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Merle Hoffman: an “Abortion Pioneer” who has lost her way

by | Jan 11, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

Merle Hoffman

The reminder came courtesy of PRNewswire which sent out an email blast that “Abortion Pioneer” Merle Hoffman would be speaking at the National Press Club a week from today. Hoffman is hocking her new book,  modestly titled “Intimate Wars: The Life and Times of the Woman Who Brought Abortion from the Back Alley to the Boardroom.” The notice says Hoffman will be talking about a number of issues, including an increase in abortions [dubious] “especially among low-income women” [true].

This jogged my memory; I’d recently read a salon.com profile about what the PR blurb describes  as “founder and owner of one of the first and largest abortion clinics in the United States” (“Choices”) which took root in Queens, New York two years before Roe v. Wade was handed down.

In her puff piece Irin Carmon describes the book as a memoir of a self-made millionaire. With the 39th anniversary of Roe around the corner, it might be worthwhile to briefly use Carmon’s “Abortion Pioneer: Defend rights or lose them” to talk about Hoffman.

·         Her attire “[S]ignaling more Upper East Side doyenne than die-hard boomer activist,” Hoffman got into “medicine” [!] by accident by “working at a doctor’s office in Queens.” Later, even though the concert pianist turned psychologist and health care entrepreneur already operated “Choices,” she was politicized, we’re told, by passage of the Hyde Amendment.

·         The problem, in Hoffman’s view, is  “’We’re not comfortable with the banner we’re under,’ meaning that abortion is still largely a taboo even among pro-choice women.”

·         Hoffman is brutally honest, in at least one regard. Carmon writes, “Interestingly, although the standard pro-choice line is essentially to let the woman define the embryo or fetus for herself, Hoffman has a more controversial stance: ‘In the beginning they were calling it a baby. We were saying it was only blood and tissue. Let’s agree this is a life form, a potential life; you’re terminating it. You don’t have to argue that abortion stops a beating heart. It does.’ She adds, ‘I can’t say it’s just like an appendectomy. It isn’t. It’s a very powerful and loaded decision.’”

·         At the same time the “rabid opposition” to abortion (“a decision that she believes is irrevocably the woman’s”)  is because “The act of abortion positions women at their most powerful, and that’s why it is so strongly opposed by so many in society,” she writes in “Intimate Wars.”

·         As is so often the case, there are her own abortions (which occurred after she’d been running the abortion clinic for several years) and how the deaths of those babies has played out in her life. In the book Hoffman writes, “With my choice I was fighting for the right of all women to define abortion as an act of love: love for the family one already has, and just as important, love for oneself. I was fighting to reclaim abortion as a mother’s act. It was an act of solidarity as significant as any other I had committed.” Cameron adds, “Years later, after the death of her husband, she adopted a daughter from Russia.”

·         The Salon.com profile ends with the note that on the 40th anniversary of “Changes,” Hoffman has started a second abortion clinic in Jamaica, Queens. Carmon concludes

“That moment outside the [new] clinic described in the book came on the heels of Hoffman experiencing a political and emotional exhaustion – after battles with landlords and regulators, entanglements in medical scandals, and more. But now, at age 65, she’s doubling down. ‘My work has been a very deep kind of marriage, and like any relationship, there’s this approach, avoidance, the pull, I can’t stand it anymore, I can’t live with this kind of stress, I’m out of here,’ Hoffman says. ‘I’ve had escape fantasies. But I always go home, and home is the work that I’m doing.’”

Abortion as “an act of love,” and by having her own abortions Hoffman exhibited an “act of solidarity”? Sadly she has not escaped those fantasies.

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Categories: pro-abortion