attending an anti-abortion assembly
sickness all da/ long
By Karen Barrett
Thin soup and Welsh rarebit
at a table in the Emerald Room
of the Shamrock Hilton. There
were three male students from
the University of St. Thomas, a
University of Houston art instructor, a gynecologist who has
her office in the Montrose area,
and two high school girls.
I chose to eat my lunch at this
particular table because I was
curious about the young women. I wondered about their
youthful support of the anti-
abortion movement. But the
Of course, if married couples
asked the dbctor to supply them
with contraceptive methods,
she admitted, she would discuss
it with them. She realized after
all, "only the most refined men
arecapableof controlling it. . ."
What was ft? I was still more
Someone' asked if abortion
had been a problem when she
was j>oing jto medical school.
Heavens, no! She'd never even
heard of it back then. Not until
after she had graduated from
Baylor College of Medicine in
1952 and become a resident at a
finitely more shameful^nd unmentionable than a woman
blinded by a roto-rooter abortion. [Dr. Kenneth Edelin was
the Boston doctor who was
recently convicted of manslaughter of a fetus.]
Anyway, when this local
practices came to light, he was
defrocked, well, he was asked to
resign from his hospital-after
all, you never lose your license,
the physician told us.
Here I remarked that I was
frightened as a patient to think
the apparent double suicide in a
squalid apartment. The only
truly significant feature of the
case, however, was the revelation that both doctors had been
barbiturate addicts for years,
had been prone to bizarre
behavior and had been allowed
to treat thousands of women
before any glimmerings of a
possibility of disciplinary action
had become evident.
Everyone looked uncomfortable. I had thought I was
making an earnest observation
with which all these right-
minded people would concur.
But it seemed I had stolen the
luncheon was short on such
insight; both girls were shy and
diffident. The doctor, a very
vocal woman, proved to be the
most fascinating person I encountered all day.
The St. Thomas students,
certainly the most wholesome
youths I'd encountered in years,
were deferential and ingenuous
to the gynecologist. When one
student asked her about her
activity in the movement, she
said without a trace of self-
consciousness that it had all
started when St. Joseph's Hospital set out to find "a White,
Anglo-Saxon Protestant woman
gynecologist" to give Pro-Life
speeches around the city.
She smiled sweetly at the
Catholics at the table and said
that as for the Protestant part,
she didn't really feel, being a
Baptist, she had ever exactly
protested the Catholic faith.
Although her own religion did
not forbid contraception, she
didn't think much of it. Her
parents hadn't used contraception ever and had only had three
children. Right away I was
intrigued. But I bit my tongue
to keep from asking unseemly
questions about her parents'
There was no need for population control, she said, what
with all the floods and earthquakes and famines and wars
and such which had controlled
populations naturally since the
dawn of time. The art teacher
tentatively interposed that war
wasn't exactly natural, but that
didn't give anyone pause.
Karen Barrett covered the Third
Annual Texas Right to Life convention, September 10-12, in
Houston, from the perspective
of "a pregnant pro-abortionist/'
"Then, of course, Massachusetts was d strongly Catholic
state, contraception was totally
illegal, and so I found myself
cleaning up after hundreds and
hundreds of criminal abortions." The doctor sailed on
majestically, smoothing out any
ripples her narrative might have
"Of course, you always hear
about all those girls dying from
kitchen-table abortions. But
don't you believe it. They
rarely do. I saw a girl just two
years ago in Houston who'd had
a man-he wasn't even a doctor,
he was a plumber-squirt Phiso-
hex into her uterus. Now,
Phisohex gets into the bloodstream; it has a peculiar affinity
for the optic nerve—that abortion caused her to go totally
blind. But it didn't kill her."
"Tell them about the suicide,"
said the art teacher. "Oh no,
not while they're eating..."
"Do tell us," I insisted (what
after all could be more disturbing to our digestion than a
uterus full of Phisohex?).
It seemed there was a local
gynecologist, a former classmate of hers and performer of
numerous abortions, with whom
the doctor had many times
debated the issue in public.
Well, it had lately come to light
that this man was guilty of
things like the Edelin case.
"The who case?" I asked
innocently. Everyone looked
embarrassed. The art teacher
whispered something about suffocating premature infants. It
was obviously something in-
that a doctor could be guilty of
flagrantly unethical practices
for so long without losing
his/her license or being called
to account, the Marcus brothers
case being the classic example.
Everyone looked blank, so I
hastened to explain: Cyril and
Stewart Marcus were a pair of
twin doctors who both specialized in gynecology, and were
regarded as fertility experts in
New York. They made national
headlines last year when they
were found dead under lurid,
mysterious circumstances. The
yellow journalists made much of
spotlight in order to mutter
treason against the medical
profession or against fertility
experts or something.
The doctor went back to her
story: After his dismissal, her
old school chum/adversary attempted suicide unsuccessfully,
leaving a note addressed to her
which said, ". . I love you;
keep up the good fight. . ." She
related how she had discussed
the poor man at great length
with his psychiatrist, who told
her how guilty the other doctor
had felt about aborting all those
babies. This story was told with
so much glee that I had to
refrain from grinding another
ax with respect to the medical
establishment-the issue of confidentiality. What the hell
business did that shrink have
discussing his patient's guilts
and fears with her, anyway?
The population explosion was
of no consequence to this gynecologist. "It's a new thing,"
she pronounced, " ... and,
magine, they're trying to legislate the number of children a
woman can have in India now.
What if a woman likes large
families and decides to have
fifteen children? It's her decision, even if the neighbors are
bothered by their noise or by
toys in the yard. . ."
"In India, it isn't so much a
problem of toys in the yard," I
interrupted. "Children are
dying in the streets, daily!"
She looked baleful. "Well
even so, how can we claim to be
a democratic country and then
go tell them how many children
"Oh, did we propose that
legislation? I could have sworn
it was the Indian government,"
I responded with just a touch of
nastiness. The art teacher
hastily pointed out that it was
all highly academic-they are so
disorganized over there that
they can't even manage a census, she said. How can they
hope to enforce population control?
The mounting tension at the
table was eased by the introduction of the speaker, Father
Paul Marx, professor of theology at St. John's University in
Minnesota and author of The
Death Peddlers. One of the St.
Thomas students murmured
confidentially that he was glad
we were going to get to hear one
of Father Marx's good, strong
speeches in the privacy of the
convention banquet hall,
". . the kind of stuff he
wouldn't feel like he could get
away with saying in public. . ."
Marx proceeded, with some
measure of eloquence and wit,
to expose the synonymity of
abortion and euthanasia. Abortion, he reiterated, was not just
one issue, but all of the above
and more. Abortion "reflects
sex run rampant as it did in pre-
Christian times. . ruins womanhood. . ruins sexuality. . .
prostitutes both the legal and
medical professions." Abortion
was a symptom of recreational
sex, which contributed to the
increasing incidence of homosexuality, sex change operations, anal intercourse and oral
intercourse (the crowd hushed
at these abominations!)
There were many quaint and
curious contradictions. The
chauvinistic (make that good,
chauvinism) notion that we
weren't producing enough children to replace ourselves, that
we might someday soon be
reduced to doing what the Swiss
and numerous other European
countries were doing-hiring,
gasp, foreign workers. The
specter of our race dying out
was constantly juxtaposed with
the notion of thoughtless extermination of the old, discarded by the young. I kept
wondering, if the average national age was indeed rising
yearly due to an insufficient
birth rate, why this majority of
the elderly would sit back and
allow itself to be exterminated?