ACLU

You gotta love the American Civil Liberties Union.

For many, many years, the political right wing has pounded them over and over again to the point where there came a time when few people would admit they were “card carrying members of the ACLU.”  Indeed, the last time I heard any reference to the ACLU cards was in that great speech by Michael Douglas in “The American President” where he smacks his conservative opponent for NOT being a member of the ACLU.  Brings tears to my eyes.

And although being a member of the ACLU may not be as much in vogue as it used to, it’s great to see that are still fighting the good fight.  It seems that last Thursday the ACLU of North Carolina filed a lawsuit against the state to force it to produce one of those “specialty license plates” that support abortion rights.  This is in response to some action last June when the state legislature authorized the issuance of a “Choose Life” license plate.  During the debate, several pro-choice legislators offered amendments to allow for other plates with messages like “Trust Women” or “Respect Choice” but I guess the anti-abortion legislators were in no mood to be fair, so they defeated all of the amendments.  The ACLU, in its lawsuit, is now arguing that the First Amendment does not allow a state to promote “one side of a debate while denying the same opportunity to the other side.”  Interestingly, they added that their position would have been the same “if the state had authorized a pro-choice license plate but not an anti-choice alternative.”

I’m trying to think this one through a little.  So, if the state of New York had voted to allow a “Support Abortion” license plate and rejected any attempts to authorize a pro-life plate, the ACLU would have filed a lawsuit on behalf of the pro-life movement demanding that the state authorize a plate for their side?  Now, I know that the ACLU has stuck its neck out defending the KKK in free speech cases and other controversial, conservative clients, but why do I find it hard to believe that they would have run to the aid of the pro-life movement?   If anything, that would have created an interesting scenario and I chuckle thinking of the rather testy meetings of the pro-choice coalition after they learned that the ACLU would be

Pro Choice License Plate

spending its money defending the anti-abortion crowd.

As for this case, let me remind you that I am not a lawyer.  Oh, I went to law school for one year which gave me some very basic understanding of the law but I left to take a job on Capitol Hill (and the rest is history).  But I guess I’m wondering what the big fuss is all about?  I ask because, if you really think about can you remember the last time you saw a car with a “specialty” license plate on it?  And, let’s face it.  Most folks, unless they are a little kooky, are not gonna go around advertising how they feel about the friggin abortion issue, are they?  I am as pro-choice as they come, but I would never think about putting a pro-choice license plate on my car.   If anything, I would be very concerned that some anti-abortion nut ball would see my car and have a little fun with it.  I prefer to advertise my pro-choice credentials when I am questioning a candidate or when someone makes a simple statement that I disagree with.  Indeed, I always look forward to asking a candidate how they feel about the abortion issue because ninety nine percent of them don’t even want to talk about it and, when forced to, it’s fun watching them squirm.

So, I applaud the ACLU for taking this action, for fighting the good fight.  But if they lose, it’s a signal to the rest of the state legislatures that are considering taking similar action that they don’t have to worry about being “fair” and, if they win, how many people really will put a pro-choice license plate on their car?  I would hope it would be a lot, but I’m just a little cynical.  But, yes, I still have my twenty year old ACLU card!

Making Abortion Less Accessible

I really need some help sorting this one out folks.   I am writing this directly to the pro-lifers who read this blog.  I really need to get your angle on something…

So, if you are pro-life you think abortion should be illegal, right?  You generally think – although there are differences of opinions within your movement – that the doctor should go to the jail and some of you think that the woman (because she basically created the need for the doctor) should go to jail as well.  You don’t want to see any more abortion clinics because they are complicit in the killing of babies or pre-born babies or the unborn or whatever you wish to call it.  Am I correct so far?

But now, here comes the ole Commonwealth of Virginia where pro-life forces have successfully persuaded the state Board of Health to issue regulations that will govern how abortion clinics are run.  Pro-lifers say they want to make the abortion process safer for the women because there are so many sleaze balls out there performing abortions.

Okay, folks, what am I missing here?

A woman going into an abortion clinic is usually going in for one reason – to abort their fetus, their baby, their child, their – well, you pick title.  And the pro-lifers don’t like.  Indeed, they will spend hours and hours standing in front of an abortion clinic, screaming and yelling at women in an effort to persuade them to cancel their appointment.  Some will go further and threaten the doctors and their staff in the hopes that they will stop performing this pernicious act.  Some will burn down the clinic.  Oh, yeah, and some will actually get a gun or two and kill the doctor and/or their staff to make the point.

But now – wait a second!   Now these same folks want to guarantee that the abortion is performed in a safer environment.  Suddenly, the pro-lifers are now very concerned that a woman might be injured while she is “killing her baby.”  Now, they seem concerned that if there is an emergency the hallways need to be wide enough to get the gurney out to the waiting ambulance.  They now want to make sure that the air conditioning is at a proper setting, so the woman will be comfortable while she terminates her pregnancy.  In South Carolina, where they promulgated regulations several years ago, they were so concerned about making abortion such a pleasant experience that they required the clinic to regularly mow their lawn and to rid the property of all kinds of critters.  In Kansas, pro-lifers want to make sure that the woman’s personal belongings are safe so they required clinics to have a locker for each patient.  Damn the cost, they shouted!  Women should feel mentally comfortable when they are aborting.  Then, tossing a bone to the Custodial Engineer’s Association of America, they threw in a requirement that a janitor’s closet be at least 50 square feet, enough room to hang out and watch television.  Bravo to the pro-life movement!   Is there no end to their compassion?

The new temporary regulations in Virginia will be formally voted on Sept. 15 by the state Board of Health and could go into effect by Dec. 31.  Clinics that provide five or more abortions per month will then be classified as hospitals.   Supporters of the restrictions say with a straight face that their only aim is to protect women. They assure us that they do not seek to make the regulations so onerous that it will force many of them to shut their doors.  Oh, sure, they’ll still shout that women are “murdering babies” inside that facility, but they still want to make sure that everything is nice and clean in there.

Can anyone help me out here?   I’m just a little confused….

Sex Selective Abortions

After getting my kids off to college this weekend, I actually sat back and read the newspaper!  Thumbing through the New York Times, I came across an article about a new medical test that would help couples identify the sex of their unborn baby much earlier in the pregnancy.  Today, you have to wait until about 15 weeks or so to get a definitive answer.

This is a great scientific advancement so, of course, the pro-life groups are up in arms and expressing grave concern.  That’s because they think that women will start aborting fetuses because they wanted a boy instead of a girl or they already had three girls and were hoping to mix it up a bit.  And, of course, if the male has anything to say about it, he would abort that silly little girl over the next Derek Jeter.

Let’s all acknowledge that in certain cultures boys are preferred over girls and the practice of sex selection abortions is rather common in some of those cultures.  And, to be honest, while the idea of aborting a fetus because of its sex feels rather strange to me, I still have to support the woman on this one.  As I have always said, up until the point of viability the women should be able to abort no matter what the reason, no matter how uncomfortable it might be for others.  That’s because, if you start carving out exceptions such as sex selection, then you’re on a slippery slope and our lawmakers would soon be looking at other exceptions.

Of course, those who were raised in other cultures wind up coming to the United States so it is quite possible that a woman, for example, from India might want an abortion here in the U.S. because she knows she’s having a girl.  This new test will allow her to identify the sex much earlier which would allow her to have an abortion earlier in her pregnancy.  And, if you are going to have an abortion, earlier is always better than later, no?

So, yes, this new test might “encourage” a woman, particularly one from the East, to have an abortion for purposes of sex selection.  But let’s be real about this.

The fact is that when a woman goes into an abortion facility, after signing the paperwork, getting some medical tests, etc. she is then seen by a counselor.  The counselor discusses with her the abortion process, she reviews her other options, she talk about birth control and, well, sometimes they just plain talk.  But in the vast majority of reputable abortion clinics, the counselor does not ask why the woman is having the abortion.  There is no reason to know.  It would not change the abortion process.  That issue is left to the woman and anyone else she wishes to have involved in the decision.  Sure, a woman might just voluntarily offer why she was having the abortion but that question is not on the counselor’s “must ask” list.

So, in the future if a woman takes this new test and it indicates she is having a girl and she decides she does not want a girl, she may abort.  Personally, I think that would be a rare circumstance, i.e., to abort just because of the sex.  Even if you prefer a boy, when you learn that it’s a girl you perspective can change rather rapidly.  But if she wants to abort for that reason, no one is gonna know unless she decides to voluntarily talk about it.

Meanwhile, however, pro-life legislators have already indicated that they will be introducing measures prohibiting sex selection abortions.  I say go for it boys.  I think it’s a waste of time but if that’s where you want to spend your resources, go knock yourself out.  That’s because the reality is that, if you pass a bill prohibiting sex selection abortions, a woman will simply go to the clinic and, in the very unlikely event that she is asked why she is having an abortion, she’ll just make up another reason.

Duh…….

Stop Bullying Women

For many years, anti-abortion activists have lobbied their state legislatures to pass laws that require abortion clinics to share certain information with their patients.  These so-called “Right to Know” laws take many forms:  giving the patient a brochure that shows the stages of fetal development, taking an ultrasound and showing it to the woman, reciting a script to the patient that is a litany of things that can go wrong with an abortion, etc., etc.

Although the pro-choice movement regularly opposes these laws, I have written in the past about how the affect of these laws on the woman is rather minimal.  For example, most women casually look at the brochures, if at all, then toss them into

the garbage.  I’ve been in the rooms with woman as they observed their ultrasound, asked questions about the fetus then proceeded to have the abortion.  It’s all a rather big waste of time if you ask me, but if the anti-abortion movement wants to spend their time on this kind of stuff, go for it.  And, after all, it’s all well-intentioned, isn’t it?  Sure, they would prefer to make that woman’s act totally illegal, but since they can’t do that they want to make sure that a woman is making an informed choice.  How compassionate of them, huh?

Meanwhile, up in New York City, the City Council has taken a great interest in the activities of a number of “crisis pregnancy centers” that, according to testimony provided in a hearing, are engaging in “deceptive” practices designed to convince the woman that they are actually medical facilities.  It seems that the staff in some of these cpcs a

Ultrasound Before Abortion Procedure

re doing some interesting things.  For some reason, they are collecting personal and insurance information in the waiting room, the consultations are taking place on examination tables with the woman in the stirrups and “scrub suited consultants” are giving free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds.   On its face, it sounds a little deceptive to me but I’m sure these reports are not accurate because we’ve been told so many times that cpcs do not engage in this kind of behavior.

Still, this crazy ole City Council is concerned about this alleged behavior so they passed a law requiring the cpcs to post signs saying they have no doctors on site and don’t’ give advice about abortions or birth control.  Sounds kind of like the “Right to Know” laws that are being imposed on abortion clinics.

But, lo and behold, here comes the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian advocacy group, and they challenge the law, saying it would have violated the center’s right to free speech.  And, recently, a local judge agreed with them and slapped an injunction on the new law.

Putting aside all the legal mumbo-jumbo and the current status of the law, what I cannot sort out is why anti-abortion advocates want abortion clinics to inform women of everything but the kitchen sink, but when the NY City Council wants to ask them to give out just a little information about their centers, they balk at the idea?

Somebody help me here, please!

Protesters Holding Images of Aborted Fetuses

The images are disgusting, frightening, gross and, once exposed to them, forever etched in your mind.  I am referring to the graphic pictures of aborted fetuses that you regularly see on display in front of your local abortion clinic.

Anyone who has ever entered an abortion facility (or just driven by one for that matter) knows exactly what I am talking about.  Heck, you don’t really have to be anywhere in the vicinity of an abortion clinic to see them.  Some anti-abortion activists put the pictures on the back of their pick-up trucks and just cruise around the neighborhood.  Or, trying to save gas in these harsh economic times, they’ll just park the same truck in as visible a spot as possible to catch folk’s attention as they are going to Home Depot or the Little League field.   Not to mention that the pictures are available all over the Internet.

There are probably hundreds of variations of these pictures floating around.  One thing I do know, however, is that the VAST majority are rather dated pictures.  I don’t know exactly where they came from, although many pro-choicers claim they are pictures of miscarriages that occurred in Canada.  But, I am confident that they are old pictures because the remains of an abortion are now considered “medical waste” and are disposed of accordingly, so it’s virtually impossible to photograph the results.  And, to be perfectly honest, no abortion provider in their right mind would ever dump a semi-intact fetus or fetus parts into a pail for the whole world to see.  Indeed, every abortion provider in the country knows that they are being watched very, very carefully by anti-abortion activists with way too much time on their hands, so why the hell would they give them more “ammunition” by tossing out a fetus or two into the outside garbage pail?

But let’s forget about how old the pictures are and where they came from.  The fact is that many of those pictures generally are an accurate representation of the results of a LATE TERM abortion.  And everyone needs to remember that the VAST majority of abortions are performed in the first trimester.  So, the pictures slant things a little but if I were anti-abortion, I’d be doing the same thing.

The bottom line is that, if there is no intervention, the fetus will continue to develop in utero and when the abortion takes place at some point the fetus will have developed to the point where there are identifable fetal parts.  Indeed, after a LATE TERM abortion the physician must insure that all the parts have been recovered to avoid any infections.  So, my point is that some of these pictures (discounting some that might be of a miscarriage at 31 weeks) do depict the results of an actual abortion.

Abortion Pictures

Abortion Pictures

Now, before the pro-choice movement starts making that noose for my public lynching…

On the other hand, the pro-choice movement has always had a similar sensationalistic opportunity to catch the eye of the public – they could show the hundreds of pictures of women lying on their bathroom floor in a pool of blood, dead from a self-induced abortion.  They could show the inside of the room of an unqualified illegal “abortionist.”  These pictures could be used to remind the public that, when abortion was illegal, women desperate to terminate their pregnancy often tried to do it on their own or resorted to back-alley abortions, often with disastrous consequences.  Law enforcement officials arriving on the scene often took photographs of the results of these attempted abortions.  I’ve seen the pictures and they are just as shocking as the “dead fetus” pictures, if not more so.

Indoctrination and Brain washing of children by Pro Lifers

Indoctrination and Brain washing of children by Pro Lifers

Years ago, leaders of the pro-choice movement had a serious internal debate about whether or not to use these graphic pictures in the same way the antis used the pictures of the aborted fetuses.  For the most part, the groups decided that they would not use them because they were so graphic.  Yes, some pictures of the dead women leaked out but for the most part the pro-choice organizations never resorted to that tactic.  Indeed, it’s a rare site these days when you see the old image of the coat hanger, one of the instruments used for a self-induced abortion.

Pictures do speak a thousand words.  The only difference is the anti-abortion movement has decided it doesn’t care if they shock little seven year old children who happen to be passing by.  The pro-choice movement, meanwhile, has taken the high road.

Founding Fathers and Abortion

Founding Fathers - Right to Life

It was a sweltering July day in the city of Philadelphia in 1776.  The delegates to the convention slowly make their way into what ultimately would be dubbed “Independence Hall” but on this day it was still commonly known as “Moe’s Place.”   Representatives from the 13 American colonies were there to discuss whether or not to break away from Mother England and set up their own nation.  A committee had been formed to draft a statement of principles that would publicly explain to King George and the rest of the world why the colonies felt it was necessary to declare its independence and, in effect, start a war.

The debate over the proposed resolution was intense and went on for days.  Should we actually call the King a “tyrant?”  How do we address the issue of slavery?  Should we be quoting Thomas Paine or Voltaire?   Should we refer to God?

Then, suddenly, after days of laborious discussion, a delegate raised his hand and is recognized:  “Mr. President, why is there no language that protects fetuses from being aborted?”

There are puzzled looks on the faces of those in the room then Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the document, calmly assures the delegate that his concern has been met and refers him to the section which says that all men shall be endowed with the right to “life” in this new nation so, he explains, since every baby has the possibility of coming out as a male, you cannot have any abortions!

Somehow I just don’t think that’s how it all played out.

Those who advocate making abortion a crime in this country love to cite the Declaration of Independence and, in particular, the line that says (cue the trumpets!):  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

Or is it “inalienable?”   I always get that part confused.

Anyway, so somewhere along the line the anti-abortion folks started to interpret that passage to mean that everyone has a “right to life.”  See!  See!  The Founding Fathers, those wise old men, were saying that everyone, including those little fetuses, have the right to life!   See!  What did I tell ya?  You gonna argue with the likes of Jefferson, Franklin, Berkowitz and Adams?

Okay, now let’s everybody calm down and think this through a little.

First of all, the fact is that those sage, all-knowing Founding Fathers never said a word about abortion during that long summer in Philadelphia.  The word is never found in any of the historical accounts of the process.  I mean, just think about about it.  It wasn’t even an issue in those days and they had much bigger things on their mind, like creating a new country.  Didn’t they have other things to do that were a little more important than abortion?

Second, remember that in those days, when they said “all men” are blah, blah, they really meant all MEN.  We know that they weren’t talking about women – God forbid – and they weren’t talking about the slaves either.  They were talking about all of those old white people who had the power.  So, please do not tell me that, although they didn’t give a rat’s ass about women or slaves, they did care about protecting those little, defenseless fetuses.

This is one of those arguments that is really stretching it a bit, don’t you think?

New York Times on Abortion

New York Times Abortion Article

In 1997, I told a reporter with the New York Times that I thought abortion was a “form of killing.”  I said it in the context of a story he was writing about the “partial birth abortion” procedure.  The quote wound up at the bottom of the story on page 17.  In other words, it did not create headlines and millions of women who had had abortions in the past did not come forward to demand their money back from the abortion clinics because they were snookered.  I got a total of one email from a clinic owner who was upset at my quote.  Never heard a word from the pro-choice groups.

Of course, we all know that the anti-abortion movement wants to make the procedure illegal because they also believe that abortion is not only killing, but murder.  When that doctor performs that abortion, he or she is “killing a baby,” pure and simple.  That’s where the line is drawn.  Indeed, a few have gone so far as to kill a (already alive with a family) doctor who performs abortions.

And now here comes Mitt Romney, a Republican candidate for President who years ago used to be pro-choice when he was Governor of (the liberal state of) Massachusetts.  At some magical moment, Romney got “educated” on the issue, coincidentally at the time when he was seeking the nomination in a process that is dominated by pro-life advocates.

Suddenly, Mitt Romney became pro-life!   Today, Romney believes that abortion should be “limited to only instances of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.”

Mitt Romny and abortion

Mitt Romney and Abortion

Hmmmmm.

First of all, kudos to this compassionate man who cares so much about women that he would grant them the ability of have an abortion as long as they can prove that they would DIE if they didn’t have one.  Good for you, Mitt!  Bravo!

But he would also allow the abortion if the woman were raped or a victim of incest.

So, what am I missing here?   What happened to the focus on that little 7 week “baby?”  Aren’t we supposed to STOP THE KILLING as the posters say outside the abortion facilities?  No matter what you call it, that entity that is inside the woman is alive, right?    And, if not aborted, it will continue to grow, right?  And the woman is going to the doctor to stop that process, right?

So, what’s with the rape and incest exception?    Killing is killing is killing, is it not?   Does it matter how that poor little ole baby, floating around serenely in the uterus, was conceived or by whom?  Doesn’t the anti-abortion movement want to protect that “baby?”

Of course, the answer is politics.  It’s a way for Romney (and other pro-lifers) to try to appear compassionate and moderate.  He’s trying to have it both ways.   And I suggest that it is the height of hypocrisy.

For many years, the Congress, led by the late Congressman Henry Hyde, passed a rider to an annual spending bill prohibiting federal Medicaid dollars from being used for abortions unless the woman’s life was endangered.   Then, in the 1980’s, after an intense lobbying effort, they added the rape and incest exceptions.  To me, that was also a hypocritical vote, a welcome one nonetheless.  While we were lobbying for the additional exception, it was clear that a number of heretofore “pro-life” members of Congress were uncomfortable and it because a very political vote.  Personally, I admired more those pro-life Congressmen who voted against the rape and incest exceptions.  At least they were being consistent.

So, Mitt Romney is trying to have it both ways.  We’ll see if his strategy works.