Even Liberty U. Turned off by Clinic Videotaping

Borrowing a page from the Minutemen, anti-abortion protesters in Lynchburg, Virginia are videotaping women at a reproductive health clinic, with the intention of turning them in:

Planned Parenthood, which has centers in Lynchburg, Charlottesville, Roanoke and Blacksburg, called the behavior “intimidating and harassing.”  …

“Our signs have a clear message that we’re not using violent means (to express our opinions). We’re opposed to violence,” organizer Kevin Giedd said, referencing the small placards held by participants that read “Pray to End Abortion.” …

At the start of the 40 days, Giedd notified both Planned Parenthood and the Lynchburg Police Department of his plans. He in turn received from the police a copy of the city’s demonstration laws. None of those rules specifically prohibit the videotaping of people, he noted.

Giedd, the most frequent face at the vigil post near the corner of Langhorne and Tate Springs roads, acknowledged he had been videotaping people visiting the center. He had specifically focused on those driving cars with Liberty University stickers, he said, with the intention of turning the tapes over to the school for further investigation.

According to the report from the Lynchburg News & Advance, local police seemed unsure whether Giedd’s vigilante tactics were legal. Interestingly, although the protest is part of the national “40 Days for Life” anti-abortion campaign, the Lynchburg clinic does not provide abortions—only services such as birth control and treatment for STDs.

And although Giedd stated that his intentions were to turn over the tapes to his alma mater, Liberty University—the fundamentalist school with a strict code of behavior that was founded by the late Jerry Falwell—even the college felt he was stepping over the line:

LU administrators said they were unaware of Giedd’s actions and would not look into any tapes that were submitted.

“We have no interest in pursuing some tape dropped into our mail or plopped in our laps of a LU car at Planned Parenthood,” said Barry N. Moore, the vice president of university relations. “We don’t have any interest in tracking down license plates or anything else from things like this.”

Although the violent clinic blockades of the 1980s and 1990s fell out of style after the murders of several abortion providers, the most aggressive anti-abortion activists have hardly given up. Giedd’s “outing” tactics are reminiscent of the efforts by former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline to obtain the medical records of women who visited one clinic. Kline’s obsession resulted in voters turning him out of office, although he continues his efforts as a Johnson County prosecutor.