With the coming 20th anniversary of legendary Chicago columnist Mike Royko's death on April 29, there have been an eruption of well-deserved memoirs and homages. However, none that I could find recalled his double-barrel blast at a leading abortion provider for lying "through his teeth" when he denied the use of a practice called of partial birth abortion.
At the same time, abortion advocates have been calling Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner a liar when he said that he would veto House Bill 40 under which taxpayers would fund free abortions of any kind at any time. For decades, Illinois covered abortions in cases of rape, incest and to preserve the life and health o the mother.
The intersection of these two news items was propitious. Because it demonstrates the hypocrisy
of fringe pro-choice groups such as Illinois Personal PAC by showing that the biggest lie of all came from abortion providers.
Royko's two columns (April 27 and April 28 1997, reprinted in their entirety below) focused on Ron Fitzsimmons, head of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, who repeatedly and firmly insisted that the gruesome procedure popularly called partial birth abortion was rarely used. It only was used, he said, when the mother's life was in danger of the fetus was severely damaged.
After a couple of years of this, his conscience apparently bugged him into publicly confessing that he had been lying all along. As Royko reported:
Fitzsimmons now admits that most such abortions are done on women who are healthy and fetuses that are healthy, but not because the woman is in danger or the fetus is unhealthy. The abortion is performed for the same reason as other abortions: The woman wants it.
Fitzsimmons says he and others lied because the truth might have hurt the cause of abortion rights.
Fitzsimmons confession was a personal vindication. I was among the first to report that the procedure was widely used. My columns at the Chicago Sun-Times were based on the reporting of the American Medical Association, hardly a hard-right, "anti-choice" group. A shit storm hit. First, abortion advocates denied that such a procedure even existed. Then they had to admit that, well yes, it did exist but was hardly ever used and only in the most extreme circumstances. What followed were personal attacks: Letters to the newspaper denounced me as the liar. My firing was sought. The oh-so-compassionate and caring left called me things that I won't even print in a blog.
And so, I was disappointed that none of the Royko remembrances had anything to say about two of the most powerful columns that he ever wrote. Maybe some of his admirers didn't want to think that Royko was, like many of us who grow older becoming more conservative. For them, Royko "was slipping." He wasn't "what he used to be." And, finally, he was a racist, woman-hating jerk.
Although I worked with him at the Daily News and Sun-Times, I didn't know him well enough to suggest that he was becoming, like me, a neocon--once a liberal but of late a conservative--in the years before his death. So, I didn't share in the wisdom that he had lost it. Clearly, he hadn't lost a step in the two columns that follow:
NEWS MEDIA, OTHERS SWALLOWED ABORTION LIE HOOK, LINE AND SINKER
Feb. 27, 1997
By Mike Royko
Sensible words, and I usually try to follow them.
But on this day, there weren't nearly enough hours left until my deadline for me to calm down about a whopper of a lie that a public figure named Ron Fitzsimmons has finally admitted that he was insisting that the gruesome procedure popularly called partial-birth abortion was rarely used.
Fitzsimmons runs the National Coalition of Abortion Providers.
And he says his conscience has nagged him into admitting "lying through my teeth" when he made public statements in 1995 that the controversial "partial birth abortion" was rarely used. And that it was used only when a woman's life was in danger or the fetus was already severely damaged.
You probably remember the big debate on this issue. Those against this late-term procedure wanted it outlawed because they said it killed healthy, normal fetuses that were well into full development.
And the procedure is barbaric, they said. The fetus is partially delivered feet first, then a device is used to suck its brain out to collapse the head.
Fitzsimmons now admits that most such abortions are done on women who are healthy and fetuses that are healthy, but not because the woman is in danger or the fetus is unhealthy.
The abortion is performed for the same reason as other abortions: The woman wants it.
Fitzsimmons says he and others lied because the truth might have hurt the cause of abortion rights.
They were right. If it hadn't been for those lies, eagerly accepted and passed along as gospel by the printed press and broadcast news, President Clinton would not have dared veto a bill that outlawed the procedure. And Congress wouldn't have buckled and failed to override his veto.
That's what is so infuriating: the silence of those in the medical field who knew it was a lie but failed to thunderously refute it.
And the willingness of the press to accept the lie and pass it along as fact. If more sheep are cloned, don't be surprised if some come out looking like modern journalists.
A few physicians spoke up. Two wrote a piece for the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal that shredded the line peddled by people like Fitzsimmons. But they were ignored, probably because the Journal's opinion sections are viewed by the rest of journalism as hopelessly conservative.
The press swallowed the lies like worms by a bass because the lies fit so neatly into what is sometimes referred to as a "world view" that is shared by those in the mainstream news media.
Part of that view seems to be that anyone who questions the need for the vast number of abortions performed each year is some kind of right-wing, bomb-tossing, gun-toting religious nut.
So when those who present themselves as social progressives say that only women who face death and fetuses who face life as vegetables are involved in partial birth abortions, the press is comforted and lets it go at that. Heaven forbid that the newsroom should offend any of the "don't tell me what to do with my body" crowd.
It isn't the first big lie that the media have bought and resold.
Some years ago, gay organizations and public health people launched an intense "We're All at Risk" campaign. This meant that we were all equally vulnerable to the threat of AIDS.
Common sense and existing evidence said otherwise: If you didn't have anal intercourse with a man or borrow a needle from a dopehead, what put you at risk?
But those who launched the propaganda campaign later admitted that they believed the fear would create sympathy for gays and spur increased spending on AIDS research.
Eventually, a few skeptical reporters shot holes in the campaign. But not until others who questioned it had been labeled bigots and homophobes. One journalist who wrote a book on the subject lost his newspaper job, and his book, despite impressive hardcover sales, couldn't attract a paperback publisher. It was politically correct censorship.
More recently, there was the media hysteria over the burning of black churches. Remember? Night riders were thought to be galloping all over the country, burning black churches. A massive racist conspiracy, possibly inspired by the oratory of political conservatives like Pat Buchanan.
Clinton, concerned frown and all, visited churches and recalled similar evil arsons in Arkansas when he was a youth--memories that turned out to be pure fiction.
Proposals were made to use federal funds to rebuild churches. Rich do-gooders kicked in money to organizations that made the most victimization noise.
Turned out it was more smoke than fire. After the nation's press spread the arson story, calmer heads took a closer look. Most of the fires weren't arson. No conspiracy. Black arsonists as well as white arsonists were arrested, proving that a nut is a nut, regardless of color. It was as if no one in an American newsroom knew that an old wooden rural church can actually have bad wiring. Not when Jesse Jackson is dishing out hot quotes about the second coming of the Ku Klux Klan.
Now we have Fitzsimmons blowing the whistle on himself. His conscience? Or was it that the truth was going to come out anyway?
Maybe from people such as the anti-abortion physician who will be the subject of Friday's column.
Copyright Chicago Tribune Co. Feb 27, 1997
DOCTORS SEE LIES BEHIND REASONS FOR LATE-TERM ABORTIONS
Feb. 28, 1997
Fitzsimmons is the conscience-stricken head of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers who now admits that he took part in telling Americans the big lie about so-called partial-birth abortions.
During the national debate on the late-term brain-sucking procedure, Fitzsimmons was one of many pro-abortion spokespersons and media dupes who assured the nation that almost all late-term abortions were done to preserve the health of the mother or because the fetus had serious abnormalities.
Now, Fitzsimmons said, "I lied through my teeth." And that most late-term abortions were done for the same reason as early abortions--because women wanted to end pregnancies.
Fitzsimmons' confession was barely out of his mouth when he was whopped by fellow abortion advocates, who held a news conference to say, in effect, that he was being truthful when, he now says, he was lying. But now he is lying when he says he is finally being truthful.
Typical was Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. She said: "If he thinks he lied, that's his problem to deal with. We have not lied."
Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said Fitzsimmons had been "mixing up gestation with procedure."
Whatever the heck that means.
While they squabble about who did or didn't lie, let's listen to someone else for once--genuine physicians, rather than the pro-abortionlobbyists and other non-medical spin experts who seem to get all the invitations to yap on TV.
One is Dr. Pamela Smith, former director of medical education in obstetrics and gynecology at Mt. Sinai Hospital. She recently resigned that post to do anti-abortion public-health work in the community and practice medicine at the Lawndale Health Center.
The only thing that surprised her about Fitzsimmons' confession was that he made it.
"Most of the time, there is nothing wrong with the baby or the mother (when late-term abortions are performed)," she said. "People have known about this for a decade.
"There is a clinic in New Jersey that said of the 3,000 abortions it did last year, 1,500 were late-term.
"So we went from being told that only 200 a year were being done in the entire country to one clinic saying it does 1,500 a year. Obviously, the actual number (of late-term abortions) is in the thousands.
"The media believe what they want to believe. And because a lot of doctors who have testified in support of the partial-birth ban have been pro-life, the knee-jerk response is that it is a pro-life/pro-choice thing.
"There's been all this propaganda that it is done only because women need it. So people said: `If my wife needs to have this to save her life, she should have it.' The problem is that it is not this procedure versus your wife's life. It's really infuriating to me to hear that women medically need this."
One of the arguments for the late-term procedure is that it helps a woman preserve her fertility. Smith describes that as "fantasy."
The future-fertility risk was one of the excuses offered by President Clinton when he vetoed the bill that would have outlawed the procedure.
Clinton said: "There are a few hundred women every year who have personally agonizing situations where their children are born or are about to be born with terrible deformities which will cause them to die either just before, during or just after childbirth.
"And these women, among other things, cannot preserve the ability to have further children unless the enormous size of the baby's head is reduced before being extracted from their bodies."
Which is bunk, according to Dr. Nancy Romer, chairman of obstetrics at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton and a clinical professor at Wright State University.
"I don't understand that argument about fertility at all," she said. "We have no idea what happens to women who have this procedure down the road. We don't have a clue. There is no scientific evidence that shows that procedure will preserve the fertility of women."
Dr. Curtis Cook, who specializes in maternal fetal medicine at Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich., said: "I can't think of any situation where the procedure would be preferable over existing techniques. I question why it is not being taught or performed by the majority of people who specialize in these pregnancies."
As for the propaganda campaign that led Clinton to veto the bill outlawing the procedure, Romer believes she understands it:
"Those who opposed the legislation have a much broader agenda, and that is to have totally unrestricted access to abortion. They will defend abortion rights blindly, regardless of the facts of the matter. Any legislation, if it's anti-abortion, they are against it.
"They don't think, `Is this procedure appropriate, who is doing it and why are they doing it?' They don't care about the details. They won't acknowledge the truth of what we are saying because it defeats their larger agenda."
So the whole battle is going to be fought in Congress one more time. And if a bill passes and gets to Clinton's desk, maybe he can ask the CIA or the FBI to find out who is telling the truth before he makes any more somber pronouncements.
Copyright Chicago Tribune Co. Feb 28, 1997