Book Club: Living in the Crosshairs

CrosshairsLiving in the Crosshairs is an important and terrifying book that was published last year by Oxford University Press. Its authors are David S. Cohen, a law professor at Drexel University who also sits on the boards of the Women’s Law Project and the Abortion Care Network, and Krysten Connon, who graduated from Drexel Law School in 2012, and is now an attorney in Philadelphia. In it, they look at targeted harassment of abortion providers. This is different from the protests we may think of outside abortion clinics, which are aimed at the clinic, or the women seeking abortions, or the issue in general. Targeted threats and attacks are aimed at individuals who work in the clinics. They are personal.

The title comes from a story of one provider’s dealings with the legal authorities. He describes one protest at the clinic where he works, where:

… a new sign displayed Paul’s picture in crosshairs. “I was just shocked that that was legal. I just can’t see how that’s fair.” Paul contacted the FBI about the targeted protest, particularly in light of the sign with the crosshairs. “They said it’s perfectly legal. The protesters could do that, and they could do worse.”

This incident shows the way abortion providers are targeted, literally and figuratively, by anti-abortion activists, and is a representative example of the stories told by the people interviewed for this report. In all, 87 providers were contacted, and 82 of them agreed to be interviewed at length. The authors included doctors, administrators, and other medical and non-medical staff who work where abortions are performed. Non-medical staff are also targets; as the authors point out, of eight providers murdered by anti-abortion killers, four were doctors; the others included two receptionists, a security guard, and a volunteer escort. And more recently, we’ve seen in Colorado Springs that people unrelated to a clinic can also be killed in anti-abortion violence. The danger is great; almost all of those interviewed chose to use false names, and to have details that could identify them changed as well. Continue reading

Political Posturing: The Federal 20-Week Abortion Ban

U.S. Representative Trent Franks (R-Arizona) of the 8th congressional district speaking at the Arizona Republican Party 2014 election victory party at the Hyatt Regency in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo: Gage Skidmore

U.S. Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona’s 8th congressional district speaking at the Arizona Republican Party 2014 election victory party in Phoenix. Photo: Gage Skidmore

The idea of a 20-week abortion ban is nothing new for the Grand Canyon State. In 2012, the Arizona Legislature enacted a law prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks, except in cases of narrowly defined medical emergencies. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously struck down the law under clear Supreme Court precedent, and the high court itself later declined to hear Arizona’s appeal.

Even though the Supreme Court refused to uphold Arizona’s initial 20-week ban, the issue remained a central policy concern for Arizona politicians. In June 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of gestation. The bill, sponsored by Arizona’s own Rep. Trent Franks, never reached the floor of the Democrat-controlled Senate.


Almost all late-term abortions are due to a life-threatening condition or severe fetal abnormalities.


Yet, despite the outright failure of Arizona politicians to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks, either here in Arizona or at the federal level, they’re back at it again. This year, Rep. Franks successfully spearheaded a bill nearly identical to the one he introduced two years ago. Approved by the House earlier this month, H.R. 36 would severely restrict access to abortion services in the fifth month of pregnancy.

Notably, even Franks’ most recent attack on women’s reproductive rights did not pass the House without controversy; the current edition of H.R. 36 is actually the revised version of a bill introduced in January. A handful of Republicans objected to the original draft because it mandated that women who suffered rape or incest must report all crimes to law enforcement before being eligible to receive a late-term abortion. Continue reading

Dr. George Tiller’s Death: Five Years Later

Dr. Tiller's supporters remember him at a vigil in San Francisco, June 1, 2009. Image: Steve Rhodes

Dr. Tiller’s supporters remember him at a vigil in San Francisco, June 1, 2009. Image: Steve Rhodes

On May 31, 2009, Dr. George Tiller was murdered by Scott Roeder while attending church services in Wichita, Kansas. This Saturday is the fifth anniversary of his assassination. From 1975 until his death, Tiller was an ob/gyn who also performed late-term abortions.


Dr. Tiller is remembered for the compassion he showed his patients.


A late-term abortion is a medical procedure in which a pregnancy is terminated during the later stages. The definition of “late-term” varies — even among medical journals — because of its correlation to fetus viability (i.e., when a fetus can survive outside of the uterus on its own). The medical community has not established an age at which a fetus becomes viable, as its survivability is contingent upon conditions internal and external to the womb; however, the survivability of a fetus greatly increases after 25 weeks, or almost 6 months from a woman’s last menstrual period. For reference, the expected gestation of a pregnancy is 40 weeks, or 9 months. Only 1.2 percent of abortions take place at or after 21 weeks.

Late-term abortions remain particularly controversial because of the issue of fetus viability, as well as the methods used to perform the medical procedure (e.g., inducing labor). Late-term abortions also have the potential to be more physically and emotionally challenging for the woman than those performed during earlier stages of pregnancy. While a woman should not be required by law to account for herself and the reasoning behind her medical decision-making, there are numerous medical reasons why a late-term abortion is a valid medical choice. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • clintonHillary will not be backing down to anti-choice imbeciles. (Upworthy)
  • It’s not looking good for abortion clinics in Ohio. (USA Today)
  • And Michigan clinics are being affected as a result. (RH Reality Check)
  • Anti-choice ignoramus Lindsey Graham is absolutely positive that prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks is going to result in great things! (HuffPo)
  • Instead of taking their asses somewhere to help babies who’ve been born already, a bunch of #$%&^@# in New Mexico are tooling around in a van with graphic, gory (and probably fake) images of “late-term” fetuses who’ve supposedly been aborted. (Think Progress)
  • Just because you sign my paycheck doesn’t mean you get to dictate what I do with my uterus. When will that register with these people?!?!? (NYT)
  • OK, girls, let’s have a chat — if you don’t want to get pregnant, please use contraception. Don’t assume you have special uterine powers that will automatically repel an embryo from showing up at your uterus’ door. (Jezebel)
  • Politicos who try to interfere with women’s use of birth control are in for a rude awakening come election time. #StartPackingYourBags (PolicyMic)
  • Get a load of this tripe: The buffoon known as Rush Limbaugh thinks women have no agency in their reproductive choices and are being “turned into abortion machines” by Democrats. (MSNBC)
  • Interesting Slate piece on how the victims of the Hitler regime are affecting the abortion debate. (Slate)

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • 1_image-largeTexas is trying its best to reduce access to abortion and we’re not gonna take it. What does that mean, exactly? Can you say LAWSUIT?! #Boom (HuffPo)
  • Speaking of Texas, Pro-Choice Princess Wendy Davis is expected to announce her run for governor! (Politico)
  • Once-a-month birth control? Count me the hell in. (The Week)
  • *Sigh* The knuckleheads in Colorado will not give up on “personhood.” The voters have rejected this malarkey twice before, and last year it was rejected from even making it to the ballot. Some would call this “persistent.” We call it moronic. (RH Reality Check)
  • Why do women have abortions after 20 weeks? This article will tell you. (ABC News)
  • The new documentary “After Tiller” confronts one of the most volatile topics in American life: late-term abortion. (WSJ)
  • Medical miracle on the horizon!!! Eight Promising Methods of Male Birth Control (Popular Science)
  • The lack of access to affordable family planning services is exacerbated when 13 million women of reproductive age have no health insurance. (Think Progress)

When Metaphor Becomes Reality: The Abortion Battle and the Necessity of the FACE Act

PP entrance

Clinic escorts at a Washington, D.C. Planned Parenthood. Photo: Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño via Flickr

Serving as the medical director of a reproductive health clinic made Dr. George Tiller a lightning rod for constant vitriol — and more than once a target of violence. Picketers routinely gathered outside his clinic in Wichita, Kansas, a site of their protests because it provided abortions, including late-term abortions. In 1986, Tiller saw the clinic firebombed. Seven years later, in 1993, he suffered bullet wounds to his arms when an anti-abortion extremist fired on him outside the property. Finally, in 2009, he was fatally shot while attending worship services at a Wichita church.


Anti-abortion extremists can create life-threatening scenarios for those who seek reproductive health care.


In the wake of Dr. Tiller’s death, many reproductive rights advocates argued that his assassination could have been avoided. The shooting was not the first time his murderer, 51-year-old Scott Roeder, broke the law.

Roeder could have been stopped prior to the shooting under a federal law, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which was enacted in 1994 — 19 years ago this Sunday — to protect the exercise of reproductive health choices. The FACE Act makes it a federal crime to intimidate or injure a person who is trying to access a reproductive health clinic. It also makes it unlawful to vandalize or otherwise intentionally damage a facility that provides reproductive health care.

Roeder’s ideology was the root of his criminality. Roeder subscribed to a magazine, Prayer and Action News, that posited that killing abortion providers was “justifiable homicide.” Roeder also had ties to a right-wing extremist movement that claimed exemption from U.S. laws and the legal system. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • Photo by Dave Bledsoe, made available under Creative Commons license.

    In a new push for the medically unnecessary and imbecilic concept of “personhood,” Arizona anti-choicers are pushing a bill to track every embryo ever. (RH Reality Check)
  • Asinine Arkansas just passed a bill outlawing abortions at 12 weeks — the most extreme abortion ban in the country. (CRR)
  • In case you weren’t aware, abortion providers risk their lives and property in the name of choice. (Truth-out)
  • Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is putting the finishing touches on legislation that would guarantee women in New York the right to late-term abortions when their health is in danger or the fetus is not viable. (NYT)
  • Guess what, anti-choicers? Better Prenatal Testing Does Not Mean More Abortion. So get a friggen clue already. (The Atlantic)
  • In a thought-provoking piece, clinic workers answer tough questions on abortion. (Tres Sugar)
  • Surprisingly, German Bishops OK Contraception in Rape Cases (ABC News)
  • Two ultrasound bills are making their way through the Indiana legislature. And they both suck. (HuffPo)