A heartfelt goodbye to an atheist icon.

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Four Decades and 20,000 Abortions Later, Anne Nicol Gaylor’s Organization is Still Going Strong

Anne Nicol Gaylor is an 86-year-old abortion provider with no medical training of her own. Her “office supplies” consist of little more than a pen, paper, checkbook, and a telephone. On a Tuesday morning this past July, in a retirement home just outside of Madison, Wisconsin, I sat in her living room as we waited for calls from women who needed (or wanted) to obtain abortions but just didn’t have the ability to pay for them. She is their last hope for a handout.

As the founder of Women’s Medical Fund, Inc., a non-profit group she formed in 1976, Gaylor asks intimate questions of strangers without the slightest hesitation. There’s no time for emotion. There’s work to be done.

Are you single or married?

How much money do you make?

Did you use contraception?

Is the man involved helping you?

How much will your procedure cost?

Did you see a doctor yet?

Have you had an ultrasound?

Gaylor has answered the phone like this more than 20,000 times. Since 1995, WMF has raised and spent nearly $3,000,000 to help women, with most of the money — just over $200, on average, per caller — going to a small handful of providers like Planned Parenthood. The funding comes mostly from individual donors, though about a quarter of the funding last year came from foundation grants. Its mission is to make sure that a woman’s right to reproductive choice is not denied because she doesn’t have enough money, regardless of whether the pregnancy is unintended or unwanted. The organization has no paid staffers, only dedicated volunteers. And, for the moment, Gaylor is just sitting in her recliner, waiting for the next caller, waiting to write her next check.

Anne Gaylor at her 80th birthday party (via Annie Laurie Gaylor)

Depending on who you ask, I’m sitting in front of a sweet woman in the final years of her life or someone who will dread meeting her Maker; a modern-day savior or a prolific serial killer; one of the great feminist activists of the past several decades or, as one newspaper columnist put it, “Granny Blood-Money.”

There are only a few prerequisites that must be met before a check can be written: the caller must live in (or plan to obtain the abortion from a shortlist of clinics in) Wisconsin, she must be more than eight weeks pregnant, and she must visit a clinic to confirm her pregnancy. Once Gaylor can verify that information, she writes out a check for up to $400 directly to the hospital, clinic, or physician performing the procedure. She also refers the callers to another national organization that may be able to write out an additional check, allowing the women to pay as little out of pocket as possible. Gaylor used to give out some of the money as a loan, hoping to get paid back eventually, but she knows better now. The women are just too poor. Still, she tries to get them to put up a little money of their own, even if it’s only $25, so that they don’t see her fund as a form of free birth control.

When I ask Gaylor how young her callers are, she opens up a nearby nightstand and pulls out a folder containing a stack of papers, all records of her phone conversations over the past few days. A sheet near the top documents a phone call she received the day before my visit, concerning a 13-year-old girl who had been raped by her 17-year-old brother.

How is anyone even supposed to process information like that?

I’m not sure whether to follow up with a question about the incest, the rape, or their ages. All crimes are reported to the police by the clinics, so Gaylor doesn’t deal with those issues. Her primary concern is whether the caller (in this case, the girl’s older sister) can pay for the procedure.

She’s immune to the horror stories by now. While it’s the first time I’ve ever heard such an awful story, she hears them on a regular basis. The youngest caller this year, she tells me, was only 11.

Gaylor knows the trends, too. While she hears from women all throughout the month, the calls tend to come near the end of the week, when some of the women receive a paycheck, and around the first of the month, when the welfare checks arrive. They don’t cry as much as they used to. They all cried when abortions were harder to come by, she recalls, but now only some shed tears. Most are just nervous. Emotional. Worried about how to pay for it. Wondering how they’ll reconcile their religious faith with their decision. Wondering if they can keep this a secret from their immediate and extended families.

Do you ever hear back from the women who call for help? She shakes her head. Few of them ever want to talk about the procedure after it’s happened. Gaylor herself has never had an abortion. In 1958, a few years after giving birth to her fourth child, she had a tubal ligation (something she highly recommends to women who’ll listen).

I wonder if there’s anything that could help make things better for her organization. More donations? Paid staffers? Nope. None of that. She just wishes women had easier access to birth control. She wishes young women could more easily report instances of rape and get immediate help. But “as long as men keep attacking women, you’re going to have a need” for abortion services.

Women’s Medical Fund, Inc. unofficially began in March of 1970, just after Wisconsin’s anti-abortion laws were declared unconstitutional by a district court. The ruling effectively made first-trimester abortions legal in the state. (It wasn’t until 1973 when the U.S. Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, took a similar position.)

Gaylor was already a vocal abortion-rights advocate at the time. In 1967, she wrote an editorial (she believes it to be the first of its kind) in favor of an overhaul of the state’s abortion laws. In the years to follow, she joined the Association for the Study of Abortion and the Wisconsin Committee to Legalize Abortion, spoke about the issue on radio and TV shows, and wrote a number of letters-to-the-editor of local newspapers. But in 1970, building off a program launched by scientist Paul Ehrlich, Gaylor began the Zero Population Growth Referral Service (ZPG), where she could direct women to cities where abortion services were readily available. After the Wisconsin court’s ruling, her phone began ringing — women knew they could get abortions now, but they weren’t sure from where, and they believed the outspoken Gaylor would have the answers.

On August 12, 1970, Gaylor placed an ad in two local newspapers that included ZPG’s post office box and her personal phone number. The ad urged women to contact her if their doctors weren’t helping them obtain an abortion. In the weeks to follow, nearly 100 women contacted her. Playboy magazine later mentioned her as a resource for women who needed such help, which only ramped up the number of phone calls. (“Contrary to popular opinion,” she later wrote, “Playboy readers rarely went to bed.”)

Unfortunately, local hospitals were expensive, often had long waiting periods, and required getting through all sorts of bureaucratic red tape (including, in one hospital’s case, letters from two physicians confirming that the procedure was required to save the life of the woman). One provider in Madison, Dr. Alfred Kennan, opened up an outpatient clinic for women who needed abortions, but he was limited to seeing about 100 patients a week. It wasn’t long before Gaylor began referring her callers to sites in Mexico, where the total cost for the flight, procedure, and hotel room was still less than a trip to the expensive hospital next door. (Abortions were illegal in Mexico, and still are in many parts of the country, but bribes to police officers allowed some doctors to practice without problem.) Referrals to New York soon followed.

With the help of University of Wisconsin professor Robert West, Gaylor began Women’s Medical Fund, Inc. in 1972 as an outgrowth of the service she was already providing. It was incorporated as a non-profit in 1976 and is now said to be the country’s largest and oldest independent, all-volunteer abortion fund.

The Hyde Amendment, passed by Congress in 1976 and still in effect today, resulted in an even greater demand for Gaylor’s service. The legislation bans the use of federal funds to pay for abortions, with exceptions made only for rape, incest, and to save the life of the woman. Because Medicaid funds are included in this ban, poor women are disproportionately affected and they frequently need financial help to go through with the procedure. According to the National Network of Abortion Funds, which WMF is a member of, “[t]here are 15 states that use their own money to pay for abortion care as part of their Medicaid programs, but there are 35 that do not.” Wisconsin is one of the 35.

WMF no longer advertises as it once did, but local clinics are aware of it and they frequently refer clients who need financial assistance to Gaylor’s organization. It’s not hard to see why: the non-profit has virtually no overhead costs and, as the group’s financial records show, more than 99% of its income goes right back to paying for abortion care.

If you called WMF today, using information available on some older websites, you might reach the offices of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), another organization Gaylor founded in the late 1970s. FFRF is a church/state separation watchdog, writing letters of complaint to those who appear to be violating the First Amendment and filing lawsuits against them if needed. Gaylor officially retired from the organization in 2004, though she still holds the title of “president emerita.” Staffers at FFRF screen the callers and only then give them Gaylor’s direct line — to the phone in her living room — offering her an additional layer of security. (Most clinics, after screening the women, give them Gaylor’s number directly.)

After 61 years of marriage, Gaylor’s husband Paul died of brain cancer in 2011 and she moved into the retirement home where she now lives in the summer of 2012. Gaylor herself suffers from macular degeneration and glaucoma, but her voice, while frail, is still strong enough to answer the calls. (Her daughter Annie Laurie Gaylor said about her in a 2004 tribute, “She may be losing her eyesight, but she is not losing her vision.”)

Gaylor’s only daughter inherited her mother’s activist streak. Annie Laurie Gaylor is one of the co-presidents of the FFRF, along with Dan Barker, and she’s also no stranger to anger from the opposition. At FFRF’s headquarters in Madison, they even have a system in place for dealing with all the hate-mail they receive: Serious threats go in one pile, angry letters go in another.

According to Annie Laurie, fighting for church/state separation is similar to fighting for abortion rights, but “they want to kill you more” when you do abortion work.

The elder Gaylor is used to that kind of hostility, too. When I asked how she responded to threats, her voice became a little stronger, a little more confident.

“I ignore them.”

Anne Nicol Gaylor and daughter Annie Laurie stand near the family tombstone (via Annie Laurie Gaylor)

Just as I’m leaving Gaylor’s apartment, with my computer packed up and my keys in hand, the phone rings. Gaylor answers it while instinctively picking up a pen and a form. She listens quietly for a few seconds while jotting down some basic information about the caller. Gaylor asks where she’s from. And how much the provider is charging. And if she’s visited the clinic for her first appointment. There’s an extended pause after that question, after which I hear Gaylor gently cut in: “You have to have that appointment before I can take your application, because at that point, they will do the ultrasound which will confirm exactly how far you are, and then they’ll be able to tell you exactly what the cost will be.”

The call lasts only two minutes before Gaylor hangs up the phone and smiles at me. “Ordinarily, they’re more interesting to listen to,” she jokes.

WMF won’t last — can’t last — much longer in its current form. Gaylor won’t always be around to answer the phone. But a contingency plan has already been drawn up. When the time comes, the group’s board of directors and additional volunteers will take over the phone calls and other menial tasks that Gaylor has been doing for decades now. They haven’t worked out all the logistics yet, but thankfully, they haven’t had to. They’re considering getting a dedicated cell phone that is assigned to volunteers during shifts or getting a phone number that goes straight to voicemail and having volunteers call the women back. For now, Gaylor is able to answer all the calls herself on a landline without leaving her home.

One of WMF’s board members, Nora Cusack, wrote to me that if abortion services were covered by health insurance providers or Medicaid the same way as other medical procedures, the phone might just stop ringing. Or at least not ring as much. That, too, would ease the succession problem.

Gaylor’s mission when she began WMF was to help women obtain legal abortions even if they couldn’t afford them. That mission hasn’t changed, but as she sits back down to wait for the next call, she reflects on the grander vision she has for the future: “It would be nice to not be needed.”

-Best wishes to the family of Anne Nicol Gaylor, a woman who did more for humanity than most in taking care of the needs of women and fighting religious bullies on their own ground! This is a sad time for all who respect the separation of church and state.

Scumbags

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It is with a heavy heart that I announce the death of one of the New York prison escapees………Haaaaaa! Just kidding! Death to the next scumbag once they catch him! I hope he rides the lead sled to a painful sleep!

Yoomanists and tha poor!

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I am a person who is really prejudiced against the poor because I lived in Section 8 housing and was homeless until I was 18 years old. I see the ‘Will work for food.’; people as a plague of lazy assholes apart from the mentally ill who cannot help the things that they do.

I overcame the assholes who were in charge to accomplish the middle class goals that I have met today. I send my children to guitar and ballet lessons because that is what responsible people do! Where is the Government agency to keep meth head assholes people from having kids? Someone needs to take responsibility to keep these irresponsible assholes from bringing kids into the wonderful welfare world in which they exist!

Keep these assholes from propagating and and the pregnancies of these useless assholes!!

Stick a dick in the Duggars. ……..

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The glaring obvious here is that the Duggars need to explore the almighty dick and the boys need to experience the glory of a fine wet pussy. Keeping either sex away from the natural wonder of hard cock and tight pussy is the reason why you have Duggar motherfuckers grabbing sibling tits and ass. Fuck your notion of oppressive Jesus and fuck your asshole way of Quiverfull mythology. Stick your Jesus up your asshole sideways!
It is because of your fucked up religious beliefs that your fucking kid is a fucking pedophile, you ass fucking hole Duggar bigots!
Stick Jesus up your intolerant, LGBT hating asses you climate denying sub human throwbacks!

James Holmes

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I understand that this toxic asshole is out of his fucking mind, but he needs to be executed post haste because he is a useless son of a bitch and is of no use to humanity. Fuck the fact that he is crazy, he is taking up oxygen and space and is a burden on humanity. We are over populated and need to fertilize the Earth with something, so why not the ashes of this piece of shit?
Fuck him and fuck the liberal machine that would conserve this human garbage in the name of their false morality. There are so many people who would benefit from execution and never reach that goal!

Famous Hitchens quotes.

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 RIP Christopher Hitchens 1949-2011

The 20 Best Christopher Hitchens Quotes
December 16, 2011 by Daniel Florien 246 Comments
Christopher Hitchens has a lot of quote-worthy material, but here are 20 of my personal favorites:
“What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.”
The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.
The Portable Atheist
By trying to adjust to the findings that it once tried so viciously to ban and repress, religion has only succeeded in restating the same questions that undermined it in earlier epochs. What kind of designer or creator is so wasteful and capricious and approximate? What kind of designer or creator is so cruel and indifferent? And—most of all—what kind of designer or creator only chooses to “reveal” himself to semi-stupefied peasants in desert regions?
The Portable Atheist
The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species.
God Is Not Great
What happens to the faith healer and the shaman when any poor citizen can see the full effect of drugs or surgeries, administered without ceremonies or mystifications? Roughly the same thing as happens to the rainmaker when the climatologist turns up, or to the diviner from the heavens when schoolteachers get hold of elementary telescopes.
God Is Not Great
Religion looks forward to the destruction of the world…. Perhaps half aware that its unsupported arguments are not entirely persuasive, and perhaps uneasy about its own greedy accumulation of temporal power and wealth, religion has never ceased to proclaim the Apocalypse and the day of judgment.
God Is Not Great
Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody—not even the mighty Democritus who concluded that all matter was made from atoms—had the smallest idea what was going on. It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge (as well as for comfort, reassurance, and other infantile needs). Today the least educated of my children knows much more about the natural order than any of the founders of religion.
God Is Not Great
The Bible may, indeed does, contain a warrant for trafficking in humans, for ethnic cleansing, for slavery, for bride-price, and for indiscriminate massacre, but we are not bound by any of it because it was put together by crude, uncultured human mammals.
God Is Not Great
If god really wanted people to be free of [wicked thoughts], he should have taken more care to invent a different species.
God Is Not Great
Is it too modern to notice that there is nothing [in the ten commandments] about the protection of children from cruelty, nothing about rape, nothing about slavery, and nothing about genocide? Or is it too exactingly “in context” to notice that some of these very offenses are about to be positively recommended?
God Is Not Great
Religion has run out of justifications. Thanks to the telescope and the microscope, it no longer offers an explanation of anything important. Where once it used to be able, by its total command of a worldview, to prevent the emergence of rivals, it can now only impede and retard—or try to turn back—the measurable advances that we have made.
Sometimes, true, it will artfully concede them. But this is to offer itself the choice between irrelevance and obstruction, impotence or outright reaction, and, given this choice, it is programmed to select the worse of the two.
Meanwhile, confronted with undreamed-of vistas inside our own evolving cortex, in the farthest reaches of the known universe, and in proteins and acids which constitute our nature, religion offers either annihilation in the name of god, or else the false promise that if we take a knife to our foreskins, or pray in the right direction, or ingest pieces of wafer, we shall be “saved.”
God Is Not Great
Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.
God Is Not Great
Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason. We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, openmindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake.
God Is Not Great
Religion is man-made. Even the men who made it cannot agree on what their prophets or redeemers or gurus actually said or did.
God Is Not Great
If religious instruction were not allowed until the child had attained the age of reason, we would be living in a quite different world.
God Is Not Great
I try to deny myself any illusions or delusions, and I think that this perhaps entitles me to try and deny the same to others, at least as long as they refuse to keep their fantasies to themselves.
Hitch-22
Faith is the surrender of the mind; it’s the surrender of reason, it’s the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It’s our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.
Name me an ethical statement made or an action performed by a believer that could not have been made or performed by a non-believer.
Take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.
Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.

I am reminded every day of why I have such high regards for the late great Christopher Hitchens. He was one to shun foolish PC crap, yet champion the rights of everyone as long as they were trying to play well with others. In this day and age, we are constantly reminded of why we need in-your-face, unafraid intellectuals such as Hitchens to bring people back to their senses. I will never abandon his wariness of anything religious due to it’s ability to take believing in mythology too far and create false morality around it! I LOVE Hitch and his honesty, even though there are areas in which he and I would have most likely strongly disagreed. He might have well told me to piss of as he did some of his best friends due to political differences. I actually LIKE a person who is not afraid to tell a close friend that he thinks that he is fucked up in thinking a certain way! THAT is a person in which you can invest trust! That is a man who will not sell you out, an honest man. GAWD bless you hitch, and may Jeebus keep you in the eternal cheese pit of the Christentatious!

Hipster hatred

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You really can’t hate the hipster,  they are entirely too lovable with their skinny jeans and their Chuck Taylors melded with the love of a fine flannel shirt of the color purple. As they sashay about on their fixie bikes with their ever-present man purse, I am suddenly envious of the emaciated unmanly appearance of these Uber fad following assholes and their oh-so-ironic attitudes.
The hipster is possibly the most conformist self important shit heel known to modern man, and will pass into the dustbin of history just as every other groupthink social pablumite scourge has before it, and the world will go on.
The mistaken notion that this fad is unique is the true joke of the times. Hipsters are truly a sad bunch of beard wearing fucking idiots that will follow anything that hipster leadership tells them to and are distinct from nothing. Hipsters are everywhere and are a brand of follower that labors under the impression that they are trailblazers, when in actuality, they are the worst of robots puking forth that which they are instructed to. It’s too bad that they are too “relevant ” to see what sheep they really are.
I truly believe that hipsters are the batteries that power the Matrix.

God is Good — Nepal Baby Boy

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I said the exact same thing to so many people who took that very dim, ignorant stance. What a very small minded way of thinking about a tragedy that has killed thousands that will supposedly burn for eternity for not being Christians.

Skeptic Mom

The recent Nepal earthquake has been devastating. At the time of this writing, there are over 5,000 people confirmed dead. The death toll is expected to rise to around 10,000 people. And, these numbers do not include the number of people who have been severely injured.

In the mist of this tragedy, many people are understandably looking for some good news. One positive story that some people have found uplifting is the rescue of a four-month-old baby boy. The infant was trapped for about 22 hours before being rescued. Fortunately, the baby seems to be in relatively good health with no serious injuries.

Like everyone, I am very happy that the baby is in good condition. I am sure his family is overjoyed.

I can understand why many people have gravitated toward this story. It is unexpected good news in the wake of utter devastation. However, I have a hard…

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