Transcript

The Abortion Divide

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MARK OBENHAUS, Producer/narrator:

Thirty-six years ago, I spent weeks in Chester, Pennsylvania, making a film about abortion for FRONTLINE’s first season. It was 10 years after Roe v. Wade.

[Excerpt from 1983 film]

JESSICA SAVITCH, FRONTLINE anchor:

Tonight, on Frontline, for the first time on American television: the experience of abortion.

GEORGE ISAJIW, M.D., Catholic Medical Association:

With this vacuum cleaner-type tube, the baby is literally pulled apart and ripped to pieces.

JESSICA SAVITCH:

This is the story of the anguish of four women:

two who decide to have their babies and two who choose to come here, “The Abortion Clinic.”

[End of excerpt]

MARK OBENHAUS:

The film revolved around the Reproductive Health and Counseling Center. Women who came to the abortion clinic spoke about their decisions.

[Excerpt from 1983 film]

FEMALE CLINICIAN:

Can you tell me why you chose this option, as opposed to the other ones? Do you know what they are?

HELEN:

No.

FEMALE CLINICIAN:

You don't know what your other options are?

HELEN:

Well, keeping it, a-, adoption.

FEMALE CLINICIAN:

Mmhmm.

HELEN:

But I know, if I went through the nine months, I would have kept it.

FEMALE CLINICIAN:

Mmhmm.

HELEN:

And then it wouldn't have had the life, a good life, because I, I can't support myself yet.

FEMALE CLINICIAN:

Mmhmm.

HELEN:

And I wouldn't be able to handle being a single parent on my own.

PROTESTORS OUTSIDE THE REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND COUNSELING CENTER:

Our Father, who art in heaven…

MARK OBENHAUS:

Those in the community who steadfastly opposed abortion and the clinic’s existence marched outside.

GEORGE ISAJIW:

Girls are coming here on Saturday morning to have abortions. We pray for their babies and for them, and we also pray for the, for the abortionists, maybe some of them don’t realize what they’re doing.

PROTESTORS OUTSIDE THE REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND COUNSELING CENTER:

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

[End of excerpt]

MARK OBENHAUS:

Last year, I returned to Pennsylvania, once again to a community that is, today, even more bitterly divided over abortion than it was 36 years ago.

MARK OBENHAUS:

The conflict may be decades old…

…but one thing has not changed: women facing unplanned pregnancies still confront the same urgent and sometimes wrenching decision.

The original clinic, from the first film, merged with another clinic that now operates out of this unremarkable building in Philadelphia.

PAT STANTON, Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia:

Mercy! Have a heart!

MARK OBENHAUS:

There are no signs for the clinic, but there are always protesters on the streets outside.

MONIQUE RUBERU, OB-GYN:
Excuse me, ma'am? Do you know how many babies are killed here? Ma'am?

AMY, Philadelphia Women’s Center staff:

[On phone] :

You'd like to make an appointment?

MARK OBENHAUS:

The Philadelphia Women’s Center began providing abortions in 1973. As many as 6,000 pregnancies a year are terminated here.

FEMALE VOICE, Philadelphia Women’s Center staff:

Have absolutely nothing to eat, drink or chew.

AMY:

And do you have any children?

SANDY, Philadelphia Women’s Center patient:

Six: one, two, three, four, nine, 10. Mmhmm.

MARK OBENHAUS:

Dr. Rebecca Mercier has been an abortion provider for 11 years.

REBECCA MERCIER, OB-GYN, Philadelphia Women’s Center:

Every kind of woman gets abortions: women who are young, women who are old; women of all races; women of all religions; women who it’s their first pregnancy, women with lots of children; women who never thought that they would be seeking an abortion. We see all of them here.

MARK OBENHAUS:

The clinic operates five days a week. On some of the days we were there, there were as many as 60 patients.

Dr. Lisa Perreira has been an abortion provider since 2003.

LISA PERREIRA, OB-GYN, Philadelphia Women’s Center:

The patients are so thankful and appreciative that they can come somewhere and be treated with dignity and respect, because they're making a choice that is theirs to make.

Nurse:

Do you have any children?

SHAHARRA, Philadelphia Women’s Center patient:

Yes, four.

Nurse:

Okay. Any stillborns?

SHAHARRA:

No.

Nurse:

Any miscarriages?

SHAHARRA:

No.

Nurse:

Have you ever had an abortion before?

SHAHARRA:

Mmhmm, one.

Well, this is my choice, that I'm doing because I don’t want to bring another child into the world, and I’m not financially stable. I’m already struggling with the four that I have. So, I’m not sure what my other option would be, but if this wasn’t an option, then I know I would be struggling.

MARK OBENHAUS:

Most of the women we approached to be in the film declined. Those who chose to speak, like Shaharra and Taryn, told us they wanted their stories to be heard.

TARYN, Philadelphia Women’s Center patient:

I’d had unprotected sex, just one time, with someone that I’d been seeing. And I thought, well, you know, surely one time, you know, I would just get sort of a grace period on that. I had essentially talked myself out of the fact that I was pregnant.

Ultrasound technician:

Have you ever had a vaginal ultrasound?

TARYN:

I don’t think so.

Ultrasound technician:

Okay. A little bit of gel, a little bit of pressure. Here’s the camera, on the tip, gives me a nice, clean look inside the uterus.

TARYN:

I already have two small children. I have a six-year-old and a four-year-old from a previous marriage, and I’m recently single. I have a corporate career. And so I decided that the best thing for me to do at this point in my life was going to be to terminate the pregnancy.

Ultrasound technician:

So, your ultrasound results, I saw a multiple pregnancy. So, I saw twins.

TARYN:

Wow.

Ultrasound technician:

Okay, I measured one at 5.4, so five weeks and four days; and twin B at 5.6. Okay?

TARYN:

Okay.

Ultrasound technician:

All right. So, I’m going to do your blood pressure. Now, does this change anything in your decision today?

TARYN:

No.

Ultrasound technician:

And it doesn’t change anything on our end, as well.

TARYN:

Okay.

Ultrasound technician:

So everything stays just the same.

TARYN:

This is not a position that I ever thought I would be in. My initial thought was, I should tell no one about this. Right? Like this should just be, you know, a secret that I, that I take to my, that I take to my grave, because it’ll change how people you know, see me fundamentally, or, or people will judge me for this.

JENNIFER, Philadelphia Women’s Center staff:

Come right in here.

CHRISTINE, Philadelphia Women’s Center patient:

Okay.

JENNIFER:

And you can set your things down anywhere you like.

I’m going to have you lay back right where you are, and just open your pants for me.

CHRISTINE:

Okay.

JENNIFER:

So, the gel's going to feel a little cold on your stomach, okay?

CHRISTINE:

Mmhmm.

JENNIFER:

I'm seeing something that resembles another sac, twins.

CHRISTINE:

Oh, my god.

JENNIFER:

So, I'm going to do some…

CHRISTINE:

What does that mean? So like, like, is the procedure any different?

JENNIFER:

No, it's exactly the same. It's no different.

CHRISTINE:

Why does it feel so different?

JENNIFER:

Why does it feel different?

CHRISTINE:

[Crying]

God, yeah.

When she said that there were twins, I wasn't prepared for that at all. I didn't even consider the possibility. I don't know. It's not a rational thing. It felt, it made things a little different.

MICAH, Christine’s partner:

It's a hard decision.

EDIE, Philadelphia Women’s Center staff:

It completely does. You guys, you're six weeks, right now, which means you have plenty of time. Do you feel like if you guys went home and thought about it for like, even like a few days, and made sure that this is what you want to do, like that would give you a little more time to think about it? Like, I want you to be certain that this is what you want to do.

MICAH:

It was, it was a double punch.

EDIE:

Oh, yeah, for sure.

MICAH:

It was…we’re not taking this lightly at all.

EDIE:

I want you guys to be confident, and you can always reschedule and come back on Tuesday, if you want.

CHRISTINE:

I appreciate that. And I, I... the force that…, our son couldn't do it. He is on the spectrum, non-specific autism, more leaning towards Asperger’s. He doesn't like to interact with humans. He doesn't like children, at all. I think that this has a lot to do with Nobel, a lot to do with my son.

MEGAN, Philadelphia Women’s Center patient:

We've been married for five years. We have two children that were very planned. One is four and starting preschool; the other is two, just turned two. And we found ourselves unexpectedly pregnant. You know, motherhood is a huge part of my identity, and it wasn't an easy decision to come here today. But it definitely was necessary. We just bought a house, we are recovering financially from that, and this was just not the time, not a good time.

CHARLES, Megan’s husband:

I grew up Catholic, and you know, they, they kind of teach you very young—and I went to Catholic school, too, like — you know, this, “Abortion is wrong.” “…shouldn't do it,” “It's a sin,” all that, all that stuff. No one's going down to the corner store, picking up an abortion like they're picking up a pack of cigarettes. It's not, it's not that easy.

JENNIFER:

I’m going to have you lift your dress for me. The gel’s going to feel cold. Little pressure. Okay, six weeks and one day, okay.

MEGAN:

Okay.

JENNIFER:

I’m going to wipe this off and have you sit up.

CHARLES:

What was that?

MEGAN:

[Teary]

Six weeks, and one day.

You know, I wanted to look at the screen, but I didn't want to look and… I, I don't know. I feel like being a parent already has made it, kind of, an even more difficult thing and even more reason, you know, for some, that I shouldn't have had this today or shouldn't talk about it.

ELIZABETH LEITER, Producer/Director:

Why do you think that is?

MEGAN:

Because I'm a mother. I'm not supposed to be doing stuff like this, right? You know: “What's one more?” Right? It's not that simple though, you know.

GEORGE ISAJIW:

I’m a medical doctor. This is what your baby looks like. I think you ought to at least take it and look at it, while you’re sitting there in the waiting room.

MARK OBENHAUS:

Dr. George Isajiw is the Pennsylvania Director of the Catholic Medical Association.

I first met Dr. Isajiw on the sidewalk outside the clinic where we shot the first FRONTLINE film, 36 years ago.

[Excerpt from 1983 film]

GEORGE ISAJIW:

This is a life-sized, real-size model of a pregnant uterus, 10 weeks from conception. And, as a matter of fact, you and I were once this size and even smaller. So, that’s the first victim in abortion.

[Current day]

My conviction is that life begins at conception. And every baby, by the time you even recognize that there’s a pregnancy, is already an individual unique human being that—and then here’s the, where the religion comes in—who is not only unique, but the soul will survive the death.

[Excerpt from 1983 film]

And the reason I’m explaining this to you is because, in my opinion…

MARK OBENHAUS:

Dr. Isajiw’s activism has always been rooted in the counseling of young women to reject abortion. When we first met, he was counseling as many as six women a week.

[Excerpt from 1983 film]

GEORGE ISAJIW:

This is the result of an abortion at about 11 weeks. With this vacuum cleaner-type tube, the baby is literally pulled apart and ripped to pieces and killed by that process.

SUE , Patient of Dr. Isajiw in1983:

I don't see how anybody can do that.

GEORGE ISAJIW:

I know that when women find out what abortion really does, and what it’s all about, there are very few who really want to do that to their baby. Okay, here we have at 14 weeks. And now the main difference is the baby is bigger, and the skin is becoming thicker, so now the baby's no longer as transparent.

SUE:

And that's what he looks like, now, inside of me?

GEORGE ISAJIW:

That's what he looks like, or she. What were your feelings when you found out that you were pregnant?

SUE:

Oh, I could have hit the ceiling, really. I just wanted to forget about it, and I still do, in a way.

GEORGE ISAJIW:

So, you obviously you were not planning this pregnancy?

SUE:

No, it was not planned at all.

[End of excerpt]

GEORGE ISAJIW:

[Protesting]

Sir, are you the, are you the father of the baby, sir? If you’re the father of the baby you have a stake in this.

POLICE OFFICER:

I need you to stand over there, without harassing anyone, without bothering anyone.

GEORGE ISAJIW:

Wait a minute. Harassing is in the eyes of the beholder. I’m not prepared to go to jail. I’ve been in jail over this, but…

POLICE OFFICER:

Okay, do you want to go back to jail?

GEORGE ISAJIW:

I don’t think this would stand up in court.

POLICE OFFICER:

Would you like to go back to jail?

GEORGE ISAJIW:

Do you, do you think this would stand up in court?

POLICE OFFICER:

Would you like to test that theory?

GEORGE ISAJIW:

If it was different circumstances, I would.

POLICE OFFICER:

Sir, I need you to stand over here.

MARK OBENHAUS:

In 1986, Dr. Isajiw was arrested and convicted of a felony, for trespassing inside the clinic where the first film was shot.

GEORGE ISAJIW:

At this particular time, I don’t have the time to get arrested and spend that time in court.

Protesters:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth...

MARK OBENHAUS:

The first thing you encounter when entering the clinic is the bulletproof glass separating the public areas from the clinic itself. Recent years have seen an increase in intimidation of patients and threats against doctors like Dr. Perreira, who was singled out online on the website run by the group, Operation Rescue.

LISA PERRIERA:

I’m not afraid of being threatened by them, but it is framed in reality. There are people that are violent toward abortion providers. Yesterday was the anniversary of the murder of Dr. George Tiller, who was one of the idols in our community. And he was shot in his church, while he was an usher on a Sunday morning. So, many of us think about that. Sure, we think about that. That can happen.

Clinic security footage

MARK OBENHAUS:

The presence of protesters outside the clinic is a persistent reminder of the threat.

REBECCA MERCIER

They’re outside most days that I’m here. They walk up and down the sidewalk, they hold their signs, they yell things at the patients. I’ve never seen them become violent, but everyone who works in this community should be and is aware of the threat of violence.

MARK OBENHAUS:

In 1982, when the first film was shot, security was light. The waiting room was relaxed and felt like a doctor’s office. The staff wore street clothes. Then, the procedure rooms were spare with a minimum of equipment.

The clinic today has the look of a hospital. Anti-abortion groups in Pennsylvania and 23 other states have pressed for the passage of laws that mandate abortion clinics operate as “ambulatory surgical facilities.”

CAROL TRACY, Executive Director, Women’s Law Project:

Pennsylvania implemented regulations under the Ambulatory Surgical Facilities Act, that governs everything from the width of hallways, to where sinks are located, to the HVAC systems, to the job descriptions. Abortion care providers have come into compliance with numerous regulations at great cost, at great financial cost to the women who need abortions. And also, it’s limited the number of abortion providers in this state.

JENNIFER BOULANGER, Senior Director, Philadelphia Women’s Center:

We had to spend over $500,000 on improvements that did nothing to improve the health of our patients.

MARK OBENHAUS:

Anti-abortion activists see this as progress.

MIKE MCMONAGLE, President, Pro-Life Coalition of Pennsylvania:

Our most recent bill on abortion facilities restricted supply. It said if you want to operate an abortion facility, you have to meet certain requirements, the same as any other ambulatory surgical facility. And several of them did not. We went from 22 freestanding abortion facilities down to 14.

REBECCA MERCIER:

Hello, my name is Dr. Mercier. Pennsylvania requires that we give you the following information before we see you for an abortion procedure.

MARK OBENHAUS:

Like many other states, Pennsylvania now requires that doctors read a script to inform women of alternatives to abortion and the potential risks of the procedure.

LISA PERRIERA:

…infection, heavy bleeding or clots on the uterus, needing removal, problems with future pregnancies, infertility, damage to the cervix, vagina or uterus, or to other abdominal organs, requiring hospitalization or additional surgery. For abortion, these risks are very low.

MARK OBENHAUS:

Pennsylvania was the first state to mandate the message be delivered 24 hours before a woman’s abortion.

MIKE MCMONAGLE:

This is literally a life-or-death decision. And we should be doing whatever we can to, to save mothers and children from abortion, to make women think about it. And we make no apologies for that.

CAROL TRACY:

There is the sense that women simply can't make moral decisions on their own. The state has to intervene and, and tell them what to do. I think it’s pure hypocrisy.

LAURA, Philadelphia Women’s Center staff:

Okay. Now, as far as getting you scheduled with that information session, there is a 24-hour waiting period...

CATHERINE, Philadelphia Women’s Center staff:

We're going to review your medical history, and we can get that appointment all set up...

ERIN, Philadelphia Women’s Center staff:

Do you remember the first day of your last normal menstrual period?

MARK OBENHAUS:

The clinic’s call center is open seven days a week, and when we visited, there was a constant flow of incoming calls to schedule abortions.

LAURA:

Are you looking to do the medical abortion by pill or the surgical procedure?

REBECCA MERCIER:

A medical abortion procedure is very similar to inducing a miscarriage. It is safe for women to do up to about 10 weeks of their pregnancy.

So, do you have any questions before we get you started here?

TARYN:

No.

REBECCA MERCIER:

A great procedure for women who want to feel like they have control over the procedure, who wants to just have everything happen in the privacy of their own home.

MARK OBENHAUS:

The drug mifepristone, RU486, was approved by the FDA in 2000.

REBECCA MERCIER:

I‘ll have you do the first pill.

MARK OBENHAUS:

Medical abortions now account for roughly a third of all abortions in Pennsylvania.

REBECCA MERCIER:

This is the first pill you’re going to take. This is the one called the mifepristone. This is the stuff that makes the pregnancy stop growing and start to unattach a little bit, from the uterus. It gets the process started.

TARYN:

Okay.

REBECCA MERCIER:

So, you swallow that down like a regular pill.

TARYN:

Okay.

REBECCA MERCIER

Twenty-four hours later she takes another pill, called misoprostol, that helps to induce the cramping and the bleeding that will actually help her body push the pregnancy tissue out of her uterus.

This is the misoprostol medicine that gives you a little bit of the miscarriage symptoms.

TARYN:

Okay.

REBECCA MERCIER:

Okay? And do you have your follow-up appointment made?

TARYN:

I do.

REBECCA MERCIER:

Okay. In a week or two?

TARYN:

Yes.

REBECCA MERCIER:

Okay. That’s really important, ‘cause we want to keep…

TARYN:

What I hope I feel is a sense of peace, not only with myself and in the decision that I’ve made, but also a sense of peace with these two beings that I’ve chosen not to bring into the world. Thank you for choosing me, and I’m honored to be given this gift of life. And also, I, I can’t do it right now. I can’t accept that mantle in terms of the other lives that I’m taking care of and I’m responsible for.

CHARLES:

I think I'm going to always feel a little bit of guilt, but we have to feel comfortable with the decision we made.

MEGAN:

I know I'll definitely be sad, because if things had just been a little bit different, you know, maybe this wouldn't have happened today. But, you know, I'm confident in the decision we made.

LISA PERRIERA:

This is the medication abortion pill, the mifepristone. I'm going to have you swallow this with a small sip of water, or as much of a sip of water as you want. So, that's the one that starts the abortion process.

MONIQUE RUBERU:

[Protesting]

Holy Mary Mother of God pray for us sinners…

MARK OBENHAUS:

Dr. Monique Ruberu is an obstetrician-gynecologist who frequently protests on the streets outside the Women’s Center.

MONIQUE RUBERU:

The destruction of any life is a definite affront to God. So, when an abortion takes place, and an innocent life that has not done any harm to anybody is destroyed, I believe that that is one of the greatest sadnesses of God, but it pleases the devil.

I'm an OB-GYN physician, sir. She deserves to have options. I know she feels boxed in; I know you guys feel like you have to do this. We can help her.

It used to be that people tried to be present on the killing days, the days when the surgical abortions were known to happen in the abortion centers. But RU486 pill has completely changed the landscape of abortion. And it really necessitates that somebody is present outside of these abortion centers every single day, every hour that they are open.

Sweetie, if you took the abortion pill we can reverse it. You have 72 hours, honey. They don't want me to talk to you, but this is information that can help you. You deserve to know all of the options, okay?

MARK OBENHAUS:

Dr. Ruberu is part of a network of doctors who cite anecdotal evidence to support the controversial practice of prescribing the hormone progesterone to reverse the effects of RU486.

GEORGE ISAJIW:

I think there’s only maybe three of us in this Philadelphia area that volunteered for that hot-, hotline, so far. So, they call the hotline, and then you get the, the woman’s history, and you don’t even have to see her. You call in to their pharmacy, and you get them these high doses of progesterone, which are easily available.

MONIQUE RUBERU:

The babies that are saved from the RU486 do awesome. And they don’t have any problems following, as far as we know.

We can help you. If you took the abortion pill we can reverse it.

And we’ve been so blessed. In my office alone, we’ve had three reversals. It’s so nice to see, at the end of the road, those moms are so grateful and so happy that they chose to reverse.

Ultrasound technician:

And would you like to know how far you are today?

SHAHARRA:

Mmhmm.

Ultrasound technician:

Okay. Okay, I’m dating at nine weeks and one day.

SHAHARRA:

Okay.

I’m grateful that I’m getting this taken care of. If I wasn’t, I would be at home, you know, trying to, stressed out, trying to figure out what my next move is or, what my next plan is. So, it is, it’s a relief, because I was stressed out before I walked in the door this morning.

ELIZABETH LIVERIGHT, M.D., Philadelphia Women’s Center:

Good morning. I’m Dr. Liveright. Nice to meet you. Any questions, concerns about anything today?

SHAHARRA:

No.

ELIZABETH LIVERIGHT:

About three minutes, start to finish, okay?

SHAHARRA:

Mmhmm.

ELIZABETH LIVERIGHT:

This is the last part of the consent form the nurse already reviewed with you. I just need your signature and date here on the top line.

MARK OBENHAUS:

Shaharra chose to have a surgical abortion under IV sedation.

MALE NURSE:

You might feel a little warm feeling going through your IV site, okay? It’s normal, and it will go away.

MARK OBENHAUS:

IV sedation was not an option for the patients at the clinic where the first film was shot.

[Excerpt from 1983 film]

Female clinician:

Easy does it. Nice and slow; lots of cramps.

[End of excerpt]

MARK OBENHAUS:

Patients then were awake, and the procedure was uncomfortable, even painful.

MALE NURSE:

You’re drifting off to sleep, okay? Take some nice, big, deep breaths.

MARK OBENHAUS:

Most patients opt to have a surgical procedure. Like Shaharra, they want to leave the clinic with the abortion behind them.

ELIZABETH LIVERIGHT:

Surgical abortion is incredibly safe. The woman is in stirrups. We do a bimanual exam to feel the positioning of the uterus. I place the speculum, clean off the cervix, and then place a small clip on the top of the cervix to straighten out the uterine canal. The second part of the procedure is dilating the cervix, which is using instruments to gently open the entry into the uterus, and then removing the pregnancy tissue, using suction. It takes somewhere between two and five minutes. Complications are incredibly rare.

REBECCA MERCIER:

One of the most important components of safety with abortion procedures is making sure all of the pregnancy tissue has been removed from the uterus. The tissue is taken to a special room within the clinic. It is rinsed off. And it’s looked at in a special dish with a little backlight on it that lets us confirm that we are seeing all the tissue that would be expected for the gestational age for the pregnancy. And that lets us know that there weren’t any complications.

MARK OBENHAUS:

The gestational age of this fetus was nine weeks and one day.

REBECCA MERCIER:

Up to nine to ten weeks, it’s just a small little piece of translucent sac tissue, with nothing that looks recognizable as any kind of fetal parts. After that, you do see small bits of tissue that are recognizable as fetal tissue.

Protesters:

Forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven. [Singing]

Bless us, O Lord, hear our cry for justice,

Bless us, O Lord, our God.

Give us this day our daily bread...

MARK OBENHAUS:

Dr. Isajiw introduced me to Pat Stanton.

Pat comes from a family of pro-life activists. In the 1980s, his late father organized the protests that take place every Saturday outside the Philadelphia Women’s Center.

PAT STANTON, Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia:

Moms, we can help you. Change your mind. We’re out here.

It’s barbaric to chop a baby up, put it in a little canister, take it out and count the pieces. That’s what they have to do. Who’s doing this? What kind of world have we entered into where we do this to our children?

PROTESTORS:

[Singing]

Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

LYNNE MOLTER, Escort Coordinator, Philadelphia Women’s Center:

Predominantly, the protesters are older white males and the patients are young women.

MARK OBENHAUS:

Lynne Molter coordinates the volunteers who escort women into the clinic.

LYNNE MOLTER:

I don’t understand why older white men think it’s appropriate for them to be standing at a clinic where young women come for health care…be talking to them, interacting with them, sometimes touching them.

PAT STANTON:

Please don’t do this, the baby’s heart is already beating.

LYNNE MOLTER:

What sometimes happens is the woman will get there and freeze and realize what it is that they’re walking into. The magnitude and the yelling can be very upsetting to them.

PAT STANTON:

Mercy!

I think it’s a spiritual battle myself. It’s between us and Satan. And I think when we do our best to follow our Lord and the Ten Commandments, we will conquer and, and bring others to our side, in a loving manner.

This is life, that’s death. We’re here to help you.

MARK OBENHAUS:

Stanton often tries to speak to the men who accompany women to the clinic.

PAT STANTON:

Pray for strength and pray for wisdom. If there’s any chance that this girl can come out of there, Lord let it happen. Let it be a miracle. Let this baby grow up to be a great man. I ask this in your name Jesus. Amen.

CHRISTIAN, Partner of clinic patient:

My girl just said the only way she’s walking out of there is if she says they twins. And I’m like, “What’s the difference between one and two?”

PAT STANTON:

Yeah?! That doesn’t make any logical sense.

CHRISTIAN:

I mean, hell, I just can’t. I don’t want to make it seem like I’m controlling her, like...

PAT STANTON:

Christian, sometimes all they need is a word from you. They’ve got to feel like the man’s behind them 100 percent.

CHRISTIAN:

How many kids you got?

PAT STANTON:

Nine.

CHRISTIAN:

Nine.

PAT STANTON:

I’d go in there and give it one more shot. Bring a couple other women out, brother.

MARK OBENHAUS:

Christian did go back into the clinic, but he told us later that his girlfriend went ahead with the abortion.

PAT STANTON:

So, we know that we just have to stay the course. And we’re going to be beaten up and, and, and have many, many failures, but we have to continue. So, I would say perseverance has been a virtue that’s instilled by our faith. You can’t be a part-time Christian and fight a full-time devil.

MARK OBENHAUS:

The clear symbol of today’s anti-abortion movement is the “crisis pregnancy center.” There were only a few operating in the early 1980s; now there are thousands across the country.

THOMAS ZEMAITIS, Women’s Law Project:

They're very well connected, and they're very well funded. Their whole existence is to persuade women who go there not to have abortions. And it, it, it ranges from gentle persuasion to fairly coercive persuasion.

MARK OBENHAUS:

There are as many as 150 in Pennsylvania. Many are located near abortion clinics, but, unlike abortion clinics, they are not required to be licensed by the state.

MIKE MCMONAGLE:

The Crisis Pregnancy Center is a beautiful phase of the pro-life movement that offers real help and hope for women in crisis pregnancies. We realize, if we're ever going to outlaw abortion, that we have to be able to help women who, who feel that's their only alternative. And we've provided an answer, “No, that's not your only alternative. “ And it has literally saved thousands of lives every year in the Philadelphia area.

MARK OBENHAUS:

Amnion is a crisis pregnancy center that caters to low income women.

MELANIE PARKS, Executive Director, Amnion:

The mission of Amnion is really to serve anybody in an unplanned pregnancy. If someone is calling to schedule an abortion, I will tell them that we don't perform abortions here, because I want to be truthful with them right up front. But I always say to them, “But you've called the right place,” because I want them to know that right away, that we do have services for them.

MARK OBENHAUS:

Amnion’s approach is to offer counseling, parenting classes, clothing, diapers and pregnancy testing, all for free.

LAURA TABER R.N., Nurse Manager, Amnion:

Thank you. You can have a seat. So, have you already tested at home, to see if you were pregnant?

BLESSING, Amnion patient:

Yeah, I did, last Friday.

LAURA TABER:

Okay, what did you get?

BLESSING:

Oh, it was a negative. But my period is late, so I don't know.

LAURA TABER:

We offer pregnancy testing, but we don’t provide contraception here. We don’t want people engaging in behavior that’s risky to them emotionally and physically. We want to encourage them to make better choices with their behavior.

MIKE MCMONAGLE:

We realize that promiscuity drives abortion, so therefore, part of our, our great cause is promoting the chastity message. Contraception takes away a natural barrier to promiscuity, and promiscuity is what drives abortion.

LAURA TABER:

Okay. So, this paper is just saying you were here today for a pregnancy test and it was negative, okay?

BLESSING:

Mmhmm.

LAURA TABER:

So either you're not pregnant, or you are pregnant, but it's too early to tell. Now, you would still be pretty early. So, if you haven’t gotten your period when you come back, we’ll retest you.

Andriana, come on back.

MARK OBENHAUS:

Andriana is 22, with an eight-month-old daughter.

LAURA TABER:

Your test is coming up positive, congratulations. Tell me how you’re feeling about your pregnancy.

ANDRIANA, Amnion patient:

I’m fine.

LAURA TABER:

Yeah.

Were you trying to get pregnant?

ANDRIANA:

No.

LAURA TABER:

Okay, so it wasn’t planned, but it’s okay?

ANDRIANA:

No, it wasn’t planned.

LAURA TABER:

Your mom, what does she have to say about it? Is she happy for you?

ANDRIANA:

She was not happy.

LAURA TABER:

Was not happy. Okay.

MELANIE PARKS:

We use ultrasound as a tool for helping our clients choose life.

LAURA TABER:

So, you’ll be able to look up here and see everything we’re doing, okay?

We set up the big screen, up on the wall, so that they can look up and see what’s going on inside their uterus and how the baby’s growing.

We want to see the baby inside your uterus.

[Andriana’s 8-month-old baby crying]

LAURA TABER:

And then we want to measure and see how far along you are, okay? Did I do your ultrasound with her?

ANDRIANA:

Yeah.

LAURA TABER:

She's talking to us. She says, “That's my brother or sister.” Okay we have eight weeks, one day, plus or minus six, here. Andriana, this is your baby right here, okay? This flickering here is the heart beating. See that?

MELANIE PARKS:

That beating heart. It’s hard to then, you know, deny that there’s, there’s a baby. It’s not, it’s not just tissue there. It’s not something that’s easily disposed of.

LAURA TABER:

And I’m going to measure the body length again, here.

The women who are happy that they’re pregnant or on the fence, a lot of times they’re just really surprised. You can see it in their face that there is a, a joyful reaction. Some women who are maybe considering abortion, are, are kind of, not thrilled, you know. They might be looking, and it might bring up a lot of complex feelings for them. I have offered to pray with women, and I will do that if I feel like they’re open to that. And most of the time they’ve said yes. I have only had a couple of people who have said no.

LAURA TABER:

And here’s your pictures.

ANDRIANA:

Thank you.

LAURA TABER:

You're welcome.

That’s really where we have an opportunity to form a relationship with a client, to show them that we care about them on all those different levels. We care about you as a person, as a spiritual person and as a person with an eternal soul and we want to be able to really show you that you’re loved here.

MARK OBENHAUS:

The staff at Amnion counsels against abortion based on their Christian faith.

We met one woman who was unpersuaded and came to the Philadelphia Women’s Center.

Skye is 23 years old, and this is her first pregnancy.

EDIE:

And I just need to confirm that you’re here for abortion services today, obviously.

SKYE , Philadelphia Women’s Center patient:

Mmhmm.

EDIE:

You’re confident in your decision to terminate your pregnancy?

SKYE:

Mmhmm.

EDIE:

No one is forcing you to terminate your pregnancy today?

SKYE:

Nope.

I went to Amnion Pregnancy Center. It’s in Upper Darby.

EDIE:

Just breathe normally.

SKYE:

The services that they provide are free. The nurse did, though, say to me, like, “Are you sure you don’t want to just, you know, put it up for adoption?” You know what I mean, like she was kind of like pro-life. “Listen you know you can come back with your boyfriend. We can talk about different options. We can do another ultrasound again, and he can look at the baby, as well, maybe change his mind with that.” I’m just like, no. No, let me just get this over with. I’ll, I’ll, I’ll deal with the, the depression or sadness later.

LISA PERRIERA:

There you go.

SKYE:

Thank you.

LISA PERRIERA:

You can go ahead and swallow that.

SKYE:

I’m going to be upset about it for a little bit. I’m going to pray, probably every single night now. I just felt like I was a horrible person for deciding to actually go through with an abortion, to kill a human being, even though it was only, like, an embryo. So that was, that was sad. But I got to go back to work.

MARK OBENHAUS:

Skye earns less than 300 dollars a week. Like other women we met at the clinic she struggles to support herself.

These women no longer can. They are homeless. Most collect some form of public assistance. They are living at Mothers’ Home, in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. It's a shelter for pregnant women that’s housed in what was once a convent.

GEORGE ISAJIW:

Hi, how you doing today? That’s good, very good.

MARK OBENHAUS:

It was founded in 1991 by a group led by Dr. Isajiw.

GEORGE ISAJIW:

Being able to promise them a place to live was an extremely powerful tool. That gave them the courage to choose life.

MARK OBENHAUS:

Mothers’ Home can house up to 20 women. They can stay while pregnant and for six months after they deliver.

CHARLOTTE GORDON, Program Manager, Mothers’ Home:

The common circumstance that brings the majority of our residents here is trauma. There's abuse; there's a lot of domestic violence; there's drug addiction. There's trauma that's just overflowing from childhood, things that never heal, disconnected families. Our goal is to support those women who, in spite of their circumstances, still want to give birth to these babies.

When women come in for the interview, they've already made the decision that they want to keep their baby. They are just looking for a safe place.

Where are you living?

VANESSA , Mothers' Home potential resident:

Some guy let me stay at his house. He said I had until today.

CHARLOTTE GORDON:

Today is your deadline?

VANESSA:

Yes.

CHARLOTTE GORDON:

All right. So do you have any interaction with the father of your child?

VANESSA:

No.

CHARLOTTE GORDON:

Okay.

VANESSA:

I just want to get my kids home.

CHARLOTTE GORDON:

You want to get your kids home?

VANESSA:

My oldest daughter has cerebral palsy. My youngest stays with my aunt in Connecticut.

CHARLOTTE GORDON:

Okay.

VANESSA:

They're able to come home; I just don't have a home.

CHARLOTTE GORDON:

Okay.

VANESSA:

Thank you.

CHARLOTTE GORDON:

You’re welcome.

BRIGID RISKO, Director, Mothers’ Home:

Once you have the baby, a lot of people forget about you. She can’t raise that baby, if she’s not healthy mentally and physically. So, there’s no sense in ending it there. Yes, everyone can say they’re pro-life, but, you have to, to put that into, like, motion. You have to help the woman after she has the baby.

GEORGE ISAJIW:

Often the criticism that is leveled is that we’re only interested in the, in the baby in the womb and only helping the women until the baby left the womb, the baby was delivered, and after that, we weren’t interested in helping women. But that is not the case.

[Excerpt from 1983 film]

NANCY AND LARRY , Guests of George and Pat Isajiw

How are you doing, Pat?

MARK OBENHAUS:

Before he started Mothers’ Home, Dr. Isajiw and his wife invited young, pregnant women to live in their own home.

PAT ISAJIW

Anybody else like coffee?

MARK OBENHAUS:

This is the scene in 1982.

GEORGE ISAJIW

[Current day]

We found in the counseling that women were saying, “I don’t really want an abortion, but if I don’t have an abortion, my husband will leave me,” or “he’ll kick me out,” or “my parents will kick me out.”

[Excerpt from 1983 film]

NANCY:

I went in to see Dr. Isajiw, Tuesday, and I talked to him for... like, I told him all about it. Like, you know, that everything that was happening, and, like, then he told me about how my... if I, if I were [to]have t-, if I were to have an abortion, how the abortion would be performed. It w-, like a salt injection would be injected into my stomach, and, like, the baby would slowly die inside of me, like skin be burning away. So I said, "I'm just going to go ahead with the pregnancy, and I'll come live with you, so I can get the proper care and all.”

MARK OBENHAUS:

Nancy decided to put her baby up for adoption.

[Excerpt from 1983 film]

LARRY:

Because we're not... we feel... I feel, anyway, that we're not ready to have kids yet, because we're not financially sound. I want to be... When I have my kids, I want to be financially sound.

NANCY:

Then we're going to start planning on having children the proper way. We don't want to bring unwanted children into the world and have them abused like other children are. We want to grow... we want to raise our children up right.

LARRY:

Not like our parents. We both come from broken homes, and I don't want my kids raised in, had... I don't want to feel that, I'm going to have my kids brought… and me and Nancy are going to split up. I don't want to feel that way.

NANCY:

'Cause me and Larry, we're not going to split up. We're going to be together forever.

So glad I didn’t get an abortion. I am.

PAT:

Okay. Ready for grace? Bless us, oh Lord, for...

ALL:

These, thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.

[End of film excerpt]

GEORGE ISAJIW:

Thirty-eight women over a period of 15 years, high school students and college students. Over time, we wer e getting a different kind of woman. Often we were getting somebody was addicted. Sometimes we were getting people had HIV, and other problems; was a little more tension in terms of trying to house them in private homes. And then the whole movement throughout the country to create maternity homes was very important.

MARK OBENHAUS:

There are now 17 similar homes in the Philadelphia area. Many were founded by people like Dr. Isajiw, who oppose pre-marital sex.

GEORGE ISAJIW:

When I was a teenager, if you had sex with a girl, if she got pregnant, you’re, you’re the father. You’re responsible for, not only the baby, but her, for the rest of your life. Or you’re going to have to marry her. I would think, if we still had all the nuns, and we still had the teaching the way it was, we’d have fewer girls needing housing, because they wouldn’t be getting pregnant.

MARK OBENHAUS:

It’s not a view shared by the residents we met. What many do share with Dr. Isajiw is his view on abortion. They reject it. And for some it is a choice they’ve now made over and over again.

ROSIE, Mothers’ Home resident:

I was just kind of going crazy like “No, I don’t want to be pregnant no more, no more babies.” But I don’t believe in abortion, so... I come from a big family; I think babies are a blessing. That’s why I had all eight of mine. And I guess that’s just how my family is. Don’t none of my family believe in it, like abortions.

MARK OBENHAUS:

Two of Rosie’s children live with her sister, five are in foster care.

ROSIE:

I need a big house. I have a lot of kids.

GEORGE ISAJIW:

Society has allowed women to say it’s okay to be a single mother to multiple children. So, it’s very hard to blame her for it, when she doesn’t know any better. Maybe her mother was that way, and the whole neighborhood was that way. This is what’s happened in our society.

JACIE , Mothers’ Home resident:

His name is Dominic Jayceer. He was premature, like a high-risk thing. I have previously had a drug problem. I'm doing way better than I have. I did good before, but I've done, I've done worse. A shelter may not be the best thing in everybody's mind, but it helped us a lot, so. I have four, four babies. Yep, two girls and two boys. They live in Western Pennsylvania. My aunt has them. So, so they're good. But, they do call her “Mommy.” So, I was offended at first, but then I understood, like they needed a mommy, and I was not proving capable of doing that at the time. So, now we're trying again. He's pretty special. Ain’t nobody taking this one.

CHARLOTTE GORDON:

They may not have been able to get it right the first time or the second time or the third or the fourth, but this is another chance.

BRITTANY, Mothers’ Home resident:

Me and her dad, Trinity's dad, we partied a lot together. And we were both sent to prison, when I was, like, eight months pregnant with her. When I got out, I was homeless. I was literally homeless. I lived out of my car for like a week.

There we go. Awww, I know. It’s okay, it’s just water.

She has a rare condition called septo-optic dysplasia. It affects the hormones in her body; and then her optic nerves are also affected, It's an abnormality in her brain. I didn’t know for four months that I was pregnant. I was still on birth control, and I was drinking, like I was smoking, like, living, like, the fast life. And lo and behold, there was a little heartbeat, and that's when they told me how far I was. I was going to go and abort her. But I was, literally, in the chair, about to get it done, and like, I had to leave. I got up and I walked out, and I said, "I cannot kill my baby." So, I just accepted that whatever was meant to be would be. So, just one day at a time, and I'm prepared for whatever can happen with her.

CHARLOTTE GORDON:

The stigma that society says about single mothers who are poor: “They're a drain on the finances of the community,” “They've made mistakes,” “These children are mistakes,” “Why do we have to take care of them?” “They should give their children to other people.” They've been even advised to have an abortion because “there's nothing that they can give to a child.” But every single woman that comes through that door, that's their desire, to give their child a better chance at life.

MARK OBENHAUS:

Mothers’ Home lacks the resources to follow residents after they leave. The obvious question of what happens to the women and their children goes unanswered.

Christine and Micah made what was for them a very difficult decision.

CHRISTINE:

Okay. I love you. Thank you.

MARK OBENHAUS:

They chose to go ahead with the abortion.

MALE NURSE:

How’re you doing today? Nervous?

CHRISTINE:

No, no. I’m not nervous.

LISA PERRIERA:

Some patients are like, “I don’t want to be doing this, but it is the right choice for me.” And it’s okay to feel those emotions. It’s okay. I try to just let them know

it is okay, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t do it. Only they know what they should do.

Nice, slow, deep breaths, little oxygen.

MARK OBENHAUS:

“Only they know what they should do,” It’s a statement I heard 36 years ago and continue to hear repeated today.

LISA PERRIERA:

Almost done with the dilation.

I respect people that say abortion is wrong. But people have abortions, people have babies. Life is complicated.

All right, we’re all done. That’s it.

FEMALE NURSE:

Are you ready for me?

CHRISTINE:

I am.

REBECCA MERCIER:

Women are not vessels for just carrying pregnancies. They are full human beings who deserve to have control of their lives. And being able to choose whether you're going to continue your pregnancy or not is a life-changing thing.

CHRISTINE:

Love you.

PROTESTORS:

[Singing]

We are the light of the world,

May our light shine before all.

MARK OBENHAUS:

But the anti-abortion forces I met here in Pennsylvania are unmoved by any argument for abortion. They are more organized, more dedicated and even more uncompromising than they were 36 years ago.

They are committed to one goal: ending abortion no matter how long it takes.

MIKE MCMONAGLE:

It's going to be brutal and bloody. And we're only in the second or third round on this fight. This fight is going to be multigenerational, just as the fight against slavery was. And it'll be our successors that eventually win this fight. I'm not predicting the quick and easy victory, but we, we will, at some point, win.

MARK OBENHAUS:

The end of the battle over abortion here in Pennsylvania and everywhere else, seems a long way off.

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