Posted on January 31, 2004


Stone Cold-Hearted

November Gang admits to killing babies


Daniel Clark



For decades now, it has been considered unacceptable to use the term "baby-killing" in reference to abortion. Even among those who are sympathetic to the anti-abortion side, such language has been frowned upon as excessive and unproductive. Not since the early part of last century, when Susan B. Anthony condemned abortion as "the horrible crime of child-murder" has that sort of rhetoric been a part of the accepted discourse. But look who's talking about killing babies now.

Susan B.: 'anti-choice' extremist

Claire Keyes is the director of the Allegheny Reproductive Health Center in the East Liberty section of Pittsburgh. Keyes' clinic is among a handful that have banded together, united by a new philosophy of how to "counsel" women who are considering abortions. This group, which calls itself the November Gang (you know, as in the time of year when things die and fall to the ground), was the subject of an article in the September issue of Glamour magazine, and more recently, in the January 20th edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Unlike most abortion clinic employees, who "correct" women who refer to their "babies" by insisting that a living human being in the womb is "only tissue," the November Gang adapts its approach to accommodate the perception of the mother. If she believes that what she is carrying is not "only tissue" or "a clump of cells," but instead is her own son or daughter, the NG counselor will not disagree, but will gently steer her toward having an abortion anyway.

"I'm killing my baby," Glamour quotes one woman telling Keyes. "Will God forgive me?" Keyes' answer: "Do you think there are any things that God considers completely unforgivable?" The woman responds in the negative, and, we are left to infer, consents to the abortion.

A better question to ask would have been, "How sincere will your plea for forgiveness be if you're already planning to seek it before committing the act?" But of course, that would not have furthered the aim of killing her baby, which Keyes does not discourage her from believing she is doing. And why not? If an abortion is truly something other than the killing of a baby, then what kind of a sadist would allow a woman to walk away thinking she had done just that?

Not only doesn't the November Gang resist acknowledging the existence of unborn children, but it actually encourages it, by inviting women to write valentines to the children they've just had killed. Covering the walls of NG clinics are heart-shaped pieces of pink and red paper, bearing messages from mothers to their dead babies. One would expect that, to the director of an abortion clinic, the suggestion that the office be decorated with notes to dead unborn children might be a bit offensive. On the other hand, given that their sales pitch to women is that the killing of their children is fully warranted and will therefore be forgiven, it's actually not surprising that they feel no need to inhibit discussion of the "k" and "b" words.

Many of the letters cited in the two articles exhibit the typical pro-abortion self-centered psychobabble. One note to the deceased reads in part, "But the memory of you will make me strong." Why, one might ask, should the intended recipient of the message care? Another letter, oblivious to its own irony, says, "You have given me reason to be strong and wise and responsible." One of the paper hearts, pictured in the Post-Gazette, simply says, "I'm sorry!!" with the dots from the exclamation points forming the eyes of a smiley face. Was that supposed to brighten the baby's day?

a minor character

Each of these letters acknowledges that an innocent person has been killed, yet that person is actually not the focus of any of the messages. Instead, it is the feelings of the author that are of primary importance. When the clinic directors paper the walls with these letters, they tell other women who enter not only that baby-killing is justifiable, but that it can even be considered virtuous, as long as the mother can find a way to argue that it somehow behooves her. Thus, the November Gang is trying to shift the posture of the pro-abortion movement, from denial (Babies? What babies?) to defiance (So we're killing babies. And?).

Men who arrive at the clinics are also encouraged to record their feelings in a journal, and to participate in "counseling" sessions with their girlfriends. That's a clever tactic, considering that the father of an unborn child is often the one who demands the abortion, and that any man who accompanies the mother to the clinic is presumably in favor of the idea. This way a woman who is ambivalent about having an abortion, but willing to allow her boyfriend to sit in on the session, will have given the "counselor" a powerful ally in persuading her to go through with the procedure.

making right and wrong disappear

Another ally the November Gang has enlisted is God ... or at least, the rhetorical sock puppet named "God" that they introduce to women at their Punch and Judy counseling shows. Daryl Chen, author of the Glamour story, says women at the NG clinics are asked questions like, "What would you say to God right now? What do you think God would say back to you?"

As it turns out, "God" is remarkably nonjudgmental. Not only do many women feel better about having abortions after consulting with (and speaking for) him, but they even, with NG assistance, pray over, and occasionally "baptize," their babies' mangled corpses. This is necessary, you see, to bring "closure" -- and isn't that what's really important?

When Chen asked November Gang member Hagstrom Miller if women's religious questions regarding abortion wouldn't better be handled by a clergy member than a clinic employee, Miller answered, "Well, send me a minister who will come to a clinic and hold the hand of a woman during an abortion, and I'd be happy to let him do it." So discussion of religion at the clinic is legitimate if, and only if, its intent is to sell an abortion.

Miller certainly wouldn't be happy to let a minister hold the hand of a woman while helping her flee from that banana farm they call a "women's health care facility." Those who own and operate abortion clinics claim they're not pro-abortion, but only "pro-choice," but evidently, any influence that convinces women to "choose" against abortion is unwelcome.

As an encore to this macabre performance, the November Gang will ask a woman who has just had an abortion to select a brightly colored stone from a basket in the waiting room. She may be leaving without her son or daughter, but at least she'll have a happy-looking pet rock to keep her company.

Supposedly, the stones' meaning is left up to the women to decide on an individual basis. Once they have departed, though, the stone is worthless to them at best. It's hard to imagine a woman wanting a keepsake from an abortion. It's not as if she's likely to keep it on display in her living room, explaining to visitors, "Oh, that's my abortion rock."

The only detectable benefit from this hollow symbol goes to the people at the clinic, who can help justify their work by pretending to have given the woman something of value in return. This gives the clinic, and those who are sympathetic to it, "closure," as can be seen in the last two paragraphs of Chen's story.

"A pale, skinny 20-year-old, Christy arrives at the Pittsburgh clinic carrying a high school yearbook because, she explains apologetically, she doesn't have a driver's license or any other photo I.D." (Chen goes on to explain that Christy is a college student, which would lead one to believe that she'd have a photo I.D., but let's accept the tale at face value anyway.) "... When Ronnie suggests that Christy take a stone from the clinic's basket, she gladly accepts and takes her time choosing the right one.

"Christy is the last patient of the day. As she gets up from a recliner in the recovery room and tucks her yearbook under her arm, Sheryl Crow sings on the radio about how she's gonna soak up the sun. One of the pink hearts on the wall expresses a similar sense of optimism: 'A lot of beautiful, wise women have been here before & are here today. Be gentle with yourself on this journey.' Standing straight and walking with purpose, Christy waves goodbye, opens the door and leaves."

That will surely not be the end of the story for Christy (assuming she exists), but it was undoubtedly a satisfying conclusion for Chen, who writes as if the hero is riding off into the sunset. She might keep in mind, however, that in this case, the dead person is not a black-hatted villain.



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