March/Apirl, 1998 Volume XII Number 11
In the January/February issue of Life Advocate, News Notes carried the story of an abortionist who became a born-again Christian, quit doing abortions, and allegedly intended to go to work as a female impersonator. The story was carried in a local newspaper near where the former abortionist practiced and it was run here pretty much the way it was carried in the newspaper. Later, I was contacted by Paul Graybill, the pastor named in the story and informed that the newspaper had conjoined two interviews of the abortionist _ one pre- and the other post-conversion. The former abortionist, Eric Harrah, according to Graybill, is truly converted and had no intention of becoming a female impersonator.
I regret not checking further on the story before printing it.
Prayer and Commandments stay in court, high court says
Montgomery, AL -- The Alabama Supreme Court ruled that on January 23 that Judge Roy Moore of Gadsden, Alabama, may continue to open court sessions with prayer, and that he may continue to keep a plaque of the Ten Commandments on the wall of the Etowah County courtroom. The decision was 4-0, with five justices recusing themselves from the case.
There was no immediate word on whether the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will appeal the decision. The ACLU maintains the actions represent government-endorsed religion.
Moore and his supporters, including Alabama Gov. Fob James and state Attorney General Bill Pryor, say the circuit judge is exercising his individual freedom-of-religion rights.
Internet site may be trouble for some abortionists
Washington, D.C. -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is using the Internet to help track down deadbeat docs _ doctors who have defaulted on their federal education loans.
The agency has a website (www.defaulteddocs.dhhs.gov) where those who have defaulted on their loans are listed along with information on how much they owe the government.
Doctors who default are ineligible for many government services and to receive Medicare and Medicaid payments -- if the government locates them.
The site is intended to be a tool by which people may check out their doctors -- or local abortionists -- and report them to the government if it is shown that they owe money on student loans.
New Zealand's police computer starts acting up
New Zealand -- New Zealand has discovered that Year 2000 problems begin long before 2000. The criminal justice system of New Zealand now has a problem: the nation's computerized system is acting up. It does not recognize 2000.
In what experts fear could be a portent of the chaos to come, the Wanganui computer, the national police computer system, is failing to recognise the year 2000 when police try to set court dates for people arrested for traffic offences.
The glitch has been around since the New Year and is believed to be the first instance of the bug in New Zealand.
The computer stores information on criminal records, vehicles, drivers' licences, stolen property and other personal material. It is used by police, Justice staff and the Land Transport Safety Authority.
United MP Peter Dunne, who has surveyed 150 firms, utilities and councils on their work transforming computer systems for the millennium, said the Wanganui glitch should warn everyone to prepare.
Judith Johnstone, the information officer for the Ministry of Justice, said all law enforcement agencies are supposed to have new computer systems by the year 2000. Some files would stay on the Wanganui system, which was being phased out, and all the systems should be immune to the Millennium Bug by September 1999, she claims.
Butte, MT -- On December 2, a federal jury convicted John Yankowski of torching a Bozeman abortuary.
Yankowski, 40, had been charged with felony arson and using fire to interfere with interstate commerce. He faces up to 30 years in jail at his March 6 sentencing date.
The verdict came exactly nine months after the Bozeman Medical Arts Center, which houses the Bridger Clinic, was set on fire.
Yankowski has said, "Seeing the flames was like seeing a Nazi flag burning on top of a Nazi building."
Yankowski's attorney, David Ness, offered no defense at trial, but says that the case will be appealed due to the charges being improper. Ness claims that the charge of using fire to interfere with interstate commerce requires a showing of attempted extortion and that the government never made such a showing.
Ness also accursed prosecutor Kris McLean of "bootstrapping" the felony charges stemming from the fire to Yankowski's past, legal protests. Ness pointed out that Yankowski had a First Amendment right to stand up for what he believed and not have that exercise of free speech used to beef up the charges against him.
Prisoner goes into business
Appleton, MN -- David Lane, currently serving 18 years behind bars for his sledgehammer destructions at two Denver abortuaries, has gone into the pro-life business.
Lane is serving his time at a privately-owned prison where inmates are encouraged to start "home" businesses in order to save money for the time when they are released.
Thus, Lifewear by P.O.C. was born. The business offers tee shirts -- plain and tie-dyed -- with pro-life logos as well as hand-crafted leather moccasins "to comfort and ease the feet after a long day at the picket line."
Tee shirt logos include a "praying hands" picture with the words "Pray to end abortion," "Abortion stops a beating heart" with a heart shape, and a teddy bear with the words "End abortion! I need babies to hug."
A list of the products offered by Lifewear by P.O.C. is available by writing David Lane, 2241 CCA/PCF Hobby Shop, 445 S. Munsterman, Box 500, Appleton, MN 56208.
Y2K may ground air traffic
Washington, D.C. -- The worlds largest mainframe computer manufacturer, IBM, has notified the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the computer system which helps air traffic controllers keep air travel safe may not function after December 31, 1999.
The computer giant warned in a January letter to the FAA that the Y2K effect in which old mainframe computers, such as the model 3083, would read the double zero as 1900 rather than 2000 may bring disastrous results.
The air traffic control system uses about 40 of these computers which are linked to airports across the country. IBM said that they must be replaced before the year 2000 or the system may fail.
The FAA said that "it would be an extraordinary feat" to replace all 40 in that time, but they have hired a retired IBM programmer and software experts to "debug" the system.
Many computer experts say that this sort of "fix" is virtually impossible because the problem lies in functions which are not in programming languages such as FORTRAN or COBOL, but in machine language -- strings of ones and zeros more basic to the computer than even the operating system.
In addition, the FAA has no money in the budget for the system overhaul -- which could cost as much as $200 million for the one agency alone.
Hundreds of other state and federal agencies face similar problems with the Y2K problem.
Man in mild coma will not be killed
San Joaquin, CA -- Robert Wentland was in a mild coma -- conscious, but unable to communicate. His wife wanted him to die, his mother and sister did not. Now, on December 9, a court has ruled that Wentland, 45, will not die at his wife's request.
"If I must err, I am going to err on the side of caution. It is necessary that I choose life," wrote San Joaquin County Judge Bob McNatt.
Wentland has a feeding tube and has suffered partial paralysis, brain damage, and has been unable to speak since an automobile accident in 1993. His wife, Rose Wentland, wanted the feeding tube removed which would have resulted in a starvation death for her husband. Florence Wentland, Robert's mother, and Rebekah Vinson, Robert's sister, challenged the directive in 1995.
Judge McNatt said that he had a "strong suspicion" that Robert would have agreed with the decision to remove the feeding tube, but that the strong suspicion did not meet the standard of proof which would allow such a decision by anyone other than Robert himself.
Janie Hickok Siess, attorney for Robert's mother and sister, said that the judge found no basis in California law to terminate treatment for a person in Wentland's medical condition.
"What has happened here is the prevention of a slow, grueling, and potentially excruciatingly painful death for a person who is conscious and can experience pain," said Siess.
Joan Andrews is jailed again
Pittsburgh, PA -- Joan Andrews, once considered the "patron saint" of the pro-life rescue movement, has been jailed again. Andrews' jailing in the late 1980s on a five-year sentence for a single rescue and her unwillingness to "cooperate with the system" landed her in permanent solitary confinement -- but it also fired the imaginations of thousands across the country toward rescue -- including Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, and Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family.
After almost three years in solitary confinement, under the pressure of thousands of letters and calls, the State of Florida released her -- to a Pittsburgh court where she was wanted on an outstanding warrant for another rescue.
Eventually, Judge Raymond Novak released her under the proviso that she never rescue at an abortuary ever again -- anywhere in the world. Andrews, now married and named Bell, steadfastly refused to promise any such thing.
Now, after participating in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin rescue in September, Novak, a Catholic-priest-turned-judge, hauled her in to his court on January 15 and sentenced her to three to 20 months behind bars for violating his order.
Novak is said to have considered the sentence a matter of principle. To this Andrews replied, "Evil has no duty."
Again, Andrews has determined not to cooperate with the system and, as such, will not be allowed to receive mail or visitors.
Andrews leaves behind her husband, Chris, a five-year-old daughter, and an eight-year-old adopted, handicapped son.
Christian Coalition leader vows return to "core principles"
Washington, D.C. -- Donald Hodel, new president of the Christian Coalition, says the organization will return to its "core principles."
After massive financial and membership losses directly attributed to the coalition's informal alliance with pro-abortion Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole in 1996, Hodel hopes to recoup those losses by returning to strong stands on abortion and homosexuality.
Under the leadership of the popular Ralph Reed, the coalition moved toward the "access" model of political activism where they supported Republican candidates even though they might be pro-abortion or pro-homosexual. Notable examples were House Representative Paul Coverdale and Governor Christie Todd Whitman -- both strongly pro-abortion. Whitman even backed the presidential veto of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban.
Hodel said, "If we abandon our philosophy, then we'll be just another political organization trying to win the next election."
Many of those who deserted Christian Coalition believe they have irreparably "abandoned their philosophy" already and have gone so far as to start or join other groups. Some say that the "return" comes too late.
Judge suspended for speaking at pro-life rally pleads case
Olympia, WA -- The state of Washington is hearing arguments in the case of a judge who was suspended for speaking at a pro-life rally.
Justice Richard B. Sanders, a Washington State Supreme Court judge, was disciplined by the Washington Judicial Commission for a speech he made ata 1996 March for Life rally.
In its May 12 report, the commission ruled that Sanders' participation in the rally was essentially political. Sanders' speech gave the appearance that he supports the agenda advocated by March for Life, and that has led to "the appearance of partiality" on issues that might come up before the court in the future, the report said.
Advocates for Sanders say the commission has violated his free-speech rights. The Rutherford Institute, a public interest law group, which is participating in the case, described Sanders' remarks at the rally as "innocuous speech celebrating human life."
GOP chickens out on abortion test
Indian Wells, CA -- Republican National Committee (RNC) delegates were asked to approve an abortion litmus test for candidates, a move that could weaken any "big tent" strategy to embrace party moderates.
While some Republicans have feared such a test, the RNC national committeeman from Texas proposed denying party aid to candidates who refuse to back the GOP position.
On January 16, the RNC failed to pass a measure that would have denied funding to GOP candidates who do not support a ban on controversial D&X or "partial-birth" abortions.
At its winter meeting, the committee approved by a 114-43 voice vote a watered-down version of the measure, which simply reaffirms GOP efforts to ban the controversial procedure and criticizes President Bill Clinton for vetoing the ban twice.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich opposed the measure, calling it "a litmus test" that would have set a dangerous and divisive precedent within the party. The Republican Party was originally founded on a "litmus test" on the issue of slavery.
Republican Party Chairman Jim Nicholson told members after the vote in Indian Wells, California, "We leave here invigorated and ... more committed than ever to our mission. We will end partial birth abortions in America once and for all."
Some observers say the issue is one of several that are forcing a showdown between the party's more conservative elements and its moderate leaders.
In the late-term abortion procedure, a fetus is partially delivered into the birth canal before being killed.
Although efforts to override Clinton's vetoes have failed in Congress, New Jersey Republicans have overridden Governor Christine Todd Whitman's veto of a state ban on the procedure and similar efforts are under way in other legislatures.
Earlier abortions touted
New York, NY -- A new abortion technique allows women to end a pregnancy just days after conception and before they've even missed a menstrual period.
The new method is offered at several Planned Parenthood Federation affiliates across the country.
Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, couldn't give an exact count of the locations performing the technique or the states and cities where they are located. She said there are "probably under 20" facilities now using the procedure.
Abortionists have been reluctant to perform abortions before six or seven weeks of gestation because of the lack of accurate early pregnancy tests.
But better ultrasound imaging that shows the gestational sac in its earliest stages and more sensitive pregnancy tests, along with the new surgical technique, have made such early abortions possible.
The technique, pioneered by abortionist Jerry Edwards, the medical director at Houston's Planned Parenthood, uses a hand-held syringe that avoids the noise and cost of the vacuum pump used for other abortions. The procedure can take as little as two minutes.
"It cuts down on a lot of real anxious time, lets people get this over with and go on with their lives," Edwards said.
Edwards said he started performing the procedure widely in 1994, but had been using it in his private practice since around 1989.
Edwards said the procedure is used frequently in his clinic.
"About one fourth of the patients coming in are less than six weeks gestation by their ultrasound, so it potentially is available for 25 percent of the one and a half million women having abortions each year in this country," Edwards said.
Feldt said over the next year or two more physicians with Planned Parenthood and in private practice will be trained to perform the procedure.
Opponents say any type of abortion is wrong, no matter how early in the pregnancy.
"Scientifically speaking, there's no difference between a fertilized egg and what you have three weeks later," Laura Echevarria, spokeswoman for the National Right to Life Committee, said. "Saying it's OK to kill it in the early stages because you're more comfortable with that is completely arbitrary."
Oregon "health care" may pay for sex changes, assisted suicide
Salem, OR -- A state commission is considering covering sex change operations and doctor-assisted suicide for low- income residents under the Oregon health plan.
The plan covers about 350,000 Oregonians with incomes below the poverty line, and the Oregon Health Service Commission is now deciding what services it will ask the 1999 Legislature to provide them.
Commission chair Alan Bates says he hopes the debate will not be about how much the controversial services cost, but on the ethical issues involved.
French pro-lifer seeks refuge at Vatican Embassy
Paris, FRANCE -- On December 10, a leading French anti-abortionist militant facing court proceedings took refuge at the Vatican embassy in Paris and asked for political asylum.
Radio France-Info said Doctor Xavier Dor had said he would leave the embassy only on orders from Pope John Paul. Pope John Paul visited France last August, paying a controversial visit to the grave of his geneticist friend Jerome Lejeune who inspired his hardline stance against abortion. No comment was immediately available from the embassy.
But only one day after taking refuge, Dor left the Vatican embassy in Paris.
A spokesman for the French Bishop's Conference said Doctor Xavier Dor, who campaigns against France's two-decade-old legalization of abortion, left of his own volition.
Chief Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a statement, "In this case, there were no elements to invoke the right to political asylum. It was, rather, a typical case of conscientious objection."
The embassy said Dor left at 9:15 a.m. (0815 GMT) after spending the night there.
A court is due to rule later on a prosecutor's request to jail Dor for eight months for occupying a hospital near Paris earlier this year to try and disrupt abortions. The prosecutor has also asked that Dor be made to serve previous suspended terms for similar protests.
Peru accused of sterilizing women
Huaycan, PERU -- Angelica Condori was sterilized seven months ago by state doctors at her shantytown's health clinic. An illiterate housewife living in Huaycan, a community of straw and cardboard hovels east of Lima, Condori was pregnant with her third child but did not have the $50 needed to pay for a doctor and medicine.
She says health officials offered her free medical services for the birth if she agreed to a tubal ligation. No one told her that the operation was irreversible, she says.
Women's groups charge that thousands of poor women like Condori are being tricked or pressured into being surgically sterilized by state health officials as part of a campaign to control Peru's high birth rate.
"I agreed to be sterilized because it was the only way to get a doctor when I gave birth and they were insistent that I should accept,'' she said.
Activists allege that the health ministry has set sterilization quotas for state doctors in poor areas and these doctors are taking advantage of the women to meet the quotas.
The government denies that it is carrying out a campaign to sterilize the poor. It says the operations are done with the woman's consent. State doctors performed 110,000 sterilizations in 1997, which will result in 26,000 fewer births in 1998, Health Ministry officials say.
A just-completed study by Flora Tristan Women's Center, Peru's largest women's group, found that poor pregnant women are regularly offered free birth services in exchange for agreeing to tubal ligations.
"They often agree to be sterilized solely out of economic desperation,'' said Ivonne Macassi, Flora Tristan's director.
The study also found that many doctors deceive the women about the surgery's risks and provide no follow-up medical care.
Condori says the operation has left her with stabbing pains in her stomach. She walks slightly bent over. She says she received no doctors visits after the operation and does not have enough money to pay for a check up.
The study found five women who had died because of botched tubal ligations, dozens who suffer post-operative health problems, several cases where women were sterilized without their consent during Caesarian sections and permanent sterilizations of women as young as 20. News reports have cited cases of women in areas with high malnutrition being offered bags of food in exchange for agreeing to a tubal ligation.
"We found that the doctors often humiliate the women, calling them ignorant and saying they won't be treated at the state health post next time if they don't accept the surgery,'' said Guilia Tamayo, a lawyer for Flora Tristan.
Members of the conservative opposition Renovation party have collected more than 1,000 complaints from women who say they were either injured by tubal ligations or were pressured into agreeing to the operation. The findings have ignited a bitter scandal pitting an odd alliance of feminist and Catholic groups against the government of President Alberto Fujimori.
"Poor women are not cattle to be sterilized by the thousands without telling them what is being done. This never happens to wealthy women,'' said Nela Julcarine, who works in a health care cooperative in Huaycan.
Pro-aborts want "frequent flier" miles
New York, NY -- A women's advocacy group is trying to freeze anti-abortion activist Randall Terry's frequent flier miles in the hope that it will prompt him to pay court-ordered penalties.
"It's about time that Terry and Operation Rescue had their wings clipped," said attorney Martha Davis, legal director of the National Organization for Women Legal Defense and Education Fund.
The New York-based fund has asked 13 airlines to freeze any mileage earned by the founder of Operation Rescue, who is now running for Congress in upstate New York. If the airlines refuse, the fund said it may file a motion in federal court seeking compliance. The fund would like to transfer any miles Terry might have to its attorneys and their clients.
Davis said at a news conference that Terry and his associates have not paid millions of dollars in fines for actions against abortion clinics in the past decade. The fund obtained only $6,000 in 1993 by freezing Terry's bank account.
Reached by telephone in Washington, where he was helping to prepare an anti-abortion march, Terry said he owed "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in court fines but did not know the exact amount.
"We will fight this through the courts to the end," Terry, 38, said. "These people are baby killers and they are grandstanding."
U.S. Airways, one of the airlines named by the fund, said it had no comment on the fund's request.
"Frequent flier programs are private, between us and the member," said David Castelveter, a spokesman for the airline.
Other airlines named by the fund include United, Delta, American Airlines, TWA, Tower Air, Continental and Northwest -- all of which Terry, who is from Binghamton, New York, can use to travel in the Northeast. He would not say which airlines he uses.
Terry, who entered the anti-abortion movement in the late 1980s and built Operation Rescue into a national force, spent five months in prison in 1992 for contempt after an Operation Rescue member defied a court order and presented then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton with an aborted fetus at the Democratic National Convention in New York.
The NOW fund is trying to collect $42,000 levied by a Maryland judge in a case filed in 1989 to keep Operation Rescue from obstructing access to Washington-area clinics.
Terry and Operation Rescue owe at least another half a million dollars in court-ordered fines in connection with two 1989 lawsuits brought by the fund in Washington and New York. The fines would go to the clinics and help pay legal costs.
Legal precedents for transferring frequent flier miles include a half dozen cases in which a person was awarded a spouse's mileage as part of a divorce settlement, Davis said.
"Let them use my frequent-flier miles on their train ride to Hades," said Terry.
Postcard from the edge