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Unethical, Cruel, and Likely Illegal: Anti-Choicers Make Family’s Tragedy Public Without Their Consent

11:22 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Bridgette Dunlap for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Emergency Room sign

One family's medical tragedy became a public battle thanks to anti-abortion activists.

Anti-choice activist Jill Stanek recently published online the name and photo of a woman who passed away following a late abortion at the Maryland clinic of Dr. Leroy Carhart. The name and picture of the woman, I’ll call her Marie, along with information about her job, marriage, and pregnancy were soon all over the internet. Protesters plastered Marie’s picture on signs and marched outside Dr. Carhart’s clinic and held a “vigil” outside the emergency room where she was treated. Internet commentators characterized Marie’s husband, parents, and sister, who traveled with her from out-of-state for the three-day procedure, as everything from bad Catholics to killers. Beyond being immoral, unethical and unbelievably cruel, making the family’s tragedy public without their consent was likely illegal.

The Information Released

Stanek first revealed Marie’s identity in a post entitled “BREAKING: Carhart’s Victims Identified,” which continues to top Stanek’s list of most read posts. In the post, she explains that clinic protestors, “sidewalk counselors” as she calls them, tracked the visits of Marie and her family members, making “real-time annotations” about how she looked and when the family came and went. Stanek gives us down to the minute details. (“The family returned again on Wednesday,[...]staying nine hours, an extraordinary length of time. They left at 4:35 p.m.”)[1]

Stanek’s scoop also included information about what time Marie was admitted to the emergency room, how many times she “coded,” what time she died, when Dr. Carhart called the hospital, how long a medical examiner looked at Marie’s file, etc. If Stanek’s information is accurate, it would seem to have been disclosed by someone working at the hospital — in violation of HIPAA, the federal law protecting patient privacy.  Stanek says she received Marie’s name from an “impeccable informant.” This is presumably the same source who knew what happened at the hospital, though it could have been a protestor who took it upon herself to search obituaries for women who looked familiar, or someone else. Once Marie’s name was known, her obituary was found. Two protestors confirmed to Stanek that the woman pictured in it had been at the clinic.

For extra journalistic cred, Stanek links to Marie’s baby registry. It was then taken down, presumably by someone who doesn’t want strangers looking at it and has access to the account. One likely candidate would be the other half of the registered couple, Marie’s grieving husband, who I’ll call Kevin. Undeterred, Stanek posts an “UPDATE” with a screenshot of the registry. Stanek’s later posts include a picture of Marie with Kevin mostly cropped out, which she likely pulled from Pinterest since the four versions of it Stanek has saved online include Marie’s Pinterest username in the file names.

Stanek’s scoop is a big deal among anti-choicer bloggers and Twitter users who can now illustrate their claims that Dr. Carhart is a murderer with pictures of an extremely pretty young woman and the warning of a family’s very sad and very public story. They can use Marie’s name and the name the couple had chosen for their daughter as a rallying cry and Twitter hashtag. Lila Rose took advantage of the opportunity to go on Fox News.

Marie’s mother-in-law expressed to a reporter how upsetting the publicity has been and pleaded for her son to be allowed to mourn in peace. Instead, strangers are tweeting pictures of him with his dead wife, photographing him leaving her funeral, making accusations about their decisions, and “remembering” a woman he just lost and they never met.

Anti-choice bloggers have been critical, to put it nicely, of those who have written about the invasion of privacy. Some have pointed to the publicity surrounding the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died after being denied an abortion in Ireland, as justification for publishing Marie’s information. However, it was Savita Halappanavar’s family who brought her story to light, not a stranger who learned what happened through likely illegal means. Halappanavar’s husband demanded an investigation into her death and her parents want a reformed abortion law to be named after her.They have chosen to make their loss a catalyst for change. We have no information that Marie’s family believes she received poor medical care, but they were free to make her story public for that or any other reason. It should have been their decision to make.

Invasion of Privacy Claims

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Ignore That Self-Affixed Halo: Anti-Choicers Know Just What They Are Doing to Incite Violence

11:46 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Immediately after the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in the vestibule of his church in Wichita, Kansas just over two years ago, anti-choice leaders who had long used stridently violent language to describe Dr. Tiller specifically and abortion care generally, fell all over themselves proclaiming innocence of any connection to the murder.  Among these was Troy Newman, current president of Operation Rescue, who stated:

“We are shocked at this morning’s disturbing news that Mr. Tiller was gunned down… Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice. We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning.”

But the fact is that Newman and his cohorts regularly used imagery and language that depicted Dr. Tiller himself as a monster and in many ways indirectly if not directly suggested him as a target for someone willing to commit a violent act. That someone turned out to be Scott Roeder, who had, it turns out, several links to Operation Rescue.

And, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Any doubt of Newman’s own gruesome feelings of glee about Dr. Tiller’s murder can be summed up in a photo showing Newman standing at the site of Dr. Tiller’s assassination giving a thumbs up.

Operation Rescue and other anti-choicers have now turned their sights on Dr. LeRoy Carhart, who is providing late abortion care to women in need several times a month in Germantown, Maryland.  During the several hours I spent on three days in Germantown, to help with clinic defense, I saw suggestions of violent action everywhere, courtesy of the anti-choicers marshaled by Operation Rescue and its colleague organizations.

First, for example, there was the truck plastered with photos of what the anti-choicers claim are mangled fetuses.  These photos, whether real or not, are obviously distasteful, and meant to be so. But they are also misleading if not outright fake.  If, for example, a woman is carrying a fetus that has died in utero, and it is removed for her own mental and physical health, it may well look grisly. So would, for example, heart surgery. But the implication without context is that someone is killing near-born babies without reason. Using photos-and science for that matter–that is either created entirely for shock value or so grossly misrepresents reality as to have no relation is a primary strategy of the anti-choice movement.

But also plastered across this truck, amidst the “dead baby” photos were photos of Dr. Tiller and those of Dr. Carhart. Those of Dr. Tiller pronounced him “dead,” and tho

se of Dr. Carhart had large yellow arrows fixed around the perimeter with the word “Abortionist” in large black block letters, pointing to Dr. Carhart.  The message, if not explicit, is nonetheless clear: “One of these men is dead, the other is still working. Whaddya gonna do about it?”

Then there were the sidewalk chalk drawings, pictured here.

These drawings, which were one version of other drawings that appeared on a different day as well, were drawn out by teenagers “called in” by OR to help out with th protest.

Among these on Sunday were the sayings:

  • Would it bother us more if they used guns?
  • What would Jesus do? (with a gun)
  • Would it bother us if they used guns?

A drawing of an exploding gun as at the bottom of this row of chalk drawings.

Again, these images have two purposes. One is to suggest violence is an answer to something that anti-choicers don’t like, namely, women exercising self-determination in their lives by determining whether and when to have children, taking control over their own reproduction and sexual health, and safeguarding their own and their family’s health when a wanted pregnancy goes horribly awry.

The other is to intimidate those who are protecting women seeking care, and doctors who serve them. What would come to your mind if you walked the street toward your doctor’s office and there were exploding guns sketched on the sidewalk leading up to the office door?

Operation Rescue and other anti-choice groups such as those in Germantown use religion and piety to advance a patriarchal agenda cloaked in religious fervor.

But it is violence by any other name.