So, it finally happened. After almost a decade in abortion care, I finally received hate mail sent directly to my home. It was shocking and a terrible invasion of my privacy and it made my mother and grandmother cry. I am more angry about that than I am anything else. Because, like most abortion providers, I know that the life I’ve chosen– to provide LEGAL medical care– comes with the threat of harassment.
But here’s the thing. I shouldn’t (and my colleagues shouldn’t) have to accept harassment, intimidation or threats because of the work that we do. My family, husband and friends shouldn’t have to accept that worrying about my safety every day is normal. I shouldn’t have to explain that they don’t need to worry too much because the clinic already has protocols in place to deal with this type of thing– we have F.B.I. contacts and police contacts and know what to do. I should not have to minimize my experience because other friends and colleagues in abortion care experience worse harassment. I should not have to listen to my grandmother cry because the work that I do puts me in danger. The work that I do should not put me in harm’s way. I provide medical care. I don’t work as a police officer or fire fighter or on an oil rig where danger is part of the job. I work in medicine.
The F.B.I. defines terrorism as: “the use or threatened use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85).
Sending hate mail to my home is terrorism. Showing up outside a clinic administrators home, protesting outside of her house and coming on her property is terrorism.Calling a clinic landlord at home and comparing him to Hitler is terrorism. Shooting and killing a physician in his church or home is terrorism. These things happen and continue to happen in the world of abortion care. It is not OK.
I don’t know how long it will take before I stop being nervous when I check my mail. I don’t know how long it will be before I stop worrying that when I drive up to my house it might be vandalized. I do know that I will not stop working in abortion care. I do know that I will continue to push back against the stigma around abortion care by talking publicly about my experiences. And I do know now that my neighbors have my back and are supportive regardless of how they feel personally about abortion. And that my friends and family will do anything to keep me safe– even send me links to video surveillance services and offer to stand guard outside my house.
If anything this random, ugly piece of hate mail brought a lot of love into my life. And I suppose I’m grateful for that. But it’s still not OK.
This is why we do what we do.