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Selling abortion

"Selling abortion" Continued...

Issue: "Millions cut down," Jan. 17, 2009

On July 16, 1962, after reading a newspaper story about babies born in Europe with serious birth defects because their mothers had taken tranquilizers containing thalidomide, Sherri Finkbine called her doctor and asked about those pills she had taken. The doctor checked, found she had been unwittingly taking thalidomide, and then-in Finkbine's words-"showed us pictures in a British medical journal of children born to mothers who had used the drug-horrible pictures, the arms, legs, fingers and toes. He told us, these are not odds to gamble with."

The doctor, reinterpreting the Hippocratic Oath like a bookie, offered counseling that was clearly incomplete. Medical evidence available at the time indicated that about 50 percent to 80 percent of children born to mothers taking thalidomide during their first trimester were perfectly normal; others had only minor problems; others were without full arms or legs, yet with love did well. But Finkbine's doctor pulled out pictures and urged abortion. A committee of three doctors approved the abortion under an Arizona law that allowed for it in special circumstances.

Then the story went public, and hospital administrators who feared public criticism refused to allow the abortion to occur in their facilities. Finkbine began a worldwide search for another abortion venue and eventually chose Sweden. Meanwhile, the investment in scholarly conferences and people who could make a credible case to reporters was paying off for the pro-abortion side: Every day during late July and early August reporters interviewed pro-abortion "experts" and condemned anti-abortion positions as "cruel" and "heartless," and praised "more civilized" Sweden.

During the last week of August the Gallup Poll for the first time included a question on abortion: Was Sherri Finkbine right to have had "this abortion operation"? Fifty-two percent of respondents said she had "done the right thing"; 32 percent felt she had done wrong. The majority supported a Romper Room lady who loved children and was the victim of "outdated ethics."

From 1962 through 1972 a full-court press sold abortion on both the front pages and the editorial pages of leading newspapers, at a time when those gazettes still had clout. The editorials were somber, while the news pages made abortion seem easy. By the end of the decade, with abortion legal in several states, the Omaha World-Herald was quoting "Betty" describing her abortion: "I had to stay quiet for 15 minutes. When I got up, I felt like a brand-new woman. I felt so happy." The Long Island Press quoted "Susan" telling the abortionist when the operation was over, "Oh, thank you, thank you." The reporter added, "Within the next half hour she will have some cookies and a soft drink in the recovery lounge, fill out a few forms, pay a fee of $200 and be on her way back home"-probably skipping, the article seemed to suggest.

Similarly, the Hartford Courant reported that abortion "is safe and usually without complications," and the Oregonian called abortion in Portland "a simple operation" that symbolizes "society's concern about overpopulation, pollution and survival." The San Francisco Chronicle proclaimed that "abortions can now be performed safely, efficiently, and economically," with "products of conception" quickly removed. The Chronicle told how a typical young woman "came back from the abortion smiling and saying, 'I feel fine,'" for the abortion "procedure is so simple and over so quickly that they [women having abortions] have no feelings of guilt."

Stories on abortion typically portrayed pro-abortionists as merciful and anti-abortionists as closed-minded. The Memphis Commercial Appeal, under a headline "Hand of Mercy Extends in Abortions," indicated that pro-abortionists counseling pregnant women were "answering these women's needs." The Houston Post quoted this line: "People say an aborted child might have grown up to be President. There's a better chance he would have grown up to be the one who shot the President." The article attacked anti-abortion laws "passed before women could vote, based on ideologies conceived by men."

Even when bombarded with such propaganda, Americans who had the chance to vote on abortion resisted. In 1972, although Detroit newspapers heavily supported a Michigan referendum to legalize abortion on demand through the first five months of pregnancy, 61 percent of Michigan voters said no. In North Dakota, 77 percent of voters turned down a similar referendum.

Overall, despite clever tactics, overwhelming press sentiment, and the support of powerful interests, pro-abortion forces by the end of 1972 had won unrestricted abortion in only four states, and legal abortion in hard cases-mothers' physical health, fetal deformity, and rape or incest-in 15 other states. Thirty-one states resisted any liberalization. A Gallup Poll in 1972 showed 66 percent of all Americans opposing elective abortion.

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