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In This Battle, Silence Isn't Enough



When Operation Rescue (O.R.) descended on the greater Boston area on Saturday, November 14, Beth L. Pinsker chose to "show [her] respect for the choices made by the women who will enter those clinics with silence" ("Protesting for Privacy," November 14).

Pinsker seems to have missed our point. In the second sentence of her editorial, she refers to our activities as a "counter-protest." We were not there, as she claims, to "counter-protest," and we did not advertise our activities as any sort of protest. We went to the clinics to ensure that women were able to exercise their Constitutional rights.

Most of the Harvard students who participated were facilitators, trained in crowd control and clinic defense. We were trained by the president of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Organization for Women a week before O.R. came to Boston. We learned how to escort women through crowds and how to form a human chain to prevent O.R. from blocking access to the clinic, which is exactly what we did on November 14.

We were trained to ignore the taunts, prayers, threats and physical assaults of O.R. members. It is extremely difficult to refrain from responding to an elbow in the back or a kick in the shins, but we were not there to have a fight or to provoke a confrontation.

We understand Pinsker's concern for the privacy of the women attending the clinic. It was very upsetting to watch women being escorted into the clinic, sobbing as they cowered from the hundreds of screaming people around them.

It was even more upsetting, however, to watch members of Operation Rescue try to photograph and film these women, and to hear the lies and threats that they were screaming at these women.

We were there to prevent them from succeeding in either intimidating women or in closing the clinic. Pinsker must realize that no woman would have been able to enter the Crittendon clinic in Brighton if pro-choice forces had not been there to prevent O.R. members from blocking the entrance.

Pinsker suggested that we should let the police "scoop them up one-by-one and arrest them for breaking the law." Pinsker fails to see that this process would take hours, and would almost certainly result in the closing of the clinic.

O.R. members are more than willing to get arrested, and they are notoriously slow walkers when they get arrested. They are told to take tiny mincing steps as they walk to the paddy-wagon, and the police are not supposed to forcibly drag or carry someone who is walking to the paddy-wagon, even if they are traveling at a snail's pace.

The police would have been too busy with such individuals to prevent the others from blocking the entrance to the clinic and harassing women. The police we encountered on Saturday acquitted themselves admirably. They were patient, calm, and unbiased.

But it is possible that they would have performed their duties with less haste if hundreds of pro-choice clinic defenders had not been watching them.

Operation Rescue is a serious threat to the right to choose, and they will not just disappear if we ignore them. They will get media attention whether or not we are out there. And their demonstration would have a serious impact even if they didn't get on the news; they would affect the women who wanted to go to the clinics.

And we certainly can't convince them, as Pinsker suggests, "to stop trying to force their brand of morality on the country" any more than they can convince us that women should not have control over their own bodies.

We hope that she will reconsider her position and realize that silence is not the best means of protecting freedom of choice. Lily J. Shapiro '93   Amanda Micheli '94   Co-Presidents, Harvard-Radcliffe Students for Choice

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