Abortion Pill


And now it seems that you can get an abortion over the Internet.

Abortion Pill

Abortion Pill

Years ago, I was in the middle of the effort to get “the abortion pill,” otherwise known as RU-486, approved for usage in the United States.  On several occasions, I was at the table with the investors who had put up a lot of money to get the product approved by the FDA, the pro-choice groups that desperately lobbied for it and the company that would ultimately distribute it.  The company was especially conscious about security, to the point where they had an office in Manhattan but no signs anywhere announcing its presence.  Ultimately, after years of struggle, we prevailed.

From the beginning, advocates of the pill championed it as another option for women who did not necessarily want to have surgery. They also, however, got a bit hyperbolic about its impact when they predicted that the pill would “revolutionize” women’s reproductive health.  Their thought was that additional physicians would come out of the woodwork and start prescribing this pill and that it would allow women to have abortions in the privacy of their own home.  The abortion providers, on the other hand, voiced concern that the product was being built up too much and warned that a doctor who had never been involved in the delivery of abortion services before would not suddenly start prescribing the abortion pill.  Today, the pill is being used by about 20% of women having abortions and we have not seen those doctors coming out of the woodwork, although some current abortion providers – particularly Planned Parenthood – have set up small offices where they only disperse the pill.

Abortion Pill

Abortion Pill

The bottom line is that the pill is a good option, but it is not for everyone.

And now, the pill is available on the Internet.  Yep, the other day I ran across a website named http://www.abortionpillonline.com  and, honestly, my first reaction was rather negative.  First of all, the website itself looks very cheesy, very amateurish.  Unlike the website of your average abortion provider, there was no hard information, like where they were located, what doctors were involved, etc.  I didn’t

Abortion Pill

Abortion Pill

see any phone numbers.   Heck, I didn’t even know what country this business was in until I emailed them and they told me that the product was made in India and distributed from India.

Now, I don’t know all the legalities here and I certainly am not accusing this group of being less than reputable.  But this just sounds too easy for me.  When it comes to any kind of medical care, everyone needs to be careful.  Let’s face it, no matter what the medical specialty, there’s always someone out there who is eager to cut corners and make the quick buck.  In the case of the abortion pill (which is actually two pills), there’s a lot more to it that just swallowing a pill.  For example, this website just distributes the pill, it does not offer any counseling which, for some women, is very important.  And it’s hard to predict how a woman will react once she starts the regimen, physically or emotionally.  What if there’s an issue in the middle of the night?  Who will she call?  There are so many potential issues that might require the advice of a real, accessible doctor or at least a nurse.

I’m glad that women have more access to abortion services via the pill.  Going to the Internet and just ordering a bunch of pills and swallowing them belies the seriousness of the abortion process.  It makes me nervous.

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.

Abortion

Abortion

This year’s presidential election is going to very interesting, very dirty and very close.  So it’s tempting to start to dissect the individual campaign strategies because every minute decision could win or lose the race.

On the abortion issue, the lines are very clear.  Obama is pro-choice, pro-family planning, pro- Planned Parenthood, pro-stem cell research.  As we all know, Mitt Romney was pro-choice when he was Governor of Massachusetts but then he suddenly had a “conversion” about the time he started thinking about getting the Republican nomination for President from those right wingers who control their nominating process.  Now he is pro-life, anti-Planned Parenthood, blah, blah.  And although each candidate is always fuzzy on the issue of Supreme Court nominations, we know darn well that they will nominate justices that comport with their views on reproductive health.  This is a very important issue as the next President is bound to get a few nominations and that could determine the future of Roe v Wade.

Abortion

Abortion

It should come as no surprise that both of the candidates, as they criss-cross the country collecting the few votes that could make the difference, never talk about abortion.  Now, sure, I cannot say for a fact that they have NEVER mentioned it in a speech, but I have over the summer taken a lot of time watching their speeches on YouTube and as far as I can see they are not mentioning the issue.  This is very interesting to me in light of all of the talk a few months ago about the Republican Party’s so-called “War on Women.”  I’m not sure what happened to those folks who are concerned about that war, but they have been rather conspicuous by their absence.  On the other hand, if they were smart they would hold their fodder and wait until Labor Day when the race is engaged in earnest.

Abortion Advocate then convenient flip flop

Abortion Advocate then convenient flip flop

I was surprised, therefore, the other morning as I was flipping a pancake when I heard some foreboding music on the television and saw the grainy image of Mitt Romney with a voiceover telling us that he would “outlaw all abortions, including in cases of rape and incest.”   There was more foreboding music, like a soundtrack from some low budget vampire movie, and then I saw several pictures of women who were looking straight into the camera as if to say “stay out of my uterus, Mitt!”   The commercial then finishes off with a fuzzy recording of Mitt saying “and we’ll get rid of Planned Parenthood.”    Fade to black.

Now this commercial ran in Virginia, a toss-up state.  And I would not be surprised if the commercial ran just here in Northern Virginia which is much more progressive than the rest of the state.  Remember that it was the Virginia legislature that considered requiring vaginal ultrasounds before a woman could have an abortion.  So, Obama is probably being very strategic but just once I’d love to see a presidential candidate go all the way.

Abortion

Abortion

Putting all of those polls aside, polls that can be easily manipulated based on how you frame the question, I still believe that the vast majority of voters in this country are generally pro-choice and, more importantly, they just don’t think it’s an issue for politicians to be involved with.  And I think that Obama could tap into that sentiment by being a strong, unequivocal voice for “choice.”  I mean, just come out and talk about the darn issue and tell the American that “I trust women.”   In my many years in national politics, the biggest rounds of applause I heard were often when the candidate did not pull any punches, went right to the heart of the matter and told people that, while they might not like what he says, he is gonna tell them how he feels.  I firmly believe that’s what we Americans want in a candidate – a candidate with guts.  This is a great issue to demonstrate those guts.

Abortion

Abortion

On the previous blog by my friend, “Blogginfem,” an interesting discussion ensued about the use of graphic images by pro-life and pro-choice advocates.  We are all very familiar with the images of “aborted fetuses” that appear at pro-life rallies and protests.  In response, the pro-choice folks tend to discount the photos, suggesting that they are really “only” miscarriages, that the fetus is too far formed, that’s it’s a fetus that was found in Canada, as if that makes a difference.  At the same time, there are the images of women lying in a pool of their own blood after attempting to self abort.  The pro-lifers then dutifully pooh pooh the images as well.

The discussion made me wonder if these images have any kind of effect on the abortion debate?

Abortion

Abortion

Let’s take the fetus pictures first.  I’ll be honest.  In the years that I represented abortion providers, I never looked very closely at those pictures.  First of all, I get grossed out pretty easily.  I can’t watch horror movies, don’t like the sight of blood, don’t look at pictures of the kids starving in the Sudan.  So, I’ve never really examined those photos for “accuracy.”  But the bottom line is that I have seen in person the results of a late second trimester abortion and some of those pictures displayed by pro-lifers look pretty darn close to what I’ve seen in person.  Let’s face it – abortion is not pretty and pro-choicers would be better off just admitting that at some point in the pregnancy the fetus is rather well-developed and, despite that, the abortion doctor is still going to do what the woman has asked him to do.  Yes, the vast, vast majority of abortions are performed in the first trimester but the pro-lifers are doing what any other interest group in the country does – they focus on the extreme.

Abortion

Abortion

Today, when you go to a pro-life event, there’s always someone holding these graphic pictures (and they are usually the octogenarians in the movement) and it’s possible that someone who is passing by might be disturbed enough to “convert” right on the spot.  But the battle over abortion rights will be fought in the middle and without having conducted some kind of poll, my gut tells me that when someone who hasn’t given the issue much thought sees these pictures, their first reaction is probably to avoid looking at it and their second reaction is total disgust that a group of perhaps well-meaning advocated forced them (and perhaps the children in the car) to be dragged into this very difficult issue.  And that’s where I think the pro-lifers are making a strategic mistake.  Indeed, at the last few protests I’ve attended, I’ve seen fewer signs like these.  Perhaps their movement is getting smarter.

I’ll write about the use of “pro-choice” signs in the future but, for now, I think advocates of abortion rights should just stop wasting time on this particular issue.  First of all, it’s free speech.  The signs may be ugly, they may not represent the “normal” abortion, they may even be inaccurate.  But they are protected by the First Amendment.  Second, their use might be actually working against the pro-life movement.  And, third, we are always quick to argue that abortion is a woman’s choice.  Well, it’s a woman’s choice to look at the picture or not.  I trust women to be able to sort out the truth and to make the right decision.

Abortion Congress

Abortion Congress

No matter what your position on the abortion issue, I think we can all agree that our government is virtually paralyzed.  No one can get anything done and the simple explanation is those “special interests” that focus just on their particular issue.  Indeed, just about every group that does some lobbying rates Members of Congress and come election time everyone runs to see if he or she has that vaunted 100 percent voting record on their issue.  If they don’t, watch out.  Lemme give you a good example.

One of my best friends is a Congressman from Virginia.  He’s been around for many years, I’ve worked on his campaign, donated money, etc.  When he ran for Congress the first time he did something unusual – he actually ran commercials highlighting how he was pro-choice.  He won that race and in the years after that, he earned a 100 percent voting record with the National Abortion Rights Action League.   And every time a new campaign cycle came around, he received the maximum $5,000 contribution from NARAL.

Then one day, while I was at the office of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, he gave me a call.  “Pat, what the hell is this partial birth abortion thing?”   As readers of this blog know, the “partial birth abortion” procedure as dubbed by pro-lifers, entailed pulling the live fetus down the birth canal, removing the contents of the cranium to deflate the skull, then removing the fetus from the canal.  The doctor who developed this technique explained it was designed for women with small birth canals.  Well, the shit hit the fan when the anti-abortion movement discovered this procedure.  And folks like my friend in Congress, who is Catholic, were horrified.

I explained to him as much as I could about this procedure but he was clearly uncomfortable. Then, to his credit, he told me bluntly that he felt he had to vote to ban the procedure and, as much as I was disappointed, I actually admired how he had examined this issue based on the individual merits.

Ultimately, the votes were cast and he voted to ban the procedure.  At that point, it did not become law because President Clinton vetoed the bill.  The ban later became law under President Bush.

And in the next election cycle, the NARAL-PAC gave him NO money.

One vote and his 100% record was gone – and his “friends” felt they had to punish him for daring to vote against them.  As we know, several pro-choice Members of Congress did the same, including Senator Daniel Moynihan and Representative Patrick Kennedy.

This is how Washington, D.C. works folks.  Either you toe the line or watch your back.  And this is why nothing ever gets done.

Salvi Abortion

Salvi Abortion

On December 30, 1994, an anti-abortion zealot named John Salvi walked into two clinics in Brookline, Massachusetts and killed two abortion clinic workers. He wounded five others. There had been other murders, of course, but this one was different because Mr. Salvi went in not necessarily targeting the doctor. It was just a random massacre of people who were there to help women.

As a staff person for the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, I was at the Baltimore Aquarium when I got the call about the murders. On an empty tank of gas, my younger son and I sped back to the office in Alexandria and we started the drill. We gathered as much accurate information as possible (not an easy task) and issued a broadcast fax to several hundred clinics across the country. We got them the information because they needed to be prepared when their local media showed up at their door for comments. I was never presumptuous enough to suggested talking points. These folks were in danger every day of their life – they knew what to say.

I gave a few interviews as well. The one I remember most clearly was when I was flown to New York City to be on Good Morning America. Things were crazy for a while, even though they caught Mr. Salvi rather quickly after he unsuccessfully tried to shoot up one of our clinics in Norfolk, Virginia.

About a week later, an agent from the FBI called and asked to meet with me. He came to the office a few days later and he expressed concern that this latest shooting spree was something different in that it targeted “ancillary personnel.” He added that it might inspire another terrorist to “up the ante” and go after others that were peripherally involved in the abortion issue, like pro-choice advocates. My first reaction was that high profile advocates like Eleanor Smeal with the Feminist Majority Foundation and Kate Michelman with the National Abortion Rights Action League certainly deserved protection. But, although I was a relatively low profile advocated, the fact that I had been on Good Morning America caused the FBI some concern. I started envisioning a federal marshal sitting in my office every day and going with me to the local book store. But, instead, the agent just said that “you need to protect yourself.” I wasn’t sure what he was talking about and when I asked him directly he said “you might think about getting a gun.”

More Guns in AMerica than People

Anti Abortion Christians Love Guns

Now, I am totally anti-gun. If I could I would take every one away from every American, the NRA be damned. So, when he made the suggestion, I just had to laugh. Ultimately, however, they frightened me enough and a few days later I walked literally across the street where there was a small little gun shop. Hey, I live in Virginia, what can I tell ya?

I walked in and told the crust ole guy behind the counter about my situation and he calmly started talking about twenty twos or twenty threes or whatever, how certain guns feel in the palm of your hand, how you intend to use them, firing power, cost. My friggin head was spinning. Then he suggested I try holding a few guns just to “get the feel.” When he handed me the first one – a real live gun – my hand started to shake and I started sweating palpably. It’s one thing to play guns as a kid, using a stick as an imaginary AK 47, wiping out the bad guys. It’s another thing to hold a weapon that, once loaded, can actually kill a person. I imagined how I would actually use it to defend myself, where I would have to keep it on my person. I thought about having to be so aware of my surroundings that if a would-be assassin crept up behind me, I would be able to calmly turn around, whip the gun out of my pants, cock the pistol, aim and shoot before he shot me. In a more likely scenario, I visualized walking down the street at night and having an old school buddy tap me on my back to say hello. Oh yeah, I’m cool enough to tell the difference between a prolife assassin and my ole baseball buddy!

I dropped the whole idea pretty quickly. My family and I, however, did take precautions. When an unidentified box was delivered to our office one day, I called the police, they brought the dogs and after watching it for an hour, they opened the box, only to find a bottle of wine. And when Doctor Bart Slepian was later killed while standing in front of his window in his home, we kept all of our blinds closed for months and remained very aware of who might be outside in our wooded lot. In a way, it was good for me to go through these exercises as it reminded me what our abortion doctors and their staff were going through on a daily basis. They have to be aware of the cowards who might sneak up behind them or who might be stalking in the woods. These pro-life assassins should only have half as much courage as these doctors.

Abortion

Abortion

Last week I opined about the future of the pro-choice movement in response to the announcement that the head of NARRAL, Nancy Keenan, was stepping down to make room for the next generation of pro-choicers. I said I would talk a little more about what the movement could do to energize the young folks who, according to some polls, are more pro-life than pro-choice.

To me, the first issue is where exactly are we?  I mean, who is winning?

I’m not even sure how to answer that question because I don’t know how you judge.   But I’ll give it a try.

Keenan Abortion

Keenan Abortion

To me, the first thing I’d look at is whether abortion is still safe and legal?   After all, that is what we were hoping for when the Supreme Court was considering Roe v Wade, right?   When the decision came down, we were very happy, although a few pro-choicers were apparently miffed that some restrictions were imposed by the court.  Sure, today Roe v Wade is under siege, as it always will be.  There are these “personhood” amendments, most of which have failed.  But one might make it to the Court and if it got there soon, we’d win but only by a slim margin. Meanwhile, for the most part., women still have access to abortions.  Sure, if you live in Montana, it might take a little more effort to get one but specialized medical care of any nature is probably difficult to access in such a rural state.  No, the plain fact is that women can get abortions so in that regard we are “winning.”

Abortion

Abortion

Meanwhile, those fundraising letters that say the sky is falling refer to the incredible amount of activity taking place on the state level.  The vaginal ultrasound bills, clinic regulations that are really let’s close the clinic bills, parental consent, etc.  There’s a lot going on but because some of these things actually pass, does it mean we are losing?  Not necessarily.  Sure, it will only make it harder for some women to obtain abortions and make it more expensive.  And we have to fight them with all the energy we can muster.  But, in determining whether or not we are winning, I would say that a woman who needs an abortion in this country can still get one.

Once we’ve had that discussion, if I were there at the NARAL offices strategizing about how we can garner even more support for our position, particularly amongst the younger generation.  And, as I’ve said in the past, is ditch the old, weathered and nonsensical “choice” mantra.  What?  Do you think most 21 year olds, men or women, know what “choice” even means?  I’ll tell you this – my bank uses the phrase, suggesting that we have a “choice” in banks.  I’ve seen it used elsewhere.  The term has been co-opted and by using it over and over again, we lose sight of our main goal – to preserve safe and legal ABORTION.

Indeed, just recently I read about a fundraiser that NARAL is having on May 24 and it’s called the “Power of Choice” reception.  Putting aside the verbiage for a second, the thing that got me was that the celebrities hosting the event are Sally Kellerman and Amy Madigan, among other octogenarians.  Do you think anyone under 50 knows who Sally Kellerman is?   This is not the way to pass the mantle on to the younger generation.

Meanwhile, the antis use the word abortion all the time and our silence or worse, our “choice” response, is killing us.  It’s getting us nowhere.  I’m sorry, it’s just not sexy enough – and that’s what you need to get people’s attention.

So, I’d ditch “choice.”   Where I would go after that, well, I don’t have the energy at this time nor the space.  I gotta think more about that…

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