Don’t Intimidate Me

Even to a committed pro-lifer, "The Nuremberg Files" website is a jarring sight. Log on, and you'll see simulated pictures of aborted fetuses dripping with blood. Their "Main Archives" lists the names of hundreds of abortionists, along with their home addresses and license plate numbers. On the rare occasion an abortionist is murdered, the site crosses out his name. While obnoxious political speech like this is unworthy of disciples of the Prince of Peace, our Constitution protects it. There ought not to be any exceptions to this amendment simply because the subject is abortion. Of course, some pro-abortion advocates disagree, and Planned Parenthood and some abortionists brought suit against the fourteen pro-life groups who sponsor the website. They're suing under the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, known as FACE, and they're seeking $200 million in damages.
FACE is an amazing statute for it singles out abortion, making it a federal crime to use force or the threat of force against anyone seeking or providing abortion. It also allows clinics to sue for damages if their workers are harmed or intimidated. But when it comes to this website, the plaintiffs can't cite a direct threat or even a physical confrontation. So, just what are they complaining about? Maria Vullo, the plaintiff's lawyer, compares the website to the "bounty hunters of the Old West." She's arguing that the site helps create an intimidating climate for abortion providers. And as proof, Vullo placed several abortionists on the stand who, wonder of wonders, testified that they felt intimidated. One of them, Warren Hern, perhaps the nation's most notorious abortionist, said that abortion protesters had "made his life a nightmare." Put aside the incongruity of an abortionist known for performing late-term abortions pleading for compassion, and consider the plaintiffs biggest problem: the First Amendment to the Constitution. The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that the fact that some people find certain speech distasteful, or even outrageous, is no justification for prohibiting or punishing it. Asserting that speech creates a hostile atmosphere or the possibility of violence doesn't change matters. You need a direct appeal to lawlessness. That's why no one has tried to shut down the hundreds of websites organized by hate groups such as the Aryan Brotherhood and the Ku Klux Klan. That's why you can find out how to make a bomb with a few clicks of your Web browser. It's also why the Court refuses to allow any restrict-ions of pornography on the Internet. This shouldn't come as news to the plaintiffs. So why are they proceeding with the lawsuit and, more important, why has the judge permitted this case to be heard by the jury? Sadly, it's because abortion has assumed an almost religious quality in post-Christian America. Any threat to the abortion right is perceived as an assault on Americans' right to unfettered personal autonomy: the right to do as you please when you please. This autonomy is so important to some Americans that they're willing to trample even our most basic freedoms to silence their opponents. This is a well-publicized case, and no one is showing much sympathy to the pro-life argument. Your neighbors need to understand that there's much more at stake here than a pro-life website. If Planned Parenthood prevails, it will set a precedent that will leave all of us less free. And that will be far more jarring than any pro-life website.


Chuck Colson



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