Roe’s 40th, More Facts On How The Anti-Abortion Faithful Are Not Lonely Outliers!!

By Donald A. Collins | 10 January 2013
Church and State

(Credit: Wikimedia Commons / GNU General Public License)

My November 2012 piece featured on N4CM about the efforts of a particularly zealous Catholic woman, Charmaine Yoest, President of the anti-abortion NGO, Americans United for Life (AUL) only touched on the tip of the Catholic Church’s efforts to deny safety and basic human rights to women and their families, not only here but worldwide.

Yoest’s story was featured in a NY Times Magazine article on November 4, 2012, entitled “Charmaine Yoest’s Cheerful War on Abortion” by Emily Bazelon of Slate. Despite AUL’s significant influence on women’s rights to obtain abortions, Bazelon failed to note the powerful force backing AUL and all other anti-choice advocates be they Catholic or not.

You can refresh your memory about the NY Times Magazine piece here.

Now another leading publication, Time Magazine, has boldly featured abortion as a cover story entitled “What Choice? Abortion-rights activists won an epic victory in Roe v. Wade. They’ve been losing every since” in its January 14, 2013 issue, which certainly gives a heads up to the enormous inroads made by these non-outlier enemies of women.

Anyone who can read but who might have been previously not alert to the depths of this wide spread, high velocity, increasingly lethal Catholic led and funded effort can realize how badly Roe versus Wade has been undermined in the 40 years since that basic human right was ruled available on demand by the US Supreme Court.

This excellent article was written by Kate Pickert, a Time staff writer, who writes about health care. She also writes for Real Clear Politics. A graduate of the University of Buffalo, she subsequently earned a journalism degree from the Columbia U. Graduate School of Journalism.

That her editors made her stunning expose of anti women Catholic power to be their cover story on the eve of Roe Vs Wade’s 40th anniversary deserves our thanks and congratulations.

Pickert covers a very broad account of the actions of the anti-choice groups including the AUL, but offers us numerous detailed accounts of the vicious political activities underway in many states designed to deny women choice and which are blatantly against the intent of Roe v Wade.

The upshot of course has been to seriously undermine easy access to safe, early procedures which should, if widely offered, be very inexpensive. These services should have long ago been available not in clinics, but as out patient services in hospitals as part of total health care for women.

Medical school training should be part of every curriculum for all medical students in order to insure broad competence among physicians who might be faced with treating extreme cases such as rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk. Such is far from the case now.

I disagree with my long time friend, Francis Kissling, former head of Catholic for Choice, quoted in the article as saying that getting a abortion is not like having a tooth pulled or your appendix out. Why not? The function is to remove an unwanted mass of tissue. She says that deserves “some gravitas”, but why? This backward view typifies what got folks so riled up in the first place!

The enemies of choice will certainly not agree with me that this Time article is balanced reporting, filled with factual well researched information. However, as a founding board member of the Guttmacher Institute, now headed by my friend, Dr. Sharon Camp, I was pleased that its research gets high marks from both the pro-life and the pro-choice sides of this seemingly endless, dangerous, immoral controversy, one which makes me so ashamed with those who treat human life with reckless abandonment.

How or why have these pro-life zealots been so successful? In reply, Pickert brings us up to date on the feelings of younger pro-choice women who feel the issue needs new leadership.

She reports that

“But in Washington, establishment pro-choice activists are dealing with another set of threats that are mostly self-inflicted. What pro-choice activists call “the movement” is in many ways more fragmented than it’s ever been, thanks to a widening generational divide. The problem is rooted in leadership, which is concentrated in a small but powerful army of women who were in their 20s and 30s when Roe was decided and who now oversee a number of establishment feminist organizations, including NARAL Pro-Choice America, run by Nancy Keenan, 60; the National Organization for Women, headed by Terry O’Neill, 60; and Feminist Majority, run by co-founder Eleanor Smeal, 73.

Some of these leaders and their similarly aged deputies have been reluctant to pass the torch, according to a growing number of younger abortion-rights activists who say their predecessors are hindering the movement from updating its strategy to appeal to new audiences. This tension had been brewing for years, but in 2010, Keenan told Newsweek that she worried that the pro-choice cause might be vulnerable because young people weren’t motivated enough to get involved.

The complaint struck young activists like Steph Herold, 25, as an effort to place blame on others for mistakes the establishment pro-choice movement has made along the way. “They are the generation that gave us legalized abortions, but they also screwed up,” says Herold, pointing to the pro-choice establishment’s failure to stop the 1976 Hyde Amendment, a law that prohibits federal funding of abortions and disproportionately affects poor women. At a conference last May, Herold heard a women’s-clinic owner who has worked in the abortion field for some 40 years echo Keenan’s complaint–that young people aren’t involved enough in the pro-choice movement. Herold was furious. She stood up and, trembling, walked to a microphone. “We’re counseling your patients and stuffing your envelopes,” Herold told the clinic owner. “You should be talking to us and not just about us.”

The power struggle isn’t based on differences over the right to access abortion. Young activists fighting for reproductive rights have the same hard-line view of abortion access as their predecessors: they say it should be unrestricted by state governments and that the decision to terminate a pregnancy should be left solely to women and their doctors. But the infighting could splinter the movement if the younger generation abandons those feminist institutions that have traditionally been the headquarters for voter-mobilization campaigns, fundraising and lobbying, the lifeblood of any political movement. Erin Matson, 32, became a vice president of NOW in 2009 but recently resigned. “When you want to build a jet pack, sometimes that means you have to leave the bicycle factory,” she says.

Matson says she is considering starting a new organization to specifically target young people. “A number of young women are just saying, ‘To hell with it, I’m just going to lead,'” she says. “It’s easier for young women to exercise leadership right now than before we had this technology.” The technology Matson refers to is the Internet. Last February, when the Susan G. Komen breast-cancer foundation eliminated its long-standing grant funding for Planned Parenthood, a backlash quickly ensued on Twitter. Under tremendous pressure, Komen reinstated the funding. After the episode, says Herold, “No one can say anymore that young people don’t care about this issue.”

In addition to being nimbler at Web-based activism, young feminists have another advantage when appealing to millennial voters, who will make up some 40% of the electorate by 2020: relatability. “We need more leaders in this movement who are of reproductive age,” says author Page, 42. Sandra Fluke, the law student Republicans barred from testifying before a congressional committee last year, was a valuable asset to the pro-choice cause in part because of her relative youth. She spoke publicly about the personal reproductive rights and birth control choices of her peers. Keenan, who has become aware that her own age might impede her effectiveness, announced last May that she would step down in 2013. She said she hoped a younger person could replace her. “They’re chomping at the bit to have their opportunity,” she says.”

Knowing Nancy Keenan for some years, I have never seen her as standing in the way of anyone, but clearly providing service as the featured heroine of Pickert’s article, Tammi Kromenaker, who runs the only abortion clinic in North Dakota, a state with medieval views on women’s rights remains a dangerous and legally exhausting challenge.

Pickert tells us:

“Kromenaker, a social worker, was born in January 1972, one year before the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade. She has spent her entire adult life providing abortion services and is among hundreds of clinic directors across the U.S. navigating an ever increasing number of state-imposed abortion regulations. At Red River, the only abortion clinic in North Dakota, a woman must wait 24 hours between scheduling an appointment and arriving at the facility. Once there, she must undergo a counseling, verification and testing process that lasts up to five hours. If she is a minor, she must notify her parents; get permission from one or both, depending on who has custody; or get approval from a judge. Like Medicaid programs in some 30 other states, North Dakota’s does not cover abortion services except in instances of rape or incest or to protect the life of the mother.”

This is the USA 40 years after Roe and we are still being victimized by the backward views of religious sects whose views are allowed to run rampant over human rights of ½ the population.

Do not fail to read the full article, as it will make any civilized human being both sad, knowledgeable and angry.

In the early 1950’s Americans were subjected to the ravings of Senator Joe McCarthy, who alleged there were Communists everywhere in our government. Certainly there were some, but even our beloved President Eisenhower was late in condemning McCarthy’s odious and massive attacks on many public figures whose connections with subversion were unproven.

I mention this because this author does indeed mention the Catholic Church as an active participant in the anti-choice movement, but like the writer of the NY Times Magazine piece on the AUL mentioned above, Pickert may have assumed that since the RCC is clearly on record as opposing choice she didn’t need to detail its enormous influence on the pro-life effort.

Perhaps sophisticated writers and observers who follow the stance of the RCC in countries such as Argentina, Chile, and the Philippines, are aware of its power, but more Americans are likely not aware that the RCC politically enforces its fantasies about proper fertility management on women wherever it can muster support.

(Lorie Shaull / Creative Commons)

I suggest that future brave main stream media articles be much clearer about the powerful roles the RCC’s bishops and its Vatican hierarchy play both here and elsewhere. The evidence is clear and freely available.

Ms. Pickert makes a powerful and stark report on the absurd vicissitudes of state and local laws against abortion which impede women and responsible providers. Women who often fail to get such services, thus allowing more unwanted births. The sophistication of these highly organized anti-choice advocates suggests heavy contributions provided by moneyed legal and public relations professionals. Who corrals and pays such people?

This anti-choice campaign goes back decades and has dogged American political life far too long. It has even infected to the point of enfeeblement the Republican Party whose traditional concerns about non social issues have been overwhelmed with ideologies that have driven away countless numbers of moderate members. America needs a strong 2 party system, but a platform with an hard line anti-abortion plank certainly keeps many from its ranks.

There is stark irony in the dichotomy when Republicans claim to stand for maximum freedom from government interference, while working tirelessly to inhibit the precious private relationship between women and their physicians.

Again, congratulations to Ms. Pickert for this enlightening piece and to her bosses who allowed it to be a cover story. While she notes other anti choice players from other religious sects, the primary impetus for the depth and strength of this vicious assault on basic human rights comes from the Vatican and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, an all male contingent of ideologues.

Despite the frequent stories about this vastly wealthy institution’s mammoth moral breakdowns, its secular power continues largely unchallenged and in fact as Pickert shows has actually greatly expanded since January 22, 1973. Meanwhile its hierarchy continues to put much pressure on our media, our elected officials, other religious leaders and its own constituency to embrace its errant views about reproductive rights to the detriment of all Americans.

Most people don’t want to speak out against religious organizations as they fear reprisals which surely are regularly and severely administered. And of course in social settings such criticism is not regarded as polite or comfortable. It takes a brave voice to go public. Certainly, a major source of credible research in my generation on this conundrum has come from the Chairman of this web site, N4CM, Dr. Stephen D. Mumford, whose scholarly and comprehensive analyses have for decades exposed the destructive effect of the Catholic hierarchy on the welfare of our nation. Certainly his pioneering work must be considered as laying some solid precedent for such powerful new articles as those recently produced by Time Magazine and the NY Times.

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.

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