LETTER: Resident concerned about man holding anti-abortion sign in Des Moines

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Waterland Blog nor its staff:]

Just curious! Is anyone else bothered by the man who stands on the street in front of the former QFC with the graphic photos of aborted fetuses? He seems to prefer standing on this major Des Moines street anywhere from 2-2:30 pm to 5pm to maximize the number of people who are forced to see his pictures.

On one particular day just after 2:30 pm he was standing in his usual spot; in front of me stopped for the traffic light, were two Highline School District school buses – one from Mt Rainer High School and one special needs bus with only a few riders. The students were craning their necks to see what he was showing with no opportunity for them to ask questions or understand the content or issue. This should be a subject discussed at home with parents NOT on a school bus with other kids. Is Highline School District aware of this visual being forced on many of their students?

First, I personally, find his material quite distasteful and unnecessary! I must drive through downtown Des Moines a number of times a week to pick up grandchildren from school. I eat at several restaurants in Des Moines, go to the Des Moines Pharmacy , the quilt shop, meat store and my investment firm is there as well. Should I stop going to those places until the City of Des Moines stops this graphic display? Pornography is legal too. Many people object to it. Does that give someone the right to stand on a public street with pornographic images to show their support for it? How about photographs of euthanized animals – do we need photographs from people against that too. Where does this stop?

Secondly, why should any man be dictating what women should (legally) do with their bodies? I will not force him to have an abortion or to watch one, but he is forcing others to see the results without any understanding of the particular woman’s plight in life. He should walk a mile in a woman’s shoes who needs to consider having an abortion!

Thirdly, his religious beliefs should be just that – HIS beliefs, not forced on me or other people. What does this man’s Bible say about judging others? He can’t have it both ways by picking and choosing what parts of God’s word he supports.

Thirdly, today is the anniversary of the decision on Roe vs Wade making the CHOICE of an abortion, LEGAL.

I understand “freedom of speech” fully, but there is such a thing as going to far – he should stand with a written sign but these photos are to much!

I’d like to see some discussion on this subject.

– S. Peters

[Have an opinion or concern you’d like to share with our Readers? Please send us your Letter to the Editor via email. Include your full name, please remain civil and, pending our review, we’ll most likely publish it.]


45 Responses to “LETTER: Resident concerned about man holding anti-abortion sign in Des Moines”
  1. Ashley says:

    These images are extremely graphic and offensive. I don’t want my son seeing them and I wish this man would be more considerate of young children in the community.

  2. Brandon says:

    I agree with this letter. I also find his images distasteful.

    • Laurie says:

      I agree with all of your comments! But how do we get him to stop? Is this something Des Moines Police can speak to him about, or would they? I guess it would fall under freedom of speech?

      • speters says:

        No, neither the police nor City Council will do anything. Abortion man was at Jan 22 City Council meeting. He spoke telling his tale of woe – how he’s been yelled at, had a water bottle thrown at him . . . and blah, blah, blah – he’s the victim. I told the Council I’d take my business somewhere else than Des Moines until they do something. Too bad businesses in DM don’t put pressure on the Council. This guy is a public nuisance, like a drunk or deviate of any kind!

        • DM Resident says:

          What do you think they should do with him? If they arrest him, he will turn around and sue for having his rights violated and the City will pay him hundreds of thousands of dollars or more…that’s smart. Let’s face it, we are all a victim of this politically correct society that we have all built in this case and you can’t do anything about someone like him. I certainly understand the City’s stand on this and their inability to do anything with him. Why punish the City and businesses that operate in the City!!!

          • Brandon says:

            There is case precedence for the city taking action (CO, look at the waterland blog facebook page, linked there). Will the city take action is the real question.

            While I don’t advocate people spitting on him and throwing water bottles at him, he reaps what he sows. He is holding this sign to inflame people, and so he gets what he gets. If he was holding a sign with a picture of an alive child and had the same message people wouldn’t react the way they do.

  3. wanker says:

    I think his signs are extremely distasteful. Adults are able to have conversations around controversial topics without being vulgar. I understand, and value free speech, but just because you have the ability to be a jerk doesn’t mean you need to. Meanwhile, the very lives that he FEELS he is saving, are being subjected to content that should not be seen at a young age.

  4. Alena says:

    I think it is disgusting that he is relying on shock value in this way – he is concerned for the unborn children (which is entirely his right), yet not having any regard for the young children that may see this and be plagued by nightmares due to the graphic nature.

    There are many other avenues to inform others of this issue – there are a million things that he could put on a sign that would have an impact on people. I think he makes the pro-life movement look bad.

  5. andy says:

    He should keep his thoughts to himself. I dont want to see this whenever I drive by. All it does is fire people up one way or the other..

  6. Des Moines Mama says:

    I’m in compete agreement. I honor freedom of speech (and, for the record, our right to choose), but I find this person’s methods to be inflammatory, misleading, and truly out of line with the spirit of the community. We’re all entitled to our opinions, but perhaps this person needs to find another way to express them.

  7. Andrea says:

    Totally agree with the letter, that image forced a conversation with my 9 year old that I was not ready to have YET. She was totally disturbed by what she saw and made a comment that the man was mean for making people see that. I hope Des Moines does something about it, we drive through there at this point, only when we have to.

  8. concerned says:

    I have to drive past him three days a week and I want to get out of my car and smash his board! Every time I drive by I think, “Why hasn’t anyone done anything about this!” I am on board if anyone has any ideas of how to get rid of him. I loved when there was a guy standing beside him and held up the sign, “Honk if you think this guy is an idiot” Horns were honking all over the place. But yet he is still there so that didn’t work.

  9. Renee G. says:

    as one of the school bus drivers who drive by this man, I totally agree with this letter! He stands on pac hwy and Kent Des Moines road too!

  10. Saundra Mock says:

    If you have ever spoken to gruesome sign guy, you will find he isn’t playing with a full deck. While I am for freedom of speech I am against the offensive pictures on his signs. About the only thing we can do as a community is also get some signs and go to “Big Catch” corner and distract the kids from gruesome sign guy. Maybe if he realizes we will distract from his cause, he’ll go back up to Pac Hwy where he started this campaign!

  11. Tara says:

    I agree with all of you! I think what is even more frustrating, is that this isn’t even the right demographic to express this type of opinion to…we are a family community! We have so many little eyes that are witnessing this.
    How can we take action? It’s one thing for us to post on here but let’s take it a step further and make him stop! Maybe we can start a petition…I don’t much about things like that but maybe someone wouldn’t mind taking the lead. I would be more than happy to help!

  12. This Mom says:

    I’m enfuriated by him!! I called a friend with the DMPD and, unless he’s in private property, there’s nothing any of us can do! Next Friday January 30 there will be a Hawks rally at Big Fish Plaza around 3pm! Come show your support and give people something better to look at than his nasty signs!!

  13. Marlene says:

    Des Moines City Council meeting, January 22, 2015 – 7:00 p.m. Des Moines City Hall, 21630 11th Avenue S., Suite C

    I suggest we all attend.

    I agree with you that this may be freedom of speech, but I think it is borderline obscenity. There has been a lot of discussion on social media. Several of us have talked to him. He told me that many people have complained to the police and he hasn’t been stopped so what he’s doing must not be illegal. What does this say about our city? Will I be able to stand there with a sign showing a penis entering a vagina with the caption “This is what causes babies”? I would be arrested in a minute.

  14. Seen him a few times..bothered me the most on Christmas Eve on the way to church. The photos were quite graphic..children do not need to see that

    • jayme C says:

      I and support his right to free speech…but his sign is gruesome, explicit and inflammatory. Its simply for shock value like someone else mentioned, and makes for some rather akward conversations with children who should not be shown this, I think the photo whould be censored on television…or by many other venues so why does he get a pass?? We could put a picture of a hip replacement, brain surgery, or heart surgery and freak people out of about surgery. Or show pics of dead dogs and cats so no one children desire a pet. Or show nude provactive invasive videos of people having sex and say KIDS sex is pretty damn gross, SEE! SEE! the problem is I am mature and informed enough to understand that this doesn’t phase me but someone like a child/not quite developed person this stimulous could be very damaging. What if a rape victim saw with PTSD saw this and had horrific flashbacks. anyways I don’t care what this guy’s story is, that’s not appropriate it’s not educational and we need to band together and stop this guy because the police aren’t going to do anything. if anyone has any countermeasures against this clown please present your idea

  15. Kristi says:

    I hate driving my daughter by there to and from school every day. It makes me so mad. I know that is specifically why he is there when the school buses go by.. He just feeds off of our frustration. What a sad little life he must live if getting up in the moring and showing our children such horrible pictures is his main event for the day.

  16. Tina M says:

    I agree as well! These signs are awful and it makes me angry that I have had to have conversations with my daughter that I was not ready to have. His beliefs have been crammed down my throat and it’s maddening to see the terrified look on my daughters face. We all have our beliefs and I am all for that. It’s one of the great things about living in this country. However, this is borderline obscenity.. and I KNOW the city would not allow someone waving a pornographic sign.

    I have come to the point where I no longer drive through the little town that I love so much. If I have to run an errand during the time when I know that guy is there – I go elsewhere. Other stores, other businesses out of DM so I do not have to subject my kids to this.

    Please City of DM, isn’t there something we can do? Where do we draw the line?!

  17. Scott says:

    The best way to counter this is to offer an alternative by exercising your freedom of speech. Holding a bigger sign that offers your opinion that shields children from the disgusting visual images would be a great start. Just a thought…

  18. Tim G says:

    We live in a visual age where people often don’t respond to any crisis until they see videos or pictures of it. It’s really no different than showing Holocaust pictures. Those were shown to raise awareness and also because many people did not believe that it happened. People are not moved by numbers and facts; however, they are moved by images and vision. That is why it is totally appropriate to show either video or still photos of aborted babies, especially to someone who is considering an abortion. It brings to light what the result of an abortion is. That is why pro-choice proponents don’t want them to be shown. Women would then be given all the information they need to make an informed choice. Most would agree that when you have to make a difficult choice in life, then you should have all the information possible.

    • Resident says:

      Am I missing something, or is Des Moines a particular hot bed of abortion activity? I agree with everyone else here that these images are disgusting and I’m confused as to why this dude has chosen Des Moines as his victim. Like poor little Des Moines needs any more difficulty in attracting business and customers into our town!

  19. DM Resident says:

    I have seen a few people “harassing” him on occasion. I think if there were three or four people that were willing to go there when he is there and stand around him and block his view he might give up and go somewhere else after a few days of this. I remember he used to be up on Pac Hwy and then suddenly turned up downtown.

    • Rikki says:

      Not all are harassing him. I have not been disrespectful to him. I also will not engage him in debate. I simply hold my sign to block his image. He gets frustrated and leaves. If you all have a minute stop and hold a positive message sign in front of his. He generally leaves after a few minutes. If you engage his debate he will stick around even longer.

      • Martin Metz says:

        Then again, if you start harassing him, others may come to his side. Go ahead and give him more visibility if that’s what you want.

  20. D. says:

    This young mans mother had an open casket funeral to shed light on the terrible hatred towards minorities, specifically blacks. She was criticized saying his body was too gruesome to look at. But she was showing the reality of racism. It was ugly but no one wanted to talk about it. No one wanted to step up or do anything.
    The anti choice movement are doing the same thing by exposing the gruesome reality of abortion. There is never a reason for it. Save your arguments because they will be wasted on me as no one will ever change my mind. People told my mom to abort me because I was inconvenient.
    If abortion is no big deal then these images should be no big deal as well. Because after all it’s just a clump cells. This is freedom of speech and it doesn’t matter if you agree or not, you can not silence others just because you don’t like what they have to say.
    Besides there are other things just as bad that our kids see.
    Lastly to the letter to the editor author; the verse in matthew is misquoted much. There is such a thing as riteous judgement and haughty judgement. Also a lot of pro life peeps are wanting to spare women from the emotional turmoil of abortion, and to help those who have had one to heal from it and find forgiveness and peace. Who are you to assume all are hateful and women haters?

    • Brandon says:

      The difference between your link and what he is doing, is that people have no choice but to see this mans images as they drive by. If I didnt want to see someones body at a funeral I can choose not to go.

      That being said, I support his right to have an opinion and express it.

      I do not agree with his method and I believe that having this sign displayed is imposing on my rights. Many people here have expressed their concerns about the images specifically, and not the message.

      I do not want my son looking at this image as we drive by, and why should he have to. If there is something I don’t want him watching something on TV I turn the TV off, or turn the channel. If I don’t want him reading Charlie Hebdo , I will not present him a copy of it. The ability to choose what our children see is the biggest issue I have with this man.

      Also, I haven’t seen one person say that abortion is no big deal.

      If this man had a sign showing hardcore pornography would you object to that? Most people would, because while it is legal for adults to watch it, they choose to watch it and it is not forced upon them. That’s the issue

  21. Rachael says:

    I agree. It’s not easy to explain what he is doing to my 3 and 5 year old daughters. Why should they have to see those pictures and have nightmares? He needs to express his feelings on the subject elsewhere.

  22. Mr. T says:

    I sent a tweet to Chief Delgado. He responded as expected, that the DMPD will uphold the Constitution. I also sent him a case from Colorado which addresses nearly this exact issue. That case would appear to set good precedent. I do believe that the Highline School District has standing to sue this person to stop displaying inappropriate images where children would see them because he is standing along a school bus route when children are likely to see the images. I support this guy being able to display these images (which I haven’t seen, by the way, but I’ve seen activists like this, so I can imagine they’re quite graphic) but when children are not likely to be able to see them. So during the school day would be fine, when the kids are in school. I believe that the community’s right to protect its children should be able to set some limits with this guy.

    • speters says:

      I agree totally with his freedom of speech. He can say all he wants but he has NO RIGHT to ‘educate’ my grandchildren or the daycare center across the street from where he stands with these graphic photos. That is the job of each family as to when and where they’ll explain these issues to their children. Why doesn’t Abortion Man go stand in front of an abortion clinic – that may be more appropriate. Is DM a hot bed of abortions now?

      • DM Resident says:

        I agree with you and I know the answer, elect another lib to be president so he/she can appoint another lib to the U.S. Supreme Court to allow someone like this to function in a public place.

  23. Tracey says:

    He used to stand up by the Walgreens by the welcome to Des Moines sign right by 99 last summer. I called the police about him but there was nothing they could do. I agree with your letter and have had discussions with friends who live in DM that feel the same way you do. I also have wondered I get expressing your opinion but why in DM. We have no abortion clinic, seems really odd and I wish he would just go away or at the very least get a different sign. I have an 8 and 5 year old and having to explain what his sign means really just sucks.

  24. Michelle says:

    Could Des Moines police reply to this thread and offer a potential solution?

  25. BirchCreek says:

    So free speech is free till you don’t like it.
    People might not like what he has to say, or show, but he has the right to express his opinion as much as anyone else here on this blog. Yes is it uncomfortable, but so is seeing the porno shops up on Pac Highway in Des Moines expressing their free speech rights. I would think children notice these too, but I’ve not heard anyone demanding the city close these down.
    So I look at his sign and study the gruesome “by products” of abortion. If we as a society can’t live with it…

  26. Cassie says:


    Where in a community as a majority would find the material displayed to be obscene.

    I tried to explain Mill vs California to DMPD. And that the man’s right to freedom of speech does not grant him protection from HARMFUL SPEECH.

    DMPD CHOOSES Not to do anything about this guy. Despite multiple residents and citizens citing Law, Case Law, and their own city ordinances.



    Des Moines PD doesn’t care. They CHOOSE not to lift a finger, and that goes for the council too.

  27. Alli says:

    Thank you S. Peters for opening this discussion. I have a story about my stopping by to talk with this man, but that is not what is important here. What is, does anyone know his name? Does he have family? Has, or is he being treated for a mental condition? Is he on medication? Where does he live? Could be that answers to those questions may help in ending this unpleasant visitor to our town.

  28. terran warden says:

    I just drove by and saw this man surrounded by cops, being talked to and his sign was laying on the other side of the fish statue without him! We may possibly have nothing to fear anymore!

    • BirchCreek says:

      Good grief! What was there to “fear”?
      Are we as a society here in Des Moines so fragile that an individual exercising their free speech rights sends us into a panicked, tail-spin?
      I am disgusted that so many citizens are ready to trample the constitution over their personal discomfort concerning a very difficult issue.
      If the police truly stopped him from his protest due to the complaints of under constitutionally educated citizens, then I am afraid the nanny-state will morph into a fascist state.

  29. Dunn says:

    Three Prong Obscenity Test, MILLER v. CALIFORNIA, 413 U.S. 15 (1973)

  30. Fed Up says:

    I believe the community needs to act together on this. My son suggested a sign that says “Honk <=== (arrow) TO LEAVE". Simple and straightforward. (Person commented earlier that a "honk" sign made him leave). If the sign is professionally done and stored in one of the businesses nearby, then we, as the community, can get the signs and stand in front of him when we see him. And, if we see someone doing this, more of us can stop to show how much we support that sentiment! Maybe if the community pulled together to show how we feel, it will drive him away?

    I hope so – I am enraged that he has the right to do this and yet I do not have the "rights" to shield my children from this.

    • BirchCreek says:

      I am part of this “community” and fully support this man’s right to free speech as granted by our constitution.
      I may find his signs distasteful, but that is my issue, not the governments to deal with.
      “Fed Up”, you do have the right to protect your child from the visual image of an aborted baby by driving on another road. No one is forcing any of us to drive on Marine View Drive, there are alternatives.
      Just a question, are we “enraged” because we disagree with his anti-abortion stance, the grotesque physical image of an aborted baby, or that we find it uncomfortable to be confronted with the reality of what an abortion produces?

    • speters says:

      I agree with your plan FedUp. If we all did our part this guy would disappear. He doesn’t see those images as causing anyone discomfort (is he mentally ill?).

      As for BirchCreek, free speech is one thing – fetus-man can SPEAK all he wants but when he shows gross photos (this has nothing to do with pro or con abortion), he’s subject to people’s outrage. I would also object if it the photos were pornographic too! There is a time and a place – it’s not downtown Des Moines. Why should I have to alter my course of driving because of this guy? Talk about freedom Birch! I should have the freedom to drive on public streets anywhere I want and not be force-fed gross photos.

      Why doesn’t he go find an abortion clinic – a much more appropriate venue? Why doesn’t he volunteer and work at an anti abortion facility, counseling young women about abortion if he feels so strongly? Why this venue, full of senior citizens and children? He’s obviously unaware that people over 65 or little kids don’t need abortions! So is he in this for some sick, sexual gratification he gets when people see his photos?

      To the Citizens and the City of Des Moines: remember WE VOTE!

  31. Concerned Mom says:

    Simple solution: Follow him to his house, post his address, and we will stand outside his home on the “public” sidewalk with our own signs and photos. It’s not illegal, right? And it’s my right to do so. As it is his. I’m okay with his anti abortion stance, I am NOT okay with it being shoved down my daughter’s throat as she tries to study in class. He purposefully points his sign towards MRHS AND shows up just minutes before the students get out. How is this okay? My daughter has class on that side of the building and she texts me everyday that he is there. This takes away from her learning time. This guy has issues. He does nothing redeeming for our community. He doesn’t volunteer with LIVING children (probably a “Thank Goodness”!) or seem to care much about their developing brains. He’s a smug, old, out of touch, guy who doesn’t seem to care how much he is disliked by most. I told him no one wants him around here. He doesn’t care. So it’s time to fine out where he lives and give it back to him.

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