Mixed Messaging

[Trigger warning for terrorism.]

There's a very interesting piece by Carrie Johnson at NPR about the Obama administration's Justice Department "taking a more aggressive approach against people who block access to abortion clinics, using a 1994 law to bring cases in greater numbers than its predecessor."
The numbers are most stark when it comes to civil lawsuits, which seek to create buffer zones around clinic entrances for people who have blocked access in the past. Under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, or FACE Act, the Justice Department's civil rights division has filed eight civil cases since the start of the Obama administration. That's a big increase over the George W. Bush years, when one case was filed in eight years.

"There's been a substantial difference between this administration and the one immediately prior," says Ellen Gertzog, director of security for Planned Parenthood. "From where we sit, there's currently much greater willingness to carefully assess incidents when they occur and to proceed with legal action when appropriate."

Over the past two years, the Justice Department and FBI have been meeting with abortion-rights groups and medical providers all over the country to explain their work and talk about a federal task force designed to prevent violence against doctors and women seeking abortions.

...Justice Department spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa says the department takes "seriously our responsibility to enforce FACE fully and fairly and in a manner that does not infringe any First Amendment rights.

"The department has stepped up civil rights enforcement across the board, and will continue to vigorously enforce all the laws under its jurisdiction, including the FACE Act."
This is very good news! I am very grateful to the Obama administration for treating anti-choice terrorism with the seriousness it deserves! It does, I admit, feel a little bit like giving a cookie to someone for just doing what they're supposed to do, but after the Bush administration and the onslaught of anti-choice legislation across the nation, I am nonetheless very happy to hear this!

And yet: Two years. Two years the feds have been meeting with reproductive rights advocates and abortionists.

I can't help but wonder why it is that this, this solid and meaningful defense of legal abortion, is not the thing that the President and his spokespeople talk about when they are challenged on their record of supporting women, especially when their go-to brag, the Lilly Ledbetter Act, does not even do what they routinely claim it does.

Look, we're supporting you on this whole abortion thing, but let's not make a big deal out of it, okay?

I am reminded of the presidential proclamation of Women's Equality Day issued by the president last week, which failed to include even a passing mention of reproductive choice. Yes, it's a real wonder that abortion remains a "controversial" issue when even our ostensibly pro-choice president won't speak of his Justice Department enforcing laws protecting abortion clinics and the people who staff and use them.

This silence suggests a shame about being pro-choice, and it makes me very sad.

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