The XX Factor

NIMBYism in the Abortion Debates

Dr. Leroy Carhart, the Nebraska physician who has agreed to take on much of the caseload that would have gone to assassination victim and late term abortion specialist Dr. George Tiller, has decided to move at least some of his operations to a clinic in Germantown, Md . This is because Nebraska recently passed a law restricting late term abortions, with the intention of harassing Dr. Carhart as he provides this valuable service to women who are generally referred to him because their health problems make continuing a pregnancy a nonoption.  Maryland’s laws on abortion are far more accepting of the basic reality that women need late-term abortions.

Naturally, the usual cadre of protesters is planning to show up and harass patients, many of whom are grieving the necessary end of much-wanted pregnancies.  And, as usual, they’re widening their scope of people to annoy and offend as much as possible–not only by calling broken-hearted women “baby killers” but also by waving a bunch of bloody-fetus pictures around to put people off their lunches.  (If this grosses you out, anti-choicers will tell you that’s your conscience talking.  I have to point out that pictures of teeth being pulled or eye surgery gross me out more, but I support the legality of those medical interventions.)  Regardless of the excuses proffered for this behavior, the real reason it’s done is to provoke NIMBY reactions in the community.  Anti-choicers don’t even work too hard to cover that up. The Washington Post quotes Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, as saying, “We don’t want Maryland to become the late-term abortion capital of America.”

This is a nonsensical statement if you actually believe abortion is murder.  If it’s murder, then it’s wrong no matter where you do it.  NIMBY sentiments that attach themselves to abortion clinics have another implication altogether–that performing abortions in a certain community spreads some kind of taint.  Anti-choicers make it as unpleasant as possible to house abortion clinics, and then appeal to the same ugly part of people’s souls that makes them protest teenagers loitering in parks or causes them to establish rigorous HOAs that will fine you if your Christmas wreath is an inch wider than the regulations.  It’s the part of people that places image management over basic human kindness and tolerance.  Anti-choicers would obviously prefer a nationwide ban on abortion, but in lieu of that, they’ll take people saying, “God, why do they have to do that here ?”

Indeed, the strategy seems to be working, at least according to the people that Lena Sun at the Washington Post interviewed.  The business owners in the area complained not about the actual service Dr. Carhart plans to offer, but about the ruckus that the anti-choice protesters will cause.  If people were sensible, they would hold the ruckus-causers strictly accountable for the ruckus.  Sadly, however, most people will start longing for the actual abortion clinic to go away, in the time-honored fashion of blaming the bullied for being easy to bully.  And that, of course, is exactly what the protesters are hoping for.