A school bus full of North Dakota school children was treated to a lesson in grown up asshattery this week, when their route home from a field trip took them past a gaggle (a herd? a swarm? an escargatoire?) of racist anti-abortion protesters harassing people outside of North Dakota's only abortion clinic and at major intersections throughout the city. When confronted with the giant, graphic signs, some kids cried, others were visibly distressed, and one girl threw up.
The protesters, part of a group called (I'm not even kidding here) "Missionaries to the Preborn" were in town from Wisconsin to raise awareness that abortions were happening right there in Fargo, right under the noses of salt of the earth Midwestern types who actually need to wear Carhart clothes for work. As part of the group's coordinated effort, they made giant signs containing gross images of dismembered fetuses and displayed them at a busy intersections in town ("busy intersection" is Semi-Ruralese for "four way stop") and stood outside of the Red River Women's Clinic shouting at patients, volunteers (which include some notably badass, unruffled clinic escorts), and employees. You may want to be sitting down for this one, as it will come as a huge shock, but most of the protesters shouting horrible things at women and minorities were — wait for it — white dudes.
Fargoans are, to put it bluntly, fucking irritated by the interlopers. A teacher who was on the bus with the traumatized kids described the signs as "... graphic....Oh, my Lord, it was horrible" and the group's actions as "wrong." The manager at a nearby restaurant whose business was being harmed by the World's Least Cool Protest described the scene as a "circus."
Protesters, however, are undaunted, as in their minds, pictures of abortions are their movement's trump card. One told Fargo's InForum, "If we're not comfortable with these images, it should tell us something about what we tolerate in our community." I'll give them the fact that abortion images are stomach-churning, but so are images of knee replacement surgeries and heart transplants and hysterectomies. Just because something looks gross doesn't mean it's bad. Are they aware that childbirth can get pretty hairy?
"Both TV stations showed the aborted baby signs. Even if they call us kooks and idiots, we still win," said one protester to another. Missionaries to the Preborn plan to continue their Square States Irritation Tour with another stop in North Dakota, and a stop in Montana.
What, exactly, constitutes "winning" in this situation? I suppose if one defines winning as "pissing everyone off and harming children," then, yeah, chalk this one up as a "win." But if "winning" involves outlawing abortion or changing people's minds, it would be hard to claim this as a victory. Women still had abortions that day. Abortion is still a constitutionally protected choice available to women. Displaying graphic photos of dismembered fetuses is the least charming, least convincing, and least effective method anti-abortion rights protesters employ in trying to preach their forced pregnancy gospel, but as the old adage goes, the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Missionaries to the Preborn appears to have insanity in spades.