Protests targeting school children?
August 30, 2011 12:54 PM   Subscribe

Is it common for anti-choice protesters to target public schools?

Apparently, some anti-choice protesters were displaying posters of aborted fetuses outside of a nearby middle school as students were arriving on the first day of school yesterday. I did some Googling and found that in 2003, there was a protest at a middle school in California, but other than that, couldn't find much.

Is this a common tactic? If so, is there an aim other than traumatizing middle-school kids?
posted by amarynth to Law & Government (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We had anti-abortion protesters with placards a number of times outside our combined grades 7-12 school around the turn of the millennium in Rochester, NY.
posted by Nomyte at 12:58 PM on August 30, 2011

The only reason I can imagine why they would target middle schools is because is sex education is usually part of middle school curriculum.
posted by jamaro at 1:05 PM on August 30, 2011

oh yeah - totally common. i had this at two different schools in two different states. at least where i was, they weren't allowed on school property and they weren't allowed to hand out literature. the students in the christian prayer club were given passes to leave campus and hold signs with them. my friends and i mostly stood across the street and mocked them. it was my first experience in counter-protesting.

this was 1995-98.
posted by nadawi at 1:05 PM on August 30, 2011

What jamaro said. It's a protest against middle school-based sex education which involves discussion of contraception. Which is just idiotic, of course. If they are so opposed to abortion, wouldn't they be in favor of kids learning about contraception? Oh, never mind...
posted by queensissy at 1:10 PM on August 30, 2011

they target middle schools and high schools because kids that age are having sex and are more susceptible to the sort of trash the anti-choicers spew. they don't know that the fetus pictures come from late term abortions which are not at all common and are almost solely done for the health of the mother. they don't know that groups like that exaggerate or outright lie about the health risks of an abortion. teen girls especially are very emotional and very driven by those emotions. if you can instill a scare tactic on them young enough, you might convince them to join your fight.

they think they're out there to "save souls" but they pick on those least likely to understand the complexity of the issue.
posted by nadawi at 1:11 PM on August 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

90% of the antis I've seen protesting in and around DC are teens. Got to recruit them somewhere, and a school is going to be more effective than blocking a bingo hall.
posted by QIbHom at 1:14 PM on August 30, 2011

This was very common in the early 90's - several of my friends had it happen at their schools, usually when the local church youth group got excited about 'witnessing' to fellow students.

Operation Rescue (before they became Operation Save America) used to do this a fair bit...and OSA still does this, but now they use it to protest Gay/Straight Alliance clubs in high schools.
posted by Wylla at 1:15 PM on August 30, 2011

It appears that Operation Save America (formerly Operation Rescue) is actually running a campaign called "God is Going Back to School" right now - so you might have seen something related to that. There are several recent and older pictures on their site of teens with anti-abortion signs outside of school gates, although the main target seems to be high schools.
posted by Wylla at 1:33 PM on August 30, 2011

The anti-choice once came to my high school. They had those awful giant posters of fetuses, blood and gore. They blockaded the parking lots and shouted awful things at the women leaving campus.

What they didn't know was that our custodian was a former drummer for Black Sabbath poured all of his hell bent fury into protecting the students at our school from harm.

I remember him marching down the hall after he heard they were on campus. "OH HELL NO! NOT MY KIDS" he roared.

They didn't come back.
posted by JimmyJames at 1:45 PM on August 30, 2011 [17 favorites]

this happened with some regularity outside my high school right up against the front lawn, up until a couple of years ago. suburban public high school in los angeles. i don't remember if they were affiliated with a church or other organization.
posted by ilk at 1:49 PM on August 30, 2011

Happened all the time when I was growing up in Wisconsin. Some friends of mine (actual other people, not "a friend, nudge nudge") reported that the little bibles they hand out work great for rolling joints. For their sakes, I hope a lead-based ink wasn't used.

As for what they hope to accomplish, Slacktivist has some posts about "witnessing tools" in the evangelical community of which he is a part. Apparently, one is supposed to score points just for doing attention-getting things for Jesus despite the fact that there's no real expectation of success in reaching the intended audience.

As for why you're hearing a lot of anecdotes and not finding a lot of news articles, I speculate that it's such a common experience as to be lost in the noise of attempted childhood traumas.
posted by stet at 2:04 PM on August 30, 2011

Thanks for the responses! I really had no idea that this was a thing people did.

When I went to find the link, I saw that there were many more comments than there were when I read the item this morning. Now that I've had time to read the comments (which... yikes), it does seem that sex education is one of the things that the protesters are upset about (sample comment: "The real terrorist is Planned Parenthood who teaches "safe sex" to our children, which results in unwanted pregnancies and abortion.") I'm tempted to respond with some results of studies that looked at the efficacy of abstinence-only education, but I doubt it would do any good.
posted by amarynth at 2:12 PM on August 30, 2011

At first when I read this topic on the home page I thought that "anti-choice" was going to be about school vouchers or charter schools.

One reason the pro-life crowd "targets" schools is that several court cases back in the 1990's made it illegal for them to demonstrate within a certain distance of the Planned Parenthood clinics --on the basis that it was "racketeering," that is to say interfering with the operation of a business.

Planned Parenthood is a profitable business that operates mostly at taxpayer expense. So one way of trying to attack that business is to address the potential customers.

The ability to do something, the legality of doing it, and who pays for it be three separate questions in my ideal society.
posted by markhu at 2:22 PM on August 30, 2011

Yeah, they've got their head firmly up their own worldview amarynth... best just to terminate that tab with extreme, er, prejudice.
posted by tivalasvegas at 2:25 PM on August 30, 2011

Thanks, markhu, I wasn't aware that it was illegal to demonstrate outside of Planned Parenthood clinics; that helps clarify things a little.
posted by amarynth at 2:37 PM on August 30, 2011

To say that it's "illegal to demonstrate outside Planned Parenthood clinics" is a bit of a distortion of the actual ruling.

I am not sure whether you are actually confusing the Scheidler decisions with a distortion of FACE or various 'buffer zone' rules, but neither is PPH specific in any way, and FACE covers a huge range of facilities, including many churches.
posted by Wylla at 3:20 PM on August 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

Planned Parenthood is a profitable business that operates mostly at taxpayer expense.

Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit, and according to this, "Public funds account for roughly a third of Planned Parenthood’s $1 billion annual budget" - so not mostly taxpayer-funded.

I agree with the above comments that teens a) are a demographic that it makes sense to target with their message and b) are possible recruits, and also that this is a facet of the religious right's concerns about what children are learning in schools.
posted by naoko at 4:33 PM on August 30, 2011 [6 favorites]

Planned Parenthood is not a profitable business and it is not illegal to demonstrate outside Planned Parenthood clinics. Neither of those are why anti-abortion activists target schools, because they are not true.
posted by spaltavian at 7:39 PM on August 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

Just a quick update -- some new comments on the item seem to indicate that this particular school may have been chosen because a parent of one of the students performs abortions.
posted by amarynth at 1:50 PM on August 31, 2011

gah. that's horrifying. if that's the case, if you have any children in that school, i think you need to talk to the principal about safety of all the students, including the child of the doctor. today it's protesters, next time it might be a shooter. if they know enough to know where the doctor's kid goes to school, they are dangerous.
posted by nadawi at 2:00 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

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