RU486


Romney Abortion

Romney Abortion

Okay, now I am totally confused about Mitt Romney’s ever-moving position on the abortion issue.  You don’t think he is trying to cater to as many people as possible, do you?

In the past, I’ve written about how when Romney was Governor of Massachusetts he was pro-choice straight down the line.  And not only was he pro-choice in terms of legislation, he actually met regularly with staff people from the Massachusetts branch of the National Abortion Rights Action League to strategize.  They were buddies.

Romney Abortion

Romney Abortion

Then, when Mitt decided to run for President, his position on this very basic issue started to “evolve.”

Now, I can see how over a period of years someone might change their views on certain economic models or on the pros and cons of rehabilitating prisoners.  There are a lot of fuzzy areas in those issues so one could become more educated over time.  But abortion?   Gimme a break!  What is more fundamental than whether or not to allow a woman to terminate her pregnancy?  I mean, there’s something living inside the woman’s body and, if she gets an abortion, that once-living thing is no longer living, pure and simple.  How does an adult “evolve” on that basic issue?  Did Romney suddenly learn how pregnancies work?

Romney Abortion

Romney Abortion

Of course, the answer is he had to be pro-life to get the Republican nomination.  That’s because the nominating process in that party is totally dominated by right wing nut balls and you gotta pander to them if you hope to have any chance of securing the nomination.  And Romney did pander.  Oh, no, I’m sorry.   He “evolved.”

So now that he has the nomination, he’s had to shift gears again to cater to the independent voters. And to do that you have to move to the political middle.  So, the other day Mitt Romney actually declared that ““There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my legislative agenda.”

What the hell?

Is Romney telling us that when the new Congress comes to town and pro-life Congressman James McNabb from Podunk, Illinois introduces legislation banning third trimester abortions or requiring women to get the consent of their husbands, he will have absolutely nothing to say about those bills? If the Republican House of Representatives decides to pursue one of those “personhood” measures on a national level, is Mitt Romney actually going to resist the incredible amount of pressure from the pro-life lobbyists and not take a position on that issue?

Poppycock.  He just continues to pander to anyone who will listen.

I will give him some credit, however, in that he is actually being candid when it comes to Planned Parenthood.  He has said unequivocally that he will “cut off funding for Planned Parenthood”  and that is certainly an extreme position that might not go over well with independent voters.  The irony, of course, is that Planned Parenthood clinics probably prevent thousands of abortions each year but then Romney probably still has not “evolved” on the issue of birth control.  Give him 20 more years to catch up.

Hopefully, the American public, and especially those who for some unfathomable reason are still undecided, will not buy into this “it’s not on my agenda” bull crap.  Indeed, if Obama is not in another coma during the next debate, this is an issue that he should jump all over.

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.

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…

Abortion

Abortion

I want to talk about two pro-choice people who have been in the news lately.

The first is a pro-choice activist named Ted Shulman.  It seems that this turkey recently pled guilty to making death threats against Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life and Princeton Professor Robert George.  He could face up to 51 months in federal custody and will be sentenced on September 12.  He has called himself the “first pro-choice terrorist.”

Maybe I’m missing something here, but I’ve done some research and am bothered that I have not seen the major pro-choice groups condemning this nut ball.  For many, many years we have been quick to criticize the pro-life movement when they seem to disappear when one of their own engages in acts of violence or, if they do condemn the action, it is always with the caveat that “if the abortionist did not engage in the act of killing himself perhaps this would not have happened” or words to that effect.

Well, this pro-choicer is not going to play games with something as serious as this.  Let me for the record condemn the actions of Mr. Shulman and I hope he does serve his time.  What this guy did was wrong – period.

Abortion

Abortion

The other person I want to talk about is Nancy Keenan, the Executive Director of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights League, who recently announced that she will be leaving the organization after the November presidential elections.

Interestingly, Nancy said she is moving on because it’s time to let the “younger folks” take over the reins.  Now, Nancy is only 60 years old which, to me at least, still seems “not very old” but she makes a good point.

Many years ago, I was the Director of Government Affairs for NARAL.  Literally two days after I joined the staff, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a constitutional amendment overturned Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion.  During that time, millions of dollars rolled into the NARAL office and it seemed like every day we were hiring a new staff person.  Meanwhile, there were rallies all across the country, marches on Washington, television commercials.  It was a very exciting time and many younger folks were engaged in the debate.

Ultimately, we won the battle as we defeated the amendment handily.  But, once we turned back the threat to legal abortion, many of those activists left the movement and moved on to other issues.  That is ironic down side when you win something.

Then, in the ensuing years the Supreme Court, the U.S. Congress and the state legislatures started chipping away at Roe but those battles weren’t “sexy” enough to get all the troops revved up again.  There was no prominent “devil” to focus on.  On the other hand, the pro-life movement always had the fetus to keep its attention so they kept the pressure up.  Later the clinic protest movement grew bigger as some decided to take the battle to the streets, right at the spot where “babies were being killed.”

Polls can always be deceiving but generally it does appear that there are more young folks involved in the pro-life movement than the pro-choice movement.  One possible reason is that they now have their “devil” in Barack Obama, who they like to call the “most pro-abortion President in our history.”

Frankly, if I were back at NARAL, I’m not sure what I would do to try to get the younger generation more energized.  They certainly don’t remember the old days of illegal abortion and campaigns to try to remind them have failed.  Meanwhile, it’s hard to get energized about a right that they have grown up with.

Nancy has the right idea.  But she and NARAL have a tough task ahead.

Abortion

Abortion

Well, it’s January 22nd, yet another anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade which legalized abortion in this country and started a controversy that will never subside.  Please note that I say the Court “legalized” abortion – I didn’t say that they invented abortion.

I live about 8 miles south of Washington, D.C. and I’ve already noticed a number of buses pouring into town with their pro-life signs hanging from their sides.  Indeed, as I write this tens of thousands of anti-abortion advocates are standing in the freezing rain listening to the same speeches that they’ve been listening to for years.  They will hold their rallies then very soon start their march up Constitution Avenue to the U.S. Supreme Court.  They’ll be more rallies, bullhorns, prayer vigils, speak outs, women who all of a sudden “regret” their abortions.  You name it, there’s something for everyone.

Abortion

Abortion

Meanwhile, in much smaller numbers there will be the usual pro-choice “counter” events that are designed to make sure that in tomorrow’s newspapers or tonight’s news shows, there will be a pro-choice presence as well.  Also, there will be the inevitable debate not about the issue but about how many people attended the rallies.

Around and around it goes, and for all of these years practically nothing has changed.  The only thing for certain is that the number of abortions has gone down for a number of years and it is practically impossible to say why.   Personally, I just have to believe that it’s because women, particularly younger ones, are simply more educated when it comes to birth control.   But, yes, another reason may be that there continues to be an abortion stigma and single parenthood seems more acceptable these days.

Abortion

Abortion

One thing that pro-choicers will cite is the constant legislative “attacks” on a woman’s right to have an abortion.  And, yes, the pro-lifers are taking advantage of the more conservative climate in many state legislatures but a lot of those laws deal with “informing” women of the “humanity” of the fetus, making them look at silly pictures.  These laws do not seem to really have much of an impact.  Then, there are a few clinics that have actually closed, mainly because as the number of patients decrease, some clinics are hurt and find they cannot pay the rent, equipment leases, and payroll.  Like all businesses, they are affected by the number of “customers.”

Abortion Pill

Abortion Pill

And then, as Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank recently pointed out, organizations on both sides continue their decades-long pursuit of dollars.  It seems that both sides always feel a need to send out fundraising letters with large, red lettering and lots of exclamation points.  The now famous “personhood bill” is a good example.  We’re gonna see the proposal in a number of states but, really folks, if it didn’t pass in Mississippi, what state will pass the damn thing?

The bottom line is 39 years later, (less) women are still getting abortions and the clinics stand ready to serve them.

Bravo.

Abortion Thanks

Thanks for Abortion Rights

Well, it’s that time of the year again.  Time to sit back and reflect on what we have to be thankful for.  So, I’m going to get a little personal and corny here as I share a few thank yous to a few folks.

Thanks to the Lorraine Maguires and the Jane Bovards of the world.   Both of these amazing women represent many other women who for years ran abortion clinics.  Lorraine was in Charleston and Jane was in Fargo, North Dakota.  Unless you have been involved in the provision of abortion services, you cannot possibly comprehend the torture that these women went through for years at the hands of the anti-abortion movement.  Like many of their peers, they and their family were terrorized, stalked, harassed, and threatened with bodily harm on a regular basis.  At the same time, they were helping 30 or so women a week who had just made one of the most difficult decisions of their lives.  Today, both of these women are no longer at their clinics, having passed the baton on to the next generation.  But their endurance and, yes, courage is to be commended.  I thank you both and those who you represent.

Violence by Pro Lifers against Abortion Providers

Violence by Pro Lifers against Abortion Providers

Thanks to David Gunn, Jr.  On March 10, 1993 David’s father, Doctor David Gunn, was murdered by an anti-abortion terrorist.  The murder was the first that targeted an abortion provider and it made national news.  Over the next few months, this shy young man became a symbol for the abortion provider movement.  He regularly appeared on television shows, never wavering in his commitment to convince the Clinton administration that the murder of his father was an act of domestic terrorism.  He became our national spokesman and ultimately had a private audience with President Clinton on the day that Clinton signed into law the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.  A year later, David gave the keynote speech at a gathering of abortion clinic workers at the site of his father’s assassination.  I have never been to a more emotional and scary (Paul Hill was there) event in my life.  The last I heard several years ago was that David was selling insurance.  Thanks, David, for stepping up at a very difficult time.

Abortion Doctors

Abortion Doctors

Thanks to the owners/managers of www.Abortion.com, for providing women a wonderful directory of reputable abortion facilities.  As the recent case in Philadelphia shows, there are bad apples in this field as there are in every other field.  And, unfortunately, some women are desperate and do not have the resources so they wind up going to the cheapest doctor in town, which might not necessarily be the best thing.  The facilities that are listed on www.Abortion.com have been vetted thoroughly, so women should feel comfortable making appointment at those clinics.  This domain name could have been used for many other purposes, perhaps for political action.  Heck, the anti-abortion movement could have gotten it!  Thanks to those involved who secured the name and converted it into a useful tool for women seeking abortions.

Dr. George Tiller - assassinated by a Pro Life Terrorist

Dr. George Tiller - assassinated by a Pro Life Terrorist

Thanks to the doctors:  George Tiller, Lee Carhart, Sue Wicklund, Bill Knorr, Randy Whitney, Richard Manning, Gary Boyle, Buck Williams, Bart Slepian.  Thanks to Medical Students for Choice.

Thanks to the activists:  Frances Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice, Eleanor Smeal, Jane’s List, Senators Lowell Weicker, Bob Packwood and Barbara Boxer.

Finally, thanks to the abortion clinics that gave me the privilege of working for them for so many years.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone – I mean everyone – who reads my blog!

Abortion

In early 1991, just months after the formation of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, I hopped in a car and drove around the Midwest visiting clinics to get educated on the provision of abortion services.  One of my first stops was at a clinic in Arkansas.

I had a good initial meeting with the physician (who offered me a joint that he had been keeping in his desk drawer), then I met with the administrator for about two hours to discuss how clinics are run.  Very educational.  At one point, we started talking about the reasons why women have abortions and I mentioned how I’d love to meet a woman who was going to have an abortion.  The administrator responded “well, that shouldn’t be a problem.  You need to talk to Gloria.”

I learned that Gloria was in for her 6th abortion.  I couldn’t believe it and my initial reaction was that I needed to know why this was happening because, if I was going to represent abortion providers on Capitol Hill, I needed to know how to respond to charges of women “abusing” abortion. The administrator left the room to ask Gloria if she was willing to talk to me and she came back within a minute and said that Gloria would “love” to talk to me.

Gloria was in her mid-thirties.  She was what my father would call “a sassy broad.”  She was very confident, had a bee-hive hairdo and, from the crusty tone of her voice, a heavy smoker.  She was chewing gum as we spoke.  Probably worked as a waitress at the local diner.  You get the picture..

I told her that I was just hired to fight for abortion rights, which she appreciated, then I told her I needed to know why she was at the clinic for her sixth abortion.

“Well,’ she said, “the first time the condom broke.  The next time my boyfriend said he didn’t want to use a condom and threatened to beat me if I insisted on using one.  The third time, I had gone on new birth control pills and there was some problem with them, don’t remember the details.  The fourth time, I was raped by two truckers outside of the Rusty Skillet café in Little Rock.  The fifth time.  Geez, I can’t remember what happened the fifth time.  Then this time I was just playing Lady’s Luck.”

Medical Office

“What is Lady’s Luck?” I asked.

“Well, I was not on birth control, didn’t want to use a condom so I just kept my fingers crossed and hoped that I had good luck.  I actually should have just kept my legs crossed, huh?”

During her story, she kept cracking her gum and when she was done she looked at me coldly and said “Any more questions?”

I asked how she felt at that moment, knowing she’d be going in for anotherabortion in about 30 minutes.  She said she felt fine.  “I’ve been through this before, I know what to expect.”   She was a rock, ready to get on with her life.  Then, to my surprise, she asked me if I wanted to go in with her to the surgery room.  I said yes.

We walked in and the nurse put her on the table and started prepping her.  Then the doctor came in and said a few words to her before he got started.  Gloria looked at me and then reached her hand out to me. I grabbed it and she squeezed.  I then saw the doctor insert a tube into her and heard a vacuum-like sound.  I looked at Gloria and she had tears in her eyes.  I asked if she was okay and she said “I am such a loser.  I have got to get my act together.”  I started to well up myself.  The nurse asked if she wanted to proceed and Gloria said “let’s do it” and the process was complete within minutes.

Abortion

Later, in the recovery room Gloria was her old feisty, gum cracking self, ready to go out to her cold harsh world and kick some ass.  She hugged me as she was leaving and said “thanks for being there.”

When she left, the nurse came over to me and said “she cries all the time.  We always ask her if she really wants to do this and she always tells us yes.”

Thanks for the education, Gloria, you sassy ole broad….

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