Two incidents are weighing heavily on my mind these days:
- The near-destruction of an abortion clinic in Montana. To call it vandalism is to understate the level of chaos and destruction, and the impact on the business and the clients. Expensive medical equipment broken, medical records destroyed, and a building so trashed, the entire practice is having to move into a new location.
- The poster being distributed across the internet, across the country, featuring the names, photographs, and some personally-identifying information about three people active in the reproductive rights movement. This article explains very eloquently how problematic this particular call for “prayer” is.
These two episodes trouble me because of what connects them—each was perpetrated by second-generation anti-abortion activists.
In Montana, they’ve arrested a suspect:
[A] suspect, Zachary Jordan Klundt, was arrested Tuesday in connection with the break-in . . . Klundt is the son of Twyla Klundt, who is a board member of Hope Pregnancy Ministries, an anti-choice crisis pregnancy center in Kalispell. Cahill [the doctor whose clinic was destroyed] says members of the Klundt family have used extreme rhetoric against her and her family. For instance, she says Twyla Klundt has told patients who see Cahill’s husband, who is an acupuncturist, that he “does the work of the devil.”
The person in charge of the “prayer” poster is:
Eric Scheidler . . . the son of Joe Scheidler, founder of the Pro-Life Action League (sometimes known as the Pro-Life Action Network, or PLAN), which spent years elbow-deep in the violent rhetoric and direct actions that characterized much of the debate around abortion in America. In 1985, following a year during which there were 10 bombings and 16 cases of arson, the senior Scheidler famously called for “a year of pain and fear.”
If you click on that “year of pain and fear” link, you’ll be reminded of Eric’s dad, Joe, taking part in a gathering of anti-abortion extremists who were welcomed to their hotel, at a time when clinics were regularly being fire-bombed, with the sign: Welcome Pro-Life Activists – Have a Blast.
Often, people harassing clients on sidewalks outside clinics bring their children with them. Those kids learn how to be bullies from their parents, shouting at strangers, telling them what to do, threatening them with judgment and damnation that is not theirs to assign or predict. Eric Scheidler and Zachary Jordan Klundt are those kids, grown up, still being bullies, but with consequences that go beyond one sidewalk encounter.
The narrative around any act of anti-abortion violence quickly turns to talk of lone wolves, sick individuals acting outside the parameters and without any support or encouragement from “mainstream” or “nonviolent” organizations. Again and again, however, perpetrators of violence and extreme acts of harassment are shown to be directly connected to the same network of people and organizations.
You can take any one incident and explain it away. Well, it’s just praying for a few people, and where’s the harm in prayer, you might say. It’s just a disaffected young man, unable to channel his rage, breaking into one building in one town.
I, however, cannot and will not divorce one poster, one call to action, from this larger history of violence, intimidation, and terrorism.
The fact that the venom and tactics are being handed down to a new generation is even more evidence that violence against people who advocate for and provide access to abortion services is not about lone wolves who can’t be stopped and whose actions can’t be predicted. It is an organized network of people whose tactics are on a continuum from prayers on the sidewalk and model legislation to clinic bombings, arson attacks, and shooting at doctors. So why do we tolerate it?
Update: I received this comment on another page of this blog:
I am the physician assistant who’s clinic in Montana was completely destroyed by Zachery Klundt. Your blog goes straight to my heart. Zachery is the son of the founder of “Hope Ministries”, a CPC (crisis pregnancy center). The executive director of “Hope Ministries” bought the building I had been renting for 61/2 years to force me out of business. She and her husband knew that it would not be easy for me to find another building to rent, but I did. So, when they couldn’t stop me from practicing, their founder’s son destroyed my practice. He had a semi-automatic rifle in his car and a semi-automatic pistol on his person. Without a shadow of a doubt I know that if he had been unsuccessful in destroying my office, he would have destroyed me.
I know and have worked with the medical director for “Hope Ministries”. He and I have always been respectful and he is a good doctor, although completley anit-choice. On the “Hope Ministries” webpage he says his work is “in the spirit of Jesus”. I wrote to him last week. In the letter I said, “I am a victim here, but so is Zachery. He was born in innocence and love. He was taught to hate. This is not the “spirit of Jesus”. This is the “spirit” that Jesus was preaching against.”
My point is two-fold: The anti-choice rhetoric that calls it “murder”, and therefore abortion providers “murderers” has bred a second generation of people who feel ok about these acts of violence and hatred. That our country continues to allow such rhetoric to continue for a legal, medically important and necessary procedure, leaves me speechless…….