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
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.