Abortion Martin Luther King

Abortion Martin Luther King

Since we are celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King weekend….

A short while ago, Republican Congressman Trent Franks announced that he would soon introduce legislation that would, among other things, prohibit women from having an abortion if it was because of the child’s race.  The bill is called – take a deep breath – the “Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011.”  Not sure why he didn’t throw in the name of Francis Scott Key, but that’s between him and his maker.

Franks Abortion

Franks Abortion

Franks noted that abortion is the greatest cause of death of African Americans and he added that this “will be the civil rights struggle that will define our generation.”  What a guy!  Then, the ever-present “Concerned Women for America” chimed in saying “it is horrific that in America today babies are being killed based on their race…”  Finally,  and here’s the real kicker, Pat Mahoney, another anti-abortion leader, added “you can walk into a clinic and get an abortion if you find out your child is African American.”  Think about that statement for a second.

Anti Abortion, Kill the Mother Politics

Anti Abortion, Kill the Mother Politics

The facts:  according to the pro-choice Alan Guttmacher Institute, the abortion rate for black women is almost five times that for white women and for Hispanics.  I don’t know why that is true, but it is.  And, of course, our goal is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies amongst all races.

But, the first problem with this legislation is that it makes a big assumption (something the anti-abortion advocates do a lot because they have never been inside a clinic).  It assumes that when women are counseled before the abortion, they are asked why they are having it.  That ain’t the case folks.  Unless the woman brings the issue up herself, the doctor does not know why the woman is aborting.  Yes, if a woman volunteers that she is aborting because the fetus is black, then the doctor will be prohibited from performing the abortion.  But, sorry Mr. Franks, but you ain’t gonna “save any babies” because the woman, now aware of the law, will simply go to a different clinic and just not share the reason why she is aborting.

Mr. Franks and others like to suggest that abortion clinics are “targeting” the black community and engaging in “black genocide.”

Puleeeze.

The people who own and run abortion facilities are trying to help women.  At the same time they are running – dare I say it – a business.  They incorporate, they pay taxes, they hire people, they buy equipment, they advertise, they do everything that the local burger place or dry cleaners does.   And, if they are smart they locate their facility in a spot that has enough population to allow them to pay the bills.  And some locate their facilities in predominantly black areas.

But it’s not what Mr. Franks thinks.  In 2008, 63 percent of abortion clinics — defined as providers of 400 or more abortions annually — were located in predominantly white neighborhoods while 12 percent were located in neighborhoods where one-half or more of the residents are Hispanic. Only 9 percent were located in predominantly black neighborhoods.  So much for the “campaign” to wipe out the black population.

Sanger Abortion

Sanger Abortion

And before anyone tells me how Margarget Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was out to wipe out the black race, don’t even go there.  She may have made some very unfortunate comments at a time when racism was still very rampant in this country, but don’t tell me that today when a Planned Parenthood staff person goes to work, they are quoting Margaret Sanger and looking for pregnant black women in the hopes of convincing them to abort.  How silly.  .

No, Congressman Franks is just playing the race card with the hopes of convincing African Americans that the Republican Party cares about them.

What a bunch of horse-hockey.

Mississippi

Mississippi.    

Is there a more pathetic state in the Union?   I mean, does anyone know of a state that is more regressive in terms of income, health, education, baseball teams?   Indeed, can you name a Third World country that is as bad as Mississippi?    

And, now, to push the state even further into the dark ages, their voters on Tuesday will probably pass a resolution that will totally outlaw abortion.  The specific question that the voters will be asked to approve says:  “Should the term ‘person’ be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the equivalent thereof?”   Now I can’t imagine anyone in that state who knows what the term “thereof” means, but the gist of this measure is there will be no more abortions and lots more kids to add to the misery that is life in Mississippi.  Indeed, the person who is spearheading this effort, a guy named Les Riley, is the founder of “Personhood Mississippi” and he is the father of TEN children.  I guess old Les is hoping that others in his neck of the woods will bear the same number of kids, if not more, so they can get the classroom sizes up to at least 50 kids per room which would push their rate of academic achievement below that of Somalia.  Quite a role model, that Les!

The interesting thing about this resolution is that many “mainstream” pro-life groups actually oppose it because they are smart enough to realize that it is too extreme.  But, it ain’t too extreme for the Bubbas in Mississippi.  Indeed, outlawing abortion ain’t enough for these folks.  An analysis of the resolution shows that certain forms of birth control would be outlawed (thus creating even more children living in poverty) and it would limit in vitro fertilization.  But, for now, let’s stick to the abortion side of the equation. 

This is Johnny, oh wait, Marie, oh wait "it" has no sex yet.

When the measure passes, the next day Planned Parenthood will challenge it in court and the lower courts will grant an injunction prohibiting the measure from going into effect.  Here’s the thing, however.  Let’s say Mitt Romney (or one of the other Republican nominees) becomes President in 2013.  Despite his previous support for the right to choose, he has now courageously “seen the light” and is all of a sudden pro-life.  What a guy, a true Profile in Courage.  As President, he would be beholden to the pro-life movement and

sooner or later some more Supreme Court judges are going to kick the bucket.  That means that Romney (or, conversely, Obama) might get to make 2 or 3 appointments.  If it’s Romney, you know damn well he is going to appoint judges who are pro-life and that could tip the scales. 

Yes, many lawyers suggest that the court could not uphold a measure like this because of “legal precedent.”  That’s garbage.  It might have been the case years ago when our judicial system, not to mention the executive and legislative branches, were more deferential to their body’s previous actions but not anymore.  I am convinced that when the Supreme Court gets this (or any other) case, the justices, with the possible exception of Justice Kennedy, make up their minds immediately, then instruct their clerks to construct their rationalization.  If you think they sit there objectively, listening intently to the arguments of the learned counsel then come to a decision, you’re in La La land.  I mean, think about it.  Do you really think Clarence Thomas and Anton Scalia would NOT find a way to uphold the Mississippi law?  

So, this case will ultimately make it to the Supreme Court in a few years.  And that makes the next Presidential election so extremely important when it comes to abortion rights.  I feel like we’ve been through this drill before, but this time it’s extremely serious. 

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!

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.

Price of Abortion

Making Money from Abortion

For as long as I can remember, anti-abortion advocates have screamed about how the owners of the abortion clinics and the doctors who work in them have made tons of money off the “killing of babies.”  I have always found it interesting that these mostly conservative, Republican, business-oriented folks have taken such an anti-capitalist point of view, but that’s beside the point.

What also interested me was how the anti-abortion crowd could make such statements when I am confident that they probably do not know any of the doctors or owners personally, but why should that stop them from taking one (possibly true) anecdote and making such broad generalizations?   On the other hand, my comments are based on my extensive, personal interactions with hundreds of these folks – and when I say “personal” I mean that I have spent times in their homes, have gotten to know their families and, thus, have gotten a very good sense of the kind of money they make.

Years ago, when abortion first became legal, the owners and doctors made a significant amount of money.  And that was because in the very beginning there just weren’t that many clinics.  Women were travelling hundreds of miles to get to a state like New York that had a clinic or two.  There were charter planes bringing women to those facilities in NY, California and Colorado.  So, those clinics were filled with hundreds of women each week.  The average price for a first trimester abortion was $250 in the early days, so you do the math.  They made a lot of money because of the high demand and the relatively few facilities.

Over the years, however, more and more clinics opened up their doors and the patients started to spread out to take advantage of a clinic that was closer to their home.  Thus, the number of patients going to those large clinics in New York and the other states started to shrink.  Then, sometime in the 1980’s or so, the number of clinics exploded in certain states.  In cities like Detroit, Atlanta, Dallas and Los Angeles, they were all over the place.  The competition for the patients became intense.

Now, I will tell you that I have visited some very nice homes over the years, that’s for sure.  But, for the most part the owners of the abortion clinics live in middle-upper middle class neighborhoods, as do the doctors. I have no idea what the salary was (or is) for the average doctor but I can tell you in many cases it was just about what any ob-gyn would get per year.  I mean, after all, they are doctors.

On the other hand, I also stayed on the couches of several owners who had some very modest homes.    After the “old boys” of the early days started to die out or move aside, a new cadre or owners, particularly young women, took over and their life styles were nothing like their predecessors.  Indeed, I recall two or three owners who actually lived in the basement of their clinics.

Today, the average cost of an abortion is about $400.  If inflation were taken into account, the cost should be more like $1,000.  But the price of an abortion has been kept artificially low because there are many owners who want to keep the procedure accessible for those in need and, yes, because of competition.   At the same time, I have seen many instances where the doctor performed an abortion for free or at a reduced priced if the patient was in very dire circumstances.  Remember, while these folks are businesspeople, they are also good bleeding heart liberals who want to help those in need.

I guess for me the bottom line is that abortion is a business that was created because women demanded the services.  And it’s a medical business that requires the purchase of medical equipment, security cameras, malpractice insurance and the payment of staff salaries.  So, I hate to disappoint the anti-abortion crowd but this true medical procedure requires that the doctors charge something to make it available to the next woman.   And, please, before anyone who works at a crisis pregnancy center tells me that they work for free and charge nothing for their “services,” spare me the comparison.  Talking to a woman about abortion in a small room CAN be done for free (which makes me wonder why many of the cpcs need government grants).  When they start having a need for a physician who will perform a medical procedure, then we can compare notes.

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…