This week in antiabortion activism

An antichoice group loses tax-exempt status for illicit campaigning, and a deluded protester tries to blow up a women's health clinic.

Published September 15, 2006 8:00PM (EDT)

On the antiabortion beat, there's been some good news and some bad, weird news this week. The good news is that Operation Rescue West, a regional wing of the antiabortion nonprofit Operation Rescue, has had its tax-exempt status revoked by the IRS. The organization got busted after Catholics for a Free Choice complained that ORW was campaigning and fundraising to defeat John Kerry in the 2004 election. Today's New York Times reports that "at the Democratic convention, members of Operation Rescue West drove around a truck featuring a large photo of a late-stage aborted fetus and the words 'Kerry's Choice.'" Classy. As Catholics for a Free Choice president Frances Kissling told the Times, "It could not have been a more clear or blatant violation of the I.R.S. rules," which prohibit such campaigning on the part of tax-exempt nonprofits.

In the nonprofit world, losing tax-exempt status is a pretty big deal; IRS Commissioner Mark Everson has said revoking an organization's status is akin to "the nuclear option." Still, ORW outreach coordinator Cheryl Sullenger was prepared to walk it off: "Losing our tax exemption doesn't have much of an effect on us, one way or the other," she told the Times. Maybe she's putting up a good front, or maybe the organization wasn't making enough money that saving on taxes was a boon. Regardless, our crush on Catholics for a Free Choice continues -- it's keeping an eye on other antichoice groups going into this fall's election season, particularly Priests for Life and Catholic Answers -- and if Everson keeps making good on his promise to crack down on campaigning violations, we may even start crushing on the IRS.

Now for the bad, weird news: Earlier this week, antiabortion crackpot David McMenemy attacked a women's health clinic in Iowa by pouring gasoline inside his car and crashing it into the building. It's horrifying to see suicide-bomber-type tactics being used by the antichoice movement; fortunately, no one was hurt. The especially weird part is that the clinic in question, the Edgerton Women's Health Center, doesn't perform abortions or refer patients to abortion providers. It's a primarily obstetrical facility that also runs the local Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, according to the Feminist Daily News Wire. McMenemy mistakenly thought it was an abortion clinic. This situation certainly wouldn't be any better if he'd successfully targeted an abortion provider. But it's interesting to note that the politicization of women's health is such that, for some people, the term is synonymous with abortion.

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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