* response to abortion!
Thanks for the Encouragement
Before I get to the point of this, I'd first like to say thanks
to each of you who took the time to respond to my article on
abortion. I was urged by the sysops of two Baton Rouge BSS's to
allow the story to be sent up, and I agreed.
The story you read was published in the Baton Rouge magazine Gris
Gris. It was a gift to my friend, John Maginnis, the publisher of
the magazine on the occasion of his debuting a new statewide
I get the feeling from the tone of some of the responses I've
read that a few of you don't understand who I am, or what I did
for a living since 1972.
I was, until last month, a reporter. For the past four-and-a-half
years I was employed by United Press International, the world's
second-largest newsgathering organization. For those of you with
a strong belief that the media is liberal and pro-choice, I'm
very sorry. I oppose MOST abortions, with good reason, but that's
not the point here. I have never been accused by any of UPI's
estimated 50 million readers that my articles were one-sided or
favored one position over another. In writing the story, I
approached the issue in the only way I knew how -- it was a
spectacle from Day One until the last night of the 1990 session.
It was calculated to be spectacle, by both sides, to maximize
media impact. If the story offended you, good. It should have.
Such an emotional and philosophical issue belongs on a higher
plane than retail politics at the state level.
I was the president of the Capitol Correspondents Association
this year, the organization that oversees the activities of
reporters in the Louisiana State Capitol. In that capacity, I was
liason for countless national print reporters and network crews
that descended on Louisiana to watch the debate on banning
abortion. I was asked by ABC's "Nightline" program to moderate a
debate between two of the key players in the Louisiana abortion
debate because I was recognized BY BOTH SIDES on the issue as
being an unbiased and knowledgable source. I also was interviewed
by National Public Radio's "Morning Edition," and was interviewed
by CNN for a piece on how the Louisiana Legislature turned a bill
dealing with beating up people who desecrate the flag into the
"Crime of Simple Battery of Abortion."
All that being said, let's get to the point. The abortion debate
in Louisiana this year WAS a spectacle, not matched in this state
since the bitters legislative arguments over right to work laws
in the 1970s.
There's an old saying that there are two things you never want to
see being made: sausage and politics. Truly, the abortion debate
-- on both sides -- proved that statement 100 percent true.
I have never seen behavior like I saw this year from the pro-life
lobby. Yes, the article does pick on them more, but for a simple
reason: they overran the State Capitol in such numbers that it
was virtually impossible to move from one place to another, much
less get any work done. The pro-choice lobby had its act together
more than people realize; they simply sat back and let the
pro-life forces destroy any chance they had of passing a
restrictive abortion bill.
The failing here, I think, has to do with the church's role in
turning abortion into a political crusade. The problem with that
approach is that once you threaten a legislator, vow to campaign
against him in the next election, you've lost him for life. He'll
never vote for any other piece of legislation you support.
In mid-June, a very much pro-choice black lawmaker from Baton
Rouge was called out of the House during important debate by an
insistent citizen. This citizen proceeded to quote scripture to
the legislator about why abortion is murder. The legislator
patiently listened, thanked the citizen for the input, then
returned to his seat on the House floor. Moments later, a second
citizen called out the same legislator, who also quoted scripture
to the lawmaker. He again patiently listened, thanked the person
for the input, then returned to his seat. A third message came to
him requesting he meet a citizen outside the chamber. This nice
clean-cut young man threatened the lawmaker, then shouted,
"Repent, you asshole!" before he was led away by state troopers.
A couple of weeks after that shouting incident, a woman who owns
several pro-life pregnancy shelters in Louisiana testified in
committee on the bill to ban abortions. She assured the panel
members she could place each child in a good home if the mother
wished to give up the infant. Under Louisiana law, a person who
spends some measure of time lobbying on behalf of a bill is
banned from also possessing a press credential. The theory, as
legislative aides say, is that a member of the media could exert
undue influence on lawmakers by virtue of their position.
Well, this woman at about the same time got hired by a Christian
radio station to report on the abortion goings-on. She was
granted a State Police media I.D. -- the credential we use at the
Capitol to verify that a reporter really is a reporter and will
be given special priveleges in covering all types of legislative
hearings. This woman was warned she could no longer lobby the
bill because she was now a reporter. She said she understood. She
then walked into a Senate committee, signed a form saying she
wanted to lobby on behalf of the abortion bill and sat in the
area reserved for press.
The board of the Capitol Correspondents voted to immediately file
a protest against her action. The chairman of the committee, Sen.
Mike Cross -- a staunch foe of all abortions -- chewed the woman
out for the breach of security and refused to let her testify on
behalf of the bill.
This woman promptly whined that her constitutional rights were
being violated by the "devil-worshippers on press row." She
continued to lobby behind the scenes, but at this point, we
ignored her. By the way, we didn't ignore some of the female
reporters who wore purple, the abortion-rights color -- during
some of the debate. One was evicted from the chamber for the day
on my orders.
Our friend with the Christian radio station probably won't be
back next year. On the second-to-last night of the 1990
legislative session, she told several sergeants-at-arms in the
House the 20 women with her wearing the "Abortion is Murder"
stickers on their blouses were actually reporters and authorities
had run out of press passes for them. I'm not real sure what this
woman had in mind trying to get 20 of her friends down on the
floor of the House of Representatives, but I can tell you that
the action was a felony in Louisiana. But we ignored that too.
Ironic, isn't it? A woman working for a Christian radio station
who runs a string of pro-life shelters stoops to attempting to
commit a felony to impress her friends, or perhaps to save the
15,000 fetuses that are aborted in Louisiana each year.
One of the key players in the anti-abortion movement was the
Eagle Forum, the same group that year after year vehemently
opposes sex education in schools. They also support the death
penalty and give the impression that they would not want the
state to spend one extra nickle to support the children not
wanted by their mothers. Every effort to include language that
would make the state responsible for the childrens' welfare was
blocked by the anti-abortion forces in the Legislature.
Politics is the art of pragmatism. It is knowing what you have to
give up to get what you want. It is not a knee-jerk reaction to
an emotional issue. This was lost on the anti-abortion forces who
failed to understand how banning abortion would lead to an
increased number of people on the welfare rolls and would cost the
state countless thousands of dollars each year. Until they
address those questions, they will not win in Louisiana.
It is also important to know a bit about some of the people who
supported the anti-abortion legislation. Many were NOT in any way
shape or form in favor of such a ban. But, and this is sad to say
with such an emotional issue, they were in it for the money or
the votes. Reporters and Capitol workers snickered when some of
those "pious" lawmakers rose in support of the bill, knowing
those same lawmakers were chasing the 16-year-old legislative
pages and had led, shall we say, a checkered life.
The lead author on the bill, Baton Rouge Rep. Woody Jenkins, sent
a "questionnaire" out in August. It asked citizens across the
state if they supported his abortion ban. It also asked them to
send a donation -- apparently to retire Jenkins' campaign debt
for a failed U.S. Senate bid six years ago. Nothing wrong with
that, but the timing of the mailing was questionable.
Jenkins, for his part, spent the better of 1990 telling every
camera in sight that the majority of Louisiana citizens favored
his outright ban. He told every anti-abortion rally -- and
believe me, there were plenty -- that they were in the majority,
not the liberal abortionists. What Jenkins forgot to tell his
followers, and the cameras, is that the most recent survey on the
subject that was taken after the high-profile session shows a
whopping 6 percent of the people in Louisiana favor an outright
The sad lesson for a lot of lawmakers who got sucked in on the
"everyone wants to ban abortions in Louisiana" ruse is that when
they returned home after the legislative session, they were
pounded by their constituents. While they were busy creating
perfect soundbites for the national networks, the state began its
fiscal year without a budget and left untouched numerous critical
pieces of legislation that affect most of 4.1 million people in
A year ago, ex-Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke -- now a Louisiana
state representative -- said he supported abortions for welfare
mothers. Duke is a master at veiling racism in the cloak of
conservatism, and this was no exception. Fast forward to this
year: Duke now opposes all abortions.
Nobody wants to say this in the media. I would not say this in
the media, but I will say it to you, the people who have a head
on their shoulders: a good deal of the anti-abortion debate in
Louisiana is a thinly disguised racist ploy. It's the poor black
women who are getting pregnant and feel they need the abortion.
Many get pregnant because they do not understand birth-control
methods -- methods the Eagle Forum opposes. As sentiments
continue to shift away from trying to achieve equality for all
races, more and more creative ways are found to cover racism with
a veneer of "conservatism" or "Christian beliefs." The
predominantly white Louisiana Legislature didn't see a problem
with banning abortions because it would not affect a majority of
During one of the rallies on the steps of the State Capitol, a
woman with an adoption agency from western Louisiana tried in
vain to convince some of the 1,000 "Christians" in attendance to
adopt some of the unwanted children she must take care of. No one
signed up. It helps to know the children were black.
D. Rice's response in the latest issue of FidoNews about school
prayer points up another angle of what I'm trying to get across.
About 5 years ago, I was watching Pat Robertson on the 700 Club.
He was urging his viewers to call Washington and convince their
congressmen to support a bill to prayer in school. Robertson was
incensed by this. He wanted the United States Congress to adopt a
policy of verbal prayer "because we don't want the Hare Krishnas
saying their own prayers." That statement, like some made in the
Louisiana abortion debate, seems to say that if you're in a
majority religion you have the right to decide the morals and
convictions of everyone. The framers of the U.S. Constitution
must be rolling in their graves.
As the editorial in FidoNews 7-43 pointed out, my article was NOT
about abortion. It was about the lengths that lawmakers and
special-interest groups will go to in order to achieve their
goals. These "lengths" include many not-so-Christian ideas such
as playing white lawmakers against black lawmakers, and
threatening and successfully bottling up the state's $8 billion
budget because the votes could not be found to override the
The night the legislative session ended, I vowed never to cover
the abortion issue again if I could help it. I was accused by
both pro-life and pro-choice forces of caving in to the other's
demands of equal treatment. I carried out that vow a month ago.
I am now the public information officer for Louisiana Attorney
General William Guste. You might be interested to know that Guste
was one of the prime movers in the 1990 effort to ban abortions
in Louisiana. You might also be interested to know that Guste,
like many of us, learned a painful lesson this year: it is an
issue that leaves no middle ground and leaves no one without
physical and emotional scars. Guste, like the rest of the players
in this little drama will be back next year, Fighting the Good
Fight to ban abortion. But perhaps they'll use a different
One can only hope...