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DIANNE KLEIN

Doctor Wants No Part of This Operation

March 07, 1993|DIANNE KLEIN

The smiling countenance of Dr. David Keulen, a family practitioner in Garden Grove, looks misplaced, but the message on this flyer is clear.

"WANTED!" it says. "Please wright (sic) this man and ask him to stop KILLING BABIES!!!!"

This is about abortion, but you've already guessed that, I'm sure. This particular message, courtesy of a local Operation Rescue affiliate, is one that we have heard time and again.

But recently Keulen's neighbors saw it delivered to the doors of their homes in Huntington Beach. The 40 or so bearers of this missive brought the usual signs and they called Keulen the usual names. It's the home-invasion tactic that is crossing a new frontier.

Five police cars arrived the other weekend outside Keulen's home, but no "incidents" were reported beyond a neighbor dousing the protesters with her garden hose.

The neighbor, a Christian who describes herself as anti-abortion but pro-choice, says she was particularly offended by the protesters carrying pictures of Jesus Christ. Plus, the doctor treats her kids.

Keulen and his family were not home.

Outside the home of Naomi Hardin, an administrator at Doctors Family Planning Clinic in Tustin, neighbors rushed up to anti-abortion demonstrators and told them to get lost. "We love Naomi!" they said.

Hardin, a wife and mother of three, has lived on her block for 28 years. She'd stuffed a "Dear Neighbor" letter into mailboxes warning of possible protests.

Hardin's "WANTED!" poster describes her as an accessory to murder, only her "mug shot" actually shows someone else. Oh, well, both women are blond.

This campaign has a name. "No Place to Hide," it is called. It is born of desperation in an era when most Americans believe women should have the right to choose. It will probably get worse.

For Keulen, the campaign has meant distribution of flyers bearing his home address and that of his private practice (one of the few locally where Medi-Cal patients are accepted) and the family planning clinic where he performs abortions. The anti-abortion group demands that he stop.

"If you decide to continue with these massacres, you will continue to be included in our No Place to Hide Campaign," the Tustin coordinator of the Pro-Life Coalition wrote to Keulen. The same man wrote to the physician who shares an office with Keulen in Garden Grove--no abortions are performed there-- to apologize for "any inconvenience" that protesters might cause in front of this office that treats everybody from infants to elders pushing 100 years old.

"Remember that you being a Doctor and your staff being Medical personal (sic) knows, that: ABORTION STOPS A BEATING HEART!!," the coordinator wrote Keulen's colleague and friend.

Keulen is not about to stop performing abortions and Hardin, who performs no medical services, will stay at the clinic where she has worked for 13 years, despite the threatening phone calls and "reminders" left at her home. Friends and strangers have sent her flowers, sweets and cards telling her that they're with her and to hang tough.

Only misplaced bravado, however, would allow these and other people who have been similarly targeted to remain unconcerned.

Keulen, while endorsing everybody's right to express an opinion, worries over the inflammatory nature of the new harassment techniques. Most of the protesters seem well-versed in the technicalities of the law--standing on the sidewalk, for example, instead of the lawn--but are unconcerned about any repercussions their actions might cause.

"What they are doing is casting a net out," Keulen says. "It's like they are trying to find a crazy person and then pointing him in my direction."

"I feel like a deer in the middle of a bull's-eye," Hardin says. "If someone can walk into an emergency room and blow three doctors away (at County-USC Medical Center), anything can happen here. I've been threatened. I feel very violated. I have no privacy."

Which, of course, is what the protesters want. They believe they can intimidate doctors and health care workers into not providing a service that the public wants. They believe they are at war and they do not often reflect on the means to achieve their end.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance in 1990 prohibiting picketing of private residences and in response to this latest Operation Rescue campaign, the City of San Jose just approved an "urgency ordinance" prohibiting the same there. The City of Davis passed its own "urgency ordinance" last October after a doctor had been relentlessly harassed.

California does not have a law protecting people from picketers at home. Municipal ordinances are rare.

This must change. We don't need another tragedy to show us that we should have acted before somebody's "means to an end" got out of hand.

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