LSN: A preliminary question: what faith are you now, if any?
SEIDMAN: I am in the process of being received into the Roman Catholic Church (attending RCIA and planning to formally join at 2011 Easter Vigil). After a period of study and consideration starting around October/November 2009, I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior in June 2010 and attended an evangelical church for a few months before deciding that the Catholic church was where I belonged.
Prior to my reversion to Christianity, I had been an atheist/agnostic since my parents left the Episcopal church when I was 6. I was never a serious practicing wiccan/pagan/new-ager, although I did dabble in it as it was culturally expected. I mainly stuck to atheism because it felt safe - it cast the pagan activities I had witnessed as silly superstitions with no true spiritual power, which was much more comforting than believing the truth about them.
I also felt that Christianity would not welcome me if I returned (a belief assisted by my mother, who forbade me to associate closely with Christians, and repeatedly told me that Jesus would not accept me back once I had doubted him, so my only choice was to continue on the path away from him). This was a common scare-tactic among pagans - “Christians won’t accept you after what you’ve done, so you’d better stick with us and work for the goddess’s triumph over the Christian god.”
LSN: What aspects of life inside an abortion clinic did you notice were occult in nature? Did occult values assist the abortion process? How and to what extent?
SEIDMAN: The clinic where my mother worked was pervaded with occult imagery and practices. There was goddess art and statuary in the office, waiting, counseling, and recovery room areas, and new age music (occasionally including goddess chants and songs) was piped throughout. The counselors were primarily chosen for their spiritual qualifications, and a few did not even have a degree in a relevant field (ie psychology, counseling, social work). One was a trained chef turned sex worker (or “sacred prostitute”, as they preferred to think of it).
After the clinic closed for the evening, the staff would all smoke marijuana together and occasionally take hallucinogens if they were available - this was viewed as a spiritual practice, not a recreational one (they were rather scornful of people who used drugs just to get high for fun rather than to ‘open their minds’ to ‘spiritual realities and higher planes of existence’).
There were also special ceremonies involved when members of the clinic staff got intentionally pregnant in order to have abortions, which would be conducted after hours with a large group. I was not welcome at these ceremonies since I had never had an abortion myself (at the time), so I can’t give details, but on one occasion I babysat the infant daughter of a clinic worker during one, upstairs from the clinic, and I remember hearing bits of song/chanting and that the doctor was not present (he was male and the ceremony was female only), so the abortion was obviously being performed by an unqualified person. The women at the clinic were trained in “underground” abortion techniques in case of Roe v Wade being overturned.
My mother hosted a menstrual extraction party at our house once in 1992, when there was a lot of fear circulating about the possibility of Bush being re-elected and appointing a lot of pro-life judges, or getting a Republican Congress to work with and chipping away at legal abortion that way. [Menstrual extraction is a low-tech procedure that removes uterine contents by suction immediately before menses are due, and may be used as a very early abortion method.]
LSN: What was the mood like in this atmosphere?
SEIDMAN: The mood I remember as being dark and terrifying - not in an overtly scary way, but in a pit-of-the-stomach sort of way. I always had a ‘feeling’ that there was something ‘wrong’ or ‘dangerous’ there - almost a feeling of a presence, which I now recognize as being the exact opposite of the Presence that I feel in a church.
I now see other things that make sense - like the fact that the baby I watched on occasion upstairs from the clinic never smiled or laughed or played - she screamed most of the time except when her mother was nursing her, after which she would fall into a fitful sleep for a while. My otherwise-difficult autistic sons, on the other hand, are very soothed by being in a church - any church - and behave, one could say, ‘miraculously’ well! I would think children would naturally be more sensitive to spiritual things, not having learned yet to filter them out or shut that awareness down. I know I was very aware of, and joyful about, the presence of God in church when I was little, despite my parents rolling their eyes and telling me to calm down and stop pretending.
LSN: What deities were worshipped?
SEIDMAN: The main figure worshipped was The Goddess, goddess figures from various traditions (Hindu, Greek, Roman, Babylonian, Egyptian, etc) were seen as ‘archetypes’ or ‘faces’ of this one true goddess, who was viewed as being in opposition to (and ultimately, to triumph over) the Judeo-Christian God. The goddess was taught to me as being more ancient, having created the world and people to live in it peacefully in a prehistoric ‘golden age’ of matriarchal rule, before the rise of patriarchy and civilization. God was painted as a diabolical figure, jealous of the Goddess’s power, who invented the idea of rape and taught human men to practice it, bringing about the end of humans living in a natural, violence-free state.
Women were encouraged to choose particular goddess figures as their personal role models or patrons (much like Catholics choosing a confirmation saint). The culture was rather lesbian-separatist (and in that way different from other pagan individuals or groups that I’ve researched or been in contact with), in that ONLY goddesses were worshipped, never gods, and men were not welcome to participate in ceremonies and only barely tolerated as sexual or romantic partners.
The clinic’s only male employee was the doctor, and he was strictly business - he showed up, he performed procedures, he left. I got to know him fairly well over the years and he was just in it for the money, he thought the spirituality was ridiculous. He preferred to work in a medical/professional environment (the other clinics where he worked, including the one where my first abortion was performed, were no different from any other doctor’s office in layout or procedure), but his and his wife’s addictions to spending made him work whenever and wherever he could, so he tolerated the goddess stuff. (He was also a bit of a sex addict, so the clinic staff’s willingness to fornicate freely and have abortions whenever possible definitely worked in his favor, and most of the clinic employees had sex with him at some point, except for the sworn lesbians ....)
Interestingly, the Goddess was also known as the Great Dragon (this was said to be her “truest form”) - which I was quite surprised to find out existed in the Bible as well, although definitely not a person to be worshipped! Seriously, I had no idea. My exposure to the Bible and Christian theology was minimal at best until a year ago. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I read Revelation.
I had always been a bit afraid of Mary due to my past and wanting to repudiate anything resembling goddess-worship, so Revelation and its account of the great dragon being at war with the true Queen of Heaven, the mother of Christ, was truly a revelation for me, and toppled my final objection to becoming Catholic rather than remaining nondenominational Protestant. I had heard Mary strongly denounced by my mother and her friends, but their rationale was that she was the ideal oppressed Christian woman and had been set up by sadistic patriarchal men as an impossible model for women to conform to, being both a virgin and a mother. (Their ideal was to be promiscuous and childless, like Artemis/Diana.) I have since found the spiritual motherhood of Mary to be a great comfort to me as a mis-mothered and now motherless woman (my mother has stopped speaking to me as I have become a stronger Christian and more prominent pro-lifer, and I’m fine with that as I find her presence even on the phone to be a sort of “spiritual toxin”).
LSN: Did you notice any effect of pro-life prayer on life inside the clinic?
SEIDMAN: The best example of pro-life prayer and its effectiveness can be found in a story I posted to my local pro-life group’s blog (http://prolifecville.blogspot.com/2010/10/power-of-prayer-never-give-up.html).
I also remember one clinic worker seeking to reach out and form some sort of partnership with the local CPCs, as it bothered her that women who decided against abortion were just being pushed out the door with no further assistance. She struck up some friendships with CPC staff and had tours of each others’ facilities arranged; and eventually came to an agreement with the CPC that in the event of a woman changing her mind about abortion during the counseling process, she would be set up with an immediate CPC appointment and given directions there by the abortion clinic staff (the CPC naturally refused a reciprocal agreement to make abortion appointments for women who were not swayed by their arguments for life). I don’t know what became of this in the long term, as she is no longer employed there; but I do know that the clinic’s new location (it was forced to move due to the former building being bought and demolished for new construction) is back-to-back with the CPC. Coincidence?
I also had some positive interactions with one sidewalk counselor in particular, who is now older and doesn’t get out to the clinic but is apparently still active in local pro-life fundraising - I hope to meet her again when I travel to Toledo next fall to speak at their 40 Days For Life kickoff rally. She had an adopted son who was my age and I could tell that she really felt for me as a teenage girl being misled and abused by my mother and her friends. It was as though she could see past the cold front I put up right into my heart that wanted to be free from the twisted world I was growing up in.
LSN: How widespread do you believe the behavior you witnessed to be among abortion clinics?
SEIDMAN: I really can’t say. I think the independent and/or feminist-oriented clinics would be more likely to be similar to what I experienced. The owner of the clinic I’ve described was a good friend of the late Dr. George Tiller and the descriptions of his clinic that I’ve read sound like there was more going on there than just business, too. Many if not most clinics are strictly business (including, in general, Planned Parenthood affiliates), but that does not preclude individuals or groups who work in those clinics, or abortion advocates in general, being involved to some degree in the occult. I believe many of them are, although many are also atheists, or liberal Christians.
I do believe that the occult believers are the “core” of the pro-abortion movement, just as the born-again Christians are the “core” of the pro-life movement, and I see no harm in striking at its heart, and informing “pro-choice” people (particularly the well-meaning but misguided Christians) of who and what they are truly associating themselves with.
LSN: Please tell me anything else you find surprising about your experience vis a vis the occult, or something you think the typical pro-lifer would not guess to be so.
SEIDMAN: I think the thing that pro-lifers have found to be the most surprising, in my discussions with them thus far, is that the paganism/wicca/goddess-worship IS taken seriously by many liberals, pro-choicers, feminists, etc. It’s not just a boogeyman. Whether or not one believes that these spiritual beliefs and practices have any power, the fact is that there is a significant population of people who do, and who believe in it just as wholeheartedly as we believe in Christianity or other faiths.
I’ve had a bit of disbelief from Christian pro-lifers who seem to not be able to comprehend someone honestly believing in another religion and not just rebelling against Christianity (which they, of course, know to be true - doesn’t everybody?) - they tend to be the ones who were raised Christian and sort of kept in the “Christian bubble”, and just really aren’t aware that there are people, even in modern America, who did not come from the same sort of background, people who may not have even been exposed to Christianity except in the vague cultural sense (celebrating Christmas as a secular holiday, etc). There needs to be more educational work done about this, because I know the “core” of pro-lifers does tend to be lifelong Christians (especially the younger set), and many of them are just a bit naive or sheltered.
I have written and spoken a bit on effective outreach to atheists. and the information has been mostly well-received (and used to positive effect by a team of sidewalk counselors in Fairfax, VA). I plan to work on a guide to outreach for pagan believers too, since there are a great many pagan-friendly arguments for life, and also the scientific approach can work with nearly anyone (and the science is definitely on the pro-life side!).
To me at least, religious conversion is secondary to conversion to pro-life beliefs. I was pro-life for many, many years before accepting Christianity, and although I wasn’t a strong activist during that time, I did donate to secular pro-life groups like Feminists For Life, and voted for pro-life candidates whenever possible, as well as privately voicing and arguing my stance among friends. I would rather see a hundred pro-life atheists in the world than one pro-abortion Christian.