January 13, 2012
June 16, 2013
The other day I was reading all of the cool stuff that goes on on the Facebook page, “Abortion.com.” If you haven’t “liked” that page, take a minute to do so. There are some really interesting posts, good information and great responses. They now have over 50,000 “likes.”
At one point on that page, someone from another country asked how we here in the good ole US of A define “baby” and “fetus.” They obviously were trying to get more information on the never ending debate over what the hell that thing is that women carry when they become pregnant.
So, I chimed in and said that, yes, there are legal definitions for the two words but that the definitions really do nothing to resolve the dispute over when it becomes a baby and when it can be terminated. I guess most folks feel that if we continue to call it a “fetus,” then it’s easier to have an abortion – versus aborting a “baby.”
But when it really comes down to it, my honest reaction is: “Who the hell cares what we call it?”
A woman discovers she is pregnant. Depending on her circumstance, she may have a number of reactions. If she and her partner were trying for years to become pregnant, then she is jumping for joy, calling all of her friends, putting it on her Facebook page. She is going to have a “baby!” In this case, at no point – and I mean NO point – will she ever refer to that tiny little organism in her body as a “fetus.” It’s her baby and as it grows and grows, she embraces it more and more as her baby. “Wanna feel the baby?” she will ask her neighbor. What should we call the baby? You know the drill.
Now, if the pregnancy was a surprise and a not so welcome surprise at that, the woman will still not refer to it as a “fetus.” When talking to her partner and/or her loved ones, she will admit that she “cannot have this baby.” If she makes an appointment to have an abortion, she will talk to the counselor about not being able to bring this baby into the world at this time.
Baby, baby, baby.
The women who are in these situations really don’t care about legal definitions. And they clearly never use the word “fetus.”
So, the question from my Facebook friend was an interesting one and I know they meant well but, in the long run, it really does not make that much difference what term the woman uses and, in more cases than not, they will call it a “baby.”
- Brainless Republican Cruelly Tells Woman She Should Have Carried Brain Dead Fetus To Term (VIDEO) (addictinginfo.org)
- I disagree with the above comment, while, yes it is killing a fetus, there are many reasons people chose to have abortions (victorhernandezseverino.wordpress.com)
- Irish Taoiseach says he has been branded a ‘murderer’ for his stance on Abortion (skeptical-science.com)
- Adoption is for Orphans (vaginalaws.wordpress.com)
- Why abortion is bad (victorhernandezseverino.wordpress.com)
June 11, 2013
Kermit Gosnell. The name conjures up all forms of horror in the minds of so many. The arrest, trial, and conviction of Kermit Gosnell touches on a plethora of social, cultural, and public policy issues as few other high profile court cases do. The case has provoked a broad range of worthy discussions, several of which I will raise through a series of blog posts at Abortion.com and in a complete article at another source that will be accessible at a later time. Hopefully the good to come from the evils of this man will be honest dialogue about some of these issues.
To begin an honest dialogue, the controversy about the media coverage of the Gosnell case seems like a good starting point. Since the beginning of the trial and, now, after the conviction, the case is continually mentioned by conservative radio entertainers, anti-choice politicians, and anti-choice activists in every possible forum. The mindset of many seems to be that media, in collusion with pro-choice advocates, has conspired to minimize any significance that the case brings to the abortion debate. Their goal is arguably to saturate the public with incorrect messaging and try to use the Gosnell case to define the choice of abortion. Such a tactic is not likely to convert pro-choice people to an anti-abortion position. What it will do is keep the most radical anti-choice activists occupied with promoting misinformation.
The criminal case against Kermit Gosnell initially did seem to be a case about abortion or at the very least about bad abortion providers and clinics. For sure, a number of abortion-related political, moral, legal, and public policy issues were made relevant as a result of the case. However, the case was not about abortion; the role of abortion in the case was limited to being a part of the evidence against Gosnell, a criminal. The indictment against Gosnell states, “…we realize this case will be used by those on both sides of the abortion debate…the case is not about that controversy; it is about disregard of the law and disdain for the lives and health of mothers and infants.” The indictment was graphic; Gosnell was evil. (See http://www.phila.gov/districtattorney/pdfs/grandjurywomensmedical.pdf ) The prosecution actually did an excellent job throughout the trial in keeping the case focused on the legal merits and not the political debate about abortion.
As a licensed doctor who violated laws and professional standards of abortion care, as well as other areas of medical practice (including unlawful prescribing of pain medication), Gosnell has been tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison for murdering three babies. (There were other charges and mixed verdicts; the sentence was the result of a negotiation between the defense and the prosecution to avoid the death penalty.) He was not performing late term abortions in the cases for which he was charged. He was killing viable third trimester fetuses – babies – under the guise of providing elective second trimester abortions. When a health-related later term abortion is performed, and results in a live birth, a competent professional doctor would follow protocol to provide or seek immediate medical attention for the baby. Gosnell did neither. Instead, he not only failed to check for signs of life, but he also ensured death and involved others in his crimes. He jeopardized the health and lives of his patients. He maximized his profits by hiring nonmedical staff. The clinic was also filthy and in violation of numerous laws and professional standards. In all probability, Gosnell would have been convicted of crimes regardless if he provided abortions.
It was not surprising that the Gosnell case continued to be perceived to be about abortion even after the trial. Virtually all news reports gave more attention to the reactions of the two sides of the abortion debate instead of the actual crimes he committed. When I recently asked news-informed people what they knew about the case, all could reference abortion. None could provide information concerning specific details about the charges against Gosnell. There continue to be claims that the media ignored the case; most basing their belief on their opinion that the majority of media professionals are pro-choice liberals. In reality, the media reported on the case similarly to other criminal cases. The charges filed against Gosnell in January, 2011 were reported by the media. After the initial charges were filed, there was nothing new to report until the trial began – in part because a gag order was imposed on the defense and the prosecution in April. It is as simple as that.
Consider recent high profile criminal cases that have made the news. After the initial cycle of “breaking news” headlines, there may have been a few special interest storylines but little else until a court proceeding took place. The mass killing at the theater in Aurora, Colorado comes to mind. For several weeks after the event, families willing to speak with the press enabled numerous human interest issues. The only news since has concerned court decisions, such as last week’s ruling that the accused will be allowed to plead insanity. The recovery of three women in Ohio who had been held captive for ten years was major news until there was nothing new to report. This week, it was reported that the accused was no longer on suicide watch – nothing else. In the Gosnell case, there were also medical privacy issues that posed significant challenges to reporters who might have been interested in presenting human interest storylines similar to other high profile criminal cases.
It seems that people opposed to abortion believe that if abortion is part of the evidence in a criminal case, or if the criminal is an abortion provider, the media should be obligated to continuously report something about the case. Ironically, even conservative media sources did not report on the case until the trial. And, even then, they hypocritically pointed to the lack of coverage as if they had no ownership of the so-called “failure” to cover the story. If there had been something new to report between the time of the initial charges and indictment to the time of the trial, the more conservative media sources at the very least would have reported.
Many of us, including pro-choice folks, wonder why the murder trials of Casey Anthony and Jody Arias as well as the upcoming murder trial of George Zimmerman warrant constant coverage but the Gosnell trial did not. One answer is that cameras are not allowed in Pennsylvania courtrooms. Other explanations include the sheer difficulty in presenting technical medical testimony through the filter of reporters or editors and protecting the privacy of medical records submitted as evidence. Those two points alone had the potential to create enormous error which would be a disservice to all.
An objective look at the history of the coverage of the Gosnell case will confirm that there was no conspiracy to hide or minimize the atrocity of the crimes committed by Kermit Gosnell. The passion and convictions many of us have about the abortion debate and other issues is often used by media to determine the coverage. But that coverage has to be responsible and factual.
Part 2 of this series will address issues of competency and professionalism among doctors who provide abortions. In the meantime, no matter your position on abortion, at least consider that the Gosnell case was about crimes and not abortion. If you do a comprehensive online search, you will find that the case of Kermit Gosnell was thoroughly covered by the media.
June 6, 2013
I Won’t Back Down
Please grant me the indulgence of a slight digression before getting to the meat of my post. I have never been one for personal theme songs, couples taking ownership of a particular song from a particular place and calling it “our song”, and I never believed in the “soundtrack of your life” bullshit slogan we get sold by Apple or some other company asking we consume their individuized music player cutting us off from the music’s true power which is to be consumed—not in the sense of bought in some meaningless disposable manner—but to be collectively consumed as one consumes food, nourishing your being and providing limitless sources of inspiration rivaling the written and spoken word in its power to move people to “seek, to find, and not to yield” (thanks, Tennyson).
In fact, music is one of my first artistic loves though I am not a musician. It rivals reading and the written word in my mind, and fuels a long standing self-debate which should not matter in any capital T truth sense, but I find the question haunting—for me at least—and I have found how one answers the question reveals something of the soul for lack of a better word since I do not believe in an eternal soul. The debate topic, my friends, is which of the following is the purest art: music, painting—or some other graphic design, or the word? Pure is probably a poor choice of words as it is a relative term and has no meaning we do not assign it so in simplest terms, I struggle to determine which one is better and find others’ answers to the conundrum particularly interesting and revealing.
Joyce argued the written word is the most powerful, and therefore, the purest art. If you ask any self- respecting Christian, told since time immemorial that God is the word and the word is God, I believe they would agree with Joyce; however, Tolkien imagined the world’s creation through the singing of angelic type beings which is kind of ironic when you think about it since Tolkien envisioned the choral creation in writing!
Over the years I’ve vacillated on the topic but more and more find myself falling on the musical side of the debate as its motivational power transcends language. Though great works find global appeal via translations, any bilingual reader knows any particular work’s power diminishes when not digested in the original language. Music, though, requires no translation or modernization: there is no New English Version of Beethoven’s Erocia for example, and if you play “Imagine” or any number of excellent modern songs most folks respond much more positively than, say, if you read a passage from Macbeth to an alien. One of the proofs for my side of the argument is Close Encounters of the Third Kind. When, in the movie, we finally established first contact, we “spoke” through music, not the written or spoken word.
I apologize, again, for the theoretical introduction and want to get down to what in the world all of the above has to do with abortion and my story.
1) Gonna stand my ground, won’t be turned around:
Though I do not believe in a personal theme song, my dad became irrevocably associated with Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” I remember the first time I heard the song in 1989 and I owned a copy of “Full Moon Fever”. I argue it is one of the greatest rock albums of the 80s for a number of reasons, but I have digressed enough and am not writing rock criticism. Dad loved “I Won’t Back Down” and sang it to himself frequently. Petty’s ode to personal strength and fortitude hit in the summer of 1989 which, oddly enough, is when Christian Terrorism was in its embryonic phase from the standpoint of most of their terror attacks, at this point anyway, were limited to physical damage to clinics and intimidation while also employing massive acts of civil disobedience.
By late 1992-93, antis targeted dad with wanted posters, stalked him, staged protests at his workplace, and otherwise eviscerated any shred of privacy he enjoyed—which wasn’t much given we lived in a very small Alabama town at the time where gossip ran through town like the river from which it took its name. In a show of personal strength and defiance, during an anti-abortion protest on Roe v. Wade day outside of one of the clinics on his circuit, dad stood in front of the antis, sang “Happy Birthday to You” to the Roe decision, and then played Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” to the antis as a means of showing his personal commitment to provide quality health care to women even in the face of intimidation and terror. Of course, local media picked up on the event, and a local paper ran an article with a photo of dad antagonizing those who terrorized him, and his co-workers, for years.
2) You can stand me up to the gates of hell, but I won’t back down:
Twenty days later, dad lay bleeding out on the ground outside a clinic in Pensacola, FL becoming the Abortion War’s first casualty. Soon thereafter Petty’s anthem became a rallying cry for the pro-choice movement. Folks played the song at vigils, protests, and speaking engagements. What was a song I immensely enjoyed, became both a personal motivator and a painful reminder of death. I quickly became a poor substitute for my father’s courage and attempted to act as his surrogate. Though I was no doctor and could not actually fill his void, I tried, in my own small way, to keep the providers’ travails in front of a public who did not necessarily want to understand, for any number of reasons, what doctors and clinic staff experienced on a daily basis.
For six to seven years, I traveled to various cities—wherever I was asked to go—to tell dad’s, and by proxy other providers’, story. My intent was to galvanize support for the providers and to tell those who thought “it can’t happen here,” that it can and will if you do not get involved, act, and act now. Over the course of the 90s, Christian terrorists murdered more doctors, and violence spread northward disproving the widespread belief doctor murder was a Southern thing. During the 90s, the choice movement grew and was highly visible. We saw court and legislative victories in the form of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrance Act in mid-1994 as well as a positive ruling by the Supreme Court in the NOW v. Scheidler case which was subsequently overturned during the farce we now know as the Bush years. We met each act of violence with a large public outcry and response. Roughly 800,000 people attended the March for Women’s Lives on April 25, 1994 in Washington DC including myself as a speaker.
As the 90s ended and the Bush era began, abortion, though still a target of Christian Fascists, ceded ground to the now eternal War on Terror taking a backseat to Bush’s neverending wars, civil rights abuses, and war crimes. Though the struggle—and Christian Terror–continued, it went largely ignored by a press preoccupied with terrorists abroad while those of the homegrown ilk were allowed to regroup and gain courage from the first admittedly Evangelical President.
3) Well I know what’s right, I got just one life; In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around but I’ll stand my ground and I won’t back down:
Following a highly abridged overview of the past 20 years in an attempt to keep your attention and this post a respectably attention holding length, I ask you to look around you to see where we are as of mid-2013. Many Republican controlled states—mine included—passed and/or are preparing to pass regulations designed to severely cripple a clinic’s ability to remain open while at the same time making it personally intrusive and harder than ever for women to seek the medical care they feel they need. Whether being forced to undergo a rape-like act via vaginal probe, an onerous waiting period, propaganda influenced “counseling”, or being forced to watch an ultrasound, Christian Fascists have succeeded in making a legal medical procedure virtually unobtainable in many Red states via intrusive and overly restrictive regulations. It’s funny how the party of regulatory constraint never met a regulation it did not like when abortion—or birth control or sex education for that matter–is concerned, and how the “libertarian” Tea Party Racist/Terrorists love liberty as long as it doesn’t apply to women, minorities, or the poor.
Hell, in my state alone, where there used to be multiple clinics in three of the major cities—or at least six to nine clinics statewide–according to abortion. com, there are only two clinics for the entire state. These last bastions of reproductive freedom risk closure due to new regulations making their way through my state’s state legislature. In Mississippi, were there were clinics in Jackson and Gulfport at the very least, there is now one in Jackson. Likewise, Tennessee is served by only two clinics: one in Nashville and one in Bristol (eight hours apart at least for the southern geographically challenged). Also, there is only one operational clinic for the women of Arkansas.
Think of the implications of the above for a few moments. Imagine yourself a minimum wage earner in rural Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, or Tennessee who elects to undergo an abortion; in order to get the medical care you desire, you must travel at the very least 60 miles to the nearest clinic and more than likely longer. If you are unfortunate enough to live on the Gulf Coast of Alabama or Mississippi, your travel time to the nearest clinic exponentiates drastically and may be sufficient, on its own, to force you into motherhood. Aside from the travel obstacle, you also have significant economic challenges if you elect to travel the underground abortion railroad as you must lose at least a full day’s wage, waste at least another few days’ wages and fuel, and then endure the cost of a hotel plus the cost of the procedure itself; therefore, your medical procedure—since it isn’t covered by insurance, Medicaid, or military insurance—can cost you a month’s salary. Given the above, it is blatantly clear for many women in the United States, though abortion is technically legal, it is not available as a viable health care option. These obstacles do not account for the ever reducing number of providers who do not view abortion services as a career option due to the threat of violence. Again, though abortion is legal in the USA, the Christian Fascists through terrorism, regulatory intimidation, and simple misogyny have effectively banned the procedure for many women across the county.
4) Hey, baby, there ain’t no easy way out; hey I will stand my ground and I won’t back down:
The above encapsulates a small number of the travails women seeking abortion in 2013 face. There are many reasons for these developments. One, choice groups cede the local fights in Red States and instead focus on a national agenda. Two, politicians and the media cannot say the word abortion much less report on it in a way that reflects the actual disposition of the nation on the topic. If one simply watched corporate news, you would think most people are against abortion while the converse is obviously and undeniably true in poll after poll. Three, and this is most important in my opinion, we lack grass roots direct action to counter the actions of the Christian Terrorists. We do this for a number of reasons primarily out of a combination of fear and shame. Fear of how a strong stance on abortion will impact our friendships, family relations, and children as well as a shame or guilt some may feel due to their own religious beliefs. We must, though, have the courage to educate the public as to the true reality. Namely, we significantly outnumber those against abortion, and we must have the confidence and perseverance to unabashedly engage the public, teach the scientific truth, and demonstrate our determination to win this war on women. Not because it is, in simplest terms, the right action but because it is just.
In furtherance of these goals, we must reorganize and have the courage to “stand our ground” and “not back down” as our children’s rights depend upon what we do now, not what we might do in the future. I have a personal stake in this not only due to dad’s death and my own personal involvement in the past, but I owe it to my daughter to ensure she enjoys self-determination and true liberation. If the Christian Right has it their way, by the time my daughter hits puberty, after suffering through abstinence only sex education, should she be “legitimately raped” to quote Mr. Akin, she would be forced to bear the rapist’s child. How utterly intolerable, ludicrous, and goddamned unacceptable is that statement? How important, then, is it we re-energize, re-engage, and rejuvenate our conviction to win this fight and win it now—and we absolutely can and will win if we take proper action at this crucial moment!
To this end, I want to announce a project I’m supporting and ask that you support as well. Two groups of activists embarking from San Francisco and New York City are planning a freedom ride style journey across the United States set to kick off with joint rallies at each city of origin tentatively set for July 23. The riders will tour and engage the public in areas of the country impacted most by the draconian anti- abortion regulations currently making their way through state houses across the country. Both groups will converge on Bismark, North Dakota by 8/1 to protest the effective date of North Dakota’s fetal heartbeat legislation which goes into full effect 1 August 2013.
I believe actions such as these are not only needed but required if we as a movement are going to regain the needed momentum to re-establish our strong and solid footing in our struggle against the well- funded and connected Christian Fascists. If you have any sense of history, you know that only through mass direct action do the voiceless gain voice, the powerless gain power, and the professed ideals of our nation actualize in reality. Building a national movement is paramount and failing to do so is tantamount to surrender; however, I know we will not surrender to threat, intimidation, and violence because we have righteous conviction to engage the armies of the night and prevail. To this end, I urge you to review this statement published by the Riders’ organizing committee and lend your signature/support to the growing movement by following the attached link:
Lastly, I appeal to everyone to reflect objectively on the statement, sign it, and lend what support you can. Give money to fund the riders, join the caravan when they come through your town, and even if you simply donate your signature to the statement: that alone is taking action. There are those of us in the movement who have been engaged for a long time—many of you much longer than myself. You know abortion is not a foul and dirty word. You know attaching shame to the procedure only aids the antis by keeping it in the closet and attaching a scarlet letter type stigma to what should be a private matter between patient and doctor. You understand the effectiveness and utility of direct action because you organized and led it in the past. You also understand sacrifice because some of you do it daily by choosing to walk into a clinic under threat of death after witnessing many of your colleagues suffer death for continuing to make abortion services a safe option for women across the country. I know all of the above from direct experience after suffering through what the Christian terrorists did to my family. We cannot allow it to happen to another. We must draw a line and we must not back down.
I started this post with a lighthearted philosophical debate and have framed my essay using song. To be fair to both sides, let me offer the following words of Walt Whitman as a benediction of sorts:
O ME! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d;
Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;
Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.
Now is the time to ask ourselves about our verse and to determine what impact it has to the powerful play. My dad’s was “I Won’t Back Down.” Is it not time that we make it ours as well?
- Christian Terrorism in Texas (atheistrev.com)
- The Assault on Reproductive Rights Part 1: All-Out Attacks (blogs.lawyers.com)
- What Can We Do to Protect Physicians Who Provide Abortion Services? (atheistrev.com)
- Understanding Terrorism (atheistrev.com)
- How Christians Are Loosing The Battle In America (proverbsbeauty.wordpress.com)
- All-male House subcommittee votes to restrict abortion nationwide (rawstory.com)
May 29, 2013
The “Live Action” activist wakes up thinking about how she is going to get that abortionist that day. She can hardly contain herself as she mulls over how she is going to give back to society by trapping an unsuspecting doctor into saying something that, with good editing, will indict him and that entire industry he works for.
By now you no doubt have heard about these anti-abortion kids who are running around the country making phony appointments at abortion clinics and going in all wired up for sound and video. They are engaging in a sting operation and they are oh-so-proud of what they are doing. .
For example, this student-led group recently released footage taken surreptitiously inside Kentucky’s only abortion provider, EMW Women’s Surgical Center, where, according to the press release, the staff “ignored the sexual abuse of a child and gave misleading abortion counseling.” The footage was taken by Live Action President Lila Rose and actor Jackie Stollar who posed undercover as minors with Rose telling the staff that she was 14-years-old and impregnated by her 31-year-old “boyfriend.”
Then there is another brilliant piece of cinema of a conversation with Doctor Lee Carhart where he describes how the baby will die in the womb like “meat in a crock pot.” Ouch.
These kids really are making their mark, aren’t they? I mean, why should they be wasting their time organizing the soup kitchen in the Bowery when they can actually meet the “abortionist,” trick him and then become famous on numerous anti-abortion blogs? Why should they volunteer to be a mentor for a child who is struggling in math when they can get their jollies sitting inside the abortion clinic waiting room? Wow, their parents must be so proud!
Now, I’ll admit that Doctor Carhart needs to figure out a better way of describing the abortion process and no one who works in a clinic should be ignoring sexual abuse. But I’ve seen some of the unedited videos of doctors and counselors and, of course, in that form they show the entire story. And what they show is that the doctors and staff are competently and compassionately performing their job and helping women in need. They are counseling them on all birth control measures and talking about the options – including adoption – that are available to the woman. But you know that stuff is going to wind up on the editing floor. I mean, after all, we would not want to show clinic staff in any kind of good light, would we?
I know hundreds and hundreds of doctors and clinic staff. They love their job, they love to interact as much as possible with that woman who does not want to be there. The conversations can be fascinating and at times very reassuring to the woman. But in the future, every staff person is now going to assume that she is talking to a camera and so they will resort to being the ultimate bureaucrat, just telling the woman what she is required to know, not engaging in any conversation lest it be taken totally out of context.
All because of a bunch of sick brainwashed kids.
- Jury picked in abortion clinic plot trial (nbc15.com)
May 23, 2013
It’s hard to deny that we are becoming a visually mediated society. The power of visuals to (mis)inform, persuade and threaten is evident particularly when iconic photographs are considered for their power to expose the truths of local and global catastrophes, wars and social unrest. Nick Ut’s Accidental Napalm, and Kevin Carter’s Struggling Girl are images that produce certain truths but they also produce a moral conundrum. Showing these images are representations of reality but they also alienate the public. In fact, the circulation of Accidental Napalm has been considered a pivotal turning point against the horrors of Vietnam War while Struggling Girl forced the world to see the plight of the starving. More recently, Richard Drew’s September 11, 2001 Falling Man was subjected to criticism for being too offensive to publish and for revealing the immorality of the photographer and the news sources entrusted to uphold societal values. Falling Man is troubling because, while it reveals a truth about the World Trade Center attacks, it also exploits the human dignity and privacy of a man and moves us to question the propriety of such a display. The representation of images have ethical implications in that they are a kind of truth that can be shown but can never tell the whole story. It is with this notion of (mis)representations that I want to address three lessons about the power of visuals and recommend using visuals in a more provocative, yet enlightening campaign—as a proposal for the 21st century.
The first lesson addresses this tension between propriety and morality for photographers and for activists who choose to capture and use spectacular images of human beings. For example, for antiabortionists, any propriety about displaying mutilated human fetal images is easily set aside out of concern for a larger moral purpose. In fact, in the antiabortion movement, there are those who use grotesque fetal images that, while inducing both empathy and disgust, raise ethical questions about the public display of these dead bodies. Antiabortion activists promote and distribute these visual materials based on a premise that once Americans see images of abortion, they will reject abortion. And while legal debates over the right to display such images erupt on state-run university campuses, outside the walls of progressive churches and, of course, outside the perimeters of abortion clinics, the majority views these prurient displays as morally repugnant and potentially harmful to young children.
A second lesson is drawn from campaign materials of the antiabortion activists’ use of mutilated fetuses and from the 2012 presidential election. Both campaigns ignore an essential element—women. While Republicans fell on their collective swords with their anti abortion and rape rhetoric, the so-called prolife crowd (majority Republican) continued with their fetal fetish worship. In hindsight, the lesson is clear. Don’t ignore women and their rights.
The third lesson addresses the failure of media to address some of the most fundamental and important issues that half the world’s population—women—face. Corporate media, held hostage by capitalistic greed, flourishes on a diet of sensationalism and entertainment. For example, recent news reports focused on Angelina Jolie’s mastectomies but ignored the science about environmental toxins (caused by unbridled, irresponsible industries) that are known causes of cancer. The news of her surgical decision also ignored the enormous costs of media’s relentless messages to young girls and women that their breasts are accessories for voyeuristic entertainment and men’s physical and sexual pleasure. Jolie’s story also ignores a very powerful human right—to be empowered to make a tough choice about her own body.
In another media ruckus over the accessibility of Plan B emergency contraception—political brouhaha about other-the-counter access, age limits and state-issued identification as proof of age—the stories failed to point out the cozy relationship that politics and pharmaceuticals play, failed to address the importance of emergency contraception to those who need it most, and failed to address the personal, social and economic consequences when emergency contraception isn’t available. As with Angelina Jolie’s story about making the choice to prevent cancer, the story about unfettered access to Plan B means women have the choice to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. But corporate media seldom acknowledges a woman’s agency unless she’s a celebrity.
In the spirit of Jonathan Swift, I propose a 21st century campaign that speaks directly to real women’s lives—the on-the-ground reality of women as they attempt to hold up half the sky. To begin, I suggest that legislators draft laws that require obstetricians, crisis pregnancy centers and abortion clinics recite narratives with accompanying displays of women killed by unsafe and illegal abortions, with displays of bodies that succumbed to pregnancy-related deaths, and with bodies who, devastated by post partum depression, committed suicide. While it may sound too far-fetched, consider that there are currently laws that dictate what doctors in abortion clinics tell their clients. In particular, there are numerous states that require that physicians provide specific information about fetal development, pregnancy options, abortion complications, and about voluntary, non-coercive decision making about abortion. Euphemistically called A Woman’s Right to Know, the law is the ironic work of conservative legislators—the very same conservative who cry “I don’t want big government coming in and telling me what to do with my healthcare” but actually want big government to tell doctors what they can do to women. So, the precedence is in place for legislators to continue practicing reproductive medicine without any education or without a professional license. Despite the long-standing tradition of fully accredited abortion clinics providing comprehensive counseling about pregnancy options, state legislators use their bully pulpit to impose their morality on others with these laws. What these right-to-know tactics ignore are the realities of illegal abortions and complications of pregnancy. So, it’s appropriate to suggest that legislators enact laws to more fully inform women with a new campaign.
A proposal such a mine would comb the world for images of the approximately 219 women who die worldwide each day from an unsafe abortion. With that many images of dead women, there would be plenty of material to use in pamphlets and in educational materials. Such a visual bounty would provide a deliciously, deadly assortment to post on blogs and to add to the Op Ed sections of local newspapers. As with the antiabortion activists who wear their fetal focused messages around their neck, counter protesters could sport an image of a woman in a blood-soaked bed with the words “Keep Abortion Safe” written in large letters. The thought of such a poster borders on pornographic, unethical and downright obscene. And while such a poster aligns with antiabortion impropriety, at least it’s honest in demonstrating the truth about women who want and need but cannot access safe and legal abortions. Perhaps we could further underscore the situation by showing all the children left motherless because safe abortion is not available.
At the very least, the displays should show the very real complications of illegal abortions with up-close-and-personal representations of pelvic abscess, septicemia, lacerated cervix, perforated bowel, exsanguination, and gangrene. And should anyone charge that these images are obscene, recall that obscenity laws cover material that deals with sex in a manner appealing to prurient interest, i.e., material having a tendency to excite lustful thoughts. A dead woman’s gangrenous bowel or an exsanguinated body certainly cannot be considered titillating. In an effort to ensure a woman’s right to know, as so many conservatives are determined to legislate, a campaign such as this would more fully inform women of all the potential harms.
Let’s face it. The antiabortion activists use fetal images, as they claim, to expose the injustice of abortion. In reality, their images are a misogynistic attempt to shame women and to alter the realities of safe abortion for religious and political dogma. On the other hand, a display of women’s mutilated and dead bodies would expose the discriminatory, immoral violations of their human rights including the dishonorable reality, specific to the United States, that
- this nation is 19out of 134 countries in terms of gender equality
- this nation is 50th in world for maternal health
- 68,000 women nearly die in childbirth annually
- 1.7 million women suffer a complication that has an adverse effect on their health
- the annual maternal morbidity is currently between 500-600 deaths
Equally important to my proposed campaign would be evidence of the endless attack on women’s reproductive rights through targeted regulations against abortion providers, through defunding of family planning services, through state-directed funneling of monies to (mostly religiously-affiliated) crisis pregnancy centers, through imprisonment and subsequent poor treatment of pregnant women (often resulting in miscarriage, preterm delivery and poor birth outcomes including neonatal death), through the rise of sexual assaults in the military and through the silent war being waged against poor women through cuts in Medicaid for abortions, cuts in state support (food stamps and welfare ) after one year and cuts in Head Start programs. Finally, a Google map of the United States using hyperlinks could locate the draconian politicians’ current laws as well as proposed legislation to further obstruct or outlaw access to abortion and contraception. Further details of such a map should include their political party affiliation, their religious affiliations and their financial supporters (such as PACs).
My modest proposal would visually depict the inexcusable health and human rights violations that occur due to the corrosive effects from religion, corporate greed, politics, military and government obstructionism for women of reproductive age, particularly for the poor in urban and rural areas, for minority women, and for those with limited or no access to health care. My campaign would be a much-needed corrective for media’s drive for entertainment and sensationalism, programming that’s foisted on the public as relevant and objective. Moreover, my proposal would illustrate the true nature of the conservative, right wing as misogynistic, anti-science, anti-medicine and anti-woman.
It’s a modest proposal that I’d like to think Jonathan Swift would admire.
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)