Debate

I’ve been so tempted to wait until tomorrow to post another (award-winning blog) that ultimately turns out to be a cruel April Fool’s joke but I cannot wait – I must opine!

According to the statistics, more and more people are reading this blog. That’s pretty cool. Still, it seems that there are only a handful of people who actually then step up to comment on my thoughts or stories. I don’t know what that means. I frankly wish there were hundreds of comments to my posts but I’m told that people generally are just too shy or too intimidated to chime in.

As the moderator of the threads, I try to be as objective as possible. Although I am firmly pro-choice, I have expressed certain concerns, reservations, etc. about the world of abortion. I am also not shy about complaining about the pro-choice organizations. I think I am blunt to a fault. Indeed, when I was a “public figure” in the abortion rights movement that bluntness got me into trouble on a nunber of occasions.

Since I am available and blunt, I am curious why we don’t have more in-depth conversations about the actual abortion process. Whenever the opportunity has arisen, I have candidly talked about how abortions are performed and in what venue.  I have made a number of rather interesting admissions on this blog and am anxious to answer anything else.  But it just seems to me that the “debate” on our threads often degenerates into a series of nanny-nanny poo-poo comments or a game of “gotcha” designed to try to embarrass the other side. Indeed, I have been caught up in this silliness at times myself.

So, someone says she works at a crisis pregnancy center and some pro-choicers immediately respond by saying ALL cpcs are deceitful, that they intimidate women, that – and here’s the big leap – they condone anti-abortion terrorism. People just sit in front of their computers and attack, attack, attack, barraging the opposition with persistent, inane questions or comments. Then, the pro-lifer comes back and attacks, attacks, attacks. I share my truly confusing feelings about former Senator Bob Packwood and pro-lifers see an opportunity to point out some hypocrisy on my part. Well, they’re absolutely right – at times I am a hypocrite. I guess that’s because I just don’t always have the answers. So, sometimes I just don’t know what the hell to say. Sue me!

In another part of my life, I run a Facebook page that poses the “political question of the day.” I ask what people think about Libya, taxes, legalizing marijuana, etc. And 99 percent of the time, people just reply with a monosyllabic answer. It’s

Questions and Answers

“yes” or “no” to them – that’s it. They are just so right and the others are just so wrong. It is very, very rare when someone comes back and asks a follow up question to try to formulate a more educated position. No, we’re just locked in, our feet are stuck in the ground, no one is gonna call me a wimp or, worse, a flip-flopper.

So it is that some pro-lifers will just continue standing outside an abortion clinic, yelling through a bullhorn at women entering the facility. As far as they are concerned, those women are about to murder their babies and it’s their mission to stop them if possible. It’s their way or the highway. I’m right and they are wrong. This dynamic is reflected throughout our society in so many venues. It is particularly evident in the Halls of Congress where absolutely nothing gets done because you’re either right or wrong and I don’t wanna hear what you have to say.

So, I wanna say that I welcome the participation of folks like “Mary” and “Rogie” to our threads. I have appreciated their willingness to opine and to listen. Sure they (and we) can all get a little testy but it is my hope that we can continue having a true dialogue and get away from the dueling invectives. My hope is that we can try to at least understand our opposition and base our positions on agreed-upon facts (not the “facts” spewed out by our national organizations that only benefit from the continuing abortion “war”).

To that end, I stand ready to answer any question as best as I can about why I am pro-choice and what I know about the abortion process that is experienced by over one million women each year.

Women's History Month

Did you know that the month of March has been designated as “Women’s History Month?”

Isn’t that great! Aren’t you excited?

Okay, I confess. I didn’t know it either.  And, unless there was a way to connive a nice celebratory dinner out of my spouse, I probably would have totally ignored it.  But, when I think of it, maybe this is a good thing.  Maybe the advances and contributions made by women over the years is now such an endemic part of our culture that it no longer needs to be recognized by the President or whoever signed the friggin proclamation.  Still, as an award winning, internationally recognized blogger on women’s rights, I suppose I should take a minute and opine.

One thing I ain’t gonna do is talk about what legal abortion has done for women. I’ve written about that issue before. We all know by now the impact Roe v Wade had on women’s health and, yes, I know there is another human thing involved that is being killed/terminated/annihilated/whatever – but I’ve written about that also. So, let’s do something different and talk about the advances that have been made in women’s sexual health in general.

Remember how every once in a while a young girl in your high school just stopped coming to school for no apparent reason? Remember how the rumors started spreading around the cafeteria about how skinny, pimply faced Betty had “gotten herself into trouble.” The news would be communicated in whispers, rolling of the eyes, knowing nods of the head. Well, Betty had actually gotten herself pregnant!  Then, at some point Betty might come back all shiny and new and you would know that she had had an abortion, probably somewhere far from her town . Other times, however, Betty would not return at all.  It was all so sad.

Women's History Month

Then there was – dare I say it – masturbation.  We all did it and – dare I say it again – it was even fun. But in those days it was no less than a mortal sin. Maybe it still is (note to Pat:  check your Bible.)  But in those days we were constantly warned to not engage in that “self-defilement” or “self-abuse” because, if we did, then we would go blind, go gradually insane or, worse, hair would grow on our palms!  Things are a little different now, huh?

I remember in Catholic school how the nuns would try to convince the girls to retain their virginity until they got married. I remember a time when Sister Heloise showed a flower to the class and proceeded to slowly pick off all the petals, one by one. She then asked one of the girls to come up and replace the petals which, of course, she couldn’t do. “And it is equally impossible to get your virginity back,” was Sister Heloise’s stern warning. “What man wo

uld want a flower with no petals?” she asked the stunned crowd.  Oy vey.

Well, things have changed dramatically but, unfortunately, in some parts of this country we seem to be regressing when it comes to women’s sexual freedom. Of course, you’ve got the Tea Party and the other whackos to thank for that. Still, I am now sixty one years old and, despite some blips on the screen, there has been an incredible amount of change over the years. Ours is now a much healthier society in terms of not just the sexual lives of women but their professional lives as well.  Indeed, I won’t begin to bore you young folks out there about how women were treated in the workplace just a few years back. Actually, if you want an education go see some episodes of “Mad Men.” It’s all true.

Women are clearly in a much better place these days and, of course, more progress needs to be made. But I’ll leave those fights up to the next generation.

Lobbyist

Before I became a lobbyist for the abortion rights movement, I spent a lot of time working for several Members of Congress.  It was a fascinating experience – especially the nightly, free all-you-can-eat and drink receptions hosted by some big lobbying group (the National Association of Realtors and the Mortgage Bankers Association always had the best parties).

A short while ago, one of my readers asked in so many words how Members of Congress sort out all of the information that crosses their desks.  Specifically, she asked about information and statistics that are health-related and, I assume, that might be related to reproductive rights.  In essence, she was asking about the decision making process.  Here are my thoughts based on my experience:

When they run for Congress, within hours of filing their papers the candidate will be asked about their position on abortion.  There’s no way they can avoid it.  So, right up front the candidate has basically declared if he or she is pro or anti.  Now, if asked about their position on the deficit, they’ll say they want to reduce it but then will start fudging on the specifics.  On abortion, it is much harder to fudge.  So, if they get elected they go to Washington D.C. with the “pro-choice” or “pro-life” tag.  In a very, very small number of cases, the candidate might try to float around in the middle by saying things like they support legal abortion but believe there should be restrictions on its use.  But that is very rare.

So, let’s say Mr. or Mrs. Smith finally arrives at their new office on Capitol Hill.  If they are a new Member, their office is the size of a broom clo

Lobbyists in Washington

set and they have to squeeze in about 9 staff people.  In ten or twenty years, they’ll get decent accommodations.  Then, suddenly, one day there is a new report put out by the very respected and objective American College of Psychologists saying that abortion causes “immense emotional harm.”   In their study of 1,000 women who had abortions, they determined that 891 suffered “severe mental consequences.”

Within hours, the National Right to Life Committee issues a press release praising “what we have known all along about the consequences of abortion.”  The pro-choice groups, meanwhile, are hunkered down, having private meetings amongst themselves trying to figure out what the hell to do with what they see as a rather legitimate report. The next day Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey announces with great fanfare that he will introduce the “Abortion Counseling Act of 2011” requiring that women receive counseling from a clinic psychologist before being allowed to obtain an abortion.

In a matter of weeks, the bill is up for a vote.  The pro-lifers, of course, will not only vote for the bill but will go to great lengths to praise the report of “this august body of psychologists.”  And, by this time, the pro-choicers will have come up with some bullshit response about “this flawed study by a generally respected organization” that would restrict access to abortion.  The pro-choicers would be squirming as they voted against the bill but if they hope to get campaign contributions from the pro-choice organizations, they have to toe the line.  Every vote on the issue is ranked, they want that 100% voting record.

Then there are those few Members of Congress who are floating around in the middle, who are trying to look at the “evidence” objectively.  Those are the ones who will bear the brunt of the lobbying from the pro-life and pro-choiceorganizations.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, will be pissed off at them because they dared to be independent and actually review the statistics.

What it comes down to is that, on this issue, the lines are drawn very early and it is virtually impossible to change minds.  Indeed, this is often the case with most issues on Capitol Hill – and it’s a shame.  There is no room for independent thought, it is a “sign of weakness” if one says that they are “undecided” on a particular issue.  There is never any real debate in the Halls of Congress, it’s just a bunch of minows who have their pre-packaged talking points.

So, the answer to the original question is, at least on this issue, statistics, reports, etc. don’t mean diddly squat.

Roe V. Wade 38th Anniversary

Well, today is the 38th anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision!

So, now what do I say?

I guess when you have an anniversary you usually assess where you are, right?   So, let’ see where we are.

Of course, all the pro-choicers (who are fed by the pro-choice organizations) are going bonkers because the Republicans have taken over the U.S. House of Representatives.  All of the scary, red-lettered fundraising letters have gone out warning folks that ABORTION RIGHTS ARE IN DANGER!  I’ve written about this before and I’ll say what I said earlier – relax folks.  Just keep in mind that WHEN the House and IF the Senate passes some terrible piece of anti-abortion legislation, ain’t nothing gonna happen because ole Barack will be there to save the day with his veto pen.  But, of course, national organizations need to raise money to stay in business and they need to scare you to make you write a check.  So, keep everything in perspective folks (but it does not hurt to send the money in anyway).

When I think about what life was like over 38 years ago – before abortion was legal in this country – I can’t help to think about this nut ball doctor up in Philadelphia who a few days ago was indicted on several counts of MURDER for basically performing “illegal” abortions.  Now, I have not had the time to look closely at the indictment and, frankly, I’ve never heard of this guy but the only thing I thought of when I heard the news was that what he was doing was just how it worked in the old days.  We had all these sleazy illegal abortionists with unqualified staff, using unsterilized instruments and offering no counseling.  As a result, women throughout the country were being harmed physically and, worse, dying.  This guy up in Philadelphia is just an old “abortionist.”   Unfortunately, it’s someone like that who makes the headline and that, of course, gives the legitimate doctors a bad rap by association.

In the grand scheme of things, I can see how certain anti-abortion folks are so totally fixated on “saving” that fetus.  It’s just their thing and I am not qualified to psychoanalyze their thinking (I’ll leave that up to CG).  But while these folks are seemingly mesmerized by the quest to “save babies” do they not see what might happen if abortion were made illegal again in this country?  Do they not see what happened up in Philadelphia recently?  Do they have absolutely no compassion for the real, live, breathing woman?   I mean, they’re not all totally myopic, are they?

I think I know the answer that the pro-lifers will give me, I’ve certainly heard enough of the rhetoric over the years.  But, at least at this time, 38 years later, I can breathe a sigh of relief that in 1973 the Supreme Court in 1973 was brave and smart enough to realize what they were doing.  They struck a blow for woman’s health and that’s what I choose to celebrate today.

Capitol Hill Hallway

When I was the chief lobbyist for the National Abortion Rights Action League in the early 1980’s, I had absolutely no contact with abortion clinics.  Some people might find that ironic, but the fact was that I spent most of my time roaming the halls of Capitol Hill trying to stop legislative attacks on the right to abortion.  I never talked about the actual abortion procedure.  Abortion providers and their world were totally foreign to me. I just devoted my time to trying to preserve Roe v Wade and the constitutional right to privacy.

But like most Americans, I had a vision in my mind about what those abortion clinics looked like and how they operated.  It was not a nice vision because in some ways I had bought into the anti-abortion propaganda about the “abortion mills.”  And there was no one to rebut their claims as the clinics had no lobbyists, no public relations person.

Years later, when I joined the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, I realized that I had to get out there and visit the abortion clinics. So, I started making phone calls, asking the owners or administrators if they would mind if I came to their clinic for a visit. I expected to get mostly negative reactions, figuring they wouldn’t want me to see their clinics but the reaction was just the opposite.  Instead, people were thrilled that anyone from the “outside world” would want to see their facility.  They welcomed me with open arms.

The first abortion clinic I ever stepped into was the Raleigh Women’s Health Organization, a facility that was operated by my dear friend, Susan Hill.  I drove down on a Monday morning, met her at her house and we drove together to her clinic.  I was first struck when we pulled into a beautiful business park.  For some reason,  I had been prepared to wind up in the slums of Raleigh.  Instead, we turned a corner and I say a beautiful free-standing building surrounded by a number of mature oak trees and a sprawling green lawn.  And right out front, showing they had nothing to hide, was a sign saying “Raleigh Women’s Health Organization.”

We went through the front door and I lost my breath.  In the reception area were about 15 women sitting together.  The room was pristine with sunlight coming through the skylights and there was a whiff of lavender in the air.  I then noticed several fresh Iris plants in tall vases.  Classical music was being piped in through the facility.  I was stunned – and embarrassed because I had been expecting something much worse.

We went back to the staff room for some coffee, then Susan introduced me to her two (surprisingly)

Waiting Room

young doctors.  They were not the sleazeball “abortionists” that I had envisioned.  They were Ob-Gyns with diplomas from the top medical schools and what came across during our conversation was how proud they were of the work they were performing. The rest of the staff had the same positive attitude.  For a place that was hosting women in less than ideal circumstances, the clinic was a surprisingly upbeat place.

Later on, when most of the patients were done with their procedure, Susan escorted me into the recovery room.  There were about 10 women resting in warm, fuzzy reclining chairs with warm, fuzzy afghans.  They were sipping some kind of tea and eating cookies.  I was surprised that some were talking to each other.  I’m not saying that they were having a downright party but it was nothing like I had expected.

When it was time for me to leave, I said goodbye to the staff and thanked them for all the great work they were performing.   Then I walked outside and saw my first anti-abortion protestors.  They had apparently come just after I entered the clinic (which I never understood because they had missed their chance to harass the women as they came into the facility).  There were about thirty of them, all men, holding very ugly signs and screaming at me.  There was no way they could have known who I was but they probably just assumed I was associated with the clinic.

At that very moment, I actually felt my first surge of pride as the representative for the clinics.  I was emboldened and anxious to go back to Washington, D.C. to represent the staff at the Raleigh Women’s Health Organization and the hundreds of other clinics like them across the country.

I learned that day that abortion facilities were mere medical offices but with a special touch.  I learned that the anti-abortion propaganda that I had been listening to for years was just that – propaganda.  And I learned that the real “ugliness” in the abortion field was outside the clinic, not inside.

Abortion

In early 1991, just months after the formation of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, I hopped in a car and drove around the Midwest visiting clinics to get educated on the provision of abortion services.  One of my first stops was at a clinic in Arkansas.

I had a good initial meeting with the physician (who offered me a joint that he had been keeping in his desk drawer), then I met with the administrator for about two hours to discuss how clinics are run.  Very educational.  At one point, we started talking about the reasons why women have abortions and I mentioned how I’d love to meet a woman who was going to have an abortion.  The administrator responded “well, that shouldn’t be a problem.  You need to talk to Gloria.”

I learned that Gloria was in for her 6th abortion.  I couldn’t believe it and my initial reaction was that I needed to know why this was happening because, if I was going to represent abortion providers on Capitol Hill, I needed to know how to respond to charges of women “abusing” abortion. The administrator left the room to ask Gloria if she was willing to talk to me and she came back within a minute and said that Gloria would “love” to talk to me.

Gloria was in her mid-thirties.  She was what my father would call “a sassy broad.”  She was very confident, had a bee-hive hairdo and, from the crusty tone of her voice, a heavy smoker.  She was chewing gum as we spoke.  Probably worked as a waitress at the local diner.  You get the picture..

I told her that I was just hired to fight for abortion rights, which she appreciated, then I told her I needed to know why she was at the clinic for her sixth abortion.

“Well,’ she said, “the first time the condom broke.  The next time my boyfriend said he didn’t want to use a condom and threatened to beat me if I insisted on using one.  The third time, I had gone on new birth control pills and there was some problem with them, don’t remember the details.  The fourth time, I was raped by two truckers outside of the Rusty Skillet café in Little Rock.  The fifth time.  Geez, I can’t remember what happened the fifth time.  Then this time I was just playing Lady’s Luck.”

Medical Office

“What is Lady’s Luck?” I asked.

“Well, I was not on birth control, didn’t want to use a condom so I just kept my fingers crossed and hoped that I had good luck.  I actually should have just kept my legs crossed, huh?”

During her story, she kept cracking her gum and when she was done she looked at me coldly and said “Any more questions?”

I asked how she felt at that moment, knowing she’d be going in for anotherabortion in about 30 minutes.  She said she felt fine.  “I’ve been through this before, I know what to expect.”   She was a rock, ready to get on with her life.  Then, to my surprise, she asked me if I wanted to go in with her to the surgery room.  I said yes.

We walked in and the nurse put her on the table and started prepping her.  Then the doctor came in and said a few words to her before he got started.  Gloria looked at me and then reached her hand out to me. I grabbed it and she squeezed.  I then saw the doctor insert a tube into her and heard a vacuum-like sound.  I looked at Gloria and she had tears in her eyes.  I asked if she was okay and she said “I am such a loser.  I have got to get my act together.”  I started to well up myself.  The nurse asked if she wanted to proceed and Gloria said “let’s do it” and the process was complete within minutes.

Abortion

Later, in the recovery room Gloria was her old feisty, gum cracking self, ready to go out to her cold harsh world and kick some ass.  She hugged me as she was leaving and said “thanks for being there.”

When she left, the nurse came over to me and said “she cries all the time.  We always ask her if she really wants to do this and she always tells us yes.”

Thanks for the education, Gloria, you sassy ole broad….

Veterans

Today is a day that we thank all of the veterans who served our country.  In that same vein, I would like to take a moment to thank all of the “veterans” in the abortion provider movement who put their lives on the line to serve millions and millions of women over the years.  Below is my not very comprehensive list.  Sorry if I left you out,but my memory is fading.  The folks I am listing have been public about their work so I am not revealing anything new.  But there are many others who have “served” who I am not naming because they understandably wish to remain anonymous.

THE OWNERS

Renee Chelian, Claire Keyes, Deb Walsh, Rusty Stengle, Jane Bovard, Kelly Martin, Marilyn Eldridge, Merle Hoffman, Amy Miller , Gail Frances, Herb Wiskind, Tammy Sobieski, Gerry Grossman, Diane Derzis, Ed Allred, Wayne Codding, Ted and Patricia Windle

THE DOCTORS

Lee Carhart, Tyrone Malloy, David Gluck, Martin Haskell, Charlie Benjamin, Norman Fisk, Lloyd Benjamin,

Dr. George Tiller

Curtis Boyd, Gary Boyle, Richard Manning, Lorraine Cummings, Mildred Hanson, Sue Wicklund, Peter Bours, Elizabeth Newhall, Sylvester Braithwaite, Bill Fitzhugh, Robert Rho, Melanie Maclennan, William West, George Dainoff, Amy Cousins, Takey Crist, Randy Whitney , Mohammed Imran, Bruce Lucero, Warren Hern, Jerry Hulka, Damon Stutes

THE ADMINISTRATORS

Lorraine Maguire, Elizabeth Barnes, Jennifer Vriens, Charlotte Taft, Allie Harper, Jen Boulanger, Jessica Wilson, Toni Hawkins, Kathy Olson, Carol Westfall, Beverly Whipple, Marcy Bloom, Lisa Thomas, Chrisse France, Kudra McCalleich, Marilyn Buckman, JoDell Nauert, Jane Cerilli, Debi Jackson, Pam O’Leary, Stephanie Guilbaud, Carol Belding, Celeina Houston, Pat Mitchell, Sally Burgess, Karen Kubby, Francine Thompson, Kim Collins, Dena Vogler, Shauna Heckert, K.B. Kohls, Iggy DeBlasi, Susan Derwin, LaDonna Prince, Candace Dye

Susan Hill

THOSE WHO ARE NO LONGER WITH US

George Tiller, Susan Hill, Bill Knorr, David Gunn, Bart Slepian, Baird Britton, Myron Chrisman, Jerry Campagna, Michael Nauert,  Harold Tickten, Norma and Carl Stave, Curtis Stover, Robert Kisner ,

Buck Williams, Jim McMahon, Jim Barrett, Eugene Glick