Abortion Clinic Bombed

I was talking to an old friend of mine yesterday, a doctor who used to perform abortions in the Midwest years ago.  He retired in 2004 and in the course of the conversation we started talking about, as he put it, the “wild west days” when the bullets were flying and the bombs exploding at abortion clinics all across the country.  He then expressed his concern that the younger activists do not remember or just simply did not know what was going on in this country at that time.

As a staff person for the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, I was in the middle of it all.  Our office served as one of the “command posts” that sprung into action when the crap hit the fan.  The minute we got the news about a shooting or any other kind of violent act, we would send out an “Emergency Fax” to all of our clinics alerting them about the incident.  The main reason why we did this was to simply let them know that one of their colleagues had been involved in some heinous act and more often than not the other clinics would communicate their concerns and well wishes to their friends who had just joined the growing number of victims of anti-abortion violence.  In essence, we generated a nationwide group hug.

After talking to this doctor, I started to think about the particularly “bad” years and 1997-1998 was a period that really stuck out in my mind.  Yes, by that time several doctors had been murdered and other acts of violence had been committed, but this time period was a particularly bad one:

In January, 1997, a bomb exploded outside an office building in Atlanta that housed an abortion clinic.  Then, an hour later, while the police and rescue workers were still on the scene, another bomb exploded near a trash can. Seven people were injured;

In March, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the window of Family Planning Associates and an anti-abortion advocate drove his truck through the doors of another clinic in the area.  Two weeks later, four fires were set on the roof of the Mountain Country Women’s Clinic in Montana;

In May, an arsonist drove up to the Lovejoy Surgi-Center, ran a hose from a metal drum containing an unidentified flammable liquid into the clinic and ignited it.  A month later, an incendiary device was thrown through a hole cut into the air conditioning duct on the roof of the West Alabama Women’s Center;

A few months later, a bomb exploded at the New Woman All Women Health Care in Alabama killing an off duty policeman and critically injuring a nurse.  Five months later, in the space of one week there were eight butyric acid attacks on clinics in Florida.  In these cases, the assailant injected the acid into the clinic using a syringe and because of the horrific and noxious smell, the clinics had to be evacuated, washed down and closed for several days.  This incident started a spate of similar attacks over the next few months;

Towards the end of 1998, my good friend, Doctor Barnett Slepian, was murdered in upstate New York when anti-abortion activist James Kopp fired a shot through a window in his house.

This list is, of course, a small sampling of what was going on in those days.  And, as I read this list and recall the people involved, I honestly do get chills.  I can remember the fear, the loss, the insanity and the sense of helplessness that overwhelmed all of us.

Today, there is less violence when compared to those days but that is no consolation.  History can repeat itself and so every so often I intend to write about an incident or two in more detail in the hopes of reminding those coming up behind us of the sacrifices made by the doctors, the staff and others in defending the right to choose abortion.  I also look forward to seeing our friends in the pro-life movement condemning the violence.

Rhythm Method otherwise known as "Keep Your Fingers Crossed"

I’m not gonna talk about abortion today but I am still pretty confident that this will generate our usual exciting discussions!

A relative of mine lives in Tennessee.  He is 31 years old, has a lovely wife and makes a good living as an attorney for a big law firm.  He and his wife are very devout Catholics and faithfully adhere to all of the rules and regulations, including the one that basically says you should only have sex to procreate.  They say they use the “rhythm method,” which I frankly don’t know if the church condones or not.  But, basically, that’s their form of “birth control.”

Well, it ain’t working very well because in the last 6 years, they’ve had four children.  And I just learned that they are now expecting baby number five!  But when I saw them this weekend, I could not bring myself to congratulate them because I believe that producing five children is a very selfish act.

Now, they have enough money to raise the kids in a nice setting.  We do not have to worry about them sopping off the public dole.  And the kids will probably grow up to be productive citizens, although – yes – it is possible that one or two of the five might wind up being drug dealing psychopaths.  But, let’s be optimistic and say that they will all grow up to be wonderful pillars of society.

Here’s the problem.  The Catholics who read and comment on this blog believe that their religion is “the word,” that all of the other religions don’t have much to offer and, indeed, are way off base.  This not only relates to the issue of abortion, but to so many other issues that the church pokes its nose into.  But if it were up to many Catholics, we would all sign up with their church and join them in following the dictates of the Pope, like lemmings to the sea.  And, if we all did that, we’d all be producing 5, 6, 7 kids.

And while each one of those kids might be a “blessing,” as many suggest, I still think that having that many kids is a selfish act.  Many years ago, when we had an infinite amount of resources and it actually was helpful to have a crap load of kids

Catholic Model

working the family farm.  But that’s not the world we live in anymore.  We are using up all of our food, our water and other natural resources at an alarming rate.  Oh sure, those of you reading this might be sitting in a nice comfortable heated house but take a minute and read about the rest of the world, especially the Third World countries.

The point is that if every woman becomes a breeder reactor, the plethora of children they produced will be adversely affecting the world that my TWO children are living in.  That’s because we share the same planet, we breathe the same air.  We can just simply no longer afford to be propagating at a pace like this young couple.

And, let me throw in this wrench:  if I told you the same story and the woman was an illegal immigrant and crack addict living on welfare in the Bronx, would you still be saying that her sixth child was a “blessing?”

Protestors Holdilg Gross Sigs

Protestors Holdilg Gross Signs

It goes without saying that the abortion issue is probably the most controversial issue of our time.  Beginning in earnest after the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe v Wade, the “pro-life” and “pro-choice” forces have been going at for years – and there is no light at the end of the tunnel.  And if you read the polls, it’s really had to say what side is actually “winning.”  Indeed, I’m not even sure how you determine who is winning.  The bottom line is I know abortion is still legal in this country but they are harder to get.  You decide.

Some even go so far to say we are in a “war” over abortion, although I wouldn’t go that far because to me a “war” is when two sides are engaging in violence and, as far as I can tell, the only violent acts have come from the pro-life side (and please, if you are pro-life, do not bore me with the “violence in the womb” argument).  But, for the moment let’s say we are engaged in a war.   The question now is how far are you willing to go to win this war?  In the world of international relations, somewhere along the line we came up with the rules of the Geneva Convention which set some boundaries for conduct that warring parties are supposed to adhere to (although not everyone complies).  In this abortion “war”, I think there should be boundaries as well.  And recently, one pro-life group crossed a boundary that makes my head spin.

By now, everyone involved in this issue knows that Doctor Lee Carhart, a physician from Nebraska, has decided to carry on the work of the late Doctor George Tillerby performing later abortions and he

has established a practice in Germantown, Maryland.  He has been there for several months and has been so open about what he is doing that he even gave a front page interview to the Washington Post a short while ago.  I’ve written in the past about how I wish my friend Lee would just “shut up” and do his work quietly (out of fear for his safety), but Lee is not built that way.  He is an advocate as well as a physician.

Not surprisingly, there have been protests at the Germantown clinic.  That’s okay, that’s the First Amendment in action.  I don’t like it but I support their right to be out there on a Saturday yelling and screaming and parading around with their gross signs.  But now here comes a pro-life splinter group with a new tactic that boggles my mind.  It seems these folks found out who owns the office complex where the abortion clinic is located.  Yes, they had enough negative energy stored up that they probably combed the real estate records in the county for his name.  I have no doubt that they probably tried to find out where he lives but have not yet been successful.  But, after discovering the name of the landlord, they found out where his CHILDREN go to SCHOOL.  And, once they discovered that his children went to an elementary school in Maryland, they came up with the idea of picketing the kids’ school!   Yep, they went out there just a few weeks ago during the day and stood in front of the school with their ugly signs and blaring the name of the landlord (and, by reference, his children).

Dr. Carhart and Dr. Tiller

Just think for a second about not just his children, but all of the children as they jumped off the bus, already thinking about their lunch period or recess and then they see this sick group of people holding signs.  When they look closer, they may see the pictures of a dismembered fetus, they may see lots of blood, they might see the word “abortion” in big red letters.  Of course, they are probably too young to even comprehend what is going on but – as this group would say – THEY NEED TO LEARN ABOUT THE HORRORS OF ABORTION!

Who are these nut balls who believe it is up to them to introduce these young children to this difficult issue?  Aren’t they the same ones who scream about parental control?  The thing is I know who they are, they are the ones whose own children will be forced at a very early age to stand outside of an abortion clinic on a beautiful Saturday, be forced to hold a disgusting sign, chant a slogan, scream at the women. And they’ll say their six year old told them they’d rather be out there than playing soccer with their friends.

I have always encouraged a healthy, honest debate on this issue.  But a line has to be drawn somewhere.  Again, I would support their right to do this, but do these folks have no shame?  Besides, from a strategic point of view it’s a pretty stupid thing to do because they are pissing off a lot of parents, even those who are pro-life.

I wonder how these folks would feel if we went to their kid’s school and held up signs of women lying in a pool of blood after a botched abortion?  We could easily do it, we’ve got the pictures.

The difference is we’re too civilized.

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!

My last few blogs have generated a lot of interesting discussions. I love a good, hearty debate so I want to thank everyone for chiming in and for keeping it (relatively) civil. Abortion is obviously an emotional and controversial issue that, as far as I am concerned, will never really be “resolved” because it is just not as black and white as some of our national organizations would have us think.

The last post discussed the efforts of some anti-abortion groups to declare the fetus as a “person” from a legal sense and it generated a rather lengthy thread. We got reams of information about the humanity of the fetus-baby, when it starts breathing, how it can feel pain, how it can hear music, when it starts to fart, etc. It was all very fascinating. No, that’s not true. I gotta admit that it was totally boring to me. After a few posts, I stopped reading most of the scientific information that was shared with us, especially the footnotes and citations by supposedly objective authors. At some point, I just started to tune it all out because to me it was just becoming an academic exercise that had no relation to the real world.

Maybe I’m just too simple. Every time I would see the paragraphs going on and on and on, I would just think of that 21 year old girl living in subsidized housing in the South Bronx who made a mistake. She had unprotected sex with that boy who

abortion stress

Abortion "Stressfull Decision"

has been destined for Riker’s Island since he was in elementary school. And she got pregnant. And, instead of playing the poverty card, I would also think of the 45 year old woman in Beverly Hills who thought she was incapable of getting pregnant anymore and whose marriage is a shambles. I just wondered how both of these women would have reacted if they were reading these regurgitations of the scientific literature? C’mon, folks, let’s get real. They wouldn’t have read any of it. Do you really think these women care that the fetus at 8 weeks has fingers, or a lung or whatever they have at 8 weeks?

Well, maybe they do care a little or are at least interested but do pro-lifers really think that all of the scientific “evidence” of “life” is going to make a difference that much of a difference? No way. Indeed, I can prove it. In a number of states the abortion clinics are required to show women pictures of how the fetus will develop, what it has at what stage. And, if you talk to clinics you will learn that it is extremely rare – I mean extremely – when a woman sees the pictures and is so shocked that she cancels the abortion. One clinic owner told me how they had to get extra trash cans because all of the (taxpayer paid) brochures wound up being thrown out.

Sure, it will be sad experience in some way. The woman may think about how, had she not had the abortion, she would have had a child. But, to her, it was the decision that she had to make at that time. It’s the same process that so many pro-lifers went through when they had their abortion. The only difference is now those pro-lifers are admitting that they now “regret” their abortion or that they were snookered, they didn’t know it had fingers or they didn’t know they could have put it up for adoption. And now they are saying that others can’t have the abortion because they know better.

Bolderdash!!

I appreciate how some want to pass on their “wisdom” and share their experiences to help those coming after them. But it is the height of obnoxiousness and somewhat hypocritical to say that, while you had the chance to have your abortion, you now know better so no one else should have one.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I trust women. I trust that they will talk to whoever they want to talk to, they will process the decision as well as they can, they will try to find a reputable clinic with good counseling and they will do what they think is best for THEM at that moment.

For the most part, none of them will be persuaded by the scientific facts. Women already know that the fetus is alive with, at some point, human characteristics. And they don’t want that fetus to grow into a baby that they will have to raise. That’s why they have the abortion.

Personhood Abortion

Personhood Demonstration

I am now totally convinced that the anti-abortion movement in this country has no idea how to stop abortion and, worse, some of their strategies might actually result in more abortions in this country.

There is now another anti-abortion group out there called “Personhood USA.”  They are led by a young activist by the name of Keith Mason who hails from Colorado.  Personhood USA’s announced goal is to pass amendments to several state constitutions that would recognize someone as a person “exactly at creation.”   As Mason explains, that would be at the moment of “fertilization…when the sperm meets the egg.”

Go ahead, Keith, make our day.

Okay, so I’m not gonna spend any time talking about how only about half of these fertilized eggs actually result in an ongoing pregnancy.  I guess to folks like Keith, it is irrelevant.   I suppose that when fertilization occurs, the parents will go out and get their new little “person” a Social Security but if it never appears, well, we’ll just toss his or her card out.  Despite some possible glitches, Keith is charging full steam ahead.  Indeed, this November voters in Mississippi might vote on a “personhood amendment” to their state Constitution, although it is being challenged by the ACLU.  And Keith has declared that his organization hopes to get proposals like these on the ballot in nearly half the states by 2012.

If Keith and his buddies want to spend all of that time on initiatives like these, I might even send him $5 to encourage him because it is an incredible waste of their time, money and energy.  If you have ever worked on a ballot initiative you know how much work it is and if Keith wants to try to mobilize the anti-abortion folks in that state on a proposal that – even if it passed – would never pass constitutional muster, then I say go for it.   Of course, he is ignoring the fact that a similar measure was defeated in Colorado in 2008 and 2010 but if his crowd wants to spend their time pushing something like this instead of working to defeat President Obama, I applaud their decision.

Kelth Mason Abortion

Keith Mason

Here’s the other kicker.   Let’s say that the measure actually does pass in Mississippi and it starts making its way through the court system.  Let’s say that in the meantime, President Obama has three more appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court and he gets into a pissing match with the pro-choice movement and, seeking revenge, he appoints three ardent, right wing conservatives.  Then this case gets to that Supreme Court and they uphold the law!

The result?

Sorry, Keith, but the result could actually be more (illegal at that point) abortions.

That’s because redefining “personhood” in this fashion will actually end up reclassifying many birth control methods as abortifacients or agents that induce abortions.

Hmmmm…. Less birth control available to women.

Now, I’m no rocket scientist but is it not possible that this scenario might result in more abortions?

Hello, Keith!   Are you out there?

Anybody?

For many years, my colleagues in the pro-choice movement have made a big deal out of the fact that “87 percent of the counties in the United States do not have an abortion provider.”   They have used that statistic to raise money and to try to raise awareness of the problems posed by the “abortion provider shortage.”

There is no arguing that in some parts of the country, abortion doctors are a scarce commodity.  But let’s delve a little into how bad things really are.

The reality is that abortion is a very specialized form of medicine.  Contrary to what the pro-life moment thinks, women who suddenly find themselves pregnant just don’t run down to the ole abortion clinic and – wham bam thank you m’am – have an abortion..  In several states, they have to go to the clinic and check in to start that absurd 24 hour waiting period clock that does absolutely nothing to enhance the decision making process.  Sorry folks, but they’ve already thought about it prior to their visit.  In rural areas, this waiting period does one thing – it makes the process more expensive and, thus, might be a deterrent which, of course, is the real purpose of these laws.  When they are ultimately ready to begin the abortion process, they undergo some form of counseling, oftentimes they have to listen to some gobblygook mandated by the state, they may ultimately get the abortion.  If it is a late term abortion, the process could be three days.  After the abortion, they may have either physical or emotional issues afterwards that the clinic will try to address.  And if the woman is using the abortion pill, there are other factors to consider.

The point is that, unless you are dealing with a sleaze ball abortion doctor, the process is more complicated than getting a root canal or even knee surgery.   And that’s why I would suggest abortion is a “specialized” form of medicine that needs specially trained staff.

So, the fact that abortion doctors are not on every corner in the country is no surprise to me.  Indeed, I am not sure if I would want too many out there because it might lower the standard of care.  Also, I can say from the experience that there are a number of doctors or clinic owners who at times were not thrilled if another doctor moved into their neighborhood.  After all, this is – YES I’LL SAY IT – a profit making venture so who in their right minds would want someone to move in who will take away some of your business?

Now, when we get to states like North Dakota and Idaho, getting an abortion might be more of a chore because of the distances one has to travel.  But a woman seeking an abortion will find that clinic and, yes, she will have to travel a great distance.  And, if there is a 24 hour waiting period, that makes the process all that more difficult.  But when you are seeking some “rare” kind of surgery, you often have to travel great distances to find that specialist.  Just look at how many people fly to the Mayo clinic to treat a rare form of cancer or some other disease.

I remember years ago when the feminist movement was so excited that the “abortion pill” was coming onto the market.   They predicted that doctors would come out of the woodwork to offer this “simple” alternative to surgical abortions.  And while the doctors already practicing publicly applauded its introduction, privately they were very nervous that all of these new doctors would be competing with them.

So, when the pro-choice movement starts talking how so many counties don’t have abortion doctors, I have an interesting reaction.  Sure, in North Dakota we could use another clinic on the western part of the state.  But, then, on the other hand, in places like New York or Detroit, there is practically an abortion provider on almost every corner…