Abortion Documentary


Fetal parts are for sale. Yep, the terrible Planned Parenthood abortionists found and tapped into a profitable market for fetal parts, especially intact forms.

This is the basic narrative inserted into the talking points of anti-abortion politicians these days after edited videos between Planned Parenthood representatives and imposter biomedical tissue brokers surfaced. Ignored was the benefit fetal tissue provides to medical research. Disregarded was the selectivity used to decide what was fit for public consumption. Much has been made of interactions that might be suspicious to outsiders of medical and scientific research environments or appeal to the emotions of the uninformed.AR headline

Planned Parenthood can sufficiently respond to the “undercover sting videos” of its medical staff discussing fetal tissue donation. The rest of us need to respond to this attempt by anti-abortion dogmatists to impose their view of the world into public policy.  The states that have initiated investigations based on the videos found Planned Parenthood in compliance with regulations. Even if one state, or several states, unsuccessfully takes action for political value or reject continued contracts with Planned Parenthood for health services, it would be a measurement of success for this false narrative. Planned Parenthood will remain open to provide important health services, but there are other issues of which we should all have concern.

Deception and Ethics

The videos were created by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), which claims to be “…citizen journalists dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances.”  Their website appears to be focused only on promoting anti-abortion viewpoints, no other medical ethics issues. End-of-life treatment, organ donation processes, and equality in accessing medical care are among the top ethical issues one would expect to see mentioned.ethics

Why the deception when it would have been perfectly acceptable for CMP to identify itself as abortion opponents with specific, legitimate ethical questions pertaining to abortion and fetal tissue?

Honesty and integrity are critical to discussions about ethical issues.  Would abortion clinic representatives talk openly with abortion opponents? I and many others certainly have on many occasions in our roles as reproductive healthcare professionals. Did the CMP even attempt to arrange a discussion? If the intent of the “undercover” effort was to learn about the involvement of some Planned Parenthood affiliates with fetal tissue procurement, it was not necessary for CMP to engage people by misrepresenting themselves as biomedical professionals. Why just Planned Parenthood and no other providers of elective, therapeutic, and emergency abortions? Hospitals and other medical facilities play a significant role in tissue procurement, which can seem quite unsavory to outsiders.

abortion safeApparently deception and fabrication are a preferred method of operation within anti-abortion activism. Deception and fabrication are the hallmarks of Crisis Pregnancy Centers, also known as fake abortion clinics because of the their strategy to appear as if they are abortion clinics and use misinformation to dissuade women from abortion once they arrive for their “abortion appointment.”  Anti-abortion literature distributed to Congress, the media, and the public also contains incorrect, distorted, and often manufactured information. This is how the public at times believes that most abortions are late term. Or have murky ideas about parental consent for abortion in which it is compared to unrelated issues that are often guided by business policies, not laws.

It is no surprise that deceptive tactics were used to generate the storyline about fetal tissue procurement. It is nonetheless striking that there is not outrage about the deception, especially when ethics is the alleged target. Clearly, acquiring and providing information about fetal tissue procurement would not generate outrage if done without the theatrics of imposter biomedical professionals and video editing skills. Do we really want topics of importance to be introduced to public discourse in this manner? Of course not. The media would serve the public well to fully investigate the “investigators” and bring political balance to that part of the story. The notion that an organization like CMP, with a Postal Annex rented address no record of prior work as a nonprofit in the medical ethics arena, and leadership comprised of people connected to anti-abortion groups like Operation Rescue, can have traction in promoting political ideology as if it was credible news or journalism is frightening. The media failed by not scrutinizing the source before doing the reporting, especially since another group, Life Dynamics, attempted to do the same in the late nineties.

For the record, pro-choice people resorted to deception to “out” the Crisis Pregnancy Center’s fake abortion clinic charades. Why? Because CPCs claimed that they informed women that they did not perform abortions, provided factual information, and other practices did not square with what women had shared with actual medical professionals.  A hidden camera sent in by the media with a young woman proved that the experiences of other women were accurately presented.

Using the Mistruths as Truths to Further the Mistruths

Talk radio stars Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh all regularly speak of the CMP as if it is a credible nonprofit out there doing good work.  Politicians, including U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner and those running for president, refer to the videos time and again as if they were part of a documentary. Absolutely nothing revealed in the videos is evidence of anything sinister. At worst, the videos illustrate the seeming insensitivities that can develop when people work in medical settings. wd

Right wing websites are having a great time exaggerating the video content and piling on more false or misleading information. Red State claims that Planned Parenthood was “…caught…appearing to haggle over the sale of aborted baby parts.” Haggling? Not hardly. The videos revealed explanations, in clinical and business tones, about how tissues and parts are procured. Bear in mind that CMP presented themselves as biomedical professionals interested in obtaining fetal tissue. Would it have somehow been acceptable for responses to exclude information about quality of parts and associated costs?

Comments made by elected officials can be perceived as the truth. Thus, when Senate newcomer Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) states, “Planned Parenthood is harvesting the body parts of unborn babies,” to explain her sponsorship of a bill to defund Planned Parenthood, perceptions are broadly formed and shared throughout every possible medium. The tone of Ernst’s statement can conjure so many images that only perpetuate incorrect information. When Breitbart News quotes a Ted Cruz comment that the videos show Planned Parenthood representatives “confessing to multiple felonies,” it misleads, misinforms, and further polarizes people on the basis of ideology as opposed to facts. Shame on all who have made, and are continuing to make, comments implying that the videos exposed evidence of crime. Shame on all who are giving the CMP credibility, so much credibility that there are threats to shut down the government if Planned Parenthood is not defunded.

Fetal Tissue Research is Ethical and Beneficial

There has always been a market for anatomical and biological goods, including human fetal tissue and parts.  Specific companies respond to the demand for human and animal parts. College psychology departments buy brains to teach students. Medical and scientific researchers need specimens in order to learn more about genetics or real and prospective treatment options for a range of diseases, for example. Fetal tissue/parts obtained from miscarriages and abortions have been used for decades and have led to a number of medical breakthroughs, including rubella and polio vaccines. Kimberly Leonard wrote an excellent article in the August 4, 2015 online issue of US News about the contributions of fetal tissue research. Many of us are grateful for those contributions. In the August 12, 2015 New England Journal of Medicine, lawyer R. Alta Charo stated, “A closer look at the ethics of fetal tissue research…reveals a duty to use this precious resource in the hope of finding new preventive and therapeutic interventions for devastating diseases. Virtually every person in the [United States} has benefited from research using fetal tissue.”  Quite simply, it would be unethical for medical researchers to suddenly discontinue use of fetal tissue due to politically extreme ideology.

research petri dishFetal parts are not allowed to be sold – they can only be donated with consent from pregnant women after they are removed.  If profit for fetal parts is the actual concern of CMP, their time would be better spent honestly working with regulatory agencies to determine with certainty if any inappropriate financial transactions between abortion providers and biomedical tissue businesses exist. It is certain that people of all political views on the issue would abhor such a practice.

As the dribble of videos continues, no evidence of illegal activities will be presented. Instead, ideology will be promoted with the intent to cause some to rethink their views about abortion and try to stop an organization that serves the healthcare needs of so many low-income women. The effort will fail, but in the meantime, we will all have to witness the nonsense and speak up about reality when we can.

I Won’t Back Down

David Gunn, Jr.

David Gunn, Jr.

Please grant me the indulgence of a slight digression before getting to the meat of my post.  I have never been one for personal theme songs, couples taking ownership of a particular song from a particular place and calling it “our song”, and  I never believed in the “soundtrack of your life” bullshit slogan we get sold by Apple or some other company asking we consume their individuized music player cutting us off from the music’s true power which is to be consumed—not in the sense of bought in some meaningless disposable manner—but to be collectively consumed as one consumes food, nourishing your being and providing limitless sources of inspiration rivaling the written and spoken word in its power to move people to “seek, to find, and not to yield” (thanks, Tennyson).

In fact, music is one of my first artistic loves though I am not a musician.  It rivals reading and the written word in my mind, and fuels a long standing self-debate which should not matter in any capital T truth sense, but I find the question haunting—for me at least—and I have found how one answers the question reveals something of the soul for lack of a better word since I do not believe in an eternal soul.  The debate topic, my friends, is which of the following is the purest art:  music, painting—or some other graphic design, or the word?  Pure is probably a poor choice of words as it is a relative term and has no meaning we do not assign it so in simplest terms, I struggle to determine which one is better and find others’ answers to the conundrum particularly interesting and revealing.

Joyce

Joyce

Joyce argued the written word is the most powerful, and therefore, the purest art.  If you ask any self- respecting Christian, told since time immemorial that God is the word and the word is God, I believe they would agree with Joyce; however, Tolkien imagined the world’s creation through the singing of angelic type beings which is kind of ironic when you think about it since Tolkien envisioned the choral creation in writing!

Over the years I’ve vacillated on the topic but more and more find myself falling on the musical side of the debate as its motivational power transcends language.  Though great works find global appeal via translations, any bilingual reader knows any particular work’s power diminishes when not digested in the original language.  Music, though, requires no translation or modernization:  there is no New English Version of Beethoven’s Erocia for example, and if you play “Imagine” or any number of excellent modern songs most folks respond much more positively than, say, if you read a passage from Macbeth to an alien.  One of the proofs for my side of the argument is Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  When, in the movie, we finally established first contact, we “spoke” through music, not the written or spoken word.

Abortion

Abortion

I apologize, again, for the theoretical introduction and want to get down to what in the world all of the above has to do with abortion and my story.

1)     Gonna stand my ground, won’t be turned around:

I Won't Back Down

I Won’t Back Down

Though I do not believe in a personal theme song, my dad became irrevocably associated with Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.”  I remember the first time I heard the song in 1989 and I owned a copy of “Full Moon Fever”.  I argue it is one of the greatest rock albums of the 80s for a number of reasons, but I have digressed enough and am not writing rock criticism.  Dad loved “I Won’t Back Down” and sang it to himself frequently.  Petty’s ode to personal strength and fortitude hit in the summer of 1989 which, oddly enough, is when Christian Terrorism was in its embryonic phase from the standpoint of most of their terror attacks, at this point anyway, were limited to physical damage to clinics and intimidation while also employing massive acts of civil disobedience.

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 1.09.29 PMBy late 1992-93, antis targeted dad with wanted posters, stalked him, staged protests at his workplace, and otherwise eviscerated any shred of privacy he enjoyed—which wasn’t much given we lived in a very small Alabama town at the time where gossip ran through town like the river from which it took its name.  In a show of personal strength and defiance, during an anti-abortion protest on Roe v. Wade day outside of one of the clinics on his circuit, dad stood in front of the antis, sang “Happy Birthday to You” to the Roe decision, and then played Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” to the antis as a means of showing his personal commitment to provide quality health care to women even in the face of intimidation and terror.  Of course, local media picked up on the event, and a local paper ran an article with a photo of dad antagonizing those who terrorized him, and his co-workers, for years.

2)     You can stand me up to the gates of hell, but I won’t back down:

Christian Terrorism

Christian Terrorism

Twenty days later, dad lay bleeding out on the ground outside a clinic in Pensacola, FL becoming the Abortion War’s first casualty.   Soon thereafter Petty’s anthem became a rallying cry for the pro-choice movement.  Folks played the song at vigils, protests, and speaking engagements.  What was a song I immensely enjoyed, became both a personal motivator and a painful reminder of death.  I quickly became a poor substitute for my father’s courage and attempted to act as his surrogate.  Though I was no doctor and could not actually fill his void, I tried, in my own small way, to keep the providers’ travails in front of a public who did not necessarily want to understand, for any number of reasons, what doctors and clinic staff experienced on a daily basis.

Christian Terrorism

Christian Terrorism

For six to seven years, I traveled to various cities—wherever I was asked to go—to tell dad’s, and by proxy other providers’, story.  My intent was to galvanize support for the providers and to tell those who thought “it can’t happen here,” that it can and will if you do not get involved, act, and act now.  Over the course of the 90s, Christian terrorists murdered more doctors, and violence spread northward disproving the widespread belief doctor murder was a Southern thing.  During the 90s, the choice movement grew and was highly visible.  We saw court and legislative victories in the form of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrance Act in mid-1994 as well as a positive ruling by the Supreme Court in the NOW v. Scheidler case which was subsequently overturned during the farce we now know as the Bush years.  We met each act of violence with a large public outcry and response.  Roughly 800,000 people attended the March for Women’s Lives on April 25, 1994 in Washington DC including myself as a speaker.

As the 90s ended and the Bush era began, abortion, though still a target of Christian Fascists, ceded ground to the now eternal War on Terror taking a backseat to Bush’s neverending wars, civil rights abuses, and war crimes.  Though the struggle—and Christian Terror–continued, it went largely ignored by a press preoccupied with terrorists abroad while those of the homegrown ilk were allowed to regroup and gain courage from the first admittedly Evangelical President.

3)     Well I know what’s right, I got just one life; In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around but I’ll stand my ground and I won’t back down:

Following a highly abridged overview of the past 20 years in an attempt to keep your attention and this post a respectably attention holding length, I ask you to look around you to see where we are as of mid-2013.  Many Republican controlled states—mine included—passed and/or are preparing to pass regulations designed to severely cripple a clinic’s ability to remain open while at the same time making it personally intrusive and harder than ever for women to seek the medical care they feel they need.  Whether being forced to undergo a rape-like act via vaginal probe, an onerous waiting period, propaganda influenced “counseling”, or being forced to watch an ultrasound, Christian Fascists have succeeded in making a legal medical procedure virtually unobtainable in many Red states via intrusive and overly restrictive regulations. It’s funny how the party of regulatory constraint never met a regulation it did not like when abortion—or birth control or sex education for that matter–is concerned, and how the “libertarian” Tea Party Racist/Terrorists love liberty as long as it doesn’t apply to women, minorities, or the poor.

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 1.14.59 PMHell, in my state alone, where there used to be multiple clinics in three of the major cities—or at least six to nine clinics statewide–according to abortion. com, there are only two clinics for the entire state.  These last bastions of reproductive freedom risk closure due to new regulations making their way through my state’s state legislature.  In Mississippi, were there were clinics in Jackson and Gulfport at the very least, there is now one in Jackson.  Likewise, Tennessee is served by only two clinics:  one in Nashville and one in Bristol (eight hours apart at least for the southern geographically challenged).  Also, there is only one operational clinic for the women of Arkansas.

Think of the implications of the above for a few moments.  Imagine yourself a minimum wage earner in rural Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, or Tennessee who elects to undergo an abortion; in order to get the medical care you desire, you must travel at the very least 60 miles to the nearest clinic and more than likely longer.  If you are unfortunate enough to live on the Gulf Coast of Alabama or Mississippi, your travel time to the nearest clinic exponentiates drastically and may be sufficient, on its own, to force you into motherhood.  Aside from the travel obstacle, you also have significant economic challenges if you elect to travel the underground abortion railroad as you must lose at least a full day’s wage, waste at least another few days’ wages and fuel, and then endure the cost of a hotel plus the cost of the procedure itself; therefore, your medical procedure—since it isn’t covered by insurance, Medicaid, or military insurance—can cost you a month’s salary.  Given the above, it is blatantly clear for many women in the United States, though abortion is technically legal, it is not available as a viable health care option.  These obstacles do not account for the ever reducing number of providers who do not view abortion services as a career option due to the threat of violence.  Again, though abortion is legal in the USA, the Christian Fascists through terrorism, regulatory intimidation, and simple misogyny have effectively banned the procedure for many women across the county.

4)     Hey, baby, there ain’t no easy way out; hey I will stand my ground and I won’t back down:

The above encapsulates a small number of the travails women seeking abortion in 2013 face.  There are many reasons for these developments.  One, choice groups cede the local fights in Red States and instead focus on a national agenda. Two, politicians and the media cannot say the word abortion much less report on it in a way that reflects the actual disposition of the nation on the topic.  If one simply watched corporate news, you would think most people are against abortion while the converse is obviously and undeniably true in poll after poll.  Three, and this is most important in my opinion, we lack grass roots direct action to counter the actions of the Christian Terrorists.  We do this for a number of reasons primarily out of a combination of fear and shame.  Fear of how a strong stance on abortion will impact our friendships, family relations, and children as well as a shame or guilt some may feel due to their own religious beliefs.  We must, though, have the courage to educate the public as to the true reality.  Namely, we significantly outnumber those against abortion, and we must have the confidence and perseverance to unabashedly engage the public, teach the scientific truth, and demonstrate our determination to win this war on women.  Not because it is, in simplest terms, the right action but because it is just.

In furtherance of these goals, we must reorganize and have the courage to “stand our ground” and “not back down” as our children’s rights depend upon what we do now, not what we might do in the future.  I have a personal stake in this not only due to dad’s death and my own personal involvement in the past, but I owe it to my daughter to ensure she enjoys self-determination and true liberation.  If the Christian Right has it their way, by the time my daughter hits puberty, after suffering through abstinence only sex education, should she be “legitimately raped” to quote Mr. Akin, she would be forced to bear the rapist’s child.  How utterly intolerable, ludicrous, and goddamned unacceptable is that statement?  How important, then, is it we re-energize, re-engage, and rejuvenate our conviction to win this fight and win it now—and we absolutely can and will win if we take proper action at this crucial moment!

To this end, I want to announce a project I’m supporting and ask that you support as well.  Two groups of activists embarking from San Francisco and New York City are planning a freedom ride style journey across the United States set to kick off with joint rallies at each city of origin tentatively set for July 23.  The riders will tour and engage the public in areas of the country impacted most by the draconian anti- abortion regulations currently making their way through state houses across the country.  Both groups will converge on Bismark, North Dakota by 8/1 to protest the effective date of North Dakota’s fetal heartbeat legislation which goes into full effect 1 August 2013.

I believe actions such as these are not only needed but required if we as a movement are going to regain the needed momentum to re-establish our strong and solid footing in our struggle against the well- funded and connected Christian Fascists.  If you have any sense of history, you know that only through mass direct action do the voiceless gain voice, the powerless gain power, and the professed ideals of our nation actualize in reality.  Building a national movement is paramount and failing to do so is tantamount to surrender; however, I know we will not surrender to threat, intimidation, and violence because we have righteous conviction to engage the armies of the night and prevail.  To this end, I urge you to review this statement published by the Riders’ organizing committee and lend your signature/support to the growing movement by following the attached link:

http://www.stoppatriarchy.org/abortionondemandstatement.html

Lastly, I appeal to everyone to reflect objectively on the statement, sign it, and lend what support you can.  Give money to fund the riders, join the caravan when they come through your town, and even if you simply donate your signature to the statement:  that alone is taking action.  There are those of us in the movement who have been engaged for a long time—many of you much longer than myself.  You know abortion is not a foul and dirty word.  You know attaching shame to the procedure only aids the antis by keeping it in the closet and attaching a scarlet letter type stigma to what should be a private matter between patient and doctor.  You understand the effectiveness and utility of direct action because you organized and led it in the past.  You also understand sacrifice because some of you do it daily by choosing to walk into a clinic under threat of death after witnessing many of your colleagues suffer death for continuing to make abortion services a safe option for women across the country.  I know all of the above from direct experience after suffering through what the Christian terrorists did to my family.  We cannot allow it to happen to another.  We must draw a line and we must not back down.

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

I started this post with a lighthearted philosophical debate and have framed my essay using song.  To be fair to both sides, let me offer the following words of Walt Whitman as a benediction of sorts:

O ME! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;

Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;

Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)

Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d;

Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;

         

Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;

The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

Answer.

That you are here—that life exists, and identity;

That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.

Now is the time to ask ourselves about our verse and to determine what impact it has to the powerful play.  My dad’s was “I Won’t Back Down.”  Is it not time that we make it ours as well?

The Wichita Divide

Hyperbole.

I always liked that word, although it was years before I understood its meaning.  And, of course, like most Americans I always mispronounced it by saying “Hyper Bowl.”

Speaking of…yesterday, a friend of mine told me about yet another book on abortion called “The Wichita Divide: The Murder of Dr. George Tiller and the Battle over Abortion” by one Stephen Singular.  I will admit right up front that I have not read the book in its entirety and probably never will.   Immersed in the issue for years, I never read any of the books about abortion except – to be honest – to go to the index to see if I was mentioned.

So, I may be totally misrepresenting Mr. Singular’s thesis but the gist is that the city of Wichita and the state of Kansas are now hotbeds in the battle over abortion rights.  Actually, he refers to these spots as the hosts in a new “war.”  Other authors and columnists also commonly refer to the current state of the battle over abortion rights as a “war.”

Hyperbole.

I will admit that there may have been some semblance of a “war” in the 1980’s and 1990’s when abortion clinics were being bombed and abortion doctors were being stalked, threatened, attacked and killed.  It was domestic terrorism, pure and simple – and I was in the middle of it.  But I put the word “war” in quotes because, to me, a war is when two sides are engaged in the battle.  In that case, the bombs were being planted and the shots were being fired by one side only.  Yes, to be fair, the attacks were coming from a violent fringe of the anti-abortion movement, but it was a one-sided assault nonetheless.   We never shot back.

But, to define today’s situation in Wichita or the nation as a “war” is laughable.  Nationally, although there are some exceptions, the average abortion clinic no longer has to deal with anti-abortion protestors.  If they do, it’s usually a handful of octogenarians who barely have enough energy to yell “Don’t Kill Your Baby!”   After taking their morning medication, these “warriors” will grab their twenty year old sign, take the bus out to the clinic and, depending on the weather, stand out front in a pathetic effort to “save babies.”  Of course, the

y rarely succeed.  It’s actually a sorry scene compared to years ago when anti-abortion groups like Operation Rescue could conger up hundreds of people at a moment’s notice to block access to a clinic.  Protestors were regularly arrested and sent to jail.  On the other hand, I’ll bet you that not more than 10 people have been arrested in the last few years for blocking access to an abortion clinic.  At the same time, folks like Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue, Joe Scheidler and Pat Mahoney have virtually disappeared.  In fact, here is a question for you:   can you name one national anti-abortion leader?

On the other side of the coin, the abortion clinic escort movement, which helped many women get through the crowds of pro-lifers, has also virtually disappeared.  Of course, that is good news in that there is no great need for these courageous folks who volunteered their time to help women obtain an abortion.

I have no doubt that another doctor will ultimately get killed, a clinic will be vandalized, and some staffer will one night get a death threat.  But – and I don’t mean to sound cavalier about this – this is part of the territory.  When a person signs up to work in an abortion clinic, they understand the risks.  It’s the same for a firefighter or a policeman.

But, despite the occasional incident carried out by some bored pro-lifer, for the life of me I cannot fathom how anyone can suggest that there is some kind of “war” in Wichita or anywhere else over the abortion issue.    It might sell a book or two, but it’s a totally silly suggestion.

Hyperbole.

“What the hell is a partial birth abortion?”

Sitting at my desk at the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, I looked at my staff person quizzically, not understanding what she was talking about.  She had just told me about legislation that had been recently introduced in the Congress called “The Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act.”  She then proceeded to tell me about this abortion procedure.

According to the legislation and the accompanying statements, the abortion doctor would enter the pregnant woman’s birth canal and use forceps drag down the still-alive baby to the point where it’s torso was hanging outside the woman, the head still inside.  He would then inject a suction-like instrument into the head of the fetus and take out the contents of the brain.  The head would then shrink and the doctor would slide out the dead fetus.

I looked at my staff person as if she were from outer space, not comprehending what she had just described.  Now, I had seen a number of late term abortions and, believe me, they are not pretty.  But this sounded downright bizarre.  We later learned that this abortion technique had been “pioneered” by Doctor Martin Haskell of Ohio who used it because he thought it would cause less trauma to a woman with a tight cervix and small birth canal.  Indeed, Haskell apparently had attended a meeting of the National Abortion Federation and presented a “white paper” on the technique to an audience of doctors.  He referred to the procedure as an “Intact D&X.”

Partial Birth Abortion

Then – and don’t ask me how – someone in the pro-life movement got hold of this paper and it went global.  And somewhere along the line some incredibly clever person, who no doubt had a background in public relations, re-named the procedure a “partial birth abortion.”  I always thought that person deserved some kind of bonus for being so imaginative.

The pro-choice movement, on the other hand, was flabbergasted.  It was always pretty obvious to me that the pro-choice leadership had always been uncomfortable with the actual abortion procedure and those who performed them.  In fact, when I lobbied for the National Abortion Rights Action League I remember several conversations to that effect.  They all knew that abortions were not pretty and always tried to steer the conversation back to “choice,” but when word got out about this legislation, they were stunned.  Their first calls were to the National Abortion Federation, Planned Parenthood and our organization.  Suddenly, they had to talk about abortion.

My first response was to call a number of our doctors who did later abortions to see if they knew about this procedure.  I quickly learned that several of them actually used a variation of the procedure where the fetus was first injected with a drug called digoxin, thus killing it.  Then, the fetus was dragged down, the contents of the brain were removed and then it was pulled

out.

After collecting and sharing information on the procedure, the pro-choice groups had a strategic decision to make:  should they fight the bill?

My immediate reaction was that there was no way we could ultimately win this battle.  I got that sense after talking to a friend of mine, Congressman Jim Moran, who was very pro-choice and who told me he could not defend this kind of procedure.  If we were going to lose Jim, we could not win.  So, I argued that we should lie down and let this bill pass on a unanimous vote.  I gave two reasons.  The first was that as far as I could tell, if this bill became law it would affect only ONE doctor in the entire nation – Doctor Haskell.   That’s because the legislation prohibited using this procedure on a “live” fetus.   All of the other doctors killed the fetus first then they performed the procedure.  The legislation (as confirmed by the Center for Reproductive Rights) would not have affected those doctors.  The second reason I suggested we roll over was that I could see that it would be a public relations nightmare.  If we opposed the bill, it would engender a furious national debate – and there was no way we would win it.  I mean, how the hell could we go on television and justify this procedure to the American public?  Now, don’t get me wrong, I always felt that this procedure was very legitimate and, in some ways, I thought it was more “humane” than a regular D&E where the doctor uses forceps to extract the parts of the fetus.  But how the heck do you talk to the media about this procedure?

Ultimately, the pro-choice groups decided to fight the legislation.  Honestly, I never heard a real good reason given internally.   Then, on the public front, they started to argue that there were “only” a small amount of the procedures performed in the first place and that, when performed, they were used only in very extreme circumstances, such as when a woman’s life was in danger.  That started the pro-choice movement on a very slippery slope which ultimately resulted in disaster.

More about that later.

Dr. Finkel

After a while, we simply referred to him as “Finkel.”

I am referring to Doctor Brian Finkel who for many years owned an abortion facility in Phoenix, Arizona. He was an outspoken Ob-Gyn who performed abortions with a gun on his hip. He was one of the few doctors who would talk openly and honestly about his work. Check that, he never saw a microphone or television camera that he didn’t love. And today he is serving time in a county jail for sexually assaulting and molesting a number of his abortion patients. He will probably be there for the rest of his life.

I can’t remember when I first heard of Doctor Finkel, but I think it was when he called our office to inquire about how he could join the National Coalition of Abortion Providers. At that point, we had only three staff people, including me, so it was impossible to run a complete check to determine if he was a good doctor who was running a respectable clinic. Still, I did call a few people on my board but no one had ever heard of him. When I called him to talk about membership, I was impressed by his candor and his articulateness. And, truth be told, he was one of the funniest guys I had ever met.

We ultimately allowed him to join. What appealed to me was Finkel’s willingness to talk about his work. Around that time, the anti-abortion violence was really hitting the fan and our doctors were running in the opposite direction. They were either quitting their job altogether or at least going underground. But I needed doctors to talk, to share with the world their horror stories, to testify before the Congress, to tell the real story. And Finkel, who employed a professional speech writer, fit that bill.

Shortly after he joined NCAP, I visited him at this clinic. It was one of the more beautiful facilities I had ever seen, all decorated in a southwest motif. I quickly learned that he had an Elvis fixation, as his walls were adorned with all sorts of pictures and tapestries featuring The King. Indeed, Finkel referred to himself as “The Elvis of the Pelvis.” In person, I started to get a different perspective. He was rather short with his staff, often referring to them as “honey” or “sugar lips.” And in private conversations, he would regularly refer to “the bitches” who needed abortions. When he had to go into the surgery room, he would say he was going to “the vaginal vault.” He would refer to the “niggers” or “spics” who “didn’t know how to keep their legs closed.” The invectives flowed so smoothly out of his mouth that it stunned me to the point where at first I literally could not respond. I would ultimately admonish him and he would cool it for a while. Of course, being a total slob did not disqualify him from performing abortions and, again, I needed a doctor who had the balls to speak to the American public. I was very torn.

In 1994 NCAP decided to hold a press conference in Washington D.C. to urge the (Clinton) Administration to help protect abortion providers from the terrorism that was raging across the country and, with a gulp, I invited Finkel. He was a big hit. That night, our event was the first story on each of the network news shows and Finkel was the star because he was smart enough to know about props. At one point, he bent down behind his podium and held up his bullet proof vest to the cameras. “Mr. President, I need protection. I am just an Ob-Gyn in Phoenix Arizona, not an American ranger in Mogodishu.” After that, Finkel became a star. He and I were both on Good Morning America a few days after John Salvi killed several abortion clinic workers in Boston. He debated everyone, he was even on the Howard Stern show.

Behind the scenes, however, he kept telling me that the local District Attorney was out to “get him.” He even asked me to talk to the D.A., which I didn’t do. That’s because deep down I started to suspect that Finkel was a little wackier than I really thought. Then, in September 2001 everything hit the fan. That’s when a woman told a Phoenix newspaper that after undergoing an abortion in Finkel’s clinic she had woken up from sedation to find the doctor lying against her with his hands on her breasts. In the weeks and months that followed, more than 100 women reported similar allegations against Finkel to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which charged him with more than 60 counts of sexual misconduct involving 35 different women and he was convicted on most of those charges. Finkel called me asking me to intervene on his behalf but I couldn’t do it. Of course, I couldn’t prove anything but I had just seen or heard too much over the years. To this day, I wonder if there was anything I could have done to prevent those women from being harmed.

Today, on Father’s Day, I get a letter from Finkel adorned with lots of wild doodling and numerous exclamation points. He tells me how he was “railroaded” and how “justice will soon be served.” His only remaining option is the U.S. Supreme Court. So Finkel, who is now in his sixties and has about 20 years on his sentence left, will probably die in prison.

Good riddance.

Lobbyists on Capitol Hill

“We must stand up to the special interests in this country!”

How many times have you heard a politician utter this phrase? Invariably, it is always followed with a rousing round of applause, perhaps even a standing ovation. Yes! Let’s get those blood sucking, sleazy lobbyists who represent those blood sucking, sleazy special interests! Lynch ‘em!

I don’t know who is more stupid – the politicians or the voters. Or maybe they both deserve each other.

So, who are these “special interests” that we all hate so much? Well, in the context of this world famous blog we need to recognize groups like the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League and the National Right to Life Committee. These groups spend hundreds and thousands of dollars (if not millions) each year promoting their agenda and/or fighting the other side’s scurrilous attempts to bring down our Republic. So, when President Obama or Speaker Boehner assure us that they will no longer cow-tow to the special interests, what exactly does that mean? I mean, it sounds really good, doesn’t it? But let’s get past the rhetoric and play this out for a second.

First of all, EVERYONE has some kind of special interest in something, don’t they? Of course they do. And, if I recall the First Amendment, EVERYONE has the right to express those interests to their Member of Congress or any other elected official. So, if Mark Jones of Brooklyn, New York writes a letter to his Congressman opposing higher taxes, he is expressing his views on an item of “special interest” to him. When Billy Bob Horsehide of Butte, Montana sends an email to his Senator about gays in the military, he is conveying his “special interest” in that issue. EVERYONE has a special interest in something so I don’t understand why everyone says we need to eliminate the “special interests.”

Then, let’s say that Mark Jones is also anti-abortion but he doesn’t have the time or perhaps inclination to write a letter expressing his opposition to the “legal killing” that is going on in this country. Instead, he sends $100 to the National Right to Life Committee. Then, the NRLC sends its cadre of lobbyists to Capitol Hill to meet with Members of Congress to express their concern for the “unborn.” Mark is only using a larger organization of like-minded individuals to convey his position on an issue of importance to him. What the hell is wrong with that? Is the NRLC one of those “special interests” that pro-life Speaker John Boehner would seek to eliminate? I think not.

Lobbyists

Then let’s take Obama. He also has made a big deal out of promising the American public that he also will eliminate those nasty “special interests.” Let me show you how absurd that notion is. Say pro-life Congressman Chris Smith introduces a bill that eliminates abortions after 24 weeks and the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee indicates that he would like to move the bill for a vote. The committee is primarily pro-life so there’s a good chance that the bill will pass. Are you telling me that when a staff person at the White House hears about this bill, he is just gonna sit back and not give it another thought? No way, Jose. In the real world, he will pick up the phone and call – dare I say it – the LOBBYIST for NARAL to get their thoughts on the prospects for this legislation which ultimately could wind up on the President’s desk. The staff person will ask the “experts” about the impact of the bill, he will ask if the pro-choice Members of Congress on the committee should offer some amendments to mitigate the impact of the proposal. In other words, the White House staff will actually strategize with their allies in the pro-choice movement. They may even have a meeting in the Old Executive Office building with all of the pro-choice lobbyists!

Indeed, that’s how it worked years ago when I was a LOBBYIST for the abortion provider movement. I was constantly in touch with President Clinton’s liaison with the “women’s groups.” The point is the White House or those on Capitol Hill do not work in a vacuum. Nor should they. So, all of this stuff about getting rid of the “special interests” is horse hockey, pure and simple. In fact, I would take it a step further – “special interest “ groups are part of our democratic system, they are a way for the little guy to join other like minded little guys and convey their message to their elected officials.

What the heck is wrong with that?

Doctor Tiller

The other night I watched a documentary entitled “The Assassination of Doctor Tiller.”   The film followed the events leading up to the brutal murder of Doctor Tiller, a physician in Wichita who performed late term abortions.

I hated the film.

No, let me clarify that.  I think it was dangerous and irresponsible.

Let me remind everyone that I knew George Tiller very well.  We were good friends, spent a lot of time together.  We had informative conversations about his controversial work.  He was an amazing, dedicated man.  And while I appreciated how this documentary discussed to some extent his life and his work, I am very concerned that the film could incite more violence.

Of course, the mainstream pro-choice groups all think it was a wonderful film in that it documented how abortion providers have been stalked, bombed, threatened and, yes, killed.  They say it’s important for the public to know about the “domestic terrorism” that took place or is still taking place around the country.

Now, I am not naïve.  I understand there are anti-abortion protestors who continue to stand in front of clinics and harass women.  I know that some of the more unstable ones call clinics and threaten the staff.  Those with too much time on their hands will follow the doctors to and from the clinic.  Basically, a lot of stuff is still going on and abortion providers cannot let their guard down.

But the fact is that, compared to the 1980’s and 1990’s, when anti-abortion groups like Operation Rescue could get hundreds of people to block the front door of an abortion clinic at a moment’s notice,  these days things are relatively quiet.  There are a few reasons for this trend.  Years ago, the pro-choice movement (with my assistance) passed federal laws that protected clinics and women entering clinics.  Meanwhile, the number of protestors on a general scale is smaller as the anti-abortion leadership has become older and has moved on to other issues (issues that might be able to raise them more money).  Then there is a very cooperative Administration that is making sure the FBI and BATF do their jobs.  Surely, things are not perfect by any means.  For example, there are still people like Bill O’Reilly who continue to preach hatred (and who was particularly focused on “Tiller the Killer.”)  But my point is that things are much quieter compared to a decade or two ago when the shit was hitting the fan everywhere.

The film, meanwhile, focused on the heyday of Operation Rescue, particularly that time when they surrounded George’s clinic for a whole month as part of their “Summer of Mercy.”  And I guess it’s good to have a history lesson lest we forget.  But what really bothered me – and concerns me – is that the film spent a lot of time focusing on Scott Roeder, the man who assassinated Doctor Tiller.   In my opinion, that was totally irresponsible.

I am not a criminologist but I do know that history is replete with cases where someone killed

Scott Roeder

someone after being “inspired” by some other violent event.  There’s always a copy-cat killing after a sensational murder.  Just remember the rash of school shootings that occurred after Columbine.  The fact is that there are idiots out there, total losers, who are looking to depart from this world with a large bang.  They’re thinking how they’ve got nothing to lose so they decide they might as well take out 20 people at a local McDonalds and get their name on the front page of all the newspapers in the country.  These people are violent extensions of all of those folks who feel a need to go on Doctor Phil or Oprah and talk about their sex change operation or their fight against obesity.  We are a nation of narcissists and sometimes those narcissists take their need for attention a little too far.

So, imagine there is this guy sitting in his dark bedroom, which is located in the basement of his parent’s house.  He is 30 years old, he just lost his job and his wife and two kids are living in another state.  He spends all day playing video games or watching reruns of “Cops.”  He’s got nothing to look forward to.  And he’s got several guns in the closet.

Then, while channel surfing, he runs across “The Assassination of Doctor Tiller.”  He is mesmerized at the films of Scott Roeder, the confessed killer of Doctor Tiller.  He watches his wedding ceremony films and learns how Roeder lost his job soon thereafter and his wife threatened to leave him.  He listens to the ominous background music while he watches grainy films of Roeder standing quietly in front of an abortion clinic.  The film then jumps to Roeder testifying during his trial about how he started thinking of killing Doctor Tiller.  He is impressed with Roeder’s cool demeanor on the witness stand, how he admitted right up front that he did it, that he put the gun to Tiller’s head and fired.  He finds himself getting excited at all of the attention Roeder is getting and how Roeder is cool, even relieved, as he testifies.  He does not sweat a lick, even though he is going to jail for the rest of his life.  Fucking A  – he is the man!

Then maybe this guy in this dark basement starts to get his own ideas…

Protestors

It happens every day.  It’s the same pattern.  And that’s what concerns me about this documentary.  The pro-choice movement has basically done all it can to protect themselves.  They have passed every law imaginable.  But they cannot stop a lone madman from taking the law into his own hands.  If a person wants to kill and give up his own life, you’re not going to stop him.

And what bothered me about this film is that it may have given some wacko out there another idea.

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