Pro-life legislators in the Texas statehouse have faced threats and abuse from pro-choice protesters, prompting at least one to bring in extra volunteers to help with security.
State representative Jonathan Stickland tells NRO that being vocally pro-life has made him a target for abuse and threats from some of the pro-choice protesters in Austin. The night before state senator Wendy Davis’s filibuster, she requested that people send her stories about the importance of abortion rights that she could read during the filibuster. Stickland tells me that inspired him and a few other representatives from Tarrant County (part of which is in Davis’s senate district) to send in 84,160 pieces of blank pink and blue paper to represent the number of abortions in Texas last year.
“We delivered them to her office so that she could read the untold stories of all the kids who were aborted last year,” he says, adding that the gesture made him the target of intense vitriol, including thousands of tweets. Many were “very, very hostile,” he says.
“My favorite one was probably this female who said that she couldn’t wait to see Representative Stickland so that she could pummel my face in,” he tells me.
He brought some male supporters into the office during the day of the filibuster because he didn’t want the women who work there to be alone.
“We brought in extra people to make sure the office was going to be safe,” he says.
He tells me he was also concerned for his personal safety during the filibuster. He and a few other pro-life representatives went onto the Senate floor during the filibuster and couldn’t leave until 1:30 a.m. because they were afraid of the crowd. Protesters in the gallery yelled threats and verbal abuse at him, he says.
“Everywhere I went, they were tweeting pictures of ‘Stickland’s in the elevator’ or ‘Stickland’s on the move,’” he says.
They couldn’t move around the Capitol without security because of safety concerns.
“It was horrendous,” he says, adding that he was “absolutely” worried about being the target of violence. “I continue to be very concerned about it,” he adds.
He says he and members of his staff have taken extra measures to protect themselves, and added that they are all licensed to carry concealed handguns. I asked him if he would be carrying a weapon during the special legislative session, and he said he couldn’t answer that question legally.
“I very, very often do concealed-carry, I can say that,” he adds.
State senator Donna Campbell, who issued the third point of order against Davis’s filibuster (which ended it), has also been the target of extensive verbal abuse from pro-choice protesters, according to her spokesman Jon Oliver.
They’ve received Facebook messages and e-mails saying, “I hope you’re raped” and “I hope your daughter’s raped,” Oliver tells me.
“Lots of language — ‘You’re an effin’ blank,’ ‘You are a traitor to women’ — those kind of things,” Oliver says. “I wouldn’t say anything’s necessarily a direct threat, but they’re the kind of e-mails that make you a little nervous, especially when you start talking about family members: ‘I hope your family members are raped.’”
Oliver tells me that the Department of Public Safety is on high alert during the special session. He also says that the pro-choice offices near his office have been receiving flowers from activists. One staffer from Davis’s office asked him if his office had gotten any flowers.
He tells me his response was, “No, quite the opposite.”
— Betsy Woodruff is an NRO reporter.