Saturday, October 28, 2006

On Signs

There's been a lot of brouhaha lately over sign vandalism, specifically vandalism of "Yes on 6" (pro-abortion ban) signs.

For example:

[Note: They took the picture down, I think. Here's a link that will work - and the blogger is similarly suspicious of the veracity of the VoteYes claims of vandalism: robbinsdale radical: Self-abuse?]

For weeks, I confess, I have been wanting to photograph this particular church's sign and put it up here for you. I've watched the sentiments on the sign escalate over the past weeks. For a while, it read something like, "Gay Marriage, Abortion, What Would Jesus Do?" But very quickly that changed to a more specific, "Vote to End Abortion" (again, an approximation), and from there, "It's Time to Stop Killing Babies." The sign was stuck on that message for some time, until the sign vandalism provided an opportunity to change the message.

But here's the thing. I don't believe that anyone really vandalized the signs. I think the VoteYes campaign did it themselves.

For one thing, no one who has had any dealings with them puts it past them. They've lied about exceptions in the ban, stating that women could terminate their pregnancies in cases of rape and incest. They've lied about EC, stating that women can use it for up to 14 days (it's actually only 72 hours) after unprotected sex. They routinely lie about the studies they cite to "prove" that abortion hurts women. And they've invited extreme groups with violent ties to come to South Dakota. And if you read their blog, you'll see that they are interested in manipulating the news to suit their purpose. For example, here's a short bit from a review of the pro-choice play, "Words of Choice":

"7: What I Said
A woman's testimony to Congress about the partial birth abortion ban (2003) finely illustrates the eugenic streak in pro-abortion thought. Faced with several genetic defects, it's painted as a mercy killing. Interestingly enough, she claims that the doctor told her that delivery would be too dangerous. The application of scissors, I suppose, greatly reduced the risk to the woman's health. The impression you're left with is that unless a person is "perfect," it is not fit to live."

...except that, in this case, the baby's defects were incompatible with life, as the piece made quite clear. (She said that: "incompatible with life.") What that means is that the baby, once born, would not survive. And it doesn't mean that it wouldn't survive into toddlerhood. It means that it would die within hours or days. And often, in pain. What mother would want that? But her very words are twisted by this blogger to serve his own argument, to make her say what she is not saying and to make invisible that this is exactly the kind of suffering that South Dakota women face under this rigid abortion ban.

For another thing, I just think it's too convenient. Sign vandalism has been going on all fall. Where was VoteYes when Democratic candidates' signs were being vandalized and torn down, or when Democratic candidates' houses were being egged? (I mean that seriously - where were you, VoteYes? Do you have an alibi?)

And look at the language on the sign - that says it all. This is nothing more than a photo op. A person who truly believes that something hurtful was done to them might simply write, "we forgive." Pointing out that the person/people responsible should be dealt with violently (why do these groups always come back to violence?) makes the assertion of forgiveness ring hollow.

Finally - I know that pro-choice activists are too busy getting out the vote to waste their time vandalizing signs. But I could totally see VoteYes doing it to try to make the pro-choice groups look bad.


Anonymous said...

Yes, those involved with the Campaign for Healthy Families are too busy and way above the dirty tactic of destroying signs, but that doesn't mean that supporters of a No vote on 6 aren't. The vandalism is happening on both sides of the state, and as someone who used to live on the East Coast (where dirty campaigning is the norm, not the exception) I've never seen such a widespread attack on one campaign as I have the vandalism of the Vote Yes signs. Its not just something where you hear that signs have been hit - you see them driving around, all over!

Could the Vote Yes group have something to do with the signs? Its a possibility. But a more likely possibility is that angry individuals (probably male) who don't like the abortion ban and are too lazy to do anything constructive are getting their fix by vandalizing or stealing the signs that they disagree with. You aren't responsible for the actions of these rogue folks, and neither is Healthy Families. But trying to pawn it off on the Vote Yes crowd without sufficient proof isn't the way to go. Instead, people should be looking out for this kind of activity (regardless of who's signs it being done to) and put a stop to it - and not with a punch to the face (I agree with you, that church's sign is childish).

On another note: does anyone have any proof that Vote Yes invited the crazy groups into South Dakota? I was at an event (the Gianna Jessen one in Rapid City) where a rep spoke out angrily against the graphid sign wavers, and received a standing ovation for it. From what I've heard, they aren't happy with these groups, but have no power to control them.

Anonymous said...

The abortion trucks and the activities of the Vote Yes crew are pretty well coordinated, and that is something I've seen multiple times in my work with the No on 6 campaign.

Plain(s)feminist said...

wakanyeja - Coat Hangers' site - which you can link to from mine - I believed has evidence that VoteYes invited those groups.

Joel Haubenreich said...

plain(s)feminist - I can find Coat Hangers pointing out that certain people occasionally associated with VoteYes happen also to know members of Operation Rescue. Also, concerned persons who are not, incidentally, with the campaign, asked people to volunteer resources at the VoteYes offices. This is contrary to Coat Hangers' claim that Leslee Unruh begged the folks with the graphic photos to come to town. Is there more evidence you can point to?

Plain(s)feminist said...

Pio Francis (and Wakanyeja),
Coat Hangers is my main source, so I suggest that you email them and ask if they can point you to evidence of the connection. I remembered seeing this on the site, but it was a while ago.

In addition, there is the national conference call, which called in activists and their money from all over the place. There is also the email from Falwell asking for assistance for the VoteYes effort, which was prompted by Allen Unruh (according to Falwell).

The language of the conference call is a bit frightening and clearly pits "good" against "evil". I can't remember now if the Unruhs spoke on it or not, but as the leaders of the SD movement, I think it is reasonable to assume that they were instrumental in putting it together.

Leslee Unruh, in particular, is extremely well-known in the pro-life movement nationally. She runs the Alpha Center, Abstinence Clearinghouse, and VoteYes. I am confident that she has the power to have these outside groups restrained if she wants to do so.

I, too, have heard that there has been dissent within the movement and dismay at some of the groups that have come to Sioux Falls, but they are not making such statements publically. That means they are making no efforts to distance themselves from these groups or their actions.

The pro-life movement *leaders* (I'm not talking about everyone who considers him/herself to be pro-life) are a scary bunch, and the splinter groups are even more scary. While I sympathize with the way that these kinds of events get out of hand, I think it's worthy of note that we haven't seen the more radical (and out of control) pro-choice activists - like Refuse and Resist, for example - here in SD. I think this is because the Campaign, for all its faults, has directed the local and national groups (PP, NARAL, etc.) and kept a tight rein on what the pro-choice strategy would be. VoteYes has the same power to use its national voice - through Falwell, similar conference calls, etc. - to gain control over this situation. Are they using it? No.

I don't have proof that they defaced their own signs. But what I see repeatedly in their blog coverage is that they lie. One more example - when I read their coverage of Dr. Maria Bell's talk last month, I noticed that they tried to discredit her by twisting the very question they'd asked her and her response to it. And then there's their campaign literature, which is also full of blatant lies and misinformation.

So I think considering the possibility - the LIKELY possibility, given their tactics and their blatant lies, they are responsible for this vandalism, is a reasonable response. Can I prove it's true? No. Should we consider that it might be? Absolutely.

Anonymous said...

Don't trust anything posted on Coat Hangers at Dawn, unless you can find another source for that info.....repeatedly, that blog has been filled with speculation masquerading as truth, and outright lies!

Just today, the blogger went and accused the Vote yes campaign of "co-opting" the Indian vote in the state. I would easily guess that 95% (or more) of the Lakota are pro-life - its one of the few issues that unites Indian Christians and those who follow the tradional ways. It angers me immensely to hear this person even imply that the Lakota people are not pro-life. On the reservations, you see Vote Yes stuff, because people want it. You know, I bet this Coat Hangers at Dawn person hasn't even been to a rez in a long time (if ever), and probably never had a good talking to with people there. Hell, its impossible to go through Pine Ridge without seeing a pro-life sticker on a rez car or someone wearing a pro-life shirt!

Plain(s)feminist said...

wakanyeja -
Here's a question. I heard that the "children are sacred" signs with the arrowhead in the "a" were not received well on the reservations and that they were created by VoteYes. I've seen the "women are sacred" posters that the ACLU did in response, supposedly with input from Native people. What have you heard about this? I don't have specifics as to who said what, just kind of random comments...

Plain(s)feminist said...

Ah, I just read the post on Coat Hangers that Wakanyeja describes. That's essentially what I was talking about. I don't think she's/they're arguing that Native Americans aren't "pro-life," but rather that using Native American images in this way is co-opting the community for political gain.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure there are anti-choice Lakota women, although I've never met them and from my experience, they are in no way the majority. None of the native women at the abortion task force meetings were anti-choice (they did have someone testify about the "pro-life" views of the was Bruce Whalen's wife, who is white) and vocal, pro-choice native women were leaders in organizing and attending Women4Women Day at the legislature.

Neither "no" or "yes" on 6 owns the Lakota culture. However, the stories I'm hearing coming out of the reservations as far as how Yes on 6 is conducting itself are pretty sketchy. But why should they behave differently there than they do in the rest of the state?

Plain(s)feminist said...

And just to clarify, I think the debate takes on whole new dimensions in communities that have been under genocidal attack, including forced sterilization. The white women's movement didn't take up the forced sterilization issue for a while, and so it took a while for women of color to trust that "reproductive rights" meant their rights to not be forcibly sterilized.

So given that, I think abortion has different meanings for different women. In that sense, we could say that Lakota women are "pro-life" (though I don't know if they call themselves that). But this is another one of those cases in which we have to say, one can be pro-life and pro-choice at the same time. Obviously. Who isn't pro-life?

The question is, who is forced-birth?

Coat Hangers At Dawn said...

Some of Wakanyeja's posts need a response. The point on the site was that those "sacred" signs are the doing of the Vote Yes campaign and we have this confirmed by a number of sources including one in the vote yes campaign that accidentally let it slip. The issue is not what way the indian communities would sway on a poll of anti-abortion or pro-choice. The issue was and is the source of the signs. They are not FROM a native american group and they are not endorsed by the tribes.

As for the connections between the fetus truck guys, some of the other radical protestors and Vote Yes. We have visual proof from more than one of our contributing writers that saw themselves the coordination between the groups. The sources that sited the fetus trucks up at vote yes is a reliable source with no reason to put up false information.

Before you start flinging accusations you need to read and comprehend what was written. We cite sources and we also take anon. information but only if we are able to verify its validity. We will not expose someone who wants to not have their identity posted on the blog but we do require them to prove what they are claiming. Some very important and verified information has come out that way.

We're sorry the truth does not fit your agenda. That does not mean we will not print it.

Plain(s)feminist said...

Thanks, Coat Hangers. I appreciate the clarification. I think it's fair to say, at the very least, that VoteYes has appropriated Native American symbols and ideas in order to fight their own battle - and further, that they are not at all concerned with what "life" means, or what it means to consider something sacred, in a First Nations context. This, to me, is co-optation, esp. given the information that Coat Hangers has just provided.

Anonymous said...

My response to the scores of "Vote Yes" signs was to pledge to donate $1 for every sign I saw on my way to work the GOTV phones. It is a delicious irony that the people who place 20 signs in their yard to try and influence voters are actually determining the amount of my donation. I know the campaign is almost over, but there will still be bills to pay after Tuesday (especially phone bills). Think of the money we could raise if we each did the same thing. Now I just have to draft a "thank you for helping fund the Campaign for Healthy Families" note to send to those with the signs!