January 13, 2012
May 19, 2013
A Sort of Reintrodution
On a warm spring day in March of 1993, I sat outside the Humanities building of the University of Alabama at Birmingham studying for a Semantics final exam; meanwhile and probably simultaneously, my dad arrived at work, parked his car, started to head toward the door to the clinic where he practiced, and was assassinated by a Christian terrorist named Michael Griffin. After pumping three rounds into my dad’s back, Griffin promptly walked around to the front of the clinic where the typical and regular antis were gathered, and turned himself in to the police who arrived on the scene to break up the protest which I always believed was contemplated and coordinated by the protest organizers to serve as the diversion Griffin needed to pull off his assassination unimpeded.
Since my dad has the bitter designation of First Abortion Provider Assassinated, a media circus ensured after his assassination, and I ended up fighting a battle on my dad’s behalf with the dual intentions of drawing the public’s attention to the Christian terrorists and their horrible tactics as well as doing whatever I could to keep another doctor’s family from experiencing what mine did. I spent almost 10 years in the trenches, hitting any media outlet I could, speaking to whatever group would listen, and lobbying our government for action. I certainly was not alone in these actions, and through the efforts of Pat Richard’s organization NCAP as well as other Pro-Choice organizations, we won a major victory with the passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Law which Pat and I watched President Clinton ultimately sign into law. Along the way, I married, had a child, and I reached a point where I had to pause my activism to raise a family which evolved to include a second child eight years after the first.
I recently reconnected with my old friend Pat Richards. We had a couple of phone conversations and swapped some emails which culminated in my being asked to provide some blog content which I am happy to do. In fact it is the least I can do and I have some sense of duty insofar as doing it is concerned. Now I’m a somewhat motivated person, but oftentimes I need a pressure point to get me off my arse. The arrangement between Pat and I results in my monthly blog contribution. Our project gives me the deadline I need to stress me to produce pages while at the same time gives me some encouragement to write the goddamned book I’ve been wanting to write for about 20 years now whose vague amoebic shapely mass lies somewhere between the brain cells you use daily, those that are reserved for recreational devastation, and those we can’t yet access but the Obama administration is currently making the Kennedian final frontier of R and D if you believe recent administration palaver.
I’m presently faced with the dilemma of which topics to cover, what salacious details to include, what to leave out to protect the guilty, how to make myself the Byronic hero shaking my fist at the heavens perched on a cliff façade, and where the hell to start.
I’ve been away for a few years so a reintroduction seemed like a decent initial post, but I do not know that I want to go the route of a typical linear biographical “I was the son of a share cropper” type format. What I’d really prefer is to utilize this opportunity to inspire me to do what I’ve been delaying for 20 years now and that’s write the goddamn book—in fact, I think if I finish it, that will be my title: The Goddamn Book by David Gunn, Jr. I think the folks in marketing could work wonders with such an appellation. It sure beats An American Tragedy or My Antonia or The Stand, or any title given to similar real-life tragicomic rehashing of events insofar as titles go in my opinion anyway.
Seriously, though, after my absence from the scene, if you will, and in light of Dr. Tiller’s recent assassination coupled with the renewed draconian Red State regulatory traps aimed at eliminating reproductive freedom by technicality rather than illegality, my desire to do something—and the something was some ambiguous uninformed action I could not label—led me to stumble upon Pat’s blog which allowed us to reconnect and brings us current while preserving the biographical fare for future posts which I hope will include some serial entries from The Goddamn Book I am now seriously starting to write and develop.
I am truly grateful for the opportunity Pat’s providing me and hopefully, we in the community who know the tragic and truly dangerous effects of living under constant threat while at the same time constantly remaining vigilant in our guarded responses to certain questions we get from normal folks—especially when you have kids cause you don’t want the response to negatively impact them indirectly—can become acquainted again, you’ll get something from my humble wordsmithery, and I may finally be able to cathart out The Goddamn Book I’ve been promising myself I will write for years. I’m looking forward to this new venture and am already finding it difficult to stop writing now that I’ve finally started. As of now, I resolve to contribute toward a solution to our problems in any small way that I can. I’ve grown weary of lacking conviction, and it is now time to confront those of the worst who have the passionate intensity desperately lacking on our side (thanks WBY).
- Debunking More Right-Wing Bulls**t: Liberal Shooters (addictinginfo.org)
May 12, 2013
A short while ago, one of my regular readers expressed frustration over the tsunami of anti-abortion measures being considered (and passed) in various state legislatures across the country. She then asked a logical question: why doesn’t the pro-choice movement respond in kind? “Why don’t we introduce our own legislation?” she asked.
Well, the real simple answer is that in most state legislatures we just don’t have the votes to pass anything. But there’s more to it than that.
With the exception of a few right wing nut balls, no sane politician wants to vote on the abortion issue. They don’t even want to talk about it. That’s because these (mostly male) legislators are totally uncomfortable with the issue and are not interested in being lobbied by advocates on both sides of the debate. Even if they are in agreement with the lobbyist sitting in front of them, they still don’t want to talk about the issue. That’s why whenever there is a vote on abortion, the debates are not very long. Sure, you always have your regular stalwarts willing to get up there to make their points but for the most part, everyone dodges the debate and would love to dodge a vote if possible. This mentality is equally applicable to anti-abortion and pro-choice legislators. Then, if the worst case happens and you are ultimately forced to vote, you know you’re gonna piss off half of your constituents – and no elected official wants to piss anyone off. It’s a lose-lose situation.
But, let’s imagine there is a fervent pro-choice legislator in Virginia named George and he feels very strongly that the state should use its Medicaid funds to pay for all abortions. The first thing George will do is consult with the pro-choice groups and, knowing the state of Virginia, they’ll tell George that he can’t win because the votes are just not there. And any straight thinking lobbyist does not want to lose a vote. But let’s say these lobbyists see things differently. Say they think that it’s time to “make a statement,” to force everyone to vote which will help them identify those they want to try to get out of office. So, they tell George to go for it.
The next thing George has to do is get the word out that he is going to propose that Virginia restore Medicaid funding for abortions. Suddenly, everyone is chasing him down, wondering why the hell he would force people to vote when there was no chance the measure would pass. And, remember, the buildings that the state legislators perform their work are not very big so it’s not easy for George to hide from the deluge of colleagues who want to wring his neck.
George suddenly is getting cornered in the cafeteria, at the poker table, outside of church. “Geez, George, why the hell are you forcing me to vote on this issue when it’s not going to win anyway?” is the common refrain. Even George’s fellow Democrats, some of whom are anti-abortion, get on his case. It’s a pressure packed situation that he never anticipated.
Now, if George was an elected official from New York or California, he might be able to go for it and possibly win – although many of his buddies would still resent his forcing them to vote on abortion. But, in states like Virginia, Kansas, North Dakota and many, many others, it’s a simple thing to say why don’t we initiate pro-choice legislation? It’s another thing to actually go through that grueling process.
The fact is that most pro-choice legislators do not wake up thinking of abortion, unlike many anti-abortion legislators who can’t stop thinking about bloody fetuses. For the pro-choicer, who has a more global view of things, it’s a different animal and it takes cajones to pursue what you think it right in a sure-to-be losing effort.
I guess the answer is it’s easier said than done.
- Why I am Pro-Choice – and why this does not make me Anti-Life (gandhihadapoint.wordpress.com)
- Opinion: 40 Years After Roe v. Wade, A Pro-Choice Perspective (pbs.org)
May 5, 2013
I met David Gunn, Jr. about ten days after his father was assassinated by an anti-abortion terrorist.
Doctor David Gunn performed abortions at several clinics throughout the Southeast. He was what they called a “circuit rider,” driving every day through Georgia, Florida and Alabama to provide abortion services to women in need. On March 10, 1993 his destination was the Pensacola Women’s Medical Services clinic. After parking his worn out car, he climbed out and headed for the back entrance to the clinic to avoid the protestors out front. But standing right there was Michael Griffin, a relatively new anti-abortion protestor, and as Gunn passed him Griffin took out a pistol and fired into Doctor Gunn’s back, killing him instantly.
The murder made instant national news because it was the first time that a doctor who performed abortions had been murdered because he was “killing babies.”
Of course, the news services put out a wide net to find anyone who was close to the players involved in this terrible tragedy. And without hesitation, one of those people came forward: David Gunn, Jr. His message was very simple: there was an anti-abortion conspiracy to kill abortion doctors and the Clinton Administration needed to do more to prevent this from happening again.
David was an instant “media star.” His waist-length hair immediately caught your eye. When he spoke to the camera, his soulful eyes enraptured the audience. He was soft spoken, not a rabble-rouser and his pronounced stutter made him even more compelling when he spoke. Over the next few weeks, he was a constant presence on all of the news shows.
I met David the day before we were scheduled to appear on “The Donohue Show.” We had a nice dinner the night before and he struggled to talk about his Dad. It was clear that by that time he was already exhausted from all of the media appearances, but he was willing to push on “for the cause.” The next day we sat on the stage together, accompanied by Mr. Paul Hill, an anti-abortion activist who actually told David and the national audience that his father’s murder was “justified” because Michael Griffin was “protecting the babies from being murdered.”
Over the next few years, David Gunn, Jr. became a national spokesman for the pro-choice movement. Indeed, pro choice organizations practically fought over him as they encouraged him to “endorse” their group. He basically put his life on hold and he travelled the country warning the nation that there were more murders to follow. And he was right.
David’s story is a story of relentless courage and persistence. And I’ve always thought that his experiences needed to be shared with the public. And that is why I am absolutely thrilled to announce that David Gunn, Jr. has agreed to become a “guest blogger” once a month on this page. He recently told me that he always wanted to write about him and his father but, like so many other young people he got preoccupied with raising a family, getting a job, etc. But now David will start writing that story in the form of a monthly blog.
We are honored to have David join us!
- Debunking More Right-Wing Bulls**t: Liberal Shooters (addictinginfo.org)
- Iowa anti-abortion radical: ‘If someone would shoot the new abortionists’ (dailykos.com)
- Anti-abortion activist Bernard Nathanson dies aged 84 (mikebenz27.wordpress.com)
- What It Is Like To Get An Abortion In Brazil, One Of The Most Restrictive Countries In The World (businessinsider.com)
April 28, 2013
On a cold, sunny December day in 1994, a pro-life terrorist named John Salvi walked into two abortion clinics in Boston and killed two people and injured five. Then, for some unknown reason, he jumped into his car and drove all the way down to Norfolk, Virginia where he pulled up in front of the Hillcrest Clinic, a facility that also performed abortions. He jumped out of the car and fired randomly at the building with a semi-automatic rifle. Fortunately, no one was injured and about a week later I visited the clinic and the clinic director, Suzette Caton, showed me the bullet holes.
The Hillcrest Clinic had always been a target for anti-abortion zealots. But, despite John Salvi, years of picketing, a bombing and an arson, the Hillcrest Clinic served women in the Tidewater, Virginia area for four decades. And now they are shutting down their doors because the Commonwealth of Virginia thinks they don’t have adequate parking and their hallways are not wide enough.
The Hillcrest Clinic closed its doors on April 20, 2013. There were two main reasons for the closure. One was that their patient load had declined over the last few years from 2,116 in 2009 to 1,629 in 2012. As any business owner knows, you always have a bottom line to pay the bills and a decline that dramatic certainly affects the income. Of course, one could say that that is “good news” in that fewer women were having abortions. Let’s just hope there were fewer abortions because the women just elected to not have them, versus being pressured by the state or anti-abortion zealots.
The second – and main- reason was that regulations had recently been passed by the Commonwealth of Virginia under the guise of “enhancing patient safety” and, according to Caton, it would have cost the clinic about $500,000 to comply with the new rules. The rules generally require the clinic to meet hospital-like design guidelines, such as hallway size, the number of parking spaces and number of toilets. As if the patients in the clinic were being forced to pee outside. That was too much of a price tag for Hillcrest, so they elected to close – which is exactly what these regulations are designed to do.
If there is any good news, it is that according State officials, of Virginia’s 20 abortion clinics, Hillcrest is the only one not seeking to have their license renewed. No doubt, the Planned Parenthood clinics will embark on fundraisers to come up with the money and the independents, well, it’s hard to say what their strategy will be. One thing that at least one clinic is hoping for is to stretch out the process until Virginia can elect a pro-choicer Governor this November.
“It’s a little bit bittersweet,” said Caton. “But I also feel like for 40 years we’ve had the honor of providing compassionate care to the women in Tidewater who are faced with an unplanned pregnancy.”
In 1983, a man broke in to the clinic, poured kerosene throughout the office and set it ablaze. A year later, a cluster of pipe bombs exploded nearby, breaking a plate glass window of the bank branch on the first floor. In May, 1989, six activists pushed their way into the building. Then Salvi paid them a visit.
Despite the violence, the clinic staff never talked about closing.
The pen may indeed be mightier than the sword.
- Norfolk abortion clinic plans to close doors (hamptonroads.com)
- Bullying clinics to satisfy ideology (hamptonroads.com)
- Abortion clinic in Norfolk closing Saturday after 40 years (wvec.com)
- Virginia’s New Anti-Choice Restrictions Will Force 40-Year-Old Abortion Clinic To Close This Weekend (thinkprogress.org.feedsportal.com)
- Abortion Clinic Closes (newsplex.com)
- Virginia Abortion Clinic Closes Thanks to Bullshit ‘Safety’ Law (jezebel.com)
- Government overreach on abortion (hamptonroads.com)
April 21, 2013
Janelle Templeton was a 27 year old mother of two living in West Philadelphia. Hers was a tough neighborhood, overrun with prostitutes, drug dealers and neighbors who, like her, barely survived on assistance from the government. She dropped out of high school in her sophomore year and when she found herself pregnant, she welcomed her babies into the world in the hope that they would ultimately escape the cycle of poverty that had trapped Janelle and her family for many years.
Then, about two years ago, Janelle learned that she was pregnant again. It didn’t matter that she wasn’t sure who the father was. What mattered was that she had been trying to eke out a good life for her two children and she knew – she just knew – that bringing another child into her world would make that dream all the more difficult to obtain. So, she decided to have an abortion.
She did not have a computer, so she opened up the tattered Yellow Page directory that she had stored in the kitchen closet. She opened it up and right at the front of the book she found the category “Abortion Services.” Populating the page were several large ads for the several clinics in the Philadelphia area. They all seemed to have the same picture of a pensive looking woman. Among the items highlighted were the insurance plans they accepted (Janelle was on Medicaid), what kind of anesthesia they offered, and other miscellaneous services that meant nothing to her. Looking at the addresses, she noted that most of them were in the downtown area but there was one that was just three bus stops away: the Women’s Medical Center.
Since Medicaid did not pay for abortions, she knew she would have to pay cash for the abortion. So, despite the proximity of that one clinic, she started calling the other clinics to price shop. She soon learned that the price varied, depending on how many weeks pregnant she was. She guessed that she was about 10 weeks pregnant at that point and was shocked to hear prices in the $400 range. Then she called the Women’s Medical Center and was told the price was about one hundred dollars less than the other clinics. It was a no brainer. She quickly made the appointment without asking any more questions. The clinic staff didn’t ask any either.
She ultimately borrowed the money and a few days later jumped on the bus to go to the clinic. When she walked inside the facility, she didn’t take notice of the ripped carpet, the chairs with broken arms, the receptionist who didn’t make eye contact and just took the cash. She didn’t realize how inexperienced the staff was, that they were working for $12 an hour and had little training in performing an ultrasound, administering anesthesia and handing out prescriptions. Indeed, how was she to know that some of these staffpeople would ultimately plead guilty in court to numerous medical infractions? Janelle basically was oblivious to the unsanitary conditions in this clinic. She just needed that cheap abortion.
After a three hour wait, she was escorted to the back room. Passing one room with an open door, she saw a woman on a table sobbing and noticed bloody gauze tissues tossed onto the floor. She had a queasy feeling in her stomach but she knew it was too late to turn back. The staff person escorted her into a small room with tattered wallpaper and was told to undress, put on a smock that smelled of urine and instructed to sit on the bare table. She then started thinking about when she talked to one of the other clinics in Philadelphia and how nice the receptionist sounded and how it was a shame that her Medicaid would not pay for an abortion. Then, her thoughts were interrupted…
“Hello, I’m Doctor Kermit Gosnell.”
April 14, 2013
My head has been spinning lately as I try to keep up with all of the anti-abortion legislation that has flying back and forth in various state legislatures. For example, at this point fourteen states have trotted out measures to ban abortion prior to “viability” — the point at which a fetus could survive outside the uterus. These measures take three forms: banning all abortions, banning abortions at some point in the first trimester of pregnancy and banning abortions at 20 weeks after fertilization.
In addition, there are bills preventing employees of abortion clinics from providing sex education in schools, banning tax credits for abortion services and requiring clinics to give details to women about fetal development and abortion health risks. There’s also a ban on abortion based solely on the gender of the fetus.
The most interesting law to me is the one in North Dakota which prohibits abortions from being performed after six weeks. Think about that one for a second. Hell, how many women even know they are pregnant after six weeks? And, I am not a doctor but I seem to recall that some abortion clinics would not perform an abortion that early for fear that they might not get all of the tissue.
The pro-choice movement has a right to be very concerned about this trend in the state legislatures. The anti-abortion movement is feeling their oats and they are clearly consulting with each other, photocopying the bills that passed in other states and pushing it in theirs. And in many of those states, they’ve got the majorities so there ain’t much that we can do about it (except fundraise).
There is hope, however. And it comes from the offices of the Center for Reproductive Rights and the ACLU Reproductive Freedom project.
For 20 years, the Center for Reproductive Rights has used the law to advance reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right that all governments are legally obligated to protect, respect, and fulfill. They are an aggressive bunch of lawyers who are usually the first to jump in when some whacky anti-abortion bill is signed into law. Within 24 hours, they are at the court filing for an injunction in an effort to prohibit the law from taking effect.
The ACLU believes that the decision whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term is essential to women’s equality, autonomy, and dignity, with implications for every aspect of her life – her educational aspirations, career goals, economic status, and, more broadly, her ability to live the life she planned. Like the Center, the ACLU’s cadre of attorneys is working on a myriad of issues related to abortion.
Make no mistake about it, folks. The action is now swinging to the courts. Most of the legislatures have done their dirty work for this year and these two groups will now challenge most of those laws as they have been doing for many years.
But I would be remiss if I did not mention that the work these groups perform costs money. Lots of money. Heck, didn’t you see “Erin Brockovich?” Remember how much that case cost? Well, these two groups face the same daunting task. They go into these cases and spend a lot of money with no guarantee that they’ll win and/or get attorneys fees at the end. And if anyone thinks that the abortion clinics have that kind of money to fight these laws, think again.
So, if you are thinking of sending a dollar to some pro-choice group, you might think about these two organizations because, until we can change the legislatures in some of these ass-backwards states, the only defense we have against these attacks is in the courts.
- Legal battle shaping up to stop Ark., N.D. abortion restrictions (wvgazette.com)
April 7, 2013
I am a C-Span junkie. I keep the channel on in my office all the time and every once in a while I hear the “A” word. That’s when I grab the remote and increase the volume. More often than not, it’s some Member of Congress talking about abortion and, in particular, the “horrors” of abortion. They stand there in the well of the House of Representatives, all spiffed up in their $700 suits and chastise the thousands of women who are “killing their babies” every day. They get themselves all worked up to the point where they barely contain themselves from calling these women “whores.”
But there’s more than meets the eye here in the nation’s capital.
The other day I had lunch with an old friend who runs an abortion facility in Washington, D.C. She’s very political, keeps track of congressional voting records and so we started talking about the latest legislative efforts on Capitol Hill to restrict access to abortion.
“What a bunch of hypocrites,” she said. I asked her what she meant. She chuckled and replied “we see them in here all the time.”
Intrigued, I asked her to elaborate.
“Anti-abortion Members of Congress and the Senate come here all the time. They’ll set up private appointments and bring in their wife, their girlfriend, a niece, you name it. They’ll pay extra money to use the clinic when it’s closed to other patients. They’ll come here and procure the abortion, then weeks later I’ll see them on television making some kind of speech about how people like me should be put out of business.”
I had heard rumors about this before but never heard a confirmation. Of course I was intrigued as to whom these elected officials were but, as she pointed out, she was prohibited from naming any names. I could tell she was dying to blurt out a name or two but, to her credit, she remained silent. She just shook her head and said “hypocrites.”
I’ve often wondered what it would be like if on one day every administrator of every clinic in the country just came out and named names. Not just anti-abortion Members of Congress but members of the state legislatures, governors, White House officials. We know they’re out there, we know they are harboring their little secret yet they do not hesitate to criticize OTHER women who have obtained abortions.
But the more I think about it, the more I realize that if they were exposed probably not much would happen. The anti-abortion politician would admit his complicity in this “truly unique situation” and would tell us how he and his wife/mistress/daughter had prayed to God for guidance before making the difficult decision. Then he would share with us how he has since asked the Lord for forgiveness (and received it), his constituents for the most part would applaud his courage and then would forgive him at the polls. For about a year or so he would be conspicuously silent during the public debate on abortion but would still continue to vote against abortion any time he could. Then one day he would reappear on the floor of the House to make the same old speech about “those women” who have had abortions.
So, we probably wouldn’t get anywhere but wouldn’t it be a lot of fun to reveal these hypocrites?
Hmmmmmm…..What if every doctor who has ever provided an abortion for one of these culprits just put a list together and had it published once they died?
- Kansas Religious Fanatics Set to Enact Most Restrictive Anti-Abortion Law in US (littlegreenfootballs.com)
- Kansas Expected to Pass Anti-Abortion Bill (counselheal.com)
- Kansas Senate approves sweeping anti-abortion bill (kansas.com)
- Kansas legislators pass anti-abortion bill declaring life to begin at fertilization (syndicatednewsservice.wordpress.com)
- New Kansas anti-abortion law orders doctors to lie to their patients (rawstory.com)
- Anti-abortion bill passes Kansas Senate (m.cjonline.com)
- Kansas Senate passes anti-abortion bill defining life as beginning at fertilization (kansas.com)
- Kansas Lawmakers Approve Sweeping Anti-abortion Bill Stating that Life Begins “at Fertilization” (blackchristiannews.com)
- Kan. House Passes Sweeping Anti-Abortion Bill (wibw.com)