Anti-Abortion Group Raises Stakes in Construction Boycott
A Denver-based anti-abortion group has issued a deadline of January 31 to the local office of contractor Weitz Co. to halt construction on a Planned Parenthood facility in East Denver.
More than a symbolic gesture to mark the 35th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, Will Duffy, lead organizer of the group that calls itself the Collaborator's Project, says if Weitz doesn’t back out by January 31, the organization will label the construction company as a “Permanent Collaborator” with Planned Parenthood and will continue to protest in front of the houses of Weitz executives and Weitz administrative offices as long as abortions are performed in the facility they are helping to build at East 38th Avenue and Pontiac Street near the Stapleton neighborhood.
Planned Parenthood spokesperson Jody Berger said she met yesterday with representatives from the Weitz company who assured her that any such protests will have no effect on the expected completion of the project in August.
In a formal statement, Bill Hornaday, president of The Weitz Company Rocky Mountain Business, wrote, "We have received numerous threats and intimidations as we continue with our business of building the Planned Parenthood health center in Denver. This includes letters, as well as harassment at our executives’ homes and the executives’ homes of our subcontractors. While Weitz respects that this issue is a very emotional and meaningful one, we do not comment on the business conducted by our clients. Furthermore, by accepting this construction contract, Weitz is not aligning itself with either side of this issue."
Taking cues from Texas-based pro-lifer and construction executive Chris Danze, whose construction boycott of a Planned Parenthood facility in Austin delayed the opening of that facility by a few months, Duffy says the Collaborator's Project (which shares members with Colorado Right to Life) decided to hit the construction firm the only place they can hurt it, in the pocketbook. Danze traveled to Denver this summer to help Duffy and others organize the construction boycott.
“Up until now [anti-abortion protestors] have only targeted people who, like, wash linens at these facilities…This is a billion-dollar company and so they're the prime target to launch the Collaborator's Project,” Duffy says. Anti-abortion protestors, including Duffy, have already been protesting at the Lakewood home of Gary Meggison, senior vice president of Weitz Company Rocky Mountain, and the Greenwood Village home of Hornaday. The Lakewood City Council sent a letter to residents on January 14 saying that the protests broke no law.
While protesters have camped out in front of Planned Parenthood's Vine Street clinic – which will close when the new facility opens – every day for years, the recent construction boycotts and the promise to continue protesting after the project is complete, sometime in August, represent an escalation in tactics.
Anti-abortion activist Jo Scott says the organization will have the manpower to keep the protests up for a long time. “I've been doing this for twenty years, and I'm going to keep at it for another 20. I don't want to. I wish I could just be a grandmother, but somebody has to stand up,” she says.
Duffy is also planning protests at the homes and offices of every subcontractor involved for as long as construction continues, but isn't certain the Collaborator's Project will be able to staff those protests beyond the completion of the new facility. “That's something we're going to have to return to later,” he said. “We have limited resources and limited time and if we have a list of one hundred companies to go after. It might be a little too much.”
The Collaborator's Project claims it has already forced a few of Weitz's subcontractors off the job, including Haynes Mechanical, Rocky Mountain Mechanical. A Haynes representative said no one from the company would comment on the matter. A Rocky Mountain representative would only say that the company was never contracted by Weitz.
Steve Lucht, of the Sheridan-based Lucht's Concrete Pumping, said he pulled his concrete trucks off the Planned Parenthood site when he found out what the building was. He said he then donated the $1,800 he would have made on the project to Families Against Planned Parenthood, another organization Duffy heads. When asked why he gave up the business and the money, Lucht said simply, “Killing babies is wrong.”
Berger said that the people who are working to construct their new health care facility in East Denver should be lauded as heroes. “If these protestors wanted to prevent unwanted pregnancies, they would work with us. The majority of the work we do is to prevent unwanted pregnancies.”
–- Sean Cronin