Candidate's Speech

The candidate walks into the jam-packed auditorium at Calvin Coolidge High School.  The district he seeks to represent has elected both Republicans and Democrats.  The residents are independent thinkers who are very serious about the social issues of the day.  As the candidate strides up to the podium, he looks over the crowd and sees a number of pro-life and pro-choice signs.  It seems evenly divided.  Personally, the candidate believes abortion should be legal but has some concerns about its usage.  He is truly in the middle somewhere.  But the conventional wisdom says that the candidate should just put their lot into one of the camps and stick with that position.  This candidate is different and tonight his goal is to defy that conventional wisdom by appealing to the activists on both sides:

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.  I’ve been asked to give you my views on the abortion issue tonight.  Generally it is not an assignment that the average candidate looks forward to but I guess I’m a little different.  I’ve actually been excited about this prospect.

Let me start by saying that I respect those of you who are pro-life and those of you who are pro-choice.  This is probably the most controversial issue of our time and I honestly believe that all of you are well- intentioned.   Unfortunately, the media loves to focus on the negative, so they will cover the extremists on both sides.  That is not fair because I firmly believe that the average activist comes from a good place, has deep- seeded convictions and is not shy about expressing them.  Indeed, I applaud you all for standing up for what you believe.

Now, I’m gonna be straight with you.  I’m not the typical politician who tries to have it both ways.  You deserve to know where I stand.

I believe abortion must remain legal in this country.  To me, it is a matter of a woman’s health.  I am a great student of history and, as everyone knows, before abortion was legalized in this country, many women were dying from botched, unsafe back alley abortions or were being severely harmed.   We can all quibble about how many women we’re talking about but, for me, the numbers don’t matter.   Women will always seek out abortions and, if that is the case, then I prefer they be safe.

At the same time, however, I think the pro-choice folks need to fess up.  Abortion is a form of killing.  A woman sitting in the abortion clinic waiting room has something – and you can decide what you want to call that something – in her body.  It is something that, if not aborted, will ultimately become a child.  It is a living organism.  Indeed, if it was a wanted pregnancy, we would be calling it a “baby” from day one.  Then, when the woman leaves the clinic, that organism is no longer alive.  To me, that is “killing.”  It’s a sad process, one that no one wants to experience.   It’s a very sad fact of life.

Sides of the Issue

But here’s the good news.  The number of abortions in this country is decreasing.  It’s hard to say what is causing that trend, but I would like to give credit to both sides of the issue.  For example, the pro-choice folks like to emphasize birth control education.  The pro-lifers hope to “protect” women by pointing out how some women ultimately regret their abortions.  Whatever the reason, the number is going down and that is a good thing.

Now, although I support abortion, I am very concerned that some women might be getting later terms abortions for less than compelling reasons.   That’s why I would support banning third trimester abortions unless the woman’s life was endangered or if there was a possibility of her experiencing severe health consequences.   I don’t think a woman should have an abortion at that stage for some less-than-serious reason.

I will add that I can support the work of so-called crisis pregnancy centers as long as they are totally candid up front about their opposition to abortion.  If a woman clearly understands that she is basically going into a pro-life center andshe still wants to talk to them, then go for it.  I have no problem with that.   In addition, I will vigorously support the right of pro-life activists to protest in front of a clinic.   That is the essence of the First Amendment.

Although I support legal abortion, I am torn about the use of taxpayer’s dollars for abortions.   I understand how the pro-lifers don’t want their tax dollars used to fund something that they find morally objectionable and they have all the right in the world to try to pass laws restricting the use of those dollars.  Indeed, in my earlier days I supported efforts to de-fund the Vietnam War.   On the other hand, I am troubled by the thought of a woman on welfare with four children not being able to use her Medicaid card for an abortion because it means we all will be paying more money to help her raise yet another (unwanted) child.    It’s a tough one for me and I would like to sit down with representatives on both sides of that issue.

Abortion is not a black and white issue to me.  It is very, very complicated.  In the meantime, however, if I am elected to Congress I will work hard to make it easier for couples to adopt, I will support using federal dollars for contraceptives.   I will support any educational effort that has the same goal as we all do – to eliminate the need for abortion in this country.  I ask you all to consider supporting me.  I support legal abortion but I will work as hard as anybody to eliminate the need for it.

Thank you very much.

Clinton Signing a Document

September, 1993.

Six months after the assassination of Doctor David Gunn.

I was sitting at my desk in the offices of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, thinking about the memorial we were going to hold in Pensacola, Florida in March to commemorate the first anniversary of David’s brutal murder.  We had decided, with some trepidation, to have an open air event with our doctors and clinic staff at the site where David was killed earlier that year.

We knew it was going to be an extremely emotional and solemn event and those who had decided to go were clearly on edge.  I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic so I started thinking about something I could do to make this event one that they would never forget.  So, I picked up the phone and called a friend of mine who worked at the White House.

After exchanging a few pleasantries, I said “Betsy, we’re doing this event in March of next year and I think the President should send our folks a message of support.”  You could hear a pin drop.  You see, at that point it was clear that President Clinton was pro-choice but to ask him to actually acknowledge the work of abortion doctors was taking things to a whole new level.   No president had ever even mentioned the doctors and staff who worked in our clinics.  It was the same old story:  you could say you were pro-choice but no politician would actually talk about abortion, especially the President.  So, I knew I was pushing the envelope.

“Are you out of your mind?” she asked.

I then went on for another few minutes and, at the end of the conversation she said “let me see what I can do.”

The conversations went on for weeks but to me the good news was that they were still going on.  By December, no one in the White House chain had said “no.”  Then, in early January, Betsy called me and said “I still cannot promise anything, we’re going back and forth on this but why don’t you draft something up for us?’  Within two hours I had drafted a letter from President Bill Clinton praising the doctors and staff for the work they performed.  I gulped and faxed it over to her.

Several more weeks went by and I heard nothing.  By now, the details of the event were all set.  We planned on having the outdoor ceremony at the site of David’s murder and, after some remarks by staff people who worked for David Gunn, I would give a speech.  It was my hope to start it off by reading this first of its kind letter from the President of the United States.

A few days before we were going to fly to Pensacola, I still hadn’t heard anything.  I kept calling and getting no response.  I figured it was done.  Then, the day before my flight Betsy called me. “We’re talking to him today about it.”   HIM?  As in the President?   Yep, she said casually.  My heart was in my throat.  And then I didn’t hear from her the rest of the day.

The next day my flight was scheduled to leave at 2:00 p.m.  At 10:30 Betsy called me and said “he approved the letter.”  I seriously had tears in my eyes when I asked her when it would get to the office.  “We just sent it by courier.”  Literally about 30 minutes before I had to leave, the letter in a White House envelope was in my hands and it stayed with me all the way down to Pensacola.

On the day of the event, as about 100 abortion providers sat outside in the Pensacola sun, I opened up the ceremony and announced that I “had a letter from a friend.”   Without identifying who the letter was from (no one was in on the secret except my staff), I started reading the letter which congratulated “those of you who offer abortion services to thousands and thousands of women each year.”  One person later told me that she thought I was going to announce that the letter was from some “lame pro-choice congressman.”

Then, towards the end of this wonderful letter, I read the last paragraph which started “So, Hillary and I want to extend to you…”  I could barely get the words out and the crowd collectively gasped.  I have the tape of this event you can hear one person say out loud “Holy Shit!”  I could see people actually crying as I (barely) finished the letter.

The President of the United States had finally recognized them.  In the years that followed, the President used other occasions to congratulate our group but by then it was “old hat.”  It was getting him to do it for the first time that took all the work – and it was worth it.

Today, the letter hangs on my wall.

Roe V. Wade 38th Anniversary

Well, today is the 38th anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision!

So, now what do I say?

I guess when you have an anniversary you usually assess where you are, right?   So, let’ see where we are.

Of course, all the pro-choicers (who are fed by the pro-choice organizations) are going bonkers because the Republicans have taken over the U.S. House of Representatives.  All of the scary, red-lettered fundraising letters have gone out warning folks that ABORTION RIGHTS ARE IN DANGER!  I’ve written about this before and I’ll say what I said earlier – relax folks.  Just keep in mind that WHEN the House and IF the Senate passes some terrible piece of anti-abortion legislation, ain’t nothing gonna happen because ole Barack will be there to save the day with his veto pen.  But, of course, national organizations need to raise money to stay in business and they need to scare you to make you write a check.  So, keep everything in perspective folks (but it does not hurt to send the money in anyway).

When I think about what life was like over 38 years ago – before abortion was legal in this country – I can’t help to think about this nut ball doctor up in Philadelphia who a few days ago was indicted on several counts of MURDER for basically performing “illegal” abortions.  Now, I have not had the time to look closely at the indictment and, frankly, I’ve never heard of this guy but the only thing I thought of when I heard the news was that what he was doing was just how it worked in the old days.  We had all these sleazy illegal abortionists with unqualified staff, using unsterilized instruments and offering no counseling.  As a result, women throughout the country were being harmed physically and, worse, dying.  This guy up in Philadelphia is just an old “abortionist.”   Unfortunately, it’s someone like that who makes the headline and that, of course, gives the legitimate doctors a bad rap by association.

In the grand scheme of things, I can see how certain anti-abortion folks are so totally fixated on “saving” that fetus.  It’s just their thing and I am not qualified to psychoanalyze their thinking (I’ll leave that up to CG).  But while these folks are seemingly mesmerized by the quest to “save babies” do they not see what might happen if abortion were made illegal again in this country?  Do they not see what happened up in Philadelphia recently?  Do they have absolutely no compassion for the real, live, breathing woman?   I mean, they’re not all totally myopic, are they?

I think I know the answer that the pro-lifers will give me, I’ve certainly heard enough of the rhetoric over the years.  But, at least at this time, 38 years later, I can breathe a sigh of relief that in 1973 the Supreme Court in 1973 was brave and smart enough to realize what they were doing.  They struck a blow for woman’s health and that’s what I choose to celebrate today.

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?

When I was at the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, one thing I did on a regular basis was have conversations with leaders of national anti-abortion organizations.  I did so in the hopes that they would get a better understanding of the abortion process, the abortion doctors and the women who desired abortions.  If I had any kind of agenda, it was the hope that if these leaders understood more about the reality of abortion, they might be more inclined to tone down their rhetoric a little (and thus be less likely to incite some would-be assassin).   Also, to be honest, it was a good way for me to test my debating skills.

One person I spoke to on a regular basis was Father Frank Pavone, the Director of “Priests for Life.”  We

Father Frank Pavone

met maybe twice a year formally and occasionally ran into each other at protests and other events.  I know that Frank was always grateful for my candor.  I have to admit it was often a one way conversation in that I was trying to educate him on why clinics did what they did.  Still, he always said that he got a lot out of our conversations, but who knows?

One day, during one of our meetings, he asked if I might be interested in meeting with a bunch of “his folks.”  Not being shy, I said I’d meet with anyone.  So, he invited me to come up to Staten Island to his “national headquarters” to meet with a group of his priests and staff.   I jumped at the opportunity.

When I arrived at his office I was warmly greeted by the receptionist and other staff.  I have no doubt they were alerted to the fact that I was coming.  I wasn’t nervous at all.  Indeed, I felt like some of them were more nervous than me.  I have to say I was excited about being in the “lion’s den.”  Frank eventually came out, got me a cup of coffee and we talked for a bit in his private office.  He then walked me down the hall to a large conference room.

Seated around a conference table were about 20 priests.  I sat at the head of the table.  It was a very strange feeling (as a former Catholic) to be surrounded by them but I was not nervous at all. I was totally ready for any of their questions.

I kidded around about being a “former Catholic” then went into a 20 minute monologue.  I talked about who our doctors were and what motivated them, I admitted that there were bad doctors that we wished we could close down, I confessed that our clinics are not perfect, that some women do ultimately regret their abortions, that abortion is a form of killing, that late term abortions, although rare, were “gross,” that I totally defended their right to protest at a clinic, that women know they are aborting some kind of “life”, that our clinics tried desperately to make sure the woman never came back, that some doctors do make a nice living but that a lot of them gave away their services, that the number of abortions fortunately was going down and that a number of clinic staff also talk to their local antis.

When I was done, I apologized for going on so long and said I’d be happy to answer any questions.

You could hear a pin drop.  Cue the crickets.

Indeed, it got very awkward so I chimed in and said “C’mon folks, hit me with everything you got!”  They chuckled and Frank looked around and said “any questions?”

Ultimately, one young priest shyly raised his hand and said “Do you know Doctor Tiller?

I said I did.  Waiting for some zinger about third trimester abortions, I braced myself for the follow-up.

“Well, what is he really like?”

This is it?   This was their tough question?

I answered the question but while I was talking, I realized what I had just done.  I had thought of practically every charge or accusation that they could come up with and answered all of them as honestly and candidly as possible.  I laid it all on the table.  Geez, I had told the priests that abortion was “killing” and, after that, they didn’t know what to say in response.

Ultimately, at one point some older priest with an edge to him asked me about the “partial birth abortion” procedure.  I first surprised him when I said that the procedure, as described by the anti-abortion movement, was basically accurate.  That surprised them because they were used to hearing the pro-choice groups say that there was no such thing as a “partial birth abortion.”  I said I don’t care what you call it but there is such a procedure.  I then I added that I felt that in some ways the PBA was a more “humane” form of abortion because the fetus was left intact and it gave the mother the opportunity to see it and say “goodbye.”

Again, crickets….

You could have cut it with a knife.

All in all, it was an exhilarating experience for me.  Frank later told me that it was “fascinating.”  Whether or not it made any difference is beyond me.  But what it did teach me is that advocates of abortion rights just need to be brutally honest about abortion, not try to sugarcoat things and just trust women to make the right decision.

Protestors Praying

There are all kinds of anti-abortion protestors.  There are the ones who stand out in front of the clinics holding graphic signs while screaming all kinds of invectives at the women.  It doesn’t matter to them that those women might also be going in for their annual pap smear or to pick up some birth control.  They still remain the target of their vile, un-Christian behavior.

Then there are the protestors who just stand in front of the facility quietly praying.  Sure, at times they might break out into song or into a group prayer led by some local religious figure but, for the most part, they just stand out there praying to God.  At least I assume that’s who they are praying to.

I vehemently support the right of anti-abortion protestors to stand outside of a clinic and protest, even if they insist on shrieking “Don’t Kill Your Baby!” to the women as they are enter the facility.  The First Amendment also extends to those who quietly pray on the sidewalk and who seem not as “angry” as the other whack jobs.  Still, I would suggest that those who quietly pray on the sidewalk do almost as much harm as their more vociferous colleagues.

Let’s do something that the anti-abortion folks don’t do very often – let’s think about the woman who has just learned she is pregnant.  But first, spare me the “well if she didn’t spread her legs in the first place” lecture.  I get it.  I know how you get pregnant.  So, let ‘s move on.

The woman is pregnant and, unless she was actually planning on having a child, there is a good chance she is not happy with this development.  Contrary to anti-abortion dogma, she just doesn’t run to the phone and make an appointment at the local abortion clinic.  Normally, she will struggle with the decision.  After all, she knows she is carrying a living organism in her body that will ultimately grow into her baby, so the notion that she might have to abort is not a pleasant one.  To help make up her mind, she might consult with the man who was involved, her friends, her family or any religious figures in her life.  Ultimately, she may decide that she cannot have the baby.  It is a difficult decision making process and her decision to abort is a sad one.

So, she makes the appointment and normally has to wait a few days.  That’s a few more days for her to keep thinking about her decision.  The day finally arrives and she goes to the clinic.  She has heard about the anti-abortion zealots who demonstrate at the clinics and tries to prepare herself, although she really doesn’t know what to expect.  As she approaches the facility, she notices about twenty people congregating out front and her blood pressure immediately rises.   She prepares to be verbally attacked.

She gets out of the car and walks up the pathway to the front door, trying not to look at the group of protestors.   She is somewhat surprised that they are not yelling at her, notices that they are holding Bibles and praying quietly.  But she is still embarrassed.  She knows they are there because of HER and they are there because they do not approve of what she did (have unprotected sex) and what she is about to do (abort the child).  They are clearly not there to provide her comfort in her time of need.  They are there because they do not want her to have the abortion.

On this blog, I’ve had a running commentary with a respectable pro-lifer who prays in front of a clinic.  But, unless I missed it, I have yet to get a clear answer as to why he has to be AT THE CLINIC.  If you are praying to God, what does it matter where you pray?  I thought you could be anywhere and still communicate with Him.

No, I suspect there is something else going on here although I just can’t put my finger on it.  Is there some voyeuristic pleasure out of seeing a woman who clearly has had (dirty) sex going in for a (dirty) abortion?  And please don’t tell me they are there to share their stories with the woman and to tell her she has other options.  They know damn well that they cannot help her if she decides to have the baby.  Sure, they might give her some diapers and clothes, but gimme a break.  Chances are they’ll never see that woman again and, if they did succeed in talking her out of the abortion, they just exchange high fives and congratulate each other on their “save.”

So, instead of doing something else for humanity for those few hours or praying quietly at your home for an end to abortion, you are out there at the clinic disturbing the women.

Why are you out there, my friend?

Abortion.com Banned!

People who work in abortion clinics know what it’s like to be discriminated against.  Oh, I’m not talking about discrimination in the legal sense.  I’m just talking general “discrimination.”

For example, it is not unusual for a local business to refuse to serve the local abortion clinic.  It may be a cleaning service that does not want to clean the clinic at night.  It might take a long time for the director of the abortion clinic to find someone who would be willing to construct a website for them.  In some more extreme cases, the local police might not react as quickly as they normally do when called to control an unwieldy group of protestors.  It’s just all part of being in the abortion business.

Now, I am hearing of another form of possible “discrimination” against abortion providers – by Facebook.

Let me explain.

This blog is associated with the website, www.abortion.com.  That site is a directory of abortion clinics across the country.  The clinics pay a fee to be placed on the site, much like they pay the Yellow Pages to be listed in their books.  A while ago, the manager of the website decided to create a Facebook page.  As of two weeks ago, that Facebook page had over 100,000 “friends,” an incredible amount of people.

On a regular basis, the manager of the site (or one of the “friends”) would post a comment in an effort to generate a conversation.  For example, he might post something like “how do you feel about late term abortions?”   In response, dozens upon dozens of people would comment.  Many of them were anti-abortion, which was perfectly okay because it engendered some very lively debates.

Indeed, at times it would get downright hot and heavy.  Unfortunately, some people used foul language but if they did, they were immediately warned by the manager and removed if they ignored the warnings.   Then, a number of anti-abortion nut balls would flood the site with inane comments, repeating them over and over again.  I think the word is “trolling.”   The manager spent an inordinate amount of time deleting the troll’s comments.  In addition to all of this activity, the Facebook page was used to advertise for www.abortion.com in the hopes of directing women to reputable abortion clinics.

Then, suddenly, about a week ago the Facebook page disappeared.

Gone.

Just like that.

The manager and his staff immediately tried contacting Facebook to find out why the site was taken down.  It was puzzling.  After all, there are a number of other abortion related Facebook pages out there.  Indeed, some of the anti-abortion pages are incredibly gross.  So, it was very hard to figure out why they were shut down without notice.

Compounding the problem is that it is virtually impossible to talk to anyone at Facebook because they are so insulated.  There may be some bullshit “contact us” button but you know that your message will wind up on the computer of some teenager in some Third World country who is getting paid $5 an hour.  Go ahead, try it yourself.  Try contacting Facebook.

So, where does that leave us?

I cannot imagine why Facebook took down this page.  But, no matter what the reason, it is incredibly arrogant to close down a page with that many fans without even notifying the manager.  Who are these anonymous people who make these decisions willy-nilly?   Or sure, I understand it’s their company but, c’mon folks, where are your manners?

I can only conclude that Facebook was getting somewhat uncomfortable with the page for some reason.  The cynic in me would say that the powers that be are anti-abortion and were concerned that an abortion rights page was getting so much visibility.  And, if I can prove that is the case, then I am ready to lead a pro-choice revolt against this company whose owner recently named “Person of the Year” by Time Magazine.

My antennae is up – is it possible that, once again, abortion providers are being discriminated against?