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the Body Politic
Vol. 7, No. 4 - April 1997, Page 23
Copyright © 1997 by the Body Politic Inc.
Ann Rose: ACOL
Interview by Anne Bower
Last month we began an interview with Ann Rose, activist, writer, public relations expert, comedienne, and founder of Abortion Clinics OnLine, a web service for abortion providers. Ms. Rose spoke about the many contributions abortion clinics have made to health care. Then she discussed the public relations problems of the pro-choice community.To hear Ms. Rose's explanations for her selection, you can try to catch her act the next time she's at the Punchline in Atlanta. Or you might try to e-mail her at Abortion Clinics OnLine at: www.gynpages.com
Q: Ann, your specialty is public relations. Do you think the pro-choice community is losing the public relations battle trying to keep abortion accessible and legal?
A: Our opponents are more clever than we are with words. Take "partial birth abortion" -- a brilliant term. I spent about three days with Dr. McMahon in Los Angeles right before he died. I was observing his d&x procedures and there was no way I would ever have come up with "partial birth abortion." They have been able to frame the message so far.
Lots of times I think national groups don't know how to celebrate victories. We're always saying, well it was a minor victory instead of saying, "Oh, wow, we're on a roll -- we won! Let's go on." Perhaps it's because the groups are fundraising and victorious groups can't be seen as too successful or they will have trouble fundraising.
I also think people in the pro-choice movement are multi-dimensional. We're smart people and we've got a lot of things going for us. We've got many different interests -- family, friends, hobbies.
Q: We have a life.
A: Right. The anti-abortion zealots have their whole entire life centered around this one thing. It makes them quite disarming. We've been trying to start a movement for a pro-choice march in Washington next January for the 25th anniversary of Roe. It's not easy. If our opponents want to march, they take kids out of school (or their home school) and go. It's easier for many of them because they don't have jobs.
Q: When presidents, politicians and even pro-choice activists say abortion should be "rare," how do you respond to that?
A: When Clinton first said that, I thought, "It's pretty good fence sitting" because he backs it up with birth control initiatives to make abortion more rare. But, I don't think abortion is a bad thing. I see abortion as the ultimate birth control and I think a woman has the right to use this birth control if she so chooses.
When you use the term "rare" it sounds like abortion is bad and you want to do away with it. I don't think abortion is that bad. There are a lot worse things going on in society than abortion: child abuse, battered women, hazing in the military, etc. I know what the president meant -- rare in the sense that if we can prevent the need for abortion, that's better. Nobody needs to have any more surgery any more times than they have to, but it does give a mixed message, a waffling message.
Q: If you were designing an ad campaign for the pro-choice community, what would be your theme or message?
A: Probably, Abortion is here to stay. Get over it! Abortion has been around forever. Twenty million American women have had abortions. People should start dealing with that.
I think sometimes we over-dramatize situations. I was taught early on in this business, that as abortion counselors, we were not therapists. If we tried to be a therapist, it was a disservice to our patients because we don't have time. If you're going to do therapy on people you've got to see them twice a week for two years. Lots of our patients need therapy and we shouldn't set ourselves up to do that. A lot of women come in with their defenses already built up and we don't have a right to break down those defenses.
Our mission is to make sure they're making an informed decision that isn't forced. They have thought of the alternatives, know what an abortion is, and are sure of what they want to do. It's not our place to talk about their relationships, their kids, etc. We can only take care of one problem in their life. We can offer resources to take care of other problems, but once we in the clinic get involved in all the problems some of our patients have, we go nuts and can't focus on what we have to do. This is detrimental to us, as well as to the patient.
Q: Well, I've only got one final question for you. Heard any good jokes lately?
A: As a matter of fact I have. Do you know why dogs lick themselves? Because they can't make their paws into little fists.
Q: Is this part of your stage act?
A: Not yet. When I did my stint at the Punchline in Atlanta, I goofed some on Newt and Rush Limbaugh, but my favorite part of my act is my take on the Five Origins of Feminism: blow dryers, tampons, panty hose, birth control pills, and remote controls.
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