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How Marilyn Paul's life's work is destroying Marilyn Paul's life's work
Roe long protected the moral self-image of "pro-life from conception" people as the good guys. That day is over; and they're completely unprepared for the consequences of becoming the bad guys.
Let me state something obvious: if you want the government to force a child, at gun point, to risk her life to carry and deliver her rapist’s fetus, you are the bad guy. And you always will be.
I suspect that Marilyn Paul, long-time director of Options for Women, a Lakeland “pro-life” crisis pregnancy center, understands this. Because I think she’s a decent person.
That’s why, in my view, she won’t say whether she wants Ron DeSantis’ government to force children, at gun point, to risk their lives to carry and deliver their rapist’s fetus. Pending the outcome of legal challenge, that will be the law in Florida for pregnant rape victims after 15 weeks.
I have tried and tried and tried to get a yes or no answer from Marilyn on these three questions:
Do you support keeping abortion legal at 15 weeks in Florida? (Florida currently performs roughly 80,000 pregnancy terminations each year. )
Do you support a total ban?
Do you support or oppose forcing the victims of rape or incest to give birth?
Marilyn refuses to answer them with clarity, even though they will define the very future of her clinic and life’s work. We’ve had an extended email exchange about it. I only wanted three words from her. Here are her last two answers to me, after which I told her I’m giving up:
I am pro-life from conception!
I’m not sure how people are “forced” to do things, but I am absolutely for giving our patients all of the information so THEY can make an informed decision for themselves! My friend Pam was 14 when she was raped. She didn’t have the money to pay for an abortion. She gave birth and now her “baby” is 41, and has children of her own.
I have a plate full today and this week so hope this helps. I’ll be able to reconnect but will have to be later. Have a good day!
And then this:
A woman can choose to do what she wants to her body. I agree. The baby, a human In the womb should be protected and given the chance to live. I have answered. Please understand I’ll be willing to meet again just trying to leave out of town and my plate it full. I also do the bookwork for my hubby’s business. Have a good day!
Completely unprepared, morally, for the consequences of “pro-life from conception” winning
It would be an insult to women to say pro-lifers needed Roe for their self-image as the “good guys” as much as the women who have terminated pregnancies needed it for their lives. But take a look at Marilyn’s comments again, nonetheless.
Her post-Roe behavior betrays, in my view, a glib, moral immaturity about pregnancy termination endemic to even decent, sincere, well-meaning “pro-lifers,” which I think Marilyn is. I think she genuinely cares about the well-being of the women who come to her clinic.
But she is completely unprepared, completely unwilling, to engage seriously with what “pro-life from conception” means as a government position, enforced with guns.
Indeed, every single individual supporter of forced birth I know personally — politician and otherwise — is dancing around the physical and moral consequences of their victory. They’re not basking in it. They’re not eagerly publicly calling for abortion-hunting police squads, which is the only way to even try to get from Florida’s 80,000 yearly abortions to zero.
They’re afraid of having to live their victory, on moral grounds, not just political grounds. Roe protected them for a long time. Not anymore.
“Life begins at conception” isn’t just a cheap cliche now
In reality, almost no one believes “life begins at conception.” It’s a cheap, empty phase. And as Marilyn shows, even fewer people behave as if they believe it.
If you don’t consider and behave like women who terminate pregnancies are pre-meditated child murderers, then you, like me, you don’t believe life begins at conception. Do not cloak yourself in self-aggrandizing moral bullshit built on other people’s suffering.
“Normies,” non-political woman and men with basic common sense about biology and morality, vote clearly with their bodies and their money. 80,000 per year in Florida alone. “Pro-life” people benefit from and pay for shit-tons of those abortions, just like “heterosexual” homophobic men in marriages have lots of gay sex.
Thus, “pro-life from conception” people differ greatly from the serious, principled supporters of Roe, and the opponents of criminalizing abortion.
Those of us who support a woman’s bodily autonomy, who reject the government’s right to force a woman to risk her life to give birth at gun point, have always understood the moral tradeoffs that come with that position.
We understand that balancing mature human life with possible human life, within the human experience of pregnancy, can create deeply challenging, deeply painful, emotional and moral realities. It means subjecting ourselves to slurs like “baby-killer.”
That’s the moral price of protecting children from their rapists or helping a woman control her own biological and social destiny. We were willing to pay it.
It’s also why “pro-choice” Americans have tried to accommodate abortion prohibitionists in many ways. It’s why I was perfectly content to accept that Marilyn built her clinic to compete with the pregnancy termination provider next door — as long as we lived in a world that guaranteed a woman’s right to walk out of Marilyn’s clinic and terminate pregnancy without state-power consequence. That’s the moral consequence of choice — a competition between birth and termination, neither forced.
That world is gone.
You’ll never be able to cosplay the good guys again, forced birthers
We had an unsatisfying national compromise that allowed us to co-exist. You killed it, “pro-life from conception” person.
Marilyn Paul helped kill it, as surely as any “baby” she imagined an abortionist killing.
If you’re a “pro-life from conception” person in my community, Roe long protected you from my public moral scrutiny and questioning. Not anymore.
We do not know what’s coming next, but abortion abolitionists will never be able to cosplay the good guys again with a straight face; and they know it. They’ll have to pivot to raw power — or nothing.
I will never stop reminding them of that.
Marilyn and Billy, a history
Perhaps you doubt that Marilyn’s political and cultural approach helped kill the very world that protected her from the moral consequences of “pro-life from conception.”
You should consider that she has not always been so shy about the political and moral implications of her beliefs. She was very capable of identifying and confronting political “bad guys” in the pursuit of “pro-life from conception.”
An example: on Election Day 2008, she and I ended up at the same election precinct near the Lakeland YMCA. I was waving signs for a local candidate; but I was wearing an Obama tee-shirt.
After I said “good morning” to Marilyn, she responded by noting that my tee-shirt meant I was politically in favor of “killing babies.” We then had a vigorous exchange of views; and she left. I wrote about the experience at the time for my old site, “Lakeland Local.” But I did not mention Marilyn by name.
She and I have since discussed this incident. Marilyn says she does not remember it. But she has apologized to me, saying it was inappropriate behavior if she did it. I never ask for apologies from anyone, ever. But I appreciated hers nonetheless. And I’m a forgiving person.
In the years since that 2008 Election Day, Marilyn and I, who share a Lakeland Kiwanis Club, have enjoyed a frank and civil relationship. I would not describe us as friends; but we haven’t been enemies. I think we’ve tried to approach each other across a fundamental divide.
I recently visited Options for Women at Marilyn’s invitation. I believe the women who choose to partake in her services receive good care and kindness at her clinic. She and her staff were very open with me, I thought.
In a world in which the state does not consider women who have abortions pre-meditated child murderers — that’s what “pro-life from conception” means, Marilyn — I would not discourage any woman from seeking care from Options for Women.
I suspect many advocates for a woman’s bodily autonomy would disagree with me on that. But I always try to test my abstract policy points-of-view against real human experience.
A snitch center?
But the end of Roe, if accompanied by the end of legal abortion of Florida, makes questions about quality of care at Options for Women irrelevant — or at least deeply secondary.
The only question that really matters for Options for Women right now — even when a 15-week legality remains — is this: when Sheriff Grady Judd’s Abortion Enforcement detectives ask for the names and records of the women you serve, are you going to provide them?
Honestly, all medical providers should be thinking this through right now and providing clarity to the women they serve.
The end of Roe injects all pre-natal care with state menace — because the state must know if you’re pregnant to enforce its prohibition. The outcome of every single pregnancy is a matter of state policing interest in a world where abortion is illegal. When abortion is outlawed; only outlaws will have abortions.
There will be even more menace injected into the care provided by Options for Women, which deliberately caters to and then keeps tabs on vulnerable women in crisis pregnancy situations.
Vulnerable, motivated, determined
The women who visit Options for Women today are very deliberately assessed as patients through the lens of abortion. Staff triage them in three categories: abortion vulnerable, abortion motivated, or abortion determined. Those are the specific terms.
Despite that, on the day I saw it, Options for Women did not feel like a coercive space. “We don’t have pictures of babies all over the walls,” Marilyn said. I have no reason to believe that was just for show for me.
Marilyn and her staff are adamant that they don’t coerce or pressure women; and I do believe they at least think that sincerely. Options for Women feels like a clean, well-kept clinic — not a some high pressure, anti-abortion time share experience.
The one clear area of pressure, I would say, is the exam room where a woman receiving an ultrasound looks directly at a large high definition screen that shows her the fetus. It obviously makes the fetus seem much larger than it is in real life; and I suspect that plays powerfully into a woman’s emotions. People can debate the morality of that.
Marilyn says most of her patients go on to give birth and parent their children. But a considerable number of women go on to leave Options for Women and terminate their pregnancies — more than decide to give birth for the purpose of adoption, which is less than 5 percent, according to Marilyn and her staff.
Options for Women patients who choose to end pregnancy are offered “post-abortion counseling.” Marilyn and her staff made very clear to me they try to keep up with the women who decide to terminate pregnancies. In a world defined by Roe, you can certainly make a case that shows great kindness and concern.
Now, consider a world in which the three triage categories are: criminal murder vulnerable, criminal murder motivated, criminal murder determined. Every woman who walks in the door and creates a record makes herself a person of interest.
In that world, would you recommend a loved one create that record at Options for Women? I wouldn’t.
So what now, Marilyn? It’s your world.
In my view, Marilyn Paul’s life’s work and moral passion have barreled forward on two tracks she did not realize were headed for catastrophic collision.
Convincing vulnerable women they are loved and supported enough to choose to give birth, rather than end a pregnancy.
End legal abortion.
She’s close to getting 2. And she’s destroying 1 in the process, as is the entire “pro-life” movement which isn’t just a front for Uvalde Man, “grab ‘em by the pussy” manhood.
The Marilyns of the world have never had to reckon with that reality because Roe protected them from it — and they seem incapable of reckoning with consequences of victory now. They just want our approval. Sorry.
If you want to get serious as citizens — and move beyond the moral preening of “pro-life from conception,” then answer my yes or no questions — with yeses or nos — as a serious citizen and believer of “pro-life from conception” would.
Do you support keeping abortion legal at 15 weeks in Florida?
Do you support a total ban?
Do you support or oppose forcing the victims of rape or incest to give birth?
When Sheriff Grady Judd’s Abortion Enforcement detectives ask for the names and records of the women you serve, are you going to provide them?
Until you do, spare me any self-justifications. You’re not just the rapist-empowering bad guys; you’re cowards.
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