He is a subcontractor working on the new headquarters of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. He and his family are besieged by anti-abortion fanatics in ways that are scary, disgusting and apparently legal.On Monday, the lunatic fringe sent his home telephone number out in a blast email and encouraged zealots to call his house.
The “Truth Truck,” covered with huge pictures of bloody aborted fetuses, first showed up at his home two weeks ago. It parked in front of his house and across the street from the middle school bus stop.
The truck returned last week with a sign that said his business “takes blood money from an abortion mill.” “Auschwitz” is how the sign on the truck referred to Weitz Company, the general contractor for the Planned Parenthood headquarters in northeast Denver.
Holocaust and concentration camp references are popular with the crazies who have invaded this man’s life.
Mainstream Americans, even those who oppose women’s reproductive rights, find this kind of behavior so obnoxious that it actually hurts the cause of the people acting out.
“The more they show up, the more our neighbors support us,” said the subcontractor.
His neighbors and friends have told him: “Don’t let these guys get to you.”
Still, he didn’t want his name or his business’ name in this column.
For now, he’s hanging on, working a job he had every right to accept. Still, he worries for the safety of his wife and their four-year-old child.
“How fanatical are these people?” he asks. “What are they capable of?”
He mentions Eric Rudolph, the true-believing abortion opponent who bombed a family planning clinic in Alabama that offered abortions to women who chose to have them. Rudolph killed one person and critically injured another.
People so steeped in their belief that abortion is murder rationalize those kinds of attacks, even if they don’t commit them. In these people’s eyes, Rudolph’s victims or doctors shot for working in family planning clinics invited their fate.
“My wife,” the businessman says, “knows a doctor who works at one of these (family planning) facilities. His wife said she and her children were attacked in their car by protesters who banged on the vehicle.”
That would be a criminal act, said Denver lawyer Mari Newman, an expert in free speech. But so far, everything happening to the businessman appears to be legal, including the publication of his personal phone number and the solicitation of harassing calls.
Restraining orders, which some targets of anti-abortion zealots have gotten, are issued only if there is “reasonable belief of imminent bodily injury,” said Newman.
The businessman isn’t there yet, although he has arrived home to find his house staked out by strangers who drive off when he arrives.
And, of course, there is the “Truth Truck.”
It showed up a couple of days after the businessman explained to an abortion foe that he understood from the beginning that he was helping build a Planned Parenthood clinic.
Weitz never misled him about the project, as anti-abortion forces claim the general contractor has done.
“I talked it over with my partner and we made a business decision,” the businessman said. “I’m not sorry we did it. We are not doing anything wrong. I would build a gay cultural center or a right-to-life headquarters.”
Still, it has not been easy.
“I tell my wife to lock the doors and to only open the garage door at the last minute when she leaves,” the businessman said.
Weitz has offered to pay for off-duty police to guard the businessman’s house if protesters come or to pay for a hotel room if the businessman feels he and his family must escape for a night. The sheriff’s department in the county where he lives has been sympathetic. So has the home owner’s association in his subdivision. But everyone is legally constrained.
“I can’t park my recreational vehicle in front of my house for three days (because of restrictive subdivision covenants),” the businessman noted. “But (the ‘Truth Truck’) can park there indefinitely.”
Newman called that irony “the most challenging aspect of free speech and individual privacy.”
“People,” the lawyer explained, “have no expectation of privacy in their address or the nature of their business or their personal phone number.”
She means they have no legal expectation. In terms of common decency, almost everyone would agree that the businessman’s privacy has been invaded in a way that no one, including the protesters, would want to endure.
Planned Parenthood distributes a memo [PDF] that advises clients and contractors not to engage protesters. The memo says what protesters can and cannot legally do. Protesters can, for instance, “show inflammatory pictures and yell and chant inflammatory words.” They can use public sidewalks and streets. But they cannot touch people or property, threaten, block public sidewalks or streets, or come on private property.
At family planning clinics, the law establishes a 100-foot buffer where protesters cannot get within nine feet of patients, said Jody Berger, the spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.
But that, Berger admitted, does nothing to help subcontractors in their houses.
“It’s amazing that these people say they are pro-family,” Berger said of the anti-abortion protesters. “But they harass people in their homes.”
“We’re stuck where we live,” the businessman agreed.
An email sent Monday morning by Will Duffy of the group Colorado Families Against Planned Parenthood calls the businessman “one of the first sub-contractors on the new Planned Parenthood project that really has no qualms about helping build the nation’s largest child-killing center.”
The email goes on to ask recipients to call the man’s business to “let them know how they are helping to one day destroy lives, women, families, and a beautiful neighborhood. Beg them to leave the job site or forever be known as one who helped build America’s largest deathcamp [sic].”
Finally, the email asks recipients to call the businessman “directly” and lists his home telephone number.
In an email exchange Duffy declined to say how the decision is made to call people at home and send the “Truth Truck” to their houses.
“Can’t see the benefit to the project,” Duffy wrote in refusing to answer.
There is no benefit. But then, few people can see how any of this fanatical behavior does much except win you a reputation for low-grade terrorism.