I hope that Lou and I don't give the impression that we are a rare breed in trying to give women the attention they deserve and to give the pregnancy decision the respect it deserves. A couple of weeks ago there was a conference of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers and the Abortion Conversation Project, two organizations that have worked hard toward similar goals. In the course of the meeting three women were honored, and I thought it would be a good thing to introduce them to you all.
The first is Francis Kissling, who just retired from the Catholics for Free Choice, a group that she founded 25 years ago. She was also the director of an abortion clinic when abortion first became legal in NYC back in 1970 and went on to organize abortion providers. She has always been outspoken, to the Catholic hierarchy about their positions on abortion, contraception, and AIDS, among other things, but also to her colleagues about difficult topics. She has written lately about our relationship to the fetus--sort of can we afford to talk about the value of a potential life and still be pro choice? (She answers by asking, "Can we walk and chew gum at the same time?") She was awarded the David Gunn Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement. David Gunn, of course, was the doctor murdered in Pensacola FL in 1993 outside his clinic. In accepting the award, she said, "Some people think it will be great if we get to a time when abortion won't be so fiercely debated. I never want to see a time when abortion doesn't engage us because it brings up so much."
The second honoree is Elizabeth Barnes, a young woman who seems to be hitting her stride as supervisor for many clinics on the Eastern Seaboard. She struck me as sparkly and a bit shy at the same time, but very poised and wise. She has gently led her many staff people to engage in changing attitudes in the community as well as raising the bar for quality abortion care, including counseling. She was honored by the Abortion Conversation Project's Vision Award and if this is a glimpse of the future, I can retire someday knowing that the kind of work I try to do will thrive.
Finally, Amy Hagstrom Miller was named NCAP Person of the Year. Amy is smart, ambitious, funny and challenges people to be and do more. During the weekend she kept pushing people to look for the "juice" in our work. Her own passion is palpable and she really understands that our work, and the kind of experience we can offer women, is truly transformational. She also said, "What we're doing here is big and you can be part of something big." She brings our movement some big picture thinking, informed by heart and intellect.
It was a pleasure to witness these three women and honor their contribution to our work. When we sit with a woman all of this wisdom is swirling around us, and though the woman doesn't know it, she, too, is part of something big.