Texans generally aren’t shrinking violets. Theirs is the lone star state, after all, home of Sam Houston, Ross Perot, LBJ and George W. Bush. To this day we still remember the Alamo, in part because they wouldn’t let us forget. And now, thanks to a few brave, fed-up Texans, the national pro-life movement has a few reasons to smile. Recent successes show us the ability of one person to set in motion serious change.
It all began when Chris Danze, a 48-year-old concrete foundation contractor, decided to oppose a massive 10,000-square-foot, $6.2 million Planned Parenthood abortion mill being built in Austin. Planned Parenthood dubbed it “The Choice Project,” and anticipated little protest. They expected a procession of signs and bullhorns, and then a return to business as usual. To get an idea of usual, consider that the franchise’s more than 1,000 clinics performed almost 230,000 abortions in 2002 alone.
Determined to give them a fight, Danze organized a letter-writing campaign which promised contractors who helped build the complex that they’d never find work in this town again. By November 2003, hundreds of subcontractors had agreed to the boycott, starving the project of lumber, cement, plumbing, portatoilets, windows, roofing, insulation, you name it. Planned Parenthood officials, after initially scoffing at the boycott, were stunned to see construction of the facility grind to a halt.
Eventually concrete supplier Ramon Carrasquillo broke the picket line and poured the foundation this January, mostly because his company, Rainbow Materials, Inc. was drowning under $17 million of debt. Other subcontractors signed on, but only on the condition that Planned Parenthood conceal their identities. Trucks now pull up to the site with black tape over their logos. Planned Parenthood heralded this as a great victory for choice, even posting pictures of “beautiful concrete” on the website.
Tragic as this may be, it is no longer socially acceptable to get in bed with Planned Parenthood in Austin. Contractors have to slink in, hiding their identities like businessmen on a seedy fling. And Danze & Co. may not be finished yet. If scouts uncover the identities of the contractors, they add them to a mailing list of over 60,000 locals, who have promised never to employ them again.
IF THAT WASN’T ENOUGH, last July, the Bluebonnet Council of the Girl Scouts in Waco decided to co-sponsor a Planned Parenthood sex education conference entitled, “Nobody’s Fool.” The “educators” passed out a book to young girls with chapters on masturbation and homosexuality. The book, which was graced with the Girl Scouts logo, included images of couples having sex and a boy properly wearing a condom. The council went on to name Texas Planned Parenthood Executive Director Pam Smallwood their 2003 “Woman of Distinction.” They planned to co-sponsor the conference again this year.
None of this sat very well with John Pisciotta, a Baylor University economics professor, who took ads out on a local Christian radio station urging a boycott of Girl Scout cookies. He cited Danze’s Austin boycott as his inspiration.
Before he knew it, the national media picked up the story. Horrified parents began pulling their children out of the Scouts. Several troops collapsed completely for want of recruits. Finally, despite early defiance, local Girl Scouts Director Beth Vivio announced that the group would not sponsor such a conference again, ever.
Woman of Distinction Pam Smallwood lashed out at the boycott and the Girl Scouts surrender to it. “The children of Central Texas now have been given the clear message that the bullying tactics of a few are more successful than an informed democracy,” she said, betraying a complete lack of irony. After all, was it not Planned Parenthood that encouraged the nationwide picketing and boycott of Wal-Mart over the company’s refusal to carry the morning after pill?
PRO-ABORTION FORCES ARE attempting to put the best face on these setbacks. A spokeswoman for the group in Austin calls Chris Danze, “the best thing that’s ever happened to our fund raising.” Oh, and by the way, Girl Scout cookies are having a banner sales year, another spokeswoman adds.
Danze and Pisciotta both acknowledge the financial damage they can inflict is limited. The true value of the protests, they say, is in getting the message out nationally and showing pro-lifers that there is a way to fight back.
But this unprecedented resistance has to be making pro-choicers nervous. Add to the Texas boycotts the pro-life movement’s increasing use of ultrasound technology, the popular support of the Partial-Birth Abortion ban, and the shocking news that Roe V. Wade was nearly overturned in 1992, and it starts to look like a rational uneasiness.
Further, poll numbers coming out of the abortion-friendly Center for the Advancement of Women last summer indicate that 51 percent of American women believe abortion should be either banned completely or permitted only in special circumstances, while only 30 percent favor abortion on demand.
These are not right wing numbers. This is the emerging political reality. The President can lecture all he wants on what the country is or isn’t ready for (a week before signing the partial birth abortion ban, Bush told reporters that he didn’t think “the culture has changed to the extent that the American people or the Congress would totally ban abortions”), but the groundwork for a more honest debate of the issue is being laid, even as our elected officials attempt to run from it. Once again, individuals will drive the debate, not the President, not the courts, not our legislators.
An anti-war professor once publicly hoped that American troops would face “a million Mogadishus” in Iraq. In a kinder, gentler spirit, I would like to see Planned Parenthood face a million Austins. I would like to see this peaceful, reasoned revolt take root in communities across America as a viable means of opposing an evil that has for too long gone unanswered.
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