Kathleen Gilbert

My conversation with a 1960s birth control and abortion hero

Kathleen Gilbert
Kathleen Gilbert

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.


“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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Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben

Court strikes down Wisconsin law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges

Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben
By Ben Johnson

CHICAGO, November 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - In a split decision, a three-judge panel ruled to strike down a Wisconsin law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the law, signed by Gov. Scott Walker in July 2013, had no rational basis in the law.

"A woman who experiences complications from an abortion...will go to the nearest hospital, which will treat her regardless of whether her abortion doctor has admitting privileges," ruled Richard Posner, a Reagan appointee, and David Hamilton, an Obama appointee.

Their ruling affirmed a decision by U.S. District Judge William Conley, an Obama appointee, who declared the law unconstitutional in March. Judge Conley wrote that pro-life laws will "almost certainly" cause "irreparable harm to those women who will be foreclosed from having an abortion."

Affiliated Medical Services, which brought the lawsuit together with Planned Parenthood, argued the law would force it to close the AMS Milwaukee abortion office.

Judge Daniel Manion, a Reagan appointee, issued a strongly worded dissent calling his colleagues' views an "extreme position."

"Every circuit to rule on similar admitting-privileges laws like the one at issue here has uniformly upheld them," he wrote. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled such laws are "obviously beneficial."

Supporters of the law say that requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges assures continuity of care in the event a woman suffers a botched abortion. "Between 2009 and 2013, at least nineteen women who sought abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics in Wisconsin subsequently received hospital treatment for abortion-related complications," Judge Manion wrote in his dissent.

After Tonya Reaves died from complications from an abortion in a Chicago Planned Parenthood, doctors accused the facility of "abandonment of a patient."

The Supreme Court has agreed to rule on the constitutionality of a Texas law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges, which closed more than half of the abortion facilities in the state.

"Last night, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled that the admitting privileges portion of Sonya's Law is unconstitutional," Wisconsin Right to Life said following Monday's ruling. "Now, we must look to the Supreme Court for the protection of women's health and safety after an abortion complication."

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Father Bill Miscamble
Lisa Bourne

Notre Dame forces priest-professor to back off project promoting authentic Catholic education

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

NOTRE DAME, Indiana, November 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- Notre Dame University has made an apparent move to squelch the effort of one of its venerable professors to provide Notre Dame students information to help ensure they get an authentic Catholic education.  

Holy Cross Father Bill Miscamble, longtime Notre Dame history professor and prior History Department chair, was compelled to disassociate with a website created for him to help students and parents identify faculty and courses that best foster a Catholic education at the University.

Two days after NDCatholic.com went live, Father Miscamble had to make the announcement, “I regret that I can say only that I am required to end my involvement with the NDCatholic site and am not at liberty to say why.”

LifeSiteNews inquired with Father Miscamble on the situation, and he responded, “I am very sorry, but I cannot comment on this matter. God bless you.”

LifeSiteNews inquired as well with Notre Dame and did not hear back by press time.

NDCatholic.com was launched November 9 by Sycamore Trust, a group of Notre Dame alumni who formed in 2006 over concern for Notre Dame’s weakening Catholic identity.

Sycamore Trust “was born of intense concern over the loss by Notre Dame of its historic claim to a robust Catholic identity,” according to its website.

The school, long regarded as the nation’s premiere Catholic university, has been the center of troubles over its Catholic identity for decades. In recent years, it has come under strong criticism for its decision to award President Obama an honorary doctorate in 2009, and over its handling of the HHS contraception mandate. It is also frequently criticized for various events and speakers hosted on campus in contradiction of Catholic teaching, and the actions of some faculty.

“The University’s honoring of President Obama in opposition to the policy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and in defiance of its own bishop, together with such other unsettling events as The Vagina Monologues and The Queer Film Festival, have raised serious doubt whether Notre Dame retains a vibrant Catholic identity,” the Sycamore Trust's website states. “The dramatic shrinking of the Catholic faculty, measured against the school’s Mission Statement, confirms that it does not.”

The NDCatholic site launched November 9, “for students who are seeking an authentic Catholic education at Notre Dame — one that will allow them to grasp the complementary nature of faith and reason, to develop a deep understanding of and love for the truth, and to gain a clear appreciation of the Catholic moral and social vision.”

“For a Catholic institution to live up fully to its promise, it must have devoted teachers and scholars who aim to stir in their students a hunger for the truth,” Father Miscamble is quoted as saying with the announcement of NDCatholic.com.

LifeSiteNews did not hear back from Sycamore Trust with comment prior to press time.

The group stresses on its website that it does not take issue with non-Catholic faculty at a Catholic university, and in fact, Father Miscamble's list of 100 or so recommended teachers is not limited to Catholics. Rather, “It is a question of balance, and unhappily the necessary balance in favor of Catholic faculty has been lost over the years at Notre Dame in its drive for secular acclaim.”

The NDCatholic website had been enthusiastically welcomed and commended, Sycamore Trust states in its announcement of Father Miscamble’s being removed from involvement in the site. NDCatholic.com apparently crashed on its first day due to heavy demand.

The site had opened with a video of Father Miscamble explaining its content, along with his longer written introduction, both of which the priest later requested Sycamore Trust remove because of his being directed to disassociate with the site.

Sycamore Trust Chairman Bill Dempsey says Father Miscamble told him he must disassociate himself from the website the day after it launched.

Dempsey emailed Father Miscamble the next day, telling him he was surprised and deeply disappointed, and also that he was concerned Notre Dame would look bad in the matter without a solid explanation for the decision. Dempsey asked Father Miscamble what reason should be given.

This prompted Father Miscamble’s statement that he could only say he’d been required to end his involvement with the NDCatholic site and was not at liberty to say why.

Father Miscamble, a former seminary rector who is also an author, has been a permanent faculty member of Notre Dame since 1988, also completing an MA, Ph.D. and Master of Divinity at the University prior to joining the faculty.  

He is also known for his pro-life support, founding Faculty for Life, and for speaking out about concerns over Notre Dame’s Catholic identity. Father Miscamble was among many who criticized the University’s scandalous 2009 honoring of Barack Obama in light of Obama’s rabid pro-abortion stance and policies.

In 2013 he released his book For Notre Dame - Battling for the Heart and Soul of a Catholic University.

“Where I see a kind of two faces is Notre Dame is a school that wants to be the preeminent Catholic university to a variety of constituencies, yet we face all the temptations to conform to all the universities with which we want to compete, and that is done often at a cost to our Catholicity,” he said at the time. “I say that we worship at the golden calf of U.S. News and World Report’s rankings, with all that implies.”

“There is a real struggle going on for the future of Notre Dame, a struggle for what kind of place this will be,” he said. “Notre Dame needs to be held accountable.”

Despite Father Miscamble being made to pull out of participating in the website, the Sycamore Trust is moving forward with NDCatholic.com.

“For our part, we deeply regret this development, which we think a disservice to students and parents and, indeed, to the university,” the group states. “Even though Father Miscamble must withdraw, we will build upon what he has given us in continuing this project.”

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Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins
Lianne Laurence


The ‘tyranny’ of sex-change surgery and its political sycophants

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

TORONTO, November 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – A recent move by Ontario’s Liberal government to expand referrals for sex-reassignment surgeries (SRS) opened yet another front in the decades-long political and ideological war over the perception and treatment of gender dysphoria.

This mental disorder is characterized by a repudiation or aversion to one’s sex, and whether surgically altering genitalia is legitimate treatment, or a mutilation vainly done to satisfy a mental delusion, is the most consequential question for transgendered persons themselves, and one of the more controversial issues surrounding “transgender rights.”

These have “emerged as the next big thing” in the United States in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision that homosexual “marriage” is constitutionally protected, says Peter Sprigg, policy analyst for the Washington-based Family Research Council (FRC), and co-author of the June 2015 report “Understanding and Responding to the Transgender Movement.”

And the “trans” lobby has been abetted by political, medical, academic, and cultural institutions that are “both imbued with and ruled by the false sexual ideology that already has normalized homosexuality and imposed gay ‘marriage’,” says Dutch psychiatrist Gerard van den Aardweg.

Author of On the Origins and Treatment of Homosexuality and The Battle for Normality: Self-Therapy for Homosexual Persons, the Catholic van den Aardweg says that “giving in to the lure of SRS” is the “greatest danger for a person with some form of this so-called gender dysphoria.”

He regards sex-reassignment surgery and “accompanying hormonal administrations” as “sort of a half-suicide, an act of despair,” he told LifeSiteNews in an email.

“People who are obsessed with the idea – which is an idée fixe – that their happiness depends on ‘changing’ their sex suffer from a mental sickness that cannot and will not be cured by surgical and physiological tinkering away at their body which disguises them as persons of the opposite sex,” he warned.

“For SRS is indeed an operation of disguise through the causing of irreparable damage to the body. The victim is no less a man or woman as before, so the whole thing is in fact a big comedy, or actually, a tragedy.”

Post-surgery suicide rate soars

Echoing that view is Dr. Paul McHugh, who as chief psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins, which pioneered sex-reassignment surgeries in the 1960s, discontinued the procedures there in 1979.

And most medical institutions thereupon followed Johns Hopkins’ lead, says Sprigg.

“There are actually very few places that perform gender reassignment surgery, even in a country as large as the United States,” he told LifeSiteNews. “The people who are experts in medicine, like the large university hospitals and teaching centers and so forth, they don’t do sex reassignment surgery, and they haven’t done it for decades.”

The Catholic McHugh has since become an outspoken critic of transgenderism, describing it as a “pathogenic meme” in June 2015. “The idea that one’s sex is fluid and a matter open to choice runs unquestioned through our culture,” he wrote, and is “doing much damage to families, adolescents, and children and should be confronted as an opinion with out biological foundation wherever it emerges.”

And in a controversial June 2014 Wall Street Journal op-ed, McHugh explained that Johns Hopkins stopped SRS after observing no demonstrable difference in “psycho-social adjustments” in patients who had had surgery than in those who had not. Such negligible benefits “seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs.”

A Swedish long-term study published in 2011 tragically vindicated this decision, McHugh noted. It revealed that about ten years after sex-reassignment surgery, transgendered patients “began experiencing increasing mental difficulties.”

“Most shockingly, their suicide mortality rose almost 20-fold above the comparable non-transgender population,” he wrote. “The high suicide rate certainly challenges the surgery prescription.”

The transgendered “Catch-22”: mentally ill yet normal

But transgender activists have demonized such views as McHugh’s, and discount evidence in favor of “personal testimonies and political demands,” points out Sprigg.

“People on the left tend to say, ‘We need to have evidence-based policies,’ and they’re very self-righteous about that everything needs to be evidence-based, but the transgender movement is not evidence-based,” he said. “It just is not.”

Transgender activists have also benefited from the “broader LGBT movement” that “has been very successful in framing what they do as a civil rights issue, in the public, and in major cultural institutions like academia, and the new media and the entertainment media,” Sprigg told LifeSiteNews.

“No one wants to, or very few people, want to be portrayed as standing against some group’s civil rights.”

At the same time, transgendered persons face what Sprigg calls a “Catch-22”: they want to be perceived as normal, yet retain the benefits of being ill.

The “gay rights” movement lobbied successfully to have homosexuality removed from the Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), in order to normalize that behavior, Sprigg said.

“Transgendered people can’t use the same strategy entirely, because they are seeking medical care and insurance coverage for their medical care, and therefore they have to have a diagnosis.”

That’s where the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) comes in.

Medically necessary, says WPATH

WPATH, which incidentally denounced McHugh’s Wall Street Journal op-ed as a “conservative” smear job, was founded the same year Johns Hopkins stopped doing sex-reassignment surgeries, and took the opposite tack.

Its list of “medically necessary sex reassignment procedures” includes, in part: “complete hysterectomy, bilateral mastectomy, chest reconstruction or augmentation as appropriate to each patient (including breast prostheses if necessary), genital reconstruction…facial hair removal, and certain facial plastic reconstruction as appropriate to the patient.”

WPATH’s guidelines, “although they give a veneer of science and medical legitimacy to the process, are very biased in favor of gender re-assignment,” Sprigg says. “Usually both the people who are making the recommendations for surgery and the people who are conducting the surgery are committed ideologically to the position that surgery is the solution.”

Van den Aardweg is even more blunt.

“Any really scientific international standard must be based on reality and not on ideological assertions,” he told LifeSiteNews. “Everyone can see that the gender ideology that promotes the normalization of transgenderism and SRS is being imposed on the world by powerful international organizations and political bodies.”

“These arrogantly establish norms and criteria, proclaim by decree that what is abnormal will henceforth be normal, what is healthy unhealthy, what is ethical unethical, and pretend there is scientific consensus for their insane theories, while it is just a question of political and ideological pressure, of tyranny.”

Moreover, the claim that people are “critically examined and that only non-disturbed people are admitted” for SRS rings “hollow.”

“There are no tests to differentiate possible ‘successful’ from ‘unsuccessful’ cases so the selection is fully arbitrary and, as I noted, the outcome is terrible anyway,” he stated. “The transition industry is a very expensive example of medical charlatanism.”

Ontario follows WPATH

As for the Ontario Liberal government, it adopts WPATH standards of care and has funded sex-reassignment surgeries since 2008.

According to Ministry of Health figures, the province approved surgeries for 604 people at a total cost of $8,943,000 in the seven years since, with $2.3 million spent in the last fiscal year for surgeries approved for 141 people.

But because SRS can only be approved through the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Health Minister Eric Hoskins announced earlier this month that he will “dramatically” increase the number of qualified professionals who can assess and refer for SRS in order to reduce a two-year waiting list of some 1,200 people.

This involves an amendment to Ontario’s regulations, posted on the government’s registry until December 21 for comments from the public, which won’t be made public.

It’s expected the amendment will receive the lieutenant governor’s approval, after in camera cabinet discussions and endorsement, in early 2016.

The ministry also confirmed that “at this time, there are no providers of genital SRS in Ontario” and most people go to Quebec for the surgeries. Hoskins told media that he is looking into “the provision of the surgical services.”

He also stated when announcing his proposed amendment November 6, that: “Every Ontarian has the right to be who they are.”

Resist the “sex-ideological tyranny”

Van den Aardweg views Hoskins’ decision as “intellectually and ethically…very primitive” and “obviously inspired by the gender ideology that has stupefied the minds of so many politicians.”

“Politically, it is a further step toward the implementation of the revolutionary sexual ideology that aims at the normalization of any and all sexual deviations and at equal rights for their practitioners, that is, equal to the rights of normally married people and families,” he added. “So it is about a lot more than only about the fate of the individuals on the waiting lists.”

However, the fate of those individuals is most likely to be tragic and potentially fatal. “The realistic help they need, they don’t get,” he pointed out. “They will be confirmed in their mental confusion and false identity.”

“Of course, speaking about rights, all this is contrary to their ‘right to be who they really are’, the sole right in this connection. There is no right to sickness, merely a right to health (care) and realistic compassion.”

“The sex-ideological tyranny of the establishment must be countered by the sustained spreading of correct and honest information and public pressure on the responsible politicians and political parties,” added van den Aardweg.

“Regardless of success or defeat in immediate skirmishes, this line of action will always bear fruit, sooner or later,” he pointed out, “and greatly help the victory of truth and real human values over lies and un-values at the time the tide of the present moral and spiritual war will take a turn for the better.”

Those wishing to comment on Ontario’s proposed amendment, go here.

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