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?

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?

“What the hell is a partial birth abortion?”

Sitting at my desk at the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, I looked at my staff person quizzically, not understanding what she was talking about.  She had just told me about legislation that had been recently introduced in the Congress called “The Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act.”  She then proceeded to tell me about this abortion procedure.

According to the legislation and the accompanying statements, the abortion doctor would enter the pregnant woman’s birth canal and use forceps drag down the still-alive baby to the point where it’s torso was hanging outside the woman, the head still inside.  He would then inject a suction-like instrument into the head of the fetus and take out the contents of the brain.  The head would then shrink and the doctor would slide out the dead fetus.

I looked at my staff person as if she were from outer space, not comprehending what she had just described.  Now, I had seen a number of late term abortions and, believe me, they are not pretty.  But this sounded downright bizarre.  We later learned that this abortion technique had been “pioneered” by Doctor Martin Haskell of Ohio who used it because he thought it would cause less trauma to a woman with a tight cervix and small birth canal.  Indeed, Haskell apparently had attended a meeting of the National Abortion Federation and presented a “white paper” on the technique to an audience of doctors.  He referred to the procedure as an “Intact D&X.”

Partial Birth Abortion

Then – and don’t ask me how – someone in the pro-life movement got hold of this paper and it went global.  And somewhere along the line some incredibly clever person, who no doubt had a background in public relations, re-named the procedure a “partial birth abortion.”  I always thought that person deserved some kind of bonus for being so imaginative.

The pro-choice movement, on the other hand, was flabbergasted.  It was always pretty obvious to me that the pro-choice leadership had always been uncomfortable with the actual abortion procedure and those who performed them.  In fact, when I lobbied for the National Abortion Rights Action League I remember several conversations to that effect.  They all knew that abortions were not pretty and always tried to steer the conversation back to “choice,” but when word got out about this legislation, they were stunned.  Their first calls were to the National Abortion Federation, Planned Parenthood and our organization.  Suddenly, they had to talk about abortion.

My first response was to call a number of our doctors who did later abortions to see if they knew about this procedure.  I quickly learned that several of them actually used a variation of the procedure where the fetus was first injected with a drug called digoxin, thus killing it.  Then, the fetus was dragged down, the contents of the brain were removed and then it was pulled

out.

After collecting and sharing information on the procedure, the pro-choice groups had a strategic decision to make:  should they fight the bill?

My immediate reaction was that there was no way we could ultimately win this battle.  I got that sense after talking to a friend of mine, Congressman Jim Moran, who was very pro-choice and who told me he could not defend this kind of procedure.  If we were going to lose Jim, we could not win.  So, I argued that we should lie down and let this bill pass on a unanimous vote.  I gave two reasons.  The first was that as far as I could tell, if this bill became law it would affect only ONE doctor in the entire nation – Doctor Haskell.   That’s because the legislation prohibited using this procedure on a “live” fetus.   All of the other doctors killed the fetus first then they performed the procedure.  The legislation (as confirmed by the Center for Reproductive Rights) would not have affected those doctors.  The second reason I suggested we roll over was that I could see that it would be a public relations nightmare.  If we opposed the bill, it would engender a furious national debate – and there was no way we would win it.  I mean, how the hell could we go on television and justify this procedure to the American public?  Now, don’t get me wrong, I always felt that this procedure was very legitimate and, in some ways, I thought it was more “humane” than a regular D&E where the doctor uses forceps to extract the parts of the fetus.  But how the heck do you talk to the media about this procedure?

Ultimately, the pro-choice groups decided to fight the legislation.  Honestly, I never heard a real good reason given internally.   Then, on the public front, they started to argue that there were “only” a small amount of the procedures performed in the first place and that, when performed, they were used only in very extreme circumstances, such as when a woman’s life was in danger.  That started the pro-choice movement on a very slippery slope which ultimately resulted in disaster.

More about that later.

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.

Debate

I’ve been so tempted to wait until tomorrow to post another (award-winning blog) that ultimately turns out to be a cruel April Fool’s joke but I cannot wait – I must opine!

According to the statistics, more and more people are reading this blog. That’s pretty cool. Still, it seems that there are only a handful of people who actually then step up to comment on my thoughts or stories. I don’t know what that means. I frankly wish there were hundreds of comments to my posts but I’m told that people generally are just too shy or too intimidated to chime in.

As the moderator of the threads, I try to be as objective as possible. Although I am firmly pro-choice, I have expressed certain concerns, reservations, etc. about the world of abortion. I am also not shy about complaining about the pro-choice organizations. I think I am blunt to a fault. Indeed, when I was a “public figure” in the abortion rights movement that bluntness got me into trouble on a nunber of occasions.

Since I am available and blunt, I am curious why we don’t have more in-depth conversations about the actual abortion process. Whenever the opportunity has arisen, I have candidly talked about how abortions are performed and in what venue.  I have made a number of rather interesting admissions on this blog and am anxious to answer anything else.  But it just seems to me that the “debate” on our threads often degenerates into a series of nanny-nanny poo-poo comments or a game of “gotcha” designed to try to embarrass the other side. Indeed, I have been caught up in this silliness at times myself.

So, someone says she works at a crisis pregnancy center and some pro-choicers immediately respond by saying ALL cpcs are deceitful, that they intimidate women, that – and here’s the big leap – they condone anti-abortion terrorism. People just sit in front of their computers and attack, attack, attack, barraging the opposition with persistent, inane questions or comments. Then, the pro-lifer comes back and attacks, attacks, attacks. I share my truly confusing feelings about former Senator Bob Packwood and pro-lifers see an opportunity to point out some hypocrisy on my part. Well, they’re absolutely right – at times I am a hypocrite. I guess that’s because I just don’t always have the answers. So, sometimes I just don’t know what the hell to say. Sue me!

In another part of my life, I run a Facebook page that poses the “political question of the day.” I ask what people think about Libya, taxes, legalizing marijuana, etc. And 99 percent of the time, people just reply with a monosyllabic answer. It’s

Questions and Answers

“yes” or “no” to them – that’s it. They are just so right and the others are just so wrong. It is very, very rare when someone comes back and asks a follow up question to try to formulate a more educated position. No, we’re just locked in, our feet are stuck in the ground, no one is gonna call me a wimp or, worse, a flip-flopper.

So it is that some pro-lifers will just continue standing outside an abortion clinic, yelling through a bullhorn at women entering the facility. As far as they are concerned, those women are about to murder their babies and it’s their mission to stop them if possible. It’s their way or the highway. I’m right and they are wrong. This dynamic is reflected throughout our society in so many venues. It is particularly evident in the Halls of Congress where absolutely nothing gets done because you’re either right or wrong and I don’t wanna hear what you have to say.

So, I wanna say that I welcome the participation of folks like “Mary” and “Rogie” to our threads. I have appreciated their willingness to opine and to listen. Sure they (and we) can all get a little testy but it is my hope that we can continue having a true dialogue and get away from the dueling invectives. My hope is that we can try to at least understand our opposition and base our positions on agreed-upon facts (not the “facts” spewed out by our national organizations that only benefit from the continuing abortion “war”).

To that end, I stand ready to answer any question as best as I can about why I am pro-choice and what I know about the abortion process that is experienced by over one million women each year.

Women's History Month

Did you know that the month of March has been designated as “Women’s History Month?”

Isn’t that great! Aren’t you excited?

Okay, I confess. I didn’t know it either.  And, unless there was a way to connive a nice celebratory dinner out of my spouse, I probably would have totally ignored it.  But, when I think of it, maybe this is a good thing.  Maybe the advances and contributions made by women over the years is now such an endemic part of our culture that it no longer needs to be recognized by the President or whoever signed the friggin proclamation.  Still, as an award winning, internationally recognized blogger on women’s rights, I suppose I should take a minute and opine.

One thing I ain’t gonna do is talk about what legal abortion has done for women. I’ve written about that issue before. We all know by now the impact Roe v Wade had on women’s health and, yes, I know there is another human thing involved that is being killed/terminated/annihilated/whatever – but I’ve written about that also. So, let’s do something different and talk about the advances that have been made in women’s sexual health in general.

Remember how every once in a while a young girl in your high school just stopped coming to school for no apparent reason? Remember how the rumors started spreading around the cafeteria about how skinny, pimply faced Betty had “gotten herself into trouble.” The news would be communicated in whispers, rolling of the eyes, knowing nods of the head. Well, Betty had actually gotten herself pregnant!  Then, at some point Betty might come back all shiny and new and you would know that she had had an abortion, probably somewhere far from her town . Other times, however, Betty would not return at all.  It was all so sad.

Women's History Month

Then there was – dare I say it – masturbation.  We all did it and – dare I say it again – it was even fun. But in those days it was no less than a mortal sin. Maybe it still is (note to Pat:  check your Bible.)  But in those days we were constantly warned to not engage in that “self-defilement” or “self-abuse” because, if we did, then we would go blind, go gradually insane or, worse, hair would grow on our palms!  Things are a little different now, huh?

I remember in Catholic school how the nuns would try to convince the girls to retain their virginity until they got married. I remember a time when Sister Heloise showed a flower to the class and proceeded to slowly pick off all the petals, one by one. She then asked one of the girls to come up and replace the petals which, of course, she couldn’t do. “And it is equally impossible to get your virginity back,” was Sister Heloise’s stern warning. “What man wo

uld want a flower with no petals?” she asked the stunned crowd.  Oy vey.

Well, things have changed dramatically but, unfortunately, in some parts of this country we seem to be regressing when it comes to women’s sexual freedom. Of course, you’ve got the Tea Party and the other whackos to thank for that. Still, I am now sixty one years old and, despite some blips on the screen, there has been an incredible amount of change over the years. Ours is now a much healthier society in terms of not just the sexual lives of women but their professional lives as well.  Indeed, I won’t begin to bore you young folks out there about how women were treated in the workplace just a few years back. Actually, if you want an education go see some episodes of “Mad Men.” It’s all true.

Women are clearly in a much better place these days and, of course, more progress needs to be made. But I’ll leave those fights up to the next generation.

Thank You!

Today is “Abortion Provider Appreciation Day.”

It is a day where supporters of abortion rights acknowledge, in some way, the contributions of their local abortion providers (doctors, staff and/or owners).  When I was at the National Coalition of Abortion Providers years ago, it was encouraging to see pro-choicers across the country sending flowers, making calls of support or finding other ways to acknowledge the contributions of abortion providers.   Until then, there always seemed to be a chasm between those who were “pro-choice” and those who were part of the actual abortion process.

This day – March 10 – was selected as “Abortion Provider Appreciation Day” because in 1993 on this date, Doctor David Gunn became the first abortion doctor to be killed by a pro-life activist.  Doctor Gunn was approaching the back door of the Pensacola Medical Services, one of the many clinics down south where he worked, when a man named Michael Griffin walked up to him and shot him several times at point blank range.  Doctor Gunn died instantly.  Ironically, there was a gun for protection in David’s glove compartment.

I got the call about two hours later.  In many ways, I wasn’t shocked.  Those of us in the abortion provider community had seen the harassment, the threats, the stalking, the butyric acid attacks and, yes, the bombings, escalate over the years.  We knew it was just a matter of time before someone went all the way and killed one of our doctors.  When it finally happened, it was national news, the front story in all the newspapers and the network news.

A year later, someone came up with the idea of using March 10 for something positive, versus wallowing in despair over David’s murder.  Instead, it was suggested that one way to honor him was to honor those who followed in his footsteps.  So, groups like the Fund for the Feminist Majority and the National Organization for Women got their troops to inundate the clinics with thank you calls and notes.  Some actually held vigils outside the clinics with signs thanking those inside.  It was all very gratifying and I know that our doctors and clinic staff really appreciated the efforts.

So, today I just want to use my moment to once again thank those doctors who walk into the clinic every day knowing that someone could walk up behind them with a gun.  As we saw in the case of the late George Tiller, these doctors can find no sanctuary from the violence.  Just imagine for a second the feeling of going to your office knowing you could be gone in an instant.  Think about the security guard at the Birmingham All Women’s clinic who walked up the pathway to open up the facility, only to be blown up by an explosive device planted by Eric Rudolph.  Or Baird Britton, driving up to The Ladies Center in Pensacola in 1994, seeing Mr. Paul Hill, a regular presence at the clinic, walk up to him with a shotgun, blasting away.  I could go on and on.

And these doctors and staff are putting themselves into these life-threatening situations because a handful of women made an appointment at the clinic a few days earlier after making the difficult decision to terminate their pregnancy.  No one forced those women to make that call, they did it on their own volition.  And, as history has shown us, if these doctors were not there for these women, many of those women would have resorted to other, unsafe measures.

Kudos to the doctors, the staff, the owners and their families for being there.

Candidate's Speech

The candidate walks into the jam-packed auditorium at Calvin Coolidge High School.  The district he seeks to represent has elected both Republicans and Democrats.  The residents are independent thinkers who are very serious about the social issues of the day.  As the candidate strides up to the podium, he looks over the crowd and sees a number of pro-life and pro-choice signs.  It seems evenly divided.  Personally, the candidate believes abortion should be legal but has some concerns about its usage.  He is truly in the middle somewhere.  But the conventional wisdom says that the candidate should just put their lot into one of the camps and stick with that position.  This candidate is different and tonight his goal is to defy that conventional wisdom by appealing to the activists on both sides:

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.  I’ve been asked to give you my views on the abortion issue tonight.  Generally it is not an assignment that the average candidate looks forward to but I guess I’m a little different.  I’ve actually been excited about this prospect.

Let me start by saying that I respect those of you who are pro-life and those of you who are pro-choice.  This is probably the most controversial issue of our time and I honestly believe that all of you are well- intentioned.   Unfortunately, the media loves to focus on the negative, so they will cover the extremists on both sides.  That is not fair because I firmly believe that the average activist comes from a good place, has deep- seeded convictions and is not shy about expressing them.  Indeed, I applaud you all for standing up for what you believe.

Now, I’m gonna be straight with you.  I’m not the typical politician who tries to have it both ways.  You deserve to know where I stand.

I believe abortion must remain legal in this country.  To me, it is a matter of a woman’s health.  I am a great student of history and, as everyone knows, before abortion was legalized in this country, many women were dying from botched, unsafe back alley abortions or were being severely harmed.   We can all quibble about how many women we’re talking about but, for me, the numbers don’t matter.   Women will always seek out abortions and, if that is the case, then I prefer they be safe.

At the same time, however, I think the pro-choice folks need to fess up.  Abortion is a form of killing.  A woman sitting in the abortion clinic waiting room has something – and you can decide what you want to call that something – in her body.  It is something that, if not aborted, will ultimately become a child.  It is a living organism.  Indeed, if it was a wanted pregnancy, we would be calling it a “baby” from day one.  Then, when the woman leaves the clinic, that organism is no longer alive.  To me, that is “killing.”  It’s a sad process, one that no one wants to experience.   It’s a very sad fact of life.

Sides of the Issue

But here’s the good news.  The number of abortions in this country is decreasing.  It’s hard to say what is causing that trend, but I would like to give credit to both sides of the issue.  For example, the pro-choice folks like to emphasize birth control education.  The pro-lifers hope to “protect” women by pointing out how some women ultimately regret their abortions.  Whatever the reason, the number is going down and that is a good thing.

Now, although I support abortion, I am very concerned that some women might be getting later terms abortions for less than compelling reasons.   That’s why I would support banning third trimester abortions unless the woman’s life was endangered or if there was a possibility of her experiencing severe health consequences.   I don’t think a woman should have an abortion at that stage for some less-than-serious reason.

I will add that I can support the work of so-called crisis pregnancy centers as long as they are totally candid up front about their opposition to abortion.  If a woman clearly understands that she is basically going into a pro-life center andshe still wants to talk to them, then go for it.  I have no problem with that.   In addition, I will vigorously support the right of pro-life activists to protest in front of a clinic.   That is the essence of the First Amendment.

Although I support legal abortion, I am torn about the use of taxpayer’s dollars for abortions.   I understand how the pro-lifers don’t want their tax dollars used to fund something that they find morally objectionable and they have all the right in the world to try to pass laws restricting the use of those dollars.  Indeed, in my earlier days I supported efforts to de-fund the Vietnam War.   On the other hand, I am troubled by the thought of a woman on welfare with four children not being able to use her Medicaid card for an abortion because it means we all will be paying more money to help her raise yet another (unwanted) child.    It’s a tough one for me and I would like to sit down with representatives on both sides of that issue.

Abortion is not a black and white issue to me.  It is very, very complicated.  In the meantime, however, if I am elected to Congress I will work hard to make it easier for couples to adopt, I will support using federal dollars for contraceptives.   I will support any educational effort that has the same goal as we all do – to eliminate the need for abortion in this country.  I ask you all to consider supporting me.  I support legal abortion but I will work as hard as anybody to eliminate the need for it.

Thank you very much.