Monday, December 6, 2010

Anti-Abortion Press Conference in Germantown

NOTE: This post contains photographs of anti-abortion signs with disturbing images. Viewer discretion is advised.

Abortion opponents gathered in Germantown, MD today for a press conference and prayer march near Reproductive Health Services (the clinic where Dr. LeRoy Carhart will be performing late-term abortions). For background on Carhart's arrival in Germantown, see my prior post.

I drove to Germantown today to observe the event, which drew hundreds of people from both sides of the abortion debate. When I arrived at Wisteria Drive, anti-abortion protesters with gory signs stood alongside pro-choice demonstrators from the Feminist Majority and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Local police and escorts from the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force were on hand to ensure a peaceful gathering. Journalists flitted about, taking photographs and interviewing attendees. Tension hung in the air as everyone waited for the press conference to begin.

An anti-abortion protester in Germantown, MD
The pro-choice demonstrators I saw were quiet and peaceful, as were most of the anti-abortion protesters. A few abortion opponents, however, showed animosity toward the escorts and pro-choice advocates. One man with a video camera berated an escort, asking her, "How many babies would you like to see killed here? 40,000? 50,000? No answer?" The escort ignored him. Another middle-aged woman holding anti-abortion signs claimed that pro-choice people are "racist" and "genocidal". When a young lady holding a pro-choice sign walked by, the middle-aged woman shouted, "There's one! There's a racist!" The young lady ignored her. I didn't sense much Christian love coming from the tormentors, but I was relieved to see the escort and young lady keep their cool.

Anti-abortion protesters alongside pro-choice demonstrators.
 Rev. Patrick Mahoney, executive director of the Christian Defense Coalition, began the press conference by claiming that abortion opponents had gathered for "social justice" and "human rights." Mahoney beckoned anti-abortion attendees to kneel for prayer, and about two-thirds of the crowd did so. Conservative Christian clergy from around the region offered up prayers, decrying abortion and begging God to change Dr. Carhart's heart. One clergyman likened abortion to genocide and the Holocaust, warning that their struggle was "spiritual warfare" against evil forces. Another clergyman prayed that Carhart would have a "Damascus experience" (a reference to Saul's conversion to Christianity described in Acts 9). As I watched the hundreds of people on their knees, I realized that they had an enormous emotional investment in the abortion issue. The pro-choice demonstrators did as well, but expressed their commitment in more subtle ways.

After the prayer, Mahoney took the microphone and lambasted Carhart, calling the doctor a "mercenary" and a "carpetbagger" who thirsts for "blood money". Not content to demonize Carhart, Mahoney claimed that late-term abortions kill "viable" children and "brutalize" women. He demanded a boycott of businesses sharing the plaza with the clinic as long as Carhart was there, a bald-faced attempt to turn nearby offices against Reproductive Health Services.

Mike Martinelli, executive director of Living Hope for Life, spoke next. After describing late-term abortion in gory language, he implied that the majority of the community opposed abortion and the clinic. Audaciously, he claimed that anti-abortion people are peaceful, and it is abortion providers who are violent.

Whatever, I thought. Tell that to David Gunn, John Britton, Barnett Slepian, and George Tiller. Anti-abortion violence has too long a history for me to believe THAT line.

A procession of anti-abortion speakers gave short speeches at the podium. Charlie Baile, pastor of Shady Grove Presbyterian Church, rejoiced that "Gideon's army" had assembled that morning. Baile insisted that if God would awaken the "sleeping giant" of the church, abortion would be no more.

No, Einstein. It would just go underground, I thought.

Likening abortion to genocide, Baile claimed that family planning services are really "human reduction services," and that abortion is akin to "human sacrifice" in a society that worships Baal and Moloch. The references to pagan gods and human sacrifice caught my attention. Hmmm. That sounds suspiciously like something out of The Abortion Matrix, I mused.

The inflammatory rhetoric continued. Kristen Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life, claimed that abortion is "violating" to women and called Carhart an "executioner". Speakers from Family Research Council, Silent No More, and Covenant Life Church condemned Carhart and abortion in turn. The mostly anti-abortion crowd loved it. The pro-choice demonstrators stoically held their signs nearby.

The level of hatred toward Dr. LeRoy Carhart was disconcerting, since several speakers went out of their way to depict him as a slime-dripping monster. In their eyes, he is not a doctor who performs a much-needed medical services in the face of unending persecution, but something evil and sadistic. Again, I worry for Dr. Carhart and his staff in the face of all this hysteria.

What was striking about the press conference was how little the anti-abortion speakers talked about preventing unwanted pregnancies, which would reduce the need for abortions in the first place. I heard no talk of comprehensive sex education, no talk of accessible contraception, no talk of eliminating poverty, no talk of combating sexual violence. The given assumption was that if fundamentalist Christians fought hard enough, abortion would magically cease. It's not that simple. As I've observed before, fundamentalists see the world in black and white terms, ignoring the messy complexities of real life.

I left before the prayer march, grateful for the escorts and small contingent of pro-choice demonstrators, but still disturbed by what I'd seen. Germantown is about to become a heated place, and people on both sides of the abortion debate will be watching.

My Fox DC was at the Germantown press conference, and a video report of the event is available below. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

Below is an amateur video of today's gathering. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

For additional news on today's press conference, visit these links.

Baltimore Sun: Abortion opponents protest in Germantown

NBC Washington: Pro-Life Activists Protest Arrival of Late-Term Abortion Doc

Yahoo News: FRC Speaks Out Against Opening of LeRoy Carhart's Maryland Late-Term Abortion Facility

Gaithersburg Patch: Pro-life Groups, Clergy Protest Late-Term Abortion Doc In Germantown

Ms. Magazine: Demonstrators Gather for Dr. Carhart's First Day at MD Clinic

Feminist Majority Foundation: Demonstrators Gather for Dr. Carhart's First Day at MD Clinic

1 comment:

  1. I was so upset by anti-abortion protestors' pix this morning that I drove to the Germantown, MD police station and asked if residents who use Wisteria Drive have any right to privacy, etc. No. My son [15] says that he and his friends who walk to and from high school ignore or make fun of them. But what about the elementary and middle school kids who ride school buses on Wisteria? Such pictures would never be posted in school. What can people in the neighborhood do? This is extremely one-sided and disturbing.


All comments are subject to moderation. Threatening, violent, or bigoted comments will not be published.