January 2004 Issue #106
Religious Right Agenda In Congress: Year In Review
Congress will reconvene January 20. The religious right claimed as victories during this session the ban on “partial-birth abortions,” increased funds for abstinence-only education, emphasizing abstinence programs in the global HIV/AIDS bill and allowing funding recipients to refuse to distribute condoms on religious or moral grounds, maintaining a ban on abortions at military facilities overseas, and the failure of an effort to require contraceptives to be included in health plans’ prescription coverage.
Construction Of Planned Parenthood Clinic Boycotted
An Austin concrete contractor has organized a boycott by other contractors, materials suppliers and construction workers to try to stop the construction of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Austin where abortions will be performed. Supporters of the clinic decry the campaign as economic blackmail.
The clinic is being built to replace an existing facility, where abortions are not performed. Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region (PPTCR) says the clinic will accommodate more patients and expand its range of reproductive and sexual health services. Gynecological services, testing and counseling for HIV, sexually transmitted disease, and pregnancy, referrals for prenatal care and adoption, cancer screening, and men's services will be among the other services that will be provided there. Construction began in September 2003 with plans for the clinic to be complete by the fall of 2004. Chris Danze began the boycott by writing to several companies saying that he would stop doing business with them if they participated in building the clinic. The Austin Area Pro-Life Concrete Contractors and Suppliers Association formed and, with Danze as chair, sent a letter to more than 750 Austin- and San Antonio-area construction-related businesses asking them not to participate in the construction. Danze claims that every concrete supplier within 60 miles of Austin has indicated it will not supply materials or labor to the project.
Organizers then led a massive phone and e-mail campaign, with other anti-choice groups, Christian radio stations, and churches joining the effort. According to PPTCR, every company working at the site was targeted and threatened by harassing phone calls. Danze, it said, encouraged other anti-choice advocates to call particular contractors and tell them that working on a facility that provided abortions was "morally wrong," and that it would "not be good for future business." The Los Angeles Times quoted Danze as saying that the message was, "If you work on [the Austin facility], you won't be working on other projects." The Washington Post reported that a drywall subcontractor said he was told that his participation "was the equivalent of the stonemasons and plumbers in Germany building the gas chambers." One subcontractor who backed out of the project reportedly had received 1,200 threatening calls. Danze said church involvement was crucial because, once church planning and building committees started calling subcontractors to pressure them to quit the clinic project if they wanted church construction work, companies “started bailing out” because they could not afford to lose church work. The general contractor, Browning Construction of San Antonio, pulled out in early November after it lost its carpenters, heating and air-conditioning subcontractors, concrete suppliers, and electricians. Browning asked to terminate its contract because it was “unable to secure and retain adequate subcontractors and suppliers to complete the project in a timely manner."
PPTCR announced it would serve as its own general contractor, citing the offers of financial and professional support that poured in when Browning's withdrawal was made public. State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, a city council member, and three former mayors joined other officials in speaking out in support of Planned Parenthood and against the boycott. Six days after Browning’s pullout, an impromptu request for donations to combat the boycott made at PPTCR's annual public affairs luncheon raised $33,000 in five minutes.
Construction of the clinic is temporarily halted but PPTCR plans to resume building sometime in the coming year. Its executive director said, "They pressured and intimidated mom-and-pop businesses that are not political, people who are just trying to make a living. The boycott does not in any way signify what this community thinks about this clinic. There is enormous support for this project to go forward, and it will."
Texas Right to Life called Danze a "true American hero” and Texas Eagle Forum gushed, “Danze gets our vote for Texan of the Year!” Both sides see this as a possible model for boycotts elsewhere.
Dump "Happy Holidays," Bring Back "Merry Christmas"
Robert Knight, director of Concerned Women for America’s Culture & Family Institute, laments that use of the phrase “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” has become a way to avoid any recognition of Christmas. He lauded a Californian who, as chairman of the Committee to Save Merry Christmas, wrote the chairman of Federated Department Stores, which owns Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and other chains, complaining that the stores “have systematically removed references to ‘Merry Christmas.’ We find this to be personally, culturally and traditionally offensive when it is known by everyone your company actively solicits our patronage and purchasing of gifts for the Christmas celebration, and now refuses to acknowledge Christmas in your stores.” The man warned that he is prepared to launch a national boycott against the chain.
Knight suggested some other ideas “for putting Christmas back in the forefront of the season,” such as responding with “And a Merry Christmas to you!” when someone says “happy holidays” and asking your local retailer why he goes to such great lengths to avoid using the word Christmas.
Tues. Jan 27 7:00 p.m.
Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, will speak on “Progressive Actions for Regressive Times” at AU general meeting. Warwick Hotel. Free, open to public. RSVP to HoustonAU@flash.net or (713)782-8962
Wed. Jan 28 1:00 p.m. - 2:15 p.m.
“Considering God in Government, ” debate featuring Kevin J. "Seamus" Hasson, President, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and Barry W. Lynn, Executive Director, Americans United. Presented by UH Law Center. Krost Hall Auditorium, UH Law Center. Parking in Lots 19B and 21A. Free, open to public. For more information or to register, call 713-743-2201 or Briefcase@uh.edu. (Flyer posted on Let Freedom Rings’s web site)
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