After receiving the unexpected letter from abortionist Brian Finkel, Kim and I sent him the following response (edited for length). Despite the insulting nature of his initial letter, we tried our best to be courteous, hoping to start a rational dialogue:
September 5, 1995
Dear Dr. Finkel,
Thank you for your letter. We were certainly surprised to hear from you, and your words certainly beg a response. We have to say right off the bat that we have received many negative letters from detractors, but your hostility toward the relatively mild pro-life statement we made in our August 27 column was unexpected, and in our opinion, unwarranted.
Since you opened up the dialogue, we will continue it. First, we'd like to tell you a little about ourselves. We do not fit the stereotype of the pro-life women you describe. For one thing, as we are young and products of our culture, we both have spent time as pro-choicers. We both have friends who are staunchly pro-choice, and we have friends who have had abortions. Kim, in particular, spent all but the last 2 years as a pro-choice feminist. There was no religious conversion that accounted for her switch; in fact, Kim was into New Age philosophies when she became a pro-lifer. The implications of her pro-choice position simply began to gnaw at her, and she felt compelled to get all the information and analyze both positions objectively. Pro-life won.
Leila came to a pro-life position as much out of an analysis of the medical and biological facts of pregnancy and abortion as from religious beliefs (i.e., the belief that there is an objective right and wrong). Her father is a surgeon and her mother a nurse, and she acquired a great respect for human life from the medical background of her youth. Her father took the Hippocratic Oath and its admonishment against abortion quite seriously, and if memory serves, Hippocrates was neither close-minded nor a religious cultist. Leila's husband is a secular Jew. He was an uncomfortable pro-choicer until he took a hard look at the issue during his undergraduate years. As a Jew, he is keenly aware of what happens when some would classify certain others as less than fully human. When he realized the danger of denying or qualifying another's humanity, he switched to the pro-life side of the debate. He won't accept the pro-choice position that there are degrees of humanity.
Can you not acknowledge that we who believe abortion is inherently wrong might actually be rational, educated and coherent? Might we have come to our conclusions based on years of reasoned debate? We ourselves have arrived at our position after tortuous debates based on biology, logic, civil rights, and philosophy. A belief in God only solidifies what these other arguments yielded.
Most pro-lifers we have encountered in everyday life (and they are perhaps of a different personality type than the ones you see at your clinic) are afraid, as we once were, of admitting to being pro-life. [Note to Bubble readers: This was written well before we were part of a strong pro-life community of friends who are unafraid to be openly pro-life!] As we've written in our column before, it's much easier to declare oneself to be pro-choice in today's culture of political correctness. Pro-lifers are sometimes viewed with as much suspicion and distaste as are abortionists.
You said something that, to be honest, really chilled us.You said you would be there for us should we (Kim specifically) ever "require" an abortion. We loved all five of our children well before they were born, throughout our entire pregnancies. Birth didn't change them genetically or inherently, it simply brought them into our full view. You might have extended us an offer to euthanize our toddlers should they become too much of a burden financially, physically or psychologically, and our reaction would have been exactly the same. To one who loves her child from conception onward, there is no distinction. So your offer was lost on us, as we would never deny our own children, whether they sleep safely in our womb or in a crib. You may believe that every woman would submit to an abortion if the circumstances were right, but you would be wrong. And how much more loving and civilized it would have been had you offered to help us with an adoption instead. There are families waiting to adopt every new infant, including that small percentage born with serious debilitating defects.
We appreciate your invitation to visit your clinic and witness the circumstances that compel women to seek abortions. But we've already witnessed those circumstances firsthand. You see, Kim worked for over 5 years at domestic violence shelters in two states. These were not shelters run by a church, but rather shelters that operate under a strident pro-choice feminist philosophy. Many of the battered women Kim counseled were poor, ending relationships, drug addicted, afflicted with STDs and/or terrified. Many had several children, and some were pregnant. Some of those left in the mornings to get their abortions. Kim cared about these women and dedicated years of her life to helping them. As a domestic violence counselor, she even put her life at risk for them. We hurt for these women and we believe they deserve help, love, support and empowerment; there are ways to help them. But their tragic circumstances cannot excuse or justify the taking of a life.
Dr. Finkel, we have never been on a picket line [Note: I was shocked to read this recently, as it would never occur to me now to call sidewalk counseling or praying at a clinic a "picket line"! We didn't have any active pro-life experience at that time.], we are not loud or obnoxious, and we do not wave the Bible in people's faces. We are just two moms who are lucky enough to have a column in the local newspaper. Should you meet us at a party, you would not find us in the least bit offensive. Since you initiated contact with us and gave us the opportunity to correspond with you, we want to be candid with you here.
We don't know you personally, so we neither like nor dislike you, but it will not surprise or shock you to know that we find what you do reprehensible. Though abortion is a big issue to us personally and though we periodically feel the need to address the subject in depth in our column, we avoid (even dread) writing articles on abortion, because the subject so disturbs and drains us. As mothers, both the idea and the reality of abortion wrench our hearts; we are truly trying to understand how you can be a part of what we see as an attack on the most innocent and voiceless among us.
As a physician, you know that from the moment of conception, the unborn child is genetically unique, a completely separate being from its mother, with all the chromosomes that define it as a human being. Any qualification of the definition of life past the point of conception is, as you must realize, utterly arbitrary. So, we turn the question to you, with truly no accusation or self-righteousness intended (we may never have the same opportunity to ask such a question again): Do you ever have any sense of regret, or even perhaps a nagging moment of doubt, about performing abortions? Do you ever wonder, just for a moment, if you are doing something that is inherently, terribly wrong? Do you feel any obligation, responsibility or anything for the unborn child whose life you're ending? We have no intention of using your name in a column [and we never did], and if you want to correspond off-the-record, we welcome it.
We harbor no illusions that we will ever change your heart or mind, but maybe you'll agree that there is some satisfaction in civilized discourse. We are willing to maintain a dialogue.
Leila Miller Kim Manning
PS: Our editor at the Republic attached the "Generation X" label to our columns; we would never hold ourselves up as spokespersons for our generation.
Next: Abortionist Finkel's response to this letter. Oh, and believe me, you will want to read this series of posts to the very end; it ends with a bang not a whimper.
To be continued....