Today, the New York Times printed a fair, even sympathetic, story about pro life street protestors—profiling three of them. From the story, byline Damien Cave:
Action means many things to abortion opponents. Lobbyists and fund-raisers fight for the cause in marble hallways; volunteers at crisis pregnancy centers try to dissuade the pregnant on cozy sofas. Then there are the protesters like James Pouillon, who was shot dead here last month while holding an anti-abortion sign outside a high school. A martyr to some, an irritant to others, Mr. Pouillon in death has become a blessing of sorts for the loosely acquainted activists who knew him as a friend: proof that abortion doctors are not the only ones under duress, proof that protests matter, and a spark for more action.
“Jim suffered the persecution for us,” said Dan Brewer, who recalls swearing at Mr. Pouillon during one of his one-man protests in the ’90s, only to join him later after becoming a born-again Christian. “Now we just have to go out and do it.” A national tribute is already planned. Anti-abortion groups are calling on protesters to stand outside schools with signs that depict abortion on Nov. 24 in 40 to 50 cities nationwide.
No sneering, no condescension, no putting down the protesters’ deeply religious motivations—just fair and respectful reportage:
Together, these street activists make up an assertive minority of a few thousand people within the larger anti-abortion movement. Neither the best financed nor largest element in the mix, they are nonetheless the only face of anti-abortion that many Americans see. Indeed, persistent provocation is their defining attribute: day after day on street corners from California to Massachusetts, they stand like town criers, calling to women walking into abortion clinics, or waving graphic signs as disturbing as they are impossible to ignore. Their ranks are more infused with emotion they would say commitment than top-down discipline.
Here’s an excerpt from one of the profiles:
The Survivor: An Early Gusto for a Fight
Deborah Anderson, 62, a professional test-driver for Ford with the style of a no-nonsense grandmother, introduced herself as “someone who should have been dead.”“I’m an unwanted child,” she said, standing at a vigil for James Pouillon with an anti-abortion poster peeling from overuse. “My mother couldn’t find a back-alley abortionist, so she gave me up for adoption.”
She was 18 months old. Her sister was 4, and their adoptive mother, Ms. Anderson and her sister said in interviews, turned out to be abusive. Childhood in their suburb of Detroit was defined by broken bones beneath frilly dresses, she said. The girls ran away when they could, but when friends or the local priest visited, Ms. Anderson said, their mother chained them to poles in the basement. “I learned to bite and kick and scream,” she said.
That gusto for the fight is a highly valued trait in protester circles. Mr. Pouillon earned kudos for standing with anti-abortion signs even while attached to an oxygen tank. Ms. Anderson also told stories of long, cold protests, insults and jail (after being arrested at Notre Dame in May when President Obama spoke).
I don’t agree at all with picketing at people’s homes. I also don’t like the showing of graphic photographs at protests. But, I also believe that pro life protesters are targeted for message stifling in a way that would not be tolerated for any other cause. Most protest restrictions—other than protecting ingress and egress to clinics—should—but won’t—be declared unconstitutional. I mean, would the courts ever permit a labor union striker to be arrested for peacefully passing out an informational pamphlet on a public street?
That aside, this is a remarkable media moment, that hopefully marks a sea change in reporting on “culture war” stories. Kudos to the New York Times.