By Patricia Baird-Windle a FLORIDA TODAY guest columnist
Heads up, Brevard. It’s pay-back time. The Aware Woman Center for Choice served you well during its 23 years here. For birth control, pregnancy testing, gynecological care, contraceptive education, abortion, decision and referral counseling, we served more than 200,000 people.
Abortion has touched your life. You or someone you know has had an abortion. Chances are your services were provided by Aware Woman Center for Choice or its successor, Woman Care of Brevard. We had to fight to provide those services to you and still we prevailed, giving you considerate, concerned, compassionate care. For the entire Aware Woman history, we were under constant pressure by anti-abortion factions. Twenty-four years ago this week, Florida Today printed the first story about us. The onslaught of often criminal actions against us started immediately. Make no mistake about their illegal endeavors. The pressures they use are absolutely against the law.
My staff, doctors and family fought for you, keeping the clinic open at the expense of our health and retirement fund. The price we paid to serve you was enormous. Now you should help Woman Care of Brevard, which is in search of a new facility. Many people — many — who claim to be against abortion found it was necessary for them to make the choice of abortion. Even fanatics who publicly dogged us made that personal, private choice. They know who they are. And you know many of them. They, too, should help as part of their gratitude to the little clinics that could, and do, help make their lives better.
If you had an abortion at Aware Woman or elsewhere, you have been able to live your life with parenthood when, where or if you choose. If you are now benefiting from the freedom of your choice, why don’t you help raise money to back a mortgage for the new clinic? If you are a successful Realtor, why don’t you help them find a location without the presence of those who will stalk them and sabotage every effort to re-establish it? This is a civic duty.
Anti-abortion zealots earned the label of extortionist in the Chicago RICO case, where they were found guilty. I lost my beloved career-cum-mission, my right to work, my privacy, my autonomy and my peace of mind to a bunch of quasi-religious criminals.
What is happening right now in Suntree is extortion, plain old illegal pressure tactics. But there will be no criminal prosecution. Woman-haters of extremely questionable behavior staff the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Orlando, part of the Middle District of Florida of the Department of Justice. Their refusal to uphold RICO, Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances and commerce laws in Brevard is a major scandal, an American disgrace. Their religious bias is clear.
This is the best opportunity for you citizens of Brevard to put your money where your mouths are, in favor of the right to choose. Keep abortion safe, legal and available in Brevard.
Last, Florida Today needs to become the aggressive champion of women just as courageous newsmen of the past were in the 1950s and 1960s with the civil rights race issue. Without those courageous white male leaders, there would have been no gains for people of color. This issue also is one of civil rights, of women and families, and yes, abortion providers. This newspaper needs to go beyond its pro-choice stand and help to protect abortion provision. Without providers, there is no choice.
Baird-Windle owned and managed the Aware Woman Center for Choice in Brevard County.