Dr. Susan Wicklund, whose 2008 book This Common Secret, detailed her life as an abortion provider, has just opened a clinic in Livingston, Montana. Even before it opened on February 2nd, the clinic was being picketed by opponents of abortion rights. In the mail below, Wicklund's co-author, Montana writer Alan Kesselheim, explains how you can turn their protests peacefully against them. (I've pledged $1 per picketer. That puts me in a slightly weird position: Do I hope lots show up so the clinic gets plenty of cash, or few show up so that I can save mine?) If you want to pledge, e mail Martha_Kauffman@msn.com .
Dear Friends of Dr. Susan Wicklund:
As most of you know, Susan Wicklund has been hard at work trying to open a women's reproductive health clinic in the Bozeman/Livingston area. It has not been easy. It has taken several years. Deals have fallen through because word leaked out and landowners were intimidated by violent threats. Other potential arrangements have collapsed due to financial difficulties, political controversy, or simple logistics.
Despite the setbacks, Sue has persevered. On Monday, February 2nd, precisely sixteen years after she opened her Bozeman clinic, back in 1993, Mountain Country Women's Clinic again opens its doors, this time in downtown Livingston. It is a moment of triumph and satisfaction, achieved with the support of many people. It is also a moment of tension. Not only has Susan incurred significant personal debt in a very uncertain economy, but the usual voices of dissent are echoing in letters to the editor and in anti-choice picketers appearing on Main Street in Livingston, protesting the existence of Sue's legal services. Even before the doors opened, protesters walked the sidewalks outside. Also, even before the doors opened, women were calling Sue to make appointments.
The need for a compassionate, professional, and thorough women's clinic is as great as ever. Unfortunately, the strident voices against choice rise up as expected. The difference between 1993 and 2009 is that Sue Wicklund has friends. All of you on this mailing list, and many more friends and neighbors, support her cause. Many have volunteered in the past. Some have written letters of support. Others wish they knew how to help.
I propose to begin a Pledge-A-Picketer Campaign in support of Mountain Country Women's Clinic. The concept is simple, and it mirrors the grassroots style of the Obama campaign, during which many small contributions created a huge impact. Each of us signs on to donate, say, $1/picketer to Susan's clinic. If, over the period of a week, 17 picketers parade on Main Street, we each send a check for $17. It isn't much, but if $17 gets multiplied by 50 people, it comes to $850. If 100 people send in checks, we raise $1,700.
At the end of the week, Susan posts a sign on the clinic window. It might say, THANK YOU PICKETERS. THIS WEEK THE SUPPORTERS OF MOUNTAIN COUNTRY WOMEN'S CLINIC RAISED $850 IN THEIR PLEDGE-A-PICKETER CAMPAIGN. THESE FUNDS WILL HELP INDIGENT PATIENTS IN NEED OF OUR SERVICES. THE MORE YOU PICKET, THE MORE SUPPORT MCWC RECEIVES.
Many of us wish to help Mountain Country Women's Clinic. We wish we could confront the picketers face to face. Unfortunately, that sort of public disturbance is precisely what the anti-choice forces would love to foster. However, by turning their efforts against them we can help Mountain Country Women's Clinic serve patients, and deflate the energy of the protesters.
Susan Wicklund has agreed to keep track of picketers during her first week of operation. At that point we will contact all of you again with the numbers, and an address to send the check to. Even if you can only pledge .25/picketer, the cumulative impact of our efforts will still be significant. Also, I urge you to forward this message to any of your friends who might help support Sue's new clinic. If they would like to participate, they should contact Martha_Kauffman@msn.com  and ask to be added to the list.
With Sincere Thanks, and In Solidarity,
Alan KesselheimCo-Author of This Common Secret