A funny thing has happened when it comes to women’s rights and reproductive choice. The more women are cut off from having access to safe, legal abortion, the more anti-choice protestors’ rights seem to trump everyone else. The right to protest outranks the right for young children to attend their schools without coming face to face with gruesome graphic posters. The right of pharmacists to refuse drugs outweighs the right for women to have the prescriptions their doctors write for them, even if those drugs in some cases may be saving their lives. The right of “sidewalk counselors” who sue over not having enough access to women arriving for abortions, so they get their chance to “talk them out of it.”
Anti-choice activists have a variety of means for harassing and intimidating women away from reproductive health clinics, some even going as far as to bring cameras to record the patients coming and going. And in all cases, this is considered a legal form of harassment that women are expected to have to simply put up with if she wants to terminate a pregnancy.
So how does one get out of being harassed by anti-abortion advocates? According to police in one recent case, a woman has to be sure that the group is well aware that the activity and contact is unwanted. Yes, you have to actually tell them you prefer to no longer be harassed. As Andy Kopsa reports, earlier this month a group of “prayer warriors” in Wisconsin sent out an “All Points Bulletin” via email, desperately searching for a pregnant woman that they had spoken to on the street outside of a Planned Parenthood, a mother of two children already who walked away crying after speaking to the “warriors.” The email included a very detailed physical description of the woman, and asked recipients to let them know immediately if they see a woman that matches it.
A group of total strangers, sending out an email with a woman’s identifying physical characteristics, outing her as seeking an abortion and asking people to please find her and send them information so they can continue talking her out of the abortion she was looking for? How could that be anything but harassment and violation of her privacy?
Yet it’s not, according to local police. At least, not unless the woman specifically told the “warriors” to have no further contact with her. Kospa writes, “‘According to [Police Chief Nobel Wray], it is legal to send such an email but could be considered harassment if the individual who is the subject of the email told the so-called “sidewalk counselors” she didn’t want further contact from them. She could have filed a complaint regarding the email.’”
Running to her car, shouting at the protesters isn’t considered making it clear she didn’t want further contact? Do women need to begin wearing signs that say, “I do not give you permission to harass me or send emails that may personally identify me?”
A right to freedom of speech trumps the right to not be physically or emotionally accosted by strangers? Only if you are a woman seeking a termination of an unwanted pregnancy.
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