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.

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?

Anybody?

For many years, my colleagues in the pro-choice movement have made a big deal out of the fact that “87 percent of the counties in the United States do not have an abortion provider.”   They have used that statistic to raise money and to try to raise awareness of the problems posed by the “abortion provider shortage.”

There is no arguing that in some parts of the country, abortion doctors are a scarce commodity.  But let’s delve a little into how bad things really are.

The reality is that abortion is a very specialized form of medicine.  Contrary to what the pro-life moment thinks, women who suddenly find themselves pregnant just don’t run down to the ole abortion clinic and – wham bam thank you m’am – have an abortion..  In several states, they have to go to the clinic and check in to start that absurd 24 hour waiting period clock that does absolutely nothing to enhance the decision making process.  Sorry folks, but they’ve already thought about it prior to their visit.  In rural areas, this waiting period does one thing – it makes the process more expensive and, thus, might be a deterrent which, of course, is the real purpose of these laws.  When they are ultimately ready to begin the abortion process, they undergo some form of counseling, oftentimes they have to listen to some gobblygook mandated by the state, they may ultimately get the abortion.  If it is a late term abortion, the process could be three days.  After the abortion, they may have either physical or emotional issues afterwards that the clinic will try to address.  And if the woman is using the abortion pill, there are other factors to consider.

The point is that, unless you are dealing with a sleaze ball abortion doctor, the process is more complicated than getting a root canal or even knee surgery.   And that’s why I would suggest abortion is a “specialized” form of medicine that needs specially trained staff.

So, the fact that abortion doctors are not on every corner in the country is no surprise to me.  Indeed, I am not sure if I would want too many out there because it might lower the standard of care.  Also, I can say from the experience that there are a number of doctors or clinic owners who at times were not thrilled if another doctor moved into their neighborhood.  After all, this is – YES I’LL SAY IT – a profit making venture so who in their right minds would want someone to move in who will take away some of your business?

Now, when we get to states like North Dakota and Idaho, getting an abortion might be more of a chore because of the distances one has to travel.  But a woman seeking an abortion will find that clinic and, yes, she will have to travel a great distance.  And, if there is a 24 hour waiting period, that makes the process all that more difficult.  But when you are seeking some “rare” kind of surgery, you often have to travel great distances to find that specialist.  Just look at how many people fly to the Mayo clinic to treat a rare form of cancer or some other disease.

I remember years ago when the feminist movement was so excited that the “abortion pill” was coming onto the market.   They predicted that doctors would come out of the woodwork to offer this “simple” alternative to surgical abortions.  And while the doctors already practicing publicly applauded its introduction, privately they were very nervous that all of these new doctors would be competing with them.

So, when the pro-choice movement starts talking how so many counties don’t have abortion doctors, I have an interesting reaction.  Sure, in North Dakota we could use another clinic on the western part of the state.  But, then, on the other hand, in places like New York or Detroit, there is practically an abortion provider on almost every corner…

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?

No Sex

Okay, boys and girls.  Let’s talk about sex.

Now that I have your attention.

So, as we know, there are a whole bunch of people out there who would prefer to make abortion illegal in this country.  They would like to go back to the old days when far too many women were being transported to the hospital emergency rooms because of a self-induced abortion or one performed by a shady back-alley “abortionist.”  How they can place more value on the “life” of that fetus over a woman’s health is beyond me, but I respect thoughtful anti-abortion advocates and support their right to try to make abortion illegal again through the judicial or legislative process.   Knock yourself out.

But here’s what I don’t get.  There are also millions and millions of anti-abortion advocates who do not support birth control.   I guess they are just taking their marching orders from the Pope who, theoretically, never has sex.  So, these people are telling others that if they are going to have sex with their partner, then it has to be with the intention of producing a child.  Forget the condoms or the birth control pills.  That is VERBOTEN.

Now, my question is this – how often are these anti-abortion, anti-birth control wackos having sex?

Anti Abortion Rally

Let’s assume that Mary and John have been married for 10 years and, being good Catholics, they have sex only once a month.  Now, of course, they are not going to conceive every time they have sex.  That’s particularly true if they do not have intercourse and really go out on a limb by doing something else (which, I suspect, is probably enough to send you straight to hell).  But let’s say they have intercourse 7 times in a year.  So, what I’m starting to add up in my head is that they will have one child a year.  Now, I know this is not scientific but my point is at that rate – if everyone in the country suddenly because devout Catholics – we would beat the crap out of China in the population race, marking probably the only time we would beat China in anything.

I think what this all comes down to is anti-abortion folks who don’t support birth control probably don’t have much sex.  And that shouldn’t be too surprising.  I mean, have you been to an anti-abortion rally lately?  Have you looked at the crusty old men and the misshapen women who have suffered through ten pregnancies?  And talk about getting in the mood.  Can you imagine standing outside of a clinic for hours, screaming at women, fantasizing over the baby they think they’ve saved, then going home to have some furious post-demonstration sex?   I think not.  And that’s why it is easy for them to say “no” to artificial birth control because they are doing it naturally by not having sex!

The point that I want to make, of course, is that anti-abortion folks need to get real.  If you really want to stop abortion, it ain’t gonna happen by you standing outside a clinic with a bullhorn shouting “Don’t kill me, Mommy!  Don’t kill me!”  The way you will stop an abortion is by preventing the conception of the child in the first place.  That’s why I will always say that abortion clinics, because they counsel women on birth control and offer free samples, do more to stop abortion than anyone.

And the other thing I want to say to my friends in that movement is:  have some fun.  I am now 61 years old and my spouse is 57.  We still have sex several times a week in all kinds of places and all kinds of positions with all kinds of toys.  Saturday morning is our favorite time – the time that most demonstrators are out at a clinic.

Life is too short, folks.  Join the party before it is too late.

Dr. Finkel

After a while, we simply referred to him as “Finkel.”

I am referring to Doctor Brian Finkel who for many years owned an abortion facility in Phoenix, Arizona. He was an outspoken Ob-Gyn who performed abortions with a gun on his hip. He was one of the few doctors who would talk openly and honestly about his work. Check that, he never saw a microphone or television camera that he didn’t love. And today he is serving time in a county jail for sexually assaulting and molesting a number of his abortion patients. He will probably be there for the rest of his life.

I can’t remember when I first heard of Doctor Finkel, but I think it was when he called our office to inquire about how he could join the National Coalition of Abortion Providers. At that point, we had only three staff people, including me, so it was impossible to run a complete check to determine if he was a good doctor who was running a respectable clinic. Still, I did call a few people on my board but no one had ever heard of him. When I called him to talk about membership, I was impressed by his candor and his articulateness. And, truth be told, he was one of the funniest guys I had ever met.

We ultimately allowed him to join. What appealed to me was Finkel’s willingness to talk about his work. Around that time, the anti-abortion violence was really hitting the fan and our doctors were running in the opposite direction. They were either quitting their job altogether or at least going underground. But I needed doctors to talk, to share with the world their horror stories, to testify before the Congress, to tell the real story. And Finkel, who employed a professional speech writer, fit that bill.

Shortly after he joined NCAP, I visited him at this clinic. It was one of the more beautiful facilities I had ever seen, all decorated in a southwest motif. I quickly learned that he had an Elvis fixation, as his walls were adorned with all sorts of pictures and tapestries featuring The King. Indeed, Finkel referred to himself as “The Elvis of the Pelvis.” In person, I started to get a different perspective. He was rather short with his staff, often referring to them as “honey” or “sugar lips.” And in private conversations, he would regularly refer to “the bitches” who needed abortions. When he had to go into the surgery room, he would say he was going to “the vaginal vault.” He would refer to the “niggers” or “spics” who “didn’t know how to keep their legs closed.” The invectives flowed so smoothly out of his mouth that it stunned me to the point where at first I literally could not respond. I would ultimately admonish him and he would cool it for a while. Of course, being a total slob did not disqualify him from performing abortions and, again, I needed a doctor who had the balls to speak to the American public. I was very torn.

In 1994 NCAP decided to hold a press conference in Washington D.C. to urge the (Clinton) Administration to help protect abortion providers from the terrorism that was raging across the country and, with a gulp, I invited Finkel. He was a big hit. That night, our event was the first story on each of the network news shows and Finkel was the star because he was smart enough to know about props. At one point, he bent down behind his podium and held up his bullet proof vest to the cameras. “Mr. President, I need protection. I am just an Ob-Gyn in Phoenix Arizona, not an American ranger in Mogodishu.” After that, Finkel became a star. He and I were both on Good Morning America a few days after John Salvi killed several abortion clinic workers in Boston. He debated everyone, he was even on the Howard Stern show.

Behind the scenes, however, he kept telling me that the local District Attorney was out to “get him.” He even asked me to talk to the D.A., which I didn’t do. That’s because deep down I started to suspect that Finkel was a little wackier than I really thought. Then, in September 2001 everything hit the fan. That’s when a woman told a Phoenix newspaper that after undergoing an abortion in Finkel’s clinic she had woken up from sedation to find the doctor lying against her with his hands on her breasts. In the weeks and months that followed, more than 100 women reported similar allegations against Finkel to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which charged him with more than 60 counts of sexual misconduct involving 35 different women and he was convicted on most of those charges. Finkel called me asking me to intervene on his behalf but I couldn’t do it. Of course, I couldn’t prove anything but I had just seen or heard too much over the years. To this day, I wonder if there was anything I could have done to prevent those women from being harmed.

Today, on Father’s Day, I get a letter from Finkel adorned with lots of wild doodling and numerous exclamation points. He tells me how he was “railroaded” and how “justice will soon be served.” His only remaining option is the U.S. Supreme Court. So Finkel, who is now in his sixties and has about 20 years on his sentence left, will probably die in prison.

Good riddance.