Bitter Pill to Swallow


Break The Chain Rally, Chicago 1993 

NOW and a few other women’s groups (including the fun but short-lived WAC Women’s Action Coalition, an ACT-UP style feminist group) banded together to break the ‘human chain’ that Joe Scheidler’s ‘Pro Life Action League/Network’ was putting around abortion clinics in Chicago.

They called it ‘sidewalk counseling’ and several people would physically stand in front of women trying to enter the clinic, to try to ‘escort’ the women out of having abortions (without even knowing if that is what they were there for in the first place). Quite often this would escalate and the gentle Christians would end up shouting in their faces, calling them horrible names, and even punching, pushing or hitting women trying to get past them and enter the clinic.

Along with legal abortions, the clinic also performed pre-natal and ob/gyn care. Some of the women pushed around by these clinic ‘sidewalk counseling’ sessions were pregnant and seeking prenatal care, not abortions.

Additionally doctors names were put on internet ‘hit lists’, their children were followed and threatened in school and a few were murdered and some clinics were bombed – the amount of violence involved in these anti-abortion protests was huge and growing.

NOW took PLAN to court and after several years of legal battles, the PLAN tactics were declared by the supreme court to fall under the RICO act. This judgement seemed to calm the violence by tripling fines for anything done at a clinic to which RICO could be applied.

But last month, the use of the RICO act to prevent this type of blockade of women trying to access health care by increasing monteary fines has been reversed thanks to dictator Bush’s new Bible thumper cronies on the supreme court. Only 2 of the voting members of the court were not part of the original 9-0 decision in favor of allowing RICO’s use. This says just how much the political spirit of the times has changed.

Over time (13 years) I guess people have forgotten what was really going on in the 80s and early 90s because so far all the news I read on this topic seems to think this decision was just jiffy and protects free speech and that normal existing state laws should suffice to stop any violence. I guess time will tell.

History until 2002 can be found here: http://www.now.org/nnt/fall-2002/timeline.html .

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