January 13, 2012
July 7, 2014
In the past, I have made reference to a very helpful website named http://www.abortion.com. I do some consulting for the owners of that site, which is an Internet directory of abortion clinics across the country. Owners pay a monthly fee to be listed, just like the Yellow Pages.
The site has been around for a good ten years, if not more and, over the last few years, I’ve watched as some of the original clinics on the list have dropped off the site. One reason is that the number of abortions is declining (for whatever reason) and these offices are businesses so if they do not have the requisite number of patients to pay their expenses, they try to cut back on the amount of money they are spending. Some just close altogether.
Then there are the clinics that have closed because their state legislature has enacted restrictive regulations (under the totally ridiculous guise of “ensuring the safety of women”) that have forced them to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep their doors open. In Texas alone, I count at least eight clinics that have shut their doors in the last year because of their restrictive laws.
Now, the anti-abortion folks are no doubt applauding these developments. Indeed, I subscribe to LIFENEWS, an anti-abortion electronic newsletter, and every time a clinic closes they shout to the mountain tops (and always give credit to the anti-abortion movement) that another clinic has closed. And the assumption is that when a clinic closes, there are fewer abortions. More babies are saved! Praise the Lord!
Out of curiosity, I spent the last two weeks talking to the owners of those remaining clinics. And guess what’s happening, folks? The remaining clinics in Texas are being – in the words of one doctor – “swamped” with patients. Hmmmm, now ain’t that interesting?
Yep, several clinic doctors and/or owners told me that the number of patients they are seeing has increased since the other clinics shut their doors. And it stands to reason. That’s because the bottom line is that if a woman has an unwanted pregnancy and does not want to carry it to term, then she will seek an abortion. And no matter where she lives, she will get it.
The number of abortion facilities has decreased, no doubt about it, but the ones that are remaining – especially in rural areas like Texas – are seeing the number of abortion patients increase. They also report that more patients are coming from longer distances.
Of course, the anti-abortion advocates – who express their concern about the “safety of women seeking abortions” – don’t give a rat’s ass if a woman has to travel a few extra hundred miles to get to that clinic in western Texas. Who cares if she has to miss two days of work, travel across a state by herself on a bus, pay for someone to watch her kids?
The real strategy is to make it financially impossible for them to get an abortion but at least in Texas I’m not sure the strategy is working. And the irony is that these oh-so-compassionate anti-abortion folks are making it even more dangerous and expensive for women to obtain a legal abortion.
June 28, 2014
Upon hearing the news that the Supreme Court struck down the Massachusetts law that provided a 35 foot buffer zone prohibiting anti-abortion protesters from harassing patients entering medical facilities that provide abortions, many of us were livid. The decision was unanimous. With at least three highly progressive judges on the Supreme Court, a unanimous ruling on an issue of this magnitude could only indicate that the law was flawed, regardless if it was effective at preventing harassment of women entering medical facilities that performed abortion. If the Massachusetts law was flawed, the Supreme Court ruling was flawed for sure and arguably seemed to assure an audience for abortion opponents.
In an interview with NPR, the lead plaintiff in the case, Eleanor McCullen, stated, “I should be able to walk and talk gently, lovingly, anywhere with anybody.” Often described as mild-mannered and pleasant, McCullen has made the same or similar statements in other interviews without a single reporter challenging the truth of her comment or the actual intent of her activities. It is as if her grandmotherly disposition and pronounced religiosity render her words as indisputable.
The ruling is final. The justices did not consider the rights of women to get abortions without acrimonious protesters. They considered only free speech on public streets and sidewalks. The 35 feet of the zone was an issue in part. That may seem like a lot of space to some. However, as one man shared in an essay on Time.com, if you are the already traumatized couple going to an appointment to abort a wanted pregnancy, 35 feet is not large enough. Nor is it large enough for any other woman trying to access abortion without interference. Would 20 feet have been small enough? Five? Why are zones around the Supreme Court and other agencies valid but those to protect women seeking abortions are not? After all, the history of violence against abortion facilities is recent and significant to safety concerns.
Perhaps Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts Attorney General defending the buffer zone, could have concomitantly pursued a case against McCullen and Company concerning their interference with the right of women to privately receive constitutionally protected abortions. If that was ever a possibility, Coakley would have had difficulty finding a plaintiff willing to be at risk for violence or public scorn from anti-choice zealots.
A Boston Globe article about the Supreme Court decision quoted Suffolk University Law School Professor Jessica Silbey, “They’ve [Supreme Court] approved the idea of this kind of law, just not the mechanism [...] It was too broad.” Is Silbey correct? The article also quoted legislators and other leaders; clearly, great effort will be made to respond to the decision quickly, effectively, and, hopefully, with a solid legal foundation. We have no choice but to accept that legal authorities will keep their promises and assurances and that the pro-choice community will hold them accountable to doing so.
All of us want free speech protected. But this is where so many of us feel anger and frustration. Sweet, grandmotherly Eleanor McMullen is a liar, as are all other anti-abortion zealots involved in the case. Those who spend their time hanging out at medical facilities at which abortion is provided are not known for talking or walking “gently” and “lovingly.” Deeming themselves “sidewalk counselors” they are known for talking and walking judgmentally with hostility and hurling epithets or accusations as they attempt to force religion-based/unscientific material on people, mostly women, entering the facilities. Over the 35 years that I have been involved with the pro-choice cause, I have never seen a patient entering a facility seek out or respond favorably to the “sidewalk counseling.” What is a “sidewalk counselor?” What are their credentials? Call them what they really are: religious zealots and fetus worshippers. Buffer zones do not end their free speech. Instead, buffer zones impede zealots from trying to force their opinions and preferences on people entering a medical facility. Buffer zones reduce the potential of physical harm to patients and their families or friends.
Freedom of speech was never impeded for the anti-abortion zealots. The buffer zones merely thwarted their intent to impose their views on others. There is no evidence that they stopped a single abortion, albeit there is evidence that they delayed abortions as women felt intimated and rearranged their appointments to avoid the protesting, fetus-worshipping zealots.
Other bloggers, columnists, and reporters will adequately cover the ruling, some with great passion. Rachel Maddow also did an excellent analysis on her June 26 program. Take the time to read or listen to the facts to better understand how this unanimous ruling could have happened. It is important to set aside whatever we feel, think, or believe about the SCOTUS ruling and focus hard on stopping the zealots once and for all through the tactics of proactive campaigns that properly portray their dangerous zealotry, disregard for honesty, and intent to stop women from their constitutionally protected reproductive freedoms. McCullen and Company are not nice church-going, compassionate people who care about women and babies. They are indeed zealots who place such value on the fetus that they are willing to endanger the lives of women seeking abortions and those who help them. As hard as it is to believe, it appears that McMullen’s grandmotherly ways scammed the Supreme Court.
NOTE: If you are interested, this link will take you to an article concerning why the Colorado buffer zone law will remain intact: http://durangoherald.com/article/20140626/NEWS01/140629654/0/NEWS01/Colo%E2%80%99s-abortion-protest-law-stands-
June 20, 2014
I’ve been writing for this blog for about a year now, and in that time I’ve never written a personal post, instead trying to elucidate some of the medical and legal aspects of abortion. I’ve spent my first two years in medical school learning all I can about abortion in politics and medicine, but it’s only in the last year I’ve begun to personally experience my first brushes with the actual impact of pro-life law, regulation, and thought.
In that time I have been continually reminded of how large a role healthcare providers play in determining female autonomy, and that goes way beyond abortion. It means pharmacists unwilling to dispense emergency contraception. It means physicians at Catholic institutions forbidden from even discussing birth control, abortion, or physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. It means, from the experience of two OB/GYN residents at the school associated with my hospital, forcing a poor patient who has already spent upwards of $1000 traveling from a nearby state to take off another day of work and purchase three more nights’ stay at a hotel because none of the weekend nurse anesthetists on call are willing to sit in on a surgical abortion.
And the patient interviews I’ve conducted this year have been particularly poignant for me. It is commonplace to ask about gynecological and obstetrical issues as part of a complete history. I’d already built a rapport with the first patient to tell me she’d had an abortion; she was funny and articulate, and the interview was going well. But when I asked about previous pregnancies and she mentioned her abortion, even though I made no sign that I treated it any differently than any other part of her medical history, I could see fear in her eyes. I realized she was afraid I would judge her, maybe even afraid I would say something about the decision. She quickly changed the subject.
The second interview was even more heart-wrenching. She was pro-life, and described an extensive history of physical and sexual abuse. Falling pregnant after one of a long string of rapes by an abuser, her doctor informed her she would not survive the pregnancy if she continued it, because of a severe, possibly life-threatening medical condition he’d diagnosed. She subsequently ended the pregnancy at his recommendation. Crying, she told me her illness had felt like a “blessing in disguise” for occurring when it did, because it allowed her to end a pregnancy that would have tied her forever to her abuser. How terrible have we become, as a society, when a potentially terminal illness is a “blessing” for justifying a choice that should require no moral absolution?
Two of the pro-life physicians I’ve encountered this year have displayed prominently just how important it is to be a vocal advocate. The first I met briefing with ACOG (the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) members prior to meeting with state legislators to urge support on several bills, including the Reproductive Parity Act. During the meeting she posed her opinion that she disapproved of “abortions as a form of birth control.”
It’s one thing to hear this carefully coded language from politicians. It’s quite another to hear it from an obstetrician who should know that the majority of women who seek abortion had been using a primary form of birth control the month they became pregnant, much less in a room full of obstetricians that include multiple abortion providers, on a day intended to support a bill that would ensure equal access to reproductive healthcare.
The second was my own (former) OB/GYN in my hometown, who I discovered was the medical director of the local pro-life CPC (crisis pregnancy center), a position he failed to advertise anywhere to the patients in his practice. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I visited the CPC that week and picked up the brochure materials they normally dispense to patients.
There I found so many medically inaccurate statements presented as fact I cannot see how any legitimate medical professional could possibly support it even tacitly, much less as its medical director. (A sampling: Plan B is an abortifacient; having more than one sexual partner over the course of one’s life reduces or eliminates one’s physiological ability to emotionally bond; abortion increases one’s risk of breast cancer, infertility, and depression; abortion of a pregnancy resulting from rape reduces one’s ability to recover from the psychological trauma of the rape.)
What about the doctors of tomorrow, my own classmates? Thankfully it seems to me that the vast majority of my entering class was pro-choice, if not actively interested in reproductive health advocacy. Still, there have been a few alarming moments throughout the year. In an ethics case we were asked how to proceed with a woman who refused a Caesarian section, though the baby would die without it. It was a difficult case with no satisfying answer. Still, 5% of the class voted to force the C-section regardless of the woman’s refusal, which would be assault.
On the day of our abortion lecture, our professors played a short video of an interview with Jim Buchy, an Ohio state representative who proposed a “Heartbeat Bill” which would have banned abortion after 4-6 weeks, in which he admits he’s never considered why a woman would seek an abortion. A member of my class spoke up in support of Buchy’s stance: “If you believe a fetus is a person, I mean, it doesn’t even matter.”
I can’t help but feel that’s the overwhelming paternalistic problem with abortion opponents within the medical field: the woman’s concerns, her situation, her health, all of it “doesn’t even matter.” In the pursuit of a single moral absolute, the person most affected by their decisions simply disappears. To people who refuse to consider why a woman would seek an abortion because “it doesn’t even matter,” how can one possibly convey the desperation that would induce women to seek unsafe abortion where legal abortion is unavailable?
So what have my (admittedly few, this far into my career) experiences led me to believe about the future of medicine? It’s crucial now more than ever for pro-choice physicians to be active advocates, even if they don’t provide abortions. I worry about hospital mergers with Catholic institutions that refuse to offer even informed consent to patients, much less actual reproductive care. (In fact, the hospital associated with my medical school is undergoing just such a merger, to the worry of many students, faculty, and healthcare providers.) And while I strongly believe in the right of healthcare providers to consciously object to taking part in procedures they feel are morally wrong, I think hospitals that offer abortions should be required to have at least one member of every position required to perform the procedure on staff at any given time who do not object to helping.
And more than anything else, this last year has made me even more terrified of a future in which the pro-life movement is successful in its quest. What would this future be like for the woman who refused a C-section in our ethics case? Would forced surgery no longer be considered assault? Would it even be legal for her to refuse it? Maybe in that future, possibly terminal illnesses truly will be a “blessing” for women who do not want their pregnancies, providing not moral absolution but legal permission.
1) 51% of women seeking abortions used a primary form of birth control the month they became pregnant; most either used it inconsistently due to a disruptive life event, or used a less effective method such as condoms: Jones R, Frohwirth L, Moore Ann, “More than poverty: disruptive events among women having abortions in the USA” (http://jfprhc.bmj.com/content/39/1/36.abstract). Summary available here: https://guttmacher.org/media/nr/2012/08/21/index.html
June 13, 2014
Over the years I have come to expect those opposed to abortion to be judgmental about women seeking one, regardless of their circumstances. Pro-choice Facebook pages, such as Abortion.com, and blogs like this generate variations of anti-choice comments admonishing women for having sex in the first place. Many will “reason” that pregnancy is a gift of life from God and abortion is therefore murder. Others avoid religious reference and use junk science, unverifiable claims, and outright lies to judge.
An anti-choicer will occasionally make an exception for abortion in the case of pregnancy resulting from rape or due to a medical circumstance.Ironically, in stating their reluctant acceptance for such abortions, they can be even more harshly judgmental about women. Their comments about the frequency, or infrequency, in which women are in those situations with pregnancy minimize the trauma of the circumstances women might experience. The frequency arguments also often imply that abortion rights advocates – and pregnant women – lie about or exaggerate the circumstance. Aside from the fact that women should not have to explain why they choose abortion, if their reason is due to rape or medical conditions, they do not need anyone scrutinizing their stories or suggesting that they somehow had control of their circumstances.
Many years ago, a 16-year-old homeless woman was raped. Her fear of being placed in foster care or, worse, someone contacting the parents who abandoned her, was greater than her interest in having the rapist arrested and prosecuted. It was also improbable that she would be taken seriously as a victim – a teenaged girl living on the streets was asking for “trouble.” She pushed the trauma from her mind and continued working in restaurants to save enough money to eventually find a place to rent. Over five months after the rape, this young woman experienced what seemed to be an extreme amount of blood loss for her monthly period. At first she attributed it to having spent a day of bicycling. She was not particularly alarmed – she had given birth to her son almost two years before and had become familiar with normal changes that occur with menstrual cycles. Her past few periods had seemed light and short. Maybe this was her normal blood flow returning to normal.
Towards the end of the night, the young woman was getting weak and went to an emergency room. With her legs in the stirrups of a cold table in a cold room, almost as soon as a hurried, rude doctor began a pelvic exam, she felt a gush from her body and heard a thump on the floor. With sarcasm, the doctor told her that she had miscarried a roughly five-month-old fetus. He glared at her with incredulousness as she explained that she had been having periods and had no idea that she was pregnant. After shaking his head, he left the room.
Staring at the blood and fetus on the floor, the trauma of the rape returned to this young woman’s mind. Since she had not been in a sexual relationship for almost a year, the pregnancy was a result of the rape. She berated herself for not realizing she was pregnant at the same time she was grateful that she miscarried and did not have to find a way to have an abortion. She was humiliated by the attitude of the doctor, how quickly he seemed to blow off her surprise that she had been pregnant, especially since she had been pregnant before. The medical and administrative staff at the emergency room and at the follow up appointment a couple weeks later did not conceal their harsh judgments. The experience was so shameful that she never acknowledged the pregnancy or miscarriage on subsequent health histories requested by her doctors.
That young woman was me. Although I did not have an abortion, the experience ultimately allowed me to connect with women who did. The experience also served me well when I directed a family planning clinic. No woman should have to provide a reason for choosing abortion. However, if her pregnancy was the result of rape, I had empathy and knowledge of how she felt. When patients showed surprise that they were pregnant, I presumed that they were being truthful about having had periods. When effort was made to require rape victims to be offered the morning after pill, I was actively supportive. The psychological imprint of rape, an unknown pregnancy, and miscarriage was powerful.
In an earlier post, I wrote about how women are shamed for multiple or second trimester abortions. Instead of reinforcing that women should not feel shame, pro-choice people should be reinforcing that no one should sit in judgment or doubt of a woman who chooses abortion, whatever her circumstances and regardless of their views about abortion or sexuality. The frequency of rape, surprise pregnancies, or medical anomalies is irrelevant, not to mention difficult to accurately quantify. Through initiatives like Abortion Conversation Project, reproductive choice advocates and medical care providers have and continue to put great effort into furthering the knowledge and understanding people of all perspectives have about abortion. There should not be a stigma to abortion, women’s sexuality, or any of woman’s personal attributes. Only when people stop judging will the stigma end.
June 2, 2014
Truth be told, I love watching some of those religious stations. I just can’t help it. When I’m cruising on my remote control through my nine thousand channels, something compels me to stop when I see some sweaty, screaming preacher type railing about the horrors of abortion, homosexuality, unbalanced budgets and whatever else they want to throw in the mix. Of course, I do get a kick out of how they manage every few minutes to remind their mesmerized audience that they need a gazillion dollars for that new church that God has ordered them to build.
So, this past weekend there I was again, listening to another sermon. This one was on the role of the father of the “unborn baby” who was facing imminent “execution at the hands of the blood-sucking abortionist.” We’ve heard it all before. Does not the father, who has put so much effort into the creation of this precious little baby, have a say in whether or not that precious little baby will be EXECUTED?
“Yes! The father has rights too!” shouts the preacher to a chorus of Amens and Praise the Lords. Why shouldn’t that man who got lucky have something to say about whether the fetus lives or dies?
Scotty, beam me up.
First of all, years ago the U.S. Supreme Court declared that all spousal consent laws were unconstitutional. In the case of Planned Parenthood v Casey the Court said, well, I’m not going to waste my blogging space to review the case. You can do that. Suffice it to say the Supremes said it’s ultimately up to the woman.
But, contrary to popular belief, Supreme Court decisions are not always etched in stone. If that were the case, Plessy v Ferguson would still be the law of the land and black Americans would still be sitting in a separate section of Wendy’s. Times change. So I do not fault this preacher for advocating to change the current law.
Here’s the thing, however. The pro-life movement is very adept at arguing around the edges to suit their goals. So, for example, they will rant and rave about those later term abortions, as if they are a very common occurrence when the fact is that out of the one millions or so abortions performed every year, they constitute a small percentage of the total. Still, the pro-lifers love to show those pictures of that big beautiful baby with semi-developed extremities who is about to be aborted. That is more shocking than showing a picture of an inch long fetus. Kudos to their PR department.
The same goes for the issue of spousal consent The facts are that the vast, vast majority of men who have helped conceive a child are always involved in the decision whether or not to bring the baby to term. The baby was created out of an act of love and a couple in love will generally seek a consensus. Indeed, when a woman learns she is pregnant, the first person she usually informs is the father. In some cases, they will both rejoice knowing they are going to have a child. But if there are doubts about whether or not to have the baby, they are BOTH going to discuss it. If a couple cannot talk about that decision – one of the toughest of their lives – then that relationship is doomed to begin with.
So, let’s all keep our perspective if possible. Spousal consent for an abortion is already practiced in the vast majority of cases.
But lest there be any misunderstanding – when there is a disagreement between the husband and wife, well, it’s the WOMAN’s body, my friends. That’s the bottom line for me.
May 21, 2014
Appearing on a nationally syndicated daytime talk show five days after losing a parent is not a good idea. Indeed, I am sure that nine of 10 grief counselors would agree that subjecting oneself to a live studio audience less than a week after your father has been murdered is most assuredly unhealthy. When you compound the death with a handgun murder, multiply it by a controversial subject such as abortion, and cube it by a guest list which includes someone who you know is anti-abortion, it can only yield pain. Not your typical blunt object to the gut pain but anguish that leaves you crying open mouthed with no sound.
I was ill-prepared to say the least.
I flew to New York City from Nashville the Sunday before the show aired, or it could have been that same Monday. I don’t really remember. In fact, I have remarkably little recall of the show. I do remember meeting Phil Donohue. He was a fixture in my life since childhood. My mom watched his show daily when I was smaller—I’d say I was a child, but I was pretty much a child on that day though I thought I was so much more at the time. I guess everyone looks back on their past selves and says, “damn was I a dumbass.” Perhaps not. I do it constantly.
In addition to Phil, I met the producers and the other guests. I do recall what they called the “green room,” getting the hair and make-up treatment, someone saying “time will go by quickly,” and thinking to myself, “you will not break.” In fact, one of my most vivid memories of that day is parroting that simple phrase mantra like over and over again.
Honestly, from a choreography standpoint, the producers did an excellent job. The cast included the following players: Susan Hill, a strikingly beautiful Southern clinic owner and co-worker of my dad’s; Ron Fitzsimmons, a tough but pragmatic lobbyist and head of NCAP (National Coalition of Abortion Providers); Tavey Crist, a no bullshit OB/GYN and abortion provider who chartered his own plane to get to New York to serve as a panelist and advocate for his fellow besieged doctors; and me, the open wound. Then there was the as yet unknown anti-abortion activist named Paul Hill. In fact, we almost appeared in that order left to right on the stage, but someone—I believe Dr. Crist—was strategically placed between Hill and I.
The choice side of the cast knew one another and had worked together for some time. I was new and had only recently talked to Susan—she was instrumental in convincing me to go on the show. No one knew Paul Hill, but we all knew he was decidedly of the anti-abortion persuasion likely (as many in the anti-abortion crowd had already done) to explain how unfortunate dad’s killer’s actions were and to placate those ready to label the anti-abortion crowd as zealots with passive qualifiers, half hearted indignancy, and self serving non apologies.
I knew Paul was there to speak for the other side—the producers told me an anti abortion spokesperson was on the panel prior–and wondered nervously how the show would go, how I’d hold up under Phil’s and the audience’s questions, and whether I’d keep my promise to remain solid.
When we went live, I blanked out. I have never had an out of body experience or amnesia of the non-drunken variety; however, I honestly have no memory of the show other than small slices. When Paul Hill uttered the soon to be famous words “justifiable homicide,” though, I woke up from my somnolence and remembered why I agreed to go on the goddamned show in the first place.
My formative years were spent in abortion clinics. I visited my first clinic when I was 14, attended my first pro-choice rally at 15, witnessed protesters and their ever growing ire for the better part of my life, and lost my dad to a religious terrorist’s gun, but I had never heard someone argue it was justifiable, and I was woefully emotionally unprepared for Paul Hill and his advocacy for what he claimed he wanted to prevent: murder.
When he uttered the phrase “justifiable homicide,” it was as if Ross Perot’s giant sucking sound removed all air from the room. We were in New York City with a predominately female New York City audience confronted by a Southern, Presbyterian minister openly advocating for the murder of a doctor.
Silence typically predicates an eruption, and most of the audience was aghast at Hill’s remarks. He, though, seemed to relish the attention. My clearest memory of that day was his analogy about the “justifiable” actions of my dad’s assassin. I’m paraphrasing, but he coldly explained that dad’s assassin was no different than someone who, when confronted with a mad gunman picking children off at random in a playground, elects to kill the murderer in defense of innocent life. In his view, abortion providers deserved death and deserved it immediately, without remorse, and without consequence.
I did not break. Perhaps a combination of shock and exhaustion prevented the proverbial dam from bursting, but I did not break. I maintained my composure. I did not give in to anger and hate. I did not become Paul Hill.
I did realize, though, that Paul was right about one thing: If you believe abortion is murder, then you believe doctors are murders. If you believe in an eye for an eye type justice as most on his side do, it is only logical to conclude what Paul concluded and said on 15 March 1993: abortion is murder; abortion providers are murderers; murderers deserve death; hence doctors deserve to die. It is very simple syllogistic logic. It is terrifyingly simplistic. It is most assuredly absurd and fucked up logic, but to those of Hill’s ilk, it makes perfect sense.
Maybe someone prior to Hill and dad’s murder silently advocated for a doctor’s murder? I certainly believe Michael Griffin—dad’s assassin—did not suddenly become an anti-abortion murderer and terrorist. I think what Hill expressed that day on national television five days after the first abortion provider was murdered was said in private by many on his side for years; however, on that day, he let the genie loose. He had the appalling courage to say what many believed and were waiting to hear. In one hour of daytime drama, the bait blood clouded the water and a national spokesman was born.
Simultaneously, a palpable shift occurred in the audience. It was a man behind the curtain moment. They watched in person how the debate immediately changed, and they recoiled at Hill’s arrogance. Doctor. Crist spoke forcefully on behalf of doctors. Susan and Ron remained calm but effective in their defense of clinic owners and staff as well as in their condemnation of Hill. I simply did not break.
I know I participated in the conversation. I have fleeting memories of telling dad’s story, talking about the murder, peeling back the skin of the open wound, and allowing a small voyeuristic glimpse of my pain; yet, I did not break. As much as Donohue and the show’s producers wanted the money shot, I did not weep. I was not provoked to hysterical anger.
I never viewed the show. I never will. It was the show that launched a murder epidemic which continues to this day. We did not know, nor could we predict, at the stage how serious Hill was and that he eventually murdered a doctor, his escort, and seriously wounded the escort’s wife.. We do now, and his influence is as palpable today as it was 21 years ago.
As a result of my performance on the Donohue Show, I suddenly became abortion rights chum the antithesis of Hill’s pro-murder anti-woman blood bait. He and I crossed paths many times over the next year while the sharks circled concentrically.
May 4, 2014
John Dunkle is an eighty-ish year old anti-abortion activist who makes his base in the Allentown/Reading, Pennsylvania area. For way too many years, he has regularly protested outside of a few abortion clinics in the area and occasionally at the home of clinic staff people.
I became acquainted with Dunkle through this blog. When I posted my stuff, he immediately jumped into the fray. For several years he almost single-handedly carried the banner for the anti-abortion crowd. Of course, we disagreed on everything but I always gave him credit for one thing: he had energy. He always seemed to have an answer, a reply, a zinger to my posts or to the comments from others. While I never agreed with him, I was always candid about my support of his ability to protest at a clinic and even at a house within certain boundaries. Indeed, years ago when the pro-choice groups were lobbying hard for passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, I took a lot of heat because I felt the First Amendment protected most forms of protest and we ultimately got language in the law saying so.
So, Dunkle regularly ranted and raved. I always found it interesting, however, when another anti-abortion person chimed in because I always thought Dunkle resented someone else barging in on “his” terrain. Then, about 18 months ago, Dunkle signed off. I don’t remember if he gave a reason, but he basically said adios and disappeared. I actually wondered if he was ill.
I will admit that I missed him in some way. I’ve always enjoyed being in the middle of the great abortion debate and I’ve always relished the opportunity to articulate my very strong convictions on this very delicate issue. And I never hid behind the “choice” word. I went right to the meat of the issue and talked about ABORTION. And I took a bunch of hits for doing so.
Then, lo and behold, Dunkle reappears! Like Lazarus rising from the dead, one day he just popped up and commented on a post! WTF?
I welcomed him back, as did some of the other pro-choice commentators. We had a few back and forth repostes, no damage done, then I asked him if he was still out there protesting. He said he was, that he continued to go to two clinics and a house. It was funny because, when I read that, I almost felt sorry for him. I envisioned this worn out activist, lamely standing outside of an abortion clinic, a pathetic sight to behold, shouting to the women as they entered the facility.
And then I asked him if he felt that, after all of these years, he had accomplished anything. His answer was something like that was not for him to judge. He didn’t say he had saved any babies, that he had furthered his cause, that he had made a difference. It sounded like a tired response.
I admire anyone who stands up for a cause, as long as it is done within legal limits. At least that person stands for something and is taking part in our democratic process. But I also think of Dunkle’s family, his kids, his grandkids, his wife and other loved ones who have watched him trek on down to the local abortion clinic every Saturday. I wonder if they think he has accomplished anything?