Gawker Calls B.S. On Frank Bruni

Lindsay Beyerstein

John Cook of Gawker is calling bullshit on Frank Bruni’s recent column about his friend the apostate abortion provider. Cook thinks this story is an urban legend:

He shared a story about one of the loudest abortion foes he ever encountered, a woman who stood year in and year out on a ladder, so that her head would be above other protesters’ as she shouted murderer” at him and other doctors and whore” at every woman who walked into the clinic.

One day she was missing. I thought, I hope she’s O.K.,’ ” he recalled. He walked into an examining room to find her there. She needed an abortion and had come to him because, she explained, he was a familiar face. After the procedure, she assured him she wasn’t like all those other women: loose, unprincipled.

She told him: I don’t have the money for a baby right now. And my relationship isn’t where it should be.”

Nothing like life,” he responded, to teach you a little more.”

A week later, she was back on her ladder. [NTY]

For Cook, it’s inconceivable that any self-respecting anti-choicer would go back to a clinic she picketed as a client: Why wouldn’t she go to a different clinic? Why would she come back to protest?

Besides, Cook notes, there are lots of anecdotes online about abortion protesters who go back to get abortions at their old picketing haunts. So, his argument is that it can’t be true because there are too many accounts of it happening? As a reproductive rights reporter, I’ve heard similar second-hand reports. They are indeed common.

I applaud Cook’s dedication to critical thinking. We should maintain a high index of suspicion about dramatic stories that supposedly happened to a friend of a friend” (or a friend of Frank Bruni’s). But there’s a big difference between a lightly sourced story and an anecdote that’s self-evidently too good to be true.

One in four American women will have an abortion in her lifetime. Anti-choicers get unhappily pregnant, too. If Cook is shocked that rabid ideologues sometimes fail to practice what they preach, I’m here to revoke his Cynical Journalist Card.

Thanks to rabid anti-choicers, abortion access is starkly limited in many parts of the country. An anti-choice protester in New York could probably find a facility that she hadn’t picketed. But an anti-choicer in Mississippi or North Dakota might not have the option.

If you need an abortion, and you’ve picketed the only clinic in your town, or your state, you may have to swallow your pride. When you do, the word will get out. It’s the equivalent of showing up at the ER with a carrot in your urethra. Your personally identifiable information will remain private, but your case will become a legend.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times’ City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://​www​.hill​man​foun​da​tion​.org/​h​i​l​l​m​a​nblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.
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