This testimony was originally given at a “Meet the Abortion Providers” workshop sponsored by the Pro-life Action League of Chicago, directed by Joe Scheidler. For more information see http://prolifeaction.org/providers. Priests for Life offers their video, “Inside the Abortion Industry,” containing excerpts of the testimonies of many former providers. Order the DVD, “Meet the Abortion Providers” at http://prolifeaction.org/store
Posted with permission of the Pro-life Action League, Chicago
Good morning. I’m relatively new in the Pro-Life Movement. My wife, Cecelia, is here as well, and we live in Albany, New York. We didn’t really become active in Pro-Life until approximately the last year and one-half.
One of the people who is very active in Pro-Life in Albany, a man named Dennis Walterding (and a more dedicated person you’ve never seen), warned me when I first joined the group locally and started speaking, that I was going to become very well-known very quickly. I doubted it at the time, but a short time later I find myself standing in Chicago, and he was right.
My wife pointed out to me that I met Dr. Randall for the first time a couple of years ago at the New York State Right-to-Life Convention, and did not realize until today that he was also a graduate of the Albany Medical Center in Albany, New York. You are going to think that every abortionist in the country is trained there, but that’s not true.
I have practiced obstetrics and gynecology in private practice since 1980. My residency started in 1976, four years of residency until 1980, and then I went into private practice, first in Florida for a year, and then in New York State. As part of my training, I was taught to do abortions.
I’ve heard different things from different people about their training programs. Many people have asked me: Were you forced to do abortions? Were you pressured to do abortions during your residency? And the answer is no. Having spoken to other people, I found that was not the case at different institutions. Apparently, a lot of obstetrical and gynecologic residents are very, very pressured to do abortions, but that was not the case where I trained. In our group of seven, only one did not want to do abortions and did not. He currently practices in Boston.
Unlike some of the other speakers, I have never been involved in a large-scale abortion mill, a business (and it is a business, don’t kid yourselves) that was set up for the sole purpose of performing abortions. My experiences are perhaps a little more universal in terms of obstetricians and gynecologists in the country who were trained to do abortions during their residencies and then continued doing so as a part of their private practice, but not even the major part. Certainly it was never a major part of our private practice.
My partner and I, however, were relatively important in the Albany area for one infamous fact, which to this day I regret. Our group was just about the only group that was performing late abortions, D&E procedures, Dilatation and Evacuation. And we received referrals from all over the area in our part of the state from not only just the doctors in Albany and Schenectady, but from neighboring counties 70 to 80 miles away. We had a lot of patients.
I’ve never actually counted. I’m glad I can’t say that I’m responsible for 50,000 plus abortions, but I know I’ve done hundreds of the procedures, and that’s direct, hands-on involvement, as Mr. Scheidler said, with the forceps in your hand, reaching into somebody’s uterus and tearing out a baby.
People ask, why do doctors do abortions? Many of the reasons have come out already, and I am going to amplify them. It’s profitable, a lot of money in it! One way to make abortion less available is to make it unprofitable, and there are probably a lot of ways you can do that.
I am curious to talk to some of the other speakers in terms of the issue of liability insurance. I don’t know what the laws are like someplace else, and it’s an interesting tack to follow. But in New York State there’s no insurance penalty at all that I’m aware of. You pay one flat rate; it’s a high rate, I can tell you. But you pay one flat rate for your insurance and then you can do anything. You can do radical surgery for cancer; you can do deliveries; you can do abortions until they come out of your ears. There’s no insurance penalty in New York State.
Why do doctors do abortions? Why did I do abortions? There’s a philosophical thing that comes first. As I’m fond of telling people, if you are pro-choice or what a lot of people like to say, morally neutral on the subject (if there is such a thing, and I don’t really think there is), if you are pro- choice and you happen to be a gynecologist, then it’s up to you to take the instruments in hand and actively perform an abortion. It’s the most natural association in the world. And you do that as part of your training. There’s a lot to learn from abortion. It sounds awful, but it’s true. There’s a lot of medical things you can learn by doing abortions that even translate into the rest of your practice… how to do a good D&C; how to do a good D&C under difficult circumstances. A D&C during abortion is more dangerous than a D&C done for any other purpose. I was taught to do saline abortions during my residency. I am going to assume that most of the people here are fairly sophisticated and know what these procedures entail. When I give talks at home, I have a slide presentation because a lot of people don’t know what abortion is about. They don’t know what is being aborted, and they don’t know how it is being done. But doing a saline abortion teaches you how to do a good amniocentesis. I think I do the best amniocentesis in town, and I learned it doing abortions.
In any case, if you are of a persuasion that, yes, women have a choice; if you’ve been sold that bill of goods and you believe it, and you’re a gynecologist, then you do them.
Along the way you find out you make a lot of money doing abortions. Now you can make a lot of money being a doctor anyway, and I’m not going to try to snow you and say that’s not true. I make a very good living. I hope I always do. But I won’t make another dime doing an abortion! It’s not worth it to me.
There’s a very big discrepancy in the kind of fees that doctors collect. They’re not always figured out in any kind of logical way. I’ll give you an example. When I am going to deliver a baby, I’m going to have that woman in my office for seven to eight months; she will have unlimited office visits. I get calls all hours of the day and night. More often than not, I’m getting up in the middle of the night. In Eastern New York I can tell you, at this time of year, it’s not a particularly fun thing to do: to go out in a blizzard and drive to the hospital, sit by a bedside for hours watching somebody in labor, accomplishing the delivery, hoping to God that everything works out well, as it usually does. And then following her afterwards; follow-up visits in the office. Then you wait and you expect that everything’s over. Usually it is over, but sometimes it’s not. Six or seven years later you suddenly get a request from a lawyer that they want the medical records because the baby has a problem of some sort. That doesn’t mean you’re responsible, but this nation is set up in such a way that families, if they have a deformed or an unhealthy child for any reason, and healthcare costs being what they are, when you have a disabled child (anyone here who has one can tell you), your medical costs are going to be in the tens of thousands, easily, and can run up to very high numbers. You have no recourse; you have no source of funds, other than going back and suing the people who did the delivery in the first place. It’s a big responsibility. I could be an ophthalmologist and I could take a cataract out; it would take me about 30 minutes and I’d make $2,000. There are discrepancies in the way those fees are figured.
Or I can do an abortion. I can work in an abortion clinic, I work 9:00 to 5:00; I’m never bothered at night; I never have to go out on weekends; I make more money than my obstetrician brethren. And I don’t have to face the liability. That’s a big factor, a huge perk.
In my practice, we were averaging between $250 and $500 for an abortion, and it was cash. That’s the one time as a doctor you can say, either pay me up front or I’m not going to take care of you. It’s totally elective. When a woman comes to me and is pregnant, and her husband’s lost a job, and maybe their insurance isn’t in effect, we won’t turn her away. But when somebody’s going to have an abortion, it’s an elective procedure. Either you have the money or you don’t, and they get it.
You can go in on a Monday morning, do three or four abortions (the procedure itself doesn’t take five or six minutes), clean up the room, make room for the next patient, put her in. I’ll be out of there in two hours; be out in time for lunch; nobody’s going to call me at night; and I almost never, never have to worry about her lawyer ever bothering me. And I’m going to make the same amount of money as if I did one delivery with all those months of work. Now, who’s the fool? The ProLife obstetrician or the abortionist?
There are other reasons; they’re perhaps no less important. I’ve heard many times from other obstetricians: Well, I’m not really pro-abortion, I’m pro-woman. How many times have you heard that one? The women’s groups in this country, they’re not alone, but they’ve done a very good job of selling that bill of goods to the population. That somehow destroying a life is being pro-woman, but a lot of obstetricians use that justification to themselves, and I can tell you, a lot of them believe it. I used to. It’s not hard to be convinced of it.
I go to groups often. When you do these talks, everyone can tell you, you either get a friendly crowd or you get a hostile crowd. This is a friendly crowd. Actually, I like the hostile crowds better; they’re more fun. But when you go to a hostile crowd–I was in a debate with a young lady who worked at Planned Parenthood at the State University of New York at Albany–you get the same lines. The pro-woman line always comes out; that somehow by refusing to do abortions I’m putting women down. I’m told that I’m forcing women to be incubators. I didn’t force her to get pregnant. I was nowhere in the room! But you hear this all the time. An argument that you can use (it’s very simple and I use it every time, and it at least stops them for two seconds) is: Gee, you are working hard to support the rights of women. How about the 750,000 women that died as a result of the abortion procedure every year? Why are you forgetting them? It’s very tough to answer that question.
A lot of doctors are not terribly comfortable doing abortions. Again, I don’t have the experience of a lot of doctors. I’ve never made my living by doing abortions only. That would be a little difficult if you were making several hundred thousand dollars a years, and I can tell you that’s well within the realm of possibility. Heavens, if a clinic worker can make $150,000 a year and she’s not even the doctor, just picture what the doctor’s probably making. It’s very difficult if your entire income depends on abortion, but when it doesn’t (and that’s the majority of doctors in this country, in view at least, who are doing abortions), they don’t depend on abortion for their income. It’s easy income, but they don’t depend on it. A lot of doctors are not terribly comfortable.
As I said, a big part of my talk is my slide presentation, and it’s very simple because what it amounts to is showing slides of fetuses from 24 weeks down. As you know, the Roe v. Wade decision allows abortion all through pregnancy, at any time during pregnancy. Technically, the last three months are for “health” reasons, which is not defined in the law. But you can get an abortion up to six months for no reason at all, just because you want one. So I start at that six month level and I work back in my slide presentation, and people are surprised to see that, except for size, there’s really not a whole lot of difference between a 24-week fetus and an 8-week fetus, and I step them back.
You know, with doctors it’s different. They know this. I can’t give that talk to doctors. They took this in their first year of medical school. It’s called Embryology; we all take it. And they know darn well what a 6-week fetus looks like, and an 8-week fetus, and a 10-week fetus. And they know that these children are formed. I can tell you (at least in my experience with the people I’ve worked with), a lot of them are pretty uncomfortable with it. It’s not something they particularly like to do. I’m going to say that in those cases (I’m not talking about the big abortion clinics. You’ve got a real problem there and you’ve got to work real hard at it), but for the average doctor in your communities it may not be all that difficult to get them to stop. As I always tell people, it took a 2 x 4 across my head to get me to stop, and I’m going to talk about that in a little while. It may not be all that difficult because you are going to find that they probably don’t particularly like doing them. It’s messy. It’s dirty. They know it.
In any case, there are plenty of reasons why doctors do them, and in the case at least of a doctor like myself, who is not drawing a substantial portion of his income from doing abortions, you can get to them. It’s not that difficult, but it does take an effort.
I did abortions in my office and in the hospital, including D&E abortions in private practice in the Detroit area from 1981 until 1985. My experiences are not all that unique. I was not terribly comfortable with abortions. I had some personal reasons why I was not comfortable with it.
Starting with my residency, I was learning the trade of obstetrics and gynecology. It is a skill you develop. It is like anything else, you learn more by doing and the more you do, the better you get at it. We attended the abortion clinic at the Albany Medical Center once a week. Let me tell you–it was full. They were booked up for months. In fact, they were constantly putting people in as emergencies because they were getting so far along that they were not going to be able to have their abortions at all. We booked a lot of patients, on a weekly basis, through that clinic for D&E abortions and for saline abortions and for prostaglandin abortions.
During my training time between 1976 and 1980, D&Es weren’t done yet. That was still to come. I know it was being done in a few places, but it was a difficult procedure that few people had learned–certainly almost no one in my area. In fact, it was really grizzly because if someone walked in after 12 weeks, but not quite 16, we used to make them wait a month until the babies got big enough so we could do a saline, and that was standard procedure.
At least once a week–sometimes twice–I would be the resident whose turn it was to sit down and do the four, or five, or six suction D&C abortions that morning. When you finish a suction D&C the doctor has to open a little suction bag and he has to literally reassemble the child. You have to do that because you want to make sure he didn’t leave anything behind.
I had complications, just like everybody else. I have perforated uteruses. I have had all kinds of problems– bleeding, infection–Lord knows how many of those women are sterile now. I remember getting called down to my chairman’s office because a young lady that I had done an abortion on showed up, interestingly enough in Troy, New York (where I now work), and the abortion had been incomplete. I had not done my job right, and she passed an arm or a leg and she freaked out because she didn’t realize what had happened.
My discomfort came at that point because there was this tremendous conflict going on within me. Here I was; I was doing my D&Cs five and six a week, and I was doing salines on a nightly basis whenever I was on call. The resident on call got the job of doing the salines and there would usually be two or three of those, and they were horrible because you saw one intact, whole baby being born, and sometimes they were alive. That was very, very frightening. It was a very stomach-turning kind of existence. Yet, I was doing that at the same time that my wife and I were trying to have a child, and we were having difficulty with that. We had been married a couple of years at that point–and no baby. Suddenly, we realized that we had an infertility problem. I kept doing abortions; I didn’t stop. But it was tough. We were going crazy trying to find a baby to adopt because once the work-up was done, we found out, as the infertility specialist said (who was a good friend of ours), I never tell anyone they are not going to get pregnant, but don’t count on it. So we started desperately looking for a baby to adopt, and I was throwing them in the garbage at the rate of nine and ten a week. It even occurred to me then: I wish one of these people would just let me have their child. But it doesn’t work that way. So the conflict was there. There are other conflicts that make the run-of-the-mill gynecologist/obstetrician uncomfortable.
Most of the time in our practice was not spent doing abortions. It was providing obstetrical care for people who wanted their children. It is very common for your obstetrician to have an ultrasound machine. I bet the majority of obstetricians now have ultrasound machines in their office. We use that ultrasound machine on a daily basis. As a doctor, you know that these are children; you know that these are human beings with arms and legs and heads and they move around and they are very active. But you get reminded–every time you put that scanner down on somebody’s uterus–you are reminded. Because you see the children in there–hearts beating, arms flinging. We have a ball with it. It is a lot of fun. I showed a mother two days ago her baby sucking his thumb. It was so clear; it was obvious what was going on–14 weeks. You can see them earlier than that. We have people coming in who have bleeding and who are afraid they may have a miscarriage–now this is someone who wants to have their child. There is no better news for me than to put that scanner on them at seven and eight weeks and show them a heartbeat and say: Your baby is okay. You do that as an obstetrician all the time. And then, an hour later, you walk into an operating room and you do an abortion. It’s hard. If you have any heart at all, and I don’t pretend to be a particularly good or moral person, but if you have any heart at all, it affects you.
We were lucky. My wife and I were very fortunate because we had gone through all the usual adoption agencies and social services and state agencies trying to find our child. We ran up against one road block after another, until I suddenly got the bright idea (and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner), that I know 45 obstetricians on a first-name basis in this town. You can’t tell me that one of them is not going to have a baby available for a private adoption. So, we advertised. We talked to every obstetrician in town and we struck pay dirt. It still took four months. But one day we got a call. I was in the operating room and I will never forget it–I was not doing an abortion–I was assisting an attending gynecologist with an operation. Somebody tapped me on the back of the shoulder and I turned around and he said: Call so-and-so right away. That was all the message said, but I just knew what it was. For us, we were very fortunate; we were blessed. Three days later we had adopted a healthy little girl. We were satisfied. We called her Heather.
After graduation, I went to Florida for a year. Nice weather, but it was not a place for a young couple with young children–at least the place where we had settled–so after a year, we left there. I think I did two abortions all year and that’s because there was an older population there. There was not much of a demand, at least in the area that I was in.
I found myself back in the Albany area. We went back there because that was where our roots were. My partner did D&E abortions. In fact, he was the referral center for D&E abortions in the area. I had only done one D&E abortion as a resident, and it was with him because he was, at the time, just exploring the idea of doing it. Normally, the residents did not assist the attending physicians when they did their abortions. I said, “Gee, Bill, I would like to see just one of those things.” He said, “Well … why don’t you do it and I’ll show you how it works, because it’s different; it’s not like the other abortions. It’s very different.” No more with this saline. You trade one kind of brutality for another. I will tell you one thing about D&E, you never have to worry about a baby being born alive. That’s one positive aspect of it, perhaps, if you want to put it that way. If any of you don’t know what D&E is all about, I am not going to describe it other than to say, as a doctor, you are sitting there tearing, and I mean tearing–you need a lot of strength to do it–arms and legs off of babies and putting them in a stack on top of a table. If any of you don’t know what a D&E is or what it looks like, I am going to strongly refer you to Dr. Nathanson’s film, Eclipse of Reason. I think it is an absolutely superb piece of work, and when that film is over, you are going to know what D&E is all about.
As a resident, I did one D&E with my partner-to-be. I had no idea we would be partners in the years to come. I started the procedure. I followed his directions and in three minutes, I perforated the uterus. It is very easy to do. We were able to complete the D&E and, except for the infection she got afterwards, she did okay. I do believe that the lady had some children afterwards, for which I am grateful. That was my first experience with D&E.
So, I learned to do D&E abortions. Now I had a family of my own, and there was no pressure to adopt a child anymore. As often happens, although the books say it is not supposed to, (not that it is not supposed to but it doesn’t statistically make any difference) after we adopted a child, after years of trying, we had a child of our own. So we had a boy and a girl, and we were perfectly happy with that.
We can talk about why doctors do abortions, and I think that the reasons tend to be more or less universal. But why doctors change their mind, my guess at least, is very personal. It is going to be very different from one doctor to the next. We all respond to different kinds of pressures. Our office was picketed. Our hospital was picketed. It is very uncomfortable to have people milling around all the time and you know they are directing it at you. They are not as nice as Mr. Scheidler. They did not put our names on the banners or anything. That would have made it all the worse. It was bad enough. It is a drag driving your Mercury through a line of people who are handing you leaflets through the window. But, we did. There was a Fundamentalist church down the road that had organized this thing and they were there every blessed day–rain, sunshine, cold, snow–they did it. They got the hospital to stop doing abortions. I will give you a hint. They had an administrator who was sympathetic. But they also got to the nurses in the operating room. You know, a doctor cannot do an operating room abortion without an assistant, and when they got all the assistants, and all the women in the OR who didn’t want to do them anyway, to say, “I don’t want to do this anymore,” there weren’t any assistants left. Ergo–no abortions. The hospital did not do any more abortions. They succeeded in that regard, but we just took our business down the road. You have to get to them all at once. It is difficult.
In this atmosphere, we just went along–fat, dumb and happy for several years. As I said, my reasons for quitting were a lot more personal, but maybe, I hope, you could draw something from it.
Life was good until June 23, 1984. On that date, I was on call, but I was at home at the time, and we had some friends over, and our children were playing in the back of the yard. At 7:25 that evening, we heard the screech of brakes out in front of the house. We ran outside and Heather was lying in the road. We did everything we could, and she died. (Please excuse me–I have never talked about this at a conference before.
I went to a Catholic conference in Connecticut a couple of weeks ago. I gave my usual talk and didn’t go into the whys, and one of the bishops came up to me afterwards. He said to me: You haven’t told me why you quit. I kind of avoided it. I told him, and he was the one who encouraged me by saying, you should tell that story. You should let people know.)
Let me tell you something. When you lose a child, your child, life is very different. Everything changes. All of a sudden, the idea of a person’s life becomes very real. It is not an embryology course anymore. It’s not just a couple of hundred dollars. It’s the real thing. It’s your child you buried. The old discomforts came back in spades. I couldn’t even think about a D&E abortion anymore. No way. I kind of carried on business as usual because you try to get on with your life’s business as usual when somebody dies, and I still did just the office abortions for the next few months.
My wife has said many times that she wishes she had videotapes of me during that time. We were under enough strain as it was, but if I knew I had an abortion scheduled in the office the next day, I got very surly. I was hard to be around. I was getting very, very rough with the staff in our office. Every time somebody came up to me and said “I have a patient who needs an abortion. Can you do her on Thursday morning?” I became very angry. I began feeling that people were doing something to me. This was ridiculous–I was doing it to myself. After a few months of that, you start to realize this is somebody’s child. I lost my child, someone who was very precious to us. And now I am taking somebody’s child and I am tearing him right out of their womb. I am killing somebody’s child.
That is what it took to get me to change. My own sense of self-esteem went down the tubes. I began to feel like a paid assassin. That’s exactly what I was. You watch the movies; somebody goes up to somebody, pays them some money to kill somebody. That’s exactly what I was doing. And when my own sense of self-esteem went down the drain, that was all it took.
It is still “old habits die hard.” But it got to a point, and Cic and I talked about it together, that it just wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth it to me anymore. The money wasn’t worth it. I don’t care. This is coming out of my hide; it is costing me too much. It is costing me too much personally. For all the money in the world, it wouldn’t have made any difference. So I quit. I slept a lot better at night after that. It really made a difference.
There may be the key there. Not every abortionist is going to lose a child or have something profoundly affect their lives; but therein, perhaps, lies the key: If you can make doing the abortion cost the obstetrician/gynecologist more than he is getting from it. What he is getting from it is money. I can tell you, he doesn’t really get anything else. We don’t get any great feeling of accomplishment–at least, I never did. Even if you believe the pro-woman line, I just somehow never got some warm glow because I thought I was helping women out. All he gets from it is money. And as a doctor, he can make money lots of ways. He doesn’t have to do it this way.
As I said, being picketed is very uncomfortable. They even got personal about it. I never had my home picketed. I never saw my name on a sign, but it is very uncomfortable.
We belong to a group in Albany called Citizens Concerned for Human Life. It is a mainstream Pro-Life group, formally in existence for three years. One thing that our group is organizing, which others may want to consider, is a boycott of local gynecologists. You can affect the gynecologists economically (there is nothing we like more than our income–at least that’s what people always tell us). But you need stronger tactics when you are talking about an abortion clinic. When you are talking about the mainstream gynecologist, the kind that probably all the women in this room go to, find out if he does abortions. It is easy. Tell him how you feel. With a little bit of effort–it doesn’t take a lot of effort–you can organize as we did. You can organize lists of gynecologists in your local areas. You can recruit some women to call up. It’s the, “Hi, I am Betsy Ross. My last period was two months ago. I am thinking of having an abortion. Does the doctor perform abortions?” We did it. I think there were just two or three phone calls. We wouldn’t rely on just one phone call. We would make three phone calls–different people, at all different times, all asking about the same doctor, and documented this all very carefully because, obviously, when your boycott goes into effect, people are going to get upset. You can produce the documentation and say that on such-and-such a date, this person called, and on such-and-such a date, this person called, and we know that Dr. “X” does abortions.
I offer the suggestion to women who are willing to do it. If you have a gynecologist that you know and you trust, and have trusted over the years, you have to decide whether you want to give that doctor up because he does abortions. I can tell you that if enough women come to you–and I told you, it takes years to build a practice–and say, “I think you are a great doctor. We have gotten along very well, but I can’t go to you anymore because you perform abortions.” This can have a real effect. As I said, to most of the average gynecologists in their offices, abortion is not a big part of their business. If they see another part of their business going out the door because of it, it will make it cost them more than it’s worth. It is a possibility. You have to decide if you are comfortable with that.
Just because a doctor doesn’t do abortions doesn’t mean he is a good doctor. I get that all the time. People just seem to think, “Oh, you don’t do abortions? You must be a good doctor.” I am a human being. I make mistakes. I have complications. I think I am a good doctor. Ask my patients. They can tell you. But it is one way. There are other ways. If you can make it less profitable, affect them other ways, especially economically, you might be able to make a difference.
There are a lot of fence-sitters out there. Not every abortionist is some guy that has blood dripping from his teeth and drives this gold-plated Cadillac and all those other things. Most of them are average people, just like myself. You can probably make a difference. It is not that important to them.
There are a lot of other ways you can influence abortionists. I am not even going to start. Mr. Scheidler is the expert on this with his [book] 99 Ways to Stop Abortion. His book has a lot of good, solid suggestions.
Something I emphasize that I think is effective is the misconception in the public of what is being aborted. I hear this all the time. It is driving me crazy. “It is a blob of tissue.” How many times have you heard that one? All the time. “It’s a blob of tissue.” one of my best friends is a Ph.D. microbiologist and he is the head of research for a major pharmaceutical company. This is not a bimbo. He knows. He knows me well, and it is very unlike me to get up in front of a group of people and take a strong vocal, public stand on anything, and he knows that. In the last year or so, all of sudden, he sees us, my wife and I, both doing this and it got his curiosity going. So we had a discussion about it. I didn’t really know how he felt about it. They have a couple of children; a nice family; they do just fine. I couldn’t believe it–a Ph.D. microbiologist! You have to hear this guy talk about all the new cancer drugs on the horizon, the things that he is developing. He is very educated and very clever. My jaw hit the floor when he said, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a blob of tissue.” That was a Ph.D. microbiologist! What do you think the average person in the street thinks? People just don’t know.
People in this country, Americans, have a heart. They really do. I don’t know of anyone else in this world who gives the way we do when people are starving in Ethiopia or any other place. We have our problems, a lot of problems, and I don’t agree with everything this government does and I think we do a lot of bad things, but this country has heart. When Jessica, that little girl in Midland, Texas, fell down the hole, the country went crazy. Every time I clicked on the TV, I was getting another hourly report on Jessica’s health. This went on for days. All this effort, all this coverage, all this sympathy for one little girl. What about all the other 750,000 little girls who get ground up in suction machines every year? I think at least in part it is because people don’t know.
I gave a presentation in my church and showed a fetus at 24-weeks. Let me tell you, you put a picture of a 24-week fetus on the screen and nobody has any doubt that that is a baby. No one. You can work backwards to the point where a woman first knows she is pregnant and it still looks like a baby to me–and everybody else. I tried it in my church–it is real friendly territory. The first time in my own church, one person, an English teacher in a local high school, had his mind made up that he was pro-choice. He is still pro-choice, but especially from this person, if you met him, you would know what I mean. It was a high compliment when he came up to me and said: “I am very pro-choice and I still feel that way, but I never thought that your talk would affect me the way it has.” I got my foot in the door with that person and I am going to keep chipping at him. There are other people in that church who sat during that presentation, not quite as hard as nails as he was, that had the same thought. They were pro-choice when they walked in the door; now they are not so sure. You can educate people. That’s my approach. Everybody does their thing for Pro-Life. For me, it is trying to educate people. I am trying to tell them. I want the general public to know what the doctors know: That this is a person. This is a baby. This is not some kind of blob of tissue and it does make a difference. That is my bit.
The insurance issue is of great interest to me. I have jotted down some notes because that is a new one. I didn’t realize that other states were charging a penalty for insurance. That is something we are going to have to look at. It’s not the case in New York state, not legislature, it gives our group access to some of the lawmakers a little better than some other people in the state.
In asking me to come today, Mr. Scheidler said he would like to hear a few words about what I think the Pro-Life Movement does right and what we do best, and perhaps some things I might criticize. I am just going to say briefly that one of the most rewarding things about working in Pro-Life has been meeting and getting to know some very fine, dedicated people who have a lot of heart and are willing to stick their necks out in an unpopular cause to right something that they see is wrong. That has been a wonderful experience and a big part of it for us.
If I had to pick one thing I think is something that I am not happy with about Pro-Life, it is the disorganization. It is terrible. At least there is some coordination between the offices, but my impression has been, in talking to other people, that there has been so much disorganization. There is a lot of good effort going on, that I think that a lot of the effort is wasted because you are not working together. NOW works together, and Planned Parenthood works together. You are against very, very potent forces that are organized, monied and very strong and very influential. You have to start coordinating your efforts or you are going to be wasting a lot of your energy.
One other thing that I wanted to mention is something that I want to throw out because it is something I want to learn from the conference: the state of parental consent laws in other areas. We did abortions, all right, but I am going to pat us a little bit on the back. We would never, never, touch a minor without parental consent. You just don’t do that. You don’t do operations on kids without their parents’ consent–written consent. We turned down lots of girls because they were 15 or 16; we caught a few of them lying about their ages because they knew our policy, but it was: I’m sorry, if you are not 18, I cannot do this without parental consent. Then I started realizing that this is not the way it is. In New York City, you can walk into an abortion mill at 14, 15, and get your abortion. No problem. No doctor in this country, as far as I know, can legally take your tonsils out if you don’t have parental consent, so why can you do an abortion without the parent’s consent? But this is a very big battle in New York State right now, and one that we are actively engaged in. I would like to hear more about that because I think that is a very important issue for another reason. A lot of people are, as I have said, pro-choice, pro-woman. I don’t care what you want to call it. A lot of those people who are pro-choice, maybe adamantly so, have children, too. I don’t care how pro-choice they are, but I bet you money, dollars-to-doughnuts, if you pinned them against the wall, they don’t want anybody touching their minor children without them knowing about it — whether they are pro-choice or not. To me, this is an issue that cuts across the lines. One that you can get people on both sides of the fence to agree on. It is one step that I think is an important one and one that we are working actively for.
Streaming Video: Dr. Levatino demonstrates an abortion procedure (22:00)
By his public witness on behalf of the pre-born, Dr. Levatino is helping to lift our society out of the darkness in which he himself was once enslaved. And he knows the grace and forgiveness of God. -Fr. Pavone