6-dec

Website domain name for Women’s Life Centre in Albury registered to the Wagga Wagga Catholic diocese

The Catholic church has denied any link to a New South Wales pregnancy centre accused of deceptively pushing an anti-abortion agenda to women, despite records showing the local diocese set up its website.

The Women’s Life Centre has operated for several years in Albury, NSW, marketing itself as a service that helps “any woman facing an unplanned pregnancy or worried that they may be pregnant”.

The centre is currently crowdfunding to buy an ultrasound device and says it offers pregnancy testing, counselling, resources on pregnancy and abortion, future planning and abortion grief counselling.

The centre is staffed by pro-life volunteers and staff but its website makes no mention of its anti-abortion stance, nor does its shopfront, which advertises “free pregnancy help” and “free pregnancy testing”.

The website domain name for the clinic is registered to the Wagga Wagga Catholic diocese, which covers Albury.

It also receives funding support from a café next door, named Esencia, which is owned by the church, according to the Australian Business Register and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission database.

A spokesman for the Wagga Wagga diocese said he did not believe there was any link between the church and the pregnancy centre. He said there may have been “technical assistance” to help the centre set up its website but nothing further.

Staff at the centre say they are openly pro-life and that there is no deception involved.

A volunteer, Myra Hogan, told Guardian Australia that women who came to the centre for help would be immediately aware of its pro-life stance.

“From my point of view, yes 100%,” Hogan said. “I feel like we’re very upfront and honest … That’s why I approached them, because that’s my own personal belief. I’m very pro-life.”

But senior Albury obstetrician and gynaecologist Pieter Mourik has accused the centre of covertly pushing an anti-abortion agenda.

“This [women’s life centre] is a vile deception of vulnerable women who have an unplanned pregnancy,” he said. “No member of this clinic would ever agree with a woman who wants or medically needs a termination but will use any tactic to dissuade them every time.”

The US has seen thousands of “crisis pregnancy centres” set up across the country, which purport to offer free medical advice but actually attempt to discourage abortion and the use of contraceptives.

The US centres have been accused of lying to women, overstating the health impacts of abortions and using misleading films and images to frighten those seeking help.

In France, MPs last week voted to approve a plan to outlaw abortion information websites that masquerade as neutral, official services with freephone helpline numbers but promote anti-abortion propaganda and pressure women not to terminate pregnancies.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/06/catholic-church-denies-link-to-pregnancy-centre-accused-of-covert-anti-abortion-agenda

Source: The Guardian

Daily BeastNational Right to Life, Family Research Council, and other anti-abortion organizations have been enthusiastically spreading the word about a study published in the New England Medical Journal showing that a fetus can be viable if born at 22 weeks gestation with advanced medical intervention. A New York Times article about the study was very clear that survival was for a “tiny minority” and that 24 weeks remains the medically and scientifically accepted point of viability.  Nonetheless, as all sides in politically polarized issues tend to do, abortion opponents have focused on sharing the headline of the study and not the details. Although coincidental, the publication of the study is perfectly timed with the U.S. House of Representatives passing the 20-week abortion ban, which the Senate will now consider.

Predictably, those who oppose abortion see the study as the proof needed to ban late term abortions, also suggesting that viability age should be lowered. They are appealing to our hearts through survival babies, giving the false impression that at 22 weeks most fetuses can survive outside of the womb. Many who believe that late term abortions must be legally available might even agree with them if the study was conclusive. It is not.

There are important medical-scientific limitations to babies born before 24 weeks. When pregnant women either go into labor early or a medical complication otherwise comrpomises the pregnancy, doctors discuss available medical interventions and the prospective outcomes of each on the fetus. Not all hospitals have the technology or equipment most able to produce a live birth and not all parents choose to have those interventions. Indeed, it is those very women who may choose a late term abortion to save their own lives or spare their wanted child a life of poor health. Much as they felt joy at being pregnant, life offered them a heartbreaking complication. No one has the right to judge the decision they make, certainly not Congress or political opponents of abortion.22 week fetus

In a column for the Daily Beast, Cornell Professor of Pediatrics Jeffrey Perlman noted in more eloquent terms that the study had serious biases and design flaws and should not lead to lowering the age of viability. For that to make sense, a randomized study with and without medical intervention would be necessary. Perlman also pointed out that the research would have to account for  a range of factors, such as gender differences in fetal development and accurate estimates of the age of the fetus to name a couple.

I am personally very grateful for the medical advances that have made it possible for premature babies to survive and live healthy, productive lives. I have significant reservations about the use of technology to force life too early to ensure health and quality, just as I do with sustaining life too long when people are confined to a bed with no consciousness and only technology allowing them to breathe.  All of us know of children born with disabilities or conditions that require lifelong care. That happens and to full term as well as premature babies. Families accept and embrace the children, adjusting and growing with the child. The acceptance that society places on these children and the value they place on supporting them and their families is evident through public policies, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and various educational reforms.

If a 22-week-old fetus can receive medical assistance and survive, how should medical experts and ethicists respond in the future, if at all, to the prospect of lowering the stage of viability if technology continues to advance? Are we concerned about the financial and social/personal costs associated with using the technology? There are high costs for the medical technology and there are high costs to care for babies born so early that they must receive medical care throughout life however long or short. What about 22-week gestational stage babies born addicted to drugs? Are we going to complain about the public assistance their moms receive? Will Congress thwart programs that support the care for these babies?

Doctor with laptop and pregnant woman in doctor's officeFor pregnant women in the wrenching situation of unexpectedly delivering a 22-week-old fetus, this study might offer hope if they happen to be at a hospital with the technology and expertise to offer medical intervention that might allow survival of the fetus. For other pregnant women, if this study is improperly used for political gain, and it already is**, instead of hope, it will further erode their options to make decisions they consider best for them and the baby they wanted and may even allow a physician to place priority on the life of the fetus over the woman. Which life is more important?

Instead of having implications for late term abortions and viability, the real issues to come from the study involve ethics and social support. A 22-week-old fetus is not naturally viable. An abortion at 20-22 weeks gestation may well save a woman’s life or spare a baby a life of pain. Nothing has changed in that regard.

** 5/15-15 update: Political misuse of the study has begun. See http://black.house.gov/press-release/rep-black-lauds-upcoming-house-vote-pain-capable-unborn-child-protection-act and http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/15/opinion/an-abortion-bans-bogus-arguments.html?_r=0

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?”

Pro Life Bumper Stickers

Like most Americans (the sane ones, at least), I watched in horror as our elected officials almost brought our country to the economic brink a few weeks ago with their outright silliness over legislation to raise the debt ceiling.  Despite the fact that every Congress has gone through this drill many times (including under Reagan and Bush), this time around the young Tea Partyers decided it was time to draw the line in the sand – the economy be damned.

They cried that they had been sent to the Congress to send the message that we needed to get control of the “reckless” spending that was running rampant in our federal agencies.  So, screw your silly debt ceiling, they shouted!  I don’t care, Mr. President, if you are cutting a few trillion dollars in spending.  It’s not enough!  And, while you’re at it, don’t even think about raising any taxes, even on the billionaires who could care less if they had another $1,000 or so taken out of their paycheck.   There will be no compromise – and let the chips fall where they may!

What a friggin mess.  It was a game of machismo and Obama, because he actually believes in governing this country, had to blink.

And so it is with the debate over abortion.  As followers of this award-winning blog have seen in the past, the “debate,” and I use that term loosely, generally boils down to a cyberspace shouting match where no one gives any ground, where no one dares say “hey, you got a point there,” lest they be accused of treason.  Yes, there are some who have a bottom line but at times do show that they are at least hearing the other side.  But, for the most part, it is dueling academic reports and quotations.

So, for example, a pro-lifer will make their argument invoking Genesis (“and Adam begat Cain who then begat Tommy after he smote his bro Abel all the while declaring that there shall be no abortion”) or St. Luke the Meek (“ye shall never abort a possible Savior”).  They will spend hours insisting that their book is the only one worth shit, that it is the all knowing edition that lays out everything that must be obeyed – even if you wear a turban.  It is the WORD of the munificent and compassionate God, pure and simple and, if you stray from his oh-so-loving WORD, you will spend ETERNITY SURROUNDED BY FLAMES IN HELL.  Sorry, but those are the rules.

Then there are the pro-choicers who quote their own Gods or, to be more exact, Goddesses.  Steinem, Abzug, Friedan, Madonna.  Theirs is the word, the woman’s body is sacrosanct, it’s our way or the highway.  They believe that every anti-abortion person is a true nut ball or, worse, a terrorist.  The crisis pregnancy centers are all run by freak-a-zoids who don’t give a crap about women and who, once they talk that woman into having the baby, will disappear forever.  Adios, mama, you’re on your own!  Meanwhile, the pro-choicers will insist that that damned thing floating around in there is a fetus.  It ain’t a baby you idiot!   It doesn’t matter that the mother calls it a baby when that eight week fetus is wanted.  Nope, when we’re contemplating abortion, it’s a fetus, pure and simple.

The problem in this country is that we live in a bumper sticker world where no one dares to give ground any more.  I am right and you are wrong.  End of story.  Indeed, when was the last time you ever heard anyone say “hey, you got a point there, I wanna think about that.”  OMG!  Hey, we got a wimp over here folks!  A flip flopper!  Off with her head!

So, much like we saw in Congress, the abortion debate has become one intractable mess.

Well, I’m sorry but no one has the monopoly on wisdom on this or any other issue.  The truth is always somewhere in the middle.  To be sure, I am totally pro-choice but, damn it, at 24 weeks it sure looks like a baby to me.  And while I still support the right to abort it, it pains me to see it happen.  On the other hand, to the pro-lifers out there, you are never gonna convince me that a 6 week fetus is a baby or a “person” as some of you would suggest.  Get real.

I say we toss aside the bumper stickers for a bit.

Let’s start thinking and actually TALKING for a change.

New York Times on Abortion

New York Times Abortion Article

In 1997, I told a reporter with the New York Times that I thought abortion was a “form of killing.”  I said it in the context of a story he was writing about the “partial birth abortion” procedure.  The quote wound up at the bottom of the story on page 17.  In other words, it did not create headlines and millions of women who had had abortions in the past did not come forward to demand their money back from the abortion clinics because they were snookered.  I got a total of one email from a clinic owner who was upset at my quote.  Never heard a word from the pro-choice groups.

Of course, we all know that the anti-abortion movement wants to make the procedure illegal because they also believe that abortion is not only killing, but murder.  When that doctor performs that abortion, he or she is “killing a baby,” pure and simple.  That’s where the line is drawn.  Indeed, a few have gone so far as to kill a (already alive with a family) doctor who performs abortions.

And now here comes Mitt Romney, a Republican candidate for President who years ago used to be pro-choice when he was Governor of (the liberal state of) Massachusetts.  At some magical moment, Romney got “educated” on the issue, coincidentally at the time when he was seeking the nomination in a process that is dominated by pro-life advocates.

Suddenly, Mitt Romney became pro-life!   Today, Romney believes that abortion should be “limited to only instances of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.”

Mitt Romny and abortion

Mitt Romney and Abortion

Hmmmmm.

First of all, kudos to this compassionate man who cares so much about women that he would grant them the ability of have an abortion as long as they can prove that they would DIE if they didn’t have one.  Good for you, Mitt!  Bravo!

But he would also allow the abortion if the woman were raped or a victim of incest.

So, what am I missing here?   What happened to the focus on that little 7 week “baby?”  Aren’t we supposed to STOP THE KILLING as the posters say outside the abortion facilities?  No matter what you call it, that entity that is inside the woman is alive, right?    And, if not aborted, it will continue to grow, right?  And the woman is going to the doctor to stop that process, right?

So, what’s with the rape and incest exception?    Killing is killing is killing, is it not?   Does it matter how that poor little ole baby, floating around serenely in the uterus, was conceived or by whom?  Doesn’t the anti-abortion movement want to protect that “baby?”

Of course, the answer is politics.  It’s a way for Romney (and other pro-lifers) to try to appear compassionate and moderate.  He’s trying to have it both ways.   And I suggest that it is the height of hypocrisy.

For many years, the Congress, led by the late Congressman Henry Hyde, passed a rider to an annual spending bill prohibiting federal Medicaid dollars from being used for abortions unless the woman’s life was endangered.   Then, in the 1980’s, after an intense lobbying effort, they added the rape and incest exceptions.  To me, that was also a hypocritical vote, a welcome one nonetheless.  While we were lobbying for the additional exception, it was clear that a number of heretofore “pro-life” members of Congress were uncomfortable and it because a very political vote.  Personally, I admired more those pro-life Congressmen who voted against the rape and incest exceptions.  At least they were being consistent.

So, Mitt Romney is trying to have it both ways.  We’ll see if his strategy works.

Planned Parenthood Rally

Sorry I haven’t posted anything in the last few days.  Actually, I’ve been stuck at Planned Parenthood’s national convention which was just a few miles from my stately mansion here in Mount Vernon, Virginia.

Of course, the buzz at the convention was how that nasty U.S. Congress was gonna halt all federal funding for PPFA.  Everywhere you went throughout the very large hotel, there were signs with big exclamation points, videos of speeches of some woman pounding her fist on a way-too-tall podium, buttons with clever slogans, pink tee shirts.  You couldn’t escape the hysteria.  Surely, it is the apocalypse!

All right now, let’s all calm down here for a second.  The bottom line is there ain’t no way in hell this is going to happen.

The Congress of the United States does not have the votes to stop this pernicious attack on abortion.  Oops, did I use the “a” word?   I’m sorry if I slipped because using that word is verboten because, as we know, most of the pro-choice groups cannot say the nasty “a” word because it’s way too sensitive.  Instead, we have to say these attacks are about women’s health, about their mammograms, their pap smears and all of those other socially acceptable tests that women must perform.

But I digress.

Nothing is going to happen because we’ve got Barack Obama sitting in the White House, ready to veto any legislation that denies PPFA any funding.  And that’s because he is a true champion of abortion….uh….I mean reproductive rights!  All hail Obama!

The pro-choice lobbyists in Washington, D.C. know that at the end of the day, PPFA will be fine.  They will continue to get their money.  Sure, those lobbyists have to be vigilant and earn their money but they know damn well PPFA will live to see another day.  But that doesn’t stop their fundraisers down the hall from cranking out the pleas for money.  I think once a week I get a letter or a postcard screaming at me to give money TODAY to stop the RIGHT WING CONGRESS from denying women their right to BASIC HEALTH CARE!

The problem is that, if you send ten dollars, the letter you get next week is not a simple thank you  – it’s another request for a contribution.  So, you send another ten dollars but, before you know it, you’re getting a phone from some twenty year old begging for more money.   Okay, okay, I’ll send you $20 but please stop asking me!   The next morning, as I’m sipping my coffee, there’s a knock on the door.  It’s a special fed ex package from the PRESIDENT of PPFA herself begging…..

Well, you get the picture.

Yes, the organizations need to raise money for fixed expenses but this “battle” is a sham and, honestly, I think some people really get into it.  It’s almost as if they enjoy being on the defensive.  But we’re gonna win this one, folks.  And I’m gonna miss my daily talks with those PPFA folks!