The background behind the Bethlehem House vandalism

The Gazette article (“Vandals target Bethlehem House nonprofit,” August 19) omits very important context. The fourth paragraph reads: “I...



The Gazette article (“Vandals target Bethlehem House nonprofit,” August 19) omits very important context. The fourth paragraph reads: “It is not currently known what prompted the act of vandalism (…)”.

The background is that right now abortion rights and access in this country are under attack from (mostly) Christian, conservative and far-right extremists who want to control women’s bodies and reproductive rights. These extremists want to force a pregnant person to carry the fetus to term. This culminated on June 24 when the United States Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, the constitutional right to abortion in the country.

That vote passed by a majority that included conservative Christians in the court, brought to power by presidential appointees, notables from the previous administration. Abortion rights and access across the country are subsequently quickly restricted and criminalized. Bethlehem House receives funding from the Diocese of Springfield and one of its main goals is to deny access to abortion information.

The Gazette article details spray-painted graffiti on the sidewalk, bench and side of the building. In the article, the target of this graffiti is attributed to women and other pregnant people who come to Bethlehem House for services. A comment in the article qualifies this “terrorism”.

Use of the term terrorism unnecessarily intensifies the conversation. I would reframe this not as terrorism, but perhaps as First Amendment misdirection. The act clearly breaks the law in terms of graffiti, vandalism and trespassing. One can perhaps imagine that the message from those who spray painted is that they are tired of fighting for a woman’s right to bodily integrity, of fighting to protect a woman’s right to make their own health decisions, and they are fed up with these “fake clinics” that lie and deceive women and other pregnant people by hiding or denying the medical choice they have to have an abortion. Carrying the fetus to full term delivery is the only option offered by Bethlehem House.

The article indicates that Bethlehem House provides women facing a pregnancy crisis with various goods (diapers, wipes, baby clothes), but does not note that to receive these goods a pregnant person must likely succumb to Christian indoctrination and anti-abortion. Messaging. Abortion is not mentioned as an option for these pregnant people, and it is actively discouraged by staff. Their only “option” is to carry the pregnancy to term.

When I approach an episode of spray painting at midnight as “terrorism”, I hope the Gazette will consider covering the conversation on abortion issues more broadly and publish an article on how anti- abortion are posted outside women’s health centers across the country to yell at and intimidate women who come for health services, including abortions. They harass women and other pregnant people who have come to explore their options while pregnant.

Check out news stories from decades past about women’s health care clinics being bombed, doctors who performed abortions shot and killed, the verbal and emotional harassment experienced by pregnant women and others seeking health care service. necessary health. . Vox noted that attacks on women’s health clinics that offer abortions include eight murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings and 186 arson attacks targeting these clinics over the past 40 years. Axios reports that attacks on these women’s health clinics by anti-abortion zealots increased 128% in 2021. It’s real and it’s part of this story.

An even deeper analysis would include a discussion of the patriarchal system and the values ​​we all live by, which view women as second-class citizens. It is in this system that a minority of people, mostly Republicans (again, conservative Christians), and mostly men, can make laws that continue to restrict women’s basic right to health care. Those who have been following the news since June 24 know that in state after state, access to abortion services is under attack and laws are being enacted almost daily to restrict this necessary healthcare procedure. When we read articles on religious fundamentalism in other countries where women’s rights are restricted (Afghanistan, Iran), we can see that the United States advocates the same position towards women.

We in Massachusetts are very fortunate to have enlightened elected officials who have passed various laws and protections for women and pregnant women who seek reproductive health care and seek to understand all of their options, including abortion. . The Roe Act here in Massachusetts protects the right to abortion in the Commonwealth. Attorney General Maura Healey has issued a consumer advisory on organizations like Bethlehem House, known as Crisis Pregnancy Centers, to warn people of their deceptive practices commonly used to lure unsuspecting pregnant women, only to refuse or discourage these patients to consider abortion as a legal and safe alternative to pregnancy.

While some of us may not participate in actions such as spray painting to express our feelings, let’s not use hyperbole to escalate the conversation about abortion access.

Michael S. Hutton-Woodland, Ph.D., lives in Amherst.



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Newsrust - US Top News: The background behind the Bethlehem House vandalism
The background behind the Bethlehem House vandalism
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