Choose Death: Mikki Kendall, Jill Stanek, and What Pro-Life Really Means

Feminists familiar with the intersectionality of oppressive -isms probably know about Mikki Kendall, a.k.a. Karnythia. She blogs over at The Angry Black Woman, and Feministing linked to her blog discussing how feminists aren’t immune from engaging in -isms during the 2008 election.

But there’s a new reason her name should be recognizable to all of us. In the last two months, Kendall has emerged as the face of abortion, and the nemesis to one-time nurse and conspiracy theorist whistleblower and anti-choice zealot Jill Stanek.

So, here’s the background.

On May 26, Salon published “Abortion saved my life,” where Kendall discusses how a placental abruption at 20 weeks into her pregnancy almost killed her and necessitated an abortion. But what makes Kendall’s account so harrowing is that doctors on-call refused to perform the procedure so that she lay bleeding to death until a nurse risked her own job to alert another doctor to come remove the fetus. Kendall survived, but just barely.

The story caught the eye of Stanek. Shortly after Salon ran the piece, Stanek left a comment and then began utilizing other mediums to vocalize her doubt of Kendall’s experience.

Stanek hasn’t stopped there, instead taking every opportunity to call Kendall a liar. It’s an odd accusation for Stanek to make, given that she and the truth aren’t exactly old friends, and it’s also interesting to note that part of why Stanek continues to deny Kendall’s experience is her refusal to believe that any doctor could be so negligent.

But this is a woman who became the darling of the anti-choice movements with her tabloid-esque accusations that “live birth abortions” and “infanticide” were happening at Christ Hospital in Chicago, allegations that eventually lead to her firing and a prominent career as a blogger. So, in Stanek’s view, doctor will kill babies, but not women. Because nobody will advocate for any laws that just allow doctors to walk away and let pregnant women die instead of perform an abortion, right?

Stanek has also decided to launch a campaign to paint Kendall as paranoid and delusional, lifting an entry from Kendall’s personal journal about her safety concerns and posting it on her website. And this is where Kendall’s narrative suddenly gets a much larger implication in the war against reproductive rights.

Not surprisingly, Stanek’s followers dispute Kendall received any threats at all, diagnosing and discussing Kendall’s alleged histrionic attention-seeking, but the real shocker comes when most vehemently deny that the anti-choice “pro-life” movement has anything to do with violence.

On a micro level, it’s tragic that Stanek’s followers and the other puppets of the anti-choice movement are continuing their press to deny Kendall’s experience (who did, by the way, end up moving to Memphis after the Salon article ran, and is now looking to relocate again due a recent threatening e-mail that identified the logo on her t-shirt that she was wearing and items she bought while grocery shopping) but on a macro level, it represents a complete departure from the reality that bullying, intimidation, and threatening advances are old hat when it comes to women trying to access or speak about their abortions.

It would be easy to dismiss Kendall’s claims that the harassment is somehow linked to the virtual scuffle with Stanek, except that Stanek holds a lot more clout in the anti-choice movement than most people know. As Jill at Feministe writes, Stanek is both on the front line of the reproductive wars and at the heart of the movement with ties to some of the ugliest and most influential anti-choicers out there.

In other words, Stanek simply can’t be written off. Neither can we underestimate the sphere of her influence. While she has refrained from commenting on Kendall’s harassment directly, she has a history of inciting harassing behavior, from posting photos and the home addresses of abortion providers online to supporting domestic violence against women who have abortions.

What Kendall faces is nothing short of domestic terrorism. She’s being targeted because not only did she choose not to die, but because she chose not to stay silent, and she continues to choose not to feel guilty about saving herself. But she isn’t alone. From laws criminalizing miscarriages to the continued assault to de-fund Planned Parenthood, women all over the world are being systematically targeted and victimized. They’re being silenced, or faced with horrific consequences if they don’t silence themselves.

Stanek long ago gave up pretending that she cared about the women accessing abortion, and her total lack of compassion for Kendall’s situation illustrates all too well that her concerns are limited to the cash cow fetuses. But her complete indifference to the pain of Kendall’s experience is telling of exactly what life matters (hint: if you can read this, it isn’t yours) and who has the right to make those determinations.

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