Strange days in Austin the last few weeks, after an obscure state senator filibustered an abortion bill and made herself an overnight sensation. Suddenly, pro-abortion activists had a platform. Swarming into the galleries of the Texas Legislature, they managed to stall passage of a bill that would have outlawed abortions after 20 weeks and shut down abortion centers that did not raise their standards to acceptable levels. The protesters accomplished this goal not by reasoned and spirited debate but by shouting—for hours, en masse, either in random cacophony or mind-numbing chants.
Last week they set up shop in advance of a special session of the Legislature that was intended to bring the bill up for a vote again—passing it and getting it signed in a timely manner. The demonstrations were a carnival of outrage in which children were given sexually explicit signs to hold and “liberated” women paraded in outlandish costume—with everybody yelling. These ladies (and some gentlemen) could write the book on winning by intimidation, because that seems to be the tactic of choice, whether in person or electronically.
Texas pro-life legislators have received savage tweets wishing their deaths, or that they or their wives or daughters experience rape. Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, the sponsor of the bill, was a special target who often couldn’t leave her office without being surrounded and screamed at. Pro-life Rep. Stephanie Klick had a similar experience when angry women followed her to the restroom: “I tried to engage them briefly as to whether or not they had even read the bill, and they hadn’t, and they became louder and were chanting,” she continues. “So I stepped back out of the ladies’ room, and some of them followed me, but I was able to lose them in the stairway.”
Engaging, briefly or not, doesn’t seem to be in the game plan. Abortion is a complicated issue (socially, if not morally) with ramifications far beyond one woman’s choice to have a baby or not: to one side, the sine qua non of freedom, to the other, the cornerstone of a death culture. But watching some of these protesters—and I’m sure more moderate ones are among them—I’m reminded of one of the day-trippers from hell in C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, a woman whose life had been so taken up with complaining that complaint was her life.
At what point does a shouter become merely a shout? They’re trying to make me angry but they mostly make me sad—for them. They are as hard and unyielding and bitter as they portray the other side. Zeal for their cause has devoured them. Perhaps that was only to be expected. Those who deny humanity to others (i.e., unborn babies) may eventually deny it to themselves.