This year’s FIAPAC Congress, in October in Edinburgh, Scotland, brought together 460 delegates from 45 countries. Most were front-line abortion “providers”, that is, abortionists, clinic administrators and counsellors, and three quarters were women, feminists all. Many of them wore shaved heads and work boots.
The male minority were mostly abortionists. One South American attendee wore his silver hair in a long pony tail and cowboy boots. Australia’s leading late-term abortionist appeared in Jackaroo (cowboy) garb — jeans with a big belt buckle, cowboy boots and a black t-shirt. The European abortionists, who work in hospitals rather than run their own clinics, were generally more conservatively dressed. And there was also a smattering of pro-abortion lawyers, policy hacks, statisticians and researchers.
Given the gruesome nature of their work, it is not surprising that these hardened abortion activists were there to be inspired. Ann Furedi was head cheerleader for that job. As the CEO of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, which provides about one quarter of all British abortions and specializes in late-term abortions, Furedi has been one of Britain’s most vocal abortion-on-demand advocates for decades. She is also a notorious Leftist who used to edit Living Marxism and married the British Revolutionary Communist Party leader. Her opening plenary talk, believe it or not, was entitled “The Moral Case for Abortion.”
Having to contend with “all those Lennart Nilsson photos of a 17 week-old fetus sucking its thumb,” has made abortion activists like us “necessarily a little bit apologetic,” she complained. “It’s not surprising that a lot of young people are not enthusiastic about abortion. They’re not enthusiastic about killing unborn babies.”
What’s more, she went on, it hasn’t helped that “most women who come to our clinics are there because they are in personal need, not because they are pro-choice.” So what is a self-respecting abortionist to do? For far too long, said Furendi, the abortion movement has let religious anti-choice extremists dictate the agenda. But now the time is ripe to claim that “abortion is right.” She touted the work of Catholics for Choice in undermining the Church’s moral authority.
In a bizarre segue, she even attempted to enlist the great Catholic thinker Blaise Pascal in her defense of abortion by quoting his famous dictum: “We know the truth not only by reason but also by the human heart.” Of course, if Furendi’s heart tells her that it is morally right to kill unborn babies, then it can reasonably be argued that she doesn’t have one.
“We need to claim the moral high ground,” she continued in her effort to rally her abortion-minded listeners. And she did that by asserting that women’s equality cannot be achieved without a right to abortion. “We cannot have equality if we are constantly victims of our own fertility. A woman is not just a vehicle for pregnancy.”
“I respect human life,” she claimed, “but there are elements of human life that make us people…personal autonomy, decision-making…bodily integrity. It is morally reprehensible to deny this capacity for choice and decision making.”
It was like listening to a cannibal say, “I respect human life, but we cannot be who we are, who we are meant to be, namely, cannibals, unless we are allowed to eat our fellows.”
Not overly inspiring.
From there, the conference moved on to meat and potato issues — new ways to contracept, sterilize, and abort women. UK physician Ali Kubba advocated making contraception widely available over-the-counter without prescription. Contraception is not addictive, he reasoned. Since aspirin and ibuprofen do not require a prescription and yet cause more than 16,000 deaths a year, there is no reason not to “de-medicalize” birth control.
“De-medicalization” turned out to be a recurrent theme throughout the conference. The early abortion rights movement may have argued that legal abortion was needed to prevent all those “backstreet abortions” by untrained profiteers, but today’s activists want abortion out of the hospital and back on the street, if not in a back alley. They want abortions performed by “mid-level” professionals trained in quick crash courses, or by women themselves — illegally, if necessary.
Dutch abortionist Rebecca Gomperts, whose infamous “abortion ship” performs abortions in international waters off the coast of countries where it is illegal, presented a new strategy. She is encouraging women in countries where abortion is illegal to self-abort at home using drugs obtained with fraudulent prescriptions or imported illegally by her organization womenonweb.com.
Other FIAPAC presenters went on to highlight numbers on unsafe, illegal abortions in order to justify legalizing abortion, conveniently forgetting that, more often than not, they are those unsafe abortion providers. Gomperts own research, for instance, showed that more than a quarter of women she helped to self-abort suffered complications that took them to the hospital, and about 15% required follow-up surgery.
In a backhanded slap at rabid abortionists like Gomperts, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics distributed a handout at the event on the proper dosages of misoprostol because it was concerned about “reports of maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality due to unsafe use of misoprostol.” In other words, women maimed and dying as a result of the use of the abortion-causing drug.
Speaker after speaker highlighted the benefits of “at home” abortion. Beverly Winikoff, President of Gynuity Health Projects (and formerly of the Population Council and Rockefeller Foundation), claimed that the 30% to 50% of American women undergoing chemical abortion at home who are lost to follow-up must all simply be satisfied customers. Given the high rate of complications from misoprostol, it was startling to hear her assert that follow-up appointments are a “complete waste of time and money.”
“Anyone can do an abortion with training,” said UK abortionist David Baird. He advocated training “mid-level professionals” in manual aspiration abortions, using a hand-held suction abortion machine called a manual vacuum aspirator.
Much of the push for do-it-yourself abortions comes from lack of doctors willing to do the job. British abortionist Katie Guthrie lamented the fact that most aspiring medical doctors just don’t see abortion as a rewarding career choice. She criticized the British National Health Service for allowing medical students to forgo training in abortions, although it does offer special training programs for those that do want to be abortionists.
A woman in the audience raised the “sensitive” topic of sex selective abortion. It’s been a niggling conundrum for pro-choice feminists for a long time, but not so much for choice-absolutists at the conference. “Clearly, if we are pro-choice we have to respect that even choices we don’t like will be made,” said Fisher.
Moral high-grounder Furedi, whose BPAS clinics have been investigated for sex-selective abortions, nodded approvingly. She went on to say that extending abortion time limits up to the point of childbirth can actually prevent some abortions, because women sometimes decide to keep the baby they would have aborted earlier. They have more time to make the right decision “for them.” “Whether or not we think late abortions should be provided depends on how much we trust women to make decisions for themselves,” concluded Furedi.
“There is nothing magical about passing through the birth canal that transforms the fetus into a person,” Furedi asserted. Following this extreme pro-abortion logic to its logical end, one has to ask: does the newborn have a right to life if the mother’s circumstances change, if she discovers a disability, or if she changes her mind? An item on the agenda at the next FIAPAC Congress perhaps.
I was glad when this one ended, so I could walk outside and breathe some fresh air.