a publication of BC's Pro-Choice Action Network
Spring 1997 Issue
Table of Contents
Anti's Lose Control
Regional Health Boards to be Pro-Choice
As part of the regionalization of BC's health services, virtually all 700 members of new community and regional health boards will be pro-choice. Health Minister Joy McPhail will appoint the new members by April 1. Previously, health boards were elected and the presence of too many anti-choice activists on the boards contributed greatly to abortion access problems at some hospitals.
Although the anti-choice movement claims that McPhail's appointment strategy was simply a way to purge opponents of the NDP's pro-choice philosophy, the government decided after some study that elections tend to exclude those without the money to mount a campaign, and also tend to create councils dominated by anti-abortionists who then control hospital agendas. Appointed councils mean greater diversity of views and better community representation.
McPhail stated that all BC residents should have equal access to a full range of health-care services within their communities, including reproductive services, and that the role of regional health boards is to ensure the availability of such services throughout BC. The main objective of the regionalization plan, according to McPhail, is to streamline bureaucracy and reduce duplication of services, thereby saving money.
As of April 1, there will be 11 regional health boards covering major urban centres and 34 community health councils for rural areas. Although an overwhelming majority of health-care societies have voted in favour of amalgamating under the regional health boards, 16 hospitals voted against it, including Langley Memorial Hospital and Richmond Hospital.
At Langley Memorial on April 2, anti-choice protesters demonstrated against the forced amalgamation, fearing that abortion procedures will be introduced at the hospital. Similar concerns have been voiced by the Richmond Hospital Board, run by a majority of anti-choicers. According to board chair Denis Wunderlich (and supporter of BC Campaign Life Coalition), their main fear is that the democratic process is being eroded and that the community may not have input into future health-care decisions. Anti-choice organizations, including Campaign Life Coalition, have filed a complaint with the BC Human Rights Commission alleging discrimination.
The anti's seem to feel that McPhail's actions label them as "enemies of the people," whom the NDP want to weed out from any position of power (according to a paranoid press release from Kelowna anti Ted Gerk). The anti's are confused, however. The issue is not about silencing political enemies, but about the necessity of providing complete medical care to people in their own communities. The idea of a hospital board refusing to allow abortions to be performed simply because the board members have an anti-abortion philosophy, smacks of self-righteousness and tyranny. No-one in control of making health decisions for a community should be able to prevent the delivery of any legal and necessary health-care service. As it stands now, many women are forced to delay their abortion so they can raise money and arrange time off work or school in order to travel to the Lower Mainland for the procedure. This increases the medical risk and hardship, making hospital refusals to perform abortions both inexcusable and unjust.
We applaud McPhail's strong handling of this issue and look forward to a time when all BC women who choose to have an abortion, including those in remote regions, will be able to have early, safe, stress-free abortions at their local hospital.
Brenda Drummond, the Ottawa woman who shot herself in the vagina and injured her late-term fetus, received a suspended sentence in February, for the charge of failing to provide the necessities of life to her son. She was also given 30 months probation for not telling doctors of the baby's injury. A brain scan two days after his birth in May 1996 revealed a pellet, which surgeons successfully removed.
After spending seven months in a psychiatric hospital, Drummond was released before Christmas and lives with her parents. Her son is now thriving and lives with her husband and other two children.
The judge had thrown out Drummond's attempted murder charge in December, ruling the Criminal Code does not regard fetuses as persons.
Delta Constable Steve Parker has been demoted from first-class to second-class constable for six months after an internal police disciplinary hearing in late March. The demotion will cost him more than $4,000 in lost salary. Parker was suspended for five days without pay last June after a public inquiry found he illicitly used police computers to look up licence plate numbers of abortion clinic workers and patients. After that inquiry, six additional licence plate searches were uncovered, resulting in six new charges of discreditable conduct being filed against Parker. The demotion is a punishment for these additional charges.
However, Everywoman's Health Centre, along with the BCCAC and other pro-choice activists, want nothing less than Parker's dismissal. He committed a serious breach of public trust, and evidence that he may have passed on his illicit information to third parties has not been adequately investigated. Everywoman's is considering an appeal of the decision to demote Parker, which amounts to nothing more than a fine for his very serious violation of his oath as a police officer. In addition, the BCCAC plans to take action in the near future to publicize and protest what we believe to be a grossly inadequate punishment.
Meanwhile, Marg Panton and Will Offley (former employee and former volunteer Security Coordinator, respectively, of Everywoman's Health Centre) have been granted leave to appeal the original public inquiry's decision. We'll keep you posted on their progress.
Breast Cancer and Abortion
There Is No Connection
"Women who choose abortion suffer more and deadlier breast cancer!" Billboards with this alarmist message appeared in subway stations in four U.S. cities during 1996. They were placed by anti-choice activists pretending to show concern about women's health. But in reality, the many thousands of women who saw the billboards were subjected to a piece of upsetting and gross misinformation.
Scientific research does not demonstrate a link between abortion and breast cancer. Since 1981, there have been about two dozen published studies that examined this alleged link. About half of the studies found no link, and two studies suggested that abortion may actually decrease a woman's risk of developing breast cancer. Most studies that indicated a link identified only a slight one—equal to or less than the increased breast cancer risk associated with marital status, place of residence, or religion.
According to the National Cancer Institute, "taken together, the inconsistencies and scarcity of research do not permit scientific conclusions." Other independent experts, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the national Breast Cancer Coalition, the American Cancer Society, the Canadian Cancer Society, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology have concluded that a link between abortion and breast cancer has not been established.
Researchers themselves suggest that data indicating a link between abortion and breast cancer may result from methodological flaws in study design. Perhaps the most serious flaw was revealed by a study indicating that breast cancer patients are more likely than healthy women to accurately report previous abortions. If women with cancer report their abortions more frequently, the data will show, inaccurately, that women who have had abortions are more likely to contract cancer.
The anti-choice billboard ads carried a toll-free number for women to call for more information. The organization that answers the phone, the American Rights Coalition, specializes in referring women who have had an abortion to medical malpractice trial lawyers, who then try to sue the abortion provider. On top of all this, anti-choice forces are also seeking to enact state laws requiring doctors to warn women of links between abortion and breast cancer.
Breast cancer is a significant concern for all women. According to the American Cancer Society, each year (in the U.S.) there are about 182,000 new cases and 46,000 women die of the disease. Further research into the causes and cures of breast cancer is urgently needed so that women have medically accurate information about all risk factors. Unfortunately, the anti-choice are impeding medical research and distorting scientific findings to frighten women into believing that abortion causes breast cancer.
Sources: Pro-Choice Press, Fall 1996 (CARAL), and the National Abortion Rights Action League Web Page
Whose Reproductive Rights?
by Kathleen Broome
I would like to reply to your article entitled New Fertility Legislation in the Autumn 1996 issue. Firstly, the article argues that women are not helpless victims. On the contrary, the poor and marginalized often are victims. One need only speak to a young hooker or street person to see that meaningful choice depends upon the circumstances in which that person lives. For example, many surrogate mothers are women forced by impoverishment to become breeding stock to wealthy, infertile couples. It comes as no surprise to find, as well, that a disproportionate number suffer from singularly low self-esteem. They are lucky if the agencies they frequent give them as much as $5.00 an hour for their services. A classic illustration of a woman's helplessness is the Mary Beth Whitehead case (and remember, the child she bore for the Sterns was from her own fertilized ovum!). I would go so far as to say that surrogacy is a form of compulsive pregnancy ¾ literally, slave labour!
Many people who clamour for children created by artificial reproduction say that an adopted child is not "the same" as one that is genetically one's own. What is wrong with this picture? If a couple cannot love a child simply because the child does not carry their genes, should they be parents at all? Another argument for reproductive technology is that it is hard to find children to adopt. Contrary to what some sources may say, there are a lot of Third World children up for adoption these days. Unfortunately, most people "desperate" for children are not desperate enough to adopt children of colour or those with physical or mental handicaps.
Your article suggested that "we've got the technology, let's use it". I freely admit that I am a bit of a Luddite when it comes to present-day technology and don't like putting my trust implicitly in scientists and doctors. Remember that these are the same people who brought us the "wonder" drugs thalidomide and DES! After all, what sane, reasonable woman living on this crowded earth, would wish to bear eight children at once, as was recently attempted in England, or would want to give birth in her 60's as an Italian woman did a few years ago? There was also a recent case in Germany, I believe, of a woman who took fertility drugs and ultimately died of heart failure while birthing quintuplets.
What happens in a possible future dictatorship with this type of technology? The potential implications are terrifying. Will the "Handmaid's Tale" become an actuality? With the resurgence of neo-nazi and right wing ideologies, the possibility of a fascist style dictatorship creating a new "master race" becomes a chilling possibility. Look at the type of reproductive technology that is being done and who is using it. We (and who are the "we" here?) are able to control not only the gender, but the racial makeup, and perhaps even character of future generations.
We do not need to stockpile human embryos as if they were so many missiles. I could understand only doing this for those species that are seriously threatened with extinction, such as the white rhino or the snow leopard, or even to boost threatened wild food stocks such as the Atlantic cod or BC salmon. Human overpopulation, contrary to the popular mantra of the day, is presently the greatest threat to the environment. As humans move into the vanishing wilderness, they destroy the natural habitat of the creatures living there. This is the major reason for animal and plant extinction today. And as many Third World countries become more and more mechanized, they too will demand the comforts of the First World¾ cars, fast food outlets, in short, a throwaway society. Already, Mexico is considered by some environmentalists to be the most polluted city in the world. It is also one of the most overpopulated!
We need to study where reproductive technology is leading us. These technologies, including DNA remodeling, and cloning (an actuality as I write!), frankly scare the hell out of me. It concerns me that neither the agriculture industry nor the government agencies that control food production see fit to inform consumers about whether or not the food we eat has been genetically altered. More public dialogue between social activists, the science community, government, and the general public is crucial before we rush into using this technology.
Finally, the issue of choice as it relates to reproductive technology, differs intrinsically from the issue of choice as it concerns abortion. Your article implied that by limiting reproductive technology, we are limiting women's rights to choose, but isn't it really the doctors and scientists who are doing the choosing here? Women who are not given a choice on abortion frequently are injured or die, due to damage caused by backstreet or self-inflicted abortions. Many unwanted children suffer abuse, often deadly, at the hands of mothers who didn't want them. Yet I have never heard of anyone dying from injuries sustained by not being able to bear a child, let alone suffering any lasting damage due to the inability to parent a blond, blue-eyed boy!
One could write a book on the sociological ramifications for children born of reproductive technology. Will these children wonder if they are loved for themselves or merely for their "superior" genes? Will they be emotionally pulled apart trying to decide which set of parents to call their own?
Choice should be a reasonable issue. In civilized societies, women have a right to control their own bodies so that an unwanted pregnancy can be terminated because it could cause undue hardship or misery to mother or potential child. Children born in civilized societies have a right to live in comfort and health and to be loved and not abused by parents or guardians. They have a right to live their lives on a clean and healthy planet. Women must never be treated as breeding stock for others and children are not commodities or new toys for bored yuppies looking for "top-of-the-line models"!
My modest proposal would be to use the money and resources now being used for reproductive technology to find safer, more efficient methods of birth control, as well as setting up more abortion clinics and birth control centres in areas that lack these necessary services. This money should also be used for feeding, housing, nurturing, and educating the children who are already here, to save endangered habitats and species, and to clean up a badly polluted world.
New Morgentaler Biography
Morgentaler: A Difficult Hero, by Catherine Dunphy, Random House of Canada, 1996.
A Review by Helen Janssens
The career of Henry Morgentaler, pioneer of Canada's abortion rights movement, is finely detailed in this thorough and engrossing biography. Morgentaler comes to life as a highly intelligent and complex man, driven by the demons and heroes of his past. A concentration camp survivor during the Nazi holocaust in Germany, Morgentaler became extremely sensitive to the unjust suffering of others. Inspired by his iconoclast father, a popular labour activist, Morgentaler felt compelled to prove himself, to live up the image of his father, and to justify his life and his work by devoting himself to a worthwhile cause.
A study in contrasts, Morgentaler is a caring, compassionate doctor who genuinely wants to help women. Not surprisingly, he is also a lover of women—he enjoys their company immensely and has had countless sexual liaisons with many women, including his associates in the pro-choice cause.
Morgentaler is a fearless fighter for abortion rights, risking his health and life through jail sentences and vicious anti-choice hate and violence. On the other hand, he seems to revel in the limelight—he is at his happiest and most exultant when playing to an adoring audience of supporters, or when splashed across the front pages of major newspapers. We see the public side of Morgentaler—the strong, confident, cheerful persona many of us are familiar with, but this book also shows us his vulnerable side—the fear, depression, and insecurity that has often accompanied him on his long journey to legalize abortion in Canada.
Morgentaler has a strong need to feel good about himself and when he succeeds in something, he doesn't hesitate to heap self-adulation upon himself, which might seem arrogant to many. On the other hand, his successes are also victories for women—it is Morgentaler's dedication to the ideal of safe, legal abortion (whether selfless or not) that has made it a reality in Canada today.
The Infamous Quote
A Vancouver Sun review revealed a quote from Morgentaler (pg. 339 of the biography), in which he states a belief that third-trimester abortions should not be allowed. The quote was culled from Morgentaler's taped memoirs by Dunphy and may have been taken out of context, placed as it is in the context of the Chantal Daigle case from the late '80s. I doubt that Morgentaler would disagree with the pro-choice position that since women don't have abortions after the sixth month except for health or genetic reasons, there's little point in prohibiting them.
Unfortunately, the quote has caught the attention of the anti-choice, who claimed in the March 10, 1997 edition of BC Report that Morgentaler has reversed his views on late-term abortions, and that the pro-choice movement has finally begun to admit that "the fetus is human after all." Such claims are nothing more than the distorted and silly wishful thinking of an isolated minority, bitter in the knowledge that Morgentaler really has become one of the great Canadian heroes of our time.
Thanks for Your Letters!
Dear Editor: I believe the Vancouver Sun's review (22 Feb.) of the book Morgentaler: A Difficult Hero, damns the "abortion crusader" with faint praise. The lurid details of his seduction of a much younger woman must delight anti-choice people who wish to present anyone opposing them as immoral.
If someone in a brief presentation of Trudeau's contribution to Canada were to discuss his physical techniques in seducing much younger women such as Margaret and the lady lawyer who bore his child, one would question the relevance of this.
As for Morgentaler's criticism of Christianity, I am reminded of a letter he wrote to the Pope in which he pointed out that 'in Nov. 1990 a mob directed by Archbishop Alfonsus Penney physically attacked and almost lynched me.'
I disagree politely with the archbishop and his mob being angry at supporters of abortion, However, when they resort to violence and their church is led by a Pope who claims that 'contraceptive mentality leads to abortion mentality", my tolerance ends.
Abortions are caused by unwanted pregnancies. Contraceptives prevent pregnancies. So long as this logic escapes the Vatican, I'll cheer people who scoff at the Pope. So long as Christians who oppose abortion are led by Vatican Catholics, I'll understand those who scoff at Christianity.
Humanity should be scrambling to save the environment by stopping the population explosion. Lowering the birth rate to today's low death rate is vital. The UN Cairo Conference on Population called for the empowerment of women. Women choose abortion when they can't cope with an unwanted pregnancy. Denying women that choice is the opposite of empowerment.
— Ken McLean, Lower Mainland Sustainable Population Group, email@example.com
Canadian Women - 1985 to 1993
||Abortions reported from:
||100 live births
Source: Statistics Canada, Cat. No. 11-001E, The Daily, July 12, 1995, pg. 2.
The increase in the number of abortions since 1985 can be related to the historic 1988 Morgentaler court decision, which threw out the 1969 abortion law in Canada. Since that time, access to abortion has improved in many areas of Canada, and more women are able to terminate unwanted pregnancies. With improved sex education and access to different methods of contraception, such as the Morning After Pill, we hope to see a future reduction in the overall number of abortions.
Miscarriages, Stillbirths on Decline Across Canada
Because of improvements in reproductive technology and prenatal care, more women in Canada are experiencing successful pregnancies. Statistics Canada recently reported that although the pregnancy rate among women over 30 has increased by over 30% between 1974 and 1993, these women are increasingly giving birth to healthy children. The number of miscarriages and stillbirths among women aged 30 to 34 fell to 4% of total pregnancies from 10%. Women aged 35 to 39 saw the figure decline to 6% from 14%. The abortion rate among women over 30 has also declined, and has increased for younger women, especially in the last 10 years.
These numbers suggest that women have greater control over their fertility than ever before, and are consciously deciding when or whether to have children. Access to safe, legal abortion is an important tool that has helped to give women such control, and to improve their chances of successful and healthy child-rearing, when they are ready.
Unwanted childbearing has long been linked with adverse consequences for mothers, couples, families, and most of all, for unwanted children themselves.
A number of studies, conducted in nations as diverse as the U.S., Czechoslovakia, and Sweden, have documented the long-term developmental problems suffered by children whose mothers did not want to bear them. The findings point to a multitude of emotional, educational, and functional disorders that worsen as children reach adulthood. These difficulties befall even children born to healthy, adult women who have stable marriages and adequate economic resources. For the majority of unwanted children who are born to poor, unhealthy, unmarried, teen mothers, the problems are exacerbated.
Most of the studies focus on women who sought abortions and were denied them by law or by circumstance. Thus, the findings paint a clear and disturbing picture of what would become of hundreds of thousands of North American children if access to adequate family planning and abortion services were to be restricted.
Here are a few examples of findings from the studies. When compared to control groups of wanted children, unwanted children are:
nearly twice as likely to receive psychiatric care for both mild and severe psychological disorders
more likely to dislike school in their early years, and perform significantly worse scholastically
more than twice as likely to have a record of juvenile delinquency, up to four times more likely to have an adult criminal record, and three times more likely to be repeat offenders in early adulthood
more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs in youth and early adulthood
up to six times more likely to receive some form of welfare between ages 16 and 21
at increased risk of suffering parental abuse, malnourishment, neglect, or abandonment
more likely to suffer insecure home conditions, such as parental divorce or death, or unmarried parents
nearly three times more likely to describe themselves as unhappy and unable to cope with problems
more likely to be sexually promiscuous at an early age and to experience unwanted pregnancies themselves
For a full list of the study references and findings, plus other abortion-related information, visit Planned Parenthood Federation of America's web page at http://www.plannedparenthood.org
International Women's Day
March 8, 1997
Another successful International Women's Day event has come and gone. This year, there were some fears that the anti-choice would try and sabotage some local events. They had been pointedly disinvited and then complained loudly to the media about it. Although a small handful of anti's did show up with protest signs outside the Vancouver Public Library, where a rally was held, the worst thing that happened was that the media did their usual "them against us" approach. After interviewing just about every anti-choice protester, and only a few token IWD organizers and pro-choice supporters, the TV news that night portrayed the IWD event as a battle ground between anti-choice and pro-choice forces.
In fact, the theme of this year's IWD event was Women Moving Forward Together, which was ably reflected by the large and diverse number of participating women's groups. A long roster of speakers and entertainers touched on many aspects affecting women in today's society, including religious fundamentalism, oppression of women in Afghanistan, aboriginal rights, poverty, violence, lesbian rights, childcare, quality employment, and many other issues.
Because of the presence of the anti-choice, the BCCAC were gratified that many of the speakers responded by eloquently voicing their support for women's reproductive rights. A speaker for the BCCAC, Joyce Arthur, emphasized the positive effects to society brought about by safe, legal abortion. Her speech was punctuated by loud and exuberant cheers from the audience, while the anti's stood silently and listened. Let's hope they learned something.
"Partial Birth" Abortions
What Are the Facts?
The U.S. has recently voted to outlaw a controversial late-term abortion procedure, so-called "partial-birth abortions". The correct medical term for the procedure is intact D&X (dilation and extraction). The issue of intact D&X abortions is a very sensitive one and even though these procedures are not done in Canada (as far as we know), the debate spills over into Canadian media. Because of this, it is important to educate people about the nature of the procedure and the need to keep it legal in the U.S.
Late-term abortions are always difficult and can be traumatic for everyone involved. There is no pleasant way to end a late-term pregnancy, but if we understand the complex reasons why women have late-term abortions, and intact D&X's in particular, we will be better equipped to understand and explain why their needs and choices need legal protection.
About 500 or so intact D&X's are performed every year in the U.S. for women in the third trimester (this amounts to a mere .04% of all abortions). They are done only when the woman's health is in grave danger or the fetus is severely deformed and has no chance to live. In many cases, the fetus lacks a brain or has severe hydrocephalus (excess of fluid on the brain). To continue the pregnancy often entails a great risk to the woman's health or fertility. However, anti-choice legislators and activists have promoted the damaging lie that most third-trimester procedures are being performed on healthy women and fetuses.
Recent claims by Ron Fitzsimmons, executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, that the procedure is usually performed on healthy women and fetuses has confused the distinction between second and third trimester abortions. It is estimated that about three thousand intact D&X's (about 0.25% of all abortions) are performed each year in the U.S. during the second trimester, before the fetus is viable and before it has the neural capacity to feel pain. Although most of these procedures are indeed performed on healthy women and fetuses, American courts have consistently upheld a woman's constitutional right to an abortion during the second trimester, regardless of reason. (It should also be noted that most women seeking second-trimester abortions have delayed the procedure out of ignorance or denial of the pregnancy, fear of parental or social reprisal, lack of funds, or access difficulties, often caused by anti-choice laws and actions. Many of these abortions could be avoided through improved education, contraceptive care, and access to early abortion services.)
Doctors choose the intact D&X method when it is the safest and most appropriate one for the individual patient. Doctors consider many factors, including the length of gestation, the medical condition of the woman, fetal size and location, fetal condition, and the doctor's training and experience. There are only about 20 doctors in the entire United States—none in Canada—who use the intact D&X procedure. They believe that it lowers the risk of perforating the uterus and lacerating the cervix, reduces blood loss and other complications, protects fertility, and is less physically stressful to the patient. Further, this method allows an accurate and complete fetal autopsy and allows the parents to see, hold, and mourn their baby, if they wish.
In the intact D&X procedure, the doctor either anesthetizes the fetus, or cuts its umbilical cord, then delivers it feet first. Before the head emerges, some of the cranial fluid is removed in order to reduce the size of the head for easier delivery. There are several other methods of late-term abortions, but during the third trimester, an intact D&X procedure is almost always the safest route for the woman. Other methods are the D&E (dilation and evacuation, involving removal of the fetus in pieces), induction of labour by the injection of toxic substances into the fetus, hysterotomy (Caesarean section), and hysterectomy. Some of these methods involve a major operation, unlike intact D&X's, and all of them frequently entail much greater risks to the woman's health and fertility.
Currently, the bill to ban intact D&X's allows an exception only to save the life of the mother. This endangers women's health because it could force a woman whose health is threatened by her pregnancy to either undergo a more dangerous operation when she is already ill, or to wait until she is on her deathbed before being allowed to undergo the banned method. It is constitutionally impermissible to reduce a woman to such dangerous options.
Also, the wording of the bill is so vague that doctors are confused as to what exactly is being banned. The term "partial birth abortion" is an inflammatory, inaccurate, non-medical term that could possibly encompass more than one type of abortion method. This may cause doctors to err on the side of caution and curtail the use of other abortion methods, such as the D&E, which is the safest method for abortions between 12 and 18 weeks.
Intact D&X's are a safe medical technique that must remain available for the women that need it. It has to be up to women, their physicians, and their families, to make the difficult decision to abort a late-term fetus. Government intrusion into such decisions seriously compromises doctors' medical judgement at to what is best for their patients, and greatly undermines women's health and reproductive rights.
U.S. Bubble Zone Deflated
On Feb. 19, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of a New York bubble zone law. The court found that a "floating" bubble zone preventing protesters from coming within 15 feet of any clinic patient or staff member was an infringement of protesters' First Amendment rights. However, the court upheld fixed 15-foot zone restrictions around clinic doors and driveways. Even within this bubble zone, however, "sidewalk counsellors" are allowed to approach patients, but must retreat if patients indicate they don't want to listen. No such duty to retreat exists outside the fixed buffer zone.
The ruling affects only bubble zones in upstate New York., and it does not affect the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which prohibits blocking access to clinics, damaging clinic property, or injuring or intimidating patients or staff.
Army of God Bomb Squad
The Army of God, a radical American anti-choice group, has claimed responsibility for the January bombing of an abortion clinic in Atlanta, as well as a February bombing of a gay and lesbian nightclub in Atlanta. An unsigned, handwritten letter was sent to a news agency, who turned it over to the FBI.
The American media have turned to so-called "terrorist experts" to shed light on the Army of God (AOG) but many of these experts have little awareness of domestic anti-choice terrorism. It is only recently, in fact, that U.S. law enforcement has begun to get the message that the crime of bombing abortion clinics merits the same kind of serious attention as crimes like the Oklahoma bombing, or terrorist attacks in the Middle East.
The Army of God is the group that wrote and distributed an underground manual titled 99 Covert Ways to Stop Abortion. Their suggested methods include arson, bombing, use of butyric acid and other toxic chemicals, and vandalism. In addition to step-by-step instructions in terror, the manual promotes a philosophy of violence, thanks a long list of people who have promoted or engaged in violence (using pseudonyms), and closes with a declaration of war "on the entire child-killing industry" that directly calls for the use of deadly force. Significant portions of this manual are available on the Abortion Rights Activist, a pro-choice web site (http://www.cais.com/agm).
The Army of God is a loose network of terrorists who act on their convictions, or who encourage others to do so. One example is Shelley Shannon, the woman convicted in 1995 of multiple arsons and the attempted murder of Dr. George Tiller.
A contributing factor to the existence of AOG is the widespread community of people who encourage the atmosphere of violence. Dozens of anti-choice leaders have signed the Defensive Action statements condoning the killing of doctors. Several anti-choice publications provide a nation-wide forum for advocates of murder. These people may or may not consider themselves members of the AOG. But by openly condoning, advocating, and even encouraging acts of terrorism, they add to the ranks of the AOG.
It is not necessary to be recruited into the AOG. Any anti-choice person who picks up the manual and accepts the message of the AOG can take up a gun, or build a bomb, or act on their beliefs.
The Army of God is not as neat and simple as terrorist groups in other parts of the world, which may be part of the reason it has escaped the attention of law enforcement, the media, and the terrorism "experts." But it's real, it's out there, and it's deadly.
Adapted from "Who is the Army of God?", by Adam Guasch-Melendez, the Abortion Rights Activist (http://www.cais.com/agm)
What Makes Pro-Lifers Tick?
by Tom Flynn
Tom Flynn is an American author and editor. This article is reprinted from the Secular Humanist Bulletin, Vol. 8, No. 2, Summer 1992.
What makes right-to-lifers tick? Most pro-choice activists I know have no idea. For them, pro-lifers' motivation is a cipher. ... Abortion-rights advocates need to know that there's more than inconsistency afoot when right-to-lifers oppose abortion and birth control simultaneously—or when they oppose abortion without concern about poverty, child abuse, injustice, and other outrages against the already born.
Take it from a former hard-line Catholic: these positions are not incoherent. For their supporters, they proceed from erroneous first principles with inexorable logic—the same logic that brought forth Treblinka from the principles of Mein Kampf. And there's the danger. Pro-choicers who shrink from understanding pro-life thinking don't just walk away from potentially fruitful counter-arguments. They needlessly limit their ability to predict their adversaries' moves. Worse, they doom themselves to go on underestimating the danger their opponents truly represent.
So how can pro-life supporters coherently oppose abortion and birth control at the same time? It's easy—what they're really opposed to is sex. Sensual pleasure, untrammelled by the chains of obligation or the fear of punishment, violates their sense of sin. As novelist John Irving wrote in a recent New York Times piece, "What really makes [pro-lifers] sore is the idea of women having sex and somehow not having to pay for it—pay in the sense of suffering all the way through an unwanted pregnancy." Irving errs only in restricting the onus to women: from St. Paul to the present, Christian prudes have used the risks and consequences of pleasure as a club against both sexes.
Historically, a single movement has opposed first birth control and now abortion in [the U.S.], repeating many of the same arguments in each context. Facing Margaret Sanger in a 1921 debate, birth-control opponent Winter Russell eulogized the unborn in words that could have fallen from Randall Terry's pen last week: ". . . the great unborn . . . are being murdered by the thousands, if not millions, in a manner that far transcends the method of warfare." (Of course, Terry would mean the aborted, while Russell meant the unconceived.) Russell then made the argument Irving detests: "You can't have pleasure in this world without paying for it. . . That is the law of life—of God—you have to pay."
For religious ultraconservatives, then, abortion and birth control are targets of convenience. Their real quarry is sensuality itself, which ought to tell us something about the goals they might choose next if they win on abortion.
Knowing that, what can we conclude when pro-lifers fight for the unborn but have little concern for actual children born into poverty, abuse, despair, or oppression? "It's morally inconsistent to manifest such concern for the poor fetus in a society that shows absolutely no pity for the poor child after it's born," Irving laments elsewhere in his op-ed. Sorry, Garp, this time you missed the boat.
There's nothing inconsistent in caring everything for the fetus, nothing for the child. All you need is a theology that portrays abortion as a fate worse than death. As Tom Foster Digby has observed, conservative Christianity provides that in lavender. Begin with the presumption that fetuses are endowed at conception with the souls they must carry throughout the trial of life, and the rest falls into place. Whatever agony the child must endure, the possibility of salvation remains; indeed, many Christians think unjust suffering improves one's chances of making it to heaven.
But what if a healthy fetus, on this view already ensouled and intended by God to survive, is aborted? Conservative Catholics still say its soul goes to limbo, a concept church teaching has abandoned. Some fundamentalists say it goes to hell, if only for lack of anywhere else to send it. Whatever the details, most pro-lifers agree that abortion deprives a human soul of the only chance to work out its own salvation that it will ever, ever, have—for all eternity.
For one who takes that literally, anything that happens after birth, however repellent or unjust, may be acceptable. It can always be recompensed in the afterlife. There's only one irreversible evil: abortion, which cuts off the soul from afterwordly justice. Obviously, such a view demands fanatical defense of fetuses. Yet it can accept laissez-faire or even hostile attitudes toward children, without the slightest danger of contradiction.
Still, this is not a position that commands much assent outside fundamentalist circles today. Contemporary pro-lifers have learned to stress lines of argument that ring truer to modern ears. But Winter Russell lived in a more innocent time; if we return to his more primitive anti-birth control rhetoric, we will see the core Christian argument stated openly: "The great mass of so-called Americans are today voluntarily but blindly shutting the unborn out from the Heaven to which I hope we will all ultimately reach."
When we understand pro-life thinking in this way—the thinking that surely animates much of the movement's leadership, if not its rank and file—we better understand the challenge. Pro-choice does not enjoy the luxury of confronting an opponent whose position must soon collapse under the weight of internal contradictions. Pro-life rhetoric is consistent. The problem lies in the philosophy and world—view it embodies so consistently, which is clearly anti-human and which most Americans would reject if they really understood it. We who defend abortion rights need to work harder at understanding the thinking behind the pro-life position—if only so that we can better expose what it actually implies.
Nuts in the News
The Nuremburg files is a web site compiled by a violent anti-choice group called the American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA). The purpose of the page is to compile and disseminate extensive personal information on abortion providers, including license plate numbers, home addresses, social security numbers, photographs, unlisted phone numbers, and even information on spouses, children, and friends. So far, ACLA has opened files on over 300 people, including physicians, clinic workers, judges, politicians, law enforcement officers, and pro-choice activists. The stated intent of the project is "to gather all available information on abortionists and their accomplices for the day when they may be formally charged and tried at Nuremburg-type trials for their crimes," according to David Crane, national director of ACLA. The web page is located at http://www.christiangallery.com/atrocity/
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