By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
They were fed up.
It wasn't just the giant posters of mangled, aborted fetuses that steeled their determination. It wasn't the taunting, the yelling, the promises of eternal damnation, the threats from lunatics on ladders. It wasn't even the need for bulletproof glass at the clinic, or the Kevlar vests that doctors wore when they came and went from work.
It was simply this: There is no law without enforcement. In 2000, the United States Supreme Court had ruled that Colorado's 1993 "Bubble Law" — which prevents anti-abortion activists from coming within eight feet of anyone in a hundred-foot radius of a clinic without their permission — is constitutional. But whatever the law says, Planned Parenthood employees knew the reality on the street.
Early on, the anti-abortion activists who gathered daily outside of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountain's Vine Street facility, the oldest clinic in Colorado, the first state to legalize abortion, had recognized that the women the law was written to shield were also the very people least likely to file complaints when that law was broken. In the words of Jo Scott, a woman who spends six days a week protesting and has become a heroine within the right-to-life community, "Mothers don't call the cops."
In fact, in the years since the law had been added to the books, the Denver District Attorney's Office had never prosecuted a violation of the Bubble Law.
So a handful of Planned Parenthood employees hatched a plan to catch the creeps. And it worked.
Jo Scott doesn't mince words.
"Feminists teach girls that there are no consequences to sex by telling them to use protection without teaching the emotional consequences. They teach them that they should be able to do anything they want with their bodies, and that's just not true," she said over lunch last fall at the Park Hill Golf Course clubhouse, where several protesters frequently dined after a long morning of picketing. "It's a lie. I watch girls being dragged into the clinics, being patted on the head, patted on the back, and they're crying, they don't want to do it. And they call that choice."
For three decades now, Jo's been picketing clinics: first in San Diego, and then, after meeting her future husband, Ken Scott, at Planned Parenthood facilities in Denver. In 1996, Ken pulled up at the national Operation Save America protest in San Diego driving a van covered with pictures of bloody fetuses. Jo was first drawn to Ken's shouting ability; it was admiration at first syllable. She saw that he wasn't weak, like the other pro-life men who would show up at a rally, ask her out, and then suggest they spend a Saturday morning doing something other than preventing abortions.
She wishes that there were more Christian men like Ken ready to take the lead in the movement. "Women will always nurture first," she says. "If you take a mass murderer who has cut off the heads of 25 people, they want to make him better, when he should be put to death."
Jo and Ken started a long-distance relationship over the phone. Her marriage was dissolving over her husband's use of drugs, and with her two boys grown, there was nothing tying her to San Diego. Soon Jo moved to Colorado, and within a year of meeting Ken, she married him. These days, Ken spends his weekdays driving a truck, Jo spends hers on a ladder or sidewalk outside an abortion clinic, and they protest together on Saturdays. They take Sundays off only because the clinics are closed, but spend every spare moment and penny trying to overturn Roe v. Wade.
In 2007 alone, Jo says, she convinced eighty women to rethink their planned abortions through what she calls "sidewalk ministry." She doesn't just talk about abortion, but tries to share Christ her Lord and Savior with anyone passing by. "I'm not just a pro-lifer," she explains. "I'm a Christian first." She gives a silver dollar to any woman who commits to not having an abortion. Made of precious metal, it's a symbol that mother and zygote are precious in the eyes of God.
And the yelling? The in-your-face taunting? The promises of eternal damnation? "I don't do all those things that other people say I do, because in 29 years I have learned that those things don't work," she insists.
But on August 20, a jury determined that Jo Scott had done something bad enough to warrant a conviction for "prohibited activities outside of a health-care facility," and Denver County Court Judge Alfred C. Harrell sentenced her to 180 days in jail, suspended on the condition that she not engage in similar activity for a year.
Jo had been caught in a carefully set trap. Last year, concerned with escalating tensions outside of the Vine Street clinic, Stan Roebuck, then PPRM's head of security, came up with a plan — and asked four Planned Parenthood employees to give up a few Saturday mornings, without pay, to put the plan in action.
In pairs, the volunteers would make Saturday appointments, then arrive at the clinic in a way certain to attract attention. They'd drive around looking lost, park on the street rather than in the lot, then head toward the Vine Street Clinic, walking past the waiting protesters — all the time watching for anyone who came within eight feet.