Offensive Battle Armor

Warning: Some foul language and references regarding an item of clothing that may offend some readers.

Last weekend, I met Cradle of Filth for a second time before seeing them play the entirety of their Elizabeth Bathory inspired concept album, “Cruelty and the Beast”.

If you’re not familiar with the extreme metal band, you may be familiar with the notorious “Masturbating Vestal” shirt they have sold since 1997 depicting…well…a masturbating vestal/nun on the front and the slogan “Jesus is a cunt” on the back.

Being a casual Cradle of Filth fan with a husband whose musical tastes were forever shaped by Dani Filth’s high pitched screams scaring the shit out of him the first time he heard it, there was no doubt we would be purchasing this shirt at some point. It was a question of, “Am I brave enough to wear this shirt out in public or will it become highly offensive pajamas?”  

As I’m waiting in line for our meet and greet with the band, I checked my phone. Once every couple months or so, I make the mistake of looking up what “The Dicktator” has been up to and I found that lately he’s been advising people who catch Covid to take Ivermectin. I get that he’s a sheep in Jesus’ flock, but that doesn’t mean he should be telling other Christians to take livestock medication. So I’ve been reporting his horrible medical advice to Facebook repeatedly whenever I can.

In that moment, a mental lightbulb flickered on and I realized where I could wear that masturbating vestal shirt. Every week, Brian makes a post about how “We’ll be at the Blair Death Mill on Tues”. Maybe I wasn’t brave enough to wear the shirt to the mall or a restaurant, but I could definitely imagine myself wearing it while walking past Christian zealots outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic. These sorts of people nearly shat a brick over my Picket Rick sign telling them to “shut the fuck up” about their antiabortion agenda. Who knows how they would react to a shirt that calls their Savior a cunt and depicts a Bride of Christ ringing Satan’s doorbell and I relished at the thought of their potential horrified reaction.

We bought that shirt after the meet and greet with great excitement. 

The following Tuesday, my anxiety and insomnia had utterly worn me out so I took the day off. I still couldn’t sleep, though. I finally gave up and said, “Fuck it. Today’s the day!” I put the Cradle of Filth shirt on like I was putting on battle armor, threw on my husband’s less offensive Cruelty and the Beast hoodie so I could get some glazer donuts from Kwik Trip for the employees, and drove to Blair.

I had never been to the Blair Planned Parenthood before and I had trouble finding it. Google Maps was telling me it was a small, brick, non-descript, office building that looked absolutely nothing like what was shown in the street view. There weren’t any protesters outside like Brian said there would be so I thought I was at the wrong place. After circling around the block several times, I ended up in the back lot of the building ready to give up and go home when I saw a paper sign on a glass door with a blue Planned Parenthood logo. I follow the signs while winding through the empty hallways before I finally reach a desk with a secretary I sort of recognized, but didn’t know by name.

And boy, did the secretary spill some antiabortion protester tea.

In the English language, the word “we” is used by the speaker to refer to himself or herself and at least one other person. Therefore, when Brian says “we’ll be at the death mill” it gives the impression he will be there, too. However, Brian either fails to grasp the English language or is lying about his presence at the clinic as he neglects to mention that “we” doesn’t include him because he still has about three years left on a four year a restraining order against him by the head nurse practitioner for making threatening comments towards her. The “we” is actually his wife, two daughters, and anyone they can get to come with them (who he refers to as “warriors-in-training”).  

Yet despite not actually being there, he talks about things that happened at the clinic as if he had been there the whole time. The secretary checks his public Facebook page regularly to see if they’ll be at the clinic. She explained that his clinic stories are what other protesters told him since he’s not actually there and he tends to exaggerate or outright lie about what happens during their picketing.  For example, he commented about reaching out to a lot of people going to the clinic on a day when nobody came as the only two appointments they had were through telehealth.

Another instance was regarding the clinic’s upcoming closure. Yes, unfortunately, the two satellite locations are closing due to most of their patients traveling to the main location in La Crosse anyways and Planned Parenthood putting more focus into telehealth. The comment Brian made under one of his “death mill” announcements claims that “On a positive note, an employee told us that they are closing in the next week or two—hallelujah! Praise God!” That comment was made back in August and the clinic is not closing until November. According to the secretary, he wasn’t even at the clinic because of the restraining order and none of the employees had spoken to the other protesters about the clinic’s closure. That same comment he made also claims a woman came out of the clinic boasting that she had “just murdered her baby” and that the nurse practitioner was laughing “treating it as a joke”—which sounds like BS since (besides not being there due to a restraining order) the only NP that I know of that works regularly at the satellite clinics is the one that has a restraining order against him and that location doesn’t perform abortions.

This explained why Brian wasn’t there (and that he was being less than truthful about it), but where were the other protesters? Apparently, they typically don’t show up until about 3-3:30 in the afternoon. Though Brian’s posts never stated a time his group would be at the clinic, I assumed they would be there for at least a good chunk of the day due to his zealous devotion to “protecting the unborn” so I had shown up just a little bit before 1pm. If their goal was to intercept as many women as possible to harass them about abortion—a service not offered at that location—and preach the word of their God, it would make more sense to be there for the whole day and not the last hour and a half the clinic is open when there’s considerably less patients. I find it interesting that Brian ranted about the local antiabortion group putting in so little time towards antiabortion efforts when the group he coordinates is only at the clinic for about 19-25% of the time it’s open on the one day a week they operate.

I really should have called to see if the protesters were actually there before wasting the freshness of my offensive band shirt.

The Weakest Links: Life Chain 2021

Since the closure of the Essential Health Clinic in town a couple years ago, I admit my pro-choice activities have been a bit sparse. Then again, so have the local antiabortion activities and even more so since Pastor Faust moved out of state after being booted from his congregation last year. Aside from Brian’s family making the rounds at a nearby Planned Parenthood every Tuesday (as he is unable to picket due to a restraining order), a couple of random antiabortion opinion pieces, a non-local crisis pregnancy center advertising in our newspaper and high school sports posters, their activity has been sporadic at best.  

One thing they’re still being consistent with is holding their annual Life Chain on the bridge, which occurs on the first Sunday in October every year.

I haven’t counter protested the event since 2018.

In 2019, I decided to take a break for the sake of my then-declining mental health.

In 2020, I was out of town at the time and wouldn’t have attended anyways because of Covid. They supposedly held it, but there wasn’t any photographic evidence to show for it.

This year I was apprehensive about going because of the on-going pandemic. Even before the pandemic, the Life Chain has had a rule about spacing people to maximize the chain and every year the protesters largely ignore that particular direction. I doubted the pandemic’s six foot recommendation for social distancing would make them consider following this rule as I’ve seen some of those same protesters come to my workplace refusing to take any basic Covid precautions. Brian in particular has been quite vocal about his anti-vax, anti-mask, Covid-conspiracy stance on his public Facebook page —even after his wife caught Covid and it was bad enough that she had to be put on a respirator for several days –and is currently and horribly advising that anyone with Covid take livestock medication to treat it. My presence at the Life Chain always results in being confronted by a couple protesters who were rubbed the wrong way and I ultimately decided I wasn’t ready to find myself face-to-face with someone who might have not taken Covid seriously for the past 18 months. But for old time’s sake I went to check out the last ten minutes or so of the Life Chain from across the street while listening to Otep’s “Generation Doom” album.

Brian, living up to his nickname of “The Dicktator” by being so zealously antiabortion that he makes casual antiabortion supporters look almost pro-choice, decided that he and a “few genuine brethren” were going to have their own little vigil the hour before the Life Chain was supposed to start on the bridge. Yet, when my husband and I had driven by the spot he was supposed to be at about fifteen minutes after the time he posted, The Dicktator and his supposed Christian posse was nowhere to be seen. He wasn’t there when we passed by again about half an hour later on our way to lunch. He wasn’t at the Life Chain when I checked the last little bit of it after lunch, either. Funny how he went on a Facebook rant criticizing the local Wisconsin Right to Life chapter for essentially not being hardcore enough in their antiabortion pursuits and he doesn’t even show up the vigil that he planned.

Taken when everyone was leaving and both signs were on the same side of the bridge.

There was one man about Faust’s age that looked like he was in charge of the vigil holding the biggest sign I had ever seen at this function. “Pro-Life The radical idea that babies are people.” There was a large WRTL sign on the other side of the bridge that read “Abortion stops a beating heart”.

I counted about 47 people and usually this bridge vigil brings in about 55-60 people at least. I noted there were fewer children this year, possibly because Brian didn’t drag along his kids and the two other boys this year.

As usual, this particular Life Chain location cannot follow the principles that’s apparently been in place since its inception in 1987.

  • “At least half of your signs should be ‘Abortion Kills Children’.”: Just like previous years, half of their signs weren’t this AKC sign.
  • “Spacing is Key. Maximize your Life Chain. Space your participants up to 100 feet apart. Only 53 people will over a full mile”:  A couple years ago, we figured out that only ten people were needed to cover one side of the bridge. The chain on the left side of the bridge was actually following this rule for the most part as there were about 10 or so people evenly spaced across the entire length of the bridge. The right side, however, didn’t extend to the other side of the bridge despite having 30 people because they were crowded together.
  • “Promote this to be a true ‘prayer chain,’ free of frivolity, idle chatter, and interaction with motorists.”: Like every year I’ve witnessed this Life Chain, most of the participants were standing in pairs or small groups and engaging in conversation with one another.
  • “The publicized Life Chain time period is 2:00-3:30 in each time zone, but each Coordinator may adjust the time to meet local needs. Please hold a 90-minute Chain if at all possible.”: According to the group’s Facebook events, they have never held a 90-minute Life Chain. If there’s one thing that Brian is actually right on it’s that a lot of local antiabortion supporters put in an hour in October and then are inactive the rest of the year.  

Once the clock struck 3pm, having put in their protesting hour for the year, they dispersed like cockroaches in the light. Some probably went to the park afterwards for the refreshments. I went home as I didn’t see any point in watching a bunch of antiabortion supporters stand around a punch bowl while they patted themselves on the back like proud peacocks even though their event was weak by Life Chain standards and general standards.

Their impact was so unexceptional that the chain barely made the local paper the following week. It’s a small town so practically anything out of the ordinary makes the paper and usually in the first two pages if its not sports related. This is what the paper had to say about the event next to a tiny photo on page 5 where the only adults visible were appear to be cisgender men:

“Jackson County families came together to form a Life Chain on the Black River bridge Sunday Oct. 3 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. as other chains formed throughout the United States. Participants prayed to end abortion, to encourage adoption and to offer hope and help to mothers and fathers so they can welcome their unborn babies.”

I think the photo an antiabortion supporter submitted of me in 2017 to go alongside a scathing opinion piece about the “rude, crude, and offensive” sign I was holding at that year’s Life Chain was much bigger than the entirety of this mention of this year’s Life Chain.

As I think of this whole affair, I am reminded of a lyric from an Otep song I was listening to while casually watching the Chain from afar:

“Strength in numbers

Counting you like sheep

Makes me wonder

Why you’re all so weak?

Feeding frenzy: the gnashing of the teeth

If there’s strength in numbers

Why are you so weak?”  

Anti-Abortion Logic: “What if your mother had aborted you?”

In response to the near ban on abortion in Texas, the Women’s March planned a Rally for Abortion Justice on October 2nd to march in defense of abortion rights and reproductive freedom. Planned Parenthood had posted a couple ads for this rally, which unsurprisingly triggered a large amount of antiabortion supporters. Many antiabortion supporters have reacted to these ads by commenting some variation of “What if your mother had aborted you?”

Here are a few of those comments (spelling and grammar mistakes included):

“Has anyone else found it strange that people are screaming for abortions when their mothers didn’t have an abortion?”

“Better be glad your mom didn’t feel that way”

“Choose life your MOTHER did, you wouldn’t be here if she hadn’t.”

“Are t you glad your mother didn’t abort you?”

“Abortion is murder! Are you not glad your mother didn’t abort you!”

“Dear Ralleyers, Aren’t you glad your mothers did not abort you?”

“Aren’t you glad your Mother didn’t choose abortion?”

“Every one of you women should be thankful that your mother didn’t selfishly decide to destroy your life while in their womb.”

“Don’t forget to thank your mom today that she did not abort you”

“Everyone remember to be thankful that your mother chose to be pro-life and gave birth to you”

“Your mother’s all chose life for you. Sad you don’t want the same for your child. You are selfish self centered brats.”

“I like the bumper sticker that said, your mom was pro life”

“Imagine if we all would have been ABORTED!”

“If they had been aborted, they couldn’t protest. Their moms decided to keep them. Think on this…”

“What all you ‘abortion justice activists’ do not realize is that if your mother had aborted you, you would not be alive to have any say in this issue. EVERY SINGLE PERSON on this planet was a mass of tissue that fed off the host body. But for all you activists, your mother’s gave you a chance at life. Think on that for a while”

Whenever I see antiabortion supporters ask this hypothetical abortion question involving my mother I ask, “You mean my abusive mother?”

What if she did have an abortion? She probably would have been happier not having children that ended up being diagnosed with varying levels of autism during a time when autism was relatively unknown and there was little to no support for it so my parents were all alone in learning how to raise kids with autism. My father possibly wouldn’t have put up with an abusive relationship for as long as he did because there wouldn’t have been kids to consider. Since I wouldn’t have existed, I wouldn’t have suffered the mental damage I still struggle with that partially led me to supporting reproductive rights so women can have a choice about having children. More importantly, there wouldn’t have been any children to become my father’s replacements for emotional, mental, and financial abuse when he did finally decided after years of abuse and manipulation to file divorce and move to the other side of the state just to get away from her.

Antiabortion supporters ask “What if your mother had aborted you?” in an attempt to force pro-choice supporters to rethink their stance on abortion because their own mothers chose to give them a chance at life. When I think about it, I doubt my mother would have felt she actually had any choice regarding her pregnancies due to being raised Catholic. She likely was taught that it was her duty as a woman of God to bear children even if she didn’t want them and that abortion and birth control were evil, though admittedly I can’t be for certain if this was the case. What I do know for sure is (according to her) she had a falling out with the church when she divorced her abusive first husband and later when she had me out of wedlock with a different man who wasn’t involved in the church at all—her church refused to baptize me on both grounds. Maybe if a “pro-life” religion hadn’t possibly pressured her bear children regardless of what she wanted—just like the antiabortion movement does now—and then ostracized and abandoned her for having children outside some dumb archaic rules, things might have been better for her. Instead of making me rethink my stance on reproductive rights, this hypothetical scenario has only further solidified it.

Now that we’ve pondered alternative timelines where pro-choice supporters were aborted, I have a follow up question for the antiabortion supporters: What are you doing to ensure that women don’t end up like my mother?