By Shireen Shakouri
Earlier this month, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia met with David Daleiden. This is totally unacceptable. Daleiden leads the Center for Medical Progress, which used fraud and deceptive editing to start releasing sham sting videos about Planned Parenthood beginning in 2015. The false narratives Daleiden pushed spurred an increase in violence against abortion clinics, including the November 2015 mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood health center in Colorado Springs that left three dead and nine injured.
Manchin’s meeting with Daleiden would never be appropriate – his ‘work’ should not be legitimized. Further, this happened when a number of other so-called progressives are appearing to encourage anti-abortion rhetoric in what they are calling a “big tent.” So, we decided we couldn’t stand for this #BigTentSellOut and we needed to let our concern be known in person. We developed a plan to head to Manchin’s office unannounced and personally deliver a letter expressing our anger and affirming our promise that we will hold anyone accountable who appears to condone anti-choice terrorism.
So yesterday a group of 11 activists met up by the Capitol and did a Facebook Live video to warm up. We talked about our concerns about leaders on the left making a variety of troubling comments that appear leave reproductive rights behind, and why we won’t stand for that. Then we made our way to Manchin’s office.
As we were heading through the security checkpoint in the entrance to the Hart Senate Office Building, I noticed Manchin and some of his staffers on their way out. I alerted our team and we scrambled back outside and up the street, and I quickly fussed with my phone to set up the livestream on our last live video of the action, which you can see here. As we spoke to Senator Manchin on the sidewalk, there was palpable reluctance from him and his staff initially, but he eventually engaged with us. It seemed he had a tough time understanding why we were upset that he held meetings with someone whose work promotes anti-abortion terrorism.
As the conversation unfolded, I was almost as frustrated by his politicking as I was by his inability to denounce self-described “pro-life” terrorists. Manchin blamed his sense of politeness and kind upbringing for the meeting with Daleiden, saying he takes a meeting with anyone who walks through his door. When asked if he draws the line at anti-abortion terrorists, he said, “I’m a public servant, I meet with everyone,” which appeared to me as a weak and transparent plea not to denounce Daleiden and ruffle the feathers of Daleiden’s extremist anti-abortion followers.
It is unacceptable to take meetings with the terrorist wing of the anti-abortion movement. Reproaction will continue to take direct action to ensure that propagators of anti-abortion terrorism have no place in the public policy discussion about reproductive health care. We will also continue to take direct action to ensure that abortion access and reproductive justice are taken seriously as integral to economic justice – support for abortion rights is part of what it means to be progressive.