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Merle Hoffman Editorials in On The Issues Magazine

ON THE ISSUES MAGAZINE ONLINE is a successor to the print publication, On The Issues Magazine, a progressive, feminist quarterly print publication from 1983 to 1999, both published by Choices Women’s Medical Center, Merle Hoffman, President and CEO, located in Jamaica, Queens, New York.

THE LOVE OF STRANGERS
Winter 2013

“Patient #4 in recovery was moved by your work and wants to see you.” When my assistant’s email came through, I was in the middle of a meeting in my office. Excusing myself, I put on the white coat I always keep hanging on the back of my chair and went up to the recovery room.

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Where the Reality of Abortion Resides: Intimate Wars
Winter 2012

When I first opened a clinic for women’s abortion care in Flushing, New York in 1971, women finally had access to safe, legal abortions – even before Roe v. Wade decriminalized abortion across the country. New York State had acted to decriminalize abortion in 1970, so we were already a step ahead. Doctors could now treat patients in a respectful environment, away from the back-alley secrecy and lethal dangers.

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Patient Power – The Reluctant Revolution
Fall 2011

When I first opened a clinic for women’s abortion care in New York in 1971, women finally had access to safe, legal abortions – even before Roe v. Wade decriminalized abortion across the country. New York State had acted to decriminalize abortion in 1970, so we were already a step ahead. Doctors could now treat patients in a respectful environment, away from the back-alley secrecy and lethal dangers. But this was also an era when doctors, almost all male, were often patronizing and imperialistic. In order to change that power dynamic for the women in our clinic, I realized that the historically accepted roles for doctors and patients also needed a revolution.

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All Wars Are Intimate Wars
Summer 2011

All wars are intimate. For women whose bodies have become battlegrounds in the struggle for reproductive freedom, the intimacy is profound. In the U.S. where the rise of the fundamentalist right has resulted in extensive attempts at creative new restrictions on women’s rights to Moscow, where an American style anti-choice movement has emerged, the struggle goes on. The womb is the ultimate theater of war and all women are potential casualties.

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Feminism Is As Feminism Does
Winter 2011

All my life there was a kind of disconnect between my internal and external realities. "Funny," people would say, "you don’t look Jewish. Funny, you don’t look like a concert pianist. Funny—you don’t look like a feminist." But I was all of those things and more. And equally today, as we struggle to define a new standard of feminism, appearance, age, dress, and labels are merely detours, diversions. Thought and action are the fault lines that matter.

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The Courage of No
Winter 2010

Children are natural resistance fighters. From the time they realize that they have the agency (if not the power) to push back against parental authority, they begin to use it. They do not discriminate against particular types of authority, but understand organically that all power can, and in some cases must, be resisted.

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Selecting The Same Sex
Summer 2009

There is one place where the definition of gender remains binary – in the womb. When it comes to sonograms, amniocentesis and standard pre-natal testing, there are no nuances. Here, the pronouncement, “It’s a girl,” can translate into fierce and instant parental rejection. The fact is that when the issue is “sex selection abortion,” the same sex is always being selected — female.

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On the Murder and Continuing Inspiration of Dr. George Tiller
Spring 2009

George Tiller was a friend, comrade and associate of mine for over a quarter of a century. I would share time and ideas with him at conferences, refer patients for his services and exchange holiday gifts with his staff. He, like so many abortion providers, was a person of courage, integrity and commitment to women’s reproductive rights.

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Higher Ground, Not Common Ground
Spring 2009

As a person who feels that war should be the strategy of last resort, I still like to read military history. I find myself going back to the wisdom of Sun Tzu who wrote in “The Art of War” in the 6th century BC: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”

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Revolution Lite
Winter 2009

Oscar Wilde, writing in The Soul of Man Under Socialism, said, “A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing.”

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Divide, Conquer and Sell
Summer 2008

Growing up in Philadelphia in the 50s, girls were labeled sluts if they dressed provocatively, let boys “tongue kiss” them or behaved in such a way that crossed the white middle class boundaries that defined appropriate role behavior. Sexual behavior had the power to divide women from themselves, their community and, some would say, even their souls.

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Plus ca change
June 2008

Welcome to the May/June 2008 edition of On The Issues Magazine Online, the first full edition of our new Internet publishing venture.

Reviving the magazine on the web 25 years after our first release in print and after a nine-year hiatus feels like visiting a very old friend that I haven’t seen for years, one that was so much a part of my life and my expectations for the future. Even though the many changes of time and life happened to both of us, I can still pick up right where I left off as if conversation never really stopped.

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Message From the Publisher of On The Issues Magazine
April 2008

Twenty-five years ago I began On the Issues as a newsletter of Choices Women’s Medical Center in an effort to communicate with other health care providers and pro-choice activists. The first issue in 1983 featured pieces about the early days of the AIDS crisis, the newly-named and diagnosed pre-menstrual syndrome and a report on my debate with Jerry Falwell in Detroit.

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Replacing PROZAC with PLATO: THE NEW PHILOSOPHICAL COUNSELING
Winter 1999

Interview with Lou Marinoff

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27 Years, but Who’s Counting? Thoughts on yet another Roe v. Wade
Winter 1998

For the first time, women were in control of patient referrals and clinics,
while physicians were brought down from their godlike pedestals to function as
employees of women-owned and feminist-run medical centers.

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Poetry Redux
Fall 1998

I had gone to bed in my habitual way — very late, with some difficulty,
the muted sounds of C-Span droning in the background. Hours after, dazed with sleep,
I heard it. Something about the grass being “the handkerchief of the Lord.” The metaphor
was so arresting that I was unsure whether it was the product of my own imaginative
longings or the result of a dream.

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What’s a Feminist to Do?
Summer 1998

No passionate love letters, no dark night of the soul; just a demand to kiss it — not even to
kiss ME. I have never liked Bill Clinton. I voted for him in 1992 primarily because of the abortion issue.

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IRAN: Notes from the Interior
Spring 1998

You’re going where? The insistent questioning by family and friends reverberated in my head as I
flew over the blackness of the Bosphorus, the sky brilliant with stars.

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Facing the Dragon:
Reflections on Female Heroism

Winter 1997

In a world with no more Wests to conquer or empires to build, where risk-taking comes packaged as adventure vacations, what
becomes of the concept of the heroic — and how, if at all, do women fit it?

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Warrior Healers of South Africa
Summer 1997

In March of 1997 I traveled to South Africa, intellectually knowing what to expect, but not expecting what I would feel once I arrived there.

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Fatal Denial?
Spring 1997

The tragic case of Amy Grossberg and Brian Peterson

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Trojan Horses
Winter 1996

It is a fact that some people find Jesus in the strangest of places — he seems to relish coming in chance epiphanies, catching them unexpected
and amazed. So when news broke in August that Norma McCorvey, a.k.a. Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade, the “poster girl for choice,” had got herself
baptized in a Florida swimming pool by a leader of Operation Rescue I was not surprised. Rev. Flip Benham, who did the honors, reported that
Jesus Christ “had reached through the abortion mill wall and touched the heart of Norma McCorvey.” According to Benham, Norma found Jesus “at
the gates of Hell.”

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Happiness and the Feminist Mind
Fall 1996

Americans are a nation of people who feel supremely entitled to happiness. After all, in the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence
Thomas Jefferson virtually orders us to pursue it. Calling the Declaration “an expression of the American Mind,” Jefferson proclaimed for
future generations that the pursuit of happiness, along with life and liberty, were inalienable rights.

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Peak Experience
Summer 1996

On the eve of my fiftieth birthday, it seems oddly natural that I find myself in an old Russian helicopter rising thousands of miles over the
Himalayas with a sense of destiny fulfilled. I have traveled to Everest, the ultimate metaphoric and material challenge, to stand in her
presence in a sacred singular ceremony to mark my passage.

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Marriage As Realpolitik
Spring 1996

Elizabeth I had a proper perspective on political marriage. Having seen both her mother and her stepmother beheaded by her father, Henry VIII,
for political expediency before she was 10, she wisely decided to live and die the “Virgin Queen.”

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Heroism: Theory and Practice
Winter 1995

BY NATURE, I AM A ROMANTIC and have had warrior fantasies since my early adolescence. Surrounding myself with images of heroic battles, I enjoyed
the luxury of believing that reality came in black and white–good or evil. I was Elizabeth I on her white horse at Tilbury, rousing her troops
to fight the encroaching Spanish Armada with the words, “I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of
a king, and of a king of England, too.” I stormed the ramparts as Joan of Arc, played by Ingrid Bergman on her white horse, sword high, shouting,
“Now is the time. This is the hour.” I rode with Amazon women, hair flowing wildly behind me as I drew my bow to strike. Unlimited by gender,
I was Richard III and Henry V, defending their crowns in battle, and even a samurai warrior meditating and philosophizing his way to victory.

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Transspecies Transplants: Home-Grown Atrocities
Fall 1995

THE SYMPTOMS ARRIVED A FEW YEARS AGO. At first I experienced them as a generalized discomfort, amorphous and confused, but they got
progressively worse, escalating into a pervasive feeling of sickening dread. I searched for answers in the traditional landscapes of medicine,
neurology, psychiatry. Finding no organic source, I turned to philosophy and realized that my symptoms resembled the disease described by
Jean Paul Sartre in his novel Nausea–a state of experiential disgust brought on by despair, anguish, and the recognition of one’s unique
loneliness in the universe. My existential nausea, I came to understand, resulted from the failure of my psychological immune system to
defend against the increasingly surreal events that had been sliding under the door with the newspaper, seeping in through the wires with CNN.
My inherent optimism and ability to imbue events with meaning had been overrun by the collective reality, which was getting harder and harder
to bear.

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Abortion Providers: The New “Communists”?
Summer 1995

I KNEW THAT THINGS HAD CHANGED WHEN I WAS HANDED a button that read “I’m Pro-Choice and I shoot back” at a recent abortion-providers conference
in Washington, D.C. I also learned that a physician in Nevada had built a million-dollar clinic outfitted with strategic military defense
protection and six .357 magnums. He calls it Fort Abortion.

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Tragedy, American-Style
Spring 1995

Television described it as a “great human drama,” but in the end I found the surreal progression of the white Ford Bronco with O.J. Simpson
in the passenger seat holding a gun to his head anticlimactic. I marveled at the citizens lined up along the roadside holding handwritten
signs proclaiming “O.J. We Love You” and “Go, Juice, Go.” But I found myself longing for the natural denouement of great tragedy, the catharsis,
which, according to Aristotle, comes from a purification of the emotions of terror and pity that leads to an experience of rebirth. Unlike
that roadside post-modern Greek chorus, I yearned for what I considered appropriate closure in this situation–a confession expressing guilt
and profound remorse. In a way I wanted, indeed needed, to see O.J. Simpson blow his brains out, preferably at the gravesite of his murdered wife.

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Not Just Another Packwood Story
Winter 1994

All told 1985 was not an unusually dangerous year. There had been a rash of fire bombings at abortion clinics, a physician had been kidnapped, and my secretary was attending a course with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to teach her how to correctly open my mail so that she could avoid being blown away by a letter bomb. It was, after all, business as usual for those of us on the front lines of the abortion wars.

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High Noon in Moscow
Fall 1994

Somewhere in the course of planning my latest journey to Russia I lost my fear of flying. It left me suddenly, without fanfare or notice. I simply came
to the conclusion that fear of flying was an inappropriate phobia for a pioneer. And, so it was with great excitement and a sense of destiny that I boarded the plane for
Moscow in early June, on a mission to actualize my dream of building Russia’s first feminist medical center.

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OTI Dialogue: Congressman John Lewis and Andrea Dworkin Towards a Revolution in Values

The Congressman arrived flushed with triumph. He had just been part of the victorious vote on the law to ban assault rifles. It was an auspicious beginning, for ON THE
ISSUES publisher Merle Hoffman had invited John Lewis (D-GA) and feminist activist, author, and novelist Andrea Dworkin to talk about violence in American society and the links
between the black civil rights and feminist movements.

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Praise the lord and kill the doctor
Summer 1994

Question: What would you do if you found yourself in a room with Hitler, Mussolini, and an abortionist, and you had a gun with only two bullets?

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A Discussion with Liz Holtzman and Alice Vachss

Why haven’t candidates, especially, women candidates, made violence against women Ðand specifically rape Ð a central issue in election campaigns? And how can women’s groups formulate a political agenda to attack the problem? To find out, the editors of ON THE ISSUES invited two well known prosecutors of rape cases to discuss the issue and generate ideas on how women can move forward on this issue.

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Death takes the Stage
Spring 1994

Nothing focuses the mind like the prospect of death. Contemplating the cessation of being immediately changes priorities. Always the sleeping giant on the stage, death suddenly assumes the spotlight as the rest of reality recedes into soft focus. La Rochefoucauld said that death, like the sun, should not be stared at. But I have no desire to shield myself from its power.

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The Text behind that Cover Girl Smile
Summer 1993

In the morning that I would be posing for photographers for an upcoming profile in Lears magazine I of course dressed myself with more than my customary attention to detail.
The issue of what to wear -slacks suit or dress, basic black or color, what color, how to do the makeup, the hair, how to control the presentation of self -became a far more serious undertaking than usual.

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Sex after the fall
Spring 1993

In some ways my personal and political ties with Russia seem to have an uncanny quality -almost like destiny.

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Choices: The Road Not Taken
Fall 1992

I once attended a small social gathering which included a woman who professed great skill in analyzing people through calculating
the numbers in their names. Not one to ever really believe much in the “occult,” yet always profoundly interested in anything concerning myself, I immediately
asked her to read my numerological chart.

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First Ladies, Second Sex
Summer 1992

It was one of those defining moments: I am watching the finals of the Miss USA pageant and the tension is palpable.
Dick Clark reaches into the large glass fish bowl and chooses the question, the answer to which will decide the winner from the six semifinalists.
Miss Kentucky is up her blond hair cascading wildly down her shoulders as she faces her judges. “Would you rather be President or First Lady?” I hold
my breath is it possible? Not a moment of hesitation as the young woman flashes a brilliantly toothy smile and says, “First Lady of course. We all know how
important it is for any man, especially the President, to be kept in line, and I think that would be one of the most important jobs in the world. “Enthusiastic
applause greets her as she basks in the righteousness of her response. Miss Kansas was next. “If it were a hundred years from now and you could look back at this
century, what woman do you think made the greatest contribution and why?” Her answer, just as fast and breathless, comes effortlessly: “Barbara Bush because she
keeps George Bush in line.”

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“Thelma and Louise Live.”
Winter 1991

I never really wear the things: Political buttons, T shirts with messages, designer-labeled bags. I don’t like to advertise my politics or buying
habits by turning myself into a walking message for someone else’s consumption – except when I conduct my own special social/psychological experiments and decide to
become a political catalyst. There was the time in 1980 when I got a button that read “Impeach Ronald Reagan.” Reagan had just been elected by a landslide, Carter
left the White House in near disgrace, the hostages came home from Iran, the country was awash in an orgy of expectations, and I was wearing this “Impeach Reagan” button
the day of his inauguration.

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Isn’t It Enough to Make You Scream?
Fall 1991

I have this fantasy. It’s a variation on that wonderful scene in the movie “Network,” when the eccentric, somewhat mad character
played by Peter Finch attempts to wake the slumbering masses from their television caused stupor and into revolution. He opens his apartment window
and screams: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

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Is Being Female a Birth Defect?
Summer 1991

Growing up in Philadelphia in the 1950s was a special kind of wasteland. a time when one’s worth and acceptance as a female was measured by the width
of a hooped crinoline skirt, when “soul” kissing branded you a sexual outlaw and when little girls’ dreams had well defined limits and barriers. It was a vast wilderness
of traditional female totems -of mothers, teachers and friends encircling me and creating a suffocating loneliness that!
could not name or understand. The silence was finally broken when I found HER.

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A dialogue with Eli Wiesel
Vol. XVIII, Spring 1991

“I Am Against Fanatics”

A Dialogue Between Elie Wiesel and Merle Hoffman on Abortion, Love and the Holocaust

The first time I heard it was in Detroit in 1982. The words shot out at me like bullets, creating an immediate mental image that could not be shared.
I had just finished responding to Jerry Falwell on national television. He had asked me how I would feel “meeting my maker with the blood of thousands of
babies on my hands” when the TV host turned to the audience for comments. The woman who rose was obviously distraught, her voice shaking. She relayed her
own experience with abortion. The guilt still with her, the doctor’s coldness, how “they” would not let her see her child and then, extending her hand and
pointing an accusing finger at me, she said “You – you are nothing but a Hitler to me”.

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Living in a land of Sexual Violence
Winter 1990

I have an old friend who lives in North Miami. She’s bright, solidly middle class, married and a mother. She also carries a .38 with
blanks in the glove compartment of her car. The thing she wanted most as a birthday present was a “Police Zapper,” described in the Spy Shop International
Brochure as the new 009 Gun with 90,000 volts of electricity and a super strong halogen light that blinds attackers temporarily, offering superb protection
with additional knock down power.”

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Compassion and Consistency
Fall 1990

I have always had a problem with a style of consistency that demands seeing things in black and white holding the line for political purity.
The kind that the Catholic left preaches, a “seamless ethic of life” (argued most clearly by Joseph P. Cardinal Bernardin) which states that those who oppose
nuclear war and the death penalty (because of a belief in the sacredness of all human life and an opposition to taking it) should naturally be of like mind and
oppose abortion. Not limited to the Catholic left, this argument has been taken up by those on the catholic traditional left, particularly articulated by Village
Voice columnist Nat Hentoff who sees inconsistencies in the politics of those who espouse a woman’s right to choose along with supporting the concept of animal rights.
“Why can’t the pro-choicers see that the fetus is like a baby seal in utero?”

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Survivors
Summer 1990

I am a child of the holocaust, a survivor of sorts, a kind of surrogate sufferer. I have never smelled the burning flesh or felt the pain of my
kidneys close to bursting -my legs turned to leadened fatigue as I stood crushed against others in the trains bound for Auschwitz or Treblinka or Dachau. I have
never eaten out of the bowl I was forced to shit in, nor had my children torn out of my arms as I stood in an interminable line waiting for the selection process.
Nor have I cowered in some corner clutching what was important to me, my mouth dry with terror as I listened for the sound of the S.S. boots outside my door, wondering
if it was me they had finally come for. Nor have I felt the mounting panic of the bodies surrounding me as they struggled helplessly for air, gasping and gagging, tearing
desperately at each other as the gas slowly entered the chambers.

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Arlene Pfeiffer
Spring 1990

It was 1984, and Ronald Reagan was in the fourth year of his presidency. The country was awash in the mythology of patriotism and family values, and Arlene Pfeiffer met reality head on. It wasn’t that she was stupid or in any way naive. Perhaps she thought that in some unexplainable way she was exempt, that it could not happen to her and that, magically, it would not happen to her. After all, she was an honor student, had been one since the 10th grade and came from a good Pennsylvania family. Not her, not Arlene.

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More than a Woman’s Issue
Vol. XIII, 1989

“I love your enemies because they drive you to my arms for comfort”- Edna St. Vincent Millay – 1941

1 was very young when I read that sonnet -when those words arrested me with the power of their insight. With similar shattering clarity,
the recent Supreme Court’s decision allowing the states to restrict or regulate abortion may be viewed as having presented both the pro-choice
and women’s movements with extraordinary opportunities. We are poised at a moment in time and history that is ripe with possibilities and the
potential to truly enact positive and lasting social change.

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America’s Most Dangerous Woman?

“It was the prison that had proved the best school. A more painful, but a more vital, school. Here I had been brought close to the depths and complexities of the human soul; here
I had found ugliness and beauty, meanness and generosity. The prison had been the crucible that tested my faith. It had helped me to discover strength in my own being, the strength to stand alone, the
strength to live my life and fight for my ideals, against the whole world if need be.” Emma Goldman -Living My Life, Volume I 1931

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ABORTION – THE “ISSUE”
Vol. XII, 1989

It seemed to have happened quietly, quickly, very subtly. It was there, overshadowing everything else, demanding immediate attention.

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American Fantasies
Vol. XI, 1989

I am going to miss Ronald Reagan. Miss him in places of personal history and political passion. Miss him in a very special way because of
the unique place he holds in my life, both objectively and in comparison to other men in the public arena who have entered uninvited to mine.

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Where are the Troops?
Vol. X, 1988

“Where are your troops, Hoffman?”

The question came at me from left field. It was raining, cold and very early in the morning. I was standing behind a police barricade on East 85th Street
in New York City with 50 other pro-choice activists. We were counter demonstrating against “Operation Rescue”, the recent right wing evangelical invasion
of this country’s abortion clinics when these words came into my auditory field.

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Women’s Lives Under Padding
Volume IX, 1988

I learned about paddings accidentally many years ago. It was in a time before my consciousness was raised.

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The Greening of the World: An Exclusive Interview with Petra Kelly, Founder of the West German Green Party and Anti Nuclear Activist

MH: How did you achieve your level of political consciousness and activism?

PK: One of my mottos is that “The personal is the political, and the political is the personal.” It started rather early when I left Germany after being in a Catholic convent in Bavaria.
At age 13, I came to the United States (not speaking a word of English) and ended up in places like Georgia and Virginia. It was a very racist, terribly discriminatory environment which you either
adapted to and became very right wing, or rebelled against with social action. When I was 15 and learning English, I had my own radio program in Hampton where I debated issues like women’s rights,
democracy and human rights. When I went to the American University in Washington, I ran for foreign student representative, was in the student union and organized International Week. I was also
active in the civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam movement and was very strongly involved in debates on international relations. So my education, from there through Amsterdam the European
Economic Community the Social Democratic Party, and the Green Party were all very much linked.

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Two Faces of Motherhood
Vol. VIII, 1987

It was the pots and pans that finally activated me. I had followed the case for days in the media with a somewhat distant intellectual curiosity,
but then I read that a psychiatrist had testified that Mary Beth Whitehead was an unfit mother because she gave her child stuffed pandas to play with instead of
pots and pans. Stuffed pandas? How extraordinary that our psychiatric system regarded the image of an animal so loved and rare as a panda as subverting the normal
growth and development of a 20th century female child. The implied sexism of giving a little one year old the tools of the kitchen was certainly not lost on me
either. Another psychiatrist then testified that Mary Beth was a bad mother because she was “overmeshed” with her kids and still another testified that Mary Beth
was “narcissistic” because she dyed her hair, that in fact her hair was all white, creating a true “whitehead”. Having turned grey at the age of 24, I could
definitely empathize with the desire to change hair color to meet the societal demands of what it means to be attractive.

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The New Crusaders
Volume VII, 1987

I have always worn a lot of black, even when it was out of fashion. Perhaps it was my flair for the dramatic or tendencies towards romanticism.
Perhaps it was because black always seemed so strong, so direct, so in control … so basic. Whatever the underlying psychological reasons, black is definitely one
of my favorite colors. I am, therefore, somewhat bemused to find that my liking for things black may have inadvertently made me very fashionable, may have put me
in the appropriate mind and dress set for assuming the role of a woman in mourning. For it is mourning I should be in if I listened to and believed all the messages
of the popular culture. According to consistent media reports, it appears as if the Women’s Movement is dead”. If this is true, it would seemed to have died rather
softly. It certainly did not go out with a bang, and in fact, hardly with a whimper. Really, you didn’t hear it at all. It would appear that feminism had died the
most terrible of all deaths in America – it had gone OUT OF FASHION!

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Quiet Heroines
Vol. VI, 1986

November, 1985 did not come quietly for me. It was a month of immersion in violence and conferences. It was also a month for Quiet Heroines.

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Medical E.R.A.
Volume V, 1985

It was Mother’s Day and the son of William Schroeder was responding to repeated questions on David Brinkley’s television show
“This Week.” Specifically, how he dealt with competing press information regarding his father’s daily condition which at one point, was described
as being both much better and much worse at the same time. To this dilemma that all of us face when barraged by conflicting “expert advice.” Schroeder’s
son goes right to the source – his mother!

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LOVE AND DEATH ON 86

I am overhearing a phone conversation the tone of the speaker is intimate concerned loving parental.., long complicated words are being spelled out -R E T I N I T I S- CHEMOTHERAPY-LYMPHA D E N 0 PAT H Y- repeated again and again. The voice on the other side of the phone was BOBBY’s and he has missed his appointment “Is your lover with you now -does he know you will probably have to be going into the hospital?” The question is asked gently but firmly. The speaker is a nurse practitioner named Gary. His bright red curly hair, plaid shirt, glasses and jeans place him just about anywhere. His name tag and stethoscope around his neck -the phone at his ear -the place I am standing in- place him on ward 86 at San Francisco General Hospital -the Oncology Unit The AIDS Ward.

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FLO KENNEDY and IRENE DAVALL: Forever Activists

With Volume V, On the Issues is pleased to welcome two contributing editors: Florence Kennedy and Irene Davall, long time activists in both the civil rights and women’s movements. In 1971, they were instrumental in founding the Feminist Party, a national but informal organization still in existence, that works for women’s equality and choice by instituting legislative action and political action in behalf of candidates. The first candidate to be supported by the party was Shirley Chisholm. Flo Kennedy, an attorney, was also one of the original founders of NOW, but abandoned it soon after when she decided it was geared too much to white, middle-class women. In 1969, she gave up her law practice to ‘kick more ass” by lecturing and writing. Her book, Abortion Rap (regrettably out-of-print) was a comprehensive compilation of information on the abortion issue, including the testimonies of women who were forced to face illegal and unsafe abortions. No one can adequately describe Flo Kennedy on paper -this straight talking, clear thinking dynamo has to be experienced in the flesh for the full flavor of her earthiness and zest to be appreciated.

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A Conversation: The Rev. Beatrice Blair and Merle Hoffman

MH: Were you the first female Episcopal priest?

BB: I was in the first group. There were some before me, but when I went into the seminary, women had not yet been allowed to be ordained priests.

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ON THE ISSUES
Volume IV, 1985

In the cheaper stores, it’s much more obvious – Sometimes there’s a big sign announcing that everything on the rack is $19.95. Usually the tag is brightly colored, not difficult to see. When you move up – Bendel’s. Bergdorf’s – it’s a little more subtle – Sometimes hidden in the sleeve or under another set of labels. In these more elevated states of spending, there’s usually a broker – salesperson – someone who tells you – you must do this blouse with that skirt or that Halston does a little belt for this outfit. Without asking – the product is presented. Carried along by the necessity of appearing able to afford whatever is being brought to you – finding the price tag becomes a little more difficult.

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Abortion’s silent constituency
Volume III, SUMMER/FALL 1984

She must have been in her mid-40s. The lines and depressions in her face testified to a life that had not been easy to live, or comfortable
to live with. Her clothes – non descript.

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Abortion is the Front Line
Vol. 2, Winter/Spring 1984

There I was at the Plaza Hotel – grey gabardine suit -attache case -bussiness meeting. Around me muted conversations -one waiter joking with another
-everything reflected in the beveled 18th Century mirror- I called the office. A 16-year-old who was scheduled for an abortion had just naturally aborted in the
examining room.

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Politicized by Henry Hyde
Vol. I, Fall 1983

I remember it distinctly the point in time when I became political: it was summer, 1976, and the smells and sounds of a country morning
kept me in bed a little longer than usual… monotonic radio voices intruded. Something about Henry Hyde and abortion. Now I was all ears. Republican
Congressman Henry Hyde had succeeded in passing legislation that would effectively remove the right of abortion for Medicaid women.

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