A “perfect storm” is an expression that describes an event where a rare combination of circumstances will aggravate a situation drastically. The combination of circumstances is coming together on a street in Huntsville, AL.
On one side of the road you have a Public magnet school, on the other side of the road you have a women’s clinic that offers abortions. Drawn into the eye of the storm are the parents and children from the school. The “Pro Life” protesters do not have a permit to protest in front of the clinic so they have obtained a permit to protest in front of the school. Even though they know that they are supposed to be 10 ft from the driveway, Carol Henderson is standing at the driveway during pickup and drop off with her large sign screaming into cars attempting to gain support for the Pro Life movement.
Not only are their signs offensive, but this is a traffic hazard and it’s against the permit rules. Permit rules state that you need to be 10 feet away from the driveway, she is not 10 feet away. But to be honest, what is really going on here? The protesters that harass this clinic and school are led by James Henderson. James Henderson has been pushing to close this clinic using any means he can think of, recently by pushing HB 527. Which states:
This bill would provide that the Alabama Department of Public Health may not issue or renew a health center license to an abortion clinic or reproductive health center that performs abortions and is located within 2,000 feet of the property or campus of a public school.
During the hearings for HB 527, Henderson cited a new story about the clinic owner fearing for his safety and having to carry a gun as one of the reasons that the clinic needed to be located 2000 feet from the school. Now, keep in mind the reason he fears for his safety is because of the protesters. Yes, you read that right. Henderson wants the clinic to be away from the school because of his group of protesters. His protesters aren’t fit to be around children that have been born. So I have to ask, is the harassment of the parents more fuel for the fire of HB 527 which is sure to be brought back in the spring?
There is nothing about the clinic across the street to indicate to the average person driving down the road or turning into the school that it provides abortion services. There are no Jumbotrons in the lawn broadcasting everything, there are no flashing neon signs, saying “Get your abortion here!” The only way to know that abortions are done in the building are by the “Pro life” protesters with their graphic signs, their megaphones, their jay walking and their general harassment of everyone in the general area.
In 2009, there was a Perfect Storm in Michigan. James Pouillon was a member of Operation Rescue who decided to protest with graphic signs in front of a high school. He made it a regular habit to protest in front of Owosso High School, in Owosso, Michigan. He chose that high school because his granddaughter attended school there. He said it was his calling from God and that when he died he hoped that it would be on that corner doing God’s work. He got his wish because on September 11, 2009, a man who had grown tired of hearing family members complain about the graphic signs drove by, with his window rolled down and shot Mr Pouillon. The Pro Life movement made James Pouillon a martyr. But it should be noted that the shooting of Mr Pouillon was not about Pro Choice or Pro Life, it was simply about the protesting and the graphic signs. The day before the shooting, the man who did the shooting, James Drake had lunch with his mother. The subject of the protesters at the high school came up and how much the graphic pictures bothered Mr Drake’s nieces. Mr. Drake muttered that he would take care of that problem the next day.
But the real worry is how long will this side-show of protesters be allowed to endanger the lives of people before a parent or a grandparent has had enough. How long will they be allowed to block the line of sight, yell into cars and harass parents and students because they can’t harass patients across the street. The school board and the city do not need to wait until tempers reach a boiling point.
This is not about the clinic or its location. The 1st Amendment doesn’t come with a code of conduct. However, these protesters seem to forget that their rights end where someone’s rights begin. You can’t claim to be “Pro Life” if you are willing to endanger the lives of living, breathing children and their parents. You can’t use your bad behavior to punish someone else because you don’t like a service they offer.