Introducing the new series: Ryn Reads “Guilt By Association”

Main | Chapter Two

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may recall the time that I livetweeted my reading of Michael Farris’ debut novel, Anonymous Tip. I’ve wanted to do something like that again, but I decided to mix things up this time and blog my way through the sequel to Anonymous Tip, with the return of our hero, Author Avatar Lawyer Peter Barron (I’vedecided that’s his full name and I’m sticking to it), in the anti-abortion activism thriller Guilt By Association.

Check out the Storify of my Anonymous Tip tweets to catch up on the adventures of our intrepid attorney Author Avatar Lawyer Peter Barron (and find out why I call him that). If you want something more in depth without actually reading the book, thus avoiding the lengthy and sleep-inducing section on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, blogger Libby Anne is currently reading and reviewing Anonymous Tip.

Without further ado, I give you Chapter One of Guilt By Association by HSLDA founder Michael Farris.


Before I begin reading, I should note that this book was published in 1997, three years after
the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) was signed into law. FACE was passed after a decade and a half of increasing violence at abortion clinics, including arsons and bombings, and culminating in the murder of David Gunn by anti-abortion activist Michael Griffin and attempted murder of George Tiller by Shelley Shannon, a member of the militant anti-abortion terrorist group Army of God (Tiller was murdered by anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder in 2009). In July 1994, two months after FACE became law, Paul Jennings Hill murdered abortion doctor John Britton and his bodyguard, Lieutenant Colonel James H. Barrett, USAF (Ret.), and wounded Barrett’s wife June. While it had not yet been tied to him, in this time period Army of God associate Eric Robert Rudolph committed the Centennial Olympic Park bombing, the first of four terrorist bombings he committed between 1996 and 1998.

This is the context in which Farris decided to write a book about a pro-life activist being framed for
arson and murder—after the bloodiest half decade in anti-abortion movement history. None of the bombings or murders that happened were frame jobs, they were all committed by anti-abortion activists who believed that the use of force, even deadly force, was the best way to end abortion. 

One

Well now, isn’t this nice. The first character we’re introduced to is one Colonel Hank Danners, who we learn a bit later is the leader of our merry band of abortion clinic protesters. Farris certainly isn’t helping dispel the idea that all of the anti-abortion movement leaders are men. We’re off to a splendid start here.

We now get the sobbing young coed (do people even still use “coed”?) torn between listening to the sidewalk counselor and the boyfriend trying to coerce her into an abortion. Certainly piling it on thick here.

“Jason, I can’t do it,” she blurted out between sobs. “Drive me back to the dorm, please!”

Ginny touched the woman’s sleeve, keeping her eye on Jason. [Me: What’s sidewalk counselor lady doing initiating physical contact with this woman before even starting a conversation Boundaries, get some.] Glancing at Ginny, he grabbed his girlfriend’s arm. “Sarah, we’ve discussed this. Now Let’s get it over with!” [Me: Note the difference—sidewalk counselor lady Ginny “touched” her sleeve, he “grabbed” her arm. Which, I might add, is also a normal reaction when some lady is waving pamphlets in your girlfriend’s face.]

“I can’t, I just can’t,” Sarah said weakly.

“You don’t have to,” said Ginny, holding her hand out to the young woman. “There are alternatives—“

“You keep out of this!” the young man snapped at Ginny.

By this time Danners was standing only a few feet away from the trio, but he held his tongue. Things weren’t out of control, yet. [Me: We’ve now got handsy sidewalk counselor lady Ginny and this colonel dude standing there, this scenario Farris has created could just as easily be read as Sarah freaking out because hey, she’s being swarmed by personal space invaders outside of an abortion clinic after multiple incidences of violence.]

In a more soothing voice, the man coaxed, “Sarah, the clinic is going to close soon. We already missed on appointment. Come on, it’ll be over with real quick and we can go home, huh?”

Staring at Ginny through red, glassy eyes, the woman unconsciously rubbed her abdomen and slowly followed her boyfriend’s lead inside the clinic.

It’s here that I note that in all of my I-was-a-teenage-activist days protesting in front of abortion clinics, I never saw any women being coerced into abortions in the clinic parking lot. I’m sure it has happened to women, but reproductive coercion happens too, and we don’t see religious right activists worried about that even though it’s a far bigger problem (and stopping it would reduce the number of women seeking abortions to begin with). In any case, Farris is using a strawman that doesn’t reflect the reality of abortion in the United States.

Farris now properly introduces us to our intrepid band of anti-abortion activists. In addition to the recently retired Colonel Danners, who seems to have decided to take up activism and promptly ended up in charge, because we’ve got to have a man telling the womens what to do, we have the previously introduced handsy sidewalk counselor lady Ginny Kettner, who has the sads because she’s infertile yet all of these women keep having abortions. We’ve also got Lisa Edgar, handsy sidewalk counselor lady Ginny’s closest friend from church, who we know nothing about other than that she’s optimistic.

There’s also apparently a Shirley and a Suzy, who stayed behind to hand out tracts to the clinic employees, something that our buddy the colonel who gets to run everything because man, doesn’t have much faith in because he has, “a hard time believing that people so dedicated to abortion would ever soften their hearts toward God.” I’m sure this means that before the end of the book we’re going to have one of the clinic employees go through a dramatic conversion scene.

Oh goody! We get to meet the doctor now! Dr. Rhonda Marsano drives a Volvo. Stinking European car, she’s already not to be trusted. Oh hey, and she took up the job because she gets to make the big bucks, $100k a year right after residency! That’s how we know that she’s just a money grubber doing
this to get rich.

Rhonda gets a call from the clinic owner, Jane Hayward, who wants to know how many abortions they did that day, because money. She’s from Los Angeles, that’s how we know not to like her. Well, that, and she’s screaming at Rhonda that the six no-shows are $2,100 down the drain, and how she’s lost them $8,000 this month so far, because she’s even more money hungry than Rhonda the Volvo-driving abortionist.

Rhonda isn’t very happy about being yelled at by money grubbing Jane Hayward, because she thinks she’s doing the best she can with all of these annoying protesters out there. I’m calling it now, Rhonda is going to be the dramatic conversion story.

Oooh, money grubbing Jane Hayward is going to call someone named Vince to “work his magic” with the protesters. $50 says he’s the one who does the frame job that heroic Author Avatar Lawyer Peter Barron has to defend the poor saintly protesters from.

Also, Rhonda seems to have a history with Vince Davis, one that makes her not want to see him again. Drama!

Anyway, there wasn’t much interesting in this chapter to snark about, looks like next chapter we get to find out how Colonel Hank Danners got this protest party started.

I can’t wait!