with decimal places: