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Blue Mountain Clinic, Montana
O n a brisk Missoula morning last September, anti-choice extremists showed up at Blue Mountain Clinic to harass and heckle women accessing abortion services. After an almost ten year absence of picketing at the clinic, they have persisted for over six months without missing a week. Opened in 1977, the clinic was the first provider of abortion services for women in Montana. Founded by a group of feminist activists (including Judy Smith who was instrumental in filing the Roe v. Wade case in Texas), Blue Mountain Clinic has been at the forefront of the pro-choice debate in Montana for over 27 years.
In March 1993, an arsonist opposed to the clinic’s delivery of abortion services burned the clinic to the ground. Richard Andrews, a Washington state resident, was sentenced in 1998 to seven years for torching seven abortion clinics in four western states, including Blue Mountain Clinic. When Andrews was stopped in Vancouver, Washington in June 1996, state troopers found a butane torch, a road flare, gasoline containers, plastic pipe, and a Bible in the trunk of his car. Police believed he was en route to a clinic in Portland, Oregon. Andrews was the leader of a Wenatchee, Washington group called Christian Coalition for Public Policy and was also affiliated with the national anti-abortion group Operation Rescue.
Prior to the arson fire, the clinic experienced constant harassment from anti-choice picketers. From the mid-1980s until the arson in 1993, the clinic was bombarded with weekly protesting. In 1991, Operation Rescue organized the largest, most aggressive protest against Blue Mountain Clinic. Between 75 to 100 anti-choice fanatics blockaded the clinic’s front and back entrances. Several clinic staff were trampled as protestors rushed the doors. When escorts assisted women trying to get in, the large crowd would rush the doors in an effort to get into the clinic. Local police made over 50 arrests that day and required a large school bus to haul away all those arrested.
As a result of the arson fire, an outpouring of support from the community rallied to rebuild Blue Mountain Clinic. Raising over $700,000 through donations, a state-of-the-art medical facility was built—with safety features that could meet the growing needs of clients and provide a safe space for reproductive choice.
With the arrest of Richard Andrews in 1996, protesting activities at the new clinic, which opened in September 1995, have been virtually nonexistent. However, the constant harassment of doctors and clinics that took place during the early and mid 1990s took its toll on access to reproductive health care in Montana. Physicians throughout the state were personally harassed. One physician in Bozeman, Montana, whose picture was featured on an anti-choice billboard in her community, depicting her as a “murderer,” ultimately left the state.
Montana is the fifth largest state in land mass. Between 1992 and 1996, the number of abortion providers there fell from 12 to 4. Women now come to Missoula from all over the state, often driving five or more hours to access services. Many also come from as far away as Idaho, eastern Washington, and Wyoming. Before abortions became legal in Canada, Canadian women were seen weekly at Blue Mountain Clinic.
In September 2003, a person with well-known ties to Operation Rescue, Marilyn Hatch, set up camp at the clinic picketing and harassing patients and staff. With a long history of anti-choice activism, Hatch had three previous arrests, all from 1994, when she was apparently traveling throughout the country on her “mission” to obstruct clinic access. In March 1994, she was arrested during an Operation Rescue blockade of a clinic entrance in Birmingham, Alabama. In May of that year, she was arrested for obstructing the entrance to the Planned Parenthood in Waco, Texas. In June, she was arrested for violating FACE (the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act) when she and four others chained themselves to old cars in front of a clinic in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. During that year, Hatch was on the payroll full time for Operation Rescue.
In her currently resurrected career of clinic harassment, Hatch’s strategies to harass, confuse, and intimidate patients has become more aggressive. During her first weeks at the clinic, she began by telling patients that she was “here to help them” by providing counseling. (“Sidewalk counseling” is currently in vogue with anti-choice protestors throughout the country.) As those techniques failed to draw any free “counseling” takers, she changed her tactics and began shouting misinformation at women and their partners as they entered the clinic. Clutching her bible, she would yell, “Ask about the breast cancer link.” (The National Institute of Health reported in March 2003 that there is no medical evidence linking breast cancer to abortion.) She would often shout at the partners, “Be a man, don’t kill your baby” or, “This will damage you for life, you won’t be able to have babies again.”
Hatch also targets clinic staff. Her tactics include photographing staff and their license plates and trying to befriend staff by telling them, “You can get a better job” or leaving business cards for “abortion workers,” urging them to report employers for discrimination and payroll fraud. In one instance, Hatch singled me out as the director of the clinic and threatened to tell my neighbors that I kill babies.
After nearly ten years without this type of activity, why now? According to the National Abortion Federation’s website, in their analysis of trends they found, “There were 10,241 incidents of picketing reported in 2002. This is the highest number of picketing incidents ever reported to NAF. Reports from clinics across the country make clear that the numbers of picketers, their aggressiveness, and their intensity has also increased. Picketing and other forms of harassment continue to occur and with greater intensity than in the past, according to reports from abortion clinics. The practice of photographing women entering and leaving clinics and posting their images on websites has increased. Also posted on anti-choice websites are pictures of clinic staff and the license plates and cars of abortion providers. We expect this type of harassment to increase in the coming year.”
While NAF officials are finalizing their analysis for 2003, the numbers for last year indicate the continued growing trend: “The total number of incidents of disruption increased from 10,543 in 2002 to 11,880 in 2003, its highest level ever.”
Public discourse on abortion has become more heated during George Bush Jr.’s presidency. One of his first actions after taking office in 2001 was to reinstate the global gag rule on abortion. The gag rule prohibits family planning organizations that receive U.S. funds from using their own funds to counsel about or refer for abortion or to lobby their own government for a change in abortion laws.
Bush’s nomination of nine conservative judges to federal circuit courts has also reignited the abortion debate, as most of the nominees either refused to answer questions about their positions on abortion or were blatantly and vocally anti-choice. Circuit court judges are often nominated to the Supreme Court and with President Bush’s public statements in favor of the repeal of Roe v. Wade , national organizations such as NAF, Planned Parenthood, and the National Organization of Women pressured Democrats to filibuster the nominations of these extremist judges.
Bush’s policies to withhold the $34 million that Congress had traditionally appropriated for the United Nations’ International Family Planning Program (UNFPA), has damaged the U.S.’s standing internationally. The fund provides the largest internationally funded source of population assistance to developing countries, providing reproductive and maternal health services to millions of men and women in more than 150 countries. The Fund’s programs help impoverished and underserved women throughout the world. Bush’s withdrawal of support was based on the funds’ work to promote contraceptive education and access to safe abortion services.
With Bush on their side, extreme right pundits have set the climate for renewed aggression aimed at abortion clinics, physicians, and families looking to access their safe and legal right to reproductive health care.
Raquel Castellanos is executive director of the Blue Mountain Clinic.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.