For weeks now I've been documenting segments of The Rachel Maddow Show, especially those having to do with abortion issues ever since Todd Akin made his ill-advised comment about legitimate rape without realizing why the subject bothered me so much. Abortion has never been an issue that has affected me personally. I've never had an unwanted pregnancy. The two times I did get pregnant ended in miscarriages. However, over the last week the reason Todd Akin's comment upset me so much finally surfaced and I was forced to face it head on. When Todd Akin said that there were rapes that were not legitimate, he was talking about my rape.
In the seventies when I was in my late teens, the term "date rape" had not been invented yet, or at least I had never heard it; but, that's what happened to me, even though I didn't know it at the time. I doubt I was even aware of forcible rape, much less date rape. I grew up living a sheltered life believing in fairy tales and that one day my prince would come. I did take biology in high school and was aware of the biological process of sex and how babies were made, but I never put it all together in my head as to how exactly it actually happened. Yes, I was very naive. It was all more theoretical than practical in my mind. I never dated in high school and never discussed sex with my friends. Nobody ever told me what a boy might try to do to me or how to protect myself from letting it happened. So I went off to college unprepared for the realities that I was going to face in the world.
After it happened I felt dirty and ashamed. It seemed as if I would never be able to take enough showers to make me feel clean again. I blamed myself and felt guilty for a very long time. I often cried myself to sleep, but I never ever told another living soul what had happened to me until last week. It took a long time for me to understand it myself. I learned what I should have been taught before I was sent off to college, and eventually it all faded into the background and I went on with my life. A movie or a television show might stir a few memories, but for the most part I just didn't think about it.
When I hear or read about people who promote abstinence-only sex education my blood boils in anger because all I can think about is all the young women who will be sent out into the real world totally unprepared for what's waiting for them like I was unprepared. I simply do not understand how any parent would want their daughter to possibly have happen to them what happened to me. When I saw Todd Akin explain his magical biology theory that prevented true rape victims from getting pregnant, I knew that in my case it was true. When I was in my mid-twenties I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, the only treatment for which my doctor informed me was hormonal birth control pills. The condition also prevented me from becoming pregnant and was one of the per-existing conditions I suffered from that prevented me from being able to get affordable health care for the last fifteen or so years. I never realized it could be used an excuse to call what happened to me a legitimate rape because I didn't get pregnant as a result of it.
As to how I approach what happened to me, now that over 30 years have passed and I am older and wiser; I choose to follow the lesson my mother instilled in me many, many years ago: Nothing bad ever happens to you if you can take the experience and use it to help somebody else. I have been trying to write this diary for a week now. My goal is that by sharing my experience, as well as what I have learned in researching this subject, that it will help somebody out there, whether it is a parent who might misguidedly send a daughter into the world unprepared or that daughter who might read this.
Now that I finally understand why this topic has upset me so much, along the way I've also learned a lot about abortion, contraception and Planned Parenthood. There have been a few unanswered questions that have been bothering me. For example, why this assault against Planned Parenthood? Where does that come from? And these personhood bills that Rachel Maddow has reported about that they keep trying to pass in Colorado, and tried and failed to pass in Mississippi last year. Why do these laws and amendments also include bans against hormonal birth control and in vitro fertilization? [See my previous diaries, Rachel Maddow: "Welcome Congressman Ultrasound [Ryan] to the Republican Ticket" and Rachel Maddow: Romney thought he could hide Ryan's extremism on social issues. Romney was Wrong!] Until today, I never understood why birth control was part of the issue.
All of this came to the surface for me last week when I went to North Carolina to visit my father to help celebrate his 80th birthday. We'd already had some heated discussions on the telephone like this one I wrote a diary about:
He then moved on to ranting about religion and that “Sandra Fluke” and how they want to put religion in government by forcing birth control to be covered by insurance. “Do you know what the First Amendment says?” I said that I did. “It says that the government can’t make any laws about religion.” He ranted on and I finally said, “I’ve listened to you. Is it my turn to speak yet?” He said I had five seconds and then would have to go, and was silent for a moment. I said, “If you want to talk about religion in government, what about those personhood laws they’ve tried to pass in Colorado and Mississippi? Not only do those laws outlaw all abortions, but they also outlaw in vitro fertilization and hormonal birth control. They not only want to stop abortion, they want to stop people from preventing pregnancies. Talk about trying to input religion in our government? They want laws based on their religious beliefs that contraception should not be allowed.” He cut me off and once again started ranting, “Well 50% of abortions are second abortions. Did you know that? I know that because I looked it up. We should put chastity belts on those sluts.”I desperately tried to keep talk about politics out of our conversations during my visit because I knew it wouldn't end well. I arrived on Thursday, and the conversation did turn to Planned Parenthood at one point. I remember mentioning that only three percent of their services were abortion related and that because we have laws that say government funds can not be used for abortions that Planned Parenthood set up separate corporations for abortions funded by private donations to comply with those laws. My father shook his head no. He didn't believe it. Of course, that's probably thanks to events like Senator Jon Kyl giving a speech on the senate floor last year saying, “If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that’s well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.” And then having his spokesman say, it was “not intended to be a factual statement,” but later retract that. And finally, Sen. John Cornyn came along and said it could be true. I also brought up again the fact that these abortion laws wanted to ban birth control, and again my father shook his head is if what I was saying was pure nonsense. When I mentioned that they also wanted laws to have all miscarriages investigated too, he didn’t believe that either.
On Thursday evening we were sitting on the deck, which looks out on to the beautiful mountains of North Carolina, when my father brought up immigration. He had received an email from somebody telling him that when Hoover, Truman and Eisenhower had each deported millions of illegal aliens when they were president. I forget the exact number, but it immediately seemed outlandish to me. So I went and got the iPad I had given my father for his previous birthday, and looked it up. I typed in a few words into Google and the first entry that came up was a factcheck.org listing: Hoover, Truman & Ike: Mass Deporters? Of course, the claim was nonsense. How could my father believe this stuff he gets in email? There is so much misinformation being distributed the first thing I always do before believing something sent to me in an email, much less forwarding it on, is look up the facts for myself. I never asked, but I wondered if my father had forwarded that email on. After I pointed out the facts, I wondered if he bothered to write back to the person who sent it to him to let them know it wasn't true. Of course, I know the answer is that he didn't. As Mark Twain is attributed as having said, A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. That factcheck.org post was from July 2010. That lie has traveled around the world so many times it must certainly be dizzy by now. But those who have a vested interest in it being true aren't concerned about fact checking. They are concerned with reinforcing their delusional world view and anything that supports it, whether it is true or false like magic female biology and concepts like legitimate rape, is perfectly fine.
By Friday night, we'd managed to make it through two days without a major scene over politics. That night, when my father and his wife turned in at 8:00 p.m., I retreated to the guest room and turned on MSNBC while I played video games on my iPhone and also read some news articles and DailyKos on my father's iPad. At 9:00 p.m. I watched Rachel Maddow, and saw this short segment in between commercial breaks.
Al Jazeera English just made a really good documentary in which they interviewed a state legislator from Ohio. This guy's a cosponsor of a bill in Ohio to dramatically roll back the time in which a woman is allowed to have an abortion in that state. So he gets interviewed by Al Jazeera and he tells Al Jazeera in the interview that what he really wants is for there to be no legal abortion at all in Ohio, except to save a woman's life. But then, this is the important part, watch what happens next. Watch what happens after he says that, with the follow up question here from the reporter. This is kind of amazing. Watch.Wow! I wondered why nobody had been asking these legislators who have been pushing these abortion bills that question before. What an obvious, as Rachel put it, follow-up question to ask. What do you think makes a woman want to have an abortion?
Reporter: What do you think makes a woman want to have an abortion?Why would a woman want an abortion? I've never thought about it says the man who is doing his best to ban abortion in Ohio. Amazing mommet from that new Al Jazeera documentary. It's called The Abortion War [See The Abortion War]. You can watch it on their website. We've posted a link to that at MaddowBlog if you want to see it; highly recommend it. But that problem that that legislator has there with the follow-up question; that puts in a nutshell this problem for Republican politicians that actually goes all the way up to the very top of the national ticket this year. It's a problem they've got specifically on this issue and a whole lot of politicians who have this problem but Mitt Romney is among them. It's a problem with follow-up questions. It is a problem that may get worse this Sunday morning. Hold on. That's ahead.
State Rep. Jim Buchy (R-Oh): Well, there's probably a lot of ... I'm not a woman so I (laughing) I'm thinking, if I'm a woman, why would I want to get ... you know, some of it has to do with economics. A lot of it has to do with economics. I don't know, I've never; it's a question I've never even thought about.
State Rep. Jim Buchy (R-Oh): I don't know, I've never; it's a question I've never even thought about.
Saturday went by without a single mention of politics. While my father and his wife took a nap, I used my father's computer to work on my family tree at ancestry.com, and I listened to Up with Chris Hayes on MSNBC in the background on the computer, because I simply can not work in silence. Periodically I checked the Google News stream and I looked at DailyKos to see if there was any interesting news being reported. When I saw the diary, Rove and O'Reilly Stunned By Kennedy's Speech: "No One is Seriously Talking About Ending Abortion" I added a comment embedding the video I had seen the previous night. I was frustrated because if I was at home, I knew I would be writing a diary about that clip. Here I am doing it now a week later, and this certainly is not the diary I thought I would be writing about that clip.
Saturday was my father's birthday, and that evening we enjoyed a grilled steak and baked potato dinner. We also celebrated with a German chocolate cake for dessert, but I didn't sing Happy Birthday because as I related before, my one memory of going to church as a child was my father telling me to only mouth the words when the congregation was singing hymns because I was tone deaf. After dinner we sat on the couch and I suffered through Mike Huckabee on Fox News saying things I found appalling, but I held my tongue. As bedtime approached, I sat next to my father on the couch and started scratching his back gently.
The visit was almost over. I was leaving in the morning. But, then it happened. Before I left on my trip, my husband suggested that I not engage my father about politics, but instead just ask questions when he brought politics up and get him to explain why he thinks the things he does. He wanted to ask me a question about Planned Parenthood because he had received an email. Quite frankly, I can't even remember the question he asked. I just looked at him and asked my own question, "Why do you think woman want to get an abortion?" His answer was that they are all sluts or skanks or some derogatory term I just can't remember. I just looked at my father incredulously and asked, "Do you have any idea what it's like to be physically assaulted against your will?" And he said, "No, do you?" When I said that I did, his response was, "Well, you must have been hanging around in the wrong places." As the argument heated up, my father's wife got between us and insisted we all go to bed. They retreated to their bedroom and I went to the guest room.
I immediately took two Tylenol PM tablets. The other per-existing condition that I suffer from which makes prevents me from affording health insurance is bipolar disorder, which was diagnosed thirty years ago when I was 25, only back then it was called manic depression. In my case, I have found that getting a good night's sleep every night helps to maintain level moods. Stress and anger often bring on a manic episode, and I am fortunate that my current lifestyle usually allows me to avoid those two triggers. I work at home on my website. When I worked at a regular job, office politics would often trigger a manic episode but I haven't had a major episode since I quit my last job in 2003. Being able to turn off my brain so that I can get a good night's sleep is always an issue, and that's why I take the Tylenol PM. In two hours I usually can't keep my eyes open unless something has severely stressed me out.
I took a shower because we had to leave early to get me to the airport and there might not be time in the morning. I packed my suitcase and I tried to watch a few episodes of my favorite sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. I couldn't concentrate on what was on the television. So I tried playing some games of Boggle on my iPhone, but I could feel the anger seething up inside of me. I turned to the iPad and started doing research about rape statistics and abortion statistics, finding the number my father had quoted to me several times about 50% of abortions being repeat abortions; only the actual number was 47% and appeared among a lot of other statistics related to abortions. I purposely left the pages I had been reading open on the iPad before I returned to its proper place the next morning.
Finally, after two hours, I turned off the television and turned out the light. I couldn't sleep. I just kept hearing my father’s words in response to me telling him I had been assaulted, "Well, you must have been hanging around in the wrong places." The memories came flooding back, overwhelming me. I couldn't sleep. My mind would not shut off, despite having taken the Tylenol PM. I just couldn't let go of the fact that by my father's definition, he thought I was a slut. My mind just kept going over and over what I wanted to say to my father. I was so angry.
At 4:30 a.m. I heard them stirring in the kitchen. I turned on the light and the television to try and distract my mind. I had to get at least a little bit of sleep. It wasn't the flight that worried me, but the fact that I had left the car at the airport, and once I arrived back in Florida I would have to drive for an hour and half before I actually got home. Finally, I drifted off into a light sleep until 6:15 when I heard a tap at the door. I got up, made the bed, and took my suitcase and loaded in the back of the Jeep. My father's wife saw me and asked me if I wanted a cup of coffee, and I responded I need a cigarette first. I went out and tried to calm my nerves and steady myself for the confrontation I was about to have with my father. Only once did I let it cross my mind to keep my mouth shut and avoid it all together. I couldn't. I had put up with all the hate and intolerance he constantly spouted off for too long. This time I would never forgive myself if I didn't speak up and tell my father just how wrong headed his thinking was.
I walked back into the house. He was sitting on a stool at the counter, and greeted me happily as if nothing had happened the evening before to cause me to have a sleepless night. I stood in the doorway and said, "I'm so angry at you. I've never been this angry at you. I can't believe what you said to me last night." He looked bewildered and wanted to know what he had done. I started with the speech I had been preparing in my head all night, "In my entire life only two men have ever truly loved me, respected me, and adored me. The first was Charles Morgan” and the second is my husband. “Neither one of them was you.” Again, he wanted to know what he had done. “I can't believe that when I told you I had been assaulted you said I must have been hanging out in the wrong places,” and then I blurted out for the first time since it happened, that when I was in my late teens I had been date raped. He immediately apologized by saying, “I was ignorant.” I retorted that what he said wasn't even willful ignorance. “It was stupid. And there is no cure for stupidity.” How could he think that there was any difference between being assaulted and date raped? We started yelling back and forth at each other.
At one point he wanted to know if my mother ever knew this, and I admitted that it was the first time in my entire life I had ever told anybody. I blurted out several reminders of things that had happened in the past. Then I said something asking him about if he would think his granddaughters were sluts if what happened to me happened to them. He started yelling, “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” He approached me holding his oxygen tank as if he was going to swing it and strike me with it, yelling at me that I was stupid. I looked him straight in the eye, defying him to strike me, and said “I'm smarter than you.” It was a terrible scene. His wife tried to calm things down by reminding us that it might be the last time we see each, and I screamed at her, "Don't you dare try to lay a guilt trip on me." He eventually ran into his bedroom yelling that he was too upset to drive me to the airport. I sat in a chair and tried to hold back my tears saying, “I just want to go home.”
In a little while he came out and threw a bunch of fifty dollar bills at me; the ones I had given to him and his wife as birthday, mother's day and father's day gifts, which they had been saving for a special shopping trip. He got into the Jeep and his wife came out, asking if I needed a jacket. “No, I just want to go home.” When I saw that she was heading out towards, I removed the one bill that at flown into my purse, put it on the table with the others, picked up my purse and got into the back seat. We made the drive which took over an hour in complete silence. The entire time tears fell down my cheeks and in my head I was writing down all my thoughts about what had just transpired. I needed to write, but with no computer, I could just let my thoughts continue to swirl in my head. When we arrived at the airport, I got out of the Jeep and removed my bag from the back. I heard my father say one word, my name, Tracy. I shut the hatch and walked into the airport. I tried to sleep during the flight, but I just couldn't stop crying.
When we landed, other passengers were looking out the windows and commenting on a plane parked in the tarmac. I looked out to discover that it was Air Force One, and told them that President Obama was in Florida this weekend. That made me smile. It was the weekend of the infamous picture at the pizza parlor I learned about later, which also made me smile reading the story behind it. Although it was raining when I disembarked, I stopped and took a few pictures with my iPhone. Before I had boarded the plane, I had called my husband to let him know I was at the airport and that my visit had not ended well, but I couldn't discuss it then. I called him again to let him know I had landed and saw Air Force One. Then I called my sister in Texas to ask her to call my father and let him know I had arrived. I told her too that the visit hadn't ended well, but I couldn't discuss it because I hadn't had much sleep and I didn't want to start crying again. I needed to concentrate on driving myself home.
There was a training session on how to register voters scheduled that afternoon at 3:00 at the local Obama office just three miles from my house. I had hoped to attend it before all this happened. I finally arrived home just after 1:00 p.m. and knew I wouldn't be able to make it. I was too tired. I popped two more Tylenol PM tablets and called my sister, telling her the whole story. She was angry because I had kept this secret for so long and didn't feel that I could tell her or anybody else. I tried to relieve her worries by explaining that I had come to terms with it a very long time ago. What angered me now were people like Todd Akin that were elected to office and having the ability to try and pass these draconian laws about abortion and reproductive issues. And then I finally slept.
I'm not sure where this past week has gone to. I made several false starts at an attempt to write this diary. I tried to talk myself out of writing this diary, weighing in my mind whether it or not it was wise to reveal so much personal information to the world. Ultimately, I knew I would never move forward until I did write it. To tell the truth, that date rape was so long ago, and so much more has happened in my life since then that I couldn't even say that it was the worst thing that ever happened to me. There is another diary in my computer I started writing before I left for my trip, that reminded me of a time when I did tell somebody about something else that had happened to me. I will always remember the response when I was finished telling that little bit of history, “No wonder you hide your light under a bushel.”
Last night I watched The Rachel Maddow Show and was planning to transcribe the segment about Virginia's latest assault on abortion clinics with trap laws, but then BruinKid posted one which received a lot of attention, and I decided it was too much work for a topic that was already out there. And then one of the first diaries I read today was Liberal Granny's If This Doesn't Move You, I Don't Know What Will, Or Why This Election is Important. Reading through all the comments will be an eye-opener for a lot of people, especially the last response under my first my comment, I knew I had better get busy on this diary, but wasn't sure how to start since all my previous attempts had failed. I watched the clip posted above again. Then I went back to Liberal Granny's diary and read more comments. When I saw that someone mentioned a recent case where a female judge had scolded a victim for her own assault that I hadn't heard of, I went searching for it, and found: Judge To Woman Sexually Assaulted By Cop: ‘When You Blame Others, You Give Up Your Power To Change’. That's when I decided to finally watch The Abortion War documentary by Al Jazeera English that the video clip above came from. I had watched only a few minutes of the 25 minute video when I realized that this needed to be seen far and wide. So I started over and transcribed as I watched. You need to watch this video!!!, which I have posted below the fleur-de-orange with the complete transcript for those who can't watch online videos. Share it with everybody you know. It's important!
Despite the appalling fact that there were so many young woman campaigning against reproductive rights for women, there is one extremely important fact buried in that video that everybody should wake up to. It appears at the eight minute mark when Michelle Goldberg says:
You know, you could say there's a war on women's bodies. To me that seems kind of irrefutable. It's created this huge backlash that has really I think surprised a lot of people who weren't paying close attention and who didn't realize that much of the anti-abortion movement is as opposed to contraception as it is to abortion, you know, and does see very little moral distinction actually between the morning after pill or the birth control pill or the IUD and an abortion at 15 weeks.
Please, if you take nothing else away from reading this diary understand this:
THE ANTI-ABORTION MOVEMENT IS AS OPPOSED TO CONTRACEPTION AS IT IS TO ABORTION.When I told my father that Republicans were trying to pass laws that banned contraception he looked at me like I was crazy. For months I have attributed my father's beliefs to Fox Geezer Syndrome, but not even he understands what this extremist faith-based Republican Party actually believes. When people say, this is not your father's Republican Party, they're not kidding. Some time ago, the Republican Party started attracting these extremist by preaching a belief in social issues. The intent was that these true believers were to vote Republican. They were never supposed to actually seek and win office themselves, but that's what has happened. That's why we have people like Todd Akin and Paul Ryan in the House of Representatives. They don't just say the things these true believers want to hear in order to win their votes; they actually believe what they're advocating when they introduce these personhood laws. And when a lot of these true believers were elected during the 2010 wave, not just to federal office but to state houses and governorships around the country, this is why we've seen a large spike in the amount of abortion and reproductive rights legislation being passed around the entire country. Just go back and watch the Rachel Maddow segment where she first talks about the amendments they keep trying to pass in Colorado. They not only want to criminalize abortion, but also hormonal birth control and in vitro fertilization by declaring a fertilized egg to be a person.
Why do they want to criminalize in vitro fertilization, the method by which some of Mitt Romney's own grandchildren were born? Because in the process some of the fertilized eggs are destroyed, and they believe that is murder. Why do they object to hormonal birth control? Because some types don't prevent fertilization, they prevent implantation to the uterine wall and they believe this too is murder because the egg has been fertilized [Update: It turns out this is a belief not supported by research. Please see mamamedusa's comment for the details]. When you understand these facts, then you understand more fully why anti-abortion activists are so determined to destroy Planned Parenthood. While it really is true that only 3% of the services they provide are for abortions, another 35% of the services they provide have to do with dispensing contraception. As Troy Newman, President, Operation Rescue, says about what he believes concerning Planned Parenthood in the documentary:
They say sex anytime, anywhere, with anybody of any gender, and even outside your species, I mean it's so disgusting the things that Planned Parenthood promotes; so foul, so egregious and then they start teaching these horrific, horrible, immoral behavior patterns to the youngest of children in our public schools. So on top of killing children, they're the agent of immorality in America.As Michelle Goldberg pointed out, there are "a lot of people who weren't paying close attention." While we weren't paying close attention, Troy Newman and other anti-abortion activists were very busy:
We've gone from a number of about 2,173 abortion clinics in 1991 to today we have less than 660, which is a decrease by 70% and if we never overturn Roe v. Wade, that's okay. As long as I can close every abortion clinic and stop every abortion, we win.How long has this been going on? Quite some time. While looking for specific links to include in this diary, I stumbled across a Reuters article from 2008 about a leaked Bush Administration memo:
Family planning groups and at least one member of Congress objected on Tuesday to a Bush administration memo that defines several widely used contraception methods as abortion and protects the right of medical providers to refuse to offer them.When anti-abortion activists realized that they weren't going to easily overturn Roe v. Wade they started executing a different method of attack. They started getting themselves elected to state houses and governorships, and then introduced and passed trap laws to make it more and more difficult for abortion clinics to stay open. They started passing invasive requirements like Virginia's ultrasound law to make it even more difficult and humiliating for a woman to obtain an abortion. In other words, if they can't make abortion illegal, then they will make getting an abortion impossible. In their minds, it's the same result. When they succeed, what will happen? Things will go back to the way they were before Roe v. Wade. Chrisse France, the Director of the Preterm Clinic in Ohio, remembers:
The proposal would cut off federal funds to hospitals and states that attempt to compel medical providers to offer legal abortion and contraception services to women.
The proposal circulated to media defines abortion broadly to include many types of contraception, including birth control pills and intrauterine devices.
Prior to Roe v. Wade when abortion became legal, we found that women who had money always had access to safe abortion, whether or not it was legal. That was not true for poor women and many of our older doctors when they were doing their residencies would see those women in emergency departments.These are the stakes. If these anti-abortion activists win, women will die. They don't care about women like Latoya Parks, who was getting her fifth abortion in the documentary, and said: "No. I can't have any more kids ’cause I can't take care of me or my son right now by myself so it's very, very hard." They don't care about what would happen to Latoya if she were to seek a back alley abortion and die leaving her 8-year-old son without the only parent he has. They don't care if she doesn't get that back alley abortion, and has another child with no means of supporting it. And they certainly don't want Latoya to have access to birth control because in their eyes that's murder too.
It is all black and white to them. Just like it's all black and white to Paul Ryan, who also doesn't care about the quality of the lives they insist are brought into this world. Even a letter from the Catholic bishops criticizing his budget for failing to meet certain “moral criteria” by disproportionately cutting programs that “serve poor and vulnerable people” bothered Paul Ryan.
Mitt Romney? He's not a true believer. He'll just say anything he has to in order to pander to the extremists in his lust to be president. As Sandra Fluke said at the Democratic National Convention:
We've also seen another future we could choose. First of all, we'd have the right to choose. It's an America in which no one can charge us more than men for the exact same health insurance; in which no one can deny us affordable access to the cancer screenings that could save our lives; in which we decide when to start our families. An America in which our president, when he hears a young woman has been verbally attacked, thinks of his daughters—not his delegates or donors—and stands with all women. And strangers come together, reach out and lift her up. And then, instead of trying to silence her, you invite me here—and give me a microphone—to amplify our voice. That's the difference.There is a war on women, and unfortunately as I learned today, there are more women than I thought who are waging a war against their own gender. There are now more anti-abortion clinics than abortion clinics (watch the documentary). Whatever issue you care about most in this election, every single one of you reading this has women in your life. Whether it's your mother, sister, aunt, niece, cousin, or your own daughter, if they win then many of those women in your life will lose. If they succeed in shutting down Planned Parenthood, millions of women will lose access to basic health care services like breast exams and cancer screenings, as well as birth control.
Do what you can to help elect Democrats to state as well as national offices: Donate, share videos, make phone calls, register voters, and write letters to the editor. There is something you can do. The stakes are higher than you might ever have thought.
During the Republican National Convention, Lindsey Graham was quoted as saying, “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.” It's not that they are angry or old or even white that I object to. It's the misogynistic hate that this new Republican Party promotes that caused my own father to assume that I was a slut who deserved to be assaulted because I must have been hanging out in the wrong places that has me furious.
Nothing bad ever happens to you if you can take the experience and use it to help somebody else said my mother. I sincerely hope that having written all this has helped somebody out there. My mother also told me on her death bed, Tracy, if you ever have a problem, write it down. Now that I’ve written it down, I still don't know what I am going to do about my father who has sent an email and has tried to call. I haven’t answered. I’m still just too angry to talk to him. I could send him a link to this diary, but he has already proclaimed that he will never, ever “visit that communist site, The DailyKos.” It seems that according to my father I'm a communist and socialist too. I think I will be able to sleep now.
[Video of teenagers lying on the ground with red cloth draped around them and drums beating.]
Narrator: On the boardwalk of California's Venice Beach, these teenagers have come to perform their own brand of street theater.
Young Woman #1 talking through megaphone: Every day in our country, we kill over 3,500 human beings. We are survivors of the abortion holocaust.
Narrator: They're here to take up the mantle of America's anti-abortion movement.
Young Woman #1 talking through megaphone: We deserve better than abortion.
Narrator: They call this demonstration a die in.
Young Woman #1 talking through megaphone: Each person represents over one million children who have been killed through legalization of abortion.
Narrator: These activists believe that life begins at conception and that abortion is murder, but not everyone agrees with them. Other people believe that abortion is a medical procedure that women should have access to legally and safely, and that women's basic human rights include control over their bodies.
Young Woman #2 talking through megaphone: Abortion is a travesty against the American people.
Narrator: It's no secret that for decades the United States has been polarized over the issue of abortion.
Young Woman #2 talking through megaphone: ...the very nature of a woman.
Narrator: But what is different now is that across the U.S. in an election year, the battle has been taken to a whole new level.
Young Woman #2 talking through megaphone: And you are paying for that slaughter with your tax dollars.
On Screen: FAULTLINES
Video of a teenager playing guitar and other teenagers singing: Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart, I want to see you.
Narrator: This is the Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust camp.
Teenagers singing: I want to see you.
Narrator: Hundreds of Christian high school and college students from all over the U.S. have gone through this program since it began 15 years ago.
Teenagers singing: Shining in the light of your glory.
Narrator: It's run by prominent anti-abortion leaders, who've come to teach the students how to get the movement message across.
Teenagers singing: Glory, glory, holy.
Troy Newman (President, Operation Rescue): You guys are going out in the street today. You're going to meet a lot of people, and I bet a lot of them have been stolen from. They've had their money stolen, their baby killed and often times their lives destroyed. And so there's this sea of wounded out there. You as activists for Jesus are going to go out there and you're going to respond to that.
Narrator: Today will be the first time they take what they've learned in the classroom to the street, Hollywood Boulevard.
Speaker: And when you show up with a picture of an aborted baby, it's going to scratch the small scab that's over that wound, and they're going to be bleeding right in front of you.
[Scene moves to the street.]
Katie Rodgers-Heniser: Okay, move up against the glass. Stay out of the walkway. Stay out of the walkway.
Narrator: Katie Rodgers-Heniser is one of the most active students in the group; someone camp organizers hope will be a future anti-abortion leader.
Katie Rodgers-Heniser: The first time I saw a graphic image, it really struck me. Wow! This is happening in America. This is happening in my country. People are dying now while I'm sitting here, right now. And God came and spoke to me, to say look you need to do something about this. It is your job. The blood will be on your hands if you don't stand up.
Narrator: At this camp and in this movement, language is everything. An abortion clinic is called an abortion mill. An abortion doctor is an abortionist. An embryo or fetus is a pre-born baby.Video of activists on street with posters of aborted fetuses.Female Activist speaking to camera: I understand it's shocking and jolting to people, but the realty is that's truth and as Americans, we've got to get our heads out of the sand. It's truth.
Female Activist: It's true, baby. It's true.
Woman walking by: What is it?
Female Activist: That's a baby, honey.
Woman: So you're against abortion?
Narrator: But not everyone is receptive to the group's tactics.
A female passerby: In front of the Disney Store, in a tourist area where there are very small children, they are presenting material that is not appropriate for children. That kid is 13 years old. He's not allowed to go to an R-rated movie, but yet he is presenting R-rated material, and I don't think that it's right (walks off).
Activist: Have a nice day, ma'am.
Jeff White (Founder, Survivors): They're smart. They're energetic. They're well-educated in the issues of abortion, and with a focus and a determination, I believe that these young people will lead us to an end to abortion in America. That makes them very dangerous to the abortion industry.
Michelle Goldberg (Author, "The Means of Reproduction"): They do believe that they are raising up a generation of holy warriors. That's incredibly powerful and I also think for a teenager it's intoxicating, because you're basically saying that you are going to be a player in this kind of ultimate showdown between good and evil.
Katie Rodgers-Heniser: Hopefully, in 20 years, abortion will no longer be an epedemic. But, even so, like we have memorials for the civil rights movement and memorials for the holocaust, I will still be standing on the street corner with a sign reminding Americans that this was our holocaust. This is what we took part in and I'll be reminding them of that, so that we never do it again.
[Video of Mitt Romney campaign event. Romney bus pulls up. Video pans crowd of people. Mitt Romney shaking hands.]
Narrator: Even though abortion has been legal throughout the U.S. since the 1973 Supreme Court ruling, Roe v. Wade, the issue still stirs passions like few others, and in closely fought elections like this one, it can draw voters to the polls.
Elizabeth Nash, Guttmacher Institute: Essentially, when you come to abortion, Americans go crazy. One side is trying to ensure access so that woman can have families when they want to, and one side is trying to ensure that every pregnancy ends in a baby.
[Video of Mitt Romney waving to supporters.]
Narrator: Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, is campaigning in the swing state of Ohio.
Older white man at Romney event: I support a woman's right to choose too, but her right to choose ends when she gets into bed.
Narrator: The Republican party draws heavily on conservative Christian voters and abortion has become a litmus test for those seeking the nomination. During the primaries, like every other candidate in the running, Mitt Romney announced that he was against it. But the truth is that his position has changed over time. While running for governor of Massachusetts 10 years ago, he pledged to preserve and protect a woman's right to choose. But in 2005, just two years before he first ran for president, Romney declared that he was pro-life and now he says Roe v. Wade should be reversed.Video of Mitt Romney shaking hands with supporters: Hi there, nice to see you guys.Michelle Goldberg: So now Mitt Romney's position, which is that he wants to ban abortion with a few narrow exceptions; that used to be the right-wing position. That's now the moderate position. I don't believe for a second that Mitt Romney cares about abortion. I do think that increasingly, the true believers have kind of, you know, they've been on this long march through the system and they have now ascended to positions of power. And for them it really is a crusade.
Reporter: Governor Romney, why did you change your position from supporting the right of a woman to choose to opposing abortion?
Romney continues to shake hands and say hello to supporters.
Reporter: Why did you change your position on abortion as soon as you decided to run for president?
Romney continues to shake hands and say hello to supporters, then says to reporter: You've got your date wrong. [Then let's out that infamous laugh that is his tell when he is lying, see Rachel Maddow: "Mitt Romney has a tell."]
Video of Romney at campaign rally: Thank you so much.
Narrator: What's different about this presidential race is that it's not just abortion that's firing up both parties.Video of Obama campaign ad [See "Important" - Obama for America TV Ad]: I'm Barack Obama and I approved this message.
Alex: "This is not the 1950s. Contraception is so important to women ... it's about a woman being able to make decisions..."Video of Bill O'Reilly on Fox News: Some liberal Americans are trying to convince everybody that the Republican party is waging a war against women.Video of Wolf Blitzer on CNN: A Republican Amendment to President Obama's controversial contraception directive has failed.Video from Romney Ad: President Obama has used his healthcare plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith. Mitt Romney believes that's wrong. When religious freedom is threatened, who do you want to stand with?Michelle Goldberg: You know, you could say there's a war on women's bodies. To me that seems kind of irrefutable. It's created this huge backlash that has really I think surprised a lot of people who weren't paying close attention and who didn't realize that much of the anti-abortion movement is as opposed to contraception as it is to abortion, you know, and does see very little moral distinction actually between the morning after pill or the birth control pill or the IUD and an abortion at 15 weeks.
Male Activist yelling a car pulling into parking garage: Say the rosary and you'll choose life.
Narrator: At the Preterm Abortion Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, protestors are offering women what they call sidewalk counseling.
Male Activist yelling: No good will come of you entering this place of death and doom. No problems are solved here. Only greater problems are created.
Female Activist: Mommy, your baby wants to live.
Dr. Lisa Perriera: It seems not fair and it creates stigma and it makes the women anxious and it makes them feel like they're doing something wrong or bad and they're not. They're doing the thing that is best for them; best for their families; best for their life.
Narrator: Dr. Lisa Perriera has worked at Preterm for two years. During that time, she's seen hundreds of women pass through the clinic's doors.
Dr. Lisa Perriera: They are moms and they're looking out for their families. And they know that they can't bring another child into the world. They are woman that are trying to finish college and trying to make better lives for themselves so that later on they can provide well for a family. They are women that have complicated pregnancies, where they have babies that are very much desired; however, the baby is sick and won't survive outside of the womb, so they choose to terminate the pregnancy.
Narrator: One of Dr. Perriera's patients is a 16-year-old girl who became pregnant because of a broken condom.
Dr. Lisa Perriera talking to patient: Imagine getting nice and comfy. We're going to be setting up all over ... okay?
Narrator: Despite her family's strong Christian faith, they decided that abortion is the best choice. Her mother asked us not to show her face.
Girl's mother (showing only wringing her hands): She went back and forth with I'm going to have this child, and I could tell that when she did that, she did that because deep down inside that's what we all want to do. That's nature. But she's sixteen. She hasn't completed her education. If my daughter were forced to have a child that she was not ready for, no one would be there to pick up those pieces in five years. (Crying) It's so hard. Will God forgive me? That's what she said to me.
Narrator: Almost one out of three women in the U.S. will have an abortion by the age of 45. Last year, across the country, Republican lawmakers tried to turn over a thousand pieces of legislation into laws, all aimed at restricting abortion or reproductive rights.
Women on phone at clinic: Yeah, unfortunately, that legislation has changed, trying to restrict things for women. You might be better off going to a clinic in either Michigan or Pennsylvania. I can give you ...
Narrator: Here in Ohio, the state's Republican majority House of Representatives passed a so-called "Heartbeat" bill which would outlaw abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That can sometimes be as early as five or six weeks after conception before most women even know that they're pregnant. Representative Jim Buchy is one of the bill's cosponsors.
Rep. Jim Buchy: I believe in the sanctity of life and I am in support of any legislation that is going to reduce or eliminate abortions. I believe there should be no abortions, period, except in the threat of the life of the mother.
Nina Turner (Ohio State Senator): And ironically, it's called the "Heartbeat" bill. I call it the "Heartless" bill because it doesn't have any heart for women and it really only sees a woman as a carrier and she has no other right beyond her ability to reproduce.
Narrator: State Senator Nina Turner is opposing the legislation. To become law, the bill must still be passed by the state senate and signed by the governor.
Sen. Nina Turner: One of the reasons in my opinion that these abortion bills are so insidious, so dangerous, is because it chips away at the notion of personal liberty. Your right; and what can be more fundamental to your personal liberty than being able to control your own body?
Narrator to Jim Buchy: What do you think makes a woman want to have an abortion?
Rep. Jim Buchy: Well, there's probably a lot of ... I'm not a woman so I (laughing) I'm thinking, if I'm a woman, why would I want to get ... you know, some of it has to do with economics. A lot of it has to do with economics. I don't know, I've never; it's a question I've never even thought about.
Chrisse France (Director, Preterm Clinic): Prior to Roe v. Wade when abortion became legal, we found that women who had money always had access to safe abortion, whether or not it was legal. That was not true for poor women and many of our older doctors when they were doing their residencies would see those women in emergency departments. So we wanted to make sure that all women would always have access to abortion care, and our government and the State of Ohio has made sure that it's more difficult for women to access that care.
Video of Latoya Parks: It's going to be very, very hot today.
Narrator: Latoya Parks is eight weeks pregnant. Today she's going to have an abortion.
Video of Latoya Forks kissing child in bed: I love you.
Narrator: While she's at the clinic, she's going to depend on a neighbor to check on her 8-year-old son. A single mother, Latoya last had a job four years ago when she worked as a cashier for a grocery store. She says she can't afford the cost of another child. She falls into the demographics of those most likely to have an abortion. Minorities, low income women and single mothers. It's Latoya's fifth abortion here.
Latoya Parks: It was definitely both of our fault. Neither one of us took the precautionary steps to prevent pregnancy. So, I take total responsibility for it.
Narrator to Latoya: I would imagine moving forward you wouldn't take that risk again?
Latoya Parks: No. I can't have any more kids ’cause I can't take care of me or my son right now by myself so it's very, very hard.
Narrator to camera: Latoya has just been sedated and the doctor has gone in to do the procedure. Now we were supposed to be in there but we were asked to leave at the last minute because the doctor was concerned. His wife was particularly concerned about his safety if he was to be identified as a provider of an abortion that his life would receive threats.
Narrator: The United States has seen more anti-abortion violence than any other country in the world. Since 1993 at least eight abortion providers, including four doctors, have been killed, and there have been over 200 arsons and bombings against reproductive health care clinics since 1977.
[Video moves from Latoya recuperating at clinic to cars driving down a road.]
Narrator: On the other end of the spectrum of the anti-abortion movement's tactics, crisis pregnancy centers or CPCs. Katie Stack is on her way to one now, even though she is not pregnant. An abortion rights activist, Katie is going in with a hidden camera. Katie visited a CPC when she was facing an unplanned pregnancy a few years ago, and she says she was deceived. Now she travels across the country secretly filming inside of them to document what they tell women seeking abortions. She's agreed to film inside three Ohio CPCs for us.
Katie Stack: They advertise that they are unbiased, nonjudgmental, confidential centers for women to go and get resources about an unplanned pregnancy, but they push an ideology more than anything else.
Narrator: While CPCs look like health clinics, they rarely have medical professional staff on board. They bill themselves as places where women can go to explore their options.
Katie Stack to receptionist: I have an appointment at 3:30.
Narrator: But their goal is to counsel women against having an abortion.
Female Counselor #1: We as women are made to birth babies. It's just nature.
Female Counselor #2: There's much more risk involved in having an abortion than having a baby. Actually, more risk. Yea.
Narrator: Actually, that statement is false. Studies have shown that a woman is fourteen times more likely to die carrying a baby to term than having a legal abortion in the United States. The counselors warn Katie that there are long-term complications as well.
Female Counselor #2: A big risk that is not talked about that much, but it is a definite risk, is breast cancer. [Reading from pamphlet] Several worldwide studies have linked abortions to ...
Female Counselor #1: The risk for breast cancer goes up around 40, 45 percent.
Narrator: The risk of breast cancer was cited in every CPC Katie has been to, but the National Cancer Institute says that studies have shown no relationship between an abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer. During the past year, Katie has visited nearly 30 CPCs in twelve states. She says their messages are consistent.
Katie Stack: So this is a pamphlet that I got from the Women's Care Center and it's typical of what you usually get from a CPC, sort of laying out the risks of abortion: premature birth, uterine and cervical damage, post abortion syndrome, which is actually something not recognized by the American Psychological Association, and I've had some CPC go as far as to say that it's like a psychosis.
Female Counselor #2: Saddness, long-term grief, anger, sexual dysfunction, flashbacks, guilt, memory repression, hallucinations…
Female Counselor #3: You are basically kind of traumatized afterwards.
Female Counselor #1: I don't want to scare you, but this is the realty of it.
Michelle Goldberg: I'm sure there are women who have regretted their abortion or who have suffered kind of psychological fallout, but we know from reputable studies that women who've had unwanted pregnancies that have ended in abortion do not overall fair psychologically worse than women who've had unwanted pregnancies that they've carried to term.
Katie Stack: I've never cried over my abortion. I've cried over the way people have treated me because of it. I've cried over the fact that I felt like I couldn't tell anyone about it, but I've never felt regret over the actual procedure.
Narrator: There are more than 4,000 crisis pregnancy centers in the U.S.; six times the number of abortion clinics. At least 20 states provide funding for CPCs, and while they've received millions in federal dollars, there is no government oversight. As CPCs expand, the number of abortion clinics in the United States is shrinking. Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the country, has become the target of the national campaign by abortion opponents.
Troy Newman (President, Operation Rescue): Planned Parenthood is the biggest villain in the abortion industry for one specific reason. They receive almost half of all their funding from us taxpayers.
Narrator: Several states have passed laws defunding the organization, even though abortion only makes up 3% of their services, and by law it's not paid for by any public money. Instead, Planned Parenthood uses those funds to provide critical health care mainly to low income women.
Elizabeth Nash: When we talk about defunding Planned Parenthood, what is happening is that abortion opponents are using Planned Parenthood as a symbol of all that is wrong with society, but particularly around abortion and family planning.
Narrator: Tennessee lawmakers voted to defund Planned Parenthood last year. We paid a visit to this branch in Nashville, which offers women everything from HIV testing to breast cancer screenings. Fifteen thousand poor and low income women in Tennessee rely on their services each year. Kelly Gregory visited Planned Parenthood after finding a lump in her breast. Unemployed and with no health insurance, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Kelly Gregory: Planned Parenthood saved my life. My care providers stayed in contact with me after my diagnosis to make sure that I was getting the services that I needed; to see if there was anything else that they could do for me. And my nurse practitioner specifically phoned me every few days to see how I was doing.
Narrator: The organization has also been targeted because it distributes contraception and provides sex education to teenagers.
Troy Newman: They say sex anytime, anywhere, with anybody of any gender, and even outside your species, I mean it's so disgusting the things that Planned Parenthood promotes; so fowl, so egregious and then they start teaching these horrific, horrible, immoral behavior patterns to the youngest of children in our public schools. So on top of killing children, they're the agent of immorality in America.
Kelly Gregory: Planned Parenthood in many ways is carrying out a mission that would be understood by Christ because they take care of in many ways those that noone else wants to take care of.
Narrator: It's rare for the Supreme Court to reverse established law like Roe v. Wade so the anti-abortion movement has been focusing on lobbying lawmakers to pass restrictions that make it harder for abortion clinics to operate, shutting down clinics one by one.
Michelle Goldberg: The width of doors, the landscaping of the clinic lawn; they'll kind of pass all of these incredibly exacting regulations that have nothing to do with health care but that are meant to make compliance impossible.
Troy Newman: We've gone from a number of about 2,173 abortion clinics in 1991 to today we have less than 660, which is a decrease by 70% and if we never overturn Roe v. Wade, that's okay. As long as I can close every abortion clinic and stop every abortion, we win.
Narrator: These women are doing every thing they can to make sure they don't win. In Washington D.C. a number of women's groups are protesting what they see as a Republican lead effort to restrict their rights.
Narrator to camera: As an issue during a presidential election, abortion can be a useful tool to mobilize the Republican base, but as you can see the question is how far can you take it without creating a backlash?
Narrator: When Americans vote on November the 6th, they will be asked to make a choice over who will recover a broken economy in the political system dominated by corporate interests. By comparison, on the surface at least, the issue of abortion seems clear cut.
Woman holding sign "Women Do Regret Abortion": No anesthesia, that's what abortion is.
Narrator: But at its heart, it asks complicated questions.
Man: Why do you have to lie to prove something true?
Narrator: About life and death, control and choice, equality and the direction America will take.
Woman holding sign yelling at another woman: You are a lady who could help them.
Woman responds: She only cares that a baby is born; she doesn't care what happens to the kids after they're born.
Dr. Lisa Perriera: By goal is to keep this procedure safe and legal for women because it's not going away even if you make it illegal, women will have abortions and they will die.
Michelle Goldberg: To me what's just a shocking government invasion, the idea of forcing somebody to have a child against their will, seems to antithetical to the entire regime's kind of human rights and personal liberty that we have in this country.
Troy Newman: What is abortion? Fundamentally, it's the killing of an innocent child. If you can't get the life of unborn baby right, I can't trust you with my taxes, education or anything else.
Nina Turner: Women died; actually died trying to get back alley abortions. Do we want to go back to that in the land of opportunity, in the land of freedom? You know, when did it become a sin and a shame to be a woman in this country? Well that is what has happening in the 21st century in many states across this country and also in our Congress and it's just absolutely shameful to me.