People in the pro-choice movement provide the theory that underpins the whole operation. Supportive services of lobbying for the needed laws and working with the media are provided. Attempts for increasing public acceptance are constant. With all that, it would seem that a social movement dedicated to keeping abortion available would be among the first places to go to get emotional support services for abortion staff when that becomes necessary.
Dr. Hern, in one of his New York Times editorials, complains. "Prochoice organizations often ignore, patronize and disparage the contributions of physicians who specialize in abortions, in contrast with their support for well-known physicians in conventional specialties who perform some abortions."
In the Project Choice survey, abortion doctors were asked if they felt that pro-choice organizations and politicians were doing enough to support those who provide abortion care. Over 78 percent responded no. That means that almost four-fifths of the abortion doctors who answered feel that they don't get enough support from the social movement they would most reasonably expect it from.
Here are some pertinent comments from the survey:
#48: The pro-choice majority has done nothing to support physicians that provide abortion service. It seems that even pro-choice women are reluctant to go to an office that provides abortion care, for fear that they may be thought to be obtaining an abortion.Pro-life picketers are in constant touch with counter-picketers, and so the attitudes of their most rambunctious opponents are constantly available to them. They report that it's quite common that the people who are putting so much of their time and effort into defending the clinics actually have contempt for the doctors themselves. Remarks about them being in it for the money are not uncommon.
#97: I feel many of the local pro-choice organizations and their members are more interested in discussing the issues at a wine and cheese party than getting out on the front lines.
I have heard women state they go to Dr. "X" because they are pro-choice. These various Dr. X's frequently talk a good game and have busy practices, but I have yet to see them provide abortions. Privately they tell me they are afraid to lose patients and physician referrals. I wish I had the luxury of reaping the rewards of being pro-choice without the above problems.
#212: The "GOOD OL' GIRL" network refers around me because I operate a surgical service not a socio-political one.
A more official example of this kind of attitude was given by Marge Brerer, in a workshop entitled "Feminist Perspectives and Reactions" at a conference on RU-486. The following remarks were taken from an audiotape of the conference.
"Abortion providers, if they are to offer women an open choice between this new method, and vacuum aspiration -- and I don't think it's at all clear that abortion providers as a group, let alone as individuals, are going to be willing to give women an open choice -- in fact, I think there's some indication that the opposite may be the case -- then they will need to explain the differences and similarities in a coherent and accurate way to women.
"Women have often said that they see the provider as having a supportive role. I would like to ask whether providers will still be able to have a punitive role, if that's the role they want to have ."
The Project Choice survey we keep mentioning was done in early 1993, covering 961 known abortion doctors and getting a 30 percent response rate. Many of the comments showed the intense frustration that working in the field provides. The first question that has to be asked is, given how crucial abortion doctors are to abortion provision, why wasn't this survey done before?
Ron Fitzsimmons heads the National Coalition of Abortion Providers. He had a conversation with a woman with Project Choice on this point. The National Abortion Federation (NAF) had attacked the survey and was highly suspicious of it. So she asked him if he thought the people at NAF are just mad that they weren't the ones that did survey. He indicated yes, and then said, "Welcome to the pro-choice movement. I think it's part that, because they should have done this ten years ago, so in some ways, you showed them up. Hell, in some ways, you showed me up. I think it's great."
He had no doubt that the results were accurate. Charlotte Taft similarly was impressed and thought it professional and interesting.
Joy Davis, former clinic director, thinks that the actual situation is worse than the survey results indicate. She believes the survey results were actually "very kind."
On the other hand, NAF's suspicions were well-founded. The survey was conducted by a pro-life group -- Life Dynamics.
The press made a big deal about the deception involved. A lot of prolifers are also very upset about that point. They still cite the findings, just as scholars commonly cite the Milgram electric-shock obedience experiments, which used deception and distressed partipants.
But the question still has to be asked: why did pro-choice groups never think to do this survey?
All that work put in on influencing public opinion doesn't necessarily help, either. The most clear-cut, definitive example of this is what occurred when one man, who had been picketing for only a short time and had not attended meetings, went behind an abortion clinic without the knowledge of any of the picketers and shot Dr. David Gunn point blank, and then turned himself in. At this point, the pro-choice movement and the media swung in to action. Did they take the sensible actions necessary to try to prevent this from happening again? Did they strain to avoid any copy-cat stunts? No, they swung in to action to gain full PR advantage in showing how awful the right-to-life movement is. They used it for propaganda purposes, and that was more important than preventing its recurrence.
Nor did they find it nearly as newsworthy when a woman died June 26, 1994 of hemorrhaging caused by an abortion at that same location, Pensacola Women's Medical Services. The Pensacola News Journal did a front page story on June 29, 1994. Local coverage of such deaths is common, but national coverage is rare.
The prudent thing to do after an appalling event of that kind is to show the outrage of the entire community, including, and especially, prolifers. After all, there are nuts who would be willing to take condemnation, as long as they're regarded as heroes by the people with whom they identify. If they are denounced by fellow abortion opponents, then the chance of another crime to fit the pattern is lowered considerably. There may be some individuals with the philosophy and the fortitude to put up with universal rebuke, but the anger of the pro-life movement against those who commit violent acts is the best defense the abortion staff has.
The pro-life movement immediately jumped in to give that very assurance. All major and almost all minor pro-life groups sent out press releases at once, and made spokespersons available. Preventing violence by making it absolutely clear that they couldn't stand it was something all the leadership was eager to do. The media and the pro-choice movement had the tools necessary to take that rational approach. But they decided that showing off the prolifers to be nasty people was more important.
They hunted up fringe people to defend the slaying. All movements have nuts, and they can be found if they are searched for. Every movement that has ever existed has had its "lunatic fringe." The pro-choice movement is no exception. If ever anyone in the media takes a notion to apply the same standards to that movement as are applied to prolifers, they will find plenty of material, from minor acts like throwing urine and feces on demonstrators to major acts like trying to run them down with their cars. Prolifers carried away by ambulances due to attacks from counter-demonstrators is not regarded as newsworthy.
Prolifers don't usually make a big deal of the violence aimed at them. The media have made it clear that they don't care. From the prolifers' point of view, once babies are being torn limb from limb, bringing up the fact that someone put out a lit cigarette on your bare skin seems kind of petty. A large portion of prolifers hold a "turn the other cheek" philosophy, and they know that the pro-choice movement as a whole is not responsible for its lunatic fringe. Most pro-choice people would never think to engage in such violence, and it would be unfair to paint the movement with a broad brush based on the actions of a few of its members.
To do the logical thing for preventing violence against abortion staff at that point would have obligated the media to show prolifers as actually being reasonable people. Showing them as irrational was more important than protecting the abortion industry from violence. The pro-choice movement spent a great deal of time and energy in a strategy that was blatantly counter-productive as far as protecting abortion staffers is concerned.
The most clear-cut illustration of this is the way the television news show "Nightline" treated the first shooting incident. They originally scheduled Nancy Myers, spokesperson for the National Right to Life Committee, the largest pro-life group. She would have condemned the shooting in no uncertain terms. They cancelled her. Who did they bring on in her place? Paul Hill -- the man responsible for the second shooting incident.
The media gave Hill so much press coverage that they built up his delusions of grandeur. Though prolifers were appalled and did what they could to counter his fringe vigilante views, the media could not have done a more efficient job of guaranteeing another incident if that had been their plan.
There were at least eight doctors that quit performing abortions after the first shooting. The reason given was fear, and a sense that terrorism was being practiced. The media and pro-choice movement, when mentioning this at all, used it as another propaganda advantage. It never seemed to occur to them that part of the anxiety these doctors might be unconsciously feeling was the knowledge that the very people that were being counted on for support were in fact more interested in putting prolifers down than in actually protecting the doctors.
BAD GAME PLAN
There have been various efforts to restrict demonstrations around the clinics. These add harsher penalties for acts which are already illegal and for which arrests are already made. From the federal Free Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) bill enacted by Congress to bubble zones enacted by local governments, protesters who go after abortion are treated more harshly than any other protesters. They could also have a chilling effect on speech that is now legal and in theory should be protected by the First Amendment.
This strategy is backwards. They seem to be trying to take their opposition, which right now is easy to spot, and force them underground. Anyone who's ever fought underground opponents knows that the first thing you want to do is see if you can flush them out. Driving clinic activities underground, and losing the knowledge of who's doing those activities, is less than brilliant.
This point has also been noticed by some abortion advocates. Camille Paglia, a best-selling author and member of Planned Parenthood, stated, "It is not surprising that, having manipulated their Washington cronies into using fascist tactics to curb legitimate pro-life protests, feminist leaders have now left clinics (not designed as fortresses) vulnerable to murderous attacks by lunatic commandos."
More importantly, abortion defenders seem unaware of how much sidewalk counseling has actually served as a protective ring around those clinics. Jack Willke of the Life Issues Institute commented on this.
A distraught husband on the losing end of a furious argument with his pregnant wife had been told by her that she was going to get the abortion. He wanted this baby in the most profound fashion. He suspected she was getting the abortion that day. He called the clinic. Was his wife there? They said, "No." She was, and was being aborted at that very time. When he discovered it the man simply "lost it." In a towering fit of anger, he went to the clinic to get even. He was stopped by those in that "protective ring." They talked to him, calmed him down . . .
I suggest that this vital function of sidewalk counseling has not been generally recognized. . . . Yes, they are there to help women, before and after the abortion. But they are also there to prevent violence. These peaceful, prayerful people, have undoubtedly prevented hundreds, probably even thousands of episodes of violence."
These laws may well finally be thrown out by the courts, based on the right to freedom of speech. It's already an established legal precedent that something can be made illegal only if it's illegal for everyone, no matter the content of what they're saying. If it's illegal to use a bullhorn past ten o'clock at night, that needs to be for everyone, no matter what they're saying through that bullhorn. If the courts allow these laws, then they will be departing from that settled principle.
The irony of this situation is that, while prolifers are the ones fighting these viewpoint-discriminating laws in court, the pro-choice movement will actually be better off if those laws fall. You don't need to shoot yourself in the foot to displease your adversaries. Spending energy on an approach that leaves you better off if it fails is not the best use of your time.
COGNITIVE DISSONANCE AGAIN
When 60 Minutes ran a piece about Hillview abortion clinic in Maryland, showing the women who had been killed and maimed, they made the suggestion that perhaps greater regulation was necessary. To this the head of the National Abortion Federation, Barbara Radford, said, "We want to make sure that women have choices when it comes to abortion services. And if you regulate it too strictly, you then deny women the access to service."
Not many women want access to unqualified anesthesia services that leave them paralyzed.
On that same report, when pro-choice Maryland state senator Mary Boergers wanted legislation to regulate clinics because of this scandal, she lost pro-choice support. When she acted for all the world as if she believed that "safe and legal" really meant safe, she was called on the carpet. She said that if you ask questions, "They then treat you as if you're the enemy."
An insistence on not asking questions should be a major contradiction to the minds of many who believe in the pro-choice philosophy. In fact, it is also a mark of dealing with a contradiction in ideas.
Luhra Tivis was disturbed at events at Dr. Tiller's clinic. "When I went to the leaders in NOW in Wichita, and told them what was going on, they said, we agree with you, but we can't rock the boat." She says that a woman from the local chapter of NOW wrote a piece for the newsletter criticizing Tiller, but they pulled it. They said they weren't going to rock the boat. NOW is not normally known for being reticent about rocking the boat where women's welfare is concerned.
Since a large portion of the pro-choice movement lays claim to being motivated by feminism, the contradictions with other parts of feminism provide a big source of strain caused by cognitive dissonance.
An example would be the attitudes on women's bodies. This story comes from The New Our Bodies, Ourselves: "When I found out I was pregnant, I was frightened and angry that my body was out of my control. I was furious that my IUD had failed me, and I felt my sexual parts were alien and my enemy." Other parts of the book insist that we accept our bodies and reject notions of biological inferiority. Women being in touch with our bodies and viewing them positively is an important principle of the book, which they here contradict without blushing.
Well-known feminists have noticed that there are some problems with the consistency between feminism and abortion advocacy. Simone de Beauvior in her classic 1952 work The Second Sex, said, "Men tend to take abortion lightly; they . . . fail to realize the values involved. The woman who has recourse to abortion is disowning feminine values, her values . . . Women learn to believe no longer in what men say . . . the one thing they are sure of is this rifled and bleeding womb, these shreds of crimson life, this child that is not there."
Adrienne Rich, in her 1976 work, Of Woman Born, said "Abortion is violence: a deep, desperate violence inflicted by a woman upon, first of all, herself. It is the offspring, and will continue to be the accuser, of a more pervasive and prevalent violence, the violence of rapism."
More recently, Germain Greer in an interview in The New Republic commented, "It is typical of the contradictions that break women's hearts that when they avail themselves of their fragile right to abortion they often, even usually, went with grief and humiliation to carry out a painful duty that was presented to them as a privilege. Abortion is the latest in a long line of non-choices that begin at the very beginning with the time and the place and the manner of lovemaking."
Naomi Wolf caused quite a stir in an article she wrote for a later issue of The New Republic with remarks like, "How can we charge that it is vile and repulsive for pro-lifers to brandish vile and repulsive images if the images are real? To insist that the truth is in poor taste is the very height of hypocrisy. Besides, if these images are often the facts of the matter, and if we then claim that it is offensive for pro-choice women to be confronted by them, then we are making the judgment that women are too inherently weak to face a truth about which they have to make a grave decision. This view of women is unworthy of feminism."
On National Public Radio, the chair of the National Women's Political Caucus (NWPC), Harriet Woods, was asked if pro-life women were welcome in the organization. She responded, "Only if they kept their beliefs about abortion in the dark." Yet one of the co-founders of the NWPC, Fannie Lou Hamer, said that she believed that legal abortion was legal murder. Ms. Woods was proposing to silence one of the founders of the group. She was only proposing it, of course. If Fannie Lou Hamer had still been alive, there wouldn't have been any way in the world that anyone would have succeeded in silencing her. She made too many sacrifices for the civil rights movement and other anti-violence movements for human dignity, and she was not the reticent type. But the fact that Harriet Woods could, with a straight face, suggest that a woman's right to abortion was more important that a woman's right to speak her mind shows some internal inconsistency in her thinking.
That has to bother any well-meaning advocate who notices it. With group support, it's easy not to notice.
Another common happening that is just plain ignored can be illustrated by the man who, passing by a pro-life literature table, announced, "If my girlfriend is stupid enough to get pregnant, she's going to the abortion clinic that afternoon, whether she wants to or not." This position is clearly anti-choice, but pro-abortion. Cases of this kind of attitude are so common that there's no way that anyone active on either side of the issue can have failed to run across it. Letting the ramification of it sink in is another matter.
It was a common argument that having abortion readily available would help to solve several social problems. There would be fewer births out of wedlock and children with single mothers or on welfare. Teen suicides resulting from unwanted pregnancies would go down, and the crime rate would also go down as the frustrations of being an unwanted child would disappear. Abortion would see to it that no unwanted children remained.
The actual results? In 1960, 5.3 percent of births were outside of marriage. In 1970, with abortion available in more states, that was up to 10.7 percent. In 1990, it was at 26.2 percent. Children with single mothers were eight percent in 1960, 22 percent in 1990. The children on welfare have gone from 3.5 percent to 11.9 percent in that time. The teen suicide rate went from 3.6 percent to 11.3 percent, and reported violent crime has gone from 16.1 per 100,000 to 73.2.
Correlation is not causation. Just because all these things have skyrocketed at the same time abortion did does not mean that abortion caused them. But those who would wish to make the argument that there is a connection would have these facts to back them up, and those that argue the opposite don't.
Does that keep abortion proponents from continuing to use these arguments? Of course not. It's supposed to have that beneficial effect, and that's all there is to it.
The argument as to why current abortion practice might by a contributing factor to the rise in crime is best explained by former United States Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders. "Our children are dying because they are being taught to use violence to solve problems. Violent behavior is being modeled in our homes, schools, neighborhoods, and in the media. Children are learning daily that violence is a socially acceptable response to others' behavior."
Gloria Steinem also caught this point, as shown in her book Revolution from Within. "We have come to realize that the devaluing of animal life is a kind of training ground for devaluing all life." This negatively impacts our society, "because the truth is we cannot harden our hearts selectively."
Both of these women see no contradiction in what they say and in their staunch support of abortion. Unless they say that abortion is an exception to the points they're making, we'll presume that's because they hold abortion not to be violence at all. That children will look at a picture of a fetus and announce it to be a baby doesn't meant that those children perceive it as violence to do the fetus in. Animal life is different from fetal life.
There is a simple method to find out if this is simply a philosophical difference, or if people who say such things have a strain in the mind caused by the contradiction between these statements and support for abortion. Just ask them if they see a contradiction. If they look puzzled and say no, then perhaps it's a difference of viewpoint. If they bite your head off, there's probably some tension.
There are plenty of movements that have activists that are counter-productive, including both sides in the abortion debate. In the case of the pro-choice movement, many of the self-styled "clinic defenders" are brought in by the clinic, but it's also not uncommon for clinics to want them to go away. They aren't always willing to go away. They're more interested in their own philosophies and they don't take orders from the clinic.
The following comes from the Bay Area Committee Against Operation "Rescue" (BACAOR) Manual for Clinic Defense. It illustrates this point, along with belligerency, a little screening out, and some remarkably interesting logic. "We do not call police ourselves during a hit. Our best work is done before police arrive, or when there are not enough police there to prevent us from doing what we have to do. Get in place before cops can mess with it; establish balance of power early, do key acts requiring physical contact with OR as much as possible before cops have enough people to intervene. Even if the sidewalk is 'public,' we've had success at putting enough of us out, early enough, to basically bully the ORs into staying across the street."
Another section says: "Even if the scuffle gets to a heated point, they are going to stop eventually, either from fear, demoralization or from realization that they are blowing the image they have tried to convey to media and others." The idea that prolifers really mean it when they say they are using nonviolence as with Gandhi and King, of course, is not an option.
The term "OR" is short for a protester working with Operation Rescue. The manual goes on to talk about psychological tactics, including that, "while male loose cannons are more capable of hurting defenders than are female loose cannons, it is also true that the men have such a disdain/disregard for women that they are less likely to physically beat people up." Read this sentence over again: men failing to beat people up follows naturally from having disdain and disregard for women.
"Chivalry is not dead with these people (just convoluted), and that means they have an inordinate sense of modesty and 'honor' about being accused of touching women. There are innumerable instances of clinic defenders neutralizing male ORs by shouting 'get your hands off me, don't you dare touch me' all the while they are tugging or pushing OR out of the line."
It doesn't take an abortion opponent to point out that these attitudes aren't helpful in defending the clinics. Clinic personnel have been known to be of that opinion as well. Not all support is supportive.Return to Table of Contents