Political Animal


January 19, 2013 9:25 AM “Happy birthday, dead baby!” and other charming tactics from “pro-life” clinic protesters

By Kathleen Geier

With the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade approaching this Tuesday — happy birthday, Roe! — it’s a safe bet that the anti-choice nutjobs are gearing up to full freakout mode. And sure enough, misogynist-in-chief Rush Limbaugh is “humorously” “recommending” that women seeking abortions carrying them out “with a gun.” What a card ol’ Rush is!

ThinkProgress reports on some of the more obnoxious ongoing tactics of the right-of-lifers who protest outside a women’s clinic in Huntsville, Alabama. Demonstrators’ wacky capers include spraying holy water right in the face of women entering the clinic.

But for me, the tactic that takes the prize was arranging for a children’s choir to serenade entering clinic patients with endless choruses of “Happy birthday, dead baby!” At least one of those on the receiving end of this stunt was a woman who arrived at the clinic because she had experienced an emotionally devastating miscarriage:

Pro-choice marchers recalled a particularly painful event last month when a woman whose baby had died en utero was coming to the clinic to have it removed. In an awful coincidence, that was the day, Watters said, when the pro-life demonstrators collected a children’s choir on the sidewalk to sing “Happy Birthday Dead Baby” to anyone driving in.
“Will had to physically restrain the father,” Watters said, nodding to one of the men marching in a pro-choice jacket. “And by the time she walked through them, she was an emotional wreck.”

It’s always difficult to measure these things, but there is some evidence that suggests that the more restrictive a state’s abortion laws, the more incidents of harassment and violence there are against abortion providers. As the number of state-level laws that are hostile to women’s choice continues to grow in leaps and bounds, this is a particularly troubling trend.

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee


  • c u n d gulag on January 19, 2013 11:09 AM:

    Conservatives have been on the wrong side of EVERY Civil and Human Rights Issues, since people first organized into groups and societies.
    Some Liberal guys said they'd help with the planting and child-rearing, to let some women hunt - and, were probably promptly killed, or kicked out of the society, by Conservatives who felt one thing was important, and the other was merely "woman's work."

    In the past Centrury, Conservatives were wrong on Women's Suffrage, Africn-American and Women's Civli Rights (and, more recently, Gay Rights).

    And so, to compensate, they took up the cause of the fetus (more for misogynistic and political reasons, than religious ones - but's that's a story for another day), as if they were the moral descendants of Martin Luther King Jr, and that by defending the rights of zygotes and fetuses, THEY were the true Civil and Human Rights advocates.

    And now, they care about, and are "pro," "life," until that 'life' comes out of the womb.
    Then, well, the 'pro' part ends, and everyone's on their own - just as God, Jesus, and Ayn Rand, intended.

    The Bible may not say anything about abortion - but, their Preachers, Priests, and politicians sure do!

  • Domage on January 19, 2013 11:45 AM:

    Re: c u n d--as Barney Frank noted, for the GOP pro-life crowd, life begins at conception and ends at birth.

    It's always been one of the more interesting aspects of America that many people do not feel truly free if they are exposed other people who do not believe exactly the same things. The non-believers must be converted or silenced.

    Freedom for me, but not for thee!

  • Lee on January 19, 2013 11:57 AM:

    On that last point you're assuming causation, when the more likely explanation is that both are related to how strong anti-choice sentiment is in the particular State.

  • aimai on January 19, 2013 12:00 PM:

    She's not assuming causation, she's noting correlation and posing a question about how much more awful things are going to get.

  • T-Rex on January 19, 2013 1:02 PM:

    The situation of the woman whose fetus had died is not dissimilar to that of the woman in Ireland who died because even under those life-threatening circumstances her doctors would not perform a dilation and curettage. They were less afraid of killing a patient than of being prosecuted by a theocratic government for performing anything remotely resembling an abortion, even when the fetus was already dead. When her husband begged them to intervene, they told him "This is a Catholic country." Pro-lifers in the U.S. have made it clear that they'd like American doctors to be just as intimidated when they have to decide what's best for a pregnant patient.

  • Fess on January 19, 2013 2:25 PM:

    A friend of my daughter's recently got the news that their 19 week IVF baby had anencephaly. That means that the baby doesn't have a brain. There is some variation from no sight, hearing, sensation at all to maybe having some of those. In every case the baby is missing part to most of its skull and brain and it dies, usually before birth. Those that survive to birth generally have a few minutes to 10 days of life. A couple of hours seemed the most likely outcome. In this case, the parents had to decide to carry to birth or to terminate. Unfortunately, they had to make that decision in just a few days because their OB couldn't terminate after 20 weeks. They would have had to travel to a clinic with the fanatics outside harassing them had they taken more time to get their heads around the situation. Simply kindness would have demanded they not have to make a rushed decision. It's unusual for anencephaly to be diagnosed before 18 weeks, so rushing is the norm.

    Because of this, I spent some time looking up anencephaly and found whole web sites of stories of people who decide to proceed to birth. The stories are heart wrenching, but after a few, a pattern becomes clear. There are lots of prayers involved. There are lots of photos of the baby (or corpse) with the family and "celebrations of life," even when there was no life. I'd bet you anything that 90% of those families think that this is the only "right" choice and would prevent other parents from choosing differently if they could. I accept their choices and wouldn't pressure them to choose differently, but I resent that they and their fellow travelers would pressure/prevent other parents from making the alternate decision.

  • lichnor on January 19, 2013 2:51 PM:

    Hmmmm....makes me wonder....wouldn't it be odd if anti-assult gun people started to picket gun stores with pictures of dead bodies from the mass shootings over the years, singing "Happy birthday dead children."
    , sprinkling holy water right in the face of those entering and exiting the store....

    Do you think if that happened it just might sink in how wack-a-doodle the anti-choicer's are and get the public around putting an end to this practice?

  • Rich2506 on January 19, 2013 8:11 PM:

    I put together a piece on gun control and the idea that dictators are "naturally" and "of course" against citizens having guns (Found a fair amount of evidence that Nazi Germany really didn't deny citizens the right to own guns and that Cuba had very good reason to do so). During my research, I looked at a piece that examined Hitler and abortion policy. Der Fuhrer was inconsistent about it, if you were a woman of "fine Aryan stock," he was strongly "pro-life," if you were of some other ethnicity, he had no problem with you having access to both birth control and abortions.
    Now think about that for a sec. Roll it around in your mind. As far as the anti-abortion movement is concerned, Adolf Hitler, the guy who ordered the deaths of six million Jews, is "pro-life."

  • Kathryn on January 19, 2013 8:39 PM:

    @lichnor......all things being unequal, such anti assault weapons demonstrators would probably be hauled away by the cops. I find it outrageous that there is no police presence to protect the employees and clients of women's clinics, why is it open season on these folks? Like your idea though. Now that I think about it, believe these women's clinic demonstrators are only restricted in how close they can be to the clinic, so that should be the same for any demonstrators. More dangerous at a gun shop though, as customers would often be armed.

  • Saffi on January 20, 2013 12:46 PM:

    It's completely predictable that "the more restrictive a state's abortion laws, the more incidents of harassment and violence there are against abortion providers" because:
    - the more restrictive the laws are, the fewer clinics there are,
    - the fewer clinics there are, the fewer targets for abuse there are,
    - the fewer targets there are, the more concentrated the attacks can be, and
    - the more concentrated the attacks, the more the attackers have opportunity to give each other "positive" feedback.

    Additionally, the fewer the targets there are, the more excited the opponents of reproductive choice get about the opportunity to make their state "abortion-free."

  • fluffykittens on January 21, 2013 12:09 AM:

    After reading the above article I must correct some errors. I was there the day the children sang. Two songs were sung during the that hour they were there: “Happy Birthday Dear Baby” (not “dead baby”—Because every baby deserves a birthday), and “Jesus Loves the Little Children”. The rest of the time was spent in prayer. No bullhorns or speakers of any kind were used.
    The “pro-choicers” sang back in a mocking way. Because of the distance and all the traffic at that time of day, it was impossible to make out their words, as apparently they could not make out the Pro-Lifers’ correctly. In fairness,this could have been an honest mistake with “dear” and “dead”, but the “crying lady with a much wanted dead fetus” and the angry husband “wanting to teach those kids a lesson” (as has been stated in other versions of this story going around the internet), is untrue. There was no one, male or female, walking on either sidewalk during that hour (besides the pro-lifers across the street from the clinic, and the “pro-choicers” at the clinic). I must reiterate, nobody walked on either side of the sidewalks the entire time the kids were there! Nobody parachuted in, no one came up from behind, no one walked/ran/hopped/skipped, etc. anywhere near the kids. The children were at least 15 yards from the clinic, plus, again, no one walked to the clinic that entire hour. Also, I can’t understand why a woman would go to an abortion facility to have “a much wanted dead fetus” ( words in a different account of the story) removed instead of the hospital (hospitals DO accept Medicaid). It is my understanding that this clinic does not even perform the procedure that the fictitious lady wanted.
    To perpetuate the lie that “happy birthday dead baby” was sung to a sobbing woman is more than to mislead, it is a devious attempt to advance an agenda of vilifying pro-lifers in an effort to (ultimately) have them removed from the public square, hence my quotation marks around the word “pro-choice”. There is but one choice there.
    Seeing this lie grow and spread (and change as in one version, a woman had to hold back the angry husband) has really been a lesson for me. There is but one Truth, but not everyone has eyes to see.

  • JustMe on January 22, 2013 8:05 AM:

    fluffy I was there that day as well. It WAS DEAD baby. There WERE patients there. Are you sure you even have the right day in mind? I've seen you post on other sights saying it was just a small family that showed up to do this. WRONG!! Unless this family has over ten kids all within a few years of the same age, wearing the same shirts, then you have the wrong event. And just because someone doesn't have insurance doesn't automatically mean they have Medicaid. I know plenty of people who have neither option, so they CAN'T afford what a hospital charges. Do everyone a favor and go away!!

  • Boudicca on January 22, 2013 8:55 AM:

    fluffykittens, I, too, was one of the escorts that day. We all heard the words, and were appalled and disgusted at your group's tactics. Try as you might, you cannot sugar-coat or distract from the anti's mental abuse of the women in crisis who come to these clinics, and call it anything other than abuse. The anti-choice position--I cannot in good conscience call it "pro-life," because it is most definitely NOT--seeks nothing less that control of women, an archaic and despicable goal.

    Men and women of principle in this country, please consider this. Few rational people, if any, see abortion as a decision of convenience, as so many anti's seem to think. For most women who must consider an abortion, it is a gut-wrenching decision to make. Who is to say that YOUR wife, daughter, granddaughter, sister, mother, niece, aunt, or friend might not find herself having to make such a decision to save her own life? Should the women in your life face this decision and have to shoulder the burden of such harassment as well? Must we treat women like children, unable to make such decisions for themselves? I contend that it is un-American and shameful to seek to reduce the rights of these women. Before Roe v. Wade, abortions still happened, but because they were not overseen, more women died. Is this what we as a nation want to return to?

    I urge those people of principle and compassion in this country to write and email your state and federal elected representatives to let them know you support a woman’s right to choose what is best for her life, health, and the well-being of her family. Ask others to do so as well. Speak up; the time is now.

  • Melissa on January 22, 2013 2:20 PM:

    FluffyKittens - whether the children said "DEAD" (as we heard), or "DEAR" doesn't matter. What matters IS what was heard. You did a horrid disservice to a woman who was already in pain. And that? That is not what Jesus would do.

    I suggest you quit trying to defend the indefensible, and start asking forgiveness. And oh... maybe change which songs you decide to have the cultists-in-training sing.