Daily BeastNational Right to Life, Family Research Council, and other anti-abortion organizations have been enthusiastically spreading the word about a study published in the New England Medical Journal showing that a fetus can be viable if born at 22 weeks gestation with advanced medical intervention. A New York Times article about the study was very clear that survival was for a “tiny minority” and that 24 weeks remains the medically and scientifically accepted point of viability.  Nonetheless, as all sides in politically polarized issues tend to do, abortion opponents have focused on sharing the headline of the study and not the details. Although coincidental, the publication of the study is perfectly timed with the U.S. House of Representatives passing the 20-week abortion ban, which the Senate will now consider.

Predictably, those who oppose abortion see the study as the proof needed to ban late term abortions, also suggesting that viability age should be lowered. They are appealing to our hearts through survival babies, giving the false impression that at 22 weeks most fetuses can survive outside of the womb. Many who believe that late term abortions must be legally available might even agree with them if the study was conclusive. It is not.

There are important medical-scientific limitations to babies born before 24 weeks. When pregnant women either go into labor early or a medical complication otherwise comrpomises the pregnancy, doctors discuss available medical interventions and the prospective outcomes of each on the fetus. Not all hospitals have the technology or equipment most able to produce a live birth and not all parents choose to have those interventions. Indeed, it is those very women who may choose a late term abortion to save their own lives or spare their wanted child a life of poor health. Much as they felt joy at being pregnant, life offered them a heartbreaking complication. No one has the right to judge the decision they make, certainly not Congress or political opponents of abortion.22 week fetus

In a column for the Daily Beast, Cornell Professor of Pediatrics Jeffrey Perlman noted in more eloquent terms that the study had serious biases and design flaws and should not lead to lowering the age of viability. For that to make sense, a randomized study with and without medical intervention would be necessary. Perlman also pointed out that the research would have to account for  a range of factors, such as gender differences in fetal development and accurate estimates of the age of the fetus to name a couple.

I am personally very grateful for the medical advances that have made it possible for premature babies to survive and live healthy, productive lives. I have significant reservations about the use of technology to force life too early to ensure health and quality, just as I do with sustaining life too long when people are confined to a bed with no consciousness and only technology allowing them to breathe.  All of us know of children born with disabilities or conditions that require lifelong care. That happens and to full term as well as premature babies. Families accept and embrace the children, adjusting and growing with the child. The acceptance that society places on these children and the value they place on supporting them and their families is evident through public policies, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and various educational reforms.

If a 22-week-old fetus can receive medical assistance and survive, how should medical experts and ethicists respond in the future, if at all, to the prospect of lowering the stage of viability if technology continues to advance? Are we concerned about the financial and social/personal costs associated with using the technology? There are high costs for the medical technology and there are high costs to care for babies born so early that they must receive medical care throughout life however long or short. What about 22-week gestational stage babies born addicted to drugs? Are we going to complain about the public assistance their moms receive? Will Congress thwart programs that support the care for these babies?

Doctor with laptop and pregnant woman in doctor's officeFor pregnant women in the wrenching situation of unexpectedly delivering a 22-week-old fetus, this study might offer hope if they happen to be at a hospital with the technology and expertise to offer medical intervention that might allow survival of the fetus. For other pregnant women, if this study is improperly used for political gain, and it already is**, instead of hope, it will further erode their options to make decisions they consider best for them and the baby they wanted and may even allow a physician to place priority on the life of the fetus over the woman. Which life is more important?

Instead of having implications for late term abortions and viability, the real issues to come from the study involve ethics and social support. A 22-week-old fetus is not naturally viable. An abortion at 20-22 weeks gestation may well save a woman’s life or spare a baby a life of pain. Nothing has changed in that regard.

** 5/15-15 update: Political misuse of the study has begun. See http://black.house.gov/press-release/rep-black-lauds-upcoming-house-vote-pain-capable-unborn-child-protection-act and http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/15/opinion/an-abortion-bans-bogus-arguments.html?_r=0

Congressional-sealCongress began the 2015 session proposing more anti-abortion legislation, keeping in step with legislators at the state level doing the same. Abortion rights have been chipped away so continuously, many of us have come to expect more, no matter how ludicrous.

The proposed laws calling for intrusive, expensive, and uncomfortable (even painful)  transvaginal ultrasounds and mandated scripted information containing unscientific , inaccurate or incorrect information to abortion patients serve no purpose but to promote anti-abortion propaganda and delay access to abortion services.  Some proposals are truly bizarre. An addendum to legislation in North Carolina that passed in 2013 is currently being pushed by some politicians to “…[establish] governing and quality assurance boards and [designate] a chief executive to handle day-to-day operations…”  Exactly what will an additional layer of bureaucracy in a medical practice accomplish for women’s health?

restrictions-2011-2013_smWhen asked to describe the benefits of these laws, the answers are generally the same and women generally have reactions of disbelief to their claims:

Women need to be “properly” informed. Once they are provided the right information, they will be less likely to have an abortion. Uh, yeah, even we women know that we really just do not know what we are doing when it comes to pregnancy, abortion, or other decisions involving our reproductive lives. Yep. We women need the wisdom and personal, often religious, convictions of politicians before we can feel confidence in our decision. We should not trust ourselves or our medical care providers.

It protects women’s health. Abortion is such a dangerous procedure with two victims – the pregnant mom is scarred for life and her child is killed. Can you please just give specifics about how it actually protects women? Are you saying that childbirth is safer or, really, be honest, are you just trying to put another barrier in place to stop women from choosing to have an abortion? Or, are you thinking illegal abortion would be better somehow?

We care about women and children. Oh, I know, I know…you will eventually convince me to give birth whether I am a healthy young woman, a 46-year-old woman with four children and no desire for more, a woman with chronic health conditions, a 13-year-old unprepared for pregnancy and parenting, an 11-year-old pregnant as a result of repeated sexual molestation from a male relative, or any other woman in any other circumstance. You care so much that you will promise to support me spiritually, emotionally, and financially until my offspring become adults. Oh, wait…I forgot, most of you actually stop supporting women once we give birth, once the fetus becomes a child.

preg patientsIf we assume for a moment that those who support abortion restrictions are sincere in their claims that they believe women should be properly informed, that the laws protect women’s health, and that they care about women and children, then they should also support other reproductive healthcare-related proposals that have the same goal in mind. If the premise of restrictive abortion laws is really about informing and protecting women, then laws must be developed to ensure that all women who get pregnant and plan to give birth are aware of the risks involved. All medical practices that have pregnant women as patients must arrange for structural modifications to their facilities to ensure women and the government that they can properly respond to medical emergencies that might arise. The medical providers of pregnant women must also be required to make specific, politically dictated statements about the range of risks involved in pregnancy and childbirth although, unlike the “abortion information,” statements can be based on empirical data and medical facts.

acogResearch by Elizabeth G. Raymond, MD, MPH and David A. Grimes, MD and published in the American College of Obstetrician and Gynecology’s Obstetrics & Gynecology (February 2012), concluded, “Legal induced abortion is markedly safer than childbirth. The risk of death associated with childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than that with abortion. Similarly, the overall morbidity associated with childbirth exceeds that with abortion.”  (Full PDF article available at no charge through embedded link.) While I am not interested in shattering the joy of women learning of a wanted positive pregnancy test, fair is fair. There are risks associated with pregnancy and childbearing for which women should receive appropriate medical information. Given the political and religious propaganda out there, the chances are that a lot of women think that pregnancy and childbirth are safe. If women cannot be respected as able to independently make decisions about abortion, how can we possibly believe them able to make decisions concerning pregnancy and childbirth?

In addition to pregnancy and childbearing putting women at a higher risk of death than abortion, there are numerous risk factors that require medical attention and monitoring, including prior to conception. Rh incompatibility, kidney disease, diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, and autoimmune diseases are among the many conditions that can dramatically complicate the health of pregnant women and their babies. Age and lifestyle are other factors that obstetricians must consider during preconception consultations and prenatal treatment practices. The latest blow to pregnant women and fetal wellbeing is research concerning the influence of the time interval between the delivery of the first baby and conception of the second.  “[A]n interval of less than 12 months causes an increased risk for severe preterm birth in women who already suffered preterm birth in their first pregnancy” was the primary finding of the research, which will be presented this week at the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s annual meeting.

Obesity is one of the most common risk factors for women in developed countries. According to research published in Science Daily (July 2010), “The heavier the woman, the higher the risk of induced preterm birth before 37 weeks, with very obese women at 70% greater risk than normal weight women.  Overweight or obese women also had a higher risk of early preterm birth (before 32 or 33 weeks). Again, the heavier the woman, the higher the risk of early preterm birth, with very obese women at 82% greater risk than normal weight women.”

CDC pregnancy-related-death-2010_600pxAll proposed Pregnancy and Childbearing Risk Awareness legislation should reach far to include all possible complications – just as restrictive abortion legislation underscores improbable complications such as a perforated uterus or death. For example, maternal mortality is on the rise in the United States, with roughly 18 out of 100,000 women dying from pregnancy-related complications in 2013; between 1998 and 2005, the figure was much lower, with roughly eight deaths per 100,000 pregnant women. In 2011, the Center for Disease Control reported 17.8 deaths per
100,000 pregnant women, noting also significant racial disparities with a rate of 12.5 per 100,000 white women and 42.8 per 100.000 black women. The death rate from abortion is one for every one million abortions performed at eight weeks or less, one for every 29,000 abortions performed at 16 to 20 weeks gestation, and one for every 11,000 abortions performed at 21 weeks or later. Obviously, far more women die due to pregnancy-related complications than abortion complications, even at the later stages of gestation. It is only appropriate to ensure that women have the correct information so that they can decide if they really want to be pregnant and if motherhood is actually worth such possible health concerns.

Those of us who believe that reproductive justice is critical to achieving social and economic equality for women know that women can and do think for themselves in every sphere of life and most especially their reproductive lives. We also make many household and relationship decisions, not to mention educational and career decisions. We do not need politicians, pastors, or “sidewalk counselors” to help us make informed, personal decisions nor do we need them to create laws to try to impose their views on us. If they feel they must be a part of our reproductive lives, they should go about it fairly and provide complete and accurate information on abortion and pregnancy.

If you have been following my recent posts, you know I am supporting the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride set to kick off on 23 July 2013 in New York City and San Francisco.  I discussed this summer’s action with a number of people I respect, and there is a divide in the abortion rights community on whether or not it is wise to embark on this action.  I did not reach the decision to support and join with the Riders without giving the decision due diligence; nor, did I neglect to consider the multiple outcomes of the action.

When facing a dichotomous debate among two sides of the community, two camps who should be working together toward common goals, I ask myself now as I did in the past, What Would Dad Do?  Would he shrink back into the shadows, rely solely on private action and influence, or would he advocate, and actually engage in, direct action and response to those who tormented, stalked, and eventually killed him?  Obviously, we know the answer:  he did not back down!  As I wrote a couple of posts ago, I also cannot and will not back down.

Upon the 20th year after my dad’s murder by a Christian terrorist, as we face continued threat of violence, and as state after state passes draconian anti abortion legislation, I reflect not only on what my dad would do but also consider the words of Yeats:

Things said or done long years ago,
Or things I did not do or say
But thought that I might say or do,
Weigh me down, and not a day
But something is recalled,
My conscience or my vanity appalled.

Knowing I will be appalled by remaining silent, I resolved the vacillation by opting to support what I believe is the right course of action.  To that end, I co-authored a piece on the merits and need of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride with one of its primary organizers Sunsara Taylor.  I want to share with you our recent missive so perhaps more of us will come together on the need for direct, vocal, and mass support our clinics, our doctors, and our rights

Abortion Rights Are At a Crossroads:
This is NOT a Time to Lay Low – It is Time for Massive Uncompromising Struggle!

By Sunsara Taylor and David Gunn, Jr.
July 12, 2013

Across the country, people are waking up to the state of emergency facing the right to abortion. As legislators in Texas push hard to close down 37 of 42 abortion clinics statewide, new laws in North Carolina would close four of their five remaining clinics. Meanwhile, Ohio’s recently passed budget could close as many as three abortion clinics. North Dakota, on August 1st, may become the first state to effectively ban abortion. Already Mississippi’s last abortion clinic is merely an appellate ruling away from closure. We could go on.

If we do not reverse this trajectory now, we will condemn future generations of women and girls to forced motherhood, to lives of open enslavement, terror, and life-crushing shame. Women will be forced to have children they do not want, trapping them in abusive relationships, driving them into poverty, forcing them out of school, and extinguishing their dreams. Women will go to desperate and dangerous measures to terminate unwanted pregnancies, once again flooding emergency rooms and turning up dead women in cheap motels with blood caked between their legs.

We face two divergent roads: Either we seize control of the debate and reset the terms and whole trajectory of this fight; or we continue down the road of “established conventional wisdom,” only to awaken before long to an unrecognizable and untenable situation for women. What each of us does matters,and matters tremendously.

It is in this context that we initiated an Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. Our echo of the Civil Rights Freedom Rides is intentional and fitting. Women who cannot decide for themselves if and when they have children are not free. On the contrary, they are mere child-bearing chattel whose purpose is to serve and not actively chose their destinies.

Volunteers on this Freedom Ride will caravan from both coasts to North Dakota, traverse through the middle of the country into Wichita, and head due south to Jackson, Mississippi. Our aim is threefold: one, we must move beyond localized fights andlauncha national counter-offensive; two, we must radically reset the political, moral, and ideological terms of this fight so that millions understand that this fight is about women’s liberation or women’s enslavement; lastly, and of paramount importance, we must call forth the mass independent political resistance that is necessary to defeat this war on women.

As the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride evolved from conception to genesis, many have responded by with enthusiastic and unequivocal support. Regular people from across the country as well as those who have been on the front lines of the abortion rights struggle are joining with us in demanding abortion rights without compromise and thanking us for daring to travel to where women’s rights face harshest threat.

However, some who share our passion for the cause have raised concerns and even opposition to this action. They fear the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride will be too confrontational, too vociferous for abortion, and may turn off avenues of support.
Some have argued that it is wrong for people to come into local areas from the outside. Others argue that mass political protest will endanger the chances of winning important court cases and that it is better to rely on official channels of politics.

Because the future of women is at stake, we feel it is critical to address these concerns head on. In fact, it is exactly the faulty logic at the root of these concerns that has contributed to all of us finding ourselves in such a dire situation.

First, while local ground conditions are different and unique in some ways, the fact that every clinic and every state is facing heightened assault is not unique nor is it local. We all face a national assault on abortion rights which requires a national counter-offensive. Not only is it utterly immoral for us to abandon the women living in the states most under direct duress, it is delusional to think that what happens in states like Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota and Kansas will not come soon to a theater near you. Our futures are bound together and we all share the responsibility to take this on and turn the tide where the attacks are the most severe.

Second, while it is true that a great many people – including many who support abortion rights – are defensive about abortion, they should not be ashamed and this defensiveness and shame is precisely something we must eradicate.

Among the reasons many are defensive about abortion are decades of propaganda by those who oppose women’s equality but posture as defenders of “babies”; meanwhile, supporters of abortion rights have too often been conciliatory, muted, and compromising. This must stop. This fight has never been about babies. It has always been about controlling women. This is why there is not a single major anti-abortion organization that supports birth control.

If we want to turn the tide, we have to tell the truth: there is absolutely nothing wrong with abortion. Fetuses are NOT babies. Abortion is NOT murder. Women are NOT incubators.

A great many people are hungry for this message. They are furious and searching for a meaningful vehicle to make their outrage felt. It is only by asserting the positive morality of abortion rights that we can call forth and mobilize the tens of thousands who already share our resolve. Only through direct action and a polemical shift can all of us stand together and change how millions of others are thinking. Shouldn’t this emergency situation awaken us to the need to change public opinion, not accommodate it?

History has proven that directly confronting oppressive social norms can be disruptive and scary; yet, it is a necessary and uplifting part of making any significant positive change. Many argued that it was wiser for LGBT people to stay closeted until society was more accepting; others counseled against the Civil Rights Freedom Rides out of fear that it would only rile up the opposition, but it was only when people took that risk and got “in your face” that broader public opinion and actions began to change.

We must create a situation where being anti-abortion is seen to be as socially unacceptable as it is to advocate lynchings, anti-LGBT violence, or rape (although, if you listen to some on the Right, rape advocacy is not necessarily off their table).When we reach that summit, we will be on our way to turning the tide.

Third, while court cases are important – even essential – it is only through truly massive independent political struggle that we stand a chance at defeating the truly unyielding and powerful foe we face. Every setback the anti-abortion movement experiences only makes them more determined and every victory only makes them more aggressive. They will not be appeased if we lie low. No court case or election or new law will stop them. Not only has the existing power structure proven unwilling or unable to do so, people who believe they are on a “mission from God” are not bound by human laws and do not yield to public opinion.

But they can be defeated. Forced motherhood is deeply opposed to the interests of humanity. If we get out there and tell the truth, if we resist, if we clarify the stakes of this battle, and if we mobilize wave upon wave of the masses to get off the sidelines and into the streets with us, we can win. There is a tremendous reservoir of people who can and must be called forth to join in this struggle. We have seen this vividly in Texas. Let us not underestimate the potential that exists in every state across this country.

We stand at a crossroads. For the future of women everywhere, let us refuse the worn pathways that have allowed us to lose so much ground. We must not lay low, hope these attacks will blow over, and allow women in some parts of the country to be forced into mandatory motherhood while hoping to preserve the rights of a shrinking few. We cannot continue to foster the attitude that abortion is the 21st Century’s Scarlet Letter while allowing abortion providers to be further stigmatized and demonized. We cannot recoil from the massive fight that urgently needs fighting at this moment in this time.

Now is the time for courage, for truth telling, for stepping out and launching an uncompromising counter-offensive. We have right on our side. We call on everyone who cares about the future of women to join with us in strengthening the national impact and influence of this Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. Join with us at our kick-off rallies in New York City and San Francisco in July 23. Caravan to meet us in North Dakota, Wichita, Kansas, and Jackson, Mississippi. Send a donation or a message of support. Reach out to individuals and religious communities that can provide safe passage to the courageous individuals who are giving up their summers and putting everything they have into winning a different and far better future for women. Most importantly, let us together take the rough road to victory. It may be less traveled, but only through struggle can we reap the benefits of love’s labor won.

To learn more about and get involved with the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, go to: http://www.stoppatriarchy.org/

Sunsara Taylor writes for Revolution Newspaper (revcom.us) and is an initiator of the movement to End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women (StopPatriarchy.org)

David Gunn, Jr. is the son of David Gunn, Sr., the first abortion doctor to be assassinated by an anti-abortion gunman, and blogs for Abortion.ws

Dr. David Gunn

Dr. David Gunn

I met David Gunn, Jr. about ten days after his father was assassinated by an anti-abortion terrorist.

Doctor David Gunn performed abortions at several clinics throughout the Southeast.  He was what they called a “circuit rider,” driving every day through Georgia, Florida and Alabama to provide abortion services to women in need.  On March 10, 1993 his destination was the Pensacola Women’s Medical Services clinic.   After parking his worn out car, he climbed out and headed for the back entrance to the clinic to avoid the protestors out front.  But standing right there was Michael Griffin, a relatively new anti-abortion protestor, and as Gunn passed him Griffin took out a pistol and fired into Doctor Gunn’s back, killing him instantly.

The murder made instant national news because it was the first time that a doctor who performed abortions had been murdered because he was “killing babies.”

Abortion

Abortion

Of course, the news services put out a wide net to find anyone who was close to the players involved in this terrible tragedy.  And without hesitation, one of those people came forward:  David Gunn, Jr.  His message was very simple:  there was an anti-abortion conspiracy to kill abortion doctors and the Clinton Administration needed to do more to prevent this from happening again.

David was an instant “media star.”   His waist-length hair immediately caught your eye.  When he spoke to the camera, his soulful eyes enraptured the audience.  He was soft spoken, not a rabble-rouser and his pronounced stutter made him even more compelling when he spoke.  Over the next few weeks, he was a constant presence on all of the news shows.

Anti Choice Christian Terrorist

Anti Choice Christian Terrorist

I met David the day before we were scheduled to appear on “The Donohue Show.”  We had a nice dinner the night before and he struggled to talk about his Dad.  It was clear that by that time he was already exhausted from all of the media appearances, but he was willing to push on “for the cause.”   The next day we sat on the stage together, accompanied by Mr. Paul Hill, an anti-abortion activist who actually told David and the national audience that his father’s murder was “justified” because Michael Griffin was “protecting the babies from being murdered.”

Over the next few years, David Gunn, Jr. became a national spokesman for the pro-choice movement.  Indeed, pro choice organizations practically fought over him as they encouraged him to “endorse” their group.  He basically put his life on hold and he travelled the country warning the nation that there were more murders to follow.  And he was right.

David’s story is a story of relentless courage and persistence.  And I’ve always thought that his experiences needed to be shared with the public.   And that is why I am absolutely thrilled to announce that David Gunn, Jr. has agreed to become a “guest blogger” once a month on this page.  He recently told me that he always wanted to write about him and his father but, like so many other young people he got preoccupied with raising a family, getting a job, etc.   But now David will start writing that story in the form of a monthly blog.

We are honored to have David join us!

Abortion

Abortion

I recently read that California Governor Jerry Brown (yes, he’s still alive and kicking) signed a bill into law that would allow certain non-physicians to perform abortions. Predictably, the pro-choice groups hailed the measure as an important step towards making abortions more accessible to women.  The pro-life groups basically said Brown is pond scum and that he would spend all of eternity in Hell.

The pro-choice groups are excited because in many parts of the country there is a serious lack of abortion providers.  A lot of the ones that entered the field years right after Roe was decided are now rather old and are close to retirement (or death).  In many cases, when a doctor retires or dies it means the clinic closes because there are no replacement physicians. So, you’d think that everyone in the pro-choice movement would rally around a new law like this one.

Not so fast.

Think about this for a second.  Say you run a hot dog stand on the corner of 51st Street and Lexington Avenue in midtown Manhattan.  You’ve been working the same spot for 21 years.  You’ve gotten to know your patrons personally and you know their order before they can spit it out.   You also get used to making a certain amount of money every week and your income determines your lifestyle.

Then, one day a young whipper-snapper opens up another hot dog stand right across the street.  I mean, he is right there in your field of vision and you can’t ignore how many people are now patronizing his business.  You can practically count how many customers you’re losing to the competition and pretty soon your income decreases and your way of life is affected.

So, although the pro-choice groups are applauding the action of Governor Brown, some of the doctors and owners of abortion clinics in California are undoubtedly watching things with a wary eye.  Now, a clinic that only has one doctor who is ninety nine years old will no doubt welcome the new blood and they’ll be out there recruiting them to work at their clinic. But then there are the other clinics that actually have several young doctors who will not necessarily need replacing for a good 20-30 years.  These clinics, like others, have been watching the number of abortion patients declining to begin with and all of a sudden they now have to think about the prospect of a young nurse putting together some capital to open up her own office in the same town.  It might take a little while but ultimately that nurse and her clinic will start siphoning off patients from the established clinic and, like the hot dog guy, their income and life style could be affected.

Now, the pro-lifers will scream that I’ve just admitted that the doctors are “in it for the money.”  Well, to some extent that is true.  Like any other doctor or businessperson, when you enter a field and open up shop your goal is to make enough money to pay the expenses, the staff salaries and – dare I say it – a profit for the person who invested the money in the first place.

So, while the bigger picture says to thank Jerry Brown for this new law, I’ll bet you anything that some current doctors and owners of abortion clinics are just a tad bit nervous.

Abortion Choice

Abortion Choice

The other day I was chatting with a twenty year old neighbor that I’ve known for years and at some point we got to talking about my history in the pro-choice movement.  I talked about working for the National Abortion Rights Action League in the early 1980’s and then how I helped organize the National Coalition of Abortion Providers.  And when I related how I had seen several of our doctors murdered by pro-life terrorists, he gave me a blank stare.  “They killed the doctors?” he asked.

It’s bad enough that the younger generations have no recollection of the days of illegal abortion but now the string of murders committed over the years (and under the banner of God) may also be fading from our collective memories.  Well, if I have anything to say about it I will do all I can to make sure that the violence that has occurred will not disappear into the dustbin of history.

Anti Abortion Christian Terrorist

Anti Abortion Christian Terrorist

The first doctor to be murdered was Doctor David Gunn.

David Gunn was known as a “circuit rider.”  He spent most days on the road, working in a number of abortion clinics throughout Florida, Alabama and Georgia.  He had a Bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University and an M.D. from the University of Kentucky.  At some point, anti-abortion extremists starting piecing together how he was travelling from clinic to clinic and he became a target for harassment.  Normally a laid back guy, David started expressing concern for his safety in the early 1990’s, especially after he discovered that Operation Rescue had distributed an old-fashioned “Wanted” poster with Gunn’s picture on it.  In addition to the picture, the poster included his home phone number and other identifying information.  In response, David purchased three handguns.  He kept one in his glove compartment, one under the seat and one in the trunk.

Abortion Choice

Abortion Choice

On March 10, 1993, David left his hotel room early in the morning and made his way to the Pensacola Women’s Medical Services on Bayou Boulevard, a clinic that he had helped open just a month before.  His new clinic, nestled among offices for lawyers, doctors and accountants, bore no ostensible signs and the patient load was generally rather light.  And lately, a group of protestors had started standing outside of the facility in protest.  On this day, one of them was a young man named Michael Griffin.

As always, Doctor Gunn pulled into his parking space at the back of the clinic.  When he got out of his car, David’s limp was palpable, a result of his childhood bout with polio.  He did not grab any of his guns because he did not want them in the clinic around the patients and staff.  He took a few steps towards the clinic and at 9:30 am, David Gunn’s life was snuffed out.  It came with no warning, he had no time to defend himself.  He was just gone.

It seems that when Michael Griffin saw Gunn’s car pull up, he casually left the protest, walked up behind the car then calmly shot David Gunn in the back three times.  He was heard to yell out “Don’t kill any more babies!”   After the act, he threw down his .38-caliber snub-nosed revolver and waited for the police to arrive.

Michael Griffin was immediately arrested, charged with murder and, despite alleging that he had been “brainwashed” by anti abortion activists John Burt, was quickly found guilty.  He remains in jail in Florida to this day.

The first murder of an abortion doctor made national headlines for weeks.  Prime Time specials, the Donohue Show, Nightline all covered the act.  Doctor Gunn’s son, David, Jr., became a spokesperson for abortion providers.  A number of abortion doctors left the field, concerned for their safety.  And the federal government, i.e., the Clinton Administration, did nothing.  Meanwhile, there were other assassins waiting in the wings, hatching similar plans.

This was just the first assassination of an abortion doctor.

 

John Stewart

John Stewart

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

I’m sorry folks, but I cannot resist writing again about my legislature here in Virginia.  After all, our elected officials, including Governor Bob McDonnell, have been the butt of jokes on Saturday Night Live and John Stewart.  Why shouldn’t I jump into the mosh pit?

By now, everyone knows how the legislature passed a bill requiring women to have an ultrasound before they could get their abortion.  The unstated purpose of the legislation, of course, was to put yet one more (expensive) obstacle in the way of women seeking to obtain a legal medical service.  Oh, sure, the pro-lifers argued that women need to have even more information about the abortion procedure because, well they don’t say it out loud but, women are DUMB.  But thankfully we have these strong, sensitive, intelligent mostly male legislators to get women through this procedure!

Anti Abortion Governor

Anti Abortion Governor

Ultimately, however, the boys found out that many women would have to get a vaginal ultrasound, which means sticking a probe up “there.”  Suddenly, charges of “State Sponsored Rape” hit the airwaves, jokes abounded and Virginia became a national laughing stock.  How did all of this happen?

Bills in the Virginia legislature move very, very fast.  A hearing on a bill can last only an hour and they are usually perfunctory exercises.  That’s particularly true with the abortion issue, where elected officials are either for or against.  It is a rare legislator who actually thinks about this issue and 99 percent of them vote on abortion like lemmings to the sea.  They just have their aide check to see the position of the pro-life or pro-choice groups and they vote with their buddies, the goal being getting a 100 percent rating on their annual “scorecards.”

Vaginal Probe Sonogram

Vaginal Probe Sonogram

So, in this case when the vote came up, both sides voted accordingly.  Then, the poop hit the fan.  It seems that some lawyer from out of state actually thought about the effect of the bill and reasoned that the “jelly belly” ultrasound for a woman who was in the early stages of pregnancy wouldn’t work because you can’t see the fetus that well which meant that they’d have to perform a – dare I say it – vaginal ultrasound!  Even the folks at Virginia NARAL were surprised.

Soon after things hit the fan, Governor McDonnell started to back track.  And the reason was simple – he has national political aspirations and could not afford to because a late night television joke.  In essence, he had to admit that he and his fellow pro-lifers hadn’t thought the bill through and so they will now pass something less drastic.

This whole process (or lack thereof) is yet another example of why politicians should not be involved in this issue.  They’re out there trying to score political points, not understanding that they are actually affecting the lives of women.  But there’s another disturbing issue – and that is that this is yet another example of how the pro-choice groups still don’t seem to be communicating well with the actual abortion clinics.  The day the bill was introduced, didn’t anyone think about picking up the phone to ask a local clinic how it would impact on them?   It doesn’t sound like that happened because, if they had talked to the clinic, the doctor or nurse could have easily told them how ultrasounds work.

It’s sad to think that we have John Stewart and the folks at SNL to thank for defeating this legislation.