Hey Bart Stupak, How Does it Feel?

Dear Bart,

Welcome to the club.

I ran an abortion clinic for nine years and have defended clinics across the nation. I’ve worn a bullet-proof vest just to go to work. My car was routinely vandalized. My house was firebombed. I was stalked. I received so many telephone death threats–including one delivered to my kid when I couldn’t come to the phone–that I considered them routine.

And it wasn’t just me who was threatened. My son was shot at. My husband was routinely targeted. My kids grew up never opening or even touching any packages that came in the mail, dealing with harassment at Sunday school and elsewhere, and always watching their backs.

Now, Bart, you and other anti-abortion Democratic members of Congress have joined this club. You are on the receiving end of the thrown rocks, telephoned threats and ominous personal visits from people who, oddly enough, share your anti-abortion sentiments–they’re just mad about your vote for health care reform. So I thought I’d put my schadenfreude aside and offer you some advice.

First off, don’t expect anyone to get punished for their actions against you unless someone gets murdered. Sure, being a member of Congress means that law enforcement paid attention to the threats, and fast. That’s a definite bonus. Thanks to a wonderful woman on the local police force, I had some unofficial protection myself. But it took me years and a Democratic administration to get the federal government to respond. So having Obama in charge of the FBI and not McCain is definitely in your favor.

But when push comes to shove, I would be shocked if anyone was ever arrested, tried and convicted of carrying out a threat. All anyone has to claim is that the attack was really about free speech, and then you can kiss any legal protections goodbye.

And don’t expect the people who created the lynch mobs to show remorse or change their ways. There will initially be some quasi-apologies (Rep. John Boehner (R – OH) says he was speaking metaphorically when he called an anti-abortion Democrat who voted for the bill “a dead man”), but soon the leaders will claim that they had nothing to do with the poisonous atmosphere because you caused it (Republican Whip Eric Cantor claims Democrats were “dangerously fanning the flames” by demanding his party condemn the violence and threats). In fact, you and I both know that our only crimes were exercising our constitutional rights.

Yes, Bart, you are in the same boat as many abortion providers throughout the nation–under brutal attack and threats simply for doing what you thought was the right thing. So I have to ask you: How does it feel?

How does it feel to have your life and the lives of those you love in danger from a band of filthy-mouthed, holier-than-thou thugs? How does it feel to know that nothing will make these bullies think twice about attacking you? How does it feel to know that these people–people with whom you share beliefs–may stalk you forever?

Most of all, how does it feel to know that you helped create them through your leadership against women in favor of the bishops, your support of the anti-abortion movement and your discounting of women’s lives and women’s choices? You stood silent while women were attacked and doctors were murdered; now they are coming for you. You should have spoken out, but you didn’t.

So welcome to the club and good luck, Bart. Let me know if you need tips on wearing a bulletproof vest.


P.S. I read a recent interview in which you said you suspected groups such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Right to Life and others were actually “just using the life issue to try to bring down health-care reform.” Gee, ya think?


  1. This is awesome! I hope you sent it to him in person too…

  2. Great post. No one should have to put up with terrorism for doing their job legally. Hopefully the FBI will take this more seriously and stop the harassment for everyone.

  3. Sharon D says:

    Well put.

  4. Carol McCullough says:

    Terrific, Jeanne. I wish I could believe this will cause him to pause and think.

  5. Right on, right on, RIGHT ON. He helped make this bed; he can take his turn lying in it.

  6. MomOf3Girls says:

    Thank you, Jeanne, for risking your life every day, and even putting your family at risk, to help other women. Thank you!

  7. Jeanne, Thanks so much for this post and thanks for all your work through the years for women’s reproductive rights. Americans don’t realize how frightening anti-choice activists are, how doctors, clinic staff and volunteers have to take extraordinary measures to protect themselves and their families. I hope that Rep. Stupak now understands how the rhetoric of the anti-choice movement inflames the passions of the unhinged among them and can lead to violence. Maybe he can convince his anti-choice colleagues that they should lead by example and tone down the rhetoric.

  8. Hey Bart! If you see a red pick up with a guillotine mounted on the back it’s coming for you.Let them eat cake.

  9. Arlo Clark-Foos says:

    Beautifully crafted message, Aunt Jeanne! I loved every word of it. It brings me back to high school when I wrote a presentation in favor of pro-choice views. I remember talking to you on the phone about the type of violence you all experienced as a result of running the clinic. It still makes me sad to think about how you were treated then and how my own peers responded to my presenting these facts in school.

  10. Jeanne, you can sure hit the nail on the head! I wish you had time to write a book. Thanks for all that you’ve done and are doing for women every day. You’re an inspiration to us all.

  11. Thank you, Jeanne.

  12. Although I agree with the sentiment behind this post, particularly having worked in an abortion clinic under threat of pro-life extremism myself, the execution certainly isn’t going to build any bridges.

  13. Jeanne, Thanks for saying what many former and current abortion providers have been thinking. PLEASE send this directly to Stupak’s office. He and his staff need to read it! WRITE-ON!

  14. This is why you’re my hero, Jeanne! Thank you for this. Thank you!

  15. This is a very well written post. Good job! I think it’s important to see how pro-choice activists are often treated by the “holier-than-thou thugs.” The only thing I would change is the language concerning “anti-abortion”and such: I wish everyone would use the more accurate terms of “pro-choice” and “anti-choice,” because that’s what the issue is really about. Using “pro-life” suggests that opponents are “anti-life,” and using “anti-abortion” suggests opponents are “pro-abortion.” But this is not the case. People get caught up in this language when really the issue is about whether or not you support a woman’s choice.

  16. Brie Akins says:

    Although I don’t think this article is condoning violence per se, I do think we need to be careful about the appearance of such. As an activist/advocate in the ending violence against women movement for the past 12 years, I think violence is never an ok response.

    A major problem in our country at the moment is the violence that is being committed against people simply because they do not agree with our viewpoints. Where is rational discourse? The consideration of differing opinions can lead us to become better people and a better nation.

    Yes, I can see that Jeanne is “offering advice” and not saying it is ok, so I am not trying to criticize. I’m just saying let’s take the high road and speak out against violent acts, whomever they may be against.


  17. briget shields says:

    Thank you Jeanne, for all you have done and all that you continue to do.

  18. Briget Shields says:

    Thank you Jeanne for all you have done and all that you continue to do.
    Can someone explain to me why the so called “pro-lifers” are so violent and ready to kill!!!!!!!!????????????

  19. Susan Yanow says:

    Beautifully stated, Jeanne. This should be published everywhere – the harrassment of abortion providers is domestic terrorism as are threats against politicians. We need to make the connection and mobilize against these militants. Wonder if Stupak will finally “get it”.

  20. Great piece Jeanne,
    I know I can count on you to never stop speaking the truth and to tell it like it is! Thanks.

  21. An excellent piece that reflects many of my same experiences and frustrations in my almost 2 decades of work on the front lines of women’s reproductive health care. I’m sure to Stupak and his ilk, their experiences are awful, unimagined, and totally unwarranted. While I never wish anyone the discomfort of bomb threats, harassment and fear for their family – it is good to see the potential for enlightenment. Wouldn’t it be lovely if Stupak or some of his staff found a shred of empathy from all this?

  22. Carol Bunk says:

    Thank you for your wonderful article. Everything you said is so true. Mr. Stupak now knows how every abortion feels. I am a proud abortion provider.

  23. You have voiced our frustration as providers with the mainstream inability to connect the dots between the domestic terrorism we have been enduring for decades and the more recent attacks on Democratic Congress members like Stupak. It would be nice to think that they finally get it, but that seems too much to hope for.
    Attacks on abortion clinics (and attacks on black churches, gay people as well) is an attack on democracy just as much as the threats on Stupak’s family and life and the bricks through windows. It’s about time everyone started to realize they are the same people hell bent on destroying our civilization.

  24. Penny Hammack says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Jeanne. I hope Mr. Stupak has to wear his bulletproof vest for a long time.

  25. Thank you!!! Thank you for being so brave. Thank you for speaking with such clarity and honesty. Thank you for your dedication. And thank you for your inspiration.

  26. this is how I feel. Fear, hatred, greed, ignorance, jealousy, in-security (inflicted upon people by media/society), and violence are ALL SATANIC/ or in my case Mara (SUFFERING; I only hold one spiritual ideal and that’s karma, in respect of where “karma” originated, I am Asian in my spiritual beliefs) and guess what SO IS WAR. I can understand why Mao says religion is poison in respect if how much it does MORE DAMAGE then good. And no offense towards Christians/Muslims and the like, what right does anyone have to shove “the good book” down anyone’s undergarments or inside another s body cavities in the name of religion?!?!

    IN KARMA I TRUST FOR NOTHING OR NO ONE NOT EVEN SATAN OR HIS FOLLOWERS ARE IMMUNE TO CONSEQUENCES OF ACTIONS!!!!! And Kali Ma says “Go ahead my child go kick that demons ass from here to eternity!”


  27. Loved Jeanne’s post and all the positive comments. But the one that I really connected with was Sarah’s. We really have to reframe the argument. “Pro-Choice” means that, whether I agree with your choices or not, I respect your right as a free citizen to make them. Period. It doesn’t mean “Pro-Abortion.” My agreement with you no more validates your choice than my being opposed to it invalidates your choice. The essence of your uniqueness is reflected in the choices you make in your life. This is the basic tennet of ethics. I have found that nearly all the people I know who claim to be Pro-Life” are only “Pro-Fetus.” They have no sympathy what-so-ever for a child born unwanted, unloved, un-nurtured or to poverty and violence.
    We might want to stop using the “Pro-Life” designation and start calling it what it is, “Anti-Choice” and “Anti-Woman.” And let’s redefine “life” as birth to death. Letting any child starve, any young person die in an unjustifed war, or any elderly person die alone and afraid is hardly “pro-life.” Thanks, Jeanne, for all you do and for getting an old lady all stirred up.

  28. This is one of the most brilliant and wonderfully clever posts I’ve read in a LONG time. THANK YOU. I am sending it to ALL of my friends and family! You GO, Jeanne! You are absolutely spot-on.

  29. Gwen Whiting says:

    I appreciate the irony you are pointing out in your blog, but I am afraid Bart will neither recognize nor acknowledge said irony. I am always amazed at how obtuse people become when they find themselves “in the same boat” as those they have been condemning. It seems we are doomed to the selective percptions of some who simultaneously act themselves and villify the same actions of others then deny the similarities evident to any honest, ethical and clear thinking person. Perhaps if others in power would confront this unethical and disingenious behavior people like Stupak would cease to use this method of manipulation of fact and perception of the public. I don’t hold out much hope for the current population of politicos in Congress at this time or those “want-a-bees” waiting in the wings wielding their gun/violence oriented rhetoric. We’ll see.

  30. The Stupaks of the world live in their own little la-la land. What they don’t get is that we are all pro-life. I don’t know a single person who is anti-life. The stupaks are pro-birth more than pro-life. They don’t care at all what happens to the babies, they just want them born. Want to starve, molest, beat, burn or anything else to a child? They don’t care. Just so they are born. If they spent their money to help the children who are here things would be so different. When was the last time Stupak helped a poor family? My bet is never. Letem starve, he doesn’t care!

  31. You know, I am pro-life, but seeing how the pro-life movement treats those they disagree with and the way they present their side of the view I find it hard to say I agree with them on anything. In the end we’re all pro-life, no one wants to kill someone else. It’s not like it’s an easy choice, to have an abortion. I have no hard feelings towards anyone that has one.

    So I guess considering I don’t feel the desire to harass someone else, or threaten them, and that I understand a women’s right to choose, I am not so much pro-life.

    I guess I would always tell someone if it is possible to go through with the birth. Of course the “if you can” part is pretty complex. It’s also pretty stupid for me to try and act like I can make that kinda choice for someone.

    Whatever I am, I know I respect human life enough to respect all human life, including those I disagree with.

  32. Jack Smith says:

    And you expect a member of Congress to listen, and act responsibly?

    They spend $1.67 for every dollar taken in, drive the debt thru the roof, and continue to act irresponsibly with Citizen TaxPayer’s money.

  33. Irena B says:

    First, Thank you Mrs. Clark to providing women with a choice. Secondly, I will never understand why men opose abortions, they routinely leave wives and children practically destitute, and if they don’t leave many are abusing both wife and children. So I would think abortions were (some) mens’ best option. Personally, I have never had to use this service, but I know of many who have and I am glad they could make that choice and have it done safely. Growing up women routinely died from illegal abortions, and we all know that if these services were not provided safely today the same thing would be going on.

  34. Doug Shields says:


    Thanks so much for providing this spot on analysis and commentary. As an elected, I never really understood my fellow electeds (particularly the D’s) who are completely tone deaf when it comes to the reproductve rights of women in this country.

    The Stupaks of the world seem to be completely ignorant of the deadly consequences of thier positions.

    Ya just shake your head and wonder “what the hell were they thinking???”

    Keep up the good blogging

    Douglas Shields
    Member – Pittsburgh City Council

  35. There is a blog called republican majority for choice who feel the same way you do about reproductive choice. Not all republicans are a bunch of religious zealots. They infiltrated my party and I want them OUT!!



  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by msmagazine: Advice for Bart Stupak from a women’s clinic worker and anti-choice extremist target in an open letter on the Ms. blog… http://sn.im/v5eqq

  2. […] für Bart Stupak Ms. gibt Bart Stupak, einem der demokratischen Senatoren, der seine Sitte zur us-amerikanischen […]

  3. […] odd when worn with kaftans and Birkenstocks. On that note, you should also read Pittsburgh’s Jeanne Clark on Bart Stupak.  Jeanne is blogging at the Ms. Magazine website.  Go to Source Click here to […]

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