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Their signs scared school children and made the news, but who are the people behind this week's assault on North Dakota's only clinic, and how did Red River Women's Clinic keep clients safe?

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


On May 1st, a group of about 50 people gathered in Fargo, North Dakota. Their intent? To try and "shut down" the only clinic in the state that provides pregnancy terminations, in the hopes to make it an "abortion-free" state.

Leading the charge was Operation Save America, under the leadership of Rev. Flip Benham. Best known for his belief in "justifiable homicide" and his "Wanted" postersstyled to make doctors who provide safe abortion care and those who employ them look like Old West villains (and with the "Dead or Alive" implied), Benham has been arrrested multiple times for stalking.

But although they are leading the States of Refuge movement, they are by no means the only group involved. And for some of those groups, their calls to action are just as intimidating.

The public face in the media when it came to the Fargo event was a Wisconsin group called "Missionaries to the Preborn." Formed in Milwauke in the 1990's, the group's leader, Pastor Matt Trewhella of Mercy Seat Church, is an outspoken advocate against abortion, and for guns. Trewhella already has his own personal FBI file due to his incendiary rhetoric, his signature on a statement that said killing doctors who perform abortions is "justifiable homicide," and his alleged "programming" of an anti-abortion extremist to incite him to violence against practitioners.

Giving media interviews was Trewhella disciple (and son-in-law) Jason Storms, a so-called "street and campus evangelist and open air preacher" who sits on the Church board and operates the evangelism "training." Storms has beendetained in prior protests, including one in 2009 in which his followers were charged with disorderly conduct and assaulting a police officer. Preaching at clinics that perform abortions is a part of the "training sessions" for the church's outreach wing, as are cross-country trips

The groups didn't change the mind of any woman seeking care at the clinic, nor did they manage to stop Red River from helping women the following day. They did manage to anger Fargo residents and traumatize a school bus full of elementary school kids who were returning from a choir practice, but other than that, got few results. The anti-choice protesters shouted Bible verses, called patients "murderers," invoked the Holocaust and even called an escort of color a racial epithet, but unsurprisingly did not get any converts to their cause on the streets that day.

But they could have caused much more emotional harm to the women who visited Red River if not for the reproductive rights supporters who came to the clinic to act as escorts and protect those with appointments. While the "Missionaries" and their followers displayed their blown-up, graphic pictures and threatened patients with brimstone and damnation, escorts quietly provided support and a buffer. 

"Pro-choice and pro-life people were in the same sidewalk. Yet, it was like two different worlds," said an escort named B. "You see, pro-choice people are not life haters. We love life. Pro-choice people love babies too. I just want to make sure mothers are given the choice to enjoy motherhood not pressured to take on motherhood and see motherhood as a burden."

As B watched the "Missionaries" preach, she, too, was reminded of the Bible. "I saw books about mother Mary in the hands of some people there. One thing is that even Mother Mary needed protection to give birth to Jesus," B noted. "How would a society in that age and time would have accepted a woman who claims to be virgin be a mother? It was the angel Gabriel to help her. Well, not all women have angels looking over them. They have issues like health, finances, emotions, to deal with. Since the world is more complicated now. Not everyone is lucky to have a Joseph around, too."

The States of Refuge left the city later that night, moving on to Bismark, North Dakota, where they brought their graphic signs once more to busy intersections in the center of town.

Next, the group will be in Wyoming, where they will "target" the state's sole publicly known abortion provider, Dr. Brent Blue. "Spiritually, [stopping Blue] would punch a hole in the sky, and begin to liberate America from blood guilt one state at a time," said Operation Save America spokesman Rusty Thomas.

As for the women of North Dakota, they'll now have some time to rest: States of Refuge isn't coming back again until November.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Riding to the rescue of the sperm! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Noddy, Calamity Jean

    That's what it's about, you know.  Man's precious fluids, the essence of life. The disposable eggs don't count.  
    Surely, any sperm that survives the hazards of the vagina and the transit into the ovaries deserves to be coddled and cherished.  Bad enough that mother nature deems over half of them unfit and aborts them before they're even properly embedded.

    Will nobody champion the poor sperm? Clearly, gay men and women are also traitors.

    One of the main problems with ulterior motives is that, if you're not straight about what you're after, you're less likely to get it.

    People to Wall Street: "LET OUR MONEY GO"

    by hannah on Fri May 04, 2012 at 10:48:04 AM PDT

  •  Planned Parenthood in Bemidji MN (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    celdd, Stills

    For the life of me I can't understand and I have GREAT difficulty in not walking up to the 60-70+ yr old women in the Planned Parenthood parking lot holding up their signs with bible versus and how bad and evil the younger patients are.
    They have been doing this for years now and I just want to SCREAM....
    "Go home and get a life! Or better yet offer up free babysitting services to these younger mothers while they either finish their education or to get a job!
    Do something useful and something that would make a real difference!!! Just saying NO doesn't work and it NEVER DID!!! Ask my unwed grandmother back in the early 1900's!
    This office doesn't provide anything close to abortions.
    It ONLY provides women health services, either free or low cost birth control methods and exams!
    I went there when I was younger! I am now almost 50
    My two daughters (25 & 19)  have received services from PPHood, neither of my daughters have a child out of wedlock or underage!
    Those women in their 60 -70's must not of given birth to girl children themselves because otherwise they would WANT the same rights they had available to them when they were younger, like I do for my children and my two grand-daughter when they get to be teenagers!  

    I can't believe we are fighting and arguing about this topic in 2012! Just piszed and ranting...sorry!

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