Judith Lewis

GOP Girl Power

In the last few days of March, America awoke to the news that Karen Parfitt Hughes had come back to the White House. Elizabeth Bumiller announced the return of the "president's counselor" with near-mythic fanfare in The New York Times; Juan Williams of National Public Radio lobbed her elegant, arcing softballs in an early-morning interview, each of which she hit neatly out of the public-relations park. (When asked why Condoleezza Rice had suddenly agreed to testify before the 9/11 Commission, Hughes barked decisively, "She wants to get the facts out!")

The effect was something like a fairy godmother alighting once more on Earth to defend her embattled children, gathering them under her billowing skirts and fending off the scurrilous bullies. To those who fear Bush's re-election to the White House in November, it was a terrifying moment.

Who is this Karen Hughes, come back from a self-imposed and not-quite-yearlong retirement in which she meant to spend more time with her family but ended up writing a new book? "A career woman, a GOP leader and stay-out-of-the-home mom," says Laura Flanders in her own new book, Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species (Verso), a woman who "spent years massaging a message that came from a man who believes in his heart that success like hers shames society."

Hughes exemplifies, according to Flanders, a strange new breed of anti-feminist politica who benefited significantly from the gains of the women's movement, but turned abruptly rightward as her star rose. And her strategy succeeds, Flanders argues, only because so few voters are willing to take these women, "or the rights of all women, seriously enough to give the whole 21st-century Republican Party makeover plan too much scrutiny." Indeed, Flanders notes: The most scathing remarks in the media about Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris were not reserved for her conflict-of-interest issues, but for her overdone makeup.

With frequent detours into political and economic history, Bushwomen builds a case against the Bush White House as a paragon of diversity; instead, she says, the administration brought on women the way a CEO hires executive secretaries: They "became to the president as a reflective surface is to a fashion model -- excellent for casting him in a flattering light."

No one was particularly impressed when Bill Clinton appointed exactly as many women to his cabinet as Bush did later, because the expectations attending Bush's presidency were so dismally low. "George W. scored points simply for not naming a team of Neanderthal men in white sheets," Flanders writes.

Flanders does a fine job, in prose as plucky as some of her subjects' speeches, of making clear what the Republican Party, down on its PR luck with America's women after Reagan's first run, had to gain by welcoming women into its upper echelons and executive ranks. What's less clear is what's in it for the women themselves. Why would a woman like Hughes, towering in stature and ambitions, choose to affiliate herself with a party whose stated core values are about keeping women down?

Hughes, like Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and Secretary of the Interior Gale Ann Norton, was born in the '50s, raised in the time of Vietnam and civil rights and granted prominence by a Republican Party that desperately needed feminine endorsement. An Army brat who grew up near the Panama Canal before it was returned to the Panamanians, Hughes briefly pursued a career as a Texas television news reporter before landing a job as the statewide press coordinator for Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign. "Karen Hughes bailed out of TV journalism just as that ship was going down," Flanders writes. "The PR industry, on the other hand, was at the birth of a boom."

As was the GOP's effort to recruit women: In that same year, Chao was in Reagan's White House as a special assistant in the Office of Policy Development, and Norton had discovered the benefits of shilling for corporate clients under the ruse of environmentalism (the year before, she was enjoying a stint at Stanford University under a fellowship from the reactionary Hoover Institute).

Flanders enthusiastically skewers these women for their traitorousness; what she forgets is that it's not just adherents to the Republican platform who disdain ambitious women -- it's the whole country. Conservatives in their rhetoric may not reflect the real lives of women like Harris, Hughes and Chao; but at least they offer, however artificially and self-consciously, a realm in which women can distinguish themselves simply by working hard for the big-business cause, a culture that has been delighted for the last 20 years to count the unusual presence of women among its gray-suited ranks if only for the public relations boost.

The Bush White House may not have any more of a heart for the working mother or homemaker than it does for clean air and redwood trees. It has, however, created that rare place in the U.S. where women can float above corporate glass ceilings. Ironic and hypocritical, yes, but it's a fact that should give any self-described feminist liberal pause.

Judith Lewis writes for LA Weekly.

The Hallucinogenic Way of Dying

Almost as soon as Dr. Charles Grob secured approval to study the effects of psilocybin on Stage IV cancer patients, he faced another challenge, one nearly as formidable: recruiting 12 participants. Unlike so many other experiments in radical cancer treatment, Grob's does not offer a cure; he merely hopes to find that psilocybin, the most potent of the many compounds in psychedelic mushrooms, ameliorates a dying person's fear of death. The study targets patients relegated to "palliative" treatment, people with metastatic cancer for whom there is no reasonable hope for remission. It is a segment of the population, says the National Cancer Policy Board of the Institute of Medicine -- which put out a call in 2001 for "novel" approaches to palliative treatment -- largely ignored by medical science.

In this case, however, it has not been ignored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which holds Grob's study to the same stringent requirements it applies to any study of any new drug. Participants in the study must have cancer of sufficient severity, but they must also be free of most other medical problems: high blood pressure, anemia, heart disease or liver dysfunction, brain tumors or metastases to the brain, kidney disease. In other words, says Grob's research nurse, Marycie Hagerty, "We're basically looking for healthy dying people."

Psilocybin is relatively safe -- significantly safer, in fact, than the drug Grob had initially sought to use for the study, MDMA (otherwise known as Ecstasy); according to most research, you'd have to ingest your own body weight in "magic mushrooms" to poison yourself. But it's still a Schedule I drug, regarded by the federal authorities as having a high potential for abuse and no medical application. "I had to get the FDA, the DEA, the IRB, the California Research Advisory Panel and our research committee here [at Harbor-UCLA] onboard," says Grob, who heads up the child-psychiatry division at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. "Along the way, the criteria we had written initially got modified and tightened." For instance, where Grob and Hagerty had specified a systolic blood-pressure reading of 160 or lower, "after a great deal of discussion with the research committee here, we lowered it to 140. We're going to lose people with that."

According to Dr. Charles Schuster, a former director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, now head of Wayne State University's Substance Abuse Clinical Research Division, the federal government sometimes objects to such studies out of concern not only for the patients but for the overall mood of the country. "If psilocybin is shown to have some medical value," he says, "that might weaken the government's argument against it as a drug of abuse. I understand their concerns and share them, but if psilocybin or MDMA or any of these agents were to prove to have a unique therapeutic value for something we can't treat well currently, ethically we have a responsibility to pursue them." (Cocaine, he notes, is used in hundreds of thousands of nasal surgeries every year.)

Grob hopes to find that, in addition to reducing psychological distress associated with impending death, psilocybin is the rare substance that can safely reduce a cancer sufferer's need for pain medication -- not because it blunts pain, as morphine does, but because it "changes one's perception of pain." He abandoned MDMA for mostly political reasons, after now-debunked research by George Ricaurte of Johns Hopkins University claimed one-time use of the drug could cause permanent brain damage. But he thinks psilocybin is better, anyway: "I was concerned about the possibility of cardiac arrhythmia associated with MDMA," he says. "And psilocybin might open up a deeper spiritual dimension for some people."

In 1962, a physician and minister named Walter Pahnke conducted a double-blind study with 20 Protestant divinity students, who were administered capsules containing either 30 mg of psilocybin or a placebo just before Good Friday services at Boston's Marsh Chapel. Among them was the Rev. Mike Young, now a minister at the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu, who later reported having entered a mystical state in which he lost his fear of death. As he understands it now, the drug works because "human beings define their identities by this illusory thing called ego, which is constructed of memory and experience and determines who we think we are." In a controlled setting under the influence of psilocybin, "you transcend that ego. And to the person who no longer identifies with that 'who am I,' the loss of that self is no longer as threatening as it was before." The psilocybin trip was, Young recalls, "a pretty profound experience."

The 12 subjects ultimately recruited for Grob's study will be alternately administered psilocybin or a placebo in two separate sessions. The initial dose for the pilot study -- which is primarily to establish the safety and efficacy of the drug in advance of a broader study sometime in the future -- is 0.2 milligrams per kilogram of synthetic, single-alkaloid psilocybin, "the approved dose," says Grob. (A powerful mushroom experience would deliver about 0.3 milligrams of psilocybin per kilogram of body weight.) After each session, volunteers will be asked to evaluate their experience. Some of it may be unpleasant. "Hallucinogens uncover the truth," Grob says. "Sometimes the only way to get to the other side is to work through some of the darkness. They're going to have their hands held the whole time."

Psilocybin has been tested in a clinical context before, most recently by Dr. Francisco Moreno at the University of Arizona, who is studying its effects on the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Franz X. Vollenweider, who completed a "dose-effect" study last spring, establishing the drug's minimal risk to human health or psychological well-being. In the early 1960s, Stanislav Grof used another hallucinogen, DPT, along with LSD, to study existential anxiety in end-stage cancer patients; he found that the people he studied developed better attitudes about death, improved their relationships with family members and asked for less pain medication in the weeks and months following the experiment.

None of this figured into the Harbor-UCLA's Institutional Review Board assessment of Grob's study, however -- when it sent back the first draft of its official patient-consent form, it read, "Benefits to Patient: None." Both Grob and Hagerty protested that there were indeed benefits, but they're hard to measure in medical terms. They also realize that the volunteer response might be small because most people with cancer aren't looking for a better way to die. They're looking for hope that they'll live.

Hagerty recalls a woman who responded shortly after she and Grob first sent out the call for recruits. "She was in her early 30s and had lung cancer. She had a little baby at home, and she was just desperate for anything that would help her live longer. She didn't know what psilocybin was, and I explained some of it to her and sent her to the Web site [www.canceranxiety study.org] so she could read about it. Of course, I never heard back from her."

Another man called to refer his wife, who had already been assigned to palliative care but couldn't quite accept that she was dying. "He told us, 'She's not even thinking about death,'" says Hagerty. "'She'll admit that she's Stage IV, but she doesn't think she's terminal.' We heard that and changed the language, because how do you define 'terminal'? It's so variable, so negative. Medical science says to the 'terminal' patient, 'Go off and take care of yourself; have a nice death.' But a lot of people can live with Stage IV cancer for years."

Hagerty says that there has been no shortage of interest in the study, just not necessarily from appropriate candidates. "We're getting a lot of calls from people asking if we need any 'normal controls.' Meaning they'd be happy to take the psilocybin -- they just don't happen to have cancer."

After two and a half months of putting out the call on e-mail lists and Web sites, Grob and Hagerty finally think they may have one participant: a man in New Mexico in the last stages of metastasized rectal cancer. "It's taken forever to get his lab work," says Grob, "because once his doctor had determined he couldn't be cured, his insurance wouldn't pay for new ones." Finally, his insurance provider complied, and he's just cleared a preliminary interview with George Greer of the Heffter Institute, the study's primary funder. "His red-blood-cell count was right on the border," says Grob. "But I got an okay from the people who run the research unit that it was good enough." He'd prefer that participants don't have to travel, "but at this point I can't be picky. I'm too anxious to get this study up and running."

The Rehab Economy

Helen -- so not her real name that, a few days after we talk, she asks me not even to use the first consonant of her real name -- figured from the start that she was smarter than the average junkie. She did well in college, excelled in sports, held a top sales position at what she calls a "highly recognizable company" in Los Angeles. But after the failure of one more "dumb-ass relationship," Helen decided to experiment with heroin. She did it the way she does everything else: She read up on the drug's effects, researched thoroughly the most cost-effective and safest methods of getting high. Following the detailed instructions on a Web site at the "Letric Law Library," Helen, at 35, learned how to prepare a solution, fill a syringe and inject the drug into her vein. "That was July 6, 2000," she remembers. "I never thought I'd be an addict this long."

Since then, Helen hasn't spent more than five weeks clean. She has tried to get straight three or four times, twice with the help of the newly FDA-approved drug buprenorphine, which kills both withdrawal symptoms and cravings for heroin. Somehow, the cure doesn't stick. "I guess I'm just not ready yet," Helen admits at the end of yet another frustrated week in which she has managed to stay drug-free for just one day. "I just hope I can quit before I turn 40."

Helen is suffering from what drug-treatment providers call a "recovery-environment problem." None of her friends knows about her "shitty little habit" (although she worries they might read this and recognize her); she is single and does her work independently. What she needs most of all is not simply to quit, but to examine in a therapeutic context her reasons for using. In other words, Helen is a perfect candidate for inpatient detox -- even if she's not particularly motivated. "There's a lot of research that says those people who are coerced into treatment have the same outcomes as people who go in willingly," says Albert Senella, chief operating officer of Tarzana Treatment Centers, whose seven facilities in the area make it the largest private treatment provider in the state. "People who come in here because they've been told by the court that they have a choice between treatment and jail" -- in other words, the beneficiaries of Proposition 36, which since 2001 has mandated treatment over incarceration for drug offenders -- "do just as well as people who come in off the street."

While some treatment programs "haze" their prospective clients, requiring them to prove that they're committed to giving up drugs for good, Tarzana takes anyone who can pay for its seven-day program, during which the drug user is administered daily a steadily tapering dose of methadone -- enough to mitigate the symptoms of withdrawal, but not so much that he or she can't still benefit from educational programs and therapy. The attitude is progressive and practical: "We think a lot about how to increase retention," says the facility's clinical director, Dr. Ken Bacharach, a psychologist, "which involves working with people in a positive motivational sense, not a confrontational and punitive sense. We don't say, 'How committed are you to quitting?' We say, 'Come in, wanting to drop out is normal, it's okay, let's get it out in the open, look at the choices you have.' We treat people like adults."

Tarzana's long-term rate of success is hard to measure: People often disappear after treatment, and usually need to quit several times before the program takes. But "Eighty percent of the people who start the detox program complete it." And even if they need to quit three or four times before they're really done, recovering addicts who follow up a treatment regimen with nine to 12 months in residential or outpatient programs typically stay clean for good.

Helen is lucky: She has money, insurance, vacation time -- nothing to stand in the way of her finding a slot in any one of Southern California's drug-treatment facilities. Not everyone has that luxury: If you're poor, out of work or even just a working stiff without sound medical coverage, finding a bed in a treatment facility gets harder every week. In the next year, according to the current state budget proposal, California will reduce funds for drug treatment by $11.5 million; Los Angeles alone will lose $4 million. "And this was an underfunded department in the first place," says Senella. "I wouldn't argue that it's the first thing to get cut. But it's oftentimes not among the first items on the state's list of priorities." The bulk of Tarzana's inpatient clients have enough money or insurance to pay the $425- to $525-a-day fee for seven days of detox. But California has traditionally funded a number of slots at Tarzana for indigent drug users wanting to avail themselves of the treatment center's wide variety of services, from 24-hour nursing care to recreational therapists, who help defeat the boredom so many recovering addicts complain about. That may change unless the budget crisis is resolved soon. Humane as places like Tarzana may be, they are also businesses, and drug treatment is simply too costly to provide for free.

Drug offenders diverted to rehab under the provisions of Prop. 36 will have less trouble than ordinary civilians landing a state-funded bed at Tarzana, because public money has been earmarked for that purpose. It's probably money well spent: The Drug Policy Alliance recently estimated that sending drug offenders to treatment instead of jail saved the state $279 million last year in incarceration costs. But it also means that fewer discretionary dollars are left over for individuals to take advantage of Tarzana's resources without insurance or a court order. Senella defends the initiative's success, but admits, "There's something a little screwy about having to get arrested to get into a treatment program."

If you're hell-bent on inpatient rehab and want a tonier facility than Tarzana, there's always Harmony Place up in Malibu -- $39,950 for a 28-day program. If you don't have that kind of money, there's Cri-Help in Burbank, where no one is refused admission for inability to pay. There are also a number of outpatient and residential programs: For a full list of facilities in Los Angeles County, go towww.lapublichealth.org/adpa/ reports/guide0702.pdf. And for the truly indigent, Homeless Healthcare will find clients a bed in some facility, somewhere -- usually at American Healthcare or Redgate in Long Beach -- within a week. But prospective patients must show up on time and be willing to detox without the help of methadone -- which for many addicts may effectively mean getting no treatment at all.

"There are a lot of barriers to getting [poor] people into treatment," says Terry Hair, the executive director of Clean Needles Now, the embattled needle-exchange program currently operating out of an SUV on the city's streets, which often serves as a drug user's first link to the medical establishment. "Say we set somebody up through Homeless Healthcare; they have to go every day at 8 a.m., and if there's a bed open somewhere, then they send you over, and if there's not, they say, 'Come back tomorrow.' Then, if you come back the next day and somebody else gets there first, you lose that spot -- they're not going to hold a bed for you.

"We're talking about people with chaotic lives anyway," says Hair. "It's hard to make them jump through these hoops."

Having money, however, doesn't necessarily make everything easy. Helen, who is one of Hair's clients at the needle exchange, did not find it such a privilege to be middle class when it came to kicking. She refused to check herself into treatment, both for fear of sacrificing her anonymity and an unwillingness to admit she could not go it alone. "I know I can do it myself," she insisted. "I've done it before." Realizing how that sounds, Helen offered another explanation: "You know that saying from the Bible about how it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven? I'd say that about sobriety. If it were taking a toll on my finances, I might be more motivated to quit."

But heroin was taking a toll on her body and happiness. After a third aborted attempt to quit in as many weeks, she finally made her way to Narcotics Anonymous, where she'd been told that 90 meetings in 90 days would spur her will to quit. When after 45 days she was still using, she effectively got herself arrested -- a guy in the program told her he was going to "sit on her" until she quit. He confiscated her cell phone, moved her in with friends, and kept her his willing captive while she took refuge from the hot flashes of withdrawal by sprawling on the kitchen floor. It worked. A month after our last despairing conversation in which she confided yet another failure, Helen called me to say she had 15 days clean. I told her she sounded good. "I know," she observed triumphantly. "Did you notice I'm laughing?"

Judith Lewis writes for the LA Weekly.

Party Busters

Last week, under cover of wartime and paranoia about the safety of America's children, the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2003, known in an earlier form as the RAVE Act, became law as a non sequitur tacked on to the PROTECT Act ("Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today").

It was a sneaky deal: After having failed to make it out of the U.S. Senate last fall, when it stood alone, the bill -- which applies the existing crack-house law to temporary venues and allows for civil penalties against club owners and promoters -- cleared Congress with no hearings and little debate. "It was very sudden," says William McColl, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, "but not entirely unexpected. It's the kind of thing that happens in Washington these days."

Underhanded as it was, the Illegal Drug Anti-Proliferation Act remains something of a victory for the electronic-dance community, which mobilized to fight the RAVE Act last fall. While the original bill, SB 2633, targeted "alcohol-free venues" that sell glow sticks, massage oils and bottles of water, those items were struck, along with the acronym, in direct response to political pressure from the Electronic Music Defense Fund (EMDEF), the ACLU and other organizations.

When Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del.) re-introduced legislation last January, he acknowledged "legitimate reasons for selling water, having a room where people can cool down after dancing, or having an ambulance on hand," and confirmed that efforts to promote public safety could not be used against any promoter. "In no way is this bill aimed at stifling any type of music or expression," he insisted, borrowing EMDEF's language. "It is only trying to deter illicit drug use and protect kids."

"We can be proud that we took over the spin," says Susan Mainzer of the publicity firm Green Galactic, which promotes many of the events Biden finds threatening. "Last fall secondary sponsors were taking their names off after we educated them about how the bill might be applied. The electronic-music community was able to organize as quickly as the [evangelical] Christians do -- and we showed that you can't discount us as a political force."

Still, while the new bill is leaner and simpler, it is also more open to interpretation. "It's hard to imagine any district attorney going after the Dodgers for someone smoking marijuana in the stands," says McColl. "The question is, who is it going to target? Is it going to be applied selectively to African-Americans? To unpopular types of music, such as hip-hop? To gay and lesbian clubs? We don't know. We're watching it carefully."

Tough Roe to Hoe

Elena*, speaking just for herself, would never have an abortion. "If you do that," says the 18-year-old freshman at Cal State L.A., "you have to live the rest of your life knowing that you killed another human being. And I could not live like that." Even if the fetus had an abnormality, "It is still a human being." Even if she were raped, "It would still be my child." Elena is unsympathetic to the friends and family members who have had abortions, as well as to the "five or six girls" who were pregnant in her high school last year. "If you are smart enough to go ahead and have sex," she says, "you should be responsible for the consequences."

Elena comes from a strict Catholic family in inner-city Los Angeles (she recently graduated from Locke High School). And while she is perhaps more exacting in the standards she sets for herself than her middle-class, less devout peers, she is just like them in another: Theoretically speaking, Elena still believes abortion should be kept legal. "But I would never protest to keep it that way," she says, "because I don't worry about getting pregnant. Right now I am totally not having sex."

Over at Beverly Hills High School, 14-year-old Lauren justifies her pro-choice position by saying that "If the baby has Tay-Sachs, it should not have to suffer." Gina, her 15-year-old classmate, asserts that "If a girl just broke up with her boyfriend or something, then I think she should put the baby up for adoption, but if the baby has Downs syndrome, abortion is okay." (Still, Gina acknowledges, "If I got pregnant right now, it would ruin my life.") Hannah, 17, who is "half and half" on abortion and thinks she might have an abortion herself were she to get pregnant before she's "married and stable" (at 26, according to her life plan), wonders whether reproductive choice is just making it easier for kids to be promiscuous. "If there is nowhere to go for an abortion," she speculates, "maybe kids wouldn't consider having sex."

Hearing from these girls, all of whom believe that abortion should continue to be safe and legal, and none willing to fight to keep it that way, I'm reminded of women my own age, in their 40s and older, who cleared adolescence within the decade that women won the right to determine their own reproductive futures. As with these high school girls, women at the end of their childbearing years often say they believe in a woman's right to choose, yet would be hard pressed to devote their activism to that cause. "I let my NARAL membership expire," one 40-year-old friend confided to me on the day the Los Angeles Times featured a front-page story on the efforts of fundamentalist Christians to have embryos declared persons. "It just seems to me that there are so many other things." It's true: I write my Planned Parenthood check perfunctorily now, remembering the people who treated me with respect and patience when I was a 21-year-old acting student living in a New York residential hotel, six weeks pregnant and desperate not to be. There is more urgency in my contributions to the Sierra Club, or Doctors Without Borders, or Amnesty International. We march against any impending war, but we do not stand in front of abortion clinics to protect the women inside. Political activism is often borne of as much self-centered fear as fundamentalism.

And yet the movement still needs us, because the holy war on reproductive choice is in full swing: Bush has chosen Dr. David Hager to head up the FDA's Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs, even though Hager refuses to prescribe contraceptives to his married patients, and opposes not just abortion but emergency contraception (EC), a large dose of hormones that can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex (EC is not to be confused with RU 486, or mifepristone, which is a chemically induced terminating of an actual pregnancy). The slyly named "Abortion Non-Discrimination Act" currently sits before the Senate (having passed the House in September), expertly crafted for the purpose of eliminating the last provision of the 1977 Hyde amendment, which ended federal funding for all abortions except in the case of rape or grave danger to the woman's life. (Under the new bill, publicly funded health-care providers can refuse to perform an abortion no matter what the circumstances, on the grounds that such refusal is a matter of conscience.)

According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that keeps track of such things, 36 percent of California's counties are without an abortion provider, and California is progressive — the nationwide percentage is 87. The man who governs our country declares a "Sanctity of Life Day" even while he threatens a war. And while two-thirds of the electorate nationwide has remained consistently pro-choice over the decades, I wonder if that fortress will hold through all the chipping away when the barely balanced Supreme Court reaches the issue's exposed core: Roe v. Wade itself.

A lot has happened in the thirty years since the U.S. Supreme Court determined, in a 7-2 vote, that the country's Constitution supported a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy in the first trimester. The 26-year-old lawyer who argued on behalf of Roe, Sarah Weddington, is now a highly paid public speaker and college lecturer who last year fought a battle with breast cancer that distracted her somewhat from pro-choice activism. Jane Roe herself, known more officially as Norma McCorvey, has been an anti-abortion crusader since she went born-again in 1995; there are pictures of her on the Internet, getting baptized in a swimming pool.

Most of all, a new generation of young women has grown to adulthood, oblivious to the wretched history of back-alley abortions and young lives ruined by unplanned pregnancies, unaware that after 1973 abortion deaths dwindled to near zero from a one-time (and no doubt underreported) high of 200 per year. These women were born after medical science had already figured out that HIV causes AIDS; they have been trained to use condoms — and to know that even when they don't, an escape route exists, immediate and affordable. They may not like the way out, but they don't have to: The path is already well-worn.

"I know that that Jane Roe woman is against abortion now," says 18-year-old Julia, a senior at Hamilton High School. "We learned about that in government." What she didn't always know is that what Jane Roe stood for might be important to her. "It's just been recently that I've decided to be pro-choice," she says. "Now that I'm getting older, I can place myself in that situation." In other words, Julia started having sex. One of her friends got pregnant last year, and she had an abortion without her parents' consent. Now most of Julia's friends are pro-choice too, "because the situation is real to them," she says.

"You always think that you're being safe about it," Julia says. "But you never think that you're the one who could get pregnant. Everyone uses protection, but some people who use protection get pregnant." And, she acknowledges, despite all the medically accurate family-planning education taught to high schoolers as mandated by California law, kids mess up. "Sometimes we're not as careful as we should be," says Julia.

I tell Julia about the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act, about some of the legislation around the country nicking away at reproductive choice. Last month the Georgia state legislature introduced a measure that would classify abortion as execution and require a woman to obtain a death warrant by pleading her case before a court. Would Julia storm the barricades if such a law were to apply in California?

Julia is honest. "I've never really thought of myself as a real out-there pro-choice kind of person, just because I still have conflicting feelings about taking life. My reason for being pro-choice is kind of selfish in a way. I don't know if I would go to an extreme like going to a rally."

"Young girls can be so judgemental," says Wendy McPherson, who refers to herself as the organizer -- "not the president, not the leader" -- of the local chapter of Radical Women, a national group that came into being in 1967 specifically to lead the charge for reproductive rights. "As this country has turned rightward, there is incredible pressure from young women to be very moralistic on abortion. The media are constantly barraging young women who are still forming their opinions on the world. And what they hear most is abortion is murder."

Before Roe v. Wade, says McPherson, "Young women knew that if they got pregnant, their life was over. You were either going to die from a butchered abortion, or have a child in shame, or end up with a child you weren't able to raise." Young women and girls in 2003 don't always know that history; because they take abortion rights for granted, they can afford to be blasé about it. "I always talk to them," says McPherson. "I say, 'What do you think of feminism? And what I find is they don't know the history. The ideas they agree with — that women should be equal — but they don't know where those ideas came from." (To remedy that, Radical Women is presenting a six-part series of history discussions, beginning Friday with McPherson leading the talk.)

McPherson is living proof that activism does not have to be motivated by self-interest: She's 42, a lesbian, and has never had a need to seek an abortion herself. But she believes that reproductive choice is fundamental not only to women's rights, but to the right of each human to determine what to do with his or her body. "If this system decides you don't have a right to reproductive freedom, the right wing will continue to extend that to lesbians, to tell them they don't have the right to live and sleep with other women. They'll pull contraceptives from the market and discontinue research into safer contraceptives; they can tell gay men that they're going to restore the sodomy laws. When you make that legislative statement — that a woman has the absolute right to determine what happens with her body — it extends to every human right. When you take that freedom away, it's taken away from everybody."

McPherson sees her job as training women to be activists; teaching them to make speeches, write press releases, do what it takes to influence the public mindset. But I worry about her tactics: "Under capitalism, the women they want to control and become baby machines are the white women," she tells me. "Latinas and other undesirable ethnicities have to fight forced sterilization." Then why is abortion increasingly less available to poor women and women of color -- women who, incidentally, seem less inclined these days to fight for choice? "The capitalist system is fundamentally based on needing the concept of the modern nuclear family," she continues. "Because Dad goes out and makes a living, the capitalists get two workers for the price of one." I think of all the moms I know who would love nothing more than to be that worker folded into the deal, staying at home, caring for the kids. How will McPherson's analysis of society play at Beverly Hills High, to a young woman like Gina?

"I want to marry at 23," says Gina, confidently. "I want to be a pharmacist. I will start college at 18, and study for four years. After I finish school, I'll get married. I plan on being a working mom," she concludes. "Even if my husband is a millionaire."

"Abortion is one of those things that you don't know you'll need until you need it," says Martha Swiller, executive director of Planned Parenthood's advocacy project in Los Angeles, who talked to me over the phone as her 11-month-old daughter sang loudly in the background. "It's really not uncommon for people who think they're against abortion, and even activists who picket, to access abortion services, and to justify it by saying their case is different. That's why it's so important for us to advocate for abortion rights. We believe that we need to be a voice for all women — including the women who say they oppose abortion."

Swiller tells the story of an abortion provider who, as she was preparing to perform an abortion, heard her patient call her a "baby killer." "She said, 'Excuse me? Are you sure you want to go through with this?' and then recognized her as one of the regular picketers. And the woman said, 'Well, I'm different. I'm married, I have two kids, and I had an affair, and my husband would kill me if he found out.' The point is that abortion is such a personal thing, it's hard to imagine yourself needing it until you're in those shoes."

She believes that once young women start tuning in to government policy, "They'll be more activist." After all, "They came of age during the Clinton administration, when we could afford to be complacent. But some of the things the Bush administration is doing -- not only in terms of abortion, but in terms of birth control and condoms -- might scare them into action."

And, as Swiller points out, the news is not all bad -- at least not in California, where Governor Gray Davis recently reaffirmed women's dominion over their bodies by signing into law a bill that declares birth control and abortion decisions protected under existing state privacy-rights statutes. Authored by state Senator Sheila Kuehl, the law would override any U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding Roe v. Wade. (Abortion has been legal in the state since 1969, when the California Supreme Court declared the state's law against it unconstitutional.) "It sends an important message," says Swiller, "not only that California is a pro-choice state, and our elected officials need to respect that, but that abortion is a woman's decision. And I think that's what these high school girls are realizing too, that abortion is a decision that's very hard to predict having to make."

*The names of the high school and college subjects in this story have been changed for the sake of privacy. Christine Pelisek contributed to the research and reporting of this story.

Not My Choice

Elena*, speaking just for herself, would never have an abortion. "If you do that," says the 18-year-old freshman at Cal State L.A., "you have to live the rest of your life knowing that you killed another human being. And I could not live like that." Even if the fetus had an abnormality, "It is still a human being." Even if she were raped, "It would still be my child." Elena is unsympathetic to the friends and family members who have had abortions, as well as to the "five or six girls" who were pregnant in her high school last year. "If you are smart enough to go ahead and have sex," she says, "you should be responsible for the consequences."

Elena comes from a strict Catholic family in inner-city Los Angeles (she recently graduated from Locke High School). And while she is perhaps more exacting in the standards she sets for herself than her middle-class, less devout peers, she is just like them in another: Theoretically speaking, Elena still believes abortion should be kept legal. "But I would never protest to keep it that way," she says, "because I don't worry about getting pregnant. Right now I am totally not having sex."

Over at Beverly Hills High School, 14-year-old Lauren justifies her pro-choice position by saying that "If the baby has Tay-Sachs, it should not have to suffer." Gina, her 15-year-old classmate, asserts that "If a girl just broke up with her boyfriend or something, then I think she should put the baby up for adoption, but if the baby has Downs syndrome, abortion is okay." (Still, Gina acknowledges, "If I got pregnant right now, it would ruin my life.") Hannah, 17, who is "half and half" on abortion and thinks she might have an abortion herself were she to get pregnant before she's "married and stable" (at 26, according to her life plan), wonders whether reproductive choice is just making it easier for kids to be promiscuous. "If there is nowhere to go for an abortion," she speculates, "maybe kids wouldn't consider having sex."

Hearing from these girls, all of whom believe that abortion should continue to be safe and legal, and none willing to fight to keep it that way, I'm reminded of women my own age, in their 40s and older, who cleared adolescence within the decade that women won the right to determine their own reproductive futures. As with these high school girls, women at the end of their childbearing years often say they believe in a woman's right to choose, yet would be hard pressed to devote their activism to that cause. "I let my NARAL membership expire," one 40-year-old friend confided to me on the day the Los Angeles Times featured a front-page story on the efforts of fundamentalist Christians to have embryos declared persons. "It just seems to me that there are so many other things." It's true: I write my Planned Parenthood check perfunctorily now, remembering the people who treated me with respect and patience when I was a 21-year-old acting student living in a New York residential hotel, six weeks pregnant and desperate not to be. There is more urgency in my contributions to the Sierra Club, or Doctors Without Borders, or Amnesty International. We march against any impending war, but we do not stand in front of abortion clinics to protect the women inside. Political activism is often borne of as much self-centered fear as fundamentalism.

And yet the movement still needs us, because the holy war on reproductive choice is in full swing: Bush has chosen Dr. David Hager to head up the FDA's Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs, even though Hager refuses to prescribe contraceptives to his married patients, and opposes not just abortion but emergency contraception (EC), a large dose of hormones that can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex (EC is not to be confused with RU 486, or mifepristone, which is a chemically induced terminating of an actual pregnancy). The slyly named "Abortion Non-Discrimination Act" currently sits before the Senate (having passed the House in September), expertly crafted for the purpose of eliminating the last provision of the 1977 Hyde amendment, which ended federal funding for all abortions except in the case of rape or grave danger to the woman's life. (Under the new bill, publicly funded health-care providers can refuse to perform an abortion no matter what the circumstances, on the grounds that such refusal is a matter of conscience.)

According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that keeps track of such things, 36 percent of California's counties are without an abortion provider, and California is progressive -- the nationwide percentage is 87. The man who governs our country declares a "Sanctity of Life Day" even while he threatens a war. And while two-thirds of the electorate nationwide has remained consistently pro-choice over the decades, I wonder if that fortress will hold through all the chipping away when the barely balanced Supreme Court reaches the issue's exposed core: Roe v. Wade itself.



A lot has happened in the thirty years since the U.S. Supreme Court determined, in a 7-2 vote, that the country's Constitution supported a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy in the first trimester. The 26-year-old lawyer who argued on behalf of Roe, Sarah Weddington, is now a highly paid public speaker and college lecturer who last year fought a battle with breast cancer that distracted her somewhat from pro-choice activism. Jane Roe herself, known more officially as Norma McCorvey, has been an anti-abortion crusader since she went born-again in 1995; there are pictures of her on the Internet, getting baptized in a swimming pool.

Most of all, a new generation of young women has grown to adulthood, oblivious to the wretched history of back-alley abortions and young lives ruined by unplanned pregnancies, unaware that after 1973 abortion deaths dwindled to near zero from a one-time (and no doubt underreported) high of 200 per year. These women were born after medical science had already figured out that HIV causes AIDS; they have been trained to use condoms -- and to know that even when they don't, an escape route exists, immediate and affordable. They may not like the way out, but they don't have to: The path is already well-worn.

"I know that that Jane Roe woman is against abortion now," says 18-year-old Julia, a senior at Hamilton High School. "We learned about that in government." What she didn't always know is that what Jane Roe stood for might be important to her. "It's just been recently that I've decided to be pro-choice," she says. "Now that I'm getting older, I can place myself in that situation." In other words, Julia started having sex. One of her friends got pregnant last year, and she had an abortion without her parents' consent. Now most of Julia's friends are pro-choice too, "because the situation is real to them," she says.

"You always think that you're being safe about it," Julia says. "But you never think that you're the one who could get pregnant. Everyone uses protection, but some people who use protection get pregnant." And, she acknowledges, despite all the medically accurate family-planning education taught to high schoolers as mandated by California law, kids mess up. "Sometimes we're not as careful as we should be," says Julia.

I tell Julia about the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act, about some of the legislation around the country nicking away at reproductive choice. Last month the Georgia state legislature introduced a measure that would classify abortion as execution and require a woman to obtain a death warrant by pleading her case before a court. Would Julia storm the barricades if such a law were to apply in California?

Julia is honest. "I've never really thought of myself as a real out-there pro-choice kind of person, just because I still have conflicting feelings about taking life. My reason for being pro-choice is kind of selfish in a way. I don't know if I would go to an extreme like going to a rally."


"Young girls can be so judgemental," says Wendy McPherson, who refers to herself as the organizer -- "not the president, not the leader" -- of the local chapter of Radical Women, a national group that came into being in 1967 specifically to lead the charge for reproductive rights. "As this country has turned rightward, there is incredible pressure from young women to be very moralistic on abortion. The media are constantly barraging young women who are still forming their opinions on the world. And what they hear most is abortion is murder."

Before Roe v. Wade, says McPherson, "Young women knew that if they got pregnant, their life was over. You were either going to die from a butchered abortion, or have a child in shame, or end up with a child you weren't able to raise." Young women and girls in 2003 don't always know that history; because they take abortion rights for granted, they can afford to be blase about it. "I always talk to them," says McPherson. "I say, 'What do you think of feminism? And what I find is they don't know the history. The ideas they agree with -- that women should be equal -- but they don't know where those ideas came from." (To remedy that, Radical Women is presenting a six-part series of history discussions, beginning Friday with McPherson leading the talk.)

McPherson is living proof that activism does not have to be motivated by self-interest: She's 42, a lesbian, and has never had a need to seek an abortion herself. But she believes that reproductive choice is fundamental not only to women's rights, but to the right of each human to determine what to do with his or her body. "If this system decides you don't have a right to reproductive freedom, the right wing will continue to extend that to lesbians, to tell them they don't have the right to live and sleep with other women. They'll pull contraceptives from the market and discontinue research into safer contraceptives; they can tell gay men that they're going to restore the sodomy laws. When you make that legislative statement -- that a woman has the absolute right to determine what happens with her body -- it extends to every human right. When you take that freedom away, it's taken away from everybody."

McPherson sees her job as training women to be activists; teaching them to make speeches, write press releases, do what it takes to influence the public mindset. But I worry about her tactics: "Under capitalism, the women they want to control and become baby machines are the white women," she tells me. "Latinas and other undesirable ethnicities have to fight forced sterilization." Then why is abortion increasingly less available to poor women and women of color -- women who, incidentally, seem less inclined these days to fight for choice? "The capitalist system is fundamentally based on needing the concept of the modern nuclear family," she continues. "Because Dad goes out and makes a living, the capitalists get two workers for the price of one." I think of all the moms I know who would love nothing more than to be that worker folded into the deal, staying at home, caring for the kids. How will McPherson's analysis of society play at Beverly Hills High, to a young woman like Gina?

"I want to marry at 23," says Gina, confidently. "I want to be a pharmacist. I will start college at 18, and study for four years. After I finish school, I'll get married. I plan on being a working mom," she concludes. "Even if my husband is a millionaire."



"Abortion is one of those things that you don't know you'll need until you need it," says Martha Swiller, executive director of Planned Parenthood's advocacy project in Los Angeles, who talked to me over the phone as her 11-month-old daughter sang loudly in the background. "It's really not uncommon for people who think they're against abortion, and even activists who picket, to access abortion services, and to justify it by saying their case is different. That's why it's so important for us to advocate for abortion rights. We believe that we need to be a voice for all women -- including the women who say they oppose abortion."

Swiller tells the story of an abortion provider who, as she was preparing to perform an abortion, heard her patient call her a "baby killer." "She said, 'Excuse me? Are you sure you want to go through with this?' and then recognized her as one of the regular picketers. And the woman said, 'Well, I'm different. I'm married, I have two kids, and I had an affair, and my husband would kill me if he found out.' The point is that abortion is such a personal thing, it's hard to imagine yourself needing it until you're in those shoes."

She believes that once young women start tuning in to government policy, "They'll be more activist." After all, "They came of age during the Clinton administration, when we could afford to be complacent. But some of the things the Bush administration is doing -- not only in terms of abortion, but in terms of birth control and condoms -- might scare them into action."

And, as Swiller points out, the news is not all bad -- at least not in California, where Governor Gray Davis recently reaffirmed women's dominion over their bodies by signing into law a bill that declares birth control and abortion decisions protected under existing state privacy-rights statutes. Authored by state Senator Sheila Kuehl, the law would override any U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding Roe v. Wade. (Abortion has been legal in the state since 1969, when the California Supreme Court declared the state's law against it unconstitutional.) "It sends an important message," says Swiller, "not only that California is a pro-choice state, and our elected officials need to respect that, but that abortion is a woman's decision. And I think that's what these high school girls are realizing too, that abortion is a decision that's very hard to predict having to make."

Judith Lewis is a staff writer forLA Weekly.

*Teenagers names have been changed throughout the story.

Power to the Peer

In the last hours of the 12th annual conference on "Computers, Freedom and Privacy," held at a San Francisco hotel mid-April, Frank Hausmann of CenterSpan Communications delivered a pitch for his company's solution to the legal puzzle of Internet music sharing: a "distributed network" called C-StarOne, with content to rival Napster's finest hour on a platform that will also allow users to pay for what they download.

Hausmann, underscoring the need for such a service, described how horrified he was when he came home to find his 9-year-old daughter on the family computer downloading her favorite songs using KaZaA, a client for sharing files on the FastTrack network servers. He sat her down and explained to her that file sharing was stealing, and reminded her it was wrong to steal. Seated to his left on the "Peer to Peer and copyright" panel, however, was Verizon Vice President Sarah Deutsch, who had earlier briefed the audience on the ways in which her company handles "notice and takedown" requests to suspend subscribers for copyright infringement. Deutsch countered that the kids she knew had been taught the virtues of sharing, "and it's hard to explain why that's illegal over the Internet."

Despite the increasingly weird slogans of the Recording Industry Association of America (the new one: "As Old as the Barbary Coast -- New as the Internet"), and Elvis Costello's recent statement to The New York Times that there's no ambiguity about file sharing -- "If somebody makes something and you take it, that's stealing" -- there still exists no agreed-upon moral absolute about sharing digital content with an ever-expanding network of sometimes anonymous "friends."

An estimated 40 million people living in the United States use various peer-to-peer networks to share files, presumably to get instant access to copyrighted work as well as the other kind. KaZaA alone reports 1.4 million users logged in at any one time, according to Redshift Research. Among those people are responsible parents and teachers, law-enforcement personnel and people in the record industry, many of whom object on the face of things to peer-to-peer yet realize they'd be idiots not to exploit it.

Because peer-to-peer file sharing has proved to be a lawsuit-resistant Hydra -- hobble one network and two more rise up to replace it -- and because the record companies' collaborative stabs at delivering music online, such as Pressplay and MusicNet, miss the point of the whole exercise (that people sometimes like to share music with each other, as opposed to having taste dictated to them by A&R men) and because there are obvious problems with an industry dependent on the public's fickle affection branding its most enthusiastic consumers criminals, major labels and movie studios have begun to get anxious for a solution to their peer-to-peer woes, which the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry recently blamed for a 6 percent drop in CD sales in 2001.

So have longtime defenders of digital freedom: In the audience of "Peer-to-Peer and Copyright" at CFP were Jessica Litman, one of the country's premier experts in copyright law; Mike Godwin, longtime legal counsel for the indefatigable Electronic Frontier Foundation; and Phil Zimmerman, creator of the cryptography program Pretty Good Privacy. Perhaps because peer-to-peer remains the only frontier still not completely drawn and quartered by media conglomerates, passions to protect or control it run high.

One solution comes from Senate Commerce Chairman "Fritz" Hollings, a Democrat out of South Carolina as beholden to the movie industry as Bush and Cheney were to Enron before the fall. Hollings' Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act, also known as the unpronounceable CBDTPA, would mandate hardware solutions to prevent unauthorized copying of content protected with Digital Rights Management technology ("DRM-wrapped"). The CBDTPA would spell economic doom for hardware manufacturers, who would have to invent machines that do less than the ones on the market now.

As Philips and Intel have ponied up for their own legislators in Washington, the bill seems unlikely to pass. Another solution comes from Sharman Networks Inc., the Australian firm that acquired KaZaA last winter, which proposes an "Intellectual Property Use Fee" -- an across-the-board, flat-fee royalty paid out to content owners by the entire web of parties implicated in peer-to-peer networks, from computer makers to Internet service providers. ("It's ridiculous," opined RIAA CEO Hilary Rosen.) Another idea might be a wide-open content-swapping network that will allow users to compensate artists or, if they must, the record companies themselves.

What the RIAA forgets when it accuses peer-to-peer users of a "why pay for it when it's free" mentality is that some people actually like to pay for things, and even those people use LimeWire and KaZaA and WinMX to download music, because file-sharing -- illegal, immoral or not -- is the only way they can get what they want in an instant. No one -- not John and Sean Fanning of Napster fame, not Sharman Networks, not the sprawling community of software developers who manage Gnutella -- has yet invented such a beast, and for one simple reason: The record labels haven't figured out how and to whom they should license their music. And you can't pay someone for something you don't have permission to possess.

"Getting content is next to impossible," says Brian Zisk, the director of technology for the Future of Music Coalition, who also worked on a content-distribution network called Peer Genius, which for a time had episodes of The Simpsons on its servers. "But once we closed everything off and tried to get legitimate content," he says, "we got almost none. I had friends at the record labels who had always called me back. As soon as I was calling them trying to get content, they stopped returning my phone calls." As you can't have subscribers to a service with nothing on it, and since Peer Genius' creators didn't want to get sued, the project was halted. "As long as the record companies see licensing content for online distribution as a threat to their sale of plastic discs," says Zisk, "any network with licensed content is likely to have only a fraction of what you can get off KaZaA."

Last October, however, the Justice Department began investigating whether the record companies, by refusing to license content to any but their own online ventures, have been shoring up a crumbling monopoly with a misuse of copyright law. A few months later, on February 29 of this year, CenterSpan signed an agreement with Sony Music to distribute its entire catalog on CStarOne's network, and on Tuesday Sony announced it would make available a handful of artists' work, including songs by John Mayer and Macy Gray, on CStarOne via its Scour.com Web site.

To hear Hausmann tell it, more such liaisons will follow. "We're in formal negotiations," he says, "and we've modeled this thing out, and we're closing in on the ä parameters." And if the parameters work out right, says Hausmann, CStarOne could satisfy consumers' hunger for instant new music and at the same time rebuild the music industry in a way that fits the future.

Cstarone is not, precisely, a peer-to-peer network. In fact, Hausmann told me over the phone, "we've had debates about whether I should appear at anything having to do with this peer-to-peer file-sharing thing, because you'd have no idea that you were part of a peer-to-peer network unless you read your license agreement." CenterSpan Communications, which administers CStarOne, made its name manufacturing joysticks, but the company now focuses on "content delivery networks," or CDNs, a technology traditionally deployed to manage high-traffic Internet enterprises, such as blowout lingerie sales or high-bandwidth Web casts.

CDNs such as Akamai and Inktomi distribute usage over a network of some 15,000 or so machines; CStarOne, says Hausmann, is a CDN that spreads traffic over an even wider network of computers, using computer users' dormant resources in much the same way UC Berkeley's SETI@home project marshaled idle computers to the task of searching for extraterrestrial life. Nor will CStarOne serve the consumer directly as a for-profit retail service: The demonstration of its service on its Web site, Scour.com -- a retooling of the Scour file-sharing network that folded a few years back in the face of crippling legal challenges from the movie industry -- is merely a "technology and marketing showcase," says Hausmann.

Any retailer wishing to offer online content, from Yahoo to MusicNet to, thinking bigger, a reconfigured Napster, could grab content off CStarOne. Hausmann calls it a "value-added CDN": Instead of simply storing the data and moving it around efficiently, CStarOne pulls all the content together on one service, makes sure it's licensed and DRM-wrapped, and makes it available to retailers. Hausmann says this process will save record and movie companies money, thereby motivating them to sign over their songs and videos.

Amanda Collins, a spokesperson for the RIAA, said on Tuesday that she had no official objections. "We're not against the technology," she said, "as long as the copyright owners have a chance to negotiate their own licensing agreements."

Consumers who are reminded of Brilliant Digital secretly embedding its resource-sharing Altnet software in KaZaA's Media Desktop needn't worry: Subscribers who don't want little bits of CStarOne's encrypted data stored on their machines can opt out. "We don't need 100-percent participation for this thing to work," says Hausmann. "We need somewhere south of 50 percent." And resource-sharing has advantages: Instead of waiting in fidgety dismay as user TIMF08767 grinds your whole Dylan collection off your computer with his 56K modem, as often happens on networks where files are shared whole, users on CStar's network scarcely detect retrievals from their hard drives. "The segmentation of CStar solves the problem of other users sucking up your computer's resources," Hausmann told the room at CFP. "There is no degradation at all in usage."

There is one problem with CStarOne's network: No matter how deep it goes or how broad it reaches, it will never offer the kind of surprises currently available on the grittier peer-to-peer networks, for the simple reason that peers can't publish. CStarOne will not only stop me from cutting into Island Records' profits by ripping all the tracks of the new Elvis Costello album and storing them in my "shared" file, it will also prevent me from circulating a rare live recording or the results of a friend's band's gig.

The small record-label owner I met recently who downloaded Shelby Lynne singing "Ode to Billy Joe" live on television (because he wanted to prove to me that she is not, after all, the thinking man's Britney Spears) will never find such things on any service using CStarOne for its content, nor will he find uncopyrighted material guerrilla-marketed by some artist looking to get signed. CStarOne will forever lack the surprises that made some of us into Napster addicts (and, incidentally, more voracious music fans) back in the day. It will never make decentralized networks obsolete.

And maybe it doesn't have to. Fred von Lohmann, the Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer defending MusicCity's Morpheus peer-to-peer client and others, who also appeared on the CFP peer-to-peer panel, notes that content providers are looking for ways to offer DRM-wrapped content on Morpheus and Grokster, too. "The two systems are not mutually exclusive in any way," he said. "If CStar is fabulously successful, I can see all these technologies competing in the marketplace together."

It's also possible that, once the RIAA and the Motion Picture Association of America have a viable means of distribution and collecting royalties for their digital content, they'll relax a little, and lay off the less controlled networks. Such a paradigm shift would not be without precedent: When the Supreme Court ruled, by a single vote, in the 1984 Betamax decision to allow videocassette recorders into the market, they did so despite the machines' potential for copyright infringement.

Without question the VCR has been used to distribute copyright-protected works more widely than fair use allows, and still, what MPAA Chairman and CEO Jack Valenti once declared the "Boston Strangler" to the movies instead so resuscitated enthusiasm for movie watching that movies are now made exclusively for the video market. In 1999, sales of prerecorded videocassettes hit $742 million. "Trying to measure the promotional value of these networks is hard to do," admits Hausmann. "But as we deploy them, I think it's important that we reinforce the values we've put in place for 200 years." That is: No stealing. Or was that, "It's nice to share with your friends?"

Fetal Frenzy

In the three decades since Roe v. Wade determined that women in the United States had a right to safe and legal abortion on request, the anti-abortion movement has used the photographed image of an embryo as an emotional counterpoint to reproductive choice. Floating in amniotic fluid or mangled on the steel table of the abortion clinic, the large-headed, curled being, frozen in time, was meant to alarm all of us who might voluntarily terminate a pregnancy: Blown up to grown-infant proportions, the otherwise pea-size creature looks much like a sleeping baby, eyes shut tight, thumb close to lips, laid on its side as if about to burp up a mother's milk. After the ninth week, the fetus even has fingertips, a detail opponents of abortion made sure we all knew.

But the image was with us before the fight was on. The first stunning photographs of the near-mythic creature ensconced in the womb came from a Swedish photographer named Lennart Nilsson, who spent seven years painstakingly documenting the various stages of life from zygote to fetus. In a 1965 issue of Life magazine, Nilsson unveiled the first results of his work, in a series of photographs depicting "The Drama of Life Before Birth."

Almost right away, the images took on a political burden, although at first the politics were subtle, and not necessarily intentional. As Karen Newman points out in her book, "Fetal Positions: Individuals, Science, Visuality," the magazine's editors loaded the "portraits" with vocabulary that betrayed their ideology: "The word portrait," she wrote, "defined in Webster's as 'a painting or photograph etc. of a person, especially of his face,' makes a claim from the outset for fetal personhood."

Life explicitly presented the images as a marvel of the natural world, not an argument against abortion, but by doing so the magazine released the images into the wild, to be used by whoever had use for them. And as the anti-abortion movement gathered momentum in the 1980s, the artistically rendered contents of the fertilized egg turned from wonder to icon: Fetuses and embryos were paraded on placards, bumper stickers and buttons so unrelentingly that the shape of this tiny seed of life became, for many of us who came of age in the late '70s and '80s, little more than a lapel-pin emblem of the anti-abortion movement, as separated from its biological reality as it is from the woman's body that carries it.

Encrusted with a political hysteria that has little to do with genuine respect for human life, the embryo has lost much of its power to amaze us. Until I sat down recently and stared at Nilsson's photographs, I'd forgotten what a thrill it is to behold this being in its very earliest stages of development, perfectly situated in its amniotic bliss, a suggestion of every human feature etched in its contours. I am clinically fascinated as well as moved: It is a creature of remarkable symmetry and adaptation. It is a miracle.

It is not, however, a person. Nor it is a life with rights to trump those of the fully formed woman upon whom it depends. Not to me, because I am less interested in the largely theological question of where life begins than in minimizing the abject and protracted suffering of humans who already exist. To the extent that I have a religion, it is one that promotes the autonomy and happiness of already established and independent creatures, and I am simply not interested in debating whether a zygote, embryo or fetus, no matter how extraordinary to gaze upon, should derail the future of a woman, young or old, who does not wish, for whatever reason, to carry it to term. Along with the teachings of the Sikhs, the Talmud and the Unitarians, my particular faith dictates that a woman have the final say about what goes on in her body.

Although Life described Nilsson's photographs as "life before birth," the embryos and fetuses he photographed were actually already dead, culled from the wombs of women who, under Sweden's liberal reproductive-rights policies, had terminated their pregnancies. "Working in cooperation with doctors in Sweden," writes Newman, "where any privileged American women of sufficient means obtained abortions during the '60s, Nilsson perfected photographic techniques for chronicling embryonic development." Nilsson sloughed off placenta, backlit his subjects, manipulated environments to achieve these glowing apparitions. Their contours would define anti-abortion-propaganda aesthetics for the ages.

Embryo 'Ensoulment'

In a country dominated by a frighteningly superstitious attorney general and a president who now proposes granting fetuses better medical care than his administration allows grown women, it's useful to consider that neither the god of Christian nations nor more ancient deities have been so clearly enamored of the embryo. Before the middle of the 19th century, most Western civilizations tolerated abortion before the "quickening," in the first 12 weeks when no movement could be felt from the fetus. Muslims defended abortion before the "ensoulment" of the fertilized egg; ancient civilizations in Greece and Egypt left behind instructions for poison pessaries and herbal concoctions to end a pregnancy.

And while Hippocrates weighed in against abortion -- chiefly out of concern for the mother's well-being -- Aristotle did not. "When couples have children in excess," he wrote in Politics, "let abortion be procured before sense and life have begun."

Nor do even passionately prospective mothers and fathers grant such absolute sanctity to every embryonic life: In the course of a gamete intra-fallopian transfer procedure, a physician removes the surplus embryos that have successfully lodged in the womb of a woman who wanted, sometimes desperately wanted, only one child, if for no other reason than to promote the healthy development of the most robust embryo. In a process soberly called "multifetal pregnancy reduction," those fertilized and implanted embryos are discarded, as are billions of fertilized eggs all over the world that were preserved with the expectation that they might be needed but turn out to be superfluous.

As much as some anti-abortionists, in a stab at consistency, want to make an issue of every zygote, or to ban the use of embryos in stem-cell research that may well save the lives of established mothers and fathers currently raising families, there is no significant political movement afoot to ban fertility treatments. The fetal image anti-abortionists claim to defend is in fact merely a diversion, as the whole abortion debate is for the right-wing administration: The real battle is over the bodies of women.

And what about the sanctity of their lives? History has shown that prohibiting abortion does little to stop the procedure; in countries from Nazi Germany to Romania to the United States, banning abortion has led to death and injury among women of childbearing age. Abortion rates have declined, however, in countries that combine liberal abortion law with sex education and access to contraceptives, and birthrates happily rise in societies that reward mothers with subsidized day care and affordable medicine. Norway has integrated into its abortion law a pledge that "all children enjoy conditions for a secure upbringing"; France gives financial incentives to mothers; Sweden offers a promise that having a baby alone, or under financial duress, will neither stigmatize them socially nor consign them to poverty.

These societies, which arguably need abortion the least, offer it without restriction in the first trimester, free of charge, and yet theirs is a social policy I can without reservation call pro-life. Those who would be moved by the image of the embryo and their various gods to stop women from having abortions -- and my high regard for religious freedom demands that I respect their views -- would do well to abandon their "truth trucks," and get to work making the world a more hospitable place in which to raise a child. And then this magical image of the embryo in the womb should symbolize a different political movement: One that seeks to construct a social policy in which no mother, whatever her economic circumstances, attitude or marital status, lacks the resources to feed her children.

The DNC Fashion Guide

How visitors dressed for success at the Democratic National Convention -- whether they were slacks and swag bag-toting delegates or bandana and adult diaper-wearing protesters.

DELEGATES:

Earplugs help filter out endless hype from the podium and save hearing for important matters, such as any hint of discord between Hillary and Al.

Mobile phones are the official delegate accessory. Use is appropriate on the convention floor, at parties, while walking to the car, at dinner, at tourist destinations and, of course, while stuck in traffic. Most overheard topic: money.

Button, button, who's got the ... ? Then again, who doesn't? Buttons trading is hotter than Beanie Babies on E-bay.

Wear your union T-shirt: One third of this year's delegates are union members. Alternatively, some state delegates choose shirts that advertise their respective states (floral shirts for Hawaii, for example). A casual shirt will also help distinguish you from the corporate lobbyists, who can usually be detected by their pinstripe suits.

Dress slacks make life convenient for the delegate: Paired with a dress shirt, they segue neatly into party wear.

Swag bags, courtesy of corporate sponsors and local boosters. C-SPAN's red totes are particularly visible on the Staples Center floor.

Comfortable shoes -- it's a long walk from the perimeter to the entrance.

ACTIVISTS:

Hair should be washed in a non-detergent soap, such as Dr. Bronner's. Oils, dead skin cells and microscopic debris all provide a chemical link between tear gas and skin. Long hair should be worn tied back.

No piercings.

Swim goggles provide protection from chemical agents. (But only temporarily: Both tear gas and pepper spray contain solvents that dissolve rubber and plastic.)

A bandana can also be soaked in baking soda or vinegar in the event of a tear-gas encounter and provide emergency protection for nose and mouth.

T-shirt imprinted with the slogan of a cause -- preferably in big enough lettering that it's visible to news cameras and legible to tele vision audiences.

Phone number for the Midnight Special Law Collective (323-939-3039), or other legal representation, written on arm. Address books can be confiscated by police and used to incriminate friends and co-workers.

Nail clipper: Sometimes works to cut through handcuffs.

Crazy glue on fingertips obliterates prints.

Activists planning to participate in a lockdown situation who anticipate hours of immobility wear an adult diaper, such as Depends undergarments, under loose-fitting pants. Gap cargos are not ideal: Although Gap nets $11.6 billion annually, the corporation still denies a living wage to workers in 50 countries around the world.

Extra pockets store mobile phone, Clif bars, water bottle. Clif donates a portion of its profits to environmental and other worthy causes. Nextel is the activist's phone of choice, due to its conference-call capabilities, which make it possible to coordinate direct-action tactics spontaneously. (Under some circumstances, however, a Nextel is a liability: The conspicuous operation of such a device has, in some circumstances, led to the arrest of the user.)

Activists wear running shoes, but not Nike: Nike, Inc. still refuses to pay its 300,000-some workers in China, Indonesia and Vietnam a living wage.

The Youngest Delegate Speaks

Sunday, August 13 -- We made Thomas Santaniello famous.

Not that he wouldn't have, in time, become famous in his own right, but tonight, between bites of caviar and blue cheese on new potatoes and vegetable kabobs dripping with butter, we have brought him the first flurry of media attention in his emerging political career. Because Santaniello -- at age 17 the youngest delegate to attend the Democratic National Convention 2000, the youngest attendee at the Young Democrats of America's Knitting Factory shindig -- is the only delegate who came close enough to be mobbed.

"Is this the first time you've been jumped by the media?" we ask Santaniello as not just three reporters swarm this lone, newbie delegate -- three-on-one being the convention's official journalist-to-delegate ratio -- but seven, two with cameras. Santaniello, fresh out of Spartanburg, South Carolina, wearing a suit and tie and a wide-eyed expression, his short brown hair neatly Brylcreamed to the side, barely knows what to say.

"It is!" he beams. "It is! It's a madhouse! It's crazy! I can't believe it!"

The convoy of cop cars screaming up Highland Avenue, along with the Fort Knox security in force at the newest Hollywood hotspot, might have clued us in that we would not be attending a typical delegate party, the kind at which delegates are the most honored guests. Instead, YDA has the honor of hosting not only Bill Clinton, but Al Gore and his daughters, Kristin and Karenna Gore-Schiff. The press, like guilty plotters in a failed coup attempt, have been hustled by a pert but panicked blonde through back hallways and up stairwells, and herded without much ceremony into a cramped media pit overlooking the club's dance floor. Once behind the tape in our 15-by-6-foot corral, our quarantine became complete: Even our cell phones had been rendered inert by microwave transmitters.

We did, however, manage to score two drink tickets apiece before the lockdown, and a young woman with close-cropped curls and a smart-aleck attitude was happy to cash them in for us. "Drink a lot," she advised. "You're trapped."

The YDA is the training ground for the party's activists and the farm team for tomorrow's Clintons and Gores, an organization in which ideals and ambitions easily coexist. From our crowded confines, we had summoned one of their legion, Evelyn Jerome, president of the L.A. County Young Democrats, and begged her to bring us a delegate, any delegate. Moments later she returned -- "Am I quick or what?" -- with Santaniello in tow. And suddenly Santaniello is verging on celebrity, glowing under the glare of video-camera lights, energetically shouting replies to reporters' questions over the din of music and partiers. Repeatedly, reporters demand to know how a 17-year-old qualifies to be a delegate. And Santaniello consistently obliges to answer. "I'll be 18 on August 28," he announces. "Because I can vote in November, I get to be a delegate."

"And how did you get so interested in politics?"

"It was really just the '96 election and all the media coverage that did it," he says. "You guys did a good job." From another delegate, such a remark might sound shrewd. It is perhaps a sign of Santaniello's youth that he means it.

If Santaniello seems unbelievably young to carry the weight of being a voting delegate at a national political convention, consider that he's been campaigning since the eighth grade, when he first entered the beltway of student government. Later, at James F. Burns High School, he formed a nonpartisan organization devoted to involving teenagers in state government. "I organized a voter-registration drive and registered 150 seniors to vote," he says. "We brought the voter drive to them, and what we found was not apathy, but people being enthusiastic to vote for the first time." Santaniello didn't exactly attempt to sell his schoolmates on the Democratic Party, but encouraged them to "take a serious look at the candidates and get out and vote. But of course," he admits, "I try to steer them in my direction."

Today Santaniello is every bit the partisan player, paying homage as only a true believer can. "The Democratic Party represents the best interests of America and young people," he tells his personal press corps, now hovering about like a medical team preparing for surgery. "That's why the party drew me in." He proceeds to rattle off a chronology of the Clinton administration's legislative wars: education, health care, patients' bill of rights, gun safety, the environment, campaign-finance reform.

"We're putting emphasis on public education," he continues. "We're raising teachers' salaries, putting more teachers in classrooms, making class sizes smaller, rebuilding schools, providing college assistance to students."

Santaniello doesn't venture opinions on subjects that lurk beyond the periphery of the Democratic Party platform. He claims ignorance of such looming hot-button issues as genetic engineering and the copyright battles being fought on the Internet. "I'm not familiar with it," he says of the music-trading protocol Napster. "I still go out to the store and buy my CDs, and I can understand the concerns of the record industry about the music that's copyrighted being on the Internet." But he does dream of a few new planks. "My dream would be to increase medical-research funding to find cures for diseases such as cancer," he says, adding that Al Gore has also expressed concerns in this area.

As for the armada of protest groups that have assembled in Los Angeles around the Democratic Convention, many of whose members are closer to his age than his fellow YDA'ers are, he allows that "They have a right to be here, protesting for their causes. I just hope that they don't block me from getting into the convention."

What does the future hold for Tom Santaniello beyond this momentous week? "I'm going to study political science at Firman University in Greenville, South Carolina," he says. "Then I'd like to possibly work as a political consultant." Having been surrounded by the drama of a national convention, will he want to run for office? "I'm looking to that as a possibility," he concedes, furrowing his young brow. "I'd start out at the bottom, maybe some day work up to congressman."

By the time he makes that decision, it may be easier to be a Democrat in South Carolina, a state that despite the recent election of a Democratic governor, Jim Hodges, still votes predominantly Republican. "It's especially hard in Spartanburg," he says, "where even a lot of my friends are influenced by their parents to become Republicans. But the thing is, we're changing -- we have a Democratically controlled Senate and a good chance of taking back the House."

Things are looking particularly bright for Dems in South Carolina since the state-supported lottery became a significant political issue. "Our governor is supporting a lottery to help fund education, like most other states on the East Coast," Santaniello says, "but the Republicans are against it -- they think gambling is wrong, and that education should not rely on gambling. But the fact is, Georgia has a state lottery and South Carolina puts about $80 million a year into Georgia's lottery, which is helping fund Georgia's students going to college. We need to keep that money in South Carolina," he insists. "We need to help our own students get scholarships." (Voters in Alabama felt much the same in November '98, when Democratic Governor Don Eugene Siegelman was elected largely because of his support for a state-run lottery.)

But even if South Carolina goes the other direction and, post-lottery, finds itself in the hands of conservatives, Santaniello insists he'll never make the ultimate Satanic conversion. "I'll never be a Republican!" he insists. "People say all the time that when you get older you become more conservative. But I see plenty of adults who are Democrats, and I look to them as reasons to stay in the party."

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