July 20, 2007
On-the-Ground Report from Birmingham.
By Rev. Katherine Ragsdale
You might have heard about what’s going on in Alabama, but the media coverage has been largely biased, if there’s any at all, and I want to make sure that our story is told.
Can you imagine going to your doctor's office and navigating through a crowd of 150 protesters screaming at you? Let's mix in the shouts of "baby killer" and other verbal attacks with the amplification of bagpipes playing.
What if the doctor's office had volunteers using umbrellas to shield patients from the mob scene and shouting as they traveled to and from their cars?
That's what is happening outside the New Women All Women Health Clinic, where I arrived yesterday as a representative for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. “Operations Save America” is targeting this clinic and another one in Alabama as part of its ongoing intimidation and violence campaign against a woman’s right to choose.
The clinic in Birmingham holds a harrowing place in the history of violence against women’s clinics. It was the site of a bombing in 1998 by convicted felon Eric Rudolph that killed a security guard and maimed Emily Lyons, a clinic nurse.
The same clinic director who rebuilt the center after the bombing is still here—she and her staff are made of steel equaled only by the kindness and compassion they show the women for whom they provide care. But you can imagine the tension that's here when the last time they faced such an onslaught of protests a bomb went off and someone died.
There’s even a new message the protesters are hurling at women entering the clinic.
They are telling women that “men have hurt them” and that they shouldn't "kill their baby." These shouts are degrading - they insinuate that women have no control over their reasoning. This language puts men at the center of the decision instead of the courageous women who are looking for the healthcare or counseling that is right for them. It raises the tension and fuels the anger.
These shouts go on, even though there is a court injunction and local ordinance against using amplification outside the clinic.
Local law enforcement didn’t enforce this noise ordinance yesterday, hence the bagpipes, but I witnessed a bunch of police officers trying to enforce it today, while the anti-choice protester screamed back at them about his “free speech” rights. He refused to comply, so they had no choice but to arrest him. Again, he’s free to yell all he wants, but the law says no amplification.
If you’re reading this and know anyone in this part of the country, please ask him or her to join us tonight at 5 p.m. for a pro-choice rally at the Fountain at Five Points or tomorrow, Saturday, July 21, at Kelly Ingram Park at 10 a.m.
This story isn’t getting into the mainstream media, so please use your power to inform others about what’s going on in Alabama.
The Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, currently the executive director of the Political Research Associates, is a longtime leader in the pro-choice movement. A board member of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Rev. Ragsdale has testified before Congress and served as a pro-choice spokesperson and adviser for nearly 20 years.
Posted by Vanessa at July 20, 2007 4:43 PM
Thanks for the update. I've been scouring the local media for reports about the protests but the news has been largely flavorless and devoid of detail.
Only blogs have any kind of good information about what happened.
Posted by: NewsCat at July 23, 2007 10:56 AM