Pro Life Abortion Lies

Pro Life Abortion Lies

I have always tended to trust people.  Don’t ask me why – it’s just part of my genetic makeup.  But when you are in the middle of the abortion “wars,” as I was for many years, trusting people can get you into a lot of trouble.

Sometime in the early part of 1993, I was at my desk in the offices of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers when I got a call from one of our doctors in Nevada.  “Hey Pat, what the hell is this Project Choice survey?  Should I respond?”

I had no idea what he was talking about, but soon learned how most of our doctors had received a “confidential” survey from a group called “Project Choice.”  The cover letter indicated that this group had been contacted by a foundation that was interested in helping protect abortion providers from violence and harassment, but before they would commit they wanted “evidence” that the violence and/or harassment was real.  So, the folks at Project Choice compiled an extensive mailing list of clinics and mailed out 961 surveys.  Ultimately, almost 285 were completed, a very high return rate of 30 percent.

Pro Life Abortion Life Dynamics' Lies

Pro Life Abortion Life Dynamics' Lies

After talking to the doctor, I called the phone number listed on the survey.  I was immediately connected to a woman named Lisa Nelson.  She was very personable, thrilled that a person from a pro-choice national organization had called because, as she put it, “some of the pro-choice groups we’ve talked to are very suspicious of who we are.”   Ah, but I was different.  I was thrilled that someone wanted to help our abortion doctors.  Lisa told me about the foundation and I told her I would love to help her out by urging our doctors to participate.

The survey was impressive.  It came in a package came with a self-addressed stamped envelope and when it was received, the participant received a call and a thank you note.  The survey was divided into four parts: Doctor’s Profile, Motivation, Social Environment, and Harassment and Violence.  Of course, we all focused on the “Harassment and Violence” section, anxious to provide them with a comprehensive picture of the terrorism that was taking place against abortion providers at the time.  While I was promoting the project, staff people at the National Abortion Federation were more suspect and, indeed, encouraged their members to not participate in the survey.  Always at loggerheads with NAF, I took the opposite course and told our members that I saw no problems with their filling out the survey.  Indeed, I visualized Project Choice getting that big foundation grant to help stem the violence and my being part of that press conference.

Pro Life Abortion Life Dynamics' Lies

Pro Life Abortion Life Dynamics' Lies

Lisa and I kept in touch over the next few weeks. She was very personable, a spry young pro-choice lass who was anxious to help out her “heroes” in the field of abortion.   We talked enthusiastically about the results she was getting that documented the violence and harassment against our doctors.  Meanwhile, I never paid any attention to the “Social Environment” section of the survey.

One day, when Lisa and I were just chatting it up, I asked her where she was going to college and she mentioned some university in Denton, Texas.  The name of the town sounded familiar and I asked my staff person if she had ever heard of it and she casually said “yeah, that’s where Life Dynamics is located.”   Life Dynamics was a notorious, super aggressive anti-abortion group headed up by a wacko named Mark Crutcher.  My stomach started to churn a bit.

I let it go for a few days, but ultimately picked up the phone and called the Life Dynamics office.

“Hello, Life Dynamics, can I help you?”

“Uh, yes, this is Pat Richards.  Could I speak to Lisa Nelson please?”

I found myself begging that she would say “I’m sorry, there is no one here by that name.”   Instead, she asked if she could put me on hold.  My blood pressure started to creep up.

“Well, hello, Pat.  So, you found me.”

I had to do everything to keep my lunch down.  Instead of the perky college student voice I had become familiar with, the voice was now downright sinister.  I had caught her to some extent (she could have ignored me but she took the call because the survey was already done).  But we both knew that I had been a totally idiot and you could tell she relished the moment.

I was at a loss for words but lamely spit out “Well, Lisa, I hope you’re happy.  You must be very proud of yourself.”

“Pat, this is a war and I’m a soldier of the Lord.”

I hung up, ran outside and, yes, lost my lunch.  When I got back to the office, we sent out an emergency fax telling our members that we had “exposed” Project Choice, hoping folks would forget that we had originally encouraged them to participate in the survey.  But, by that time, the surveys had been completed and mailed back.  Still, we didn’t panic because we couldn’t imagine what they would do with “evidence” that our doctors were being terrorized.

Within a few weeks, Life Dynamics had a press conference, reveling in the fact that they had pulled off this scam and, more important to them, revealing the answers to the questions.  They hardly said a work about harassment.  Instead, they focused on the Social Environment section of the survey.

The cited how sixty-five percent of the doctors said they felt ostracized because of their work.  Half of the doctors reported having problems keeping or recruiting staff because they did abortions.  Almost 40% of the doctors said that certain aspects of the abortion procedure caused then “concern.”   The strategy was to use the words of the abortion doctors themselves to prove how they were pariahs in the medical community.  From this, they concluded that “the moral concerns abortion providers have about performing abortions is an internal phenomenon brought on by the nature of the act itself, and are not directly related to anti-abortion activity.”

In addition, however, the answers to the “Harassment and Violence” section gave groups like Operation Rescue encouragement.  Even among providers who had not personally experienced harassment, over 20 percent said that such activity caused them to consider quitting.  Many of them said that this type of activity has had a negative impact on their family.  Then, they reported how the doctors reported feeling everything from anger to thoughts of suicide.  Some even admitted to drug use.  It was a green light for more terrorism and, indeed, the next few years were hell.

Cleverly, Life Dynamics used the “self-portrait” to paint an ugly picture of the world of abortion providers, to demonstrate that they were the “bottom feeders” of the medical world and that many of them did not feel good about their life and work.  Meanwhile, they sent a signal to other anti-abortion zealots that the harassment was working.

In the long run, who knows what the survey and the subsequent pronouncements actually accomplished?  Sure, it must have been a blast that day at the Life Dynamics office, the conversations and the high fives around the water cooler probably lasted for weeks.   The terrorism increased, but it’s impossible to say if it was a result of this project.

What did change, however, was this ugly episode only made me more cynical, more suspicious.

That’s the saddest part of this whole story.