This Easter, 31-year-old Abigail Seidman will take communion as a Roman Catholic for the first time. Taken alone, this is hardly earth shaking. But Seidman is no ordinary convert. Seidman is the daughter of a former nurse at the Toledo, Ohio Center for Choice, the latest former-feminist to take center stage as an anti-choice activist.
Whether on YouTube, through audio files, or in interviews with conservative columnist Jill Stanek, Seidman trucks out every imaginable cliché to stoke anti-abortion/anti-feminist fervor. Among her more Onion-esque assertions:
- The Center for Choice was filled with occult imagery and staff routinely engaged in Wiccan practices, even piping “Goddess chants” into the recovery room;
- Abortions were performed on women who were not pregnant and staff encouraged one another to conceive so they could have at least one surgery. “You had to have an abortion,” she says. “That was the initiation that everyone shared.”
What’s more, Seidman charges that medical records were altered to allow doctors to operate past legal limits. Worse, she reports that staff—AKA witches—regularly smoked pot and took hallucinogenic drugs during the workday.
And then Seidman gets personal. As she tells it, her mom put her on the pill at age 11. According to Jill Stanek, “Rape was a particular obsession of her mom’s and the feminist mantra, ‘Every man is a potential rapist,’ was frequently repeated.”
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Of course, men-as-enemies was just the start of Seidman’s purported indoctrination. Her preposterous claims include the assertion that her mom forced her to have an abortion when she became pregnant at 18, declaring, “You’re part of the sisterhood now,” once the procedure was completed.
Other coming-of-age indignities—these resonate particularly well with her new circle of friends--involve religious oppression. “Until I was five my parents went to church. I loved God,” she says in an audio interview. “My grandfather was a devout Baptist. As my mom became a feminist I was cut off from him and we isolated ourselves from Christians.”
Her own abortion, she continues, caused tremendous grief, and Seidman tells any-and-all that, before becoming a believer, each anniversary was marked by despair. “I’d been to counseling and was on anti-depressant drugs but nothing was working. When I went online all the post-abortion sites said that healing begins with Jesus. I thought to myself, ‘Jesus won’t accept me,’ but I bought a Bible anyway and started reading. One afternoon I prayed, ‘If you’re out there and if I’m acceptable to you, I will accept you.’ I instantly felt something—a strange feeling… There’s no forgiveness in atheism. The things you do just stack up.”
Seidman’s heartfelt testimony puts her alongside a handful of other anti-choice turncoats, people who have gained fame, and perhaps fortune, by switching sides. Among the most prominent: Norma McCorvey [the original Jane Roe], the late Dr. Bernard Nathanson [a NARAL founder], and Abby Johnson [former Director of a Texas Planned Parenthood affiliate].
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It should come as no surprise that people familiar with the Center for Choice during the years that Seidman’s mom worked there [early-to-mid 1990’s] are eager to rebut Abigail’s outlandish claims. Dr. Jeannie Ludlow, a patient advocate from 1996 to 2008, says that the clinic “often sent people from Ohio to Kansas, to Dr. Tiller’s clinic. We wouldn’t have done this if we were willing to go over the legal [time] limit.”
Similarly, Rachelle Lerch, on staff since 1991, says that, “ We’ve always sent patients away to think about the decision when we don’t think they’re ready to have an abortion. We give them a workbook and contact them a few days later to discuss what they want to do.”
Seidman’s derision of the Center angers and saddens both Lerch and Ludlow. At the same time they wonder about the psychological underpinnings of her Rightwing ascension. They’ve also begun to question why antis who become pro-choice are not heralded in the same way as those moving from pro to anti-choice, especially since this shift happens with shocking regularity.
Indeed, clinicians across the U.S. report that anti-choicers often change sides when they, or someone they love, needs an abortion. Sometimes, they even write letters to the people they’ve harassed. “As a child I believed abortion was a black/white issue. Because of my naiveté, not to mention the influence of a Catholic school, I protested at your clinic. I am ashamed that I once treated people so harshly,” wrote MK to the Allentown’s Women’s Center.
According to Vicki Saporta, President and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, “Some anti-abortion patients think of themselves as different from other women and go right back out to protest against the clinic after their surgery. Others will apologize for making life miserable for patients and staff, saying that when they needed an abortion they were amazed by the compassion they were shown. These people typically admit that they have new respect for the women obtaining reproductive healthcare and the women providing it.”
Nonetheless, Saporta concedes that she can remember only one instance in which a person going from anti to pro-choice was given media attention. “We don’t spend a single minute trying to recruit people to our position,” she says, “Clinicians focus on care-giving.”
That said, anti-abortion stigma clearly contributes to silencing former antis. Merle Hoffman, founder/President of Choices Women’s Medical Center, quips: “When they go from pro-choice to anti-choice they’re following a redemptive paradigm. They see themselves transformed from sinners to saints. The opposite doesn’t have the same cache.”
The task then, is to shift the paradigm: After all, pro-choice is pro-life.