Posted on : Aug-05-2009 | By : Joshua | In : Blog Post, skepticism
So, apparently, an abortion clinic run by Women’s Health Services is moving into an empty building in Brookline, which used to house a Hollywood Video. Some asshats brought up a lawsuit to prevent them from doing so. What may surprise you is the justification:
“If you ever have observed protesters at an abortion clinic, they carry signs, which are alarming in their graphic detail of aborted fetuses. They have life-sized statues of the Virgin Mary, and they usually have somebody dressed as the grim reaper,” said May. “I don’t know how the town could have overlooked the emotional harm that could come to children by allowing the clinic to operate at that location.”
Yes, that’s right. Women’s Health Services can’t put their clinic there because ZOMG ABORTION PROTESTERS ARE SCARY THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!! As amusing as it might be to hear people call out abortion protesters for the violent, insane motherfuckers they are, this just plain pisses me off. Why are we punishing Women’s Health Services for the actions of a bunch of looney idiots with more hate and free time than good sense? If the protesters are such a goddamned dangerous nuisance, maybe we should, I dunno, do something about them. Like maybe arrest them for vandalism when they break windows:
The lawsuit notes that protesters have already picketed community meetings held to discuss the clinic’s plans, while vandals smashed several windows at the property shortly after it was announced that it was the possible site of a clinic offering abortions.
It’s tempting to cite free speech and then run screaming from this issue to avoid attracting the attention of the buzzing, angry hornets, but this goes well beyond the protections of the First Amendment. Violence and threats are not free speech, they’re terrorism. There’s no better term for it. The anti-abortion nutjobs are using intimidation tactics and vandalism and inciting fear in order to obtain their desired political goal. That’s the dictionary definition of terrorism, right there, and it’s about time that we started treating these people like the terrorists they are.
So what’s the skeptical angle on this? Why does this go beyond an issue of feminist interest and become something the skeptical community as a whole should note? Simply put, anti-abortionists aren’t the only people to use these tactics. Animal research activists are an obvious example, although I don’t know that they’ve actually successfully killed anyone yet, unlike anti-abortionists who have. Violence and intimidation are what result when people are so fixated on a cause that nothing else — like basic human decency — matters to them any more.
Skepticism can help by teaching people that process is as the important as the result, and by teaching people that it’s ok to be wrong as long as you admit it and modify your argument. Open debate is the way of the skeptic, where all viewpoints get a hearing, but at the same time a skeptic has to be willing to drop a viewpoint if it’s contradicted by the evidence. The skeptical community also teaches us that we have to stand up for what’s right, not what’s convenient. We’re used to being bullied by cranks of all stripes, from Moon hoaxers who harass retired astronauts in their homes to chiropractors who attempt to silence their critics with legal threats, and we know that giving in gets us nothing.
The only way to make progress is to stand up to the bullies and the terrorists and say, “No. You’re wrong, and I’ll keep saying so, no matter how much you try to scare me.” The alternative is to roll over and punish innocent people, like the doctors who work at Women’s Health Services, PC, and the patients who need their services — not just for abortions but for general obstetric and gynaecological care to keep them and their babies healthy — for the actions of dangerously unhinged, violent extremists. That’s not just unfair: it’s unproductive, and it’s wrong.