To the editors:

Kudos to Cate Plys for her unwitting expose of the abortion industry [“No Choice,” April 17]. Though certainly not her intent, Ms. Plys amply demonstrates that given a conflict between abortion profiteers (aided by compliant zealots) and pregnant women in crisis, the latter will lose every time. Especially if they are poor.

Had Plys chosen to explore this myth of the abortion industry’s concern for women she might have looked to former abortion clinic owner and operator Carol Everett for an introduction: “Due to the emphasis on profit prevalent in the abortion industry, the industry will make no effort to clean itself up unless and until it is forced to. It must be remembered that abortion is not a choice women make. Abortion is a skillfully marketed product sold to a woman at a crisis time in her life.” Everett goes on to state that during her six years as a provider of legal abortions she saw the death or maiming of at least one woman out of every five hundred.

However inadvertently, Plys’s article partially acknowledges these realities. Thus, Chicago Abortion Fund executive director M. Jeanne Wirpsa states that “Low-income women historically have resorted to less-than-safe abortion providers . . . ” Less than safe? Hmm. And I thought that because abortions are legal they are also safe. Abortion supporters, after all, claim to be fighting to KEEP–rather than to MAKE–abortions safe (and legal). Yet these very same proabortion groups have steadfastly opposed any and all legislative attempts to regulate the virtually uncontrolled abortion industry. So much for concern for women’s safety.

That abortionists are driven by a profit motive is hardly shocking. What is shocking, however, is the complicity of dissemblers like Wirpsa in protecting these profits at the expense of the very women whom they purport to help. Plys writes: “Wirpsa describes a downtown [abortion] clinic she prefers not to name [my emphasis]. ‘They confuse women enough so that they think they’re going to be able to get the abortion done there. But then if they don’t do the abortion, they wind up keeping her $185.'” Wirpsa refuses to expose this disreputable clinic, choosing instead to protect it rather than the low-income women it will swindle. What misguided, hypocritical reasoning.

Diana Lammon, of Family Planning Associates Medical Group, is no better. She concedes: “They [local, first-trimester abortionists] will refer them [women with second-trimester pregnancies] 300 or 400 miles out of state. I’ve met them and they’ll remain nameless [my emphasis], but they will not do it [refer a local competitor who performs second-trimester abortions] because they don’t want to take the business away from themselves.”

Not only does Plys refuse to admit the financial motives of the abortion industry and its supporters, she falsely and audaciously ascribes them to the prolife movement. In “No Choice” she states that, “Prochoice activists argue that abortion costs pale compared to the cost of prenatal care, delivery, and subsequent medicaid and welfare payments for the child.” Mary Krane Derr (“Letters,” May 1, 1992) rightly objects to this proabortion argument which values the lives of the poor in terms of dollars and cents and then chooses the cheapest course of action. Plys retorts that this isn’t a proabortion contention at all, that it’s merely a response “to the standard prolife argument that abortion is too expensive to be publicly funded.” In actuality, prolifers object to the use of any of their tax dollars to pay for a practice which they consider abhorrent. Plys’s distorted logic implies that if the cost of abortions were only lower, prolifers would support funding them publicly.

And while we’re discussing financial support for the abortions of low-income women, the Chicago Abortion Fund’s individual contributions last year totaled a scant $42,000. $42,000! If only abortion proponents put their money where their mouths are they wouldn’t have to look to the rest of us to fund this loathsome enterprise.

R.M. Strezo


Cate Plys replies:

There was nothing unwitting about my use of the examples cited by R.M. Strezo, which were included because they chillingly illustrated the article’s thesis: Given the myriad obstacles to abortion, pregnant women seeking abortions lose every time. Especially if they are poor.

A lack of information on abortion services is a principle hurdle, manifested in ways many people will not have imagined. Low-income women are hit hardest by the information drought, since Chicago’s public-health clinics already follow the federal gag rule and refuse to give patients any information on abortion services. That leaves nonprofit groups like Planned Parenthood and the Chicago Abortion Fund (CAF) trying to pick up the slack and guide women toward reputable clinics–as with any other medical service, some providers are better than others.

Wirpsa and Lammon declined to name the clinics they described because both were understandably worried about lawsuits. Far from refusing to expose disreputable clinics, Wirpsa’s job is to encourage women to patronize clinics she knows are well run, a chief goal of the CAF.

Lastly, while prolifers most assuredly do object to spending any tax dollars on publicly funded abortions, the record shows that a common prolife argument is that such funding is, in any case, too expensive. As noted in the article, this is a position taken by several Cook County Board members.