WashPost Sides with Late-Term Abortion Activist's Counter-Harassment: 'Turnabout is Fair Play'

One might think that a landlord that welcomed in one of the nation's most notorious late-term abortionists could be labeled "controversial." But in The Washington Post, he's just the Neat Idea Man. In Friday's Post, columnist Petula Dvorak began, "Regardless of how you feel about abortion, the way Todd Stave flipped the script on his bullies is pretty dang clever." Wrong. If you feel abortion is murder, then the question of who are the "bullies" might have a different answer.

But here's what's interesting. When the Post was scandalized last fall that some aggressive pro-lifers protested Todd Stave near (but not on) the property of the middle school his daughter attended, they kept him anonymous for the safety of his children. Now that he wants to crow about counter-harassing pro-lifers, his name and photo are splashed across the paper? How convenient. Here's how they kept him anonymous last September 12 in a Lena Sun news article:

The student’s father, who did not want to be named to protect the safety of his daughter, a sixth-grader at the school, said he saw the five protesters when he went to the school event.

Some held a large banner that showed his photo, his full name, his phone number and the words “Please STOP the Child Killing.” Others held posters showing aborted fetuses.

...The clinic’s landlord said he explained the situation to his daughter and his son, a freshman at nearby Thomas S. Wootton High School, and reassured them that they were safe. Neither child was named in the posters or the banner.

But he said he is furious that the protests targeted his daughter’s school. Both children use their father’s last name.

In fact, just 11 days later, Stave went on the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC, promoting his new group Voice of Choice. Maddow honored him as a "Maryland entrepreneur." Didn't the Post feel a little silly then about protecting his precious anonymity? Don't they feel silly now, presenting this group as fresh "news"?

Or is it timed to rebut the peaceful "40 Days for Life" protests occurring outside clinics during the Lenten season?

Most pro-life activists prefer protesting at a clinic location than near a school, which can (and did) lead to bad publicity, or worse. Dvorak did not recount what happened to James Pouillon when he repeatedly protested abortion outside Owosso High School in Michigan. He was shot dead in 2009. The Post claims to be a national paper, but couldn't manage more than two short and cursory AP dispatches on that "flip the script" episode.

The Post honored Stave for inventing a simple tactic: If you call his home to harass him (or simply try to dissuade him from making late-term abortions possible), you could receive 5,000 counter-harassing phone calls in return. This is "pretty dang clever," says the Post:

The abortion conflict has become a way of life for Stave. He’s not just a landlord. The clinic was operated by his father, who was a doctor. Then his sister managed it.

“I’ve been a member of this fight since Roe v. Wade, since I was 5 years old,” he said. The office was firebombed when he was a kid, and protesters gathered outside the family home as he was growing up. So he’s no stranger to the harassment and bullying of doctors and their families.

But his tormentors crossed the line last fall when a big group showed up at his daughter’s middle school on the first day of classes and again at back-to-school night. They had signs displaying his name and contact information as well as those gory images of the fetuses.

“What parent wants to have that conversation with an 11-year-old on the first day of school?” he fumed.

Soon after that, the harassing calls started coming to his home. By the dozens, at all hours. Friends asked him how they could help. He began to take down the names and phone numbers of people who made unwanted calls. And he gave the information to his friends and asked them to call these folks back.

“In a very calm, very respectful voice, they said that the Stave family thanks you for your prayers,” he said. “They cannot terminate the lease, and they do not want to. They support women’s rights.”

This started with a dozen or so friends, and then it grew. Soon, more than a thousand volunteers were dialing.

If they could find the information, Stave’s supporters would ask during the callbacks how the children in the family were doing and mention their names and the names of their schools. “And then,” Stave said, “we’d tell them that we bless their home on such and such street,” giving the address.

The family of a protester who called Stave’s home could get up to 5,000 calls in return.

Harsh? Nope.

“We gave them back what they gave us,” he said. Do unto others, and so forth.

The supporters came so fast and in such big numbers, Stave founded a group, Voice of Choice . And now there are about 3,000 volunteers ready to make calm, reasoned calls to the homes of people who bombard doctors, landlords and their families with protests at homes or schools across the country.

Do we know every pro-abortion caller is "calm and reasoned"? More "calm and reasoned" than the protest calls they receive? Dvorak saves words like "tormentors" for the people who oppose ripping out the limbs and vacuuming out the skulls of unborn babies in the third trimester of development. "Turnabout is fair play" is the headline. So Dvorak and the Post don't take the position of "two wrongs don't make a right." They find it "clever" that if you called Stave once, you deserve "up to 5,000 calls in return."

Dvorak let Stave present himself as perfectly tolerant of peaceful pro-life protests as a First Amendment exercise. But that doesn't match what this Stave fan wrote about how Stave mobilized his "Voice for Choice" to try and fizzle pro-lifer protests of the Susan G. Komen Foundation:

In his most recent campaign, Stave on very short notice mobilized his network to call the leader of a Maryland anti-abortion group that was planning to protest a “Run for the Cure,” in Baltimore, sponsored by the breast cancer group, the Susan G. Komen Foundation. (The Foundation has recently been targeted by abortion opponents because of donations it gives to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings). Stave, who had subscribed himself to an anti-abortion listserv under an assumed name, read of the planned action, and saw to his delight that the leader had posted several phone numbers. Plausibly, he gives his volunteers credit for the reports that the “the planned protest fizzled to nothing.”

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis