GOP out of bedroomA US News and World Report article (12/31/14), What the Battle Over Abortion Will Look Like in 2015, should remind all of us concerned about reproductive justice that Republicans will control the Senate and the House of Representatives beginning this month. As much as Republicans claim to favor small and less government, we all know that when it comes to issues relative to human sexuality, they espouse as much government intrusion and regulation as possible. Although many Republicans are pro-choice, the party continues to allow its extreme right wing and Tea Party darlings to steer the votes and priorities. Reproductive decisions, sexual orientation, and even personal sexual activity preferences are of greater concern to John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and friends than ensuring that every child has food to eat, that people are working and earning a fair wage, or that the U.S. government is protecting business from cyber-attacks, and so on. It makes no sense, but it is a reality.  It is reasonable to expect more attacks on reproductive rights in 2015.

Rick BrattinThe Republicans are on a roll. Just last month Missouri Republican Rick Brattin reintroduced a bill to require women seeking abortion to get permission from the father of the zygote/embryo/fetus.  According to Mother Jones, Brattin’s bill would exempt “legitimate rape” victims. For a pregnancy resulting from rape to be exempted and the claim of rape “legitimate,” a police report must have been filed immediately after the rape. Oh yes, the Republicans are on a roll, seemingly even including distinctions about rape – Todd Akin style. Always claiming that the legislation is to “protect women,” these mostly male representatives apparently believe they know more about what is best for women’s health than, well, legitimate women.

Thomas State legis LoCPro-choice Americans have got to step up to the plate in 2015.  They must resolve to at least let their elected
representatives know their views. As fellow blogger and former lobbyist Pat Richards can confirm, it is very easy to contact members of Congress.  One website that provides direct contact information of each congressional member is For state and local legislative representatives, The Library of Congress Thomas website provides links to each state legislature. Pro-choice people need to take a page from the playbook of the zealously anti-choice organizations like violence-promoting Operation Rescue and the various evangelical groups that pressure church members to attend sessions to write emails and make phone calls en masse. It can make a difference in the extent to which a member of Congress maintains interest in sponsoring or defending restrictive anti-abortion or other family planning legislation.

During my years directing a clinic, countless state and federal legislators shared with me that the primary reason they hesitated to have a stronger public pro-choice position was because they seldom heard from their pro-choice constituents, but they constantly heard from the anti-abortion groups. That needs to finally change – there is too much to lose if it does not.  While NARAL and Planned Parenthood supporters often initiate outreach activities, they simply cannot compete with the church-sanctioned and sponsored groups in terms of numbers. It is also worth noting that politicians actually like to hear the views of individuals speaking from the heart instead of an organized script.

minds changeAs much as we may see reproductive rights as an issue in which people do not change their positions, there are studies that illustrate that people do change their minds about polarizing issues such as abortion and gay rights. Minds change through personal experience or learning about the firsthand experience of someone they know, love, or in some way care for. Minds can change when we interact with others with whom we share general values and recognize that on polarizing issues with which we disagree, things are not so black and white, all or none propositions. No one should be fooled into believing that when minds change about abortion it is only to the anti-choice position. National Right to Life has done some great messaging in that regard. In fact, pro-choice groups could do the same.

Maria Rivera

Maria Rivera/Photo from

In 2015 we can probably expect to see more legislation proposed to ban abortion as early as 12 weeks, more verbatim scripting for medical professionals to impose on patients regardless if true, and more unnecessary and invasive ultrasound or other testing. Before you know it, every woman who miscarries will be subjected to a law enforcement report and inquiry. Think that sounds extreme? Just take a few minutes to learn about Maria Teresa Rivera in El Salvador where all abortion is banned. She did not even know she was pregnant when she miscarried, but the judge did not believe her and sentenced Rivera to 40 years in prison for aggravated murder. Each and every anti-abortion bill proposed in the U.S. under the guise of women’s health is another step towards a total ban.

Time is of the essence for reproductive justice. When and whether to have children is a personal choice. Abortion is a personal choice in which women do not benefit from, and can be harmed by, governmental interference. Medical professionals do not need the input of politicians in the private relationships they have with patients. Please, be it resolved that you will share your pro-choice position and dedication to reproductive justice with your elected representatives beginning this first month of 2015.

There are anti abortion activists who stand outside abortion clinics with the genuine belief that their presence helps women, that they are heroes in the war against abortion, and that their help will solve all of life’s little unwanted pregnancies. But their beliefs and women’s realities are, as the saying goes, a horse of a different color.

For the better part of eight years, I’ve come to realize that most anti abortion activists assume women choose abortion solely based on financial reasons. However, they are erroneous in making such a sweeping generalization. In other words, their beliefs don’t match the realities of women’s lives. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 74% of women chose abortion because having a child would interfere with her education, work or ability to care for dependents. As with many of the anti abortion activists, the difference between their beliefs and a woman’s realities never matters. For many who stand outside abortion clinics, their mission, to save babies and end abortion, is more important than a woman’s desires for her own life. These antis believe their pamphlets and offers of money, a free pregnancy test and a free ultrasound are enough to change an abortion-minded woman’s mind.  They find nothing odd with their invitation, as a stranger on the street, to get into their car for a ride to a prolife doctor’s office for a free prenatal visit. They assume that talking to strangers about the content of the uterus and traveling with strangers in their car to an unknown doctor’s office for free health care is perfectly normal.

But even with the questionable value of their freebies, there remains the reality of the emotional, physical and financial burdens of a pregnancy. The antis have difficulty accepting the reality that some women do not want to be pregnant, either now or ever. Their pro-natalist rhetoric leaves no room for the statistical evidence that early abortion is safer than childbirth, that post partum depression affects 10-15% of women, or that post partum psychosis occurs in 1 to 4 cases out of 1000 deliveries. Their optimistic rhetoric about adoption as an alternative leaves out the evidence that confirms that some women have a lifetime of regret and anger about giving up their child. They also fail to acknowledge well-documented, scholarly research that details resentful and angry adopted children, some with serious adaptive problems.

For a financial perspective, the government’s latest statistics reveal that they annual child-rearing expenses for the average middle-income, two-parent family range from $11,650 to $13,530, depending on the age of the child. Imagine, a single parent of one child, pregnant with a second child, who is considering her options for raising a second child on a salary of $18,700. The annual expenses for the first child, according to the government’s calculator, are $7,410; the second is $7,188.  So, where does that leave the mother? What are her options for education, being promoted beyond her entry-level position, helping her children become first generation college students?  These are only a few of my questions for these folks who badger women with their maternal guilt trips. One year, two years, five years, ten years from now, where will these pronatalists be? Where will these “love the mom, love the baby” people be when the fetus they saved needs braces, a reading specialist, a counselor for an eating disorder, bail money for their fourth underage DUI or financial assistance for college?

From my perspective it comes down to a rather straightforward question: What is the antiabortion activist’s responsibility for each fetus they save? Does the responsibility include prenatal care or should it include food, shelter and housing? And how long should this commitment last? Should these antis’ commitment to the fetus continue after it’s born, like biological parents commitment to their offspring? Should antis ensure estate planning for not only their own children but to all those fetuses they save? Or does the commitment last only until birth?

It seems to me that most antis will do whatever it takes to stop an abortion including offering to pay for a pregnancy test, an ultrasound or a visit to a doctor. Some goes as far as throwing a baby shower, purchasing maternity clothes or buying diapers and formula.

But these piecemeal efforts are like giving a person a fish to eat for a day. What is really needed is an entirely different approach. Rather than give a woman a fish to eat for a day, as the old parable goes, it seems wiser to teach her to fish. In other words, it makes more sense to provide all that a woman would need for her lifetime (including access to her choice of family planning, parenting help, babysitting, job skill development, education and such) and for the lifetime of the fetus saved from abortion.

So, let’s be clear. Assuming that women choose abortion because of financial reasons doesn’t make it a fact.  Assuming offers of freebies are wanted is ignorant and demeaning. But assuming that women accept strangers on the street to invade their privacy AND to accept their offers of health care is a horse of a different color—more like the color of a jackass.

Abortion Law

Abortion Law

Many years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that unmarried people were actually allowed to use birth control.  Can you believe it! Yes, on March 22, 1972 the Court confirmed this outlandish notion in Baird v. Eisenstadt – a case that was seen as the precursor to Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion just a year later.

And now it’s fifty years later.  Since that decision men have walked on the moon, the computer was invented, it was discovered that there are homosexuals in our community, we started drinking non-fat milk and the Red Sox finally won a World Series.  And, amidst all of this progress, today the Republican candidates for President are talking about birth control again.  Talk about going Back to the Future.



Now, to be fair I have yet to find any of the candidates declare outright that they would “ban birth control,” although that is what many Democrats and left-leaning pundits are suggesting.  But where Rick Santorum, et al made a mistake is that they just started talking about birth control in the context of the Obama health care bill – and their opponents jumped all over it.

Santorum has acknowledged that he and his wife do not use birth control, hence his seven kids.  Good little Catholic he.  And ole Mitt Romney has said, well, I haven’t checked today to see what he said last night.  I’ll get back to ya on that one.  But the fact that they are even talking about this issue boggles my mind, especially in light of the fact that 95% of the Catholics in this country use birth control anyway – the Pope be damned.

R v W March

R v W March

But there is a method to their madness.  They are talking about this issue and religion in general because, to get the Republican nomination, they need to go as far right as possible.  I mean, to the right of Genghis Khan.  You’ve heard the speeches:  “I am a true conservative in this race, I’ve always been a true conservative, I wear conservative shoes and use conservative toothpaste.”  And, early on, they learned that if they just mentioned birth control and religion and Obama’s secret plan to deport every Catholic, the right wingers at the rallies sucked it up big time.  Hey, this is a good stuff, I gotta keep this up!

It’s gotten so crazy that a few days ago Ron Paul made headlines in certain media when he announced that, when he was a practicing Ob-Gyn, he actually – I hope you’re sitting down – PRESCRIBED birth control.  OMG!  A Republican running for President actually participated in this pernicious practice (one, by the way, that would reduce the number of abortions).  Lynch him, cried the Tea Partyers!

Of course, the good news is that all of this talk about birth control – in any context – is welcome news to the Obama gang.  They’re just sitting back and having a hell of a good laugh.  And I’ll betcha anything that they got the commercials in the can right now warning women that the nominee is gonna take away their pills.  The good news is that Republicans talking about that nasty little pill may win them the nomination, but it will lose them the election.  Keep it up, boys.

Birth Control

Birth Control

My head is spinning out of control.   There is just too much stuff going on that is beyond my comprehension.  I mean, can the Republican Party really be this dumb?

Maybe I should talk about how the GOP is now concerned about President Obama’s “WAR ON RELIGION.”   Yep, our Commander in Chief is actually against religion, they say, suggesting that he and his staff actually spend countless hours trying to figure out how to make ours a totally secular society.  Now that would be a great political strategy, wouldn’t it?  I can hear Obama now, telling his staff that he wants to alienate that 80% or so of the populace that actually subscribes to a religion.  Don’t worry, he assures the skeptics, we can ride that atheist vote back into the White House in November!  And while we’re at it, let’s go after GOD himself.  We don’t want anyone to even say HIS name in a public place.  Yeah, that’s the ticket!



Or maybe we should talk about the Republican Party’s own little war on birth control.  Oh, we all know about their constant attacks on abortion rights, how they are pursuing those silly “personhood” resolutions in a bunch of states.  And, yes, one or two of them might even slip through, but then the next day the pro-choice groups will get an injunction and the measures will slowly make their way to the Supreme Court.  At that point, when the Court suddenly has to think about how we’d be counting those little zygotes in our census, how movie theaters might have to charge for another ticket, how whether or not they should be given a tax exemption, cooler heads will prevail.  Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t even take the case.

Birth Control

Birth Control

But there’s the rise of Senator Rick Santorum, who opposes using federal dollars for birth control and who even once denounced birth control as “harmful” to women and society:  “I don’t think it works. I think it’s harmful to women. I think it’s harmful to our society to have a society that says that sex outside of marriage is something that should be encouraged or tolerated, particularly among the young…”  I wonder what Newt thinks about that “sex outside of marriage” line?   But I say go for it, Rick, tell the women in this country, including all of those good little Catholic women, that they shouldn’t be taking birth control.  Yeah, that’s a clear winner!



Then there was the congressional hearing the other day on Obama’s attempt to provide better access to birth control through his health insurance program.  Sure, the announced title of the hearing did not have the word “birth control” in it, but that is what they were talking about, folks.  And by now everyone knows that their panel of “experts” was all men.  For good reason, the videos of the testimony went viral and I could not keep from laughing when I thought of the grief that some staff person was going to get for not anticipating what the pictures of that panel would like in the media.  Dumb move, guy.   Not to mention totally arrogant.



This is all just too good to be true.  The women in this country, including the millions of “pro-life” women who still get their monthly pills at the drug store, gotta be watching these yahoos, wondering what they are gonna do next.  Obama and his crew are sitting back with the champagne on ice, watching this re-run of some black and white caveman movie.

And I didn’t even touch upon that friend of Santorum who thinks “gals” should put aspirins between their knees.

Keep it coming, boys.

Girl Scouts and Abortion

Girl Scouts and Abortion

First there was the Susan G Komen Cure that got caught up in the “abortion wars.”  And now, sadly, it’s those cute little girl scouts who pop up on our doorsteps once a year selling us those cute little cookies.  Yep, I’m talking about the organization that teaches young girls how to offer first aid, how to tie a knot, how to plant a tulip.  Yep, the organization that epitomizes all that is right with America.  Yep – the Girl Scouts.

Sit tight for a moment and try to figure out this convoluted scenario.

Girl Scouts and Abortion

Girl Scouts and Abortion

It seems that many girl scout troops also belong to either the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) or the Girl Scouts USA.  Somewhere along the line two young scouts discovered a pamphlet called “Healthy, Happy, and Hot – A Young Person’s Guide to Their Rights, Sexuality and Living with HIV.”   They claimed the pamphlet was distributed by the Girl Scouts USA at some kind of workshop in New York City.  Then, these two minor sleuths discovered a blog on the WAGGGS website that encourages, “safe, affordable, and accessible abortions for women.”

Pro Life Screw Balls

Pro Life Screw Balls

Bingo.  And then the proverbial poop (again) hit the fan.

Now, numerous pro-life and generally right wing nut ball “we’ve got nothing but time on our hands” conservative groups are all over the internet urging parents to boycott the girl scouts!  Then, right away the St. Timothy Roman Catholic parish in Chantilly, Virginia ousted 12 troops with 115 girls when the parish’s leader, Rev. Gerald Weymes, told scout leaders they could no longer use church or parochial school facilities.  A spokesperson for the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital said that “misinformation is passing as fact” in response.  She said that their organization does not take a position on abortion or birth control, adding that “we believe these matters are best discussed by girls with their families.”  .



Now, I normally disagree with the right wing and with pro-lifers.  But, as I’ve written before, I do respect most of them and their views.   But for gosh sakes, are they losing their collective minds???   Boycott the Girl Scouts???

Look I understand the quest for purity, to try to be consistent in your beliefs in pursuit of your ultimate goal.  But does these folks have nothing else to do?  And are they now going to look that little pimply-faced girl scout in the eyes and tell her that they are not buying their cookies because of abortion?  Hell, that little kid who is just trying to raise money for their field trip doesn’t even know what abortion is.  But, no, say the pro-lifers – we need to make them aware as early as possible of the “horrors” of abortion.  Kinda reminds me of how the Nazis were teaching their kids at an early age how to hate the Jews.

Happily, the boycott doesn’t seem to be taking hold.  One spokesperson recently actually said that initial sales of the cookies this year are up more than 6 percent.

And, as for me, when little Sarah comes to my doorstep this year, I’m gonna put in an extra order of those double chocolate chip cookies that are so bad for me!

Empty Press Conference Room

About a year after we formed the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, its members decided it was time to hold their first conference.  For years, many of them had been attending regular conferences hosted by the National Abortion Federation but some of the NCAP members were not members of NAF and the NAF meetings tended to focus on the medical side of the abortion issue.   The folks who belonged to NCAP believed strongly in having a political voice on Capitol Hill.  They argued that while NARAL was focusing on the general right to abortion, they needed someone to educate the Congress on the issues of direct importance to abortion doctors and clinics.

So, we booked the new Hilton Hotel in Alexandria, Virginia, put out the suggested agenda and kept our fingers crossed.  Like anyone

who is putting on a party, we were very nervous that no one would show up.  But, much to our surprise, about 70 clinic staff, owners and doctors came to Alexandria for the two day affair.  Two of the attendees were Doctors George Tiller and Bart Slepian, who both would ultimately be murdered by pro-life activists.

To highlight how NCAP was already establishing a presence on Capitol Hill, we persuaded Virginia Congressman Jim Moran, a leader of the pro-choice movement, to kick off the event.  Jim gave a rousing speech to a crowd of people, many of whom had never even met a real live Congressman.  The next few hours were devoted to public relations and business issues.  For example, we discussed how to conduct an “open house” for abortion clinics and where to get the best malpractice insurance.

The highlight of the meeting, however, was the adoption of NCAP’s first resolution.  At that time, the clinics were under siege legislatively on both the national and state levels.  It seemed that every day a bill was introduced requiring parental consent for minors, a 24 hour waiting period, the distribution of fetal development brochures, etc.  At one point, however, an NCAP member suggested that those who were introducing these bills really had no idea how clinics opera

Proud Providers

ted to begin with and how women approached the decision.  So, the members decided to adopt a statement which made it very clear how clinics operated and how patients were treated.  So, for example, they noted that 95% of minors already talked to their parent or parents, that women DID wait at least 24 hours from the time they decided to have an abortion and that the clinics were already subject to many federal and state regulations.

The resolution was adopted unanimously and we decided to have a press conference on Capitol Hill the next day.  We quickly hired a public relations firm to get the word out.  Besides the resolution, their pitch was that this would be a

chance for the press to see in person the owners, doctors and staff who actually worked in abortion clinics.  This was a “coming out party” of sorts for our folks.

The next day, about 30 members of NCAP, all dressed up in their best Capitol Hill attire, took taxis to the House Cannon Office Building and walked into the ornate Post Office and Civil Service Committee Room, ready to conduct their press conference.  But as we walked through the large mahogany doors, we entered an empty room.  Not one member of the press showed up.  We had given a press conference and no one came.  I was totally ticked off but the NCAP members were just thrilled to be in the room and when a young media student from Georgetown University came walking in with his little camera, they agreed to stand behind the podium and make their statements.

To this day, I’ll never forget them standing there, facing that one camera, looking very proud that they had adopted this resolution and were finally showing their faces to the public.  It was just one camera but for all they knew, they could have been talking to CNN.


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