"When anyone restricts access to reproductive health services, every woman affected is a living example of a colonized body."
So says Katrina Cantrell, associate executive director of Women's Health Specialists. The "reproductive" services to which she alluded was of course abortion, and the occasion of her statement was the sentencing of one Rev. Walter Hoye.
An abortion-clinic escort follows Rev. Hoye with a blank sign to cover up his sign offering help to pregnant women.
Rev. Hoye stood outside an Oakland, California abortion clinic on May 13, 2008, carrying a sign that said "Jesus loves you and your baby. Let us help you!" This "crime," captured on video (above), was a violation of the city's Bubble Law. Applicable exclusively to abortion clinics, the law defines "harassing" as "the non-consensual and knowing approach within eight feet of another person or occupied motor vehicle for the purpose of passing a leaflet or handbill, to display a sign to, or engage in oral protest, education, or counseling with such other person in a public way."
In other words, merely intending to talk (or display a sign) about abortion is an offense, whether or not any contact is made, and whether or not that person even knows of the "approach" or actually feels harassed.
At Rev. Hoye's trial, no patient testified that she felt threatened or "colonized" by him. Even the prosecutor couldn't muster more than some embarrassed, empty bluster in defense of the conviction. "To suggest that he was merely holding a sign on the sidewalk does not speak to the totality of what is going on here," said Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Robert Graff. "This is a balancing of rights here. These people's rights have to be balanced as well."
What else was there to the "totality", other than the sign and perhaps some words? What rights were violated? Of which people?
On a daily basis I am approached, within two or three feet, by people offering me leaflets or handbills for fast food, health clubs or mens' suits. Some promote political or religious causes or solicit contributions. I am no more "colonized" or "harassed" by their conduct that I am by the ads plastered on every building and lampost. They are merely offering choices which may affect me in some way, big or small.
But in Oakland yesterday, to offer the biggest choice of all—the choice of life—became a crime.