Pro-life supporters were assaulted this week at a California university. The assault surprisingly came from a college professor who was caught on camera stealing a poster and attempting to retreat into a building and then into an elevator. This leads to a question that has been debated for years regarding the protection of women seeking abortion. Buffer zones have been established in certain jurisdictions to protect women from violent protests. Retaliation of an offended onlooker brings the threat now to the protestors themselves. This is a different type of violence involving abortion protests, which might bring further cause of concern around the country.
Joan Short and her sister, Thrin Short, took part in an anti-abortion protest at the University of California, Santa Barbara when an associate professor, Mireille Miller-Young, approached them. The two protesters reported that Miller-Young, a feminist studies instructor, grabbed the sign and took off into a building with others who were against the protest.
The two girls attempted to get the sign back but were assaulted by Miller-Young. One of the sisters put her foot in the elevator to stop the door from shutting, but every attempt Miller-Young violently thwarted in an act that witnesses claim was a forceful altercation that could have led to worse injuries.
Miller-Young claimed she had a “moral right” to take the sign down, stating that it was untrue. The sisters discounted her defense because of a contradictory lecture ran by the professor exhibiting pornographic imagery of African-Americans.
Thrin Short said she is sorry if the signs offended anyone but, after all, that instructor does show pornography to her students, which might be considered offensive material. Her morality might actually not be the cause of her brash behavior.
The university says the protest did not violate any school policy, but this type of violence definitely puts stress on those regulating abortion protests.
Another source says that the university instructor incited a mob of students to chant “tear down the sign” before Miller-Young took it upon herself to put an end to the demonstration, in what some claim was “berserk” behavior. Thrin Short recorded much of the incident on her smartphone which is now in the custody of Santa Barbara law enforcement, who are investigating this incident, which occurred on March 4.
The instructor is also cited as a black cultural studies, pornography and sex work teacher according to a faculty website.
On the other end of the battle is a question in Massachusetts around the protection of women looking for abortion. In January, the Supreme Court considered a challenge to the Massachusetts statute that created “buffer zones” around reproductive health centers to help with safety for women wanting abortions. Anti-abortion protests are allegedly historically violent. The Anti-Defamation League calls anti-abortion violence America’s forgotten terrorism.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told the case attorney that the restriction of the state’s law was enacted due to the considerable history of blocking the entrance and other disturbances. It is hard for the legal system to know in advance who is a threat and who simply wants to attempt to persuade women to keep their baby. The case will be decided sometime in the summer, but anti-abortion protests, and pro-choice rallies for that matter, are now faced with a different type of threat that stands as a continual danger of violence in the public place.
By Lindsey Alexander