The Abortion Debate Lingers Viciously! Male Influence Ranks Huge

By Donald A. Collins | 26 December 2016
Church and State

In an online survey, 39 percent of 2,000 self-identified Donald Trump voters reported that they thought women should be punished for seeking abortions if the procedure is ever banned in the U.S.

I have a wonderfully erudite friend who publishes a powerful newsletter that often clearly defines complex issues involving sharp public policy debates.

As a result, I forwarded to him my 12/16/16 OP ED A Trump Attack On Planned Parenthood Would Be Strategic Madness thinking this would be right down his ideological alley. Both of us octogenarians and grads of the same Ivy League college have shared such material for years.

His reply showed how deeply the anti choice messages have been allowed to permeate the logic of sophisticated people, mostly males I would guess.

Hi, Don—Sorry to take so long in getting back to you. First of all, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and will share your thoughts and questions with me in 2017 as you did this past year.

I have read your piece in C & S re PP and I am just not qualified to offer what I consider to be a meaningful comment. The abortion issue is one that I have wrestled with for many years without coming to some kind of resolution in my own mind as to a definitive position.

There you have it! He, a white male obviously past fathering, but clearly living a comfortable life with no financial problems, claims to be conflicted! Did this uncertainty have anything to do with my friend’s past personal experience such as having a daughter or granddaughter getting an abortion, thus losing a great granddaughter? I doubt it.

However, he continues, saying “First, I don’t see it as a political issue that has a strong claim on millions of Americans’ lives and actions; nor one that our Founder Fathers could have imagined discussing, let alone legislating. Those who are forced to engage it experience great personal pain—physical and emotional—with which I empathize, but politics? I cannot make that leap.”

After following the choice issue for decades, I can only point out, as I have in countless OP ED pieces that his failure to see “it as a political issue” means he has not been following the history that our Chairman has so admirably and correctly chronicled and which perhaps my friend would find enlightening.

Again, he says, “My feelings on this matter focus primarily on the fetus which, if abortion is performed, loses its life and future; and which, if it survives pregnancy and lives, may face a life of poverty, anger, abuse, addiction and failed parenting. Looking at our inner cities today and the tragedies that pass as lives, I cannot see the benefit of burdening our population and/or communities with unwanted children.”

Well, if that does not suggest politics, what does? By the way, legally, factually, and culturally a fetus is a fetus is a fetus and the moment of implantation is not the beginning of a viable life as has been scientifically proven erroneous.

Then again he also clearly defines the big problems related to a lack of choice:

Beyond the interest of the fetus there is the plight of the pregnant mother. Her motives for seeking an abortion might be economic, for convenience, out of desperation or because she wants something better for her child than what her life offers. There is pain, confusion and agony in her choice which, if we look, we can see. No political decision will eliminate either the act of abortion or its pain for all involved. To me it remains a very personal and difficult decision which has only negative consequences for mother and child.

So glad my piece allowed my friend to give thought to the choice issue, which apparently he had not yet put on his radar. Enough abortion deaths occur daily around the globe to fill a jumbo jet airplane according to UC Berkeley family planning professor D. Malcolm Potts.

I would point out that the enemies of choice are fond of using such words as “convenience” to imply that those favoring choice consider human life disposable and thus requiring women to carry to term regardless of their wishes or the condition of the fetus. Late term abortion means that after 24 weeks abortion is legally not permitted, so that the poor woman with a clearly flawed fetus must bear a needless burden. Again dangerous government law making based on religious opinion not the best interests of the mother.

Fr. Frank Pavone, the head of Priests for Life, stated on 7 July 2016 that the choice in this year’s presidential election was not “complicated” because if a candidate supports abortion rights, they ought to be rejected as automatically as a candidate who supports terrorism since “abortion is no better than terrorism, in fact it’s worse”. (Source: Right Wing Watch)

Next in a seeming reversal of his earlier statement about abortion not being political my friend continues, “I am appalled by the ways in which religious groups have pushed the abortion issue to the front of our political and judicial agendas and manage to keep it there. I am aware of no other first world nation with a persistent abortion priority problem such as ours.”

Now here is the chance for others both male and female to really hear the screaming all male voices, so vividly documented in the Academy Award winning movie Spotlight. Recall the attempt of the subsequently discredited Cardinal to get Boston’s leading newspaper to not publish those devastating stories about pedophile priests??

My friend hopes but realizes the abortion issue may not “go away or resolve itself painlessly, but then I recall the anger in the voices of those who speak on this issue, and I know neither of those will happen. I come back to where I started—it is a terrible dilemma of the soul, mind and body, but it is not to me a political dilemma. I am left to watching, waiting and hoping.” Reminds me of Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” speech. You recall his failure to “take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them” did not end successfully for him.

To this email, I replied:

Half of the over 40 million abortions which annually occur worldwide are done unsafely. I profoundly believe the choice belongs solely to the pregnant woman. And after years of 3rd world travel and fighting those who oppose choice (in another very parallel arena) my wife Sally and I spent 3 full days at D.C. City hall testifying and urging the Council to pass a dying with dignity bill which is modeled on the Oregon law which has worked for 19 years very well. It allows a 2 doctor panel to give medicines to persons close to death. The recipient must take the pills himself or herself; insurance companies cannot abrogate payment of policies by claiming suicide when a terminally ill person is simply seeking a less painful exit. There appeared before this city council numerous people who by opposing this enlightened legislation apparently felt dying should be made as painful as possible.

Six states have such statutes now. The D.C. Council voted 11 to 2 on November 23rd to pass and the mayor subsequently signed it. Choice in this very personal matter has apparently prevailed although Congress has jurisdiction over DC law and it could still be overturned.

I suggested to my friend that “Your queasiness fails to warrant failing to give women choice. In my view; this is a secular matter which for far too long has been impacted by those mostly men who claim rights in an inherently dangerous medical condition whose resolution should be solely resolved between the woman and her physician.” Clearly in reviewing all of his replies he agrees with me.

My friend, a solid citizen and keen observer of public and international affairs, kindly took the time to answer as follows:

I may not have been clear in commenting on the various aspects of the abortion issue which I too believe should be a matter determined by the woman and her doctor. It is a horrible choice which I am thankful I do not have to make. Were I a woman I would want to have that choice and be able to exercise it without political or religious restrictions.

Great. We agree on who has the right of decide about having an abortion. Again, the level of ignorance about the safety and simplicity of an early abortion has long been entangled with overblown untrue claims about safety. Of course the level of mental turmoil depends on each woman, but studies show that claims on this aspect have often been overblown and twisted by the large number of anti choice adviser sites which lure women seeking an abortion into their premises to be shown pictures of fetuses and strong encouragement not to proceed. Again to me choice should be up to each woman, but fostering fear and giving out false information should not be used to make political or religious points in a woman’s life. This web site has constantly made the case for church/state separation.

Again, my friend seems right on track. “Unfortunately, in America a combination of political and religious interests has been able to convince voters, media and courts that politics has a legitimate right to intervene publicly in this private issue. I do not agree with this even though the social costs of unwanted births are very high.”

It seems from carefully reading my friends emails that I misunderstood his initial email’s statement about it not being a political issue, as in this subsequent email he says:

While this issue has been forcefully politicized, it is not purely a political issue. It carries the toxins of religious faith, dogma, truth and history with it which their proponents do not hesitate to apply, often violently to the expecting mother.

Abortion in 21st century America is like a mortal wound. It is a social, political, economic, religious and psychological sore that will not heal. The only remedy is empathy which is in short supply among the people and a rarity in government. For myself, I feel far more frustration than queasiness as this issue is recycled.

I responded to this last email as follows:

I appreciate your clarification. That a national health program not include full reproductive health services suggests that public money to treat cancer is ok but not for providing a safe resolution for a life threatening condition—which pregnancy often is—means religion gets to intervene and the proper separation of church and state gets shelved again.

You are right to assume I am manic on abortion choice triggered by 50 years of watching the frequent failure of women to receive choice which often resulted in death or loss of fertility. Good to have this exchange so I could further enforce my admittedly inflexible bias for choice. Merry Christmas and thanks for this stimulus.

Well, what a constructive exchange. Clearly my understanding of his earlier position on choice not being political was apparently not correct. He was kind enough to acknowledge with enthusiasm the importance of efforts by those of us in the field of working for full reproductive choice for women worldwide.

Clearly needed is more education for everyone, but surely more focused on men than those who bear children. Sadly the power of organized religion has been and will continue to be a huge impediment to such a universally desirable goal.

We clearly need more men such as my friend who will take the time “to offer meaningful comment” and to learn the facts about choice and the folly of failing to grant it here and abroad. Disastrous legislation such as the Helms Amendment has restricted such services overseas since 1973.

If the incoming administration decides to immediately attack Planned Parenthood and thus women’s rights to safe, hopefully early abortions, Mr. Trump may well find he faces the overturning the slender Republican Senate majority in the next by election.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.

Back in 1991, the NGO Don Collins founded in 1976, International Services Assistance Fund (ISAF), co-produced a TV quality 22-minute film called “Whose Choice?” which Ted Turner arranged to broadcast on September 21, 1992 in prime time on his then independent Turner Broadcast System (TBS). Other outlets such as PBS and several of its affiliates Collins and his colleagues contacted then refused to run it because of its forthright treatment of the abortion issue, arguing for all women’s right to choose not to have a baby. ISAF has made a new edition of that DVD. The purpose for reissuing this 3rd version of “Whose Choice?” was simply to show the historical urgency that attended those times, still blocked and attacked over 40 years after the Roe v Wade decision in 1973. This video is available for public viewing for the first time.

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