Turning the tables on Anti-Choice Protesters
December 23, 2004 4:20 AM   Subscribe

Turning Pickets Into Pledges Planned Parenthood has launched a new program that "creates a no-win situation for anti-choice protesters — the more picketers who demonstrate outside a Planned Parenthood clinic, the more donations that clinic receives." This campaign allows supporters to pledge between 25 cents and one dollar per protester -- not a lot of money, but it adds up to thousands over time.
posted by zarq (27 comments total)
I'd like to see a variable that increases the donations even further based on the number of obscenely disgusting photos displayed prominently on signboards.
posted by MrZero at 5:24 AM on December 23, 2004

Sure it's been said before, but "terrorism" is the new "communism". In fact, maybe I could say that calling protesting terrorism "is terrorism" -- scaring/shaming protesters from using their first-amendment right to assemble and to petition.

I agree that there are some anti-abortion protesters that are terrorists, or think that violence in the name of pro-life is okay. Like Eric Robert Rudolph. But despite the fact that I may personally disagree with their point of view, it's absolutely every American's right obligation to protest government policies they don't like. On both sides of the aisle.

That said, Turning Pickets into Pledges is genius. I want to shake someone's hand.
posted by Plutor at 5:30 AM on December 23, 2004

Makes me want to drive to Waco, don a shirt with a pro-choice slogan on it, and offer coffee and donuts to the protesters.
posted by tippiedog at 5:35 AM on December 23, 2004

But despite the fact that I may personally disagree with their point of view, it's absolutely every American's right obligation to protest government policies they don't like.

That is indeed true. However, one wonders just exactly how screaming at women and doctors outside a clinic is protesting against the government? Sounds kinda' like harrassing children at elementary school to protest for education reform. Not a subtle distinction, wouldn't you agree?
posted by Wulfgar! at 5:48 AM on December 23, 2004

However, one wonders just exactly how screaming at women and doctors outside a clinic is protesting against the government?

Yeah, point taken. I've never gone to an abortion clinic, protester-infested or otherwise, so I'm not sure how common the stereotypical yelling-and-insulting anti-abortion protester really is. I'd like to think that they're the exception rather than the rule, but I suppose that if you go to the clinic to protest, you're obviously pretty passionate about it.
posted by Plutor at 5:57 AM on December 23, 2004

terrorism - The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

terrorism - the unlawful use or threat of violence esp. against the state or the public as a politically motivated means of attack or coercion
Merriam-Webster Dictionary of Law

terrorism - the calculated use of violence (or threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimindation or coercion or instilling fear [syn: act of terrorism, terrorist act]
WordNet ® 2.0

So yeah, anti-choice protesters fit EXACTLY the definition of terrorism.

(thank you to dictionary.com)

And this is a creative way to try and take away the power of these people. Neat idea.
posted by raedyn at 6:30 AM on December 23, 2004

This is a brilliant idea.
posted by effwerd at 6:34 AM on December 23, 2004

I so want to see the looks on the protestors' faces when they hear this.
posted by orange swan at 6:42 AM on December 23, 2004

The Emma Goldman Clinic in the city where I used to live has been doing this for years. I'm grateful that I had the choice between these two clinics when I was younger, as I personally found EG's staff to be far more caring and competent. That aside, I also thought that Pledge-a-Picketer was a fantastic idea then, and I'm glad Planned Parenthood has finally implemented it.
posted by makonan at 6:46 AM on December 23, 2004

This is brilliant.

And Plutor, it's pretty common. The exception, in my experience, is usually one old man, holding a sign and quietly looking mournful. The rest of the protesters are usually obnoxious. My OB/GYN also performs abortions, so every woman who sets foot in the office is automatically a babykiller. They've not been deterred even when I've had to bring my three year old daughter with me to routine appointments. That's low.
posted by Ruki at 6:54 AM on December 23, 2004 [1 favorite]

Having personally had the shit kicked out of me by members of Operation Rescue in NY during the '92 Democratic Convention - in front of a clinic where they had made phony appointments to get in the doc's office and, once there, burned his license and diplomas, chained themselves to his tables, and stole his patient records - I am CHEERING to read this.

Yes, it is everyone's right/obligation to protest. But where is that line drawn? If they were actually holding prayer vigils and candlelight ceremonies, I'd have no problem with it. However I can tell you from my own experience of the extreme violence - including one of our group being tackled by a PRIEST, no less! - that in most cases, the peaceful prayer and quiet, respectful protesting only begins AFTER the cameras are rolling.

Go Planned Parenthood!
posted by OhPuhLeez at 6:55 AM on December 23, 2004 [1 favorite]

Makes me want to drive to Waco, don a shirt with a pro-choice slogan on it, and offer coffee and donuts to the protesters.

Loving your enemies? Say, you're not one of them Christians, are ya?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:58 AM on December 23, 2004

I've always wondered how some people think that death is considered a "choice"? Some choice, huh? And now it appears that Planned Parenthood wants to abort the First Amendment.
posted by republican at 7:18 AM on December 23, 2004

Let me be the first to say that this is a fantastic idea.


Well, let me chime in anyway. I've done counter-picketing at Planned Parenthood (creating a zone of safety for women to go through from street to door), and while there was never any violence or explicit threats of same on the occasions I was there, the atmosphere certainly got unpleasant at times. "Terrorism" is probably a little strong to define anti-choicers as a group - let's not fall into the establishment trap of tarring a whole movement for the actions of a few - but some of the people I've seen on the street come pretty close.
posted by soyjoy at 7:20 AM on December 23, 2004


Even though I toe the line when it comes to committing to an either fully pro-life or pro-choice political stance; the protesters who stand outside the Planned Parenthood near my house every thursday definitely prod me toward pro-choice. Holding up pictures of aborted fetuses to protest abortion is like holding up pictures of mutilated soldiers to protest the Iraq war -- at the airport where G.I.'s are returning from the Middle East.
posted by gagglezoomer at 7:28 AM on December 23, 2004

makonan: Thanks for posting the link to Emma Goldman. I had tried doing net research on similar programs at other clinics or from different organizations, but turned up empty. Before I posted this on MeFi I even checked the following pro-choice activist sites to see if they referenced either the story I posted above, or some similar project: Abortion Access Project, Abortion Clinics Online, The ACLU, Catholics for Choice, Choice USA, The NAF, NARAL, NNAF, NOW, PRCH, The RCRC and Save Roe. Not one of them did, so I emailed it to 'em all this morning.

Maybe that will help get the word out. :-)
posted by zarq at 7:31 AM on December 23, 2004

And now it appears that Planned Parenthood wants to abort the First Amendment.

Do you mind explaining just exactly HOW this effects the first amendment, even a little, just the teensiest bit?
posted by Wulfgar! at 7:34 AM on December 23, 2004

nice troll republican. well up to par from what i expected someone to chime in. didn't think the name would be so apt though. well done.
posted by eatdonuts at 7:35 AM on December 23, 2004

Hang fire a second, eatdonuts. Its only a troll if he doesn't answer the question. I doubt he will, and thus prove the claim of troll, but I've heard more and more from the anti-woman protest crowd that pro-choicers and Planned Parenthood are denying their 1st amendmant rights. I, for one, would like to hear some argument for how that is so in this case, from one who claims to believe it.
posted by Wulfgar! at 7:43 AM on December 23, 2004

republican: Army of God condones and incites violence and murder against anyone who has anything to do with abortion. Because of this, they're no different than any other terrorist group who promote fear and murder for their cause, like Al Queda, ETA or Hezbollah.

No freedom of speech is being abridged by the Planned Parenthood project. The program also does not prevent protestors from doing what they want. It merely uses their presence to promote unity amongst their supporters. And frankly, as we've seen all too often, anti-choice activists rarely "peaceably assemble," choosing instead to harass and attack those who have rights under Federal law. Therefore, the First Amendment is not being violated.
posted by zarq at 7:43 AM on December 23, 2004

Gagglezoomer, I hear ya. The same thing happened on my university campus, and I think that kind of tactic pushes some people to think "don't tell me what to do!". I'm not sure where I stand morally on this- I certainly don't think it's a great idea. (Legally, I'm quite certain I'm pro-choice). But immoral doesn't automatically equal illegal and (this is for you, republican), a LOT more women die when abortions are illegal when than they aren't. Coat hangers do not make good surgical tools. Education and changes in our social support systems are the keys to reducing abortion numbers, not shooting doctors, blowing up clinics, or harassing women who are under enough stress already.
posted by fossil_human at 7:45 AM on December 23, 2004

I wish I didn't think so highly of humankind. Then I wouldn't be disappointed so often.
posted by Plutor at 7:47 AM on December 23, 2004

I've never gone to an abortion clinic, protester-infested or otherwise, so I'm not sure how common the stereotypical yelling-and-insulting anti-abortion protester really is.

Unfortunately, it's not at all uncommon, as posters above have testified. Many anti-abortion groups maintain a schedule of protests and sign up to cover one day a week, so protesting is a regular appointment for them. Others have figured out that certain doctors or clinics perform abortion procedures on certain days of the week, and concentrate their protesting on those days.

Although I am confident it won't be long until anti-abortion folks find a new and even scarier way to interfere with the lives of women, this is an excellent move that will throw protests off balance for a while.

I've long been a proponent of the idea that if your beliefs lead you to oppose abortion, it would be far more logical to reduce the number of abortions that take place by reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies than by castigating women after the fact. Imagine if all that energy that now goes into clinic-protesting and doctor-stalking went into research on more effective and safer birth control methods; programs making birth control cheaper and more accessible to all women; and sex / life skills education (and I surely don't mean abstinence education, which is not highly effective). If we were all working to remove the conditions that result in unplanned preganancies, abortion would drop to a minimum. I am strongly pro-choice, and I would really like to see that happen. I imagine that perspective is pretty common: wanting to ensure there is an unimpeded right to an abortion is not the same as recommending or approving of abortion. It's a very sad and unpleasant phenomenon, and yet picturing the lives of women America without this choice available is ...chilling.

And why doesn't that happen? Well, I'm personally convinced that a large number, probably a majority, of abortion protestors are motivated not so much by moral objections to abortion, but more by the unspoken desire to control women's lives and/or stem the tide of societal change which tolerates premarital sex, a range of sexual orientations, and control over procreation. So try recommending birth control activism and sex education in your next argument with an anti-abortion protestor; their reaction to that idea will let you know where their motivations lie.
posted by Miko at 8:02 AM on December 23, 2004

Miko- you are a sensible, reasonable, intelligent, and articulate person. Society would benefit much from implementing your suggestions, but unfortunately your average anti-choice protester has none of the qualities I listed above. They tend rather to be vapid, inane, ignorant, and possessed. However, the points you make I will surely be defending when next I discuss this topic.
posted by baphomet at 8:38 AM on December 23, 2004


this is excellent

I wish I could find it online, but in one of the Best of the Onion books there is an image of Jesus as an abortion protestor, throwing bricks through the windows at clinics and setting pipe bombs and the like. I was quite amused.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:59 AM on December 23, 2004

"Army of God condones and incites violence and murder...like Al Queda, ETA or Hezbollah."

To make the comparison even more explicit, Hezbollah literally means Party of God or Army of God.

FYI, gay groups (and in at least one case, gay bars) have been using this tactic ("sponsor a protestor") to raise money to fight off picketers and Fred Phelps types. Glad to see it's spreading to clinics.
posted by Asparagirl at 9:39 AM on December 23, 2004

My post above gives a first-hand account of such a "protest." If all they did was sing songs, recite prayers, hold candles and signs, I'd be irritated but support their presence.

This is NOT what goes on.

Another example: I was doing clinic escorting at another clinic on the east side of Manhattan. A woman showed up, saw the numerous protestors - she was carrying a young child, maybe two years old. She said that she was at the clinic for a pregnancy checkup (she was expecting number two), that her husband was parking the car, and she was somewhat scared to walk into the clinic unescorted because of all the yelling, particularly since she was carrying her little one.

"No problem," I said. I mean, she was carrying a child, surely that would register with the protestors, right? Not even close. We started down the block and she was immediately surrounded by roughly 10 large men and a few smaller women with signs of fetuses. They were screaming lovely things in her face like, "Don't kill your baby!" and "Murderer!" We both tried to chime in over the din that she was there because she was pregnant and KEEPING the baby, but they didn't hear. They were shoving into her. I did my best to stand in front of her stomach. Her two year old was shrieking and crying. They never stopped.

It was hideous. It was disgusting.

That is not free speech, that's about as close to aggravated assault I'd ever witnessed (until, of course, later in the week when I got jumped myself over on 55th street).

That is not the kind of speech that needs protection.
posted by OhPuhLeez at 9:01 AM on December 24, 2004 [1 favorite]

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