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!

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?

“What the hell is a partial birth abortion?”

Sitting at my desk at the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, I looked at my staff person quizzically, not understanding what she was talking about.  She had just told me about legislation that had been recently introduced in the Congress called “The Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act.”  She then proceeded to tell me about this abortion procedure.

According to the legislation and the accompanying statements, the abortion doctor would enter the pregnant woman’s birth canal and use forceps drag down the still-alive baby to the point where it’s torso was hanging outside the woman, the head still inside.  He would then inject a suction-like instrument into the head of the fetus and take out the contents of the brain.  The head would then shrink and the doctor would slide out the dead fetus.

I looked at my staff person as if she were from outer space, not comprehending what she had just described.  Now, I had seen a number of late term abortions and, believe me, they are not pretty.  But this sounded downright bizarre.  We later learned that this abortion technique had been “pioneered” by Doctor Martin Haskell of Ohio who used it because he thought it would cause less trauma to a woman with a tight cervix and small birth canal.  Indeed, Haskell apparently had attended a meeting of the National Abortion Federation and presented a “white paper” on the technique to an audience of doctors.  He referred to the procedure as an “Intact D&X.”

Partial Birth Abortion

Then – and don’t ask me how – someone in the pro-life movement got hold of this paper and it went global.  And somewhere along the line some incredibly clever person, who no doubt had a background in public relations, re-named the procedure a “partial birth abortion.”  I always thought that person deserved some kind of bonus for being so imaginative.

The pro-choice movement, on the other hand, was flabbergasted.  It was always pretty obvious to me that the pro-choice leadership had always been uncomfortable with the actual abortion procedure and those who performed them.  In fact, when I lobbied for the National Abortion Rights Action League I remember several conversations to that effect.  They all knew that abortions were not pretty and always tried to steer the conversation back to “choice,” but when word got out about this legislation, they were stunned.  Their first calls were to the National Abortion Federation, Planned Parenthood and our organization.  Suddenly, they had to talk about abortion.

My first response was to call a number of our doctors who did later abortions to see if they knew about this procedure.  I quickly learned that several of them actually used a variation of the procedure where the fetus was first injected with a drug called digoxin, thus killing it.  Then, the fetus was dragged down, the contents of the brain were removed and then it was pulled

out.

After collecting and sharing information on the procedure, the pro-choice groups had a strategic decision to make:  should they fight the bill?

My immediate reaction was that there was no way we could ultimately win this battle.  I got that sense after talking to a friend of mine, Congressman Jim Moran, who was very pro-choice and who told me he could not defend this kind of procedure.  If we were going to lose Jim, we could not win.  So, I argued that we should lie down and let this bill pass on a unanimous vote.  I gave two reasons.  The first was that as far as I could tell, if this bill became law it would affect only ONE doctor in the entire nation – Doctor Haskell.   That’s because the legislation prohibited using this procedure on a “live” fetus.   All of the other doctors killed the fetus first then they performed the procedure.  The legislation (as confirmed by the Center for Reproductive Rights) would not have affected those doctors.  The second reason I suggested we roll over was that I could see that it would be a public relations nightmare.  If we opposed the bill, it would engender a furious national debate – and there was no way we would win it.  I mean, how the hell could we go on television and justify this procedure to the American public?  Now, don’t get me wrong, I always felt that this procedure was very legitimate and, in some ways, I thought it was more “humane” than a regular D&E where the doctor uses forceps to extract the parts of the fetus.  But how the heck do you talk to the media about this procedure?

Ultimately, the pro-choice groups decided to fight the legislation.  Honestly, I never heard a real good reason given internally.   Then, on the public front, they started to argue that there were “only” a small amount of the procedures performed in the first place and that, when performed, they were used only in very extreme circumstances, such as when a woman’s life was in danger.  That started the pro-choice movement on a very slippery slope which ultimately resulted in disaster.

More about that later.

Dr. Finkel

After a while, we simply referred to him as “Finkel.”

I am referring to Doctor Brian Finkel who for many years owned an abortion facility in Phoenix, Arizona. He was an outspoken Ob-Gyn who performed abortions with a gun on his hip. He was one of the few doctors who would talk openly and honestly about his work. Check that, he never saw a microphone or television camera that he didn’t love. And today he is serving time in a county jail for sexually assaulting and molesting a number of his abortion patients. He will probably be there for the rest of his life.

I can’t remember when I first heard of Doctor Finkel, but I think it was when he called our office to inquire about how he could join the National Coalition of Abortion Providers. At that point, we had only three staff people, including me, so it was impossible to run a complete check to determine if he was a good doctor who was running a respectable clinic. Still, I did call a few people on my board but no one had ever heard of him. When I called him to talk about membership, I was impressed by his candor and his articulateness. And, truth be told, he was one of the funniest guys I had ever met.

We ultimately allowed him to join. What appealed to me was Finkel’s willingness to talk about his work. Around that time, the anti-abortion violence was really hitting the fan and our doctors were running in the opposite direction. They were either quitting their job altogether or at least going underground. But I needed doctors to talk, to share with the world their horror stories, to testify before the Congress, to tell the real story. And Finkel, who employed a professional speech writer, fit that bill.

Shortly after he joined NCAP, I visited him at this clinic. It was one of the more beautiful facilities I had ever seen, all decorated in a southwest motif. I quickly learned that he had an Elvis fixation, as his walls were adorned with all sorts of pictures and tapestries featuring The King. Indeed, Finkel referred to himself as “The Elvis of the Pelvis.” In person, I started to get a different perspective. He was rather short with his staff, often referring to them as “honey” or “sugar lips.” And in private conversations, he would regularly refer to “the bitches” who needed abortions. When he had to go into the surgery room, he would say he was going to “the vaginal vault.” He would refer to the “niggers” or “spics” who “didn’t know how to keep their legs closed.” The invectives flowed so smoothly out of his mouth that it stunned me to the point where at first I literally could not respond. I would ultimately admonish him and he would cool it for a while. Of course, being a total slob did not disqualify him from performing abortions and, again, I needed a doctor who had the balls to speak to the American public. I was very torn.

In 1994 NCAP decided to hold a press conference in Washington D.C. to urge the (Clinton) Administration to help protect abortion providers from the terrorism that was raging across the country and, with a gulp, I invited Finkel. He was a big hit. That night, our event was the first story on each of the network news shows and Finkel was the star because he was smart enough to know about props. At one point, he bent down behind his podium and held up his bullet proof vest to the cameras. “Mr. President, I need protection. I am just an Ob-Gyn in Phoenix Arizona, not an American ranger in Mogodishu.” After that, Finkel became a star. He and I were both on Good Morning America a few days after John Salvi killed several abortion clinic workers in Boston. He debated everyone, he was even on the Howard Stern show.

Behind the scenes, however, he kept telling me that the local District Attorney was out to “get him.” He even asked me to talk to the D.A., which I didn’t do. That’s because deep down I started to suspect that Finkel was a little wackier than I really thought. Then, in September 2001 everything hit the fan. That’s when a woman told a Phoenix newspaper that after undergoing an abortion in Finkel’s clinic she had woken up from sedation to find the doctor lying against her with his hands on her breasts. In the weeks and months that followed, more than 100 women reported similar allegations against Finkel to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which charged him with more than 60 counts of sexual misconduct involving 35 different women and he was convicted on most of those charges. Finkel called me asking me to intervene on his behalf but I couldn’t do it. Of course, I couldn’t prove anything but I had just seen or heard too much over the years. To this day, I wonder if there was anything I could have done to prevent those women from being harmed.

Today, on Father’s Day, I get a letter from Finkel adorned with lots of wild doodling and numerous exclamation points. He tells me how he was “railroaded” and how “justice will soon be served.” His only remaining option is the U.S. Supreme Court. So Finkel, who is now in his sixties and has about 20 years on his sentence left, will probably die in prison.

Good riddance.

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?

On January 22, 1973 the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Roe v Wade decision which declared that the constitutional right to privacy extended to abortion.  Supporters of legal abortion rejoiced, although some did object to the fact that the decision allowed some restrictions on the procedure.  At the same time, the pro-life movement declared it as a dark day in history.

Over the next few years, however, the pro-life movement actually took “possession” of January 22.  They started organizing large rallies on that day across the country and ultimately launched the annual “March for Life” where hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers came to Washington, D.C. to express their opposition to legal abortion.  The pro-choice movement could only watch feebly from the sidelines.

Abortion

In late 1997, as a staff person for the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, it dawned on me that the next January 22nd would be the 25th anniversary of Roe v Wade.  I started to think about how we could “take back” that day.  Remember that this was a time when abortion providers were under attack.  The bullets were flying, clinics were being bombed, every day was another battle in the constant war.  Ironically, I came up with the idea of actually having a party, a celebration commemorating the work of the doctors and staff at the abortion clinics.  Indeed, for years at the annual NCAP conference, we always had a dinner dance to help us wind down after a full day of seminars and lectures.

But I started wondering why we shouldn’t go a step further?  I had been in Washington, D.C. long enough to know that other organizations, from the realtors to the bankers, regularly had formal, black tie parties.  Why couldn’t we do the same thing?  Why not have a real “grown up” party?

At first, some of our members were reluctant.  It was almost as if it would be a sacrilege for the doctors and staff to “dress up.”  But within a few weeks, the idea spread like wildfire.   On email and over the telephone, people started talking about what they were going to wear, how they needed to rent a tuxedo and other logistical issues.  While they were still nervous opening up their car doors, I could tell they were even more nervous about how they were going to do their hair that night.

To make the evening extra special, I booked the main ballroom at the famous Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.  I then spent weeks looking for a live band and finally found one that I liked.   Everything was in place.

Since they were in town anyway, we offered our members a series of lectures during the day.  They sat through speeches on “head and heart” counseling and how to advertise on the Internet, but it was clear that no one was concentrating.   They were thinking of their “coming out” party.  Finally, the time arrived.  My staff and I got there early and stood at the door greeting folks as they shuffled in.  I was literally taken aback.  I had gotten to know these folks intimately, had talked to them for years about the protestors and the murders, was accustomed to seeing them in their scrubs or casual “clinic wear,” but now they were coming into the room with flowing gowns and jewelry that had been in storage for years.  Instead of bullet proof vests, the male doctors now had shiny tuxedos.  They were different people.  They were finally having fun, getting all “gussied up” as one person put it.  The music, the food and, yes, the booze flowed all night.

A few weeks earlier, I had spoken with a writer for the “Style” section of the Washington Post and she thought it was fascinating that abortion providers would even consider having a party.  I invited her to come and she readily accepted.  The next morning, after a very long night of revelry, our conference attendees had copies of the Post delivered to their hotel rooms and there on the front page was an article entitled “Dinner Break From a Hot Issue.”   The joy of those interviewed jumped from the pages.  Doctors who drove to

Abortion

their clinics with blankets over their heads for security purposes openly talked to the reporter about the great time they were having for that one evening.   Clinic owners spoke candidly about how proud they were of the work they performed.  Directors of clinics talked about the women they served and about whose gown they were wearing.   We had created an alternate world for one magical evening.

Within a few days, everyone was back at their clinics.  Waiting for them were the local protestors, the anonymous phone calls, the nasty unsigned letters and the myriad of issues that come up daily in a medical facility.  But for weeks, they just talked about “the party.”

On that night, we had taken back Roe v Wade.

A few days ago, a judge in Omaha, Nebraska gave permission to a 17 year old girl to have an abortion.  Not sure why it was a story, but…

For many years, the United States Supreme Court has said that states can require minors to get the permission of their parents or at least notify them before getting an abortion.    I have argued in previous blogs against these laws.  However, the Supreme Court also said that, if the state enacts these laws, then they also have to give the minor the option of getting permission from a judge.  And that’s what happened in this case.

The Supreme Court made it sound so very simple.  Well, little girl, if you really cannot talk to your parents, then all you have to do is go to a judge.

Let’s think about this for a second.

Take your average 14 year old girl.  She – unfortunately – gets pregnant.  I’m not going to get into chastising her, feeling sorry for her or whatever.  The fact is that she is pregnant and she does not want to have the child.  Sounds pretty responsible to me (yes, I know she was “irresponsible” to begin with, but…).    The problem is that her parents are pretty strict.  No, let’s say they are extremely religious and the girl knows that if she tells them she is pregnant, they’ll practically kill her.  She would ruin everything for her parents.  Now, if you are anti-abortion person please don’t give me that crap that the girl should go to her parents anyway and they’ll work it out.  In real life, unfortunately, every family is not perfect.

So, the girl has determined that she wants an abortion but cannot go to her parents.  But, wait, there’s an easy alternative!   You just have to go to a judge!

So, the young girl decides to pursue that option.  Well, how does a 14 year old girl find a judge?  In fact, as I think about that scenario, I frankly haven’t the foggiest idea how you would get that process started.  And I’m not a 14 year old girl or one of her friends.  Where do you find a judge?  Are there special judges for abortion cases?  What would be your Google search terms?

Ultimately, you might get lucky and discover that several pro-choice groups have lawyers that help women through this difficult process.  So, you talk to someone and they say they’ll help.

The girl then has to sit down with the pro-choice attorney and probably some other staff to discuss her situation.  She has to be prepared to talk about why she cannot go to her parents.  Think of how embarrassing this process is for her, even when she is in friendly territory.

Then, she finally has to go to court.  Have you ever been in court?  Did you not feel intimidated by the whole process?   Now, think about the 14 year old girl, going downtown to the big, marbled courthouse with hundreds of people running around in suits.  Think about walking into the cavernous courtroom, sitting there with the bailiff, the court reporter and possibly others waiting silently for the judge to come in.  The judge sits down and calls your case.  Think about the young girl walking up to the bench and having to talk about how she is mature enough to get the abortion.   That requirement always killed me:   the girl has to prove that she is mature enough to have the abortion but if the judge determines she is not mature enough, then the assumption is that she is “mature” enough to have the baby.

It’s always easy for some legislator in some state to get up and pontificate on what the law should be.  In this case, it’s easy to argue about this “judicial bypass” requirement as if it is such an easy thing for a young woman to do.

Get real, will ya?