The Last Abortion Clinic
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Join the Dicussion: What are your thoughts on the ever-increasing number of laws and regulations being passed at the state level that limit access to abortion?  Do you believe it is changing the face of abortion politics in this country?

Dear FRONTLINE,

My age is 65 and I am the mother of three daughters, one grand daughter and three grandsons. I have been married for 40 years and have watched the world change in many ways.

I remember the fight to win the right for abortion and the joy felt by many of use who had experienced the terror of a back alley abortion, either first hand or through someone about whom we cared. After watching "The Last Abortion Clinic" I fear for our nation and what it says about the role of religion in the present problems facing our country. When are our citizens going to take responsibility and force our politicians to provide proper education for all people so that unplanned pregnancies do not occur? If our citizens were educated from birth with age appropriate facts of reproduction and the responsibility that goes along with bringing a life into this world it might become possible that abortion would no longer be necessary or wanted. The chance of this happening in my lifetime is most questionable. Until such time, everyone must have the right to sexual education and birth control. Abortion will continue, whether legal or illegal. Do caring and concerned people truly want to go back to the "old days" of taking care of unwanted pregnancies with knitting needles, back alley quacks and many more ways about which I do not know?

As with most of the world's problems education is the answer.

Suzanne Brickner
Tulsa, OK

Dear FRONTLINE,

Legalized abortion is the greatest domestic tragedy to befall America in my lifetime. I have roughly 45 million reason to oppose it. Wholly apart from the wanton destruction of human life is that the so called "constitutional right " to choose is nowhere to be found in the Constitution. As I wrote in a letter that appeared in the March 19, 2006 New York Times

"Even if one had no regard for the human life of the fetus wantonly destroyed in abortion, Roe has set a dangerous and destructive precedent. What the ruling in Roe tells us is this: in cases of contrived questions of fact as to the presence of human life, constitutional protections for that life do not apply.

"What this means is that the Supreme Court, the supposed guarantor of these protections, sanctions the destruction of that life, regardless of whether it is human or not."

Richard Escobales
Buffalo, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

Having read some of the conversation link with the group of college women on this page, it saddens me that so much of my generation view abortion as an excuse to live irresponsible lifestyles. I think that a woman had and made a "choice" when she chose to sleep with the father of her baby. She chose to have sex, they chose to not use a condom, etc., and they chose not to be married first. This shows me that my generation has an extreme lack of self-control. The argument being pushed is in the interest of "health", but it is definitely not healthy to be sexually active to begin with -- especially now with rampant STDs. I am a college student, pro-life, and a virgin determined to wait to have sex with her husband -- YES it is possible! This whole issue of abortion "rights" is not, in most cases, about the woman's or the "fetus'" health. I found it likewise interesting that the arguments to support the pro-choice political side, mostly health, etc. reasons, were not the reasons given by the actual abortion clinics. In those cases it was about "unwanted" or "unplanned" pregnancies. This debate is really about actions and consequences when already-made choices catch up to the one who made them. ...

Kendi L
Moscow, Idaho

Dear FRONTLINE,

I have just finished viewing this program and felt that it did strive toward balance, for which I was grateful. But it does raise questions. It is interesting that one of the indicators of poverty in the Delta region was an extremely high infant mortality rate. Does it not stand to reason that abortion is something that adds to the infant mortality rate? If a high infant mortality rate makes a community impoverished, wouldn't more infant deaths make the area more impoverished? I feel a great need to be consistant here.

If we care about the dignity of women, shouldn't we care about the dignity of children? Are the girl children pictured with their mothers in the documentary less human because they were "unplanned" or they came farther down the line in the family? When do humans begin to deserve human dignity? When are the poor to be given dignity? It seems that saying a group is "too poor" to have the right to struggle and raise a family is bigotry.

And what is support for women? The voice over by the abortion clinic operator accused pro-lifers of abandoning women after the child was born. But crisis pregnancy centers were shown to provide for the ongoing needs of women through the distribution of very practical parenting items such as diapers, cribs and food vouchers. (In Cincinnati free parenting classes, job training and information on budgeting are also provided.) What support was given at the abortion clinic? Not even a free ultrasound. ...

To be fair it must be pointed out that abortion is a business. If it isn't a moral or ethical debate then on a practical level it is big business. It is impossible to convince a public that abortion is a "personal choice" for an individual and then complain when laws are inacted that do not place the burden of payment for a woman's "personal choice" on the entire tax paying population.

Jayne Murphy
Cincinnati, Oh

Dear FRONTLINE,

You're program was very informative and so are the many letters received.

While I am glad most of the abortions committed through the firebombings, by a segment of pro-lifers, seems to be a part of our past, I found myself feeling angry about the people who are allowed to legally harass, the patrons of any abortion providing clinic. Seeing this reminds me of how little our society has actually changed in regards to a fundamental respect to women and women's lives. It's ironic that as a culture we entrust the unpregnant woman to make medical decisions about her life and the life of her born child(ren), but irrationally, a woman's morals seem to change once she is pregnant. How odd that she suddenly becomes a human being incapable of making medical decisions for herself and her unborn child. ...

Another thing I want to note is how different the laws are for pro-life clinics vs. pro-choice clinics. Pro-life clinics are not required to give out brochures showing how hazardous pregnancy can be to the life and well-being of a woman, resulting in complications and death. These clinics don't have to provide for the "other side of the story", such as offering contraceptions and contraceptive education, which go against their charters and character, and they don't have to wait 48 hours in order to give a patron an ultrasound. This is so different from all the restrictions placed on pro-choice providers.

Finally, I wonder when we can have some real justice, some real discussions, about the power of life, the responsibility we have to respect and support life with an understanding that with life comes difficult decisions and grief as well as joy. Furthermore, let us remember all the women who died in child-birth, all the children never born to a woman who died of a back alley abortion and couldn't later change her mind, all the children left without a mother's guidance, and all the women who became depressed because they were unwed, pregnant women in a society that saw them as sinners or whores, instead of celebrating these women as bearers of precious life. Roe vs. Wade changed a lot of things, including providing respect for unwed mothers and providing reproductive options to abortions like pregnancy preventing birth control for women and men. This is part of herstory which any number of the young women of today know almost nothing about.

Ms. Barb Cliff
Dubuque, Iowa

Dear FRONTLINE,

In the media, the abortion debate is often posed as a polar issue: about half of the people want abortion to remain legal, while the other half want to be rid of it. In a very simplified sense this is true, but individuals' opinions are shaped by more subtle and human concerns. Contemplation of the issue usually reveals heartfelt compassion for the mother and fetus alike. I think most people feel the apparent contradiction between an ideal that no human life should be willfully destroyed, and an honest admission of the realities of an unwanted pregnancy. People's feelings on the issue are not set by opinion on law, but by their allignment toward idealism or realism, and the preference of their compassion toward fetus or mother.

I'm hopeful for the future, since compassion for mothers in unwanted pregnancy can act in unison with compassion for their fetuses, but I am displeased with how foreign this idea seems in the media. That's where you're report comes in! I think you did a wonderful job presenting a view of the pro-choice activists as "fighting the good fight" for realistic approaches to unwanted pregnancy. However, the pro-life activists you presented were not, as most pro-lifers, driven by concern for an innocent human life trapped in a desperate situation. They belong to a small group who actually find it more appropriate to legislate their values than solutions. Most pro-life sentiment in this country comes from concern for fetuses (with their beating hearts and unique DNA) rather than affinity for moral condemnation. It is crucial that the media, when engaged in exploring the humanity of the issue, be complete in its representation of both persuassions. After all, if the dire situations of both the mother and the child are to be confronted effectively, it is important for people to understand that those who seem to disagree with them likely have a great deal of empathy for their point of view.

BD
Charlottesville, Virginia

Dear FRONTLINE,

I'm solidly pro-life, but I'm disgusted with the pro-life movement itself. Everytime I see footage of self-righteous picketers outside abortion clinics shouting at pregnant women, I want to throw something at the tv. American girls and women are given a very raw deal when they get pregnant. Being a single mom without a college degree often means tremendous self-sacrifice and going without such frills as adequate housing, adequate health care, and financial independence. And don't give me that argument about "personal responsibility" or "getting an education so you can get a good job," because our economy thrives on the ridiculously cheap labor of millions of women in the service industry who still don't make enough to make all ends meet. People complain about welfare, but that is just part of the system that is still in favor of the richest Americans. The record divide between the richest and the poorest Americans we see today didn't happen by accident. Of course abstinence during high school is better emotionally and is the only guaranteed way not to get pregnant, but it is proven that abstinence-only education resuts in much higher teen pregnancy rates than total sex ed. To me, much of the pro-life movement's words are empty because they are the same ones that vote Republican, which means abstinence-only sex ed and pro-business, anti-family legislation.

Ellie McDonnell
Mukilteo, WA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am so grateful that abortion services were available to me when I was 15. I was stupid, plain and simple, and got pregnant. I was blessed to have an understanding mother and a supportive family who gave me the best information they could and then allowed me to make my own decision. My choice to terminate my pregnancy was the best for, not only me and my whole family, but for my unborn child as well.

Odd, some might say. Sick, others might chime in. But there will be still more who might nod their heads in understanding. I believe that everything in life happens for a reason, teaches us something. I also believe that no soul is ever left to waste and Spirit (insert your favorite deity here) will (or has) sent my little one's soul onto another life with someone else who can provide all the love and compassion that a parent should provide.

I was scared and I was without a father for my child. I saw how an unwanted pregnancy at 15 had really ruined my mother's life and future.

I learned one lesson from her and another from my abortion.

I do regret my decision. I have never sufferred medically from it. Yes, I cried and prayed and then found peace with the realization that I had done the right thing.

A woman's right to choose what is best for her should not be negated. Not ever.

Kelly A
O'ahu, Hawaii

Dear FRONTLINE,

I recently watched the Frontline special on the "last abortion clinic." I appreciated the effort to provide balance in the content, with interviews from both sides of the issue. However, the creators of the program were not successful in eliminating personal bias from the tone of the program.

For example, when important pro-life information was presented, it was often undercut by a sardonic "They say ..." remark that never accompanied the pro-choice statements.

The second example of bias was the exclusive focus on religion and the pro-life movement. Groups in the Christian right have made important contributions to the abolition of chattel abortion (as was the case in the 19th century with slavery abolitionists); however, other important pro-life groups have arguments not based in religion, for example, Feminists for Life. The limited focus on religion-based groups tends to reduce the abortion question to a mere contest of Church v. State, which is not accurate nor balanced.

Third, the claim that the pro-life movement is "beginning" to care about the well-being of women as well as unborn children shows a lack of thorough research. Any conscientious study of the pro-life movement for the past 32 years would reveal intense and extensive concern for the mothers and the babies, as well as fathers and other effected family members. My own concern about abortion stems from the 1988 violation of women at a late-term abortion clinic in Tucson, Arizona, and the 1998 death of Lou Ann Herron at the AZ Women's Clinic in Phoenix.

Likewise, I saw bias in the claim that pro-life tactics are "beginning" to reject violence: Violence has never been endorsed by the majority of pro-life groups and individuals. In fact, aversion to the violence of abortion methods is one of the strongest pro-life arguments (see Mother Teresa's 1993 National Prayer Breakfast speech). The media often glamorizes war protestors and yet often vilifies abortion protesters - why?

Can Frontline commentators, producers and directors create a balanced presentation of critical controversial questions without sneaking in their own prejudices? Can they balance the tone as well as the content?

Cynthia Hallen
Pleasant Grove, Utah

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for airing this program at this time, before Ayotte is argued. Living in an all blue state now but having grown up in a rural red one, I believe that people in urban, coastal areas have no concept of how TRAP laws make it virtually impossible for many girls and women to control their own bodies and exercise their rights. When I lived in a rural farm community, there was no way I could have arranged to travel 3 hours and "disappear" for two days (24 hr. waiting period) to have an abortion. No possible way. Why should I or any American citizen who happens to live in a TRAP state be disenfranchised? We need consistent federal standards and regulations for all medical care, including abortions.

Victoria Veh

Dear FRONTLINE,

Abortion is the reason I became a physician.

After college, I worked in an abortion clinic. It was there that I saw how women were hurt by laws that limit access to abortion. They had to travel for miles, cross several states somtimes, to reach our clinic. This meant that they had their abortions away from family, friends, partners who would have offered needed emotional support. They missed days at work, sold treasured belongings for gas or hotel money, and had to come up with excuses to cover their absences so they need not reveal the very personal truth to mere acquaintences.

I never saw the real women I worked with, day in and day out, reflected in either side of the polarized, black-and-white debate of theoretical and abstract ideas about when life begins, the value of women in society or the lofty goal that a perfect birth control method will obviate the discussion.

Instead, I saw real, imperfect women with conflicted emotions. They regretted getting pregnant; they saw abortion as a last resort, a necessary evil. Most were not "prochoice" but simply women who were being the best wives, mothers and daughters they knew how to be. That, in addition to wrestling with balancing what they, their partners, their children wanted--that they should then have to seek out services, travel far from home, go broke in the process of getting their abortions...it added insult to so much injury.

And I knew if I became an abortion provider, I could then be one city closer, a 300 mile shorter ride on the intertstate, to such women.

abortion provider
new york, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

One of the most obvious things presented visually in your piece that was unheralded and missing from the previous discussion is the number of youth involved in the prolife scenes relative to the choice side. Many GenXers and those even younger understand their status as abortion "survivors" and can relate quite readily to the idea that they escaped being tossed in a dumpster along with 1/4 to 1/3 of their peers.

Also to all the folks concerned about the quality of life for poor, underpriveleged children of welfare/teen mothers here in Mississippi or elsewhere I would like you to consider that the 50 million missing Americans claimed by the Roe v. Wade decision may have been able to help create an economy able to take better care of them, whether from the public sector through taxes or the private one through donations. The "brain drain" alone for numbers that large is staggering. Considering also that you have effectively established that abortion access to poor women is limited it must follow that many more abortions occur in women who choose to shed an inconvenience rather than it really being a poverty issue. So a huge section of "middle" America along with all of their descendants has been forever lost and it continues to escalate each day. A holocaust like this can never truly be justified for anyone's individual rights or choices.

Karen Gordon
Central, MS

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was very interested in seeing this program on Frontline. I consider myself pro-life and I thought the program was very well put together and organized. I watched the show with a friend, with a very open mind trying to understand the pro-choice side of the argument. What I found especially disturbing is the way in which a clinic is run. It reminds me of getting a hair or nail appointment. They want you in-and-out as fast as possible. The clinics hate the consent law because it humanizes what a woman will be doing. I however think the consent law is excellent...as a consumer are you not supposed to make the most educated decision about what you do? That's exactly what the consent law does, it shows the facts, and makes the woman think about what she will do before she does it. I agree 100% with this.

I strongly disagree with public funding for abortion. Why is it in this day we feel the need to assist those financially who cannot support themselves? Is this not a prime example of survival of the fittest? These people need to stop being spoon fed for their entire lives and make a change, and they don't need the federal government providing for them forever. This funding should be going toward education, or something that will actually benefit society. ...

I think we as a country need an epiphany of sorts, and I don't know what will do it. I feel we have no respect for life and individual rights. That statement is a paradox, but the right of an unborn child is just as important as the right of the mother.

David S

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a person who was born and adopted in 1970 (before Roe), I feel so fortunate to be alive. My birth mother did not have to consider an option to terminate my life. I am eternally grateful, and obviously inclined to the pro-life cause.

While the pro-life movement in Mississipi is making major strides though law-making, I believe the true way to eliminate abortion is not changing laws, but changing people's hearts. When everyone fully values and honors human life, there will be no demand for aborton. I hope that the news of college women who shun abortion is a sign that more and more hearts are changing.

It is our responsibility to value all human life, which includes helping young women avoid teen sex and pregnancy, and helping women who give birth to unplanned children have brighter futures.

Karen M.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Dear FRONTLINE,

When our society finds a way to make men as emotionally, physically, and financially responsible for pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood as women are, then they can have a say in the matter. When the government is generous enough to provide for the emotional, physical, and financial needs of a woman carrying an unwanted child, then it can have a say in the matter. When churches have enough money and enough infrastructure to offer women care throught pregnancy, childbirth, and 18 years of child-rearing, then they can have a say in the matter. When parents are unequivocally able to put the needs and well-being of their daughters above their own, then they can have a say in the matter.

Until that time, I will continue with my medical education. I will continue to learn how to perform abortions. I will offer my future patients complete reproductive health care and counseling.

medical student
Providence, RI

Dear FRONTLINE,

After reading the discussions that have been posted, I'd like to remind everyone who took the time to comment that we should all be thankful to have the right to discuss this issue openly. Not only for the first amendment, but for the right in America to choose what is right for us as individuals. I hear both men and women state thier opinions and belief with equal passion, and I only hope that thoes who have chosen to be pro-life, have the bravery and compassion to let others choose what is right for them.

Crystal Brandenburg
Portland, Oregon

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posted nov. 8, 2006

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