No More Bullying Abortion Facilities

About ten years ago, I attended the funeral of Norma Stave, a good friend who, with her husband Carl, was the co-owner of two abortion clinics in Maryland.  Carl was the main physician who performed the abortions.  When I arrived at the church, Carl came up to me and asked at the last second if I would deliver a eulogy.  I had always been comfortable talking in front of audiences but this was a different animal.  Still, I was able to get through it, using my few minutes to praise Norma for her devotion to women in need.

Skip ahead a number of years.  Carl died shortly after Norma and their son, Todd, ultimately became the landlord for their two buildings.  About eight months ago, Todd’s clinic in Germantown, Maryland attracted national attention when they hired Doctor Lee Carhart, a physician who worked for the late George Tiller and who vowed to continue George’s work by offering late term abortions.

Victim of Anti-Abortion groups

Victim of Anti-Abortion groups

Soon thereafter, local anti-abortion advocates learned that Todd owned that building where Lee worked.  They quickly organized a number of protests, accomplished their goal of getting publicity in the local papers and have been a continual presence ever since.  Then, looking for another angle to get their names in the papers, they decided to crawl deeper into the gutter.  They learned where Todd’s 11 year old daughter was going to school and at a Back to School night, they stood outside the school with a banner that read “Please Stop Killing the Children” and the usual photos of aborted fetuses.   Then, these wackos actually put Todd’s picture, phone numbers and email addresses online and urged their followers to contact him with their “prayers.”  Todd was inundated with calls and emails.  Nice, huh?

But Todd decided to fight back.  He compiled a list of the people who were calling and emailing him and he sent that list out to 20 of his friends, urging them to call those people.  He told them to not argue with them, to just be polite and tell them that “the Stave family thanks you for your prayers.”  Well, those 20 friends passed on the info to their friends, and so on and so on and within two days they had 5,000 pro-choice folks making calls.  Interestingly, the calls and emails to Todd’s house came to an abrupt halt.

Hmmmmmm…Is Todd on to something here?

Abortion

Abortion Rights

I talked to Todd last night.  He tells me that he has actually established a group called “Voice of Choice” (www.VoChoice.org) which seeks to organize a “person to person counter campaign against anti-choice bullying.”  The people who volunteer are notified when a certain anti-abortion advocate is harassing a doctor and are given that person’s phone and/or email.  Then they start contacting that person.  Todd says they have successfully stopped the harassment in two cases already.

I have no doubt that there are some pro-choicers out there who might feel uncomfortable about stooping to the tactics normally used by the anti abortion folks.  Indeed, whether or not to use these kinds of aggressive tactics has been the subject of many conversations within the pro choice movement for years.  In fact, Todd told me that some national pro-choice groups have been reluctant to cooperate with his organization.

When I was in the movement, I always came down on the side of those who did not support stooping to their level.  I thought it was beneath us, that we had to take the high road.  And maybe I’m just getting old and cranky.  But now I say screw it.  As long as it’s legal, go get the bastards, Todd!

Mississippi

Mississippi.    

Is there a more pathetic state in the Union?   I mean, does anyone know of a state that is more regressive in terms of income, health, education, baseball teams?   Indeed, can you name a Third World country that is as bad as Mississippi?    

And, now, to push the state even further into the dark ages, their voters on Tuesday will probably pass a resolution that will totally outlaw abortion.  The specific question that the voters will be asked to approve says:  “Should the term ‘person’ be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the equivalent thereof?”   Now I can’t imagine anyone in that state who knows what the term “thereof” means, but the gist of this measure is there will be no more abortions and lots more kids to add to the misery that is life in Mississippi.  Indeed, the person who is spearheading this effort, a guy named Les Riley, is the founder of “Personhood Mississippi” and he is the father of TEN children.  I guess old Les is hoping that others in his neck of the woods will bear the same number of kids, if not more, so they can get the classroom sizes up to at least 50 kids per room which would push their rate of academic achievement below that of Somalia.  Quite a role model, that Les!

The interesting thing about this resolution is that many “mainstream” pro-life groups actually oppose it because they are smart enough to realize that it is too extreme.  But, it ain’t too extreme for the Bubbas in Mississippi.  Indeed, outlawing abortion ain’t enough for these folks.  An analysis of the resolution shows that certain forms of birth control would be outlawed (thus creating even more children living in poverty) and it would limit in vitro fertilization.  But, for now, let’s stick to the abortion side of the equation. 

This is Johnny, oh wait, Marie, oh wait "it" has no sex yet.

When the measure passes, the next day Planned Parenthood will challenge it in court and the lower courts will grant an injunction prohibiting the measure from going into effect.  Here’s the thing, however.  Let’s say Mitt Romney (or one of the other Republican nominees) becomes President in 2013.  Despite his previous support for the right to choose, he has now courageously “seen the light” and is all of a sudden pro-life.  What a guy, a true Profile in Courage.  As President, he would be beholden to the pro-life movement and

sooner or later some more Supreme Court judges are going to kick the bucket.  That means that Romney (or, conversely, Obama) might get to make 2 or 3 appointments.  If it’s Romney, you know damn well he is going to appoint judges who are pro-life and that could tip the scales. 

Yes, many lawyers suggest that the court could not uphold a measure like this because of “legal precedent.”  That’s garbage.  It might have been the case years ago when our judicial system, not to mention the executive and legislative branches, were more deferential to their body’s previous actions but not anymore.  I am convinced that when the Supreme Court gets this (or any other) case, the justices, with the possible exception of Justice Kennedy, make up their minds immediately, then instruct their clerks to construct their rationalization.  If you think they sit there objectively, listening intently to the arguments of the learned counsel then come to a decision, you’re in La La land.  I mean, think about it.  Do you really think Clarence Thomas and Anton Scalia would NOT find a way to uphold the Mississippi law?  

So, this case will ultimately make it to the Supreme Court in a few years.  And that makes the next Presidential election so extremely important when it comes to abortion rights.  I feel like we’ve been through this drill before, but this time it’s extremely serious. 

Empty Press Conference Room

About a year after we formed the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, its members decided it was time to hold their first conference.  For years, many of them had been attending regular conferences hosted by the National Abortion Federation but some of the NCAP members were not members of NAF and the NAF meetings tended to focus on the medical side of the abortion issue.   The folks who belonged to NCAP believed strongly in having a political voice on Capitol Hill.  They argued that while NARAL was focusing on the general right to abortion, they needed someone to educate the Congress on the issues of direct importance to abortion doctors and clinics.

So, we booked the new Hilton Hotel in Alexandria, Virginia, put out the suggested agenda and kept our fingers crossed.  Like anyone

who is putting on a party, we were very nervous that no one would show up.  But, much to our surprise, about 70 clinic staff, owners and doctors came to Alexandria for the two day affair.  Two of the attendees were Doctors George Tiller and Bart Slepian, who both would ultimately be murdered by pro-life activists.

To highlight how NCAP was already establishing a presence on Capitol Hill, we persuaded Virginia Congressman Jim Moran, a leader of the pro-choice movement, to kick off the event.  Jim gave a rousing speech to a crowd of people, many of whom had never even met a real live Congressman.  The next few hours were devoted to public relations and business issues.  For example, we discussed how to conduct an “open house” for abortion clinics and where to get the best malpractice insurance.

The highlight of the meeting, however, was the adoption of NCAP’s first resolution.  At that time, the clinics were under siege legislatively on both the national and state levels.  It seemed that every day a bill was introduced requiring parental consent for minors, a 24 hour waiting period, the distribution of fetal development brochures, etc.  At one point, however, an NCAP member suggested that those who were introducing these bills really had no idea how clinics opera

Proud Providers

ted to begin with and how women approached the decision.  So, the members decided to adopt a statement which made it very clear how clinics operated and how patients were treated.  So, for example, they noted that 95% of minors already talked to their parent or parents, that women DID wait at least 24 hours from the time they decided to have an abortion and that the clinics were already subject to many federal and state regulations.

The resolution was adopted unanimously and we decided to have a press conference on Capitol Hill the next day.  We quickly hired a public relations firm to get the word out.  Besides the resolution, their pitch was that this would be a

chance for the press to see in person the owners, doctors and staff who actually worked in abortion clinics.  This was a “coming out party” of sorts for our folks.

The next day, about 30 members of NCAP, all dressed up in their best Capitol Hill attire, took taxis to the House Cannon Office Building and walked into the ornate Post Office and Civil Service Committee Room, ready to conduct their press conference.  But as we walked through the large mahogany doors, we entered an empty room.  Not one member of the press showed up.  We had given a press conference and no one came.  I was totally ticked off but the NCAP members were just thrilled to be in the room and when a young media student from Georgetown University came walking in with his little camera, they agreed to stand behind the podium and make their statements.

To this day, I’ll never forget them standing there, facing that one camera, looking very proud that they had adopted this resolution and were finally showing their faces to the public.  It was just one camera but for all they knew, they could have been talking to CNN.

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!

Yellow Pages Search "The Old Days"

Once a woman decides to have an abortion, the next step is to find a facility in her area that actually can perform the abortion.  In years past, most women would go to their closet, get out the Yellow Pages and let their fingers do the walking to the “Abortion” category.  Once there, she would see a number of ads placed by the clinics.

What a lot of women didn’t realize, however, was that a number of the ads were actually placed by anti-abortion facilities or “crisis pregnancy centers.”  The ads were slick, never really saying whether or not they performed abortions.  The goal was to try to get unsuspecting women to come to their facility where they would then try to dissuade them, often using hard-handed and questionable “information” to do so.  The abuses are pretty well documented.  Indeed, once these “phony abortion clinics” were exposed, the Yellow Page Association was forced to create a new separate category entitled “Abortion Alternatives” for anti-abortion facilities.  I am intimately aware of the course of these events because I was on the staff of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers at the time – the organization that spearheaded the effort to make sure women knew exactly who they were calling.

Today, most patients do not go to the Yellow Pages for abortion services.  Heck, they don’t go to the Yellow Pages for anything anymore.  Instead, they go to Al Gore’s Internet.  And now, the problem of sketchy advertising is rearing its ugly head again.

A woman who has decided to have an abortion will probably do a Google Search for “abortion” or “abortion services” or “abortion clinics.”  If she were interested in getting the pro-life perspective, she might search for “pro-life” or “anti-abortion information” or words to that effect.  But if she wants the abortion, she will do her search, get to that page and immediately sees a number of ads listed in the “sponsored links” section.  That means those facilities are actually paying Google to be advertised in those prominent positions.  And, lo and behold, included in some of the sponsored links are some anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers!  Then, when you click into their ad and get to their website, it’s the same old story.  They use phrases like “abortion counseling,” “abortion stories,” and “abortion information.”  I searched and searched and found nothing that says “we are anti-abortion.”

Now, I get that the cpcs could argue that they are in fact providing “abortion information” or “counseling.”  But I think the more honest approach would be to say you are providing “anti-abortion counseling.”   Also, I’m sure the pro-lifers who read my world famous blog will come up with examples of how the advertising for the clinics can be “deceptive.”  Indeed, if you DO have examples let us know and we’d be happy to respond.

The point is why do folks play such games with women who are in very emotionally sensitive situations?  Why not be totally up front about what you want to offer?  Then let the women make up their minds if they want to utilize your services.   Meanwhile, I think it would very interesting if someone (perhaps those that manage www.abortion.com) sent an inquiry to the folks at Google and the other search engines asking them to devise something like the Yellow Page folks did years ago so the Internet advertising was just a little more “honest.”

Don’t the women deserve that much?

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.

Rhythm Method otherwise known as "Keep Your Fingers Crossed"

I’m not gonna talk about abortion today but I am still pretty confident that this will generate our usual exciting discussions!

A relative of mine lives in Tennessee.  He is 31 years old, has a lovely wife and makes a good living as an attorney for a big law firm.  He and his wife are very devout Catholics and faithfully adhere to all of the rules and regulations, including the one that basically says you should only have sex to procreate.  They say they use the “rhythm method,” which I frankly don’t know if the church condones or not.  But, basically, that’s their form of “birth control.”

Well, it ain’t working very well because in the last 6 years, they’ve had four children.  And I just learned that they are now expecting baby number five!  But when I saw them this weekend, I could not bring myself to congratulate them because I believe that producing five children is a very selfish act.

Now, they have enough money to raise the kids in a nice setting.  We do not have to worry about them sopping off the public dole.  And the kids will probably grow up to be productive citizens, although – yes – it is possible that one or two of the five might wind up being drug dealing psychopaths.  But, let’s be optimistic and say that they will all grow up to be wonderful pillars of society.

Here’s the problem.  The Catholics who read and comment on this blog believe that their religion is “the word,” that all of the other religions don’t have much to offer and, indeed, are way off base.  This not only relates to the issue of abortion, but to so many other issues that the church pokes its nose into.  But if it were up to many Catholics, we would all sign up with their church and join them in following the dictates of the Pope, like lemmings to the sea.  And, if we all did that, we’d all be producing 5, 6, 7 kids.

And while each one of those kids might be a “blessing,” as many suggest, I still think that having that many kids is a selfish act.  Many years ago, when we had an infinite amount of resources and it actually was helpful to have a crap load of kids

Catholic Model

working the family farm.  But that’s not the world we live in anymore.  We are using up all of our food, our water and other natural resources at an alarming rate.  Oh sure, those of you reading this might be sitting in a nice comfortable heated house but take a minute and read about the rest of the world, especially the Third World countries.

The point is that if every woman becomes a breeder reactor, the plethora of children they produced will be adversely affecting the world that my TWO children are living in.  That’s because we share the same planet, we breathe the same air.  We can just simply no longer afford to be propagating at a pace like this young couple.

And, let me throw in this wrench:  if I told you the same story and the woman was an illegal immigrant and crack addict living on welfare in the Bronx, would you still be saying that her sixth child was a “blessing?”

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