Tommy Tomlinson,

Thank you for covering, and being in favor of, the Charlotte City Council’s recent passage of the noise ordinance changes (banning amplified sound and restricting excessive noise). This balances the right to free speech with other rights, including the right to access abortion care—both protected by law. 

Unfortunately, your suggestion that, “The easiest solution would be for the folks on all sides to sit down with one another and try to find some common ground.” misses the mark. We cannot have a nuanced, thoughtful discussion with self-righteous bullies who seek to impose their extremist beliefs on anyone entering reproductive health centers. Pacing in front of abortion care centers, displaying huge graphic signs, using amplified sound to lecturing, screaming, name-calling (“Jezebel”, “Murderer”. “Evil”, “Whorish”, etc.), and illegally blocking access in the streets and driveway, — are all behaviors intended to intimidate patients and harass dedicated healthcare staff, visitors, and volunteers. Several even stalk and threaten healthcare staff and volunteers, and have had restraining orders issued for this illegal behavior. 

I invite you to witness the situation yourself at A Preferred Women’s Health Center of Charlotte at 3220 Latrobe Drive. Witness what thousands of women — seeking safe, legal Constitutionally-protected abortion care — experience. You will then understand that the solution you suggest is unattainable. BTW, several of them are PAID protesters.

The real issue? Respect. Women have the right to access reproductive healthcare and make personal medical decisions, without interference. Yet every day, extremists threaten access to birth control and safe abortion care — health services that have enabled women to achieve educational, career and personal goals unthinkable just a generation or two ago. Yes, they oppose birth control too! Women deserve access to healthcare with privacy, dignity and respect. No other healthcare service (other than reproductive and abortion care) experiences this behavior by extremists.

1. Their stance has never been about “the babies” or “protecting women.” It’s always been about controlling women.  If they genuinely wanted to help women and children there are countless opportunities in Charlotte to do so, including:

• Use their voices to highlight the foster care and adoption crisis in Charlotte. Volunteer to help the 10,500 children in our Charlotte, NC foster care system. 

According to the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina, there are now about 10,500 children in foster care who are in need of adoption. “Foster care and adoption are in a state of crisis. Foster care has been  growing at an alarming rate with a shortage of permanent, safe, and loving homes for adoptable children,”  commented Brian Maness, President and CEO of CHS.

• Use their voices to combat domestic violence or volunteer at centers that serve victims of domestic violence (primarily women).  Domestic violence is one of the most common of all crimes and battering is the single major cause of injury to women, according to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, which has a Domestic Violence Unit. 

The Fiscal Year 2017 Community Report on Domestic Violence in Mecklenburg County: 8,845 police incident reports filed with a domestic violence relationship; 5,249 charges of simple assault; 1,045 charges of communicating threats; 3,447 domestic violence protective orders served by the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office. They also seized and stored 430 weapons, per court order in the context of domestic violence for calendar year 2017.

But, they don’t raise their voices about these issues. They don’t volunteer to help women and children. Why? Because they don’t really want to “help.” They’re extremists. They want to control, intimidate, bully and harass women who dare to demonstrate bodily autonomy, and behave in ways outside their narrowly proscribed dictates. 

2. The disrespectful behavior of the extremists at the City Council meeting — where they disrupted proceedings — is very telling. They flaunt rules and regulations, believing they are above the law. So is the behavior of one of their leaders, Philip “Flip” Benham, who was not present. Benham’s recent arrest for threatening a volunteer, in violation of an order of protection, demonstrates that he is a zealot. Regardless of our personal views on abortion, we must all follow the rule of law and respect American values of freedom. Yet, Benham blatantly disregards established laws and gleefully disregards others’ rights, all the while portraying himself as a hapless victim of persecution.

Benham has made a charlatan career of grandstanding, with a bullhorn in one hand and a bible in the other. Striving to impose his fanatical fringe views on others, Benham fails to understand that stalking, harassing, intimidating, and threatening others are not protected forms of protest under the First Amendment right to free speech. Also, he fails to understand that our rights come with responsibilities, including abiding by laws. Flip Benham is a convicted extremist with dozens of arrests in several states, including North Carolina, dating back decades.Previously, when Benham served as leader of the radical group Operation Save America (formerly Operation Rescue), it was ordered to pay millions in fines for violating laws, plus punative damages for conspiring to disrupt abortion clinic operations with obstructionist tactics.

3. Abortion. There will always be a need for abortion. The issue is whether abortion remains safe, legal, and accessible, or not. The issue is that we must trust women to make personal, private healthcare decisions without interference. Roe v Wade, already set reasonable parameters regarding abortion, 46 years ago. Abortion bans will harm women and families.

• Most contraception methods are not 100% effective.

• Ectopic pregnancies Never viable, an ectopic pregnancy occurs when an embryo implants somewhere other than the uterus, such as in one of the fallopian tubes. It’s life-threatening and must be treated. And no, the embryo cannot be re-implanted into the uterus.

• Catastrophic fetal anomalies that are incompatible with life. A heart-wrenching tragic situation for women and families, resulting in abortions, usually after 20 weeks gestation (when detected).

• Life-threatening medical situation or pregnancy complication  requiring an abortion. A pregnant woman may need life-saving cancer treatment, serious renal failure, malignant hypertension (including preeclampsia), heart failure, etc. These issues may not have occurred prior to pregnancy or may have significantly worsened as the pregnancy progressed. 

In closing, I would value discussing this further, and meeting you at the Latrobe Drive site to experience the extremists first-hand.


Linda Scharf