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.

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?

By now, you have seen the reports that the World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that cell phones “may” cause cancer.  Of course, those who have been warning against cell phone use and opposing the construction of cell phone towers in residential neighborhoods now have another argument, another sound bite.

What most folks will miss, however, is that the WHO did not conduct its own study.  It simply reviewed all the previous literature and the other studies and, because ONE of those studies suggested that phones MAY cause cancer, the WHO is suggesting that maybe we need to study the issue again!

This whole thing makes me think about how arguments are presented in the abortion debate, how the participants usually cite individual anecdotes to make their point.

Late Dr. Bernard Nathanson

For example, when the pro-choice movement cites how thousands of women died from illegal abortions, the pro-life movement will immediately refer to Doctor Bernard Nathanson.  Doctor Nathanson performed thousands of abortions each year at a clinic in New York City and he was one of the founders of the National Abortion Rights Action League.  At some point, Doctor Nathanson switched over to the pro-life side and he became a national spokesman for their cause.  At one point, he said that, when he was at NARAL, they simply “made up” the number of women who had died from illegal abortions.  He suggested they just exaggerated the numbers to bolster their case for keeping abortion legal.  And today, when a pro-choicer talks about how women died from illegal abortions, they scoff and say that the numbers can’t be trusted because the one and only Bernie Nathanson said those numbers were made up.

What’s missing here is that, since he had converted to the pro-life movement, could his “correction” about the numbers be trusted?  After all, wouldn’t you expect him to come out after his conversion and debunk any of the arguments for legal abortion that he had originally espoused?

What I’m suggesting is that, when debating an issue, shouldn’t one look at the entire scope of the literature, at all of the testimony before the Congress and the state legislatures, at all of the reports from other doctors who saw women entering the emergency rooms after a botched or self-induced abortion?

The same thing occurred with Norma McCorvey, the “Roe” in Roe v. Wade, which made abortion legal in this country in 1973.  Norma was one of thousands of potential plaintiffs in that famous case but, because she signed the paperwork, she was

Norma McCorvey Transition

the one who ultimately became famous.  Ultimately, she became a symbol for the pro-choice movement and specifically for the tens of thousands of women who were being denied access to abortions services at the time.

Then, several years ago Norma McCorvey announced she was pro-life.  She had been lobbied heavily for years by Flip Benham, the head of Operation Rescue, and he successfully convinced her that abortion was wrong.  She made a big public statement announcing her conversion and soon became active in the pro-life movement.   Understandably, the pro-life movement made as much hay out of this “conversion” as possible.  I would have done the same thing.  They suggested that because one of our pro-choicer “leaders” had converted, it was evidence that our arguments were spurious and not credible.

But because one individual like Norma changed her mind, should that reflect on the arguments of the entire pro-choice movement?  Now, if the Pope came out tomorrow and said same-sex marriage was okay, then that would be a big deal and would be taken very, very seriously.  But because one doctor who happened to be on the board of NARAL or one plaintiff in a lawsuit changed their minds, should that be given a lot of weight?

But this is the world we live in.  This happens in all movements, in Congress, on a school board.    Someone finds one thing out of the ordinary, a chink in the armor and they pound away.  President Ronald Reagan learned years ago that some woman who bought vodka with her food stamps and for the next year he insisted that ALL food stamps needed to be cut because people were cheating the system.  We see a politician do a stupid thing, make a mistake and, if they are on the other side, we try to bring ‘em down.  We no longer look at the body of work, at the history of the causes.  We just sit back for the “gotcha” moment and run with it – because it’s the easy thing to do.

But is it the right thing to do?

In Vitro Fertilization

Years ago, I met Doctor Bob Tamis, a physician who perform

ed abortions up to 22 weeks in Phoenix, Arizona.  Interestingly, he also had an In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) facility in the same building for couples who were having trouble conceiving a baby.  Indeed, as far as I knew, he was the only doctor in the country who performed both seemingly contradictory services.

Like many clinics in those days, his was the subject of some very intense anti-abortion protest activity.  On Saturday mornings, as he entered the clinic, it was not unusual for Doctor Tamis to be greeted by 50-100 screaming, placard waiving, anti-abortion protestors who commonly referred to him as “Doctor Death.”  But, for years, I often wondered what that scene might have been like for Bruce and Sue, a young couple that was seeing Doctor Tamis to conceive a baby, not abort one…

(Cue the going back in time sequence music)

The protestor, a 71 year old former Marine who has been at the clinic every Saturday for years, watches intently as the young couple parks their car and approaches the clinic.  Much like his response years ago when he caught a glimpse of the Viet Cong through his sniper scope, he senses red meat and can’t wait for his ambush.  Suddenly, he screams at the top of his lungs:  “Don’t Kill Your Baby!  For the love of God, don’t kill your baby!  In a few months, you could give birth to a beautiful little girl.  Don’t you want to watch her grow up?  Don’t you want to be grandparents one day?”

Instead of ignoring him, Bruce releases the hand of his wife and rushes towards the Marine.

“You’re an idiot!  We are not here for an abortion, you old fool.  Not that it is any of your business but we’re coming here for our in vitro fertilization treatments!  We’re trying to have a baby!”

The old man looks at him quizzically and asks “You’re fertilizing what vito?”

Bruce can only laugh at the ignorance.  Then, another protestor comes over.

“It doesn’t matter, young man.  What you are doing is still against God’s law!”

“Wait a second.  I thought you folks wanted everyone to have babies, that you wanted us to populate the Earth ten times over?”

“You are a sinner,” screams the protestor.  “You both will burn in hell!”

“Huh???”  Bruce is trying to figure out what he is missing here.

“Well, young fella, let me read you something from our Church pamphlet.  It says her that ‘techniques involving only the married couple, like homologous artificial insemination and fertilization, dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children.’”

Bruce has to hold back the laughter.  “Well, that sure clarifies things!  But, wait.  You’re out here all the time, screaming at women because you want them to keep their babies, right?  But my wife and I cannot conceive a child, we want to have a baby and we’re here to start that process.  Ain’t that good enough for you?”

“Well, no.  It’s God’s law.  The Gospel says that spouses who still suffer from infertility should unite themselves with the Lord’s Cross, the source of all spiritual fecundity. They can give expression to their generosity by adopting abandoned children or performing demanding services for others.”

Bruce’s head is ready to implode.  He can’t believe he is even part of this surreal conversation.

“And another thing,” says the protestor, “did you know that many of the embryos dies in the transfer process, are stored in freezers or are killed and washed down the sink?”

“Yep, the doctor told us that could happen.  And your point is what?”

“Well, you’re killing babies!”

“But, but, don’t you get it?  We’re trying to make a baby!  Doesn’t that make you happy?”

“Well, no, because you two aren’t doing it the right way…..”

And around and around it goes.

Does the Catholic Church want to tell us how to take a crap also?

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!

Senator Bob Packwood

I don’t know why, but this weekend I was thinking about Bob Packwood.

For those of you who don’t remember that name, Bob Packwood was the long-time U.S. Senator from the state of Oregon who was the first true Congressional “champion” for abortion rights.  Elected in 1968, he actually introduced legislation legalizing abortion before the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v Wade decision.  Unfortunately, Packwood got absolutely no support for his legislation but the Court ultimately came forward enshrining this important right.

Once abortion was legalized, Packwood became the point person for the pro-choice movement.  He led the battles against the forces of evil that sought to restrict abortion rights, endearing himself to all of the pro-choice organizations.  At a time when even pro-choice legislators were running from the issue, Packwood stood alone.  He courageously stood on the floor of the U.S. Senate and defended the rights of women to have abortions.  Of course, this also made him a target for virulent anti–abortion attacks, including hundreds of personal threats.

In the early 1980’s, Packwood was the lead pro-choice strategist in the fight against a proposed constitutional amendment that would have overturned Roe v Wade.  As the chief lobbyist for the National Abortion Rights Action League at the time, I (along with my pro-choice colleagues) met with Packwood regularly as we discussed our vote counts, field strategy, how to talk to the media, etc.  At one point, despite the fact that it looked like we would easily defeat the measure, Packwood suggested that he filibuster the proposal.  We could not say no to him, so we went along with him, letting him have his day in the spotlight.  Indeed, when we suggested that we could get other Senators to join him, he demurred, saying he could do it alone.  So, we watched him read the U.S. Constitution with a catheter attached to his leg.

Ultimately, we handily defeated the constitutional amendment and today I have hanging on my wall a copy of that day’s Congressional Record signed by Senator Bob Packwood.  It was a truly historic vote and the greatest victory ever experienced by the pro-choice forces on Capitol Hill.

Throughout this time, however, there were always rumblings that Packwood was having affairs with several women.  He was indeed an attractive, articulate man who no doubt was approached by numerous aggressive women.  In fact, I

Younger Senator Packwood

remember the more cynical feminists suggesting that he was leading the way on abortion rights merely to get laid.  I never had that impression, but it unfortunately was out there.  I should add for a fact that one of my best friends confided in me that she had had an affair with Packwood.

Then, in November 1992, the Washington Post ran a story detailing the claims of sexual abuse and assault by ten women, mostly former staff people and lobbyists.  In September 1995, he resigned from the U.S. Senate in disgrace.  He then disappeared from sight for many years.

In 1998, when I was at the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, we were planning a 25th anniversary party for Roe V Wade in Washington, D.C. and we decided to invite all of the pro-choice “heroes.”  My old friend, Susan Hill, suggested that we invite Packwood.  I ran it by some others and got very mixed reactions so Susan simply said that she would bring him as her date.  Personally, I was thrilled because, despite his private behavior, he was our champion for many years.

He came that night to the Mayflower Hotel, handsomely clad in his tuxedo.  When I ran into him in the hallway outside the ballroom, he appeared very nervous, it being the first time in many years that he would be with his former friends and colleagues.  He thanked me profusely for “inviting” him and I actually escorted him into the room.  Much to my delight, he was immediately surrounded by well wishers, old friends and the generally curious.  He was back in his element.

I do recall, however, that three or four female clinic owners were so offended that Packwood was there that walked out of the party in disgust.  That, of course, was their decision but I personally felt like it was a bit of an overreaction.  Still, it was their right although they missed one hell of a party.

In later years, Bob Packwood came back to Capitol Hill where he made some serious bucks as a lobbyist for numerous corporate interests.  I haven’t seen him for years.

What Packwood did totally sucked, there was no excuse for his personal conduct.  On the other hand, he was the only one there when we needed a champion.  I wish him well.

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.