Two Saturdays ago, we all woke to the news that innocent people were being murdered in Paris by gunmen.
The reason for this? These people were doing things the gunmen believed were morally wrong. Drinking alcohol. Watching sport. Dancing to music.
So they murdered them.
130 innocent victims of terrorism , people who dared to live their lives in a way ISIS disapproved of.
Yesterday, it was the turn of American women to be terrorised. Another gunman murdering innocent victims whose life choices he found personally offensive. Robert Lewis Dear, 57, murdered three people and wounded nine others at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado before being arrested.
Because this is terrorism. Terrorism against women.
Former FBI special agent Steve Moore told CNN the shooter’s motivations were clear.
“Well it appears to me to have all of the ear marks of a domestic terrorism attack,” he said. “You have a potential political target. You have an abortion clinic and … I mean, it’s almost like if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it’s going to be a duck. It sure appears to be domestic terrorism.”
News reports are calling Planned Parenthood an abortion clinic and yes, abortions are sometimes carried out there. But the organisation has a much wider remit around women’s health, a lot like the Family Planning Alliance in Australia.
“Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With approximately 700 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.”
In a country where the brutal health system means many women couldn’t otherwise afford any of these things, Planned Parenthood allows women to control their lives. It’s that important.
Watch a young woman’s experience with Planned Parenthood below (post continues after video).
The growing right-wing movement doesn’t like this. For decades they’ve been trying to ban women’s access to basic legal health services like birth control and abortion. In recent years, Planned Parenthood has become a potent symbol for women’s reproductive rights by both those who support them and those who don’t.
You see, the concept of women having control over their bodies is hugely threatening to those who campaign tirelessly for them to be de-funded and shut down. This group includes many politicians who are using their power to defund Planned Parenthood and take away women’s rights which are, in America, astonishingly, going backwards.
This is a war against women. It’s hard to see it any other way.
Medical professionals who perform terminations or work in clinics like Planned Parenthood in the US take enormous personal risks simply by going to work.
This is not the first act of terrorism they’ve experienced.
According to the National Abortion Federation, between 1977 and 2012 there were 6,550 violent incidents against abortion providers in the United States and Canada, including homicide, arson and death threats.
September 2015 — Arson at Pullman, Washington clinic: An early morning fire at a Washington state clinic was ruled arson by authorities.
October 2012 — Stabbing at Grants Pass, Oregon clinic: A man was stabbed in the abdomen and neck and his daughter suffered cuts to her hand after an altercation outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic in 2012. According to a report from The Oregonian, the woman had words with an anti-abortion protester who pushed her over, and she kicked over the man’s signs. She later returned with her father to confront the man leading to an altercation, which is when the protester pulled the knife, according to police.
March 2012 — Bombing at Grand Chute, Wisconsin clinic: A homemade bomb blast damaged a Planned Parenthood clinic in eastern Wisconsin on a Sunday evening in March, 2012. No one was in the building at the time and the blast caused minimal damage, according to CBS News.
April 25, 2007: A package left at a women’s health clinic in Austin, Texas, contained an explosive device capable of inflicting serious injury or death. A bomb squad detonated the device after evacuating the building. Paul Ross Evans (who had a criminal record for armed robbery and theft) was found guilty of the crime.
November 2001: After the genuine 2001 anthrax attacks, Clayton Waagner mailed hoax letters containing a white powder to 554 clinics. On December 3, 2003, Waagner was convicted of 51 charges relating to the anthrax scare.
June 11, 2001: An unsolved bombing at a clinic in Tacoma, Washington, destroyed a wall, resulting in $6,000 in damages.
July 1996 — Bombing at Spokane Valley, Washington clinic: Four men were convicted of igniting a pipe bombing outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in 1996, along with a subsequent bank robbery. The Planned Parenthood website refers to the bombing as a “diversionary tactic.” The clinic was closed at the time and there were no injuries.
December 1994 — Shooting at Brookline, Massachusetts clinic: A gunmen opened fire at two abortion clinics in a quiet suburban area, killing two staff and wounding five others. One of the clinics was a Planned Parenthood location.
There are people so incensed by the idea of a woman choosing what to do with her body and deciding how, when and if she will become a mother, that they will commit murder. Their aim? To terrify other women from taking control of their lives.
Because that’s how this works.
The objective of terrorism is to create fear among many by killing just a few. Terrorists rely on our anxiety to do their work for them, to help them punch way above their weight.
Immediately after any terrorist attack, politicians will urge people to defy the terrorists. “If we give into the fear,” they warn us, “the terrorists win”. But people do give in to the fear. At least for a while. Nobody wants to die.
Not the Parisians who have changed their behaviour since the massacre two weeks ago. Not the travellers who have changed their plans or cancelled their flights.
And not the women who will reconsider going to a Planned Parenthood clinic for an abortion, for birth control or for a mammogram.
Accessing abortion services is already incredibly hard in many US states and getting much harder. There are a lot of old white American men who have very strong opinions about what women should do with their bodies and they are using their political power to legislate against abortion.
Imagine having to travel to a different state to end a pregnancy you don’t want or can’t afford. Imagine the time and the cost involved in doing that. Now imagine overlaying that anxiety with the fear you could be murdered, just for walking in to a clinic.
It’s not just women with unwanted pregnancies who will be terrified. It’s women who want to get birth control or STI checks, women who want mammograms or pap smears and who can’t afford to do these things any other way, such is the brutality of the American health system.
At a recent protest by anti-choice campaigners outside a Planned Parenthood clinic, a woman working at a nearby business marched over to the protesters and began chanting “YEAST INFECTION”.
She did this because when she’d been a college student with a recurring health problem, Planned Parenthood had treated her. She couldn’t have afforded treatment otherwise.
Kneeling down to talk to one of the children in the crowd, she asked, “Do you know what a yeast infection is?” The protesters were horrified at her audacity.
Because despite waving placards of aborted foetuses and chanting murderers at the traumatised women and workers trying to access the clinic, thrush is apparently a bridge too far.
Not everyone who opposes abortion is a terrorist and not for a moment should we assume the Colorado Springs attack is endorsed by the wider anti-abortion movement.
Those who have fervent beliefs about how others must live their lives according to religious dogma or whatever intolerance and prejudice informs those beliefs……well, they create an environment of hostility that can allow such violence to occur.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) November 27, 2015
— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) November 28, 2015
This idea of forcibly imposing your beliefs onto others by way of murder and terrorism is repugnant. I will fight for your right to hold different beliefs to me.
If you don’t agree with abortion, don’t have one. If you don’t agree with alcohol and dancing, don’t drink and don’t dance.
And if you’re threatened by the idea of women having control over their bodies and their lives, find a doormat and make it your own.
Don’t murder people with whom you disagree.