Pregnancy Test

There are anti abortion activists who stand outside abortion clinics with the genuine belief that their presence helps women, that they are heroes in the war against abortion, and that their help will solve all of life’s little unwanted pregnancies. But their beliefs and women’s realities are, as the saying goes, a horse of a different color.

For the better part of eight years, I’ve come to realize that most anti abortion activists assume women choose abortion solely based on financial reasons. However, they are erroneous in making such a sweeping generalization. In other words, their beliefs don’t match the realities of women’s lives. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 74% of women chose abortion because having a child would interfere with her education, work or ability to care for dependents. As with many of the anti abortion activists, the difference between their beliefs and a woman’s realities never matters. For many who stand outside abortion clinics, their mission, to save babies and end abortion, is more important than a woman’s desires for her own life. These antis believe their pamphlets and offers of money, a free pregnancy test and a free ultrasound are enough to change an abortion-minded woman’s mind.  They find nothing odd with their invitation, as a stranger on the street, to get into their car for a ride to a prolife doctor’s office for a free prenatal visit. They assume that talking to strangers about the content of the uterus and traveling with strangers in their car to an unknown doctor’s office for free health care is perfectly normal.

But even with the questionable value of their freebies, there remains the reality of the emotional, physical and financial burdens of a pregnancy. The antis have difficulty accepting the reality that some women do not want to be pregnant, either now or ever. Their pro-natalist rhetoric leaves no room for the statistical evidence that early abortion is safer than childbirth, that post partum depression affects 10-15% of women, or that post partum psychosis occurs in 1 to 4 cases out of 1000 deliveries. Their optimistic rhetoric about adoption as an alternative leaves out the evidence that confirms that some women have a lifetime of regret and anger about giving up their child. They also fail to acknowledge well-documented, scholarly research that details resentful and angry adopted children, some with serious adaptive problems.

For a financial perspective, the government’s latest statistics reveal that they annual child-rearing expenses for the average middle-income, two-parent family range from $11,650 to $13,530, depending on the age of the child. Imagine, a single parent of one child, pregnant with a second child, who is considering her options for raising a second child on a salary of $18,700. The annual expenses for the first child, according to the government’s calculator, are $7,410; the second is $7,188.  So, where does that leave the mother? What are her options for education, being promoted beyond her entry-level position, helping her children become first generation college students?  These are only a few of my questions for these folks who badger women with their maternal guilt trips. One year, two years, five years, ten years from now, where will these pronatalists be? Where will these “love the mom, love the baby” people be when the fetus they saved needs braces, a reading specialist, a counselor for an eating disorder, bail money for their fourth underage DUI or financial assistance for college?

From my perspective it comes down to a rather straightforward question: What is the antiabortion activist’s responsibility for each fetus they save? Does the responsibility include prenatal care or should it include food, shelter and housing? And how long should this commitment last? Should these antis’ commitment to the fetus continue after it’s born, like biological parents commitment to their offspring? Should antis ensure estate planning for not only their own children but to all those fetuses they save? Or does the commitment last only until birth?

It seems to me that most antis will do whatever it takes to stop an abortion including offering to pay for a pregnancy test, an ultrasound or a visit to a doctor. Some goes as far as throwing a baby shower, purchasing maternity clothes or buying diapers and formula.

But these piecemeal efforts are like giving a person a fish to eat for a day. What is really needed is an entirely different approach. Rather than give a woman a fish to eat for a day, as the old parable goes, it seems wiser to teach her to fish. In other words, it makes more sense to provide all that a woman would need for her lifetime (including access to her choice of family planning, parenting help, babysitting, job skill development, education and such) and for the lifetime of the fetus saved from abortion.

So, let’s be clear. Assuming that women choose abortion because of financial reasons doesn’t make it a fact.  Assuming offers of freebies are wanted is ignorant and demeaning. But assuming that women accept strangers on the street to invade their privacy AND to accept their offers of health care is a horse of a different color—more like the color of a jackass.


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

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Office

“What is Lady’s Luck?” I asked.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

A few years ago, the pro-life movement started collecting stories from women who were allegedly emotionally “harmed” after having an abortion.   This national effort was ultimately dubbed the “Silent No More” campaign. 

The pro-life movement organized press conferences, held rallies in front of the Supreme Court, and initiated letter writing campaigns.  They signed up celebrities like Jennifer O’Neill (“Summer of ‘42”) who spoke of their personal pain.  They testified on Capitol Hill.  I assume there’s a website.

The purpose of this effort, of course, is to discourage women from having abortions.  While the women who had been “harmed” by their abortion were able to exercise their right to an abortion at the time, their message now is that they made a mistake and that, if you had an abortion today, you would be emotionally scarred for the rest of your life.  

I have no doubt that some women who have had abortions ultimately come to regret their decision and, yes, I’ll go so far to cede that some may have been emotionally “scarred” from the experience.  I feel for those women.  But what the pro-life movement never says is that numerous, objective studies over the years have shown that most women had a feeling of “relief” after having an abortion and they have moved on with their life.  Many of those women ultimately had families.   

Actually, I find it interesting when some of these women say they regret their abortions.  I picture a woman who has two kids, who is doing well financially, who starts thinking about what could have been.   Of course, it’s so easy to think that she could have had another child by now, that if she hadn’t gone to the clinic that day things might have been different.  But don’t we always reflect on the past?   I don’t know about you, but practically every day I think “what if?”   What if I had gone to that other college and hadn’t met my spouse?   What if I had forced my kid to take golf lessons much earlier in his life like Tiger?  What if I never started eating fatty foods?  I mean, the second guessing could go on forever.

But now these women are saying let’s take away the right to abortion which, uh, yeah, I exercised at the time.  How convenient and how selfish is that?

I grow weary when the pro-life movement makes broad generalizations about abortion, especially when it comes to an issue that they may not know a lot about.  Because they find some women who suddenly regret their abortions and are willing to talk about it, they generalize and say that all women will regret their abortions.   I will add, however, that the pro-choice side generalizes as well.  For example, I really wish they would stop saying that abortion is the “most difficult decision a woman will ever make in their life.”   Gimme a break, will ya?   It’s just not always that difficult for some women.

We love to paint things with a broad brush because, well, we can.  I mean, how many people who opposed the healthcare bill really understood what was in it?  On the other hand, how many people who supported the darn bill actually knew what was in it?  

We just don’t have enough time to study the issues, so we generalize.   But, I’m sorry, abortion is different.  It is a very personal, private matter and both sides should stop painting it with a broad brush.

President Obama has indicated that he wants to help the pro-choice and pro-life movement find “common ground” on the issue of abortion.  There are lots of cynics out there, from pro-lifers who say they could never agree with a “baby killer” to ardent pro-choicers who distrust anyone who would take away the constitutional right to abortion.  Still, the President has persisted and several months ago his office sponsored a telephone conference call with representatives from both sides of the issue.  Most participants say they felt that not much was accomplished.

Let me suggest that, if there is one thing that both sides of the debate have in common, it is they want to reduce the number of abortions.  And to do that you need to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.   You know the phrase:  “every child a wanted child.”

What is the pro-life movement doing to reduce the number of abortions?

First of all, many of them, despite the position of their church, do support birth control.    Some of them are reasonable and enlightened enough to understand that people will have sex and if they do they should use birth control.   Then there are others, who are a little more dogmatic who say abstinence is the only way – the “Just Say No” crowd.  A nice thought, but not very realistic.  And, they say, if you have sex and become pregnant, well you’re out of luck.  You’re having a baby.  Get the shower announcements printed.

Of course, there are the pro-lifers who believe that they stop abortions by “educating” women as they are entering an abortion facility.   If they can, they stop the women tell them “the truth about abortion.”   If they cannot stop the women, they’ll scream at them at the top of their lungs.  I’ve talked to pro-lifers about these tactics and they swear that they have “saved” a lot of “babies.”   They tell me about the woman they talked to who suddenly learned exactly what abortion is.  And they tell me she went home instead.  Of course, they do not realize that that woman probably called a different clinic the next day and had an abortion elsewhere.  But that is beside the point.

The general pro-choice movement certainly supports sex education, birth control, etc. which does reduce the number of pregnancies in this country.  But I want to talk about the clinics that are listed on the website ( that sponsors this blog.   That website is a directory of clinics that perform abortions and offers other reproductive health services.  And I would suggest that they do more to stop abortions than the average pro-life activist.

What most people don’t realize is that when a woman enters one of these clinics to have an abortion, the first thing that happens after filling out the paperwork is a counselor sits down with her and discusses the circumstances that led to her getting pregnant.  During that conversation, the counselor will discover whether or not the woman was on birth control.  I once attended a session and, when asked what kind of birth control she was on, the woman responded “I use Lady’s  Luck.”    I asked her what she meant and she replied “I just hope I get lucky and don’t get pregnant.”

The counselor will then spend time trying to determine what form of birth control is best for that woman:  the depo-provera shot, birth control pills, an IUD.  If it is determined that birth control pills are the best option, the counselor will usually give the woman a free, three month supply of pills.  For many women, pills are very expensive so the clinic tries to make it as easy as possible to get that woman used to taking those pills.   Once these discussions are complete, the woman will then have her abortion.

When a woman comes to an abortion clinic, the staff is ready to help but they also never want to see her again.   The goal is to put the woman on a regimen that will hopefully prevent any more unintended or unwanted pregnancies.   Despite the accusations of the pro-life movement, abortion providers are not anxious to see a woman several times for an abortion.  While they would never judge them and will facilitate their desires, they also hope that the woman (and man) take less risks in the future.

I suggest that the pro-life movement does practically nothing to stop abortions.  Their response is just don’t have one.  On the other hand, the real work of preventing abortions is taking place right inside that very clinic.

Throughout the history of our nation every election has seemed monumentily important. Think back on all the slogans of every past election are they really all so different.

This author is not a historian so the question is rhetorical.

I urge an objective look at the records of the two very decent individuals running for office. I believe them both to have integrity in their convictions and a desire to do what is right. I grant them that.

My friends and fellow Americans it is now time to have the courage to follow your convictions and make a choice. A choice which may determine your choice and opportunity to govern your own body.

That is as serious as it gets.

Look back on 8 years and reflect.

Please make your voice heard. Vote.

Who would you vote for today?
( polls)