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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The UCONN Pro-Life Club Talks

There were over 25 students in attendance for all three segments: my talk (a condensed version of the 15 Shredding Myths series here), The Truth Squad, and Liz Gillen, Director of First Way Life Center, a women's help center (CPC) in Enfield, CT.

The crowd drifted out after my talk ended around 6:30ish, so I'm not sure, when the seats all filled up again at 7 pm for the Truth Squad, if all those same students returned. I almost hope, now, that all of them did not, because of the unnerving answers on some of the questionnaires distributed to the audience by the TS.

The audience had sat completely quietly during my talk, and since I spread my gaze around at everyone as I speak, I could see 100% attentiveness and what looked like rapt listening to everything I said.

Sadly, I didn't see the same response to the Truth Squad talks. The TS includes a lawyer, a doctor/biologist, and a post-abortive woman, speaking from these three perspectives, legal, scientific and personal.

Yet, I saw two young men laughing and chuckling away in the back during the TS presentations, not really paying attention much at all. Perhaps they were even poking fun at what they did catch. Whether those fellows were in my audience I can't say; if they were, they'd been face-forward and silent, so didn't stand out in my range of vision.

It was clear from several questionnaires that some believed that what we, or at least the Truth Squad speakers, were saying was all a crock.

And here I'd been thinking my Q&A was fairly good. I thought the final Q&A was even better: all five of us presenters took turns fielding questions from both the pro-life students and the pointedly challenging pro-choice students. Thinking back on it, only the pro-life students had asked me questions earlier. The pro-choice ones had remained silent when they had the chance to ask me anything.

I'm not sure why. Maybe it was because I did break down and get extremely emotional toward the end of my talk. Sometimes it just crashes through all my exterior demeanor:
You're all probably wondering how I can be so...methodical...talking about all this science so fast...the only thing that allows me to do this, was my Rachel's Vineyard retreat. Before that, I couldn't say 'word one', not even speak the word 'abortion,' without weeping. I'm only here because I believe that if I can help one woman out there avoid this pain, it's worth getting up here. If I can help one woman who's already done it, find relief and healing for her pain and shame, it's worth it. Honestly, I'd rather not be here. I'd rather have my...daughter...who'd be 27 years old...here on this earth... than be here doing this. You have...no idea......Perhaps I do these talks so that I can... manage to survive... what I did... to her....to not feel so horrible about myself...even though it is something that will never go away...
I find this happens when I'm speaking to people the same age as I was when I had my abortion. People who are also just a few years younger than my daughter would have been.

Getting back to the Q&As: everyone asked their questions intelligently and respectfully, mind you. This was no in-person troll session.

Yet, I knew from the way some questions were phrased, that the bias was there in their challenge. I welcomed it, and for all but one of those challenges I had already done that homework.

Interestingly, that young man asked, "If it's true that abortion and breast cancer have risen so much in the U.S. and one increases the other risk, how can you explain that abortion hasn't been so prevalent in Russia and yet breast cancer is rising rapidly there too?"

I told him, "I honestly don't know the Russian stats on abortion or breast cancer, or if in fact they have or have not risen. Can you provide me with your sources for that stat? Send it to me: take my email address, or leave yours with me so I can obtain this from you. I'll get back to you after doing some research."

Sadly, though he said he'd either put his contact info on my sign-up sheet or take my email addy and write me, he didn't do either. At least not yet.

Bert Hilburger answered partly, that Russian women have on average four abortions each, so he too would like to see this young man's statistics/sources for his belief that abortion isn't so common in Russia.

Here were some other questions asked either in the final Q&A or privately.
What do you have to say about the benefits proven to be derived from abortion, namely the drastic drop in crime?
This was asked by the same fellow with the possibly incorrect Russian abortion stats question. Coincidentally, he also was the fellow doing the most disrespectful laughing in the back during the TS talks.

I seized the mike and said quite emphatically,
I researched and wrote a five-part series on this and can tell you that this theory, is a crock. I proved it false, with many, many statistics that showed that, at the very times when Steve Levitt in his book Freakonomics [and I saw many heads nodding in recognition, perhaps even advocacy of that book] said that crime was plummeting, it in fact was skyrocketing. Further he wasn't even the owner of this theory, he was the secondary author on a much earlier paper that put this forth with manipulation of the statistics to suit the theory and racist conclusions to boot. The earlier paper, and I found it online and so can you, betrayed its racist language--that it was the black babies being aborted that allegedly dropped the crime rates--and that the later papers politically-corrected the language, whitewashing it out of there to be palatable to the liberals. Don't tell me Freakonomics can stand up. It's been proven so full of holes it isn't funny. But you won't see that in the press. Oh, no.
Is it immoral to binge-drink if you think you're pregnant so that you can cause a miscarriage, and does binge-drinking cause miscarriage?
This one scared me. It seemed as if the person asking this had tried this, and was looking for either approval or absolution. I told this person that if the person did this knowingly, intentionally, then yes, it would be wrong, but that I didn't know the latter answer.
Does a pregnant woman have a moral obligation to raise the baby? Is she condemned for not wanting to?
This surprised me greatly. Where does an idea like this come from? Who puts this idea into a woman's head? Pro-life people? Or Planned Parenthood (in saying that that's what pro-life folks make you do or expect of you if you get pregnant)? It's a rewording of the old canard, "No one can force me to give birth." We as a society have completely twisted the expectations and moral understanding for generations of Americans. Of course, no one has a moral obligation to raise the baby; that's what good adoptions are for. (for that debate see this post's comment thread)
Why do you say the media is hiding these facts about abortion?
I told them the story of the AP Style book changing "pro-life" to "anti-abortion," the aerial photo obtained for Planned Parenthood of their pro-abortion march in 2004 vs. none such photos ever allowed for the March For Life, and how the major media filed their major news coverage of the MFL06 three to nine hours before the march even began.

Then they asked, "Why do they do this?" We all took turns answering this, and urged them, "Ask them. Write them and ask them."

I said, "Face it. Many people in this country don't want unfettered sex with whomever they want whenever they want to be stopped. The people running the mass media are people too. Many of those in power are of the sexual revolution generation and don't want to limit their sexual pleasures, so of course they'll be against anything that stands in the way, including illegalized abortion and contraception. It's why they don't report the deaths of women for years, if at all, from their contraception and abortions. They don't want to 'hurt abortion.' They don't want to lose money from what they have perceived are the pro-choice majority buying their product."

Are there some kind of guidelines you have to agree to be prolife? Like, to be a member, do you have to commit to a standard set of beliefs, in writing, like a signup for membership?
This confused me. She thought there was a sign-up process to "be pro-life." Made me wonder if you have to do that to join NARAL or N.O.W. or similar groups.
Can't you be prolife but be for contraception?
I said, "Not if you're 100% pro-life. Just as you can't really be pro-life and be for the death penalty, or euthanasia, or violence against abortionists."

My basic "No" answer seemed to trouble her. She then asked, "How do you defend that you can't be for contraception if you're prolife?"

I replied, "Usually the religious have an answer to that: 'you're interrupting God's natural plan for us, for human life and human nature.'" Liz had explained earlier that the very word means "against life."

The student then asked, "What about a nonreligous reason?" I said, "Besides what we've already discussed about the chemical bonding via the brain chemical oxytocin when we have sex with someone and how that makes breaking up so much more excruciatingly painful--the answer could be that contraception has a lot of bad side effects and risks of which people are grossly ignorant. For example, HPV is not stopped by condoms, it causes virtually all cervical cancers today, and that kills 5,000 women yearly. The Pill increases our breast cancer risk, and then there's the 17+ deaths from the Patch and those from the Abortion Pill, RU-486."

She became alarmed and said she'd been given The Pill as her "only option of treatment" for a polycystic problem in the uterus. I said, "The research on this is solid, but squelched by the media and the medical establishment. I too was prescribed The Pill for endometriosis for a total of 17 years, so I've got the same problem you have really. It really wasn't your or my only option, though. Surgery is always the option. You had that option then as you do now. It isn't pretty or preferable, but it is still another option."

Then she argued that, "But everything has side effects. We can't just stop taking medicines because of their side effects in all areas of health." I replied, "True, but 1) the side effects of ineffective contraception are still massively increased STDs and death from some of them, and 2) you and I KNOW about those side effects, don't we? We hear them all the time in regards to every other medicine except The Pill. Don't you think we women are entitled to have been told all the facts up front, so we could make a better-informed decision?"

She seemed to brighten at that, saying, "Yeah, we should have all the facts up front."

I still can't figure if she was pro-choice and looking to defend her pro-contraception preferences, or if she was pro-life, looking for an effective intelligent, nonreligious debate to use with pro-contraceptive friends.


The Truth Squad Questionnaire

"Strongly opposed to abortion/think it should be always illegal: 3 men, 3 women.

Strongly favoring abortion/think it should be always or mostly legal: 3 men and 3 women.

I don't count one fellow who, though against abortion, isn't exactly prolife by saying "the women and doctors should be hanged" for having an abortion.

Most of the 12 respondents retained the same strength of opinion about abortion before and after the TS talks.

Two men had no opinion before, but became strongly approving of abortion afterward. Their suggestions for improving the TS talks?
Facts.
and
Be less dumb.
Wow. That's all I can say.

7 circled "Abortion should always be legal."
5 circled "Abortion should not be legal under any circumstances."
1 circled "Abortion should be legal under certain circumstances."

"Do you think abortion is the killing of a human being?"
8 said yes (but two of these approved of abortion, one answering this question with, "I do now!"
3 said no.
2 didn't answer the question (both approved of abortion).

Those who said "no" added these comments:
The fetus can't survive outside the womb.
No, as 'human' is a phenomenological concept describing a state of viewing others.
Whatever that meant, is unclear. Could the student have been referring to a "circumstantial evidence" or "appearance-based" definition of human? Makes me wonder.

It wasn't until after they'd completed the questionnaires that I read them these two quotes in the final Q&A:

Professor Jerome LeJeune, professor of genetics at the University of Descartes in Paris, discoverer of the chromosome pattern of Down's Syndrome: "To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion, it is not a metaphysical contention, it is plain experimental evidence. Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception."

Dr. Alfred M. Bongioanni, professor of pediatrics and obstetrics at the University of Pennsylvania: "I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception . . . I submit that human life is present throughout this entire sequence from conception to adulthood and that any interruption at any point throughout this time constitutes a termination of human life. I am no more prepared to say that these early stages [of development in the womb] represent an incomplete human being than I would be to say that the child prior to the dramatic effects of puberty . . . is not a human being. This is human life at every stage . . ."

Not quite appearance-based or phenomenological, now, is that?

When asked to circle whether abortion is always, sometimes or never morally wrong, two of the abortion-approving respondents declined to choose, one saying "Define 'morally wrong,' the other writing, 'no say.'"

When even one twenty-something college student has to ask "Define 'morally wrong,'" I can't help but conclude we've all let down this society. It's like the old joke when I was in college: that the "business ethics" course is an oxymoron like "jumbo shrimp." The generation currently in college still seems to be having a hard time defining moral wrong from right. My generation has left that an unanswered question, at best. We've been living the "To hell with morality! It's the me generation!" life since our teens. What a glorious example for our twenty-somethings.

6 circled that it's always morally wrong; 3 circled "sometimes," and 3 circled "never." One female abortion-approving student wrote: "The moral wrong is committed by society, not the woman."

I don't know what she means. But I do know that "the society" doesn't force us to have sex with each other, nor does it force the natural consequence of sex to occur. It would have been helpful if she'd elaborated.

As for suggestions to help the TS improve its presentation, these were the noxious--and most telling--ones. The attitude is so thick you need a knife.
There are the afore-mentioned
Facts.
Be less dumb.
Plus these:
Don't present selective facts.
Like it's OK for Planned Parenthood, the rest of the abortion industry and the mass media to do just that, but not us? Give me a break, people. Would this person have wanted us to repeat the abortion industry storyline when this person seemed to already have absorbed it as though it were gospel truth?
Be less boring and less old.
Ahh, the luxury of youth. We'll get right on the last part, folks. But that first part? How can anyone be bored when hearing about the harm to women from abortion?

I have to wonder if those answering these ways were just liberal-media-fed young folks. In a lot of ways, it really isn't their fault.

I also really have to wonder if they even saw my earlier presentation at all.

If they did, they totally discredit and deny all the scientific facts found and published in peer-reviewed research journals including the JNCI, The Lancet, and the whole ream of others. Heads in the sand. This absolutely stupefies me.

I'm thinking I have to doubt that these questionnaire respondents were there for my earlier talk. I can't imagine them to be that willfully ignorant, that arrogant...that they heard all the shredding of the myths, from all the non-pro-life sources, including Planned Parenthood's own Guttmacher Institute and the various government health agencies, and still came away believing that all that research is made-up hooey.

Still, I noticed and others told me afterward that there were extraordinary numbers of students passing by the open common area in which we sat, gaping in shock at my I REGRET MY ABORTION sign, highly visible to all passersby. A couple made disdainful smirking faces, but most were silent, surprised, staring at the sign, at me, and were probably well able to hear snippets of my talk as they walked around us on two sides. The PA system was loud and clear. Perhaps hundreds throughout the hour stopped for a few minutes to take in some of my talk.

If one word or phrase got through to one person, that's what it's all for. The seeds have been planted, of truth, of abortion recovery, of the end to the silence about the shame.

This is a public university campus of 30,000 undergrads. One out of 30,000 ain't bad.

POSTSCRIPT:
I understand perfectly the desire to hear from younger adults, perhaps even their peers. I wish they could too.

It's why I list in the sidebar at right:
  • 3 college-age groups under COLLEGE/WORKING WOMEN (there are quite a few "young faces" on LoveMatters.com),
  • 4 more under TEENS + YOUNG ADULTS, and
  • 13 more such groups worldwide under COLLEGE+TEEN FOLK.

    Generation Life, for example, has college-age speakers, although I'm not sure if any are post-abortive.

    Again, I don't know if they lumped me in their "be less old" complaint, but I did dress down for the event. Boots, jeans, a hot pink silk blazer, my WOMEN DO REGRET ABORTION t-shirt. People have said I don't look my age (47) as well; I'm fortunate to not have any grey hair (yet). Maybe, just maybe, they didn't diss me because they thought I was younger.

    I too would like to see younger post-abortive people giving these talks. Knowing what we know about when we were in our 20s and 30s, in full denial or in full-blown messed-up-ness, that isn't likely to happen anytime soon.

    We five presenters all earned at least a bachelor's degree (I might add, something these students don't have yet): we are a practicing, licensed lawyer, a biologist, a former teacher and two professional businesswomen, one of whom owns and runs her own firm.

    If the pro-choice students there only realized that their haughty, superior attitudes toward these five adults only contribute to their peers remaining in the shadows instead of speaking out like we did, then they might have "less old" pro-life and/or post-abortive public speakers. Why would any of their peers want to subject themselves to ridicule like these few dished out?
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    NATIONAL REVIEW Online's The Corner ~ Kathryn Jean Lopez links to Ap blog, 1/22/07

    Associated Press/San Francisco Chronicle: Banno On Boxer and the Illegal Abortion Deaths Urban Legend

    San Diego Union Tribune: more Boxer Urban-Legend-Debunk coverage

    Ellen Goodman retraction impetus: Aa blog initiates The Straight Dope coverage...and is listed in National Review Senior Editor Ramesh Ponnuru's book The Party of Death, p. 255, Chap. 3 Endnote #11,   4/2006

    NY Daily News: "Atheist's Site Is All The Rave

    "After Abortion,...run by Emily Peterson and Annie Banno, two women who had abortions in the 1970s, ...tries to avoid the political tug-of-war that tends to come with this turf. They concentrate instead on discussing the troubling personal effects of abortion on the mothers." ~ Eric Scheske, Godspy contributing editor, in NC Register's "Signs of Life in the Blogosphere", 2/2006

    "Godbloggers could, in the best of worlds, become the new apologists...[including] laymen with day jobs: Emily Peterson and Annie Banno, for instance, at the blog After Abortion..."~ Jonathan V. Last, The Weekly Standard online editor, in First Things's "God on the Internet", 12/2005

    Amy Welborn, at BeliefNet, links to AfterAbortion blog's Crime & Abortion Series

    Catholic News Service: Silent counterprotest at the March For Choice



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    We are too. Here are folks who can help:

    Feeling Really Bad?: Call
    1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
    & a friend, right now.

    Suicide Hope Lines: U.S.A. (by state) or call 1-800-Suicide (784-2433)

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    George & Linda Zallie, Stacy's parents, "assisting women who made the difficult choice of ending their pregnancy in finding nonjudgmental help" for suicidal feelings.

    For immediate help, call tollfree, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: national, confidential, post-abortion-recovery hotlines:
    1-877-HOPE-4-ME or
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    AbortionChangesYou.com

    "I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion...[many are] aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and [do] not doubt that it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace...You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child..."

    MORE HELP:
    Hope after Abortion
    Ideas for Healing
    Rachel's Vineyard Retreats
    (non-Christians, even non-religious do attend; they also have interdenominational retreats designed expressly for people of any religion or no religion)
    Abortion Recovery
    "Entering Canaan" - a ministry of reverence for women and men who suffer following an abortion
    Lumina - Hope & Healing After Abortion
    Ramah
    Option Line
    Books that help
    (includes non-religious Post Abortion recovery books)
    In Our Midst
    NOPARH
    For MEN - Resources List
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    Obama On Abortion: A Summary 1990-2009

    1) Obama Is 2nd-Highest-Paid Politician by Fannie Mae, Taking $126,346 in only 4 years as Senator; Now Derides GOP/Bush for Allowing Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac To Do Business, When It Was Democrat Presidents Bill Clinton & Jimmy Carter Who Passed The Law Requiring Fannie & Freddie To Give Out Bad Subprime Loans To Those Who Couldn't Afford Them, Which Caused The Entire Financial Meltdown … 2) Jim Johnson (Obama VEEP vetter and former Fannie Mae executive who made millions there) Backpedal … 3) Obama's hiring, connection, support of ACORN, which supported that very law and whose staff have been involved in voter fraud … 4) Rezko's Favor A "Boneheaded" Mistake … 5) Jeremiah Wright Backpedal … 6) Fr. Michael Fleger Backpedal … 7) NAFTA Backpedal … 8) Campaign Financing Backpedal … 9) Mr. "Negotiates-With-Terrorist-States" … 10) Bittergate … 11) Hamas' Chief Political Adviser Hopes BO Will Win Election … 12) Banning Handguns Backpedal … 13) Who Exactly Are "The Rich" He's Going to Sock it to? … 14) Flag Pin Backpedal … 15) Once Open to School Vouchers That Work, Now Deadset Against … 16) Now OK with residual force in Iraq...up to 50,000 troops. … 17) First voted against a law protecting babies who survive an abortion procedure, then lied saying he didn't, then finally forced to admit that he did vote to deny such born babies protection. 18) … "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country." ~ MO

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