Sources: ON THE ISSUES Date: Fall 1996 Title: “The Anti-Abortion Stealth Campaign”; Author: Jennifer Gonnerman; FRONT LINES RESEARCH Date: October 1996, Title: “Storming Wombs and Waco: How the Anti-abortion and Militia Movements Converge,” Author: Sandi DuBowski
SSU Censored Researchers: Latrice Babers, Linda McCabe
At this point in the turbulent history of the debate over abortion, it seems that opponents can be separated into two groups: non-violent opponents and militants who will use intimidation and violence. While “standard” harassment of patients and clinic personnel through “sidewalk counseling” is fairly commonplace, violent actions are becoming increasingly common. These newer, confrontative practices have included attacks on clinics using butyric acid (a chemical that smells of rancid butter), death and bomb threats, kidnapping, arson, bombings, and murder. The National Abortion Federation has kept statistics on clinic violence since 1977 and the most recent data (current as of August 1, 1996) showed a cumulative total of 1,894 violent attacks reported on American clinics-including 157 in 1995.
According to researcher and journalist Sandi DuBowski, there is a well-documented connection between both the violent anti-abortion movement and so-called “militia” groups. This includes links between followers of the Christian Identity movement, the followers of the “Freemen” (and their anti-government ideology), the Ku Klux Klan, organized militias, the Gun Owners of America, the U.S. Taxpayers Party, militant anti-abortion groups such as Operation Rescue and the Missionaries to the Pre-born. One recent example is the conviction in July 1996 of three members of the Oklahoma Constitutional Militia (which included a Christian Identity “prophet” and his followers) for conspiring to blow up abortion clinics, along with the Southern Poverty Law Center, and other civil rights targets.
One particularly aggressive and high-profile group is Human Life International (HLI), which systematically exports American-styled antiabortion tactics to other countries in attempts to remove access to safe, legal abortions for women worldwide. According to HLI, it has 68 branches in 56 countries on five continents. It conducts worldwide seminars and symposiums on abortion and morality-related topics.
According to the World Health Organization, unsafe abortions are one of the leading causes of the more than 500,000 maternal deaths occurring each year. Globally, more than 13 percent of pregnancy-related deaths are associated with unsafe abortions. This figure climbs to 50 percent in countries with restrictive abortion laws such as Latin American nations. Currently in the U.S., 84 percent of all counties lack access to surgical abortion-so even where abortion is legal it may not be easily accessible. Researchers who track these extremist groups caution that if such militant conspiracies spread on a global scale, there will undoubtedly be more women put into the desperate position of risking their lives or health in order to determine whether or when they bear children.
Additional source information: Human Life International, International Planned Parenthood Federation, National Abortion Federation, National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, National Organization for Women, and the World Health Organization
COMMENTS: According to Jennifer Gonnerman, author of “The Anti-Abortion Stealth Campaign,” Human Life International received virtually no exposure in the American mass media last year or in prior years. It is interesting to note, however, that this group has attracted some press attention in Canada, where pro-choice activists are outraged by the fact that this U.S.-funded group is crossing borders to recruit members.
“Wider [media] exposure of Human Life International would inform the public about the true nature of the battle over reproductive rights. Few people realize that the abortion battle is not just between Democrats and Republicans, but that it is raging well beyond America’s borders. Moreover, I think the public would be fascinated to find out how extensive the Catholic Church’s involvement is in HLI.
“The entire anti-choice movement benefits from this lack of media coverage because it keeps the public ignorant about how well-funded and strategically advanced they [HLI] are. Ignorant about the activities of Human Life International, many pro-choice people mistakenly believe the fight for reproductive rights is almost won.
“An example of how widespread (but unnoticed) HLI’s influence is popped up at this year’s Republican convention in San Diego. Flip Benham and other Operation Rescue leaders attracted the attention of 40 television cameras when they started waving gruesome, six-foot high pictures of fetuses. But while cameras focused on the fetuses, they missed the posters’ fine print, which showed that they had been manufactured by Human Life International. HLI’s ability to produce the anti-choice movement’s propaganda-buttons, books, bumper stickers, videotapes, plastic fetuses-without enduring scrutiny by the mainstream media allows it to flourish,” says Gonnerman.
Since her article was published, Human Life International moved into its new national headquarters in Virginia and increased its staff size, according to Gonnerman. “Meanwhile, the only exposure my story received after publication was some angry remarks on HLI’s Web site.”