Anti-abortionists deserve to be sued

Imagine that a group of my politically radical friends and I decide to create a Web site. We decide we not only disagree with the likes of Trent Lott, Rush Limbaugh and David Duke, but we also wish them dead.
We go at it with terrorist tactics for the new millennium, putting their faces on the Web in a “WANTED” poster format — listing their home addresses, the names of their family members, the route they take to work. Whenever one is injured, we shade the picture. When one is killed, we place an X over it.
That wouldn’t happen, right?
Last week, Oregon was the setting for a potentially precedent-setting legal decision. The case involves a Web site exactly like my pretend Web site, only the people who are “wanted” are doctors who perform abortions. Oregon’s federal court ruled that the people who set up the Web site pay over $100 million in damages to the plaintiffs in the case.
The court ruled that the site constituted a real threat to the doctors. The threatening element of this case is displayed well through the heavy security and anonymity for the case’s jurors. In all likelihood, if their names were found out they would be “wanted” too.
Just so we’re all clear — this isn’t a bluff. According to the National Abortion Federation — an abortion-rights advocacy group, the most violent factions of the anti-abortion movement have been responsible for 39 bombings, 99 acid attacks and 16 attempted murders during the last several years. In this case, two groups and 13 individuals have been found guilty of posing a real and dangerous threat, and have been ordered by the Oregon federal court to pay $107.9 million to four doctors, Planned Parenthood and a Portland clinic. The two groups are called Advocates for Life Ministries and The American Coalition of Life Activists.
A St. Louis physician, Robert Crist, became a plaintiff in this case after an anonymous gunman fired shots into his children’s playroom in the middle of the night. Another plaintiff, Portland physician James Newhall, testified that he developed an evacuation plan and instructed his 6-year-old son to hide in the bathtub if gunshots were fired. Other doctors have been murdered. Just this October, Dr. Barnett A. Slepian from New York was killed by a sniper who fired through his kitchen window.
Quite a dangerous profession, being a doctor who performs an abortion. And that’s just what the violent faction of the anti-abortion movement wants.
Despite the violent aspects of this case, The American Civil Liberties Union will be assisting in the appeal on behalf of the defendants because of the possible ruling’s infringement on the First Amendment. Questions are being asked such as: What constitutes threatening? Critics of the decision say militia Web sites, anti-government talk shows, radical environmental newsletters and hate group pamphlets could all come under the definition of “threats.”
One of the defendants, Catherine Ramey, twisted the verdict and bizarrely compared it to “asking Martin Luther King Jr. to pay money to the Ku Klux Klan.” I don’t see any relevance in that comment, but it is demonstrative of how warped these people are.
I am the first to defend peoples’ rights to free speech. I defend hate speech, pornography, all sorts of things I find absolutely disgusting in order to keep our democracy a democracy. But there is nothing in what these people are doing that constitutes First Amendment protection. This is not free speech; this is violence.
The First Amendment was not created to defend peoples’ rights to threaten each other. This case should be treated with care so the precedent is about threat and not dissension. The verdict should remain guilty.
The violent people who have been charged in this case don’t represent the majority of people who are against abortion. Abortion-opponents have as much right to their opinions as I do to mine. However, the defendants in this case crossed the line. Their attempts at vigilante justice go against the same ideals of democracy that they are now hiding behind.
In a democracy, majority rules. It’s a compromise we make in order to continue with our current system of government. Obviously, the public sentiment leans toward the side of abortion-rights supporters, otherwise abortion would be illegal. People may not necessarily agree with abortion, but they recognize legislating in favor of this twisted morality is veering frighteningly close to a theocracy.
I certainly hope to never have to deal with the decision of whether or not to have an abortion, and I wouldn’t wish that predicament on anyone. However, I have taken more than one friend to the doctor to be their moral support. It’s never easy. And I certainly don’t want the act complicated by people randomly bombing clinics or shooting at doctors.
Before they go on their bombing sprees, I wonder what these violent advocates think about related issues like child welfare, condoms in schools or even sex education? Where are they when a father isn’t paying child support? I don’t see them. Maybe I shouldn’t say this because it will only give them more reason to cause violence.
It’s easy to scream “murder” when the battle ends at the delivery room. The tough and more important part is dealing with children once they are alive. Take the 6-year-old whose physician father performs abortions. That child is being trained to dodge bullets and deal with the fact that his father is on a hit list.
The people involved in the Web site hit lists should pay every dime of that $107.9 million judgment. They not only give the good-hearted abortion-rights supporters a very bad name, but their murderous and terrorist tactics are no less catastrophic than any other kind of terrorist acts on this planet. Innocent people are dying or being hurt in serious ways. These terrorists need to answer for that 6-year-old who wakes up screaming in the middle of the night thinking someone is trying to kill his father, or maybe even trying to kill him.
Sara Hurley’s column appears every Monday.