Florida has become a microcosm of the state of abortion in our nation. With nearly 20 different rules and regulations all meant to prohibit access to the procedure, most of them under the guise of “protecting women,” the state’s legislators have taken their sexist, paternalistic attitude to an unseen before level.
One legislator, Rep. Scott Randolph, noticing the anti-choice lawmakers' endless quest to create as many roadblocks as possible for women trying to get abortions, condemned the group, telling them that they wanted more oversight for a women’s uterus than they do for corporations. He was quickly condemned for using the “U” word, something they felt free to legislate but not actually discuss, on the House floor.
Since that day, a new war has been waged, not just between Republicans and Democrats, but between the anti-choice movement and someone ready to speak out against them, i.e. Scott Randolph. It’s become a battle to intimidate, besmirch and silence a prochoice voice, and the effort is a direct parallel to how the anti-choice movement has grown powerful in messaging its movement.
Randolph has been in an ongoing skirmish with fellow Representative Daphne Campbell, an anti-choice Democrat who has chosen to join forces with the Republicans on anti-abortion bills because “abortion is against my God.” During one vote, Randolph and Campbell, who share a desk, got into an argument. Campbell asserts Randolph saidhe would find someone to run against her and threw her pen and some papers in the trash. Reports from those on the floor, and from video taken on that day, make it clear that both lawmakers argued a bit, some papers were flung, and Randolph walked away.
Enter the anti-choice groups and the story has begun to spiral out-of-control.
Campbell quickly became the poster-child for the Florida anti-choice movement, representing all of those who oppose abortion or have their religious concerns unmet. Her story began to evolve. Suddenly, Randolph owed her a full, public apology (he, and the Democratic leader, already apologized personally to her for the incident, but that was not enough, according to Campbell). She filed an incident report, stating:
Randolph "marched towards me in a menacing and angry manner. Rep. Randolph's hate-filled contorted facial expressions, menacing bodily gestures and loud threats placed me in fear of bodily harm, great anxiety and a strong emotional shock. I had never been accosted in such an aggressive, violent and hate-filled manner.
"Rep. Randolph proceeded to violently throw papers at my face as well as pick up my pencil and angrily throw it in a nearby trashcan.
"As a direct result of Rep. Randolph's attacks against me, that evening I suffered from an anxiety attack, strong migraine-like headaches, back and muscle aches, insomnia as well as stomach pains."
Now, she has begun requesting security to accompany her in the House, saying she is afraid of Randolph.
Her story then continues to evolve and shift as more and more attention from anti-choice activists is given to her. According to the Orlando Sentinel:
Earlier accounts accused Randolph of throwing papers at Campbell, tossing her pen in the trash and threatening to make sure she wasn't re-elected in two years. On Tuesday, Campbell said Randolph also threw books in her face and cursed at her.
"He [came] to me and he took all the books on the table and flung them into my face … with a lot of f-word several times, and said, 'I swear, you will never be re-elected,'" Campbell said.
Anti-abortion groups have then joined in on the distortion, attempting to paint Randolph as a man who intimidates and abuses women. They have begun to lead protests with signs calling him a bully and claiming he has a history of “abusive behavior” towards women at the Capital. They announced another lawmaker who would testify to the “history of abusive behavior and bullying that she also personally experienced from Scott Randolph."
That legislator did not show up or speak, and had a spokesperson instead read a statement about how the Democrats in the state “abused” her when she switched to the Republican Party.
Now, weeks later, the Florida anti-abortion movement is continuing its full court attempts to paint Randolph as an abuser of women, using Campbell as their spokeswoman. He’s no longer just abusing women, either, but attempting to bully and harass the entirety of the religious right into submission as well. In a speech provided to Charisma News, Campbell stated:
"The representatives who saw what happened [ran] to him and said this is unacceptable in the chamber. To swear... and for you to be bullying like that to a woman" she recalled. "I want a public apology because my name was tarnished publicly. My name is publicly scandalized."
Campbell is a mother of five and said she could never accept her teenage daughter being able to get an abortion without parental consent.
She told Charisma she feels Randolph's actions were an attack on all people of faith.
"It's absolutely a sin," Campbell said. "It's absolutely unacceptable because people of faith should be accepted no matter what party they are."
It’s become a clear pattern, and one used over and over again in the anti-choice movement. Pick a target who is vocal about abortion rights, either legislator, activist, doctor, business or non-profit. Find a face that can be used as your spokesperson, claiming that person was somehow “victimized” by your target. Repeat over and over again that the target hurts women, is a bully, is intimidating or in some way dangerous, and that the anti-abortion groups need to protect the spokesperson from the target, to establish a pattern of “abuse.” Relentlessly pursue the charges through anti-abortion/religious or conservative media outlets until an echo chamber is produced to create outrage and public outcry against the target. In the end, the target will then be silenced, either by boycott, losing an election, losing donors, or becoming so bullied by the anti-choice movement that he or she will stop speaking out just to get some peace.
Finally, declare victory, and repeat with new target.
But will this tactic work with Campbell as the “victim?” Randolph shows no signs of backing down, despite concerted pressure of the Florida anti-choice movement to amplify and escalate this situation. Unintimidated, Randolph stated to me,
“I have sat patiently by for 2 weeks, four press releases and three press conferences listening to her lies. Yesterday she changed the story again and claimed I threw books at her. Every time she tells the story she ups it like a fisherman telling a tale.
The right wing has found a loud weak-minded individual and they are taking full advantage. Quite frankly, I'm glad I flushed her out for the world to see. And if she is the face to their movement, all the better.”
The anti-choice movement’s tactic is to paint every woman as a victim – a victim of a vicious, organized movement that is constantly out to hurt her. Every woman is a coerced, innocent victim who either is misinformed (give her an ultrasound, maybe she doesn’t realize there’s a baby inside of her), bullied (place signs in the waiting rooms telling them they don’t have to have abortions just because someone else wants them to, since no woman on her own would really want one), or on the verge of physical or mental anguish (make her read statements declaring she will have regret, infertility or cancer if she goes through with an abortion). Then, use her to rally against those who are offering the chance for each woman to make her own individual choice by having her tell them all that it’s in their own best interest to have all of their choices taken away from them.
For their own protection, of course.