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"Keep It Closed Campaign" Against Abortion Clinic Falters

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Troy Newman stands with his few supporters outside Dr. Carhart's clinic.

A campaign launched in August by three major pro-life groups to shut down Dr. Leroy Carhart's Abortion & Contraception Clinic of Nebraska (ACCON) was met with a firm response involving clinic defense and counter-demonstration on August 28th and 29th.

The community of Bellevue, Nebraska expected a significant amount of protesters to descend on Carhart's clinic after Operation Rescue, Rescue the Heartland, and Nebraskans United for Life put out a press release indicating plans for "a pro-life rally, street activism at Carhart's Bellevue abortion clinic," and an "invitation-only training session for local pro-life activists" on August 28th and 29th.

Supporters of a woman's right to an abortion took notice of the initiation of this campaign against Dr. Leroy Carhart and his clinic. It was apparent that Operation Rescue and anti-abortion groups would be shifting attention from Wichita, Kansas to Bellevue, Nebraska to not just shut down Dr. Carhart's clinic but also to halt his plans to open a clinic in Kansas in honor of the late Dr. George Tiller.

Members of the Kansas and Nebraska National Organization for Women (NOW) chapters and members of World Can't Wait (WCW) refused to let a campaign that might play a role in putting up more barriers to a woman's right to reproductive health care services go unchallenged and gain momentum. They also refused to let a small group of extremists turn a community into a place where the killing of another abortion doctor could occur. (Operation Rescue's campaign in Wichita ultimately led to the death of Dr. Tiller.)

NOW and WCW convinced leaders from NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, the Feminist Majority Network, and the national NOW organization to come to Dr. Carhart's Abortion & Contraception Clinic of Nebraska on August 28th to participate in a press conference and lay the foundation for the re-ignition of a vibrant abortion rights movement in America.

The stage was set for an intense clash between those intent on defending Carhart's clinic and anti-choice supporters of Operation Rescue. But, as the sun rose on Saturday over the clinic, it became more and more apparent that Operation Rescue did not have the grassroots support to back up their fresh campaign.

Throughout Friday and Saturday, pro-life "activities" were met with a force of clinic defenders that outnumbered supporters of Operation Rescue's efforts 2 to 1 (sometimes 3 to 1) at all times. Americans from seventeen states came out to directly challenge any harassment of patients, clinic workers, and the clinic itself.

Operation Rescue has removed traces from the website that indicate he was expecting more than a handful of supporters to participate in "rescue outreach" at the clinic on Saturday. But, OneNewsNow, a site that is part of a Christian news service known as the American Family News Network (AFN), has a headline from August 19th that reads, "Pro-lifers announce mass protest at Carhart's clinic," indicating Operation Rescue had expected a much better turnout.

Newman was caught off guard. He didn't expect that pro-choice forces would truly unite and descend upon the clinic to protect and support the clinic from sermons and attempts to harass the clinic.

Newman did not expect his group would lose access to a local church, which they planned to use for a rally that would share with the community stories on breaking events and a special announcement on moving the campaign against Dr. Carhart forward.

Wendy Norris from RHRealityCheck.org, writes, "A Friday night protest rally planned to be held at St. Cecilia's Church was abruptly cancelled following complaints that the church had been duped about the purpose of the event. Though a church representative would not confirm or deny its rationale for pulling the permit, local sources said that the previously undisclosed involvement of a polemic group, like Operation Rescue, in the event caused concern within the church community."

Come Saturday, all Newman and his band of anti-choicers had going for them was the fact that plans to "swiftboat" Dr. Carhart, in a fashion similar to the way they legally harassed Dr. Tiller in Wichita through propaganda and allegations spread by local press were off to good start. And, at the end of the day, Newman and others would claim that they "saved a baby."

At one point, Newman tweeted this message which may show why few are willing to support his "pro-life" agenda:

The reality is that the pro-life movement is now a mess of reactionary fundamentalist leaders and evangelical minions who all share a belief that the Bible holds all the answers and that breaking man's law is permissible if one claims to be breaking man's law to uphold God's law.

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Kevin Gosztola is a writer and curator of Firedoglake's blog The Dissenter, a blog covering civil liberties in the age of technology. He is an editor for OpEdNews.com and a former intern and videographer for The Nation Magazine.And, he's the (more...)
 

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