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.

“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.

Obama Supports Pro Choice Policy

Obama Supports Pro Choice Policy

I just noticed that the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARRAL) is asking pro-choicers to sign an online petition to President Obama urging him to allow abortions for “high risk” women to be performed in the new health cooperatives that are being established under the new health care reform law.    I used to work for NARRAL.  No, check that.  I used to work for the “National Abortion Rights Action League” but sometime after I left they felt a need to add “Reproductive Rights” to the title.  Never understood that one.

Anyway, it’s clear to me that NARRAL does not have much to do these days.  Generally, things are going well for them on the national level because we have a pro-choice President.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that when things are going well, it hurts your fundraising.  And when the money stops coming in, you gotta find an issue that gets your supporters riled up.   Hence, this new and rather bogus campaign.

The bottom line is that President Obama signed an Executive Order months ago clarifying that no federal tax dollars would be used for abortions in these new programs.  If he hadn’t signed that document, we would not have had health care reform, plain and simple.  He had a gun pointed at his head.  He needed the votes of some pro-life Democrats.

Now, before any of you pro-choicers jump all over my butt, remember that I have put my time in with the movement and I am as strongly pro-choice as anyone.  But the fact is that since the 1970’s, there have been prohibitions on the use of federal dollars for abortions (the “Hyde Amendment”).  The Congress doesn’t even vote on the issue anymore.  We just don’t have the votes to change that policy.  So this Order was just clarifying that long standing policy.  It changed absolutely nothing.

But NARRAL is outraged!   Sign our petition DEMANDING that he change the policy.

The fact is that NARRAL knows darn well that Obama cannot rescind the order.  But, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.  So, sign this petition today!   And, by the way, now that we have your mailing address you’ll probably receive a fundraising letter by tomorrow.  Oh, and please notice in the top right hand corner of this page that we have a convenient DONATE button.

To line their own coffers, NARRAL is putting an already teetering President in more danger.  They are riling up the troops who no doubt will be disappointed when Obama does not heed their demands.  Sure, they may still vote for him but they will not doubt be less enthusiastic come election time because he has “failed” the pro-choice movement.

Abortion President Barack Obama speaks to a joint session

President Barack Obama speaks to a joint session

The pro-choice organizations sometime forget that their goal is to work their way out of a job.  They don’t’ know how to claim victory because, if they do, then they’re on the unemployment lines.  So, they are driven to come up with false issues, to try to rev up the troops who, hopefully, will send money to help their national organization fight for this “important right for women.”

This is not only shameful, but it is a dangerous effort that could hurt our PRO-CHOICE President.

Obama Pro Choice

Obama Pro Choice

A short while ago, former Governor, former Mayor, former VP candidate, former beauty queen and would-be czarina Sarah Palin said something very interesting.  Not smart, mind you, but interesting.   She said that President Obama was the “most pro-abortion President in our history.”

Wow, how’s that one!

Ironically, Ms. Palin’s comments actually made me think, as opposed to her usual comments which normally make my eyes roll into the back of my head.   What did she mean by that comment?

Well, we know he’s pro-choice, that’s very clear.  But what does it mean when you have a pro-choice President sitting in the White House?

The first thing, of course, is that if he had an opportunity, it means he will appoint a Supreme Court justice who will defend Roe v Wade.  Looks like he’s done that so far.

Next, there are various bills in the Congress that are supported by the pro-choice community.  The main one is the “Freedom of Choice Act,” which basically would codify the Roe v Wade decision.   That bill, which has been around as far back to the 1980’s when I worked at the National Abortion Rights Action League, has never gotten anywhere.  If I recall correctly, it’s never even had a hearing in a committee.  Sure, at some point during the campaign Obama did say he would sign that bill if it came to his desk but he knows damn well it ain’t getting to his desk.  And, believe me, he is not on the phone every day urging Members of Congress to co-sponsor that bill or to hold a hearing on it.  He just isn’t that dumb.

Then there was the health care bill where he had to sign an Executive Order – which is a really big deal – to confirm that NO money in any of these new programs would be used to subsidize abortions.  He practically put his kids up as collateral to confirm that not one dime would be used for abortion.  Indeed, the pro-choice groups are still pissed off at him for doing that.

So, the bottom line, as far as I can see, is that he has done nothing to promote a “pro-abortion” agenda.   Then what is Sarah thinking?   I started doing some research and, in an exclusive report, will now reveal some tapes we just uncovered that prove Ms. Palin’s point:

Abortion Oval Office

Abortion Oval Office

Scene:  The Oval Office

Raum Emmanuel (Chief of Staff):   “Good morning, Mr. President.  Do you have time to discuss today’s agenda?”

The President:  “Raum, my main man!  (High fives are exchanged).  Okay, I think for the next week our message should be that we need more abortions in this country.”

Emmanuel:   “Right on, Mr. President.  Exactly how do you propose we do that?”

The President:  “Well, the first thing we gotta do is stop subsidizing any forms of birth control.  Then, let’s make it illegal to get emergency contraception over the counter.  Let’s start pushing all of that abstinence-only crap.  And, finally, let’s propose that we give a $500 tax credit to anyone who has an abortion.”

Emmanuel:   “You da man!   I’ll get on it right away.”

The President:  “Cool.   This will definitely turn things around for us.  Okay, now I gotta pack for another vacation…”

Congressman Ron Wyden

Abortion Clinics & Congressman Wyden & Abortion CPCs

Sometimes one person can make a difference.

Her name was Shannon Locke.  In 1991, she was living in Arkansas when she discovered she was pregnant.  She decided to have an abortion.  So, she picked up her Yellow Page book and under the “Abortion” category she saw an ad for the “Central Arkansas Crisis Pregnancy Center.”   What attracted her attention was that they offered “free pregnancy tests.”  She called the clinic and, when she asked how much the abortion cost, the receptionist said she wasn’t at her desk and couldn’t check the price.  Still, Shannon made the appointment.

When she arrived at the facility, Shannon was greeted by several people wearing white lab coats.  She filled out some paperwork and was escorted to a waiting room where she was told she had to watch a tape about abortion.  Shannon sat there for about ten minutes, watching a film replete with pictures of mangled fetuses.  At some point, Shannon realized she was not in an abortion clinic and left in an almost traumatized state.  Ultimately, she obtained her abortion in Little Rock.

Months later, in my capacity as a staff person for the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, I met Kim Farrell, the administrator of Little Rock Family Planning Services.  At one point, Kim told me about Shannon Locke’s story (without revealing her real name).  I had no idea there were such things as “phony abortion clinics” but Kim gave me a good education.    The next day, I started calling random clinics and discovered that these facilities were all over the country.  We soon discovered an actual manual published by the Pearson Foundation, an anti-abortion group, which gave instructions on how to set up a “crisis pregnancy center.”   Among some of the tips were: adopt a name similar to the real abortion clinic, get a building as close as you can to the real clinic, wear clothing that makes your office look like a medical facility.

About a week later, Congressman Ron Wyden of Oregon told me he had just become the chairman of a committee that had jurisdiction over consumer protection issues.  I immediately thought about how “consumers,” i.e., patients, were being defrauded by these anti-abortion clinics.  I told him about this national problem and we devised a plan to hold a congressional hearing to expose the existence of these facilities.  And, to get us as much national exposure as possible, I knew we needed a “star witness.”  That’s when I thought of the young woman in Little Rock.

Working with Kim, we convinced Shannon, who was 19 at the time, to fly to Washington to testify.  I met her at her hotel that morning and she was understandably very nervous.  I have to admit I felt like I was using her, but I kept thinking of the greater good.  That morning she was the lead witness at a packed hearing.  This is an excerpt from her testimony:

I thought it was an abortion clinic because the ad said “free pregnancy testing, abortion information.”…I was taken to a small room and the lady explained to me that I was about to watch a film on abortion and I would enjoy it. I felt forced to view the film in order to know the result of my pregnancy test. The film showed very pregnant women entering clinics and showed abortions in the late stages of pregnancy. The film said the abortions were on women who were 8 to 10 weeks pregnant, but all of the women had cantaloupe-size bellies. The films said that abortion caused women to bleed to death, never have children again, and many women had hysterectomies….the lady started telling me I was killing a life that is God-given and that a fetus is a baby at the time of conception. . .One week after I received my abortion, a person from the Central Arkansas Crisis Pregnancy Center called my mom’s home. I had listed her number as an emergency contact on the medical form (Shannon did not want her mother to know about her abortion).   I advocate against the businesses existing because women like me will continue to look in the Yellow Pages and be fooled.. .Women who look in the Yellow Pages for abortion want an abortion and not harassment.

There was not a dry eye in the house.

The hearings made national news.  Shannon Locke had told millions of women of the existence of these phony abortion clinics.  On a side note, she had also told the world that she had had an abortion and when she got back to Arkansas, being a national “celebrity,” she faced incessant harassment from the local anti-abortion movement.   It was an unbelievably courageous act.

A few days later, I got a call from the lobbyist who represented the Yellow Pages.  He said that they had no idea that these facilities were not real clinics and that they wanted to correct the situation.  About a month later, the Yellow Pages established a new category for these anti-abortion centers called “Abortion Alternatives.”  Under the heading, they put in language warning consumers that the facilities listed in that category did not perform abortions.

Over the years, these crisis pregnancy centers have continued to ply their trade (as evidence by the recent HBO documentary).  But, after all the publicity generated by this congressional hearing, the number of women who unwittingly went to the anti-abortion centers dropped dramatically.  Hundreds of thousands of women were now educated about these facilities.

Go pick up your Yellow Page book and see the “Abortion Alternatives” category.

Then, take a moment to thank Shannon Locke.

A few miles from where I sit, the anti-abortion crowd is assembling (in the rain) near the White House, getting ready for their annual March on Washington.  What I have never understood is how the anti-abortion movement made this “their” day?

They march to the Supreme Court, dragging little kids with them, making them holding disgusting signs.  They give vicious, anti-women speeches, they excoriate doctors who perform abortions, they swamp the Capitol Hill offices demanding that Roe v Wade be overturned.

Why are we not marching on the Capitol?   Why are we not celebrating this Supreme Court decision that liberated millions of women?  Why are we not barraging the media with stories of women who were saved by abortion?   Why are we not publicly praising this decision that gave women control over their own bodies? Why are we not thanking the doctors and staff that work at the clinics?

The anti-abortion movement has successfully stigmatized abortion, which has lead to an erosion of support for the pro-choice position.  Meanwhile, even the pro-choice movement tends to shy away from the word “abortion.”   Those of us who support abortion rights have to speak up about the benefits of the availability of this procedure.   We need to celebrate how abortion has actually saved hundreds and thousands of lives of women who, were it not for Roe v Wade, might be dead by a self-induced abortion. We do not need to be afraid of the word “abortion.”

Meanwhile, women who have had abortions need to speak up and talk about their experiences.   I trust women to be able to make this decision on their own, unlike anti-abortion zealots who want to control women, who want to force them to raise children.  But women whose lives were saved by abortion need to relate that experience and not hide in the shadows.   Their silence is deafening.  Over one million women a year receive an abortion.   Why are we still under attack?

We also should be celebrating the election of a pro-choice President. Barack Obama won a landslide, generation changing election while not shying away from his support for abortion rights.  We should be in front of the White House today, holding signs saying “Thank you, Mr. President.”

There will be battles ahead.   There will no doubt be vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court that need to be filled.  Yet, while I am heartened that we have a pro-choice President, we must not let our guard down.  We must INSIST that the next appointments reflect the President’s support for abortion rights.

Today’s anniversary should be a wake up call to the pro-choice movement.  We need to take back Roe v Wade day, it is our day of liberation!   It’s too late to do anything on this particular day but let’s vow to reclaim this anniversary as a celebration of our essential freedoms!

Throughout the history of our nation every election has seemed monumentily important. Think back on all the slogans of every past election are they really all so different.

This author is not a historian so the question is rhetorical.

I urge an objective look at the records of the two very decent individuals running for office. I believe them both to have integrity in their convictions and a desire to do what is right. I grant them that.

My friends and fellow Americans it is now time to have the courage to follow your convictions and make a choice. A choice which may determine your choice and opportunity to govern your own body.

That is as serious as it gets.

Look back on 8 years and reflect.

Please make your voice heard. Vote.

Who would you vote for today?
( polls)