Abortion Care Network

Abortion Care Network

I recently received an email from a woman named Peg Johnston, an old friend up in Binghamton, New York who has been running an abortion facility for many years.  She has seen it all:  the murders, the bombings, the protests with hundreds of people at her front door.  And, like so many of her colleagues, she has persevered.

For many years, she was one of my closest confidants when I was the Executive Director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers.  We went through a lot together and, yes, I was a pain in the ass to her at times (or maybe a lot of times).   After I left NCAP, she helped transform the organization into what is now called the Abortion Care Network.

In the early years, NCAP was a Capitol Hill lobbying effort that represented independent abortion providers.  To this day, I take pride knowing that we actually got three laws passed that provided protection to the doctors, staff and patients who use these facilities.  Later, NCAP started focusing on the business side of the industry, putting together group purchasing plans, business conferences, etc.  What really got my juices flowing, however, was NCAP’s effort to de-stigmatize abortion.  And I was pleased when I received Peg’s email to see that the Network continues to fight to make abortion more acceptable in this country.

Abortion Care Network

Abortion Care Network

It’s hard to believe that after 40 years of legal abortion, the procedure is still shrouded in mystery, spoken only in whispers.  Millions and millions and millions of women have availed themselves of this procedure but so many of them still sit by in silence.  And that has allowed the anti-abortion movement to fill in the blanks, to demonize abortion and to make women feel ashamed for having them.

But Peg and her group continue to press the envelope.  She and her colleagues have seen women come into their facilities, leave and move on with their lives.  They continue to insist that “good women have abortions” and that abortion is “okay.”  They also believe – and they taught me – that the pro-choice movement needs to speak more honestly about the abortion procedure.  They argue that women are not stupid, that they know exactly what goes on during an abortion and it is an insult to obfuscate.  “We Trust Women,” is their catch-phrase.

Whether or not the Abortion Care Network or, for that matter, NCAP has had an impact is hard to tell.  But I can tell you personally that it sure felt good not having to worry about trying to avoid the “A” word and just putting it out there.  Sure, our candor pissed off our pro-choice colleagues at times, but we slept well at night knowing we were telling the simple truth and that, by doing so, we were lifting the veil of secrecy about abortion.

And now Peg and the Abortion Care Network are on to their next project in their never-ending battle to make abortion more acceptable in this country.  Below is a link that announces a new video contest they are sponsoring, which speaks for itself.   I encourage everyone to submit their videos, to speak out if you’ve had an abortion and, yes, to send money to the Abortion Care Network:

  http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e880uqfe81765aa0&llr=rrbrm5cab

Pro Life Violence

Pro Life Violence

I rarely read LIFENEWS, the on-line “newspaper” of the Right To Life movement, or at least the main one.  But I was recently trolling around the internet the other night when I came across this site and an article caught my eye.  The headline read:   “House Panel OKs Bill to Stop Unlimited Abortions in Nation’s Capital” and the first sentence informed us that this bill would stop the “policy of unlimited abortions throughout pregnancy for any reason in the nation’s capital.”

Abortion Washington DC

Abortion Washington DC

In the past, I’ve talked about how advocates on both sides of the abortion issue get so locked into their positions that they dare not consider that their opponents might have a point and they certainly do not question the stuff that comes down from their oh-so-sacred national organizations.  So, if Planned Parenthood announced tomorrow that they’ve learned that President Obama will soon convert to the pro-life position, their followers would take the announcement as gospel and start sending money to “help us convince the President is on the wrong track.”

Violence against Abortion Providers

Violence against Abortion Providers

So, this little nugget from LIFENEWS got my attention pretty quickly.

As my readers know, I’ve worked with abortion clinics for the last 20 years.  As such, I got to know just about every clinic, every owner and every doctor.  One thing that I paid particular attention to was how far a doctor would go in terms of weeks when terminating a pregnancy. That was important information because I would constantly get calls from women looking for an abortion and the first thing you needed to know was how many weeks pregnant they were because, if their pregnancy was rather advanced, the number of doctors who performed later abortions were few and far between.  So, I basically knew how far each clinic went.

So, when I read that there was a “policy of unlimited abortions” in the District of Columbia, I was caught short.  Unlimited?   As in, they perform abortions in our capital up to the point of birth?  Now, if there were clinics in D.C. that performed abortions up to the moment of birth, I would just say it.  Everyone knows I am unapologetic about what the clinics do and how far they go.  So, I gotta tell you that LIFENEWS and their advocates on Capitol Hill are full of it.

Violence against Abortion Providers

Violence against Abortion Providers

Years ago, there was a doctor who did third trimester abortions in D.C., but he has since cut back dramatically and is only offering the abortion pill.   Then, there is Doctor Lee Carhart, who recently relocated to Maryland where he is legally permitted to perform third trimester abortions.  Then, outside of the D.C. area, there’s a doc in Florida who performs third trimester abortions, Doctor Warren Hern in Colorado, a doctor in California then I understand there are two who do later abortions in New Mexico.  Meanwhile, I called the clinics in D.C. and found one that went to 22 weeks.

But, who cares about the facts?   Political advocates have to make their points regularly to keep the troops stirred up and, yes, to raise money.  And the troops will follow, like lemmings to the sea.

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.

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….

Pro Life Bumper Stickers

Like most Americans (the sane ones, at least), I watched in horror as our elected officials almost brought our country to the economic brink a few weeks ago with their outright silliness over legislation to raise the debt ceiling.  Despite the fact that every Congress has gone through this drill many times (including under Reagan and Bush), this time around the young Tea Partyers decided it was time to draw the line in the sand – the economy be damned.

They cried that they had been sent to the Congress to send the message that we needed to get control of the “reckless” spending that was running rampant in our federal agencies.  So, screw your silly debt ceiling, they shouted!  I don’t care, Mr. President, if you are cutting a few trillion dollars in spending.  It’s not enough!  And, while you’re at it, don’t even think about raising any taxes, even on the billionaires who could care less if they had another $1,000 or so taken out of their paycheck.   There will be no compromise – and let the chips fall where they may!

What a friggin mess.  It was a game of machismo and Obama, because he actually believes in governing this country, had to blink.

And so it is with the debate over abortion.  As followers of this award-winning blog have seen in the past, the “debate,” and I use that term loosely, generally boils down to a cyberspace shouting match where no one gives any ground, where no one dares say “hey, you got a point there,” lest they be accused of treason.  Yes, there are some who have a bottom line but at times do show that they are at least hearing the other side.  But, for the most part, it is dueling academic reports and quotations.

So, for example, a pro-lifer will make their argument invoking Genesis (“and Adam begat Cain who then begat Tommy after he smote his bro Abel all the while declaring that there shall be no abortion”) or St. Luke the Meek (“ye shall never abort a possible Savior”).  They will spend hours insisting that their book is the only one worth shit, that it is the all knowing edition that lays out everything that must be obeyed – even if you wear a turban.  It is the WORD of the munificent and compassionate God, pure and simple and, if you stray from his oh-so-loving WORD, you will spend ETERNITY SURROUNDED BY FLAMES IN HELL.  Sorry, but those are the rules.

Then there are the pro-choicers who quote their own Gods or, to be more exact, Goddesses.  Steinem, Abzug, Friedan, Madonna.  Theirs is the word, the woman’s body is sacrosanct, it’s our way or the highway.  They believe that every anti-abortion person is a true nut ball or, worse, a terrorist.  The crisis pregnancy centers are all run by freak-a-zoids who don’t give a crap about women and who, once they talk that woman into having the baby, will disappear forever.  Adios, mama, you’re on your own!  Meanwhile, the pro-choicers will insist that that damned thing floating around in there is a fetus.  It ain’t a baby you idiot!   It doesn’t matter that the mother calls it a baby when that eight week fetus is wanted.  Nope, when we’re contemplating abortion, it’s a fetus, pure and simple.

The problem in this country is that we live in a bumper sticker world where no one dares to give ground any more.  I am right and you are wrong.  End of story.  Indeed, when was the last time you ever heard anyone say “hey, you got a point there, I wanna think about that.”  OMG!  Hey, we got a wimp over here folks!  A flip flopper!  Off with her head!

So, much like we saw in Congress, the abortion debate has become one intractable mess.

Well, I’m sorry but no one has the monopoly on wisdom on this or any other issue.  The truth is always somewhere in the middle.  To be sure, I am totally pro-choice but, damn it, at 24 weeks it sure looks like a baby to me.  And while I still support the right to abort it, it pains me to see it happen.  On the other hand, to the pro-lifers out there, you are never gonna convince me that a 6 week fetus is a baby or a “person” as some of you would suggest.  Get real.

I say we toss aside the bumper stickers for a bit.

Let’s start thinking and actually TALKING for a change.

seek the truth about abortion

Seek Truth about Abortion

She was 19 and he was 21.   She just graduated high school and was working to save so money so she could ultimately attend the local community college.  She had dreams of owning her own nail salon.  He took construction jobs whenever available and had thoughts of being a site manager.  They were both good Catholics so they used the rhythm method for birth control.

Then she got pregnant.

They struggled with what to do.  They were too intimidated to go to their priest so, instead, they talked to a friend or two and some family members.  Ultimately, they decided to have an abortion.  At the time, she was nine weeks pregnant.  It was a very sad occasion for both of them but neither could envision how they could raise a child on their income and cringed at the thought of sending their child to a public school in the Bronx.  She knew, of course, that she could put the baby up for adoption but could not imagine carrying the child until birth then handing it over to another family.  She did not want to spend each day wondering what her child was doing in some other part of the country.   It was all a very sad occasion but they did what they thought was best at that moment.

Nine years later, things had changed.  They made their way out of the Bronx and started making a comfortable living in Pennsylvania.  She was a civil servant and he ran a local hardware store.  Then, she became pregnant again.  And this time they had their baby.

After giving birth, she started thinking more about her abortion and a transformation of sorts took place.  She started thinking that if she had had that first child maybe things would have turned out differently.  Maybe there could have been a way for her to finish college and turn things around.  She couldn’t stop saying to herself:  “what if?”   She started reading pro-life literature and discovered resources for women who had come to regret their abortion.  She dove in head first, joining organizations and attending rallies.

Like the others who had had similar experiences, she never went out and said that abortion should be a crime, that we should throw women and the doctors in jail for participating in the procedure.  No, their approach was more subtle than that, on its face more “caring.”  Because they knew that women knew absolutely nothing about their reproductive lives, they merely wanted to talk to them about the affects of abortion, the dangers.  They just wanted women to know the “truth.”   Their compassion for these women was dripping off the walls.

Of course, they never talk about the millions of women who have had abortions and who, dare I say it, are actually okay today!  They don’t’ talk about the person in my family who over the course of 12 years had two abortions and today has the

Anti Choice Manifestation on Abortion.ws

Anti Choice Manifestation

most amazing family.  Yes, in private conversations she will admit that she might think about the two abortions at times, but only fleetingly.  It certainly has not affected her to the point where she wants to go out and join some pro-life organization or seek counseling.  No, we can’t talk about those women.

Make no mistake about it – these women who have had abortions and now say they are total basket cases have one goal in mind – to make abortion illegal in this country once again.  They want to back to the days when women, despite the laws, sought out abortions, often with disastrous consequences.  Don’t let the sweet talk fool you.  In the back of their minds, they are thinking:  “You are killing a baby, my dear” but they will sugarcoat it by dangling before you the prospect that you will be totally paralyzed with guilt for the rest of your life if you get that abortion.

The irony, of course, is these women who now regret their abortion, including the one above, actually had an abortion!   They made the decision based on their moment in time, based on whatever information they could gather.  And this morning, there is a woman who is facing the same situation.

I have absolutely no problem if that pregnant woman wants to read volumes of pro-life literature.  She can go, if she wants, to a crisis pregnancy center and talk to their “counselors.”  The more information (if truthful), the better for her decision making process.

But, make no mistake about it.  Behind all the nice talk and the offers of assistance, the bottom line is that these women who now regret their abortions thought they were doing the right thing at the time.  And they now want to take away that decision making process from the hundreds of thousands of women each year who are in the same position.

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