On Saturday, Aug. 26, it was hard not to notice a yellow plane towing a banner much larger than itself flying circles above Whitefish. The same banner showed up over Missoula Tuesday, Aug. 29.
At first glance, it appeared to be an antiwar message, with the block-lettered words “STOP THE WAR” taking up most of the sign. Next to that was what looked like some sort of red and gray symbol and some smaller, hard-to-read text.
By Monday, the plane was circling downtown Kalispell at regular intervals, and Kalispell City Airport Manager Fred Leistiko said he’d gotten several phone calls from people angry about what they read as an antiwar statement.
As it turns out, the smaller type on the banner reads “10 week abortion,” a phrase describing the red and black symbol, which is actually a graphic image of a bloody fetus aborted at 10 weeks. The fetus is placed next to a dime as a size reference. The phone number on the banner connects callers to a lengthy antiabortion message/defense of graphic abortion images from The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform. Listeners are asked to leave a message.
The Center has a history of using bait-and-switch tactics, whereby apparently progressive causes are connected to antiabortion messages. On college campuses, the group dubs their work the “Genocide Awareness Project,” showing photos of the Holocaust, the Rwanda massacres and aborted fetuses side by side.
Gregg Cunningham, the group’s director, says the juxtapositions are intentional.
“We want people to consider that if they oppose the war in Iraq, perhaps they should consider the possibility of pulling out of the war against the unborn,” he says, noting that his group has no position on the war in Iraq. Cunningham likens the use of graphic photos of aborted fetuses to some antiwar activists’ push for dissemination of graphic war photos.
How long the plane spends circling the Flathead apparently depends on its reception, or lack thereof. If someone tries to ground the plane and its message, Cunningham says, the plane will continue flying the skies until its right to do so is established.