Abortion Late

God Hates

God Hates

Dear M and S,

I do not ask for understanding, but comprehension.  You both have questions.  Some I’ve answered, insinuated, or obscured for the normal parental reasons.  I owe you, though, the story as I remember it so you may understand through comprehension how dangerous it is, even in the 21st Century, to contradict and undermine conventional thinking.  I hope our family’s historical facts illustrate our ongoing obligation to confront fundamental Pentecostal thinking so we move forward, not backwards.  I am now a mere four years younger than your grandfather when one blinded by fundamentalism and the hate it naturally engenders created a symbol of the man who you never knew.

I last saw my father on Sunday, 7 March 1993.  We did not see each other often, but we talked with relative frequency and were repairing a fairly entrenched rift in our relationship that began 10 years prior when he left our family for another woman after moving us—your grandmother, aunt, and I—to a shit small hovel of an antiquated old southern town in Alabama split between the poles of old blue blood southern aristocratic antebellum money and dirt floor poverty.  Dad came and stayed the weekend with me in Birmingham as he did infrequently.   Three days before his visit, I’d had my wisdom teeth removed.  He called, as he was want to do, late in the afternoon on Thursday or Friday and announced he was coming into town and would be staying with me.  It was a conversation like any other and I don’t recall any real detail other than he was coming.

I know he stayed over at least Saturday and Sunday 6 and 7 March 1993.  I have no memories whatsoever of Saturday night; yet, I do vividly remember Sunday dinner, can still see the round wooden table and mismatched chairs I took from home when I moved away in 1989, and know we grilled cow protein of some form or another—it was probably a New York Strip as I’d not developed an appreciation for the rib eye yet.  Due to the recent dental surgery, the steak, though cooked appropriately, was difficult to chew which made it more difficult to swallow.  We enjoyed our meal, some more than others, while Billie Holliday gently but huskily sang in the background.  Our conversation drifted from school, to my sister—she was 17 and in the final days of her senior year, to politics—President Clinton had just been inaugurated, to my progress in school, and to his work.

Dad explained the protesters were becoming ever more aggressive and confrontational. The few protesters I personally encountered a few years prior when I traveled the circuit with dad were the typical abortion porn sign holders and silent layers of hands. In my teen years, I found his weekly schedule nothing but normal though it took him from our small town hell to Columbus, Georgia then to Montgomery, Alabama, then to Mobile, Alabama, and finally to Pensacola, Florida only to resume anew the next week.  Other kids’ parents traveled so what was so different about his schedule?  I did not figure out until much later that he made this circuit because no one else would.  I certainly never took it a logical step further and deeper to ask why no other local doctor in Columbus, Montgomery, Mobile, and/or Pensacola serviced these clinics.  It was my normal and I was 14 when I first started driving him on some of his trips; yet, as we discussed the present situation, I noticed he seemed preoccupied.  We finished our meal, drained a few more beers, and awoke March 8 and said our goodbyes.

I was aware clinics were bombed in the past and even asked him once if he ever worried about one of the clinics he serviced getting attacked.  He reassuringly told me it did not concern him, and he went on with his day.  Over the weekend of his last visit, though, I thought about the heightened protests, and the ever increasing threats of violence; additionally I remembered my mom calling me one afternoon about a year before this final visit to tell me strangers were in town passing out wanted posters of dad which included his weekly schedule.  When that incident occurred, he again brushed off our concern and said he was not preoccupied with the actions of some crazies.

That Monday morning, prior to seeing him off for the last time, I confronted him about the posters, the renewed threats, and told him I was scared for his safety.  Dad finally told me he had been carrying a gun for a few years, that he suspected he was being followed frequently, and that a strange protester approached him that previous Friday (would have been 5 March) while he was in the car leaving the clinic in Pensacola heading my way.  He said this man had an eerie look about him and spoke to dad through his car window while staring deeply at him with glazed long staring maniacal eyes.  I remember asking when the stalking started, and he indicated it had been going on at least as long as the wanted poster’s origination about a year or so earlier.  I asked if he considered quitting the circuit and going back to less controversial OB/GYN care.  He told me if he stopped, it would be difficult to find a replacement and he was committed to his patients.  He left headed south, and for the first time I admitted to myself that he had a dangerous job and as anyone whose parent has a dangerous job, I wrapped myself in the warmth and security of “not mine”, “not this time”, and drank the Lethean water temporarily cooling my angst and trepidation.

I spoke with your grandfather again on 9 March 1993.  We did not discuss anything specific.  I was preparing for exams; he was in another of the endless line of hotel rooms and sounded lonely.  Sadly, our terminal conversation was brief and unremarkable.  He indicated he was well and heading to Pensacola, and I told him to be safe.  In retrospect he seemed to hang on the line as though he did not want the conversation to end; yet, neither of us could find a way to carry it forward.

I drove to class the next morning on what was, otherwise, an exceedingly peaceful and beautiful spring day in Birmingham.  I’ve always preferred living in Birmingham than other cities as it is big enough to provide some degree of needed anonymity; yet, small enough to retain remnants of its prior smallness which is both sides of the pole simultaneously.  As I was studying for a Semantics class, dad was driving to work.  As I got into my car to head home, he was very likely getting out of his for the last time.

You guys have never seen a real answering machine as far as I know since everyone has digital voicemail these days.  In ’93 you were lucky to have the kind with a microcassette (I’ll explain that later) that was the size of a stereo component.  I don’t recall who checked the messages on the afternoon of 10 March—my at the time girlfriend or me—but I remember thinking it odd to get a message from my grandmother in the middle of the week in the middle of the day.  It was an altogether cryptic but clear message.  She simply said “call me when you get home.”  Both of you are still too young to know there are certain messages you don’t want to return.  I don’t mean the messages from people you’ve left behind or don’t want to talk with at that particular moment, but the messages from family purposely ambiguous so you are intrigued enough, but not too scared, to return the call as soon as you hear the message.  Of course I sensed something was wrong, and, logically, I feared it involved dad.

Dad called me one night in January surprisingly upbeat and happy sounding.  It was the night of the 20th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision (Supreme Court decision that guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion as you may or may not know when you read this; I’ll get to abortion proper later), and he actually to and was genuinely excited to share his day with me.  First, he said someone from Rolling Stone magazine contacted him recently looking to do a profile on his experience as one of the few Southern abortion providers; secondly, he told me how he had finally had enough of the protesters and their bullshit.  He then described how he sang “Happy Birthday to You” at the protesters outside one of the clinics in Montgomery and in the penultimate verse added, “happy birthday dear Roe v. Waaaade.” He subsequently aimed a small boom box at those gathered outside the clinic and played Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” singing loudly along.

For some reason, I thought of this event as well as the suspicious protestor dad described over the weekend as I returned my grandmother’s call.  When she answered, I immediately knew what I suspected was true; yet, we had to play out the charade.  I asked her why she called.  She asked if I had seen the news.  I told her I had been at school studying.  She said good.  I asked why.  She then told me what I intuitively knew.  “Your dad was shot,” she said and I could hear her sadness as she said it.  I asked if he was ok thinking people survive gun shots routinely.  She told me he wasn’t and that he died e route to the local hospital.  She said she was sorry, that she loved me, and asked that I call my mom.

One day both of you will confront my mortality.  Let’s hope it is much longer than four years from now when I’ll be 47 which is how old your grandfather was when he died.  I know that seems old, but it is really very young, and when you hit forty, you’ll both realize how young it is.  My desire is you are prepared for it and it doesn’t pounce on you from behind a corner while you’re busy reading some goddamned semantics notes.

I drove to my mother’s house where some friends and my sister had gathered.  We hugged, cried, and watched cable news run the story of dad’s death and label him “the first abortion doctor to be murdered” ad infinitum.  You have to contextualize the nature of the event and times to truly understand.  On one really used the internet, e-mail was barely in anyone’s vocabulary, and few people had cell phones.  CNN was the only 24 hour news source (it’s hard to conceive of life without Fox, but it was pleasantly non-existent at the time).  Abortion clinic violence was still considered fresh news and had not yet matured and then expired.  In laymen’s terms, your grandfather’s assassination was a big fucking deal, and was the news for days, months, and years as more doctors and nurses in the abortion field died violently.  Cable news still had some decency about the images they showed, or they were simply too late to get images of your grandfather’s body.  The image I recall from that spring day is a shot of his bloodstained glasses disfigured and broken in the grass where his body most assuredly fell.

Within hours of the killing, my mother’s phone started an interminable ringing which would not abate for months.  On the other end of the line was a New York Times reporter looking for comment.  I considered whether or not we wanted to talk, I had mixed feelings of surprise and anger at being asked for comment on the day I found out my dad was dead, and I had no idea what to do given our family’s life capsized, up righted, capsized, and sank in the span of a few hours that afternoon.  We had large issues confronting us:  burial, finances, familial relations, loss, and grief, and it was overwhelming to add media and politics into the mix.  Initially, I wanted to simply hang up on the woman from the Times; yet, I remembered how joyful dad was when he thought someone was finally going to tell his story and write about the insane conditions under which he worked all at the hands of fundamentalists.  I also remembered his calm happiness when he relayed the events of 22 January 2010 and how he joyously sang in defense of his profession and services.  I made a decision, asked for the reporter’s name and number, and said I’d call her back later as we had other pressing needs to address.

I always wondered if the protester dad described to me the weekend before he died was Michael Griffin, the man who assassinated your grandfather.  If so, he looked into the eyes of his assassin five days before he struck, and it was the last time he looked into his eyes as Griffin attacked from behind too cowardly to face the person he hated, stalked, and still feels deserved to die.  I am still convinced others were involved in dad’s assassination.  There was an organized protest in front of the clinic the day

Griffin struck, and the organizer of the protest had witnessed to Griffin in the weeks leading up to the assassination.  This self styled minster had an effigy of your grandfather in his garage, and I do not doubt he influenced or seduced Griffin to take his violent action.  I will tell you more about these events as I continue the story.

To this day I cannot forget the image of his glasses. I also continue to celebrate his fine voice which was inspiring to me personally and has proven inspirational to others.  I am now the dad where I once was the son, and it is my obligation and duty to pass this history on to you so, perhaps, in some minor way, it helps  you understand the essence and roots of hatred as well as how one fine voice can make all the difference if you simply sing out.

With love

PS. The title was taken from Treblinka by Jean Francois Steiner



We are very fortunate to have Ms. Heather Cale join our team of bloggers.  She is clearly an intelligent young woman who cares a lot about reproductive health issues.  And her research is not only impeccable but exhaustive.

Last week she wrote about “late term abortions” from a generally scientific point of view.  She talked about brain waves and all of that other stuff that some people really get into.  The idea, of course, is to try to determine when the fetus becomes “human” or exhibit human traits, like responding to pain.

I will be the first to admit that I glazed over a lot of the stuff that Heather wrote about because, to be honest, much of it was just way over my head.  And, I’m just not sure how relevant it all is.   This is not to criticize this well written piece but for many, many people – especially those women who have late term abortions – issues like when the cerebral cortex is developed are just irrelevant.

I’m reminded of a woman I met years ago at an abortion facility in Michigan.  At the time, I was with the National Coalition of Abortion Providers and I was touring some clinics for a few days.  Always interested in getting the real-life perspective of a women sitting in that waiting room, I asked the clinic staff if I could accompany one of the women and the woman agreed.   She was 22 weeks pregnant.

After filling out paperwork, we went into a room to get an ultrasound.  The technician rubbed her stomach with jelly, turned the machine on and suddenly you could see the fetus on the screen.  The woman’s first response was “is that my baby?”   I was flabbergasted.  Note she did not use the word “fetus.”  To her, it was a baby.  The technician said that was her baby and then started pointing out the head and other parts of the body.  The patient could not take her eyes away from the screen.  I was frozen and practically in tears, but the women never showed any emotion and just asked several questions about her baby.

Then the technician asked her if she wanted to continue to process and the woman without hesitation said she did.  As if she thought she needed to explain, she told us that she had three children already and could not possibly imagine having another one.  “I gotta think about the children I have already,” she added.  I asked her why she had waited so long and she explained that she could not get the money right away, the irony being that the cost of an abortion increases as the fetus develops.  Of course, if there was no such thing as the “Hyde Amendment,” then this woman would have been able to use her Medicaid card to get an earlier abortion.   Don’t get me started on that issue…

What was interesting to me was that this never asked if the fetus would feel pain, never asked about its cognitive functions, brain waves and all of that other scientific stuff.  In her eyes and mind, she was carrying a baby, pure and simple and she had to think of the real-world consequences of giving birth to that baby.

The science of this issue is very interesting, but that debate will never end.  Meanwhile, we just have to continue to insure that late term abortions continue to be available to women like the one I met in a Michigan abortion clinic.

Recently, Pat said that pro-choice folks have to face the fact that late term abortions are very difficult.  I would agree. A late-term abortion raises many issues for the general public, the doctor, the woman and the opponents of these procedures. As such, I’d like to address some of these issues.

To begin, let me dispel the general myth perpetuated by mainstream journalists (such as TIME magazine and the Washington Post) and by antiabortion activists that late term abortions are widely available. First, the reality is such that access to first term abortions, up to and including 12 weeks gestation, is difficult because of geographical hardships, arrangements for childcare and time off from work, finances and, for some younger women, parental support. The Guttmacher Institute provides further data about availability citing “Some 87% of U.S. counties do not have an abortion provider and 35% of women aged 15–44 live in those counties. The proportions are lower in the Northeast (53% and 18%) and the West (74% and 13%). In 2005, nonhospital providers estimated that while more than seven in 10 women traveled less than 50 miles to access abortion services, nearly two in 10 traveled 50–100 miles and almost one in 10 traveled more than 100 miles.”

Second, access to abortions in the second trimester, defined as 13 to 27 weeks, grows increasingly difficult beginning at 21 weeks. There are very few physicians in the United States who are skilled enough and willing to provide abortions services past 22-24 weeks. While, attempting to corral definitions of “widely available” and “late term” is like trying to herd cats, the facts are easier to grasp. According to the CDC’s latest surveillance (2007) from reporting agencies, of all 877, 609 abortions performed, only 1.3% were performed at ≥21 weeks’ gestation. To further illustrate other aspects of the late term abortions, consider that among the clinics listing themselves as late term abortion providers on Abortion.com, three provide services up to 21 weeks (Atlanta, sister sites in Philadelphia and NJ, and Hartford), four provide services up to 24 weeks (Dallas, and multiple sister clinics in NY and FL), and two provide services up to 26 weeks (D.C. and four locations in Maryland). These listings hardly exemplify widespread access.

For the general antiabortion population, late term abortion providers are vilified as heinous murderers who have no moral compass, who kill unborn children capable of feeling excruciating pain.  On the other hand, for women who need later abortions, these providers are compassionate and highly skilled angels in their darkest hour. Overall, first or mid-trimester termination of pregnancy for fetal anomalies is legally and morally accepted amongst the majority of the population. Over the past decades screening and diagnostic methods have improved noticeably and, as a result, increasingly more anomalies are being detected at an early stage in pregnancy. Research on late termination of pregnancy finds that, “When a severe congenital anomaly is diagnosed, the majority of couples opt for termination of pregnancy . . . Termination of pregnancy in case of a fetal anomaly is a complex and conflicting life-event” (Prenatal Diagnosis 2005) especially because it is a voluntary act and because it may interfere with loss and grieving. In an especially touching case study, Kersting and colleagues found that an induced abortion due to fetal malformation is a traumatic loss which may entail a complicated grieving process with needs to be detected and treated at an early stage. Their advice for clinical staff is such that the affected parents not to be subjected to pressures of time when making the decision to terminate the pregnancy, but that the individual options and their consequences should be carefully considered, especially in light of the extent of fetal anomalies. So, let’s take a look at a few fetal malformations.

To begin, a diagnosis of Meckel Gruber at 20 weeks means the pregnancy becomes high-risk. The condition, characterized by the triad of encephalocele, bilateral polycystic kidneys and polydactyly, occurs in 0.7 per 10,000 births. Women and their families have the option to terminate the pregnancy or wait and deliver a child who will live only a few hours. Either choice is heartbreaking.


Hydranencephaly, encephalocele, Down syndrome, microcephaly, to list a few more, are anomalies that can lead to fetal demise, early death after birth or life long health issues with poor prognoses. For some women, the choice to terminate, while excruciating, is made on the basis of avoiding fetal suffering or simply wanting the dead fetus removed. In the rare case of severe twin-to-twin fetal transfusion syndrome, unless one twin is terminated, both will die in utero. For some women, the diagnosis of Down syndrome is a justifiable reason for terminating a pregnancy. For example, a thirty-seven year old married woman with two children and with an unplanned pregnancy has a fetal diagnosis of D.S. at 30 weeks. She may determine that her duty is to her born children. She may want to protect them from the adverse effects of having a needy sibling with D.S. while also wanting to execute her duty of beneficence to a fetus with a future negative net quality of life. She may also want to protect her family’s resources as a child born with Down syndrome often consumes excessive amounts of finances, emotional resources and healthcare resources. Despite amazing progress in quality of life issues for those born with D.S., not every woman, not every family, is willing to assume the responsibility for a child with Down syndrome.

For the overwhelming majority of women who choose later abortions, their pregnancies were wanted (or accepted), often loved from the beginning, and greatly mourned after the loss. Late abortions are difficult emotionally, financially and physically. Those who glibly chirp about selfish women or greedy doctors, demonstrate their inability to fully grasp the gravity of these cases, however, repellant they may be to outsiders. These folks fail to feel the devastation these women and their families feel. They are simply unwilling or unable to show compassion for the woman who learns that her fetus with no brain will live no more than a few seconds after birth, that her dead and decomposing fetus is infecting her, or that her fetus has a high level myelomeningocele that will mean, if it survives, will lead a life of absolute dependence. From listening to those who claim to be life advocates, it’s clear to me that they believe a woman should deliver the brainless fetus rather than terminate it early with an abortion. They believe that no woman carrying a fetus with a positive diagnosis of Down syndrome should abort. The reality is that some women and their loved ones DO choose to carry the pregnancy to term, knowing that they will have precious little time to with their child, knowing that death is imminent or knowing that their child has DS and accept the challenges of parenting. Others want to terminate their pregnancy because they do not feel capable of caring for a handicapped child or because they cannot bear to continue the pregnancy knowing they are carrying around a dead or deformed fetus.

Regardless of the reason, the choice should always remain with the woman and her family and her physician whether she terminates a fetus with a fetal anomaly or continues the pregnancy to deliver the fetus. The discovery of a pregnancy with fetal malformation is a traumatic event that any woman finds hard to withstand and which entails the potential risk of severe and complicated grieving. This is an event that demands expertise from the medical community, for certain, and understanding and compassion from us all.

Abortion Providers

Abortion Providers

On March 10, 1993, I got a call from a woman who owns an abortion clinic here in the Washington D.C. area.  Through her hysterical tears I heard her say that “they just killed one of our doctors in Florida.”  There was no more information after that – just the shocking statement.  After that first call, all hell broke loose.

Within a few minutes, I got a call from Susan Hill, my long time friend and owner of a chain of abortion clinics known as the National Women’s Health Network.  A few years earlier, Susan founded the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, the group that I worked for.  She quickly confirmed that a doctor had been killed in Pensacola – and that the doctor had actually worked at one of her clinics.  His name was David Gunn.

Abortion Providers

Abortion Providers

I’ve written before about the events that transpired once we received this shocking news.  David Gunn’s murder was front page news for several days because he was the first abortion doctor to be killed for performing abortions.  His assassin surrendered after pulling the trigger, was convicted very quickly and to this day remains in jail in Florida.

I share this story because yesterday was yet another anniversary of that horrible day.  But I share it also because, although it was the day that Doctor Gunn was killed, March 10 is now known as “National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day.”

Christian Prolife Convicted Murderer Terrorist

Christian Prolife Convicted Murderer Terrorist

All across the country, it is a day when supporters of abortion rights take a moment to personally thank all of the doctors, staff and owners who work in or run abortion facilities.  Actually, while I never shy away from the word “abortion,” I think “abortion facilities” is a misnomer because it minimizes the scope of the services these people offer to women.  There is a lot more than abortion when you are offering reproductive health services.  Indeed, take a minute to go to www.abortion.com and look at some of the websites of the clinics that are listed.  You’ll get a much better idea of the amazing work that they do.

They irony, of course, is David Gunn and the other doctors who were later killed, were not just doing abortions.  As the general public recently discovered with the Susan B. Komen fiasco, these doctors might also be performing mammograms or testing for chlamydia.  Not to mention the provision of birth control which is on everyone’s tongue, especially Rick Santorum’s.  Oh, the pro-lifers can wallow in their myopia over the abortions that are performed in these clinics, but any person of average intellect knows that there are more things going on in these facilities than abortions.

Abortion Provider Appreciation

Abortion Provider Appreciation

This does not mean, however, that I am “apologizing” for the abortion services that are provided.  To the contrary – I applaud my former colleagues for having the courage to perform this procedure knowing that their car could blow up at any time or that the next person walking up to them in the mall could be carrying a gun.  As Doctor George Tiller found out when he was ushering parishioners into his church, there is no sanctuary from a demented mind who actually thinks he might be “saving babies” if he shoots an abortion doctor.

I want to applaud the abortion doctors who, despite the dangers, continue to be there to help the millions of women who have picked up the phone and made an appointment for an abortion.  I applaud the counselors who take the time to talk to the women to make sure they are positive about their decision.  And I applaud the nurses who hold the woman’s hand while she is in surgery.




Late March, 1997.

A little over one hundred abortion clinic doctors, owners and staff people trekked to Washington, D.C. like battle-scarred soldiers returning from a great war.  For years, they had been under siege by pro-life terrorists who felt they had permission from their personal God to inject noxious butyric acid into clinic’s keyholes, bomb abortion facilities, make daily threatening phone calls and even kill abortion doctors.

Then, just a few weeks earlier, the national debate over the so-called “Partial Birth” abortion procedure blew wide open when a rift developed between abortion providers and pro-choice groups over how frequently the procedure had been used and in what circumstances.  Tensions between the groups were at an all time high.  And now, members of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, whose Executive Director, Ron Fitzsimmons, in an attempt to tell the truth about that abortion procedure had precipitated the firestorm, were coming to Washington, D.C. for their annual national convention.

Christian Pro Life Terrorists

Christian Pro Life Terrorists

As they were setting the agenda for the meeting a few weeks earlier, NCAP staff came up with an idea to rally the beleaguered troops.  They suggested that, as the last item of business for the three day conference, the entire group go to the U.S. Supreme Court for a picture.

In retrospect, it may not have been the most original idea but it was new to this group who often worked in the shadows.  Normally, they were not prone to exposing themselves in a public way.  They rarely, if ever, congregated as a group in a spot that would make them a convenient target for would-be terrorists. But, with some of their colleagues bailing out because of an impending snowstorm, those that remained dressed for the occasion and cabbed up to Capitol Hill for their group shot.

Abortion Law

Abortion Law

As the professional photographer composed the shot, you could feel the excitement grow.  You got the sense that at least for those few moments they had nothing to hide and it was as if they could feel the presence of Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of Roe v. Wade, the decision that legalized abortion in 1973.  The photographer had to take a number of pictures, but you got the feeling that the group could have stood there for hours.

Over the next 6 years, as a member of the NCAP staff, I visited many abortion facilities and was continually greeted by a framed picture of the group in front of the Supreme Court hanging in the clinic waiting room or the administrator’s office.  Yes, over the years a number of those pictured have left us, like Doctor George Tiller and NCAP founder, Susan Hill.  But as I look at that picture, which is now hanging in my study, I remember that it was a great step forward, that it was a moment when this group of abortion providers were able to stand roudly in front of the building that had been the source of a legal decision that legitimized their work and proved to be a giant leap forward for women’s health.



Well, it’s January 22nd, yet another anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade which legalized abortion in this country and started a controversy that will never subside.  Please note that I say the Court “legalized” abortion – I didn’t say that they invented abortion.

I live about 8 miles south of Washington, D.C. and I’ve already noticed a number of buses pouring into town with their pro-life signs hanging from their sides.  Indeed, as I write this tens of thousands of anti-abortion advocates are standing in the freezing rain listening to the same speeches that they’ve been listening to for years.  They will hold their rallies then very soon start their march up Constitution Avenue to the U.S. Supreme Court.  They’ll be more rallies, bullhorns, prayer vigils, speak outs, women who all of a sudden “regret” their abortions.  You name it, there’s something for everyone.



Meanwhile, in much smaller numbers there will be the usual pro-choice “counter” events that are designed to make sure that in tomorrow’s newspapers or tonight’s news shows, there will be a pro-choice presence as well.  Also, there will be the inevitable debate not about the issue but about how many people attended the rallies.

Around and around it goes, and for all of these years practically nothing has changed.  The only thing for certain is that the number of abortions has gone down for a number of years and it is practically impossible to say why.   Personally, I just have to believe that it’s because women, particularly younger ones, are simply more educated when it comes to birth control.   But, yes, another reason may be that there continues to be an abortion stigma and single parenthood seems more acceptable these days.



One thing that pro-choicers will cite is the constant legislative “attacks” on a woman’s right to have an abortion.  And, yes, the pro-lifers are taking advantage of the more conservative climate in many state legislatures but a lot of those laws deal with “informing” women of the “humanity” of the fetus, making them look at silly pictures.  These laws do not seem to really have much of an impact.  Then, there are a few clinics that have actually closed, mainly because as the number of patients decrease, some clinics are hurt and find they cannot pay the rent, equipment leases, and payroll.  Like all businesses, they are affected by the number of “customers.”

Abortion Pill

Abortion Pill

And then, as Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank recently pointed out, organizations on both sides continue their decades-long pursuit of dollars.  It seems that both sides always feel a need to send out fundraising letters with large, red lettering and lots of exclamation points.  The now famous “personhood bill” is a good example.  We’re gonna see the proposal in a number of states but, really folks, if it didn’t pass in Mississippi, what state will pass the damn thing?

The bottom line is 39 years later, (less) women are still getting abortions and the clinics stand ready to serve them.


Dr. David murdered by Pro Life Terrorists

Dr. David murdered by Pro Life Terrorists

In March, 1994, members of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers held a memorial event in Pensacola, Florida at the site where, a year earlier, Doctor David Gunn was gunned down by an anti-abortion assassin.  At the event, Doctor Gunn’s son, David, Jr., spoke with great eloquence but I will never forget him welcoming the group to what he called “the paranoia that is Pensacola.”

There was good reason to be paranoid in Pensacola, especially if you were a provider of abortion services.  Before Doctor Gunn’s murder, the abortion clinics in that city had been the target of considerable anti-abortion violence.  For example, in 1984 Matthew Goldsby and James Simmons bombed the Ladies Center with a pipe bomb on June 25.  That forced the clinic to relocate and six months later on Christmas Day, they bombed the center again at its new location.  As if that was not enough, they also set on fire two other private physician offices where the doctors performed abortions.  They were convicted and sentenced to ten years but only served about half their terms.

Insanity of Anti Abortion People

Insanity of Anti Abortion People

Over the years, the Ladies Center remained the target of massive anti-abortion protests and regular Saturday vigils by locals such as John Burt and one Paul Hill.  Then, just a few months after NCAP’s memorial event, Hill killed John Britton, a doctor who provided abortions at the Ladies Center and James Barrett, a volunteer who escorted patients, as they arrived in the clinic parking lot. Barrett’s wife, June, also was wounded.  Hill was executed for the crime in 2003.

And now it has happened again.

Anti Abortion people are happy to let women die

Anti Abortion people are happy to let women die

In case you missed it – and it was easy to miss because the press totally ignored it – on January 1, Mr. Bobby Joe Rogers set on fire the Ladies Center, which had been renamed the “American Family Planning Clinic.”  It caused about $300,000 in damages, gutting the clinic.  It is reported that he merely filled a beer bottle with gasoline and used an old shirt as a wick. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the fire.

Bobby Joe certainly fits the profile of the anti-abortion terrorist.  He was homeless and participated in the almost daily protests.  One person who hung out with Rogers said that “Rogers admitted to intentionally setting fire to the clinic due to his strong disbelief in abortion.”  He added that “he stated (he) was further fueled when he recently witnessed a young female entering the clinic while he was sitting amongst anti-abortion protesters.”  Rogers has a past arrest record spanning nine states from the Southeast to the Midwest with felony convictions in Alabama, Tennessee and Missouri for burglary and in Mississippi for grand larceny.



The good news is that, as opposed to past events in Pensacola, the federal government responded immediately and they got their man.  But what I can’t fathom, and what has bothered me for years, is do these idiots really think they are “saving babies?”  Is it really abortion that they are targeting?   Or are they just losers looking to get their name in the papers?  I ask because, if they gave it any thought (which may be stretching it for them), they would realize that bombing an abortion clinic or killing an abortion doctors does not “save babies.”   Sure that particular clinic may now be closed for a while but, guess what, those women who might have gone to that center will simply make an appointment at the OTHER center a few miles away.  And if they blow that one up, the women will then travel over to Mobile and get an abortion.

The disappearance of an abortion facility does not stop abortion, it does not “save babies.”  If these domestic terrorists say that’s why they did it, they’re full of it.  They are just miscreants who are either totally delusional about how things work (a good possibility) or they are just looking to make a name for themselves within the anti-abortion movement.  It’s all so sick.

What the hell is it with Pensacola?



A short while ago, I got the word that there would be a “big protest” in front of Germantown Reproductive Health Services, an abortion clinic in Maryland.  It’s the clinic where Doctor Lee Carhart works a few days a week.  It had become a “famous” gathering site because Doctor Carhart performs later abortions.  It had been years since I actually saw a protest and a while since I had talked to Lee, so I decided to drive up to the event.



When I make the left hand turn off the main road that morning, I was immediately confronted by the usual “Big Dead Fetus Truck,” as we used to call them.  I am, of course, used to the pictures but I couldn’t help thinking about a mother and her child innocently turning that same corner and seeing this ugliness.

It was a big crowd, maybe four hundred anti-abortion protestors.  They were standing on the sidewalk in front of a large office complex and the clinic itself was in the back, not visible to the protestors.  What struck me right away was the silence.  I have been so used to loud, blaring bullhorns, people screaming at the patients, escorts and staff at the top of their lungs.  This event, however, was different and it seemed like anti-abortion activists may be exploring different ways of making their point.  Except for the truck, there were no other gross signs.  People weren’t screaming.  Instead they were singing and praying quietly in groups.  Some were carrying signs, but they were mostly signs about “regretting” ones abortion and other low-key messages.

There were several county police cars patrolling the area and I do have to say that I was disturbed to see them just watching a woman near the car entry way practically stopping card by holding out brochures for them to take.  I felt it was obstructing vehicular traffic, but the police let it go.

I wanted to visit Doctor Carhart, so I walked up to a police car.  They were understandably suspicious of who I was so I told them I would call Lee from my mobile phone.  I got him right away and he said of course I could come in.  So, I just told the police and they waived me in.  Later, I got chills thinking that I could have been a clever assassin who really wasn’t talking to Lee Carhart.  Yes, I still might have had a tough time actually entering the clinic because they had a buzzer system, but I also could have just waited right outside the clinic door where there were absolutely no cops.

I had a pleasant meeting with Lee and his wife.  While he was certainly aware of the scene outside, Lee is used to the attention and it doesn’t phase him at all.  We talked about his work, how the clinic was doing, conventions he would be going to and speaking engagements.  He was, as always, very laid back, almost like the “country doctor.”

When I left the clinic, I hung around, not talking to anyone except a few pro-choicers across the street, including Todd Stave, the founder of Voice of Choice, a group that organizes hundreds of phone calls to particularly aggressive anti-abortion protestors.  Then, I dove back into the crowd and, to be perfectly honest, was totally bored.

And I guess “boring” is okay in a situation like this.  They are exercising their right to free speech, they are not threatening anyone.  The cops are there to keep the peace if necessarily (although a little loosely) and every woman got to the clinic with no incidents.

Sometimes boring is good.



I normally do not read “Time” magazine, but I was recently sitting in a physician’s office waiting to talk to him about a silly bump on my leg when I noticed that he actually had THIS WEEK’S “Time” so I couldn’t resist.  Thumbing through it, I saw a big, bold typed “35” and the caption underneath said:  “Age, in weeks after conception, at which premature infants first distinguished pain from general sensations of touch.”  For some reason, there was no reference to where they got that number.

Hmmmmm, I thought to myself, as I kept rubbing the bump on my leg.  Could this be fodder for another award-winning blog?

As loyal readers know, in the past we’ve had innumerable heated discussions about when the fetus is formed, when it has a heartbeat, when it can tell the difference between Yo Yo Ma and The Ramones and, yes, when it feels pain.  All of these arguments are designed to determine when/if the fetus becomes/is a “human being.”  Around and around we go, with no end in sight.  Hell, there are 50 years olds who still don’t know the difference between Yo Yo Ma and The Ramones, but that’s beside the point.

So, what does this statement in “Time” mean?  Here’s my thought:

The way I interpret this is that the (and for purposes of consistency I will use the pro-choice word) fetus is floating around in there, not really knowing what is going on.  Nuclear war could have erupted outside for all it knows and it is just chilling.  Absent any action from the outside, it will keep growing and growing.

But let’s say the fetus is now 8 weeks old and, unbeknownst to him/her/it, its host has decided that she does not want that  fetus to grow anymore, she has decided she cannot give birth.  The woman makes an appointment with the local abortion clinic a few days hence.  She goes to the clinic, the fetus not realizing what’s going on or what’s going to happen (and, please pro-lifers, if you really believe the fetus can actually suspect something, prove it).  The woman goes through the preliminary steps, makes it to the surgical table and the doctor begins the process.

The vacuum apparatus is inserted into the woman and the fetus is still floating around, unaware of what is coming next.  Now, let’s make the incredibly ridiculous assumption that the fetus at that point can “feel” something, that it is aware that something is touching it.  So, here comes this plastic tubing, the open end facing the fetus.  Then the machine is turned on.

According to “Time” magazine, the fetus hasn’t the foggiest idea of what is going on, whether this foreign item is a “friend” or “foe.”   Indeed, if the fetus was 22 or more and the forceps or a needle made contact with it, the fetus still does not know that whatever is touching it is a good thing or a bad thing.

I am firmly pro-choice but have always said that procuring an abortion can be a sad event.  One reason is that I’m sure many women do wonder what, if anything, the fetus feels during an abortion.  If they read this little blurb in “Time,” I wonder if they would feel somewhat comforted?

Stop Bullying Women

For many years, anti-abortion activists have lobbied their state legislatures to pass laws that require abortion clinics to share certain information with their patients.  These so-called “Right to Know” laws take many forms:  giving the patient a brochure that shows the stages of fetal development, taking an ultrasound and showing it to the woman, reciting a script to the patient that is a litany of things that can go wrong with an abortion, etc., etc.

Although the pro-choice movement regularly opposes these laws, I have written in the past about how the affect of these laws on the woman is rather minimal.  For example, most women casually look at the brochures, if at all, then toss them into

the garbage.  I’ve been in the rooms with woman as they observed their ultrasound, asked questions about the fetus then proceeded to have the abortion.  It’s all a rather big waste of time if you ask me, but if the anti-abortion movement wants to spend their time on this kind of stuff, go for it.  And, after all, it’s all well-intentioned, isn’t it?  Sure, they would prefer to make that woman’s act totally illegal, but since they can’t do that they want to make sure that a woman is making an informed choice.  How compassionate of them, huh?

Meanwhile, up in New York City, the City Council has taken a great interest in the activities of a number of “crisis pregnancy centers” that, according to testimony provided in a hearing, are engaging in “deceptive” practices designed to convince the woman that they are actually medical facilities.  It seems that the staff in some of these cpcs a

Ultrasound Before Abortion Procedure

re doing some interesting things.  For some reason, they are collecting personal and insurance information in the waiting room, the consultations are taking place on examination tables with the woman in the stirrups and “scrub suited consultants” are giving free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds.   On its face, it sounds a little deceptive to me but I’m sure these reports are not accurate because we’ve been told so many times that cpcs do not engage in this kind of behavior.

Still, this crazy ole City Council is concerned about this alleged behavior so they passed a law requiring the cpcs to post signs saying they have no doctors on site and don’t’ give advice about abortions or birth control.  Sounds kind of like the “Right to Know” laws that are being imposed on abortion clinics.

But, lo and behold, here comes the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian advocacy group, and they challenge the law, saying it would have violated the center’s right to free speech.  And, recently, a local judge agreed with them and slapped an injunction on the new law.

Putting aside all the legal mumbo-jumbo and the current status of the law, what I cannot sort out is why anti-abortion advocates want abortion clinics to inform women of everything but the kitchen sink, but when the NY City Council wants to ask them to give out just a little information about their centers, they balk at the idea?

Somebody help me here, please!

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