Iowa Book Store Cancels Abortion Book Reading After Threats

An eastern Iowa book store canceled a planned reading by an abortion rights author and closed for the night after receiving intimidating e-mails and phone calls.

Krista Jacobs, editor of "Abortion Under Attack: Women on the Challenges Facing Choice," said she was scheduled to read excerpts from the book at the Prairie Lights book store in downtown Iowa City at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The reading was to be broadcast on "Live from Prairie Lights," a radio program broadcast on WSUI, a public radio station operated by the University of Iowa.

Jacobs said she was traveling from Madison, Wis., when the radio program's producer, Julie Englander, called her to say that the book store owner felt threatened and planned to cancel the event and close the store at 6 p.m.

"I don't know the specifics of the threats that were made or why the owner felt threatened enough to close the bookstore," Jacobs said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

A book store employee said Wednesday that store owner Jim Harris was out of town and could only be reached by e-mail. An e-mail message was not immediately returned.

Iowa City police spokesman Sgt. Troy Kelsay said a night supervisor took a call Tuesday from an employee of the book store, who sought advise about how to handle a situation with a potential for generating protest.

He said the caller did not indicate there was a specific threat of violence and did not request police response or additional patrol in the area.

"In the end Prairie Lights decided they didn't want to risk that sort of incident, if you will, and said that they decided not to have the public reading and they closed their doors and did not have the public reading," Kelsay said.

Kelsay said Iowa City has a history of anti-abortion protests at the Emma Goldman Clinic and Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa. Protesters appear almost weekly and there have been arrests when confrontations have occurred, but they have not involved weapons, he said.

He said police would have increased patrols or investigated had a specific threat been made.

Jacobs said she frequently has protesters at book signings and readings and that some store owners have increased security for events.

"I've had horrible things said to me but nobody has ever physically assaulted me," she said.

Jacobs said her book, which features essays by several abortion rights activists, was written to raise the level of discussion above sound bites and emotional rhetoric.

"These kinds of events where you get censored in this way proves the point of my book and that is that we need to stop being so reactionary about this issue and have a deeper, richer dialogue about abortion and what abortion is," she said.