David Gunn, Jr.: "I use the truth as my guiding principle and strategy..."

September 1, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Revcom.us wants to share with its readers a variety of voices that are making important contributions in the struggle for abortion rights. The authors have given permission to revcom.us to reprint their posts.

David Gunn, Jr. is the son of David Gunn, Sr., the first abortion doctor to be assassinated by an anti-abortion gunman. He blogs for Abortion.ws and is a signer of the statement Abortion on Demand & Without Apology and an organizer of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride.


I was recently asked the following question by a friend and fellow activist. I shared my answer to the question with Sunsara Taylor who asked that we make it available to a broader audience...

  • David—What strategy do you use to develop effective messaging? And what do you consider to be an effective message, depending on the strategy?

My response:

In simplest terms, I use the truth as my guiding principle and strategy. If our goal, and I think it is, is to protect and provide safe abortion services to women nationwide when their particular causes and conditions necessitate the service, I do not think talking openly and honestly about a perfectly legal medical procedure which has been practiced for years with little risk to the patient in a manner that is clear and concise is at all radical or fanatical as some would cast it.

David Gunn Jr, son of the first of eight abortion providers who have been murdered by anti-abortion assassins, speaks at the August 17 rally to defend the Jackson Women's Health Organization clinic. Photo: Special to Revolution

"Abortion on Demand and Without Apology" is empowering, clearly states what it is you support, and does not connote shame in any way.

Some consider the slogan radical. Some say it is too confrontational. I ask, how is it radical to state what you believe, and, also, why is it controversial or confrontational to support a perfectly legal medical decision which a woman makes after consulting with herself first, her higher power—if she believes in one, her doctor, and her partner? There may be another slogan which accomplishes the same truth, but it seems to me too many on our side are scared to say abortion as if it is Lord Voldemort or Sauron, or Satan, or some other metaphysical mythological cursed deity.

On the other hand, I do not support, and have never supported, the slogan "safe, legal, and rare" because it implies, somehow, abortions are not safe, are something to be ashamed about having undergone, and are questionably legal in some offhand way. The question becomes, on whose terms do we decide rarity in that context—the anti-abortionists', the patients', the government's; there are too many variables. I also abhor NARAL having changed its name from National Abortion Rights Action League to simply "Pro-Choice NARAL" as if that is to say they are for choice but not abortion. When you say you are pro-choice it means you support abortion, period, correct?

Even if one is personally against abortion or would not elect that option, if you are pro-choice you support a woman's right to choose abortion which means you support abortion. It does not mean you go out and recruit people to have abortions, it does not mean you are some sort of monster, it simply means you support a woman's constitutionally protected right to have an abortion—regardless of whether or not you would have one yourself.

The point is, we support abortion as a medical procedure. so why hide it in some semantical gymnastic handspring by equating Choice with Abortion but using the former to camouflage the latter! Where we have gone wrong, in my opinion, is playing some semantical hide the nutshell game where we talk all around what it is we support but are too ashamed, embarrassed, or afraid to plainly state "I support abortion rights without restriction." Why we continue to debate this issue on the antis' terms is beyond me and is offensive. We allow them to own "life" while we adopt the shame they try to instill about a legal medical procedure we all support. If we are ashamed to use the word abortion, how does that make patients, providers, and clinic staff feel? Do they feel empowered and proud of the valuable work they do? Or are they deep down shamed by having to dance around what it is they do? If we spoke openly, honestly, and consistently—and that is important—about our unequivocal support for abortion, would that attitude change? Would it result in less guilt? If we are ashamed to honestly state what we believe in, how do we ever expect to build a truly national movement to counter theirs?

I know each locality has its own quirks and nuances. Yet, we have to start viewing this from the prism of combating a national coordinated attack on women by a bunch of fucking terrorists—excuse me, but I'm pretty passionate on that point—who do kill people and shed real blood.

As I've written on another post, I consistently ask myself WWDD (what would dad do?). His example is my answer: he confronted the antis at one of the clinics where he worked on 1/22/93—or about two months before he was assassinated—and sang "Happy Birthday to You Roe v. Wade." He then played them Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down." He was unapologetic about what he did, was proud of the service he provided, and courageous for his actions in the face of the wanted posters carrying his name and schedule posted all over the Southeast, the constant stalking, and daily protests at his workplaces (dad worked in six clinics in three states and hit each one weekly living in a suitcase). He was honest about the job he did, was unashamed of the service he provided, and was absolutely dedicated to providing abortions to women who needed them when they needed them and under the circumstances in which they needed them. I believe Dr. Tiller shared that passion and drive and it is why he carried on after Shelley Shannon attempted to kill him in 1994 (or so if memory serves).

Don't we owe it to the fallen in this war to be honest about what we are fighting for? I did not mean to get all lengthy on you, but I hope I answered your question. I feel I did and did so honestly. I Support Abortion Services! Perhaps that's better sloganeering than Abortion on Demand and Without Apology; yet, if you elect to have the procedure due to your individual causes and conditions and your doctor feels it is correct, what is there to be ashamed of but someone else's twisted morality we internalize? Aren't they (antis), then, the ones to be ashamed for woman shaming and verbal abuse? In actuality, they cause more feelings of guilt than the procedure especially if the patient is religious. In the end, they are the only ones with innocent blood on their hands, hate in their heart, and misogyny in their minds.

The last 20 years illustrate a need to honestly and vociferously call out their demeaning agenda, and we should proudly state our support for abortion en masse and often. Nothing fanatical there... again, sorry for the book. It's time, though, to fight back and do so publicly in large numbers because we outnumber them 3:1. Love, to you my friend. Hope my 3:30 ramblings are sensible and coherent.

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