Martini Reader

A very loyal pro-life reader who enjoys his martinis recently sent me the following note: “Dear Pat: I have read your blog for years and you are clearly the most articulate voice in the pro-death movement. Indeed, several times I have come close to converting to your side based on some of your very persuasive arguments. But after the effects of the martini wore off, I came to my senses. Now, my question is do pro-lifers have the right to break the laws that protect the killers and their helpers?’

Well, I appreciate those very kind comments.  Now, let’s get to the question.

Let me first lay out my qualifications (or lack thereof). I went to law school for one year then dropped out, so I am NOT a lawyer. Indeed, I totally bombed on my constitutional law final exam. In addition, I am a former “hippie” who actively opposed the Vietnam War but was never arrested. And I’m too lazy to do a lot of Google research on the definition of “rights.” But I’m smart enough to realize that I am somewhat of a pro-choice “voice” and that this is one of those “gotcha” questions that we all pose in the hopes of trapping our opponents and, if successful, letting the world know about it. But I really don’t care about being “caught” in a seemingly contradictory position or providing some “evidence” that I might have some reservations about the abortion issue (as I have suggested when it comes to third trimester abortions).

Still, my answer on this question is NO.

Of course, those of you who oppose abortion have the ability to break any law you want, including the one that says you can’t murder anyone, bomb a building or trespass on private property. It’s happened in the past and will happen again. So, if you are willing to deal with the consequences, folks, knock yourself out.

But I think it is inherently contradictory to suggest that you have a “right” to break a law. If that were the case, there would only be chaos. When you break the law, you are taking the chance that you will be caught and punished. Now some might harken back to our Founding Fathers who, during their deliberations on the Declaration of Independence, knew they were committing treasonous acts. In fact, many argued that they had an obligation to break the law. But I don’t think any of them would have suggested that it was their “right” to commit treason. Then, later, there were the abolitionists who felt the same moral obligation to free the slaves but they also suffered the legal consequences for some of their unlawful actions.

When I was up to my eyeballs in anti-Vietnam protests, I might have thought that I was doing the moral thing, but I never ever in my wildest dreams would have thought that it was my “right” to violate any laws. Yes, it was my right to protest, Free Speech and all, but only within certain parameters and if I chose to cross those lines, I knew I could be arrested. And, if I was arrested, I could never with a straight face defend myself by suggesting it was my “right” to violate the law.

Looming behind this question is the old “justifiable homicide” argument that Paul Hill made famous. He basically suggested that it was his right to kill a doctor who was going to perform an abortion – but no court ever bought it. Indeed, most pro-lifers never agreed with him either. The purpose of this question that has been posed is designed to get me to agree that killing an abortion doctor is legally defensible.  So, nice try, my pro-life friend, but no dice.

Enjoy your martini!

Abortion Clinic Bombed

I was talking to an old friend of mine yesterday, a doctor who used to perform abortions in the Midwest years ago.  He retired in 2004 and in the course of the conversation we started talking about, as he put it, the “wild west days” when the bullets were flying and the bombs exploding at abortion clinics all across the country.  He then expressed his concern that the younger activists do not remember or just simply did not know what was going on in this country at that time.

As a staff person for the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, I was in the middle of it all.  Our office served as one of the “command posts” that sprung into action when the crap hit the fan.  The minute we got the news about a shooting or any other kind of violent act, we would send out an “Emergency Fax” to all of our clinics alerting them about the incident.  The main reason why we did this was to simply let them know that one of their colleagues had been involved in some heinous act and more often than not the other clinics would communicate their concerns and well wishes to their friends who had just joined the growing number of victims of anti-abortion violence.  In essence, we generated a nationwide group hug.

After talking to this doctor, I started to think about the particularly “bad” years and 1997-1998 was a period that really stuck out in my mind.  Yes, by that time several doctors had been murdered and other acts of violence had been committed, but this time period was a particularly bad one:

In January, 1997, a bomb exploded outside an office building in Atlanta that housed an abortion clinic.  Then, an hour later, while the police and rescue workers were still on the scene, another bomb exploded near a trash can. Seven people were injured;

In March, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the window of Family Planning Associates and an anti-abortion advocate drove his truck through the doors of another clinic in the area.  Two weeks later, four fires were set on the roof of the Mountain Country Women’s Clinic in Montana;

In May, an arsonist drove up to the Lovejoy Surgi-Center, ran a hose from a metal drum containing an unidentified flammable liquid into the clinic and ignited it.  A month later, an incendiary device was thrown through a hole cut into the air conditioning duct on the roof of the West Alabama Women’s Center;

A few months later, a bomb exploded at the New Woman All Women Health Care in Alabama killing an off duty policeman and critically injuring a nurse.  Five months later, in the space of one week there were eight butyric acid attacks on clinics in Florida.  In these cases, the assailant injected the acid into the clinic using a syringe and because of the horrific and noxious smell, the clinics had to be evacuated, washed down and closed for several days.  This incident started a spate of similar attacks over the next few months;

Towards the end of 1998, my good friend, Doctor Barnett Slepian, was murdered in upstate New York when anti-abortion activist James Kopp fired a shot through a window in his house.

This list is, of course, a small sampling of what was going on in those days.  And, as I read this list and recall the people involved, I honestly do get chills.  I can remember the fear, the loss, the insanity and the sense of helplessness that overwhelmed all of us.

Today, there is less violence when compared to those days but that is no consolation.  History can repeat itself and so every so often I intend to write about an incident or two in more detail in the hopes of reminding those coming up behind us of the sacrifices made by the doctors, the staff and others in defending the right to choose abortion.  I also look forward to seeing our friends in the pro-life movement condemning the violence.

ACLU

You gotta love the American Civil Liberties Union.

For many, many years, the political right wing has pounded them over and over again to the point where there came a time when few people would admit they were “card carrying members of the ACLU.”  Indeed, the last time I heard any reference to the ACLU cards was in that great speech by Michael Douglas in “The American President” where he smacks his conservative opponent for NOT being a member of the ACLU.  Brings tears to my eyes.

And although being a member of the ACLU may not be as much in vogue as it used to, it’s great to see that are still fighting the good fight.  It seems that last Thursday the ACLU of North Carolina filed a lawsuit against the state to force it to produce one of those “specialty license plates” that support abortion rights.  This is in response to some action last June when the state legislature authorized the issuance of a “Choose Life” license plate.  During the debate, several pro-choice legislators offered amendments to allow for other plates with messages like “Trust Women” or “Respect Choice” but I guess the anti-abortion legislators were in no mood to be fair, so they defeated all of the amendments.  The ACLU, in its lawsuit, is now arguing that the First Amendment does not allow a state to promote “one side of a debate while denying the same opportunity to the other side.”  Interestingly, they added that their position would have been the same “if the state had authorized a pro-choice license plate but not an anti-choice alternative.”

I’m trying to think this one through a little.  So, if the state of New York had voted to allow a “Support Abortion” license plate and rejected any attempts to authorize a pro-life plate, the ACLU would have filed a lawsuit on behalf of the pro-life movement demanding that the state authorize a plate for their side?  Now, I know that the ACLU has stuck its neck out defending the KKK in free speech cases and other controversial, conservative clients, but why do I find it hard to believe that they would have run to the aid of the pro-life movement?   If anything, that would have created an interesting scenario and I chuckle thinking of the rather testy meetings of the pro-choice coalition after they learned that the ACLU would be

Pro Choice License Plate

spending its money defending the anti-abortion crowd.

As for this case, let me remind you that I am not a lawyer.  Oh, I went to law school for one year which gave me some very basic understanding of the law but I left to take a job on Capitol Hill (and the rest is history).  But I guess I’m wondering what the big fuss is all about?  I ask because, if you really think about can you remember the last time you saw a car with a “specialty” license plate on it?  And, let’s face it.  Most folks, unless they are a little kooky, are not gonna go around advertising how they feel about the friggin abortion issue, are they?  I am as pro-choice as they come, but I would never think about putting a pro-choice license plate on my car.   If anything, I would be very concerned that some anti-abortion nut ball would see my car and have a little fun with it.  I prefer to advertise my pro-choice credentials when I am questioning a candidate or when someone makes a simple statement that I disagree with.  Indeed, I always look forward to asking a candidate how they feel about the abortion issue because ninety nine percent of them don’t even want to talk about it and, when forced to, it’s fun watching them squirm.

So, I applaud the ACLU for taking this action, for fighting the good fight.  But if they lose, it’s a signal to the rest of the state legislatures that are considering taking similar action that they don’t have to worry about being “fair” and, if they win, how many people really will put a pro-choice license plate on their car?  I would hope it would be a lot, but I’m just a little cynical.  But, yes, I still have my twenty year old ACLU card!

Making Abortion Less Accessible

I really need some help sorting this one out folks.   I am writing this directly to the pro-lifers who read this blog.  I really need to get your angle on something…

So, if you are pro-life you think abortion should be illegal, right?  You generally think – although there are differences of opinions within your movement – that the doctor should go to the jail and some of you think that the woman (because she basically created the need for the doctor) should go to jail as well.  You don’t want to see any more abortion clinics because they are complicit in the killing of babies or pre-born babies or the unborn or whatever you wish to call it.  Am I correct so far?

But now, here comes the ole Commonwealth of Virginia where pro-life forces have successfully persuaded the state Board of Health to issue regulations that will govern how abortion clinics are run.  Pro-lifers say they want to make the abortion process safer for the women because there are so many sleaze balls out there performing abortions.

Okay, folks, what am I missing here?

A woman going into an abortion clinic is usually going in for one reason – to abort their fetus, their baby, their child, their – well, you pick title.  And the pro-lifers don’t like.  Indeed, they will spend hours and hours standing in front of an abortion clinic, screaming and yelling at women in an effort to persuade them to cancel their appointment.  Some will go further and threaten the doctors and their staff in the hopes that they will stop performing this pernicious act.  Some will burn down the clinic.  Oh, yeah, and some will actually get a gun or two and kill the doctor and/or their staff to make the point.

But now – wait a second!   Now these same folks want to guarantee that the abortion is performed in a safer environment.  Suddenly, the pro-lifers are now very concerned that a woman might be injured while she is “killing her baby.”  Now, they seem concerned that if there is an emergency the hallways need to be wide enough to get the gurney out to the waiting ambulance.  They now want to make sure that the air conditioning is at a proper setting, so the woman will be comfortable while she terminates her pregnancy.  In South Carolina, where they promulgated regulations several years ago, they were so concerned about making abortion such a pleasant experience that they required the clinic to regularly mow their lawn and to rid the property of all kinds of critters.  In Kansas, pro-lifers want to make sure that the woman’s personal belongings are safe so they required clinics to have a locker for each patient.  Damn the cost, they shouted!  Women should feel mentally comfortable when they are aborting.  Then, tossing a bone to the Custodial Engineer’s Association of America, they threw in a requirement that a janitor’s closet be at least 50 square feet, enough room to hang out and watch television.  Bravo to the pro-life movement!   Is there no end to their compassion?

The new temporary regulations in Virginia will be formally voted on Sept. 15 by the state Board of Health and could go into effect by Dec. 31.  Clinics that provide five or more abortions per month will then be classified as hospitals.   Supporters of the restrictions say with a straight face that their only aim is to protect women. They assure us that they do not seek to make the regulations so onerous that it will force many of them to shut their doors.  Oh, sure, they’ll still shout that women are “murdering babies” inside that facility, but they still want to make sure that everything is nice and clean in there.

Can anyone help me out here?   I’m just a little confused….

Emotional Terrorists

It seems that every once in a while, we get a new, energized abortion rights advocate who starts screaming about how every pro-lifer is a “terrorist.”  They usually also add how the Catholic Church has murdered more people than any other religion in the world, but I don’t have the time or energy to research what the Catholic Church has done over the centuries so I don’t opine on those comments.  However, I do have some experience in the world of abortion, so I would like to chat a little about whether or not all pro-lifers are “terrorists.”

I guess the first thing one needs to do is define “terrorist.”  In my head, the true terrorists are, of course, the folks who fly crowded airplanes into buildings, who blow themselves up in crowded market squares and who plot the death of innocent civilians or government workers.  You know who I am talking about:  Bin Laden, Timothy McVeigh, and that nut ball up in Norway who recently killed all of those kids.   Then there are the Micheal Griffins, James Kopps and Paul Hills of the world.  True terrorists, they.

But then, way on the other end of the spectrum, are those pro-lifers who just sit in their house, avoiding all demonstrations and who rarely opine about their position on the abortion issue.  They might pray at home or in church for an end in abortion and send some money to their local pro-life organization, but I have a very tough time calling them “terrorists” and I suspect that most pro-choicers would also be reluctant to affix that label to them.

Where I get stuck is when I think of those folks who go to their local abortion clinic on a regular basis and publicly demonstrate.  Are they “terrorists?”  Let’s talk about their motivations and their actions.

I guess your average protestorgoes to the  clinic in the hopes of stopping an abortion, whether it is by engaging in prayer (don’t even ask me how that would work) or, if they chance, talking one on one with the women as they approach the

Angry Protestors = Terrorism?

abortion facility.  Once they identify the woman, they might start screaming at them.  Some even resort to the use of a bullhorn.  Now, a woman who has made an appointment for an abortion usually is warned by clinic staff that there may be protestors outside so when she sees the anti-abortion folks out front, she knows they smell blood.  Then scream at her that she is “killing your baby!”  They may make a crying baby sound and shriek “Mommy, don’t let them pull my legs off!”  Sometimes it is just a simple “Murderer!”  The woman may have been warned, she may have seen demonstrations on television, but she is rarely prepared for this scene.  And, to top it off, she doesn’t want to be at the clinic in the first place.

Over the years, I have seen this scenario played out in the front of many clinics.  The unique perspective that I have, however, is that on a number of occasions, I have walked with the women passed the protestors into the actual clinic.  Some gave me permission to accompany them through the entire abortion process.  I have seen (and the protestors haven’t) how upset the women are when they sign in, whose blood pressure has risen because they are so angry at these strangers outside the clinic who don’t know her or anything about her personal situation.  I’ve seen women who have already shed a few tears as she contemplated her decision shed even more tears in the waiting room.  And then, after all of the theatrics outside, I’ve then seen them have their abortion.

Not all pro-lifers are terrorists.  That’s a silly statement.  But I would conclude that to the women who walked the anti-abortion gauntlet, who could feel the hatred, who heard the screaming, who would prefer to be just with alone with their loved ones – I would say that those particular women were indeed “terrorized.”

Founding Fathers and Abortion

Founding Fathers - Right to Life

It was a sweltering July day in the city of Philadelphia in 1776.  The delegates to the convention slowly make their way into what ultimately would be dubbed “Independence Hall” but on this day it was still commonly known as “Moe’s Place.”   Representatives from the 13 American colonies were there to discuss whether or not to break away from Mother England and set up their own nation.  A committee had been formed to draft a statement of principles that would publicly explain to King George and the rest of the world why the colonies felt it was necessary to declare its independence and, in effect, start a war.

The debate over the proposed resolution was intense and went on for days.  Should we actually call the King a “tyrant?”  How do we address the issue of slavery?  Should we be quoting Thomas Paine or Voltaire?   Should we refer to God?

Then, suddenly, after days of laborious discussion, a delegate raised his hand and is recognized:  “Mr. President, why is there no language that protects fetuses from being aborted?”

There are puzzled looks on the faces of those in the room then Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the document, calmly assures the delegate that his concern has been met and refers him to the section which says that all men shall be endowed with the right to “life” in this new nation so, he explains, since every baby has the possibility of coming out as a male, you cannot have any abortions!

Somehow I just don’t think that’s how it all played out.

Those who advocate making abortion a crime in this country love to cite the Declaration of Independence and, in particular, the line that says (cue the trumpets!):  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

Or is it “inalienable?”   I always get that part confused.

Anyway, so somewhere along the line the anti-abortion folks started to interpret that passage to mean that everyone has a “right to life.”  See!  See!  The Founding Fathers, those wise old men, were saying that everyone, including those little fetuses, have the right to life!   See!  What did I tell ya?  You gonna argue with the likes of Jefferson, Franklin, Berkowitz and Adams?

Okay, now let’s everybody calm down and think this through a little.

First of all, the fact is that those sage, all-knowing Founding Fathers never said a word about abortion during that long summer in Philadelphia.  The word is never found in any of the historical accounts of the process.  I mean, just think about about it.  It wasn’t even an issue in those days and they had much bigger things on their mind, like creating a new country.  Didn’t they have other things to do that were a little more important than abortion?

Second, remember that in those days, when they said “all men” are blah, blah, they really meant all MEN.  We know that they weren’t talking about women – God forbid – and they weren’t talking about the slaves either.  They were talking about all of those old white people who had the power.  So, please do not tell me that, although they didn’t give a rat’s ass about women or slaves, they did care about protecting those little, defenseless fetuses.

This is one of those arguments that is really stretching it a bit, don’t you think?

New York Times on Abortion

New York Times Abortion Article

In 1997, I told a reporter with the New York Times that I thought abortion was a “form of killing.”  I said it in the context of a story he was writing about the “partial birth abortion” procedure.  The quote wound up at the bottom of the story on page 17.  In other words, it did not create headlines and millions of women who had had abortions in the past did not come forward to demand their money back from the abortion clinics because they were snookered.  I got a total of one email from a clinic owner who was upset at my quote.  Never heard a word from the pro-choice groups.

Of course, we all know that the anti-abortion movement wants to make the procedure illegal because they also believe that abortion is not only killing, but murder.  When that doctor performs that abortion, he or she is “killing a baby,” pure and simple.  That’s where the line is drawn.  Indeed, a few have gone so far as to kill a (already alive with a family) doctor who performs abortions.

And now here comes Mitt Romney, a Republican candidate for President who years ago used to be pro-choice when he was Governor of (the liberal state of) Massachusetts.  At some magical moment, Romney got “educated” on the issue, coincidentally at the time when he was seeking the nomination in a process that is dominated by pro-life advocates.

Suddenly, Mitt Romney became pro-life!   Today, Romney believes that abortion should be “limited to only instances of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.”

Mitt Romny and abortion

Mitt Romney and Abortion

Hmmmmm.

First of all, kudos to this compassionate man who cares so much about women that he would grant them the ability of have an abortion as long as they can prove that they would DIE if they didn’t have one.  Good for you, Mitt!  Bravo!

But he would also allow the abortion if the woman were raped or a victim of incest.

So, what am I missing here?   What happened to the focus on that little 7 week “baby?”  Aren’t we supposed to STOP THE KILLING as the posters say outside the abortion facilities?  No matter what you call it, that entity that is inside the woman is alive, right?    And, if not aborted, it will continue to grow, right?  And the woman is going to the doctor to stop that process, right?

So, what’s with the rape and incest exception?    Killing is killing is killing, is it not?   Does it matter how that poor little ole baby, floating around serenely in the uterus, was conceived or by whom?  Doesn’t the anti-abortion movement want to protect that “baby?”

Of course, the answer is politics.  It’s a way for Romney (and other pro-lifers) to try to appear compassionate and moderate.  He’s trying to have it both ways.   And I suggest that it is the height of hypocrisy.

For many years, the Congress, led by the late Congressman Henry Hyde, passed a rider to an annual spending bill prohibiting federal Medicaid dollars from being used for abortions unless the woman’s life was endangered.   Then, in the 1980’s, after an intense lobbying effort, they added the rape and incest exceptions.  To me, that was also a hypocritical vote, a welcome one nonetheless.  While we were lobbying for the additional exception, it was clear that a number of heretofore “pro-life” members of Congress were uncomfortable and it because a very political vote.  Personally, I admired more those pro-life Congressmen who voted against the rape and incest exceptions.  At least they were being consistent.

So, Mitt Romney is trying to have it both ways.  We’ll see if his strategy works.

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