Freedom Writer - July 1994
Project Choice = Project Hoax
By Anne Bower
The pretty butterfly landing on a flower was the logo of Project Choice,
a national survey of abortion providers designed to catalog the continuing
harassment of these doctors and the impact it has had on their lives.
Of the 961 surveys mailed, 285 were completed, a return rate of 30
percent -- remarkable for this type of research. Unfortunately, Project
Choice was a cover for the anti-choice organization Life Dynamics,
based in Lewisville, Texas.
Life Dynamics is renowned for its pamphlet _Bottom_Feeder:_The_Abortionists'_
Jokebook_, which was mailed to 30,000 medical students across the
nation. Bottom Feeder is a crudely drawn 16-page booklet filled with
jokes fitting the description of adolescent to scatological. Typical
Q. What do you call an abortionist with an IQ of 50?
Q. What's the difference between an abortionist and a cat fish?
A. One's an ugly, smelly, garbage-eating bottom feeder, and the other
one's a fish.
Q. What do you call a busload of abortionists going over a cliff
with one of its seats unoccupied?
A. A crying shame.
Lawyers in the audience may recognize some of this "humor." Most of
the jokes were simply rehashing of lawyer jokes with some ethnic ones
thrown in for good measure. Some newspapers around the country reported
on the reactions of medical students who received the unsolicited
mail. _The_News_and_Observer_ from Raleigh, North Carolina, said that
students from Duke, University of North Carolina, and Chapel Hill
had gotten copies. Some students said the booklet was too stupid to
take seriously, others resented the effort to dissuade them from offering
abortions. A Columbia University medical student wrote on _The_New_
York_Times_ editorial page saying that in the light of Dr. Gunn's
murder, this book was seen as a thinly veiled threat.
Mark Crutcher, president of Life Dynamics, was quoted in _The_Observer_
as saying that no one cared about the jokes when they were just about
lawyers, but "the second you make them about the slime of the earth,
everybody gets excited."
It is difficult to envision a group that printed _Bottom_Feeder_ as
being the authors of Project Choice. Ostensibly, this survey, called
"The Abortion Provider: A Self Analysis," was conducted by a group
of Texas students who were trying to do something about day-in, day-out
harassment of doctors. The story was they had applied to a foundation
for a grant and the foundation was supposedly making them conduct
the survey to prove there was harassment and to assure itself that
the students were worthy of funding. Major pro-choice organizations
were contacted asking for help with names. Some groups were suspicious,
but almost 1,000 surveys were eventually mailed in January 1993.
The survey was conducted professionally. Four days after the survey
packets, complete with self-addressed stamped envelopes, were received,
a follow-up call was made to the recipient. Eventually, a follow-up
postcard was mailed urging completion. By early February, Life Dynamics
judged they had received all the surveys they would get and began
tabulating the results.
The survey was divided into four parts: Profile, Motivation, Social
Environment, and Harassment and Violence. The Profile section asked
basic demographic questions such as age, sex, marital status, number
of children living at home, and religion. The not-surprising result
of this section was that abortion-providing doctors are somewhat older
than the average age of physicians in the U.S.
The results from the Motivation section probably explain this statistic.
Seventy-one percent of providers answered yes to the question, "Did
you ever personally see a tragedy as a result of an illegal abortion?"
(Ron Fitzsimmons, executive director of the National Coalition of
Abortion Providers, reported in _The_Body_Politic_ that many doctors
stay in practice because they remember what it was like before abortion
was legal.) Concern over illegal abortion was reported as a motivating
factor for 67 percent of physicians, but 42 percent said that financial
compensation received for providing abortions is not sufficient to
encourage the continuation of services.
Questions in the Social Environment section attempted to ascertain
how doctors who provide abortions are viewed within their profession.
Sixty-five percent said they have felt ostracized because of their
work. Half of the doctors reported having problems keeping or recruiting
staff because they did abortions. Physicians were also asked if they
thought there was a shortage of providers. Even though 80 percent
answered yes, only 20 percent would agree that non-physicians should
be allowed to do the procedure.
The answer to the question, "Has any aspect of the abortion procedure
ever caused you concern?" elicited a 38 percent yes. From this Project
Choice concludes "that the moral concerns abortion providers have
about performing abortions is an internal phenomenon brought on by
the nature of the act itself, and are not directly related to anti-abortion
The Harassment and Violence section gives Operation Rescue adherents
comfort. Even among providers who had not personally experienced harassment,
over 20 percent said that anti-abortion activity has caused them to
consider quitting. Eight percent who had not been harassed said this
type of activity has had a negative impact on their family. As a response
to the harassment, doctors reported feeling everything from anger
(75 percent) to thoughts of suicide (two percent) and drug use (one
percent). It remains to be seen how Life Dynamics will use this survey.
Mr. Crutcher said that _Bottom_Feeder_ and Project Choice are part
of a seven-pronged attack on physicians. Another project is the 800
Club. Anyone belonging to this group gets a list of toll-free numbers
of abortion providers across the country. The club's literature states,
"Obviously, some pro-life activists may choose to repeatedly call
these numbers for the purpose of harassing these doctors, or creating
what might be called an 'electronic rescue' of the abortion mill."
The literature cautions that businesses do get an activity report
that allows them to identify who called during the previous month.
Only time will tell what other "four shoes" Life Dynamics plans to
drop on physicians and their staff.
Anne Bower is the editor of _The_Body_Politic_, a pro-choice magazine
based in Binghamton, New York.
Reprinted with permission from The Body Politic
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