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a publication of BC's Pro-Choice Action Network
Winter 99/00 Issue
Table of Contents
BC / Canadian News
U.S. /International News:
Spreading Hatred Against Abortion Providers Once Again
by Joyce Arthur
The anti-abortion movement has been stirring up controversy over the alleged sale-for-profit of aborted fetus tissue for research, and even the purported killings of late-term fetuses just to sell their organs. Articles and editorials reporting such tales have appeared in several mainstream newspapers across Canada, often pointing fingers of implied blame at abortion providers. Since there is no evidence whatsoever linking clinics or doctors with such activities, we believe that the goal of this manufactured "scandal" is to provoke hatred and harassment of abortion providers.
First, a caveat -- the relative ethics of using fetal tissue for research is a separate question from that of abortion. Whether or not aborted fetus tissue is later donated and used for research is in no way related to the provision of safe, legal abortion, which is the primary commitment of the abortion services community. So, officially, we have no position on the issue of fetal tissue research.
However, many reasonable people in our society support this research, because they feel it has significant potential to save lives and alleviate suffering. It is also perfectly legal within certain guidelines. Currently, transplants of fetal tissue are used to treat various medical conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, diabetes, spinal cord injury, leukemia, blindness, and others. Also, women who choose to donate their fetuses for research often derive a sense of comfort and peace knowing that their decision may help others. But because of its hardline position against abortion, the anti-choice community is against any use of fetal tissue, regardless of the possible benefits to humanity.
Where do these allegations of "baby parts for sale" come from? Without exception, the lurid stories being spread by the mainstream media are based on a single source: an August 30, 1999 article in the right-wing Alberta Report magazine. The Alberta Report in turn got its information almost entirely from Life Dynamics Inc. (LDI) of Texas, an extremist anti-abortion organization that specializes in using deceit and harassment to discredit and vilify abortion providers. It is chilling to think that mainstream media would present without question information from a group as sinister as Life Dynamics.
So who is Life Dynamics and what do they do? Mark Crutcher is LDI's executive director, and his goal is to make abortion all but unavailable, whether legal or not. Crutcher is a known associate of anti-abortion leaders who advocate the murder of abortion providers. In 1995 in Kansas, Crutcher gave a seminar at the national conference of the American Coalition of Life Activists, attended by many dangerous pro-violence advocates. Paul DeParrie, a supporter of both LDI and the "justifiable homicide" of abortion doctors, once said approvingly of Life Dynamics: "Probably the single most consuming passion at LDI it to make it a legal hell for abortionists and abortion clinics."
A few examples of LDI tactics include persuading women to sue abortion doctors for malpractice, infiltrating clinics with their "Spies for Life" to gather information, collecting personal data on doctors by surreptitious means, and publishing scurrilous rumours and tasteless jokes about abortion providers. LDI's tactics have been seen increasingly in Canada over this decade, particularly the clandestine collection of information on Canadian physicians. Many in the pro-choice movement fear that this data has been passed on to pro-violence militants, and posted on the Internet. Since three doctors in Canada have been shot in the last five years by an anti-abortion radical, LDI's tactics amount to intimidating and threatening behaviour.
But let's return to LDI's allegations of "baby parts for sale," as well as their suggestion that abortion providers are akin to Nazis by trafficking in fetal remains at huge profits. Is there any substance to these claims? Profiting from the use of fetal tissue is illegal and unethical. A few clinics and hospitals across North America do donate fetal tissue to research institutions like universities, but no money changes hands, except sometimes a nominal handling fee to cover costs.
In the U.S., the use of fetal tissue is regulated by law to prevent abuse. For example, women who donate their aborted fetuses for research are required to give their free and informed consent, and must not be asked to donate until after they have already decided to have an abortion. Fears that women are being coerced into abortions solely to obtain fetal tissue are irrational and unfounded.
In Canada, no laws exist at present on the handling and use of fetal tissue (a law is currently on the drawing board), but strict ethical guidelines are enforced by several independent research councils. Research funding is provided only to individuals and institutions that certify compliance with the guidelines. These cover much the same ground as the U.S. laws, including the requirement for informed consent from women without interfering with their abortion decision, and the obtainment of tissue through non-commercial means.
The only allegation currently under investigation by a U.S. Congressional committee is that two biomedical companies, acting as third parties in the collection of fetal tissue, are charging inflated handling fees to research institutions -- more than what is needed to cover costs. Let there be no doubt as to the unanimous pro-choice position on this -- if any type of illegal activity is happening -- and nothing has been proved as yet -- let's root it out and prosecute the perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law. [Ed note: In August 2001, these two companies and a Kansas abortion clinic were cleared of any wrongdoing, after an FBI investigation concluded no illegal activities had occurred].
As for the vicious gossip about doctors killing babies to "harvest" their organs, such hearsay is more suited to publication in the Weekly World News. These rumours originate from a single, anonymous source -- "Kelly," who claims to be a former worker at an organ donation company in Maryland. The scenes she describes constitute criminal behaviour, and a gross violation of medical ethics. If her claims are true, why is she hiding behind a pseudonym, instead of helping bring the perpetrators to justice? Why did she go to Life Dynamics with her "evidence", instead of the police? These stories and their source are simply not credible, and abortion providers are outraged by even the suggestion of such barbaric practices. [Ed note: In March 2000, in front of a Congressional committee, the stories of "Kelly" and Life Dynamics were completely discredited—"Kelly" was actually Lawrence Dean Alberty, a paid spy for Life Dynamics, and he and LDI apparently fabricated much of the "evidence".]
If anyone in the anti-abortion movement knows of criminal activities involving fetal tissue in Canada or anywhere else, we urge them to report the evidence to the appropriate authorities immediately. But we doubt this will happen. Instead, we suspect that the anti-choice movement's motive in spreading these stories -- unencumbered by facts or evidence -- is to incite hatred against abortion providers. Unfortunately, by publishing articles that rely entirely on an unprincipled lunatic fringe as a source, the mainstream media actually help condone and encourage harassment and violence against abortion providers.
"Exploitation of fetal remains has become a standard tactic for anti-abortion activists. ... Activists have thrust dead fetuses at women during clinic protests, pulled them out as evidence in the courtroom, and thrown them at politicians on the campaign trail. The extremist Pro-Life Action League in Chicago has conducted 'body finds,' swiping fetal remains from pathology labs and sending them to abortion groups around the country for well-publicized burials. Who, we might ask, is engaging in trafficking of fetal remains?"
- Lynn M. Morgan, Trafficking in Fetal Remains, Omaha World Herald, December 20, 1999
GAP Display Destroyed at UBC
A student-sponsored version of the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) made an unexpected appearance at UBC on November 23rd, but the display was torn down almost immediately by angry pro-choice students.
The GAP display, designed by the Center for Bio-ethical Reform (CBR) of California, attempts to equate abortion with genocide by featuring large, graphic billboards of aborted fetuses next to holocaust and slavery victims. GAP has been to numerous campuses across the United States, often leaving a trail of violence and lawsuits in its wake. This is because of the extremely shocking and hateful nature of the display, coupled with CBR's bully tactics and disregard for public safety.
In September, UBC had imposed conditions on GAP's presence on campus, including limits on location and length of stay, and a requirement to pay a $5,000 damage deposit plus security costs of $10,000 a day. GAP had demanded that UBC provide free security for its staff, but UBC's policy has always been to charge non-student groups for any security costs. CBR refused to pay and threatened UBC with a lawsuit, claiming that its freedom of speech rights were being violated. Meanwhile, the GAP display was effectively prevented from coming onto campus, the first time in North America this has ever happened to the Center for Bioethical Research. A large part of this success was due to the efforts of UBC Students for Choice, who organized an educational campaign about the true nature of GAP, and held a pro-choice rally that drew several hundred students on Sept. 29.
Then, without warning, a modified GAP display, organized and staffed by UBC's new Students for Life group, went up on the morning of Nov. 23, in front of the statue of the Goddess of Democracy at the Student Union Building. This central location had previously been denied to GAP because students are not able to avoid the display there. Apparently, Students for Life received permission from UBC to mount a one-day, scaled-down display using smaller posters. It is believed that this deal was reached in exchange for CBR dropping its threatened lawsuit against the university. Unfortunately, UBC and Alma Mater Society officials failed to inform anyone that the display was about to go up. UBC counselling offices were caught severely understaffed the day of the display. At least two dozen angry, traumatized women sought help, with an unknown number also seeking support from off-campus support groups.
Even more shocking, no security at all was provided for the mini-GAP display. As noted by a Ubyssey guest editorial, this indicated GAP's complete disregard for public safety, especially in light of the incendiary discord that CBR/GAP had incited on campus over the previous two months.
As soon as the display went up, word spread quickly. Within two hours, in a fit of rage, three pro-choice students destroyed the display, overturning tables and ripping up posters. The students were Erin Kaiser, founder of UBC Students for Choice, Jon Chandler, and Lesley Washington. The entire incident was videotaped by one of the Students for Life, a technique learned from GAP staff, who regularly videotape their opponents in order to identify local pro-choice leaders. They even videotape vehicles and licence plate numbers -- in fact, such footage was on the tape of the incident later shown to authorities.
After the destruction of the display, Students for Life salvaged what they could and set up some of the signs again. Other members of Students for Choice, joined by passers-by, then peacefully picketed the display for several hours.
Personally, Erin Kaiser was deeply offended and angered by the display. She emphasized that she does not object to debate on the issue of abortion, but that the GAP display constituted hate propaganda that she felt was targeted at her personally. As she explained on CKNW's Rafe Mair show (Nov. 23): "Not only am I a woman who had an abortion last month, but I'm also a Jewish woman. If my grandfather were alive today, as a Holocaust survivor, to see the Holocaust being exploited so that his granddaughter would be accused of being a murderer, on her own campus, there would have been more than overturning tables. They're calling me a murderer. I'm the same as the Nazis who killed the Jews? I'm the same as the KKK who killed the black people in the United States? I'm the same as them because I chose to have an abortion? I don't think it's a matter of freedom of expression. I consider this hate. I consider it hate literature." Kaiser was also angered by the unannounced appearance of the display after she had worked so hard to educate the university on GAP's hateful and hostile agenda.
Students for Life threatened legal action against the pro-choice students, as well as academic discipline and student court. The group went before the student council to call for disciplinary measures against the pro-choice students, but a motion to refer the case to student court was defeated. The council stated the incident had nothing to do with the Alma Mater Society, since the students were acting as individuals, and not on behalf of AMS. The AMS had previously voted against the presence of GAP at the Student Union Building due to public safety concerns.
Students for Life then approached the RCMP, who are currently investigating. UBC brass have also scheduled a disciplinary hearing against Kaiser in March. Meanwhile, Kaiser is filing a complaint with the BC Human Rights Commission against GAP itself, as well as with the campus equity office. Kaiser says the GAP display discriminates against women.
Anti-choice groups decried the destruction of the GAP display as an act of violent vandalism, and are using the incident to try and paint BC's pro-choice movement in a damaging light. However, the Pro-Choice Action Network has never advocated or condoned violence of any sort (in spite of libelous rumours to the contrary); in fact, we voiced cautions and concerns to UBC Students for Choice over the potential for violence, and stressed the importance of non-confrontation even when provoked. Although we regret the actions of the UBC pro-choice students, we cannot assign blame to them. In putting up the display, GAP/Students for Life showed such poor judgment that they bear culpability for what happened. They erred in putting up the display unannounced, which directly fuelled the anger that caused the incident. They failed to ensure adequate security with the full knowledge that their display would inflame people. And finally, they were foolhardy in putting up the display at all, knowing that at UBC at least, the posters were widely viewed as hate propaganda.
In defending GAP, the anti-choice movement has very cynically cloaked themselves in the mantle of freedom of speech to defend their "right" to display offensive signs. First, they don't understand that with rights come responsibilities. Just as one must never yell "Fire!" in a crowded theatre, so the GAP sponsors should not have so irresponsibly displayed obscenities that are profoundly intolerant of the rights of half of humanity. Second, if the shoe was on the other foot, and we lived in a country controlled by an anti-choice majority with laws against abortion, you can be sure there would be no such thing as freedom of speech -- because the anti-choice secretly abhor it. Any pro-choice dissent would be quickly quashed, with "offenders" likely jailed.
New Emergency Contraception Approved in Canada
A new morning-after-pill has been approved and introduced in Canada. In March, Health Canada approved the sale of Preven, an emergency contraceptive kit. It was released in November, by the Ontario-based Roberts Pharmaceutical Canada Inc.
The kit includes a home pregnancy test to be used before taking a pill. If a woman tests positive, the pill will not have any effect, according to both Health Canada and the drug company. "This isn't an abortion pill. It will not disrupt a pregnancy that is established," said Dr. Albert Yuzpe, one of the pill's original researchers, and director of the Genesis Fertility Centre in Vancouver.
Available by prescription only, Preven works the same way birth control pills do, preventing a pregnancy from occurring by using special doses of regular birth control pills. It must be taken within three days (72 hours) of unprotected intercourse because it usually takes five or six days for a fertilized egg to become implanted in the uterine wall. Preven has a 75% success rate.
Preven should not be confused with the abortion pill, mifepristone (formerly called RU-486), which interrupts an existing pregnancy. (Mifepristone has not yet been approved in Canada, but is due to be released in the United States very shortly.)
The most common side effects of Preven are nausea and vomiting, but some women may also experience irregular bleeding, breast tenderness, headache, cramps, and dizziness. Emergency contraceptive pills do not protect against infection with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Preven was introduced in the United States in the spring of 1999, and is the first emergency contraceptive to come to the U.S. Pharmacies at Wal-Mart stores in the U.S. refused to sell the pill, calling the ban a "business decision." Unfortunately, this severely limits the distribution and availability of the pill in the United States, since Wal-Mart is America's largest retailer, and often the only pharmacy around, especially for poor and rural women. However, a representative for Canadian Wal-Mart stores said they will order Preven on customer request, as they do with many other new drugs.
Canada has had emergency contraception available for years, but it has not been widely publicized. Now, with the backing of a pharmaceutical company, more women will be made aware of the option. Roberts is marketing it aggressively to the medical trade, through print advertisements, direct mail, and sales representatives. The initial feedback by Canadian pharmacists and physicians on Preven has been positive, and already almost 2,000 retail pharmacies in Canada are stocking or have ordered Preven.
Preven provides an important alternative to the 180,000 Canadian women who experience an unintended pregnancy every year, caused largely by contraceptive failure. As Dr. Yuzpe said, "The most responsible women may be faced with a situation in which effective pregnancy prevention after sex would make a world of difference." For more information on Preven, see the Preven home page.
New Supreme Court Judge is Anti-Choice
Denied Abortion to Chantal Daigle
In December, Prime Minister Jean Chretien appointed a new judge from Quebec to the Supreme Court of Canada. Louis LeBel was a labour lawyer, legal author, and law professor before he was named to the Quebec Court of Appeal in 1984. From that court in 1989, he issued an injunction against Chantal Daigle, preventing her from getting an abortion against her boyfriend's wishes. The case garnered national headlines when it went to the Supreme Court, where Daigle triumphed. Her precedent-setting case meant that no male partner can negate a woman's decision to have an abortion.
Before the case was decided at the Supreme Court level, Daigle had already obtained a late-term abortion in the United States. One of the reasons that Daigle cited for her abortion at the time was the fact that the father of the fetus, ex-boyfriend Jean-Guy Tremblay, had been abusive. Daigle did not want her child to have an abusive father.
The wisdom of Daigle's decision to have an abortion 10 years ago has now amply proven itself. In January 2000, Tremblay was convicted of assaulting two Calgary women -- his former girlfriend and his ex-roommate. Described by the Crown as a "serial batterer," Tremblay was convicted of two counts of unlawful confinement and one count each of assault causing bodily harm, criminal harassment, uttering threats, and a lesser charge of assault. During the trial, Crown prosecutor Eeva White said "[Tremblay's] intention was to control [the women], to coerce them, to dominate them -- in fact, have complete domination over their lives."
Tremblay was also found guilty of several additional related charges. Evidence from three other women from Tremblay's past showed his conduct is an ongoing concern, so White said she will apply to have Tremblay deemed a dangerous offender.
During his attempt to have "complete domination" over the life of Chantal Daigle, Tremblay was supported and lionized by the anti-choice movement. But his violent history, already in evidence back in 1989, only proves that the anti-choice always put the welfare of fetuses above that of both women and children.
On a more positive note, Beverley McLachlin was appointed in November as the Supreme Court's new Chief Justice. The first female Chief Justice for the court, McLachlin is a feminist and strongly pro-choice.
World March of Women 2000
Over 3,000 women's groups and 140 countries have signed on to the World March of Women 2000, to be launched March 8, 2000 (International Women's Day). The goals of the march, according to the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC), are to:
- encourage grassroots women's groups to participate together in addressing the issues of poverty and violence against women
- connect women's struggles around the world
- promote equality between women and men, and amongst women
- demand accountability and concrete action from our governments to improve the quality of women's lives
Vancouver will be hosting its own activities for the World March 2000, including a Federal Building Circle, where 2000 women wearing red and purple (the official World March colours) will join hands and encircle a federal building. Other activities will take place across Canada throughout the year, including a National Women's Conference in Ottawa on June 11-14, organized by the Canadian Labour Congress; and a mass rally and tent city in Ottawa on October 15.
For information on how to participate or volunteer, please call Janet Routledge of the Public Service Alliance at 430-5641, or call NAC at 1-800-665-5124.
International Conference on Abortion Held in Australia
by Joyce Arthur
A year ago, I had the honour of being invited to present at a major international abortion conference on November 12-15, 1999, in Australia. The conference, entitled "Abortion in Focus", was sponsored by the International Society of Abortion Doctors, Planned Parenthood of Australia, and the Abortion Providers' Federation of Australasia. It was held at the Hyatt Regency Resort in Coolum, a small, coastal town 90 minutes north of Brisbane.
The theme of the conference was to celebrate achievements and focus on the future. About 250 people attended from dozens of countries around the world, including the United States and Canada, Mongolia, South Africa, Romania, New Zealand, Nepal, Moldova, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands. Most attendees were physicians, family planning workers, abortion clinic staff, and a few social activists. It was wonderful to meet and network with so many people from around the world on this important issue.
The luxurious resort setting at the Hyatt Regency Coolum included nine swimming pools, seven tennis courts, nine restaurants, two bars, a spa/gym, art centre, championship golf course, private beach, rainforest reserve, four lakes, miles of wooded pathways, and a shuttle bus system complete with bus stops to get around the resort. This degree of comfort, together with tight security, allowed all conference-goers to relax and thoroughly enjoy the event. The conference featured over 50 speakers, in both plenary and concurrent sessions. The plenary presentations covered laws and access in specific countries, while concurrent sessions dealt with medical, counselling, legislative, and administrative issues.
I was one of three Canadian attendees at the conference. The other two were abortion doctors from Montreal and Vancouver. I spoke on the public health disaster of illegal, unsafe abortion throughout the world in a talk entitled "Legal Abortion: the Sign of a Civilized Society". Over 80,000 women die each year in the world from unsafe abortion, and hundreds of thousands are maimed and injured. My proposed solution is to abolish all laws and restrictions against abortion and ensure safe and ready access to contraception, family planning, and abortion for all women. I also gave another presentation on abortion in Canada, which related Canada's history of abortion and promoted our progressive model of women's reproductive health care. Canada is the only democratic, industrialized nation in the world that has no laws restricting abortion. (Only three other countries have no laws: China, Vietnam, and North Korea). Yet Canada has a relatively low rate of abortion compared to other industrialized countries and one of the lowest rates of abortion-related complications and maternal mortality in the world.
Other speakers at the conference included Vicki Saporta, Executive Director of the National Abortion Federation in Washington DC, who spoke on the political situation in the U.S.; Stanley Henshaw of The Alan Guttmacher Institute in New York, who spoke on the complex patchwork of global abortion laws, resulting in widely varying access for the world's women; and Dr. Yagya Karki of the Family Planning Association in Nepal, who delivered a compelling presentation on the harsh laws against abortion in Nepal, and the efforts in his country to liberalize the law. In Nepal, two-thirds of women in prison are there for abortion. Dr. Karki was optimistic that a liberal law would pass early in 2000.
The anti-choice movement in Australia was active for months before the conference, campaigning against it. Both the resort and the conference organizers were inundated with hundreds of letters from angry and impassioned anti-choice individuals, objecting to the conference. (I had a chance to browse through some of the letters received by the conference organizers). Some letters were from North America, since the anti-choice had publicized the conference there.
Although there has been no abortion-related violence to date in Australia, providers there expressed concern that North American violence could spread down under. Anti-choice extremists from the United States have been active in Australia, teaching American-style tactics. One clinic in Sydney even experienced a frightening arson attempt in recent years.
Dr. Warren Hern, a prominent abortion provider from Colorado, was stopped at the Sydney airport by Australian immigration officials, who tried to force him to sign a form promising he would not "advocate ... activities in relation to abortion" or "incite civil discord." Dr. Hern refused to sign, and Immigration grudgingly released him after holding him for three hours. Two other American abortion providers were forced to sign the form while still in the U.S. in order to obtain their visas.
Dr. Hern created a media controversy over the issue, and as a result, the conference received national media attention in Australia. On Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio, Dr. Hern described what happened as "police state tactics." He said: "I have no question that the anti-abortion people, or what some people call the 'right to run everyone else's life committee,' orchestrated this and found sympathetic people at the highest levels of the government." I myself did a live 10-minute interview on ABC Radio, a national broadcast, in which I talked about the conference, my presentations, and the abortion situation in Canada.
Security at the conference was tight. Hundreds of anti-abortion pro-testers paraded outside the main gates of the resort. They displayed banners and signs, and set up 100 empty baby prams, each representing 1000 aborted fetuses. One anti-choice person gained access to the conference, but was escorted out when discovered. Another tried to gain entrance with a phony registration, but was stopped at the gate.
Overall, the Australian media and populace are pro-choice, and the anti-choice did not find much support for their position. Dr. Hern's detainment at the airport was soundly denounced by many. However, the state where the conference was held, Queensland, is Australia's most politically conservative. (Australia has seven states, each with its own unique set of laws and restrictions against abortion.) In response to the conference, an anti-choice politician promised to introduce a bill to outlaw late-term abortions in Queensland. The provider community in Queensland immediately began to lobby aggressively against the idea. It was felt that such a bill would be unlikely to pass, if introduced.
My enthusiastic thanks go out to all who made my trip possible by donating funds, or by attending Pro-CAN's fundraising party. The flight was expensive, but I did manage to cut costs at the resort by sharing a room with an activist from Sydney. Also, my thanks go out to the phenomenal organizers of the conference, Susan Kelly and Dr. David Grundman of Planned Parenthood of Australia's Brisbane Clinic. Both Susan and David were enthusiastic hosts who went out of their way to greet everyone and make them feel wanted. The conference was a fantastic experience that would not have been possible without their hard work and inspiration.
Written versions of Joyce's presentations are posted at: Legal Abortion: the Sign of a Civilized Society and Abortion in Canada: History, Law, and Access
Sniper Stays Hidden This Season
But Threats on the Increase
With suspected sniper James Kopp still in hiding, the fall and early winter of 1999 proved to be a relatively quiet one for abortion providers across North America. Since 1994, five doctors have been shot (one fatally), all around Canada's Remembrance Day holiday. The shootings occurred in Vancouver, Hamilton, Winnipeg, and New York State.
Police forces across Canada issued security warnings to doctors in October, advising them to use body armour, keep their curtains closed at all times, and examine their properties for any disturbances, such as footprints. The precautions were issued not only for doctors, but for "any individual who has been prominent on the abortion issue or targeted by anti-abortion extremists in other ways." The police warnings were distributed by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada.
Dr. Henry Morgentaler did not take the warnings too seriously. He believes the fugitive responsible for the shootings has been driven far underground, and that the entire anti-abortion movement has lost its drive. "It is possible there are others who might follow [the sniper's] example, but I doubt it ... it's the last gasp of a morally bankrupt movement," Morgentaler said.
In the U.S., the FBI did not issue any warnings to abortion providers, saying it was not aware of any specific new threats. Suspected sniper James Kopp remains on the FBI's ten-most-wanted list, with a reward totalling about $1.25 million. Kopp was indicted by a U.S. grand jury in June for the October 1998 murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian in New York. And this January, he was formally charged by Ontario police in connection with the Hamilton shooting. Kopp is believed to be hiding with the help of radical elements in the anti-abortion movement.
The FBI did issue warnings about possible terrorist and extremist crimes related to the year 2000. The FBI said that groups with the most potential to commit acts of violence include religious zealots or "New World Order" conspirators such as the Christian Identity movement. Eric Rudolph, wanted by the FBI for the Alabama clinic bombing of January 1998, is thought to be a member of the Christian Identity movement.
Even though no shootings occurred this season, several worrisome incidents kept clinics and law enforcement on their toes.
Anti-Abortionist Steals Explosives -- In October, the FBI arrested Samuel Alex Held in Alabama for alleged theft of explosives. Held is an ardent anti-abortion activist. He confessed to numerous burglaries in which he stole pipes, wires, drills, and chemicals for making explosives.
Armed Anti-Abortionist Overpowered -- In Dearborn, Michigan, a man showed up at a hospital in September brandishing a 12-gauge shotgun and announced he wanted to kill abortion doctors. The hospital does not provide abortion services. The man was overpowered by guards and arrested, with no shots fired and no injuries. Police charged the suspect with assault with intent to commit murder. He told detectives that doctors who perform abortions are "murderers who must be killed." The suspect claimed that a former partner had an abortion in the past and he wanted vengeance.
Bombs Delivered by Mail -- In early January, bombs were delivered by mail to two clinics in Ohio. Due to quick thinking by clinic staff and assistance from local authorities, the bombs were not detonated and no one was injured. Each bomb was Christmas gift-wrapped and bore the return address of the other clinic. They were postmarked Cincinnati.
Rash of Bomb Threats -- During October and November, there was a rash of bomb threats called in to abortion clinics and police stations in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Virginia. The calls made to police stations specifically referred to abortion clinics as the targets of the threats.
Rash of Anthrax Threats -- At least 20 threatening letters claiming to contain anthrax have been sent to abortion clinics in the U.S. (mostly Wisconsin) in the first week of January, including one that caused police to shut down a 10-block area of Toledo, Ohio. They were all apparently hoaxes, with no credible threat behind them. Some of the letters said: "You will die in less than 24 hours from exposure to the Anthrax on this letter. There is simply no other way to get rid of you, we're sorry." Other letters had similar wording. Anthrax is a usually harmless bacteria that can be fatal to humans in certain forms. On January 14, Micky A. Sauer, of Kenosha, Wisconsin was arrested on charges of sending 14 letters. The FBI saw him mailing one. His letters had been received at several abortion clinics, a Christian anti-choice counselling agency, a private adoption agency, a middle school, and a social services building.
Bubble Zone Protester Jailed
Mary Wagner, a regular protester at Everywoman's Health Centre, has been found guilty of only one charge out of six at her January trials. All charges were for violating the Access to Abortion Services Act, the bubble zone law that bans protests from designated areas around abortion clinics, and doctors' offices and homes.
Three charges against Wagner were dismissed on Jan. 6 because Crown Counsel did not have all necessary evidence ready. On Jan. 11, Wagner was acquitted of two charges and convicted of the first charge of "besetting" -- interfering with a patient. She was sentenced to 10-15 days in jail and fined $1,000. Although the judge sternly warned Wagner that she was not above the law, he did not issue an injunction for Wagner to stay away from the clinic, even though the Crown requested it. Everywoman's fully expects her to return after her release from prison.
Wagner is being turned into a hero by the anti-choice movement. She is routinely glorified by the right-wing press, and many anti-choice individuals came to court to support her. Unfortunately, Wagner is not helping women by blocking their path to the clinic, haranguing them, and sitting in front of the door. Such actions amount to psychological harassment of women. Her time would be better spent helping those who really need assistance -- such as disadvantaged children and persons with disabilities. Further protests at the clinic will only result in more convictions and harsher sentences.
Birmingham Bomber Dead?
A scaled-back hunt for abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolph will continue in the woods of North Carolina, despite suspicions that he may have died. John Magaw, retiring director of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), said he has a "gut instinct" that Rudolph is "still there, in a cave, and he's dead." Magaw said this was only his opinion.
Rudolph was last sighted in July 1998 when he emerged from his mountain hideaway to buy about $500 worth of food and supplies. Earlier this year, Rudolph was reported to have broken into several homes to steal food and supplies. Magaw noted that there have been no recent reports of such break-ins, which could indicate that Rudolph is dead.
Rudolph is on the FBI's ten-most-wanted list (along with suspected doctor sniper James Kopp). Rudolph has been charged with the January 1998 bombing of a Birmingham, Alabama clinic that killed an off-duty police officer and seriously wounded a clinic nurse.
Anti-Abortion States Deprive Kids
A new study has clearly demonstrated that states with the most restrictive anti-abortion laws spend the least money on needy children, and that strongly pro-choice states spend the most.
States with strict anti-abortion laws provide less funding per child for foster care, lower stipends for parents who adopt children with special needs, less money for child welfare programs and education, and lower payments for poor women with dependent children, than do states with strong abortion rights laws. For example, the average monthly total spent on each poor child in Louisiana, the most repressive anti-choice state in the nation, was $602. This compared to $4,648 in Hawaii, one of the most pro-choice states. Other examples included the anti-abortion state Mississippi, which spent an average of $411, compared to pro-choice Delaware, which spent $3,471. Most of the strictest anti-abortion states are not in the poorer South, however, but also include Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, all of which spend lower amounts than other, more pro-choice states.
"'Basically the evidence supports the pro-choice claim that their opponents' concern for the child stops at birth. Pro-life states make it difficult for women to have abortions, but they do not help these women provide for the children once born," said Jean Schroedel, an associate professor of political science at the Claremont Graduate University in California. Her study also found that anti-abortion states consistently accorded lower political, social, and economic status to women.
In response to the study, the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy stated in its December 1999 newsletter: "Considering the empirical evidence that indicates those states with the strictest abortion laws offer a profoundly lower quality of life for women and children, one is left wondering just what the term 'pro-life' means."
When beginning her research, Schroedel had expected to find that "pro-life" states were doing the most to help children, but after she completed her research, she joined both Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) and sent them money. Schroedel's findings are contained in her new book: Is the Fetus a Person: A Comparison of Fetal Policies Across 50 States.
U.S. Abortions in Decline
The number of abortions in the United States fell in 1997 to the lowest level in two decades. Preliminary estimates from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put the number of 1997 abortions at 1,184,758, three percent less than the 1996 total of 1,221,585. The pregnancy rate declined for all women under 30, with the sharpest drop among teenagers. The teen pregnancy rate was down 15 percent from its 1991 record high.
The CDC cited several factors for the overall decline, including reduced access to abortion, increased use of contraception, and possibly, a growing negative attitude about the moral implications of abortion (a claim made mostly by anti-abortionists). However, while there is strong evidence of increased contraceptive use in America -- especially by teens -- evidence that people are becoming more anti-abortion is more tenuous.
Probably a significant factor in the abortion decline, one not frequently cited even by pro-choice advocates, is that access to abortion is more restricted now than it has been at any time since Roe vs. Wade. Twenty states require women to receive information against abortion and to endure a waiting period before an abortion, while 42 states require minors to notify or obtain consent from a parent before getting an abortion. Also, the number of abortion providers declined by 14% between 1992 and 1996, and by 1996, 86% of all U.S. counties lacked an abortion provider.
Medically-induced abortions (mostly using methotrexate) were recorded for the first time in 1997, with about 3,000 officially reported to the CDC. However, this figure is believed to be low -- the Alan Guttmacher Institute reported that 4,300 medical abortions were performed in the first half of 1997 alone. Access to medical abortions was found not to increase the overall abortion rate.
In Canada, the number of abortions has risen every year since 1988 (when our law against abortion was thrown out), but the increases have been getting smaller through the 1990's. Canadian women obtained 106,658 abortions in 1995, up 0.4% from 106,255 in 1994. This was well below increases of 1.8% in 1994, 2.3% in both 1991 and 1993, and 7.4% in 1992. (The numbers of abortions for 1996 and 1997 will not be released by Statistics Canada until April 2000.)
U.S. News Bites
Pro-Violence Group Loses Support and Shuts Down -- A radical pro-violence group called Advocates for Life Ministries (AFLM), of Portland Oregon, was forced to close its doors on December 31. Director Andrew Burnett said the group was having financial difficulties due to lawsuits against them and decreased donations. AFLM is the publisher of Life Advocate magazine. Burnett helped create the Nuremberg Files website and "Wanted Posters" for doctors who were "guilty of crimes against humanity." In February, 1999, he lost a Planned Parenthood suit against him and several other defendants and was ordered to pay $107 million in damages. The website and posters were deemed to constitute death threats against abortion doctors. Burnett once called abortion providers "paid contract serial killers" and said killing them was justifiable.
Global Gag Rule Gagged -- In November, the White House and Republican leadership wrote in global gag rule restrictions as part of an agreement to pay U.S. dues to the United Nations. The gag rule would have denied U.S. family planning assistance to any organization operating overseas that uses its own funds to provide abortion services or engage in advocacy related to abortion. Although Clinton later waived the restrictions, a 3% penalty cut in overall funding for the program resulted. Clinton said, "I do not believe it is appropriate to limit foreign NGOs' use of their own money, or their ability to participate in the democratic process in their own countries."
Life at Any Cost:
An Attitude that Hurts Us All
by Violet Ross
I have been repeatedly disturbed lately by the unrelenting memory of the day I was subjected to an assault on my sensibilities that would haunt me for months to come. It was a gathering of men, women, and children, littering the roadside with signs saying "abortion kills children" and "abortion hurts women."
My stomach sank to an indescribable place. Like millions of women around the world, I have had an abortion. Many years ago, I got pregnant by accident, and though I desperately wanted to have that child, I did the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I ended my pregnancy. I was honest enough with myself to admit that, living with me as its sole provider, with my emotional and other problems, that my child would have faced a most frightening and unacceptable life. It was a horrible position to be in, but I did the right thing, for my child.
There is more to life than being alive. 'Life at any cost' is an attitude that hurts us all. Forcing hundreds of thousands of women to have children that they are emotionally or otherwise incapable of caring for or unwilling to love, is surely not what is in the best interest of children.
In life we are often faced with challenges and decisions that are far from easy, and rarely black and white. We must respond at these times with full and reasoned assessments of what our options are and what each option would lead to for ourselves and our families and our communities.
Many of us will feel guilty for getting pregnant when we are ill-prepared to provide a child a loving place to grow up in. But we must not allow ourselves to bring a child into the world, into an abusive or neglectful situation, just to appease our own uncomfortable, guilty feeling. Two wrongs do not make a right.
What if my own mother had chosen to have an abortion? My mother would have chosen what was best for me, and if she chose not to bring me to life, then I am confident that the world would have marched on without me.
Next time maybe I'll join the protesters with my own signs: "Societal control of women's bodies hurts us all!" "Back street abortions hurt women!" And: "Misguided self-righteousness hurts women, and children, too!"
by Anne Baker and Jean Stewart Berg
We women know when it or is not the right time to bring a child into the world.
We use our heads and our hearts to see clearly the pros and cons of our three choices: parenting, placing for adoption, or having an abortion.
We know better than anyone else what we can and cannot handle emotionally, physically, financially, and mentally.
We have wisdom enough to know our own limits and strength enough to admit them.
We know when the choice of abortion can prevent the harsh consequences of bringing a child into the world when we are not ready or able to do our child justice.
We act out of compassion when we wait to have a child until the time when we can give it the kind of life every child deserves.
We act out of love when we consider what we would be taking away from the child or children we already have if we brought another child into our family now.
We take care of our mental health by making decisions that limit the strain we place upon ourselves and those we love.
We take care of our physical health by considering our medical history and the risks that come with pregnancy, labour, and delivery.
We take care of our spiritual well-being each in our own way, trusting our faith to provide: Infinite Love, Complete Understanding, Unlimited Forgiveness, Boundless Compassion.
We think clearly when we call our abortion decision one of "self-care" rather than calling ourselves "selfish." We must care for ourselves before we can take care of another human being.
We see clearly, beyond a well-wisher's words, "I'll help you out if you have the baby..." We know that the responsibility for raising the child will fall squarely on our own shoulders.
We have foresight enough to know that "having a baby" doesn't stop with infancy. It means raising a child who will need our financial support, time, and attention for as long as it takes the child to become an independent adult.
Women throughout all time and throughout the world have made the decision to have an abortion, whether or not abortion was safe and legal. Women have risked their own lives to avoid bearing a child they could not adequately care for.
Women in the past drank teas made from parts of plants known to cause abortion. In desperation, some inserted long, thin objects into their cervix, and others douched with poisonous liquids to cause an abortion. Some methods cost women their lives.
Childbirth, miscarriage, and abortion are all part of women's lives. Women of childbearing age from every generation, occupation, income level, race, and religion have had abortions, including great-grandmothers, grandmothers, mothers, great-aunts and aunts, sisters, daughters, best friends, teachers, ministers, doctors, and day-care workers.
And when others use TV commercials, billboards, bumper stickers, speeches, and sermons to make us feel guilty about having an abortion --
We women know the truth:
that given certain circumstances
abortion is the most morally responsible
and loving choice we can make.
(Copyright © 1997 Anne Baker. To purchase poster-style copies, contact The Hope Clinic for Women at 618-451-5722; fax 618-451-9092.)
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