If you can’t convince them, kidnap them.
That’s what a message posted this week to an antiabortion Facebook page apparently supported, encouraging members to pose as volunteers with a Texas-based pro-choice group that gives women rides to abortion clinics. But once the pregnant women got in the car, the message suggested fake volunteers could instead take them to a church or drive them around aimlessly so they would miss their appointments.
In the message posted to the Facebook page of Abolish Human Abortion, a highly active online group with more than 30,000 followers, a user called “Praying for you” gave directions on what to do with women seeking abortions once they accepted a ride:
“I’m not suggesting you actually take a woman to an abortion clinic but it’s a wonderful opportunity to minister to an abortion minded woman for an hour while you DON’T take her to her clinic. And hey even if you can’t change her mind by the time she gets out of your car and realizes she is at a church and not the clinic she’s missed her appointment anyway.”
Though the post has since disappeared from the Facebook page, the group's founder, T. Russell Hunter, told TakePart he had no idea how it got there.
“We don't know whether they were legit or not, but we certainly do not advocate kidnapping anyone or doing what they were suggesting. We never advocated it or wrote anything favorable of such a thing,” said Hunter.
That denial is on record now, but it’s also worth noting that Abolish Human Abortion seeks to eliminate the medical procedure entirely, and there seem to be few boundaries in that mission.
“[Abortion] abolitionists reject the notion that you can ever commit evil in order that good may come,” said Hunter of the "no compromise" abortion abolition movement, in contrast to what he considers the less stringent pro-life movement.
Transportation has long been an obstacle for many women in antiabortion states such as Texas. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 92 percent of Texas counties had no abortion provider in 2008, and 33 percent of Texas women lived in those counties.
The controversial Facebook message instructed antiabortionists to contact and infiltrate Cicada Collective, a group of reproductive justice organizers in North Texas that escorts women to abortion clinics. After they signed up to volunteer with the organization, they could undermine its intent, the post suggested.
The collective addressed the issue of transportation and safety on its website.
“We are currently in the process of forming the groundwork for our ride and lodging share system, but we intend to work within our personal, professional, and activist communities and networks to find volunteers for this program, always taking into first consideration the safety of clients as well as volunteers,” read a message to those alarmed by the threat of kidnapping.
Cicada Collective officials assure supporters that infiltrators would not pass their screening process, but some women may still be too afraid to trust anyone offering to shuttle them to their appointments—which are undoubtedly getting tougher to make these days.
Just six clinics in Texas provide abortions past 16 weeks of pregnancy. Additionally, 13 of the state's 36 clinics have been barred from performing any abortions because of an emergency ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued Oct. 31. The court found that doctors who perform abortions should be required to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic, citing improved quality in care. Choice advocates have called the requirement a ruse—any emergency room can treat a woman who has complications without the doctor's admitting privileges—to limit the number of available providers.
With abortion providers closing their doors or canceling appointments, Texas women have been displaced and are being forced to seek the procedure in other states.
Impoverished women in particular must, in many cases, either rely on volunteer shuttle services or simply hope that abortion providers in Texas are once again permitted to offer the procedure in time to meet their needs.