Fetus-Shaped Potatoes? Going Undercover Inside the Weird World of Right-Wing Abortion Foes
Continued from previous page
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, born and unborn.
The last bit caught me off guard. I looked around the room. The movement had seen it fit to amend the pledge with "born and unborn?" My neighbors glanced suspiciously at my badge.
The morning was occupied by two sessions, one featuring a testimonial by Teresa Teomeo, the former "radical feminist" news anchor-turned-syndicated Catholic radio personality. Having "been there," she was qualified to warn us of the dangers of women who pursue careers and of the liberal bias of mainstream media. She plugged her books on teen chastity and the "groupthink" of dominant newspapers and news channels. Our youth were being brainwashed, she told us.
She gave the stage up to David Prentice of the Family Research Council. With his greased-back hair, stiff mustache and unkempt navy suit, he could have walked off the set of a comedy skit.
He played his talk on the "holocaust" of stem-cell research straight though, infusing the room with animated horror at the institutionalized killing of potential babies. In other company, I might have snickered through his PowerPoint proof that in the cold depths of laboratory freezers resided not the cure for pancreatic cancer but the next Beethoven.
At the lunchtime break, 18 reticent teenagers emerged from nowhere and were hustled off to a side room, amidst great fanfare. They were the future of the "pro-life" movement, and "pro-life" was not going away, just down the hall for special teen instruction. When I popped my head into the room, I found that it reeked of free pizza and hormones. They were playing "Baby In Jeopardy," without Alex Trebek.
"Umbilical cord?" offered one hesitant, long-haired girl in answer to a blinking square on the projector screen. "Please phrase your answer as a question," encouraged the enthusiastic Trebek stand-in.
I returned to the ballroom after lunch to find Schindler standing near my table with a pair of middle-age women in pastel jackets, long skirts and sensible shoes. They were staring at him adoringly, hanging rapturously on his words. When he was called away, the women bounced on their toes and held their hands to their mouthes, giggling.
Schindler is a hero in the "pro-life" community, a rock star for "life," and in the wake of his father's recent death, the head of the determined Schindler family, which had worked tirelessly for years to prevent the "torturous killing" of Schiavo at the hands of her greedy, cheating husband, Michael.
Terri Schiavo, in this movement, is now referred to as Terri Schindler Schiavo or simply as Terri; an attempt to remove Michael Schiavo from Terri's celebrated, saintly afterlife.
Schindler was introduced, but a nun with a present delayed his ascension to the stage. In an oversized brown suit that extended his shoulders and piled in folds at his wrists and ankles, Schindler bowed his head in humility as he approached the podium. The crowd applauded thunderously.
During the description of "Terri's fight," Schindler said, "I am not a hero," as if emasculated by his inability to save his sister. The deep circles under his eyes accentuated his large, dark Italian features; perpetual mourning had extracted from him all vitality and joy.
Terri's persistent-vegetative-state diagnosis was wrong, he told us. His family had been denied the chance to care for their sister and daughter until her natural death. I pitied him in his unresolved grief. He was given a standing ovation.