Your construction company kills babies

Thanks to pressure from antiabortion activists, a builder has pulled out of a project for a Planned Parenthood clinic.

Published July 1, 2008 7:10PM (EDT)

It's Tuesday, and the fight over Americans' sexuality continues -- as indicated by the controversy brewing over a Planned Parenthood clinic scheduled to be built in Portland, Ore., and reported on by the Oregonian. Pressure from antiabortion activists was so high that the construction company in charge of building the center pulled out of the project. The company's owner, Bob Walsh, said that when he found out the building was going to be used for a Planned Parenthood clinic, he asked contractors from other cities what it was like to deal with aggressive antiabortion activists. They said that the protesters had gone as far as staking out the contractors' homes. "I just didn't want to put my family through that," Walsh told the Oregonian, saying that he didn't have moral objections to the project.

Fair enough. I have to say that if I were a building contractor, I wouldn't be particularly excited about walking through a protest every time I tried to get to work. As my mother would say, there are plenty of other buildings in the sea. And as for the protesters, as long as they don't actually do anything threatening, they've a right to free speech, as moronic and disruptive as it may be. Sure, there are days when I wish that the First Amendment included a reference to the golden rule -- a little "Do unto others ..." clause that asked people to consider whether they'd want protesters camped out on their front lawn accusing them of murder. But I don't think I've got much of a chance of amending the Constitution.

Instead, I'll report on another detail of the protest, which would be funny in its ridiculousness if it weren't so heartfelt: Bill Diss, one of the organizers of the protest, explained that the goal was to remind people that Planned Parenthood was a "'killing center' that targets young girls, teaching them about sex and masturbation, which he called a 'gateway drug to lust.'"

Ah, yes. The gateway drugs to the seven deadly sins -- including, among other abominations, giving kids allowances (gateway drug to greed) and allowing them to sleep (next stop: sloth). Assertions from people like Diss are, for me at least, a gateway drug to wrath -- but wait, it gets better. Guess what Diss does for a day job? Firebrand preacher? Pro-life pharmacist? No, no. Bill Diss is a high school science teacher.

Luckily, at least part of this story has a happy ending: The Planned Parenthood clinic is still being built. The developer, Beech Street Partners, has hired a different team of builders and is going to act as its own contractor -- which means that by driving out the previous contractor, the antiabortion protesters have actually helped the building's developer save money.

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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