Kathleen Gilbert

My conversation with a 1960s birth control and abortion hero

Kathleen Gilbert
Kathleen Gilbert
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ARLINGTON, Virginia, July 7, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - I had heard of Bill Baird before, thanks to a Huffington Post article describing the legacy of the birth control crusader after he had issued a letter of sympathy to Georgetown Law’s Sarah Fluke in April. But, since I hadn’t encountered mention of him before or since, I no longer matched the name to the figure by the time I met a sandy-haired elderly man standing across the street from the National Right to Life Convention last week.

The 80-year-old Baird was standing defiantly in the sun, baking in 100-degree heat, holding a sign for his Pro-Choice League alongside a life-sized wooden “Cross of Oppression.” One other protester was there, presumably his wife, although she refused to give her name. I couldn’t resist crossing the asphalt to strike up a conversation.

“Do you know who I am, first of all?” Baird asked me, to which I responded in the negative. This elicited one of the major themes of the conversation: that I didn’t know anything. “See, now that tells me how your movement doesn’t educate you,” he said. “One of the things that your side fights is the right of a person to make their own decision.”

I’m not sure that not knowing the details of Eisenstadt v. Baird makes me a victim of repression. But it’s true I’m shamefully ignorant of the history of birth control in America. So Baird filled me in with the story of his work decades ago challenging bans on birth control to unmarried people in several states, suffering years of jailtime, all culminating in the 1972 Supreme Court ruling that established a universal right to the drugs.

Describing his five years in a squalid prison for deliberately breaking such a law, he paused. “I want that to sink in,” he said. “You’re facing five years in prison for showing a diaphragm. Does that impact on you at all? Do you see how stupid that could be?”

I asked if he was there to defend abortion, as well as other forms of birth control? “My crusade has been for you,” he replied. “Even though you may disagree with me…if you elect to have an abortion, you should be able to make that decision.” I found myself irresistibly drawn to debate that point.

“If I elect to commit suicide, do you support that right?” I asked. “If I could prevent you in the sense of talking to you,” said Baird. I interrupted, “So you don’t support that choice?”

“What you gotta do, is—you asked a question. You have to be professional enough to let the person answer. If you want to debate, that’s different,” Baird said, at which point his female companion intervened to end the discussion.

“I think respectfulness right off the bat is important in an interview,” she said, noting my facial expression gave off a disrespectful “vibe” (in my defense, I was wearing sunglasses). “Right off the bat [you’re] like oh, you’re evil, you’re the enemy, and I can just see by your questions,” she said.

I apologized, and took off the glasses. I actually didn’t consider either of them to be evil. I did think they would have expected a less-than-softball conversation with a pro-life journalist; however, I was willing to err on the side of decorum. Things went better after that, and Baird, with a paternal if still somewhat offended air, explained the level of respect I should be paying my elder in the culture wars.

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“Be respectful of somebody who at the age of 80 has done something you’ve never done in your life, which was appear five times before the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Baird, whose piercing light-blue eyes never once wavered in our conversation. “When somebody fights their whole life, lays down their life ...”

One day, he said, I may find myself in a situation where I discover, “you know what, Bill Baird was right. I should be the one to make that choice.”

“Or you may not. My own clinic, we helped three nuns get abortions,” he said offhandedly, “so we help lots of people.”

But that help is little appreciated: my clinic has been firebombed, he said. He’d been shot at twice. “No one on your side have been shot to death” (I thought of Jim Pouillon) “eight of us have been. None of your offices have been firebombed ... remember Dr. George Tiller? ... You call yourself Christian!”

Meanwhile, he says, he’s worried his own side will start making up for all the apparent imbalance of violence by attacking us. He said he expressed that concern to Fr. Frank Pavone, a “close friend.”

Baird indulged me when I asked him to tell me about the large cross he bore, which he said showed how Christians use the cross to oppress women into carrying unwanted pregnancies, causing them to seek coathanger abortions, to drink bleach, to throw themselves down the stairs.

“You are young, you have no idea. I’ve seen it,” he said. “Your side says that never happened.”

“I don’t know what it takes to reach younger people like you ... who have such a strong conviction,” he lamented. “You think you’re so right, and you don’t even have any life experience. All you’re really doing is giving what you have been taught by somebody else. You’re going to tell me a fertilized egg is a person, that’s what you’re going to tell me?”

I didn’t resist mentioning how pregnant women have the curious habit of referring to their children in the womb as babies. “Some pregnant women,” he interrupted. Eventually the fact was mentioned that, by the time most abortions happen between 7-12 weeks, the baby has legs, arms, a heartbeat. He responded by challenging my ignorance about hydatidiform moles, a growth that can occur when an egg without genetic material is fertilized, which he said proved the foolishness of believing human life begins at conception.

The conversation then returned to Baird’s legacy. “All the friends you have - you have many - who use birth control, could not use it except for the man you’re talking to. Think of the power of that statement,” he said. It was more difficult to do so than he thought, since none of my friends use birth control.

Again he asked: how many people have I ever met in my life who would go to jail for a cause as he did? I said I knew of those who have spent years in prison for defending the unborn. Why do they do that, he asked? Because they want to save lives, I answered. I think the reaction that followed taught me the most about Bill Baird.

“No, ma’am!” he said. “Be honest with yourself. ‘Bill, I’m going to Heaven! You’re going to Hell. I’m going to be rewarded by Jesus Christ.’”

“Do you know how arrogant you sound to me,” he told a former interlocutor, “that only you could be right, that only your religion could be right? That’s what holy wars are made of.”

As we parted, he offered me one last bit of advice: “All I ask is that you think on your own.”

I learned a lot in this conversation. Listening to the recording just now, I learned at least one more thing: I’m not as good a debater as I thought I was. Speaking to such a dedicated pro-choice crusader did, in fact, unsettle me at first. Sorry, Bill.

In conclusion, I expect that Bill is reading this. At least, I hope so. I want to make sure you know that, at the end of our conversation, when I said I would pray for you, it really was because I love you.

It seemed like you recoiled when I said that - and maybe I gave you reason to, if I really did come off as “snarky” - I can only hope not, sadly. But believe it or not, many people pray for others, not out of some crazy savior-complex that relishes the thought of their targets heading for Hell, but because they like them and want them to be happy. I, at least, pray for my friends constantly, so if I only did it because I thought someone was evil, that would be a bit strange. Obviously we met from two sides of the aisle, so saying I’d pray for you was my attempt to show my esteem despite the disagreement.

I’m sorry that you think all pro-life zeal is a Pharisaical sham, or else the product of Biblical spoon-feeding. I don’t expect that I could convince you otherwise; I will probably have to leave that to Fr. Pavone. But I wish you well.


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UK quietly opens the door to genetic engineering, ‘3-parent’ embryos

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By Hilary White

Last month the UK’s Department of Health quietly redefined the term “genetic modification” to open the door to allow certain kinds of modification of human embryos – thus potentially making it the first country in the world to allow genetic engineering.

Scottish journalist Lori Anderson recently raised the alarm over the change in a column in the Scotsman, in which she alleged that the change is designed to “dupe” the British public into accepting “full-scale germline genetic engineering,” using human embryos as test subjects.

Anderson said that in July, the Department of Health “effectively re-wrote the definition of ‘genetic modification’ to specifically exclude the alteration of human mitochondrial genes or any other genetic material that exists outside the chromosomes in the nucleus of the cell.”

“The reason for doing this is that it believes it will be easier to sell such an advancement to the public if it can insist that the end result will not be a ‘GM baby’.”

This change follows a statement from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the government body that regulates experimental research on human embryos, approving the procedure to create an embryo from one couple’s gametes but with genetic material added from a third party donor, a procedure called in the press “three-parent embryos”.

Anderson quoted a statement from the Department of Health comparing this procedure to donating blood. The statement read, “There is no universally agreed definition of ‘genetic modification’ in humans – people who have organ transplants, blood donations, or even gene therapy are not generally regarded as being ‘genetically modified’. The Government has decided to adopt a working definition for the purpose of taking forward these regulations.”

This assertion was challenged by one of the UK’s leading fertility researchers, Lord Robert Winston, who told the Independent, “Of course mitochondrial transfer is genetic modification and this modification is handed down the generations. It is totally wrong to compare it with a blood transfusion.”

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The HFEA, which throughout its history has been known as one of the world’s most permissive regulatory bodies, has been working steadily towards allowing genetically modified embryos to be implanted in women undergoing artificial procreation treatments. In a document issued to the government last year, they called the insertion of mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) into embryos “mitochondrial donation” or “mitochondrial replacement”. mDNA is the genetic material found in the cytoplasm outside a cell’s nucleus, problems with which can cause a host of currently incurable genetic illnesses.

In the statement issued in June, the HFEA said the technique of inserting “donated” mDNA into already existing in vitro embryos, “should be considered ‘not unsafe’ for the use on a ‘specific and defined group of patients.’”

“Mitochondria replacement (or mitochondrial donation) describes two medical techniques, currently being worked on by UK researchers, which could allow women to avoid passing on genetically inherited mitochondrial diseases to their children,” the statement said.

The HFEA admitted that the techniques are “at the cutting edge of both science and ethics” and said that the results of a “public consultation” in 2012/13 were being examined by the government, which is considering “draft regulations”.

In June, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children echoed Lori Anderson’s concern, commenting that the HFEA is attempting to deceive the public. Paul Tully, SPUC’s general secretary, said, “Human gene manipulation is being sold to a gullible public on a promise of reducing suffering, the same old con-trick that the test-tube baby lobby has been using for decades.” 

Any manipulation of human genetics, always breaks “several important moral rules,” entailing the creation of “human guinea-pigs,” Tully said. “Human germ-line manipulation and cloning – changing the genetic inheritance of future generations - goes against internationally-agreed norms for ethical science.”

He quoted Professor Andy Greenfield, the chairman of the scientific review panel that approved the techniques, who said that there is no way of knowing what effect this would have on the children created until it is actually done.

“We have to subject children who have not consented and cannot consent to being test subjects,” Tully said.

Altering the mDNA of an embryo is what cloning scientists refer to as “germline” alteration, meaning that the changes will be carried on through the altered embryo’s own offspring, a longstanding goal of eugenicists.

In their 1999 book, “Human Molecular Genetics” Tom Strachan and Andrew Read warned that the use of mitochondrial alteration of embryos would cross serious ethical boundaries.

Having argued that germline therapy would be “pointless” from a therapeutic standpoint, the authors said, “There are serious concerns, therefore, that a hidden motive for germline gene therapy is to enable research to be done on germline manipulation with the ultimate aim of germline-based genetic enhancement.”

“The latter could result in positive eugenics programs, whereby planned genetic modification of the germline could involve artificial selection for genes that are thought to confer advantageous traits.”


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Cable series portrays nun as back-alley abortionist

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By Ben Johnson
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'To depict a nun who performs an abortion is a new low,' said Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

The Cinemax TV series The Knick portrayed a Roman Catholic nun as a back alley abortionist who tells a Catholic woman God will forgive her for going through with the procedure.

In its latest episode, which aired Friday night, the series showed Sister Harriet (an Irish nun played by Cara Seymour) telling a Catholic woman named Nora, “Your husband will know nothing of it. I promise.”

“Will God forgive me?” Nora asked, adding, “I don't want to go to Hell for killing a baby.”

“He knows that you suffered,” the sister replied, before performing the illegal abortion off-screen. “I believe the Lord's compassion will be yours.” 

The period medical drama is set at the Knickerbocker Hospital (“The Knick”) in New York City around the turn of the 20th century, when abortion was against both civil and ecclesiastical law.

“It is no secret that Hollywood is a big pro-abortion town, but to depict a nun who performs an abortion is a new low,” Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said. “The only saving grace in this episode is the real-life recognition of the woman who is about to have the abortion: she admits that her baby is going to be killed.”

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The series is directed by Steven Soderbergh, known for such films as Erin Brockovich, the Oceans Eleven franchise, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape. More recently he directed The Girlfriend Experience, a film about prostitution starring pornographic actress Sasha Grey.

Critics have hailed his decision to include a black surgeon in circa 1900 America. But after last week's episode, the New York Times stated that The Knick has chosen to “demonstrate concern for other kinds of progress,” citing the depiction of the abortion. 


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Catholic Malta enacts ‘transgender’ employment discrimination law

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By Hilary White

An amendment to Malta’s Employment and Industrial Relations Act means that employment “discrimination” against “transsexuals” is now officially prohibited in the Catholic country. The provision, which was quietly passed in May, came into effect on August 12th.

The law allows those who believe they have a complaint to make a case with the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality, with an industrial tribunal or the courts. A government spokesman told local  media, “Employees do not need to prove that their employer has discriminated against them.”

“They only need to provide enough evidence pointing to a likely case of discrimination. The employer will then need to prove that discrimination has not taken place.”

The amendment defines illegal discrimination against “transgendered” people as, “in so far as the ground of sex is concerned, any less favourable treatment of a person who underwent or is undergoing gender reassignment, which, for the purpose of those regulations shall mean, where a person is considering or intends to undergo, or is undergoing, a process, or part of a process, for the purposes of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex.” 

Silvan Agius, Human Rights policy coordinator with the Ministry for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties, told Malta Today newspaper that the new amendment brings Maltese law into harmony with EU law.

“This amendment is continuing the government’s equality mainstreaming exercise. The inclusion of gender reassignment in the Act also brings it in line with the anti-discrimination articles found in both Malta’s Constitution and the Equality for Men and Woman Act,” Agius said.

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Agius is a key member of the homosexual activist apparatus in Malta’s government working to entrench the ideology of gender in law in Malta and elsewhere. In June, he was a featured speaker, with the notorious British anti-Catholic campaigner Peter Tatchell, at a Glasgow conference organised by the Edinburgh-based Equality Network, a group that helps organise and train homosexualist campaign groups.

The amendment to the law follows promises made recently by the country’s equalities minister, Helena Dalli, to a “transgender” congress in Hungary in May. Dalli, who brought forward Malta’s recently passed same-sex civil unions bill, told a meeting of gender activists in Budapest that while her government’s focus had been mainly on homosexuals, that she would shortly be turning her attention to “trans” people.

“The next step now is a Bill towards the enactment of a Gender Identity law. A draft bill has been prepared and it has now been passed to the LGBTI Consultative Council for its vetting and amendment as necessary,” Dalli said.

“Some of you may be thinking that we are moving forward quickly. I have a different perspective though. We are doing what is right, what should have been done a long time ago,” she added.

Since the legalisation of divorce in 2011, Malta has been remarkable for its rapid adoption of the gender ideology’s agenda. In 2013, Malta was named the “fastest climber” on the Rainbow Europe Index, a survey organised annually by ILGA Europe, the leading homosexualist lobby group funded directly by the European Union.

The ILGA Europe report notes (p. 114) that Helena Dalli Helena “was one of 11 EU Member States’ equality ministers to co-sign a call for the European Commission to work on a comprehensive EU policy for LGBT equality.” The report also noted that although the new Labour government has proved cooperative, the Christian Democrat Nationalist Party has “progressively proved more receptive to LGBTI issues, including same-sex unions.”


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