Mary Ann Sorrentino's 2 Cents Worth

Opinions, Observations and Musings

Mary Ann Sorrentino

Mary Ann Sorrentino
RI or FL depending on season, USA
June 19
Mary Ann is a columnist for the Keene (NH) Sentinel, the Providence Phoenix and other newspapers and has appeared on She was an Associated Press Award-winning radio talk host for 13 years and the Executive Director of Planned Parenthood of RI 1977-1987. Her most recent book, ABORTION - The A Word (Gadd Books) is available on line and in major bookstores.


Editor’s Pick
MAY 27, 2010 10:39AM

Memorial Day 2010: Heroes from Another War

Rate: 17 Flag

never flag  -- a  web site devoted entirely to Memorial Day  -- defines it  as, "Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service."


If we differ on the definition of "our nation's service," so be it. But Memorial Day should be a time to remember not only dead members of the armed forces, but also dead members of other forces that also died in "our nation's service."


Dr. George Tiller died exactly one year ago this Memorial Day week-end. On May 31, 2009, Dr. Tiller was shot by Scott Roeder, a self-styled "pro-life" person who sees nothing wrong with gunning down the abortion-provider during a religious service at Tiller's Lutheran church.  


Shannon Elizabeth Lowney, then 25 and Lee Ann Nichols, then 38, both staff members at Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts were senselessly and fatally gunned down at their desks by John Salvi on December 31, 1994.  In 1998 Dr. Barnett Slepian was shot to death at his home in Amherst, New York and  Robert Sanderson, an off-duty police officer who worked as a security guard at an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, was killed when his workplace was bombed.


Tiller, Lowney, Nichols, Slepian and Sanderson are heroes of the war America sees but is reluctant to recognize. It is a war that has been raging since January 22, 1973 when Roe v. Wade became the law of the land.


Few Americans realize that when Roe was finally passed it did not "legalize" abortion,  which was already available in more than half the states.  What Roe did was give all women in the US the same access to safe and legal abortions whatever state they called home.


National Abortion Federation statistics show that between 1989 and 2004, 179 incidents if bombings, attempted bombings and arson occurred at abortion facilities across America.


Between 1991 and 2004, when NAF started tracking these statistics, 24 people were murdered - Dr. Tiller's assassination brings that number to 25.


Then there were the nearly 3500 incidents of invasion, assault and battery, stalking, death threats, burglary and vandalism. There were also nearly 500 blockades at clinics and the tens of thousands of picketing demonstrations to be counted, complete with full-color blown-up photographs of fetuses, and hateful epithets hurled at clinic staff and-- worse-- at patients.


All this allegedly occurs in the name of "life."


Most women and men born after 1960 have no recollection of a time when abortion was legally unavailable. They do not recall a time when a woman facing an unintended and unwanted pregnancy had only the options to have the child and keep it, give it up for adoption, or risk an illegal abortion with all the medical risks that illegal procedure entailed. They did not attend the funerals of sisters, mothers, friends, wives and other women we loved for whom no one could stop the hemorrhaging or cure the sepsis an illegal or self-induced abortion created.


We take legal abortion, now available but ever shrinking in scope, for granted, much as we see other freedoms as written in stone. We assume a perpetual right to free expression, an endless right to travel freely, an untouchable right to a jury of our peers, as well as a secure right to privately make our own reproductive choices. I know the last right listed here is in serious jeopardy today: the others are at least at high risk.


This Memorial Day, speeches will be made about the men and women who died in Europe, in Korea, in Vietnam and in the Middle East. Wreaths and flags will be placed on their graves. Speakers will say that these soldiers died to protect our freedoms: they will especially recall the recently killed in the two wars still raging, in Iraq and Afghanistan.


We need to  recall a third war still raging and a right that was also fought for as women's most basic freedom to control their own fertility is sacrificed at the altar of political maneuvering for health care legislation and will likely be sacrificed further by desperate incumbents come mid-term elections.


We should remember the heroes of that ongoing war for reproductive choices, as well as the millions of women who died before them, from the bleeding, self-mutilation and/or infections, before America declared that such slaughter of grown human beings-- often mothers to other children-- had to stop.


These heroes and their cause may never be wrapped in the flag, but neither should they be suffocated by it.


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The words terrorism and terrorist are thrown around quite a bit these days. I believe they apply to the murders and bombers you describe. They are the home grown variety, but terrorist none the less. R.
Interesting post. R.
If the protesters are so pro life why do these murders happen?
I will never understand their pretzel logic.
Because of the unholy alliance between our "christian" fundamentalists and the Neocons who have taken over the Republican party a woman's freedom to have dominion over her own body is under attack. Here in the "land of the free"?!
Interesting take on Memorial Day.

I too have thought of these alleged “pro-lifers” as terrorists too Why they kill in the name of life, I’ll never understand.

How true that this choice is one so many young women take too much for granted. I try to emphasize it, and so much else about the Bad Old Days, whenever I talk w/young women—not that they ever listen to me.
My aunt is my "other mother" and we recognize our (genetic?) thread of belief in women's liberation. She worked for the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and even wrote a legal book on Sex and the Law. She was my hero and mentor, teaching me early (where my parents had not) that my body gets to be mine.
I cringe when people say "abortion should not be used as birth control"because that is what it is. I think the best reason (for any reason) for having an abortion is "I do not want to have a child". I am so grateful for all the health care providers and activists who made these choices possible, and sad that so many have been forced to work behind bullet proof glass or go out of business altogether. We are entering a new era of "inaccessible and barely legal".
As someone who wholeheartedly supports choice and reproductive rights, this post really made me think. I really wanted to agree with your idea, but I simply can't get past this strange anger that its provoked in me. I want to acknowledge the sacrifice that so many men and women have faced to protect my right to choose. I would gladly support and participate in those efforts. But I can't support anything that would draw attention away from or diminish the importance of the single day when our country's rightful focus and memorial is to those in our armed services who have been lost. This is their sacred day and they deserve our full attention and respect.

My father served in Vietnam. My grandfather served in the infantry during World War II. Another grandfather was in the military but was luckily never called into deployment. They all have seen the worst that mankind has to offer and have forever been altered by what they experienced. Their friends and colleagues are buried in cemetaries across this country, Europe, and Asia. I consider myself blessed that all three made it home alive, since that wasn't the case for so many other families.

My father visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial for the first time on Memorial Day. I think it was the 25th anniversary of the memorial. He thought he had dealt with his feelings about his experience in Vietnam, but seeing the names of his dead friends - and the flood of memories that brought - was more than he could handle. The quintessential tough guy broke down in tears, along with many other men and women at the memorial that day. My grandfather to this day refuses to speak about what he saw and experienced in Europe. He did tell me about the exact moment he knew he was heading overseas - when he realized that his train was heading in the wrong direction - and the awful recognition that he and his friends were simply cannonfodder at a time when the Army needed more bodies.

So at a time when Memorial Day is already threatened by those who see it as just another three-day weekend, or the official start to summer, I guess your post just triggered a protective instinct in me. I never served myself, so its my responsibility as a citizen to uphold that holiday as sacred on behalf of my father, grandfathers, and all those who were hurt or lost fighting for my freedoms and opportunities.

This isn't to say that we shouldn't celebrate and honor the sacrifices made by Dr. Tiller and countless other individuals in the name of choice and individual rights. Their efforts and bravery are equally deserving of the honor we bestow on our fallen veterans. Let's just pick another day and give everyone their due.
Forgot to mention - rated for making me think and for compelling such a strong emotional response for me!
Reader not writer, I'm not arguing with your post, but isn't Veteran's day the holiday we have to celebrate those who have served in our armed forces? Honestly I identify Veteran's day more with all those who served in the armed me Memorial Day is more of a day to remember all of those folks who gave up their lives for a democratic ideal (our Revolutionary forefathers for example) which I think also includes those killed by domestic terrorists. Obiously just my opinion! :)

And good call on a 'makes you think' post.
Yes, Veteran's Day is to honor all who have served. But Memorial Day (Decoration Day) is specifically to honor those who have died in American wars. My father and grandfathers are the ones who have helped me to understand the gravity and importance of that day.

"In 1966, the federal government, under the direction of President Lyndon Johnson, declared Waterloo, N.Y., the official birthplace of Memorial Day. They chose Waterloo—which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866—because the town had made Memorial Day an annual, community-wide event during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

By the late 1800s, many communities across the country had begun to celebrate Memorial Day and, after World War I, observances also began to honor those who had died in all of America's wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May. (Veterans Day, a day set aside to honor all veterans, living and dead, is celebrated each year on November 11.)

Today, Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. Also, it is customary for the president or vice-president to give a speech honoring the contributions of the dead and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. About 5,000 people attend the ceremony annually."
Keith - you have nice a nice way of getting right to the core of the this comment!

Shiela and Poppi - I'm honored to have your rates- Thanks

coachcatain and elsmao3 - Welcome to my page and thanks for the thoughtful reads and comments.

Oryoki THAT's where you got all those good genes!

Reader not Writer...I refer you to the opening sentence of this piece and the first sentence of the second paragraph...If anyone would like to give us our own holiday to remember these Choice Heroes, we'll take it...but that's not likely. So I am choosing to remember their "service to the nation" this weekend. You are very generous to give me the Rate despite your disagreement....and generosity of that sort is something OS could use more of...Thank you for setting such a lovely tone for debate.

Sophie- Thanks for making the point
I think part of my struggle relates to a larger theme that I've personally experienced lately. I know there are a lot of people that question the passion and dedication of the "younger generation" to their cause, but I'm always left to wonder which of my causes I'm expected to drop or neglect! Being "green" and supporting environmental protection causes, women's reproductive rights, LGBT rights, racism, domestic and international disaster relief, autism, breast cancer, veteran's mental and physical welfare, HIV/AIDS, animal welfare, microfinance in third-world countries, gender apartheid, the glass ceiling, local and community charities, social justice, political activism...awareness and information has made it very difficult to focus!
Oh Mary Ann....wonderful post. Absolutely perfect. We take so much for granted and sometimes never seem satisfied. I am just as sick as you of politicians using this issue, this woman's issue as a political platform. It should be off the table forever. Can I send this out to my friends? I really want them all the read it.
And Reader Not Writer, I think you need to change your name. You most definately are a writer...
The question is when life begins. Anti-abortionists believe it begins before birth.
I became a doctor before abortion became legal. I have seen dying young women dropped off at the emergency department after having back alley abortions. In some cases they would have died without the abortion from suicide. We should never again place women in the position of having to make that choice.
The twisted logic of individuals who kill in the name of preserving life escapes me.
Leslie- thanks for the kind words and YES! Please send it to as many people as you like!

marbles...And when does the woman's life begin? Are you willing to sentence her to possible death? We KNOW she's a living, breathing, human adult...with a birth certificate, driver's license, voter registration, passport...the works. Is she disposable? In any case, whatever you believe, you cannot condone the murder of clinic staff, can you?

Rodney, welcome to my page and thank you for your wisdom.
Excellent 'take' on an important day.
It's easy to honor those who make the ultimate sacrifice against "the other".
It's much harded to stand up and appreciate the struggle to defend our fundamental rights and privileges when they are assaulted by foes closer to home and hearth.
Wherever you stand on the issue the violence perpetrated in this argument is wrong. Call it terrorism, criminal, insanity, but more simply it is, wrong.
I do not condone the murder of clinic staff.
Thank you for your thoughtful post. Dr. Tiller's murder made me speed up some conversations with my teen Dots; and it's made them more aware of their rights, rights that, as young people, they take for granted. We've been wearing the purple Trust Women bracelets since last summer, so we won't forget.

Here's a revelatory site memorializing Dr. Tiller's death:

And I've got to hope someday we can all be free and equal. I know, I'm a dreamer.
tvornotv - Thanks for the support

marbles...that's a GOOD thing.

Connie Mack- RE, "...I know I'm a dreamer..."
as John Lennon said, "..But [you're] not the only one..."

Keep on keepin' on!
As I read your latest piece, I couldn't help but keep in mind a story I read in The New York Times this weekend about child brides in Afghanistan -- and how even in our country, the right for women to control their own bodies is an ongoing battle. You've written another great article.
Thank you for reminding those of us born after 1960 that there are very real and deadly consequences when a woman's choice is not hers to make! R
I'll start off by saying that I'm a veteran and also pro life, anti abortion, or anti choice, whatever term is appropriate. When a person chooses to be pro life, the "pro" should apply across the board. What happens is that those who would commit violence against abortion providers or clinics, believe that they are acting on behalf of the unborn children. In their mind, a person performing an abortion is no different than a child murderer, ending the life of the most defenseless. They justify that by taking out one abortion provider, they will spare the lives of multiple children.
Being pro life means no abortion, no death penalty, no pulling feeding tubes, and no taking of life by judging another too evil to live. Hypocrisy is being anti abortion and pro death penalty, picking and choosing our morals as if they are on a smorgasbord. There will never be reconciliation between the two sides, both being firm in their beliefs. The law (Roe v. Wade) means nothing to the pro life folks, it being a creation of man. You'll see me as a person of diminished intelligence, a man who has no say anyway, a religious zealot, a nutjob. I'm of the family of man and what affects some of us, affects all of us. I'm a father and a grandfather and I love children and the thought of a life not brought into their own person-hood, grieves my heart. I also serve a God who is love and try as I might, I can find no love in this act, with love being selfless.
Please leave Memorial Day for our war dead. Over one million, two hundred and thirty four thousand lives lost so we might have this conversation. They deserve a day of their own.
Mary Ann Sorrentino,
This is the first article, [you have written] I have read. It will not be the last. I agree this past holiday should be an Honor Day for our military fallen. I also don't believe there will ever be a day for the martyrs for this important cause . I do thank you for reminding us. This is an important issue.
We will some day see the Old Times return I fear. I read and sign petitions all I can to keep this freedom for the future women. I tell all the pro-life women and girls that bring it up to me I believe in their choice to have their babies. I would also tell them I believe in their choice not to have a baby. I have to ask also if they believe in the death penalty. Almost all said yes. Now the pro-choicers have almost always said no to the question.
I also think we should be able to remember all the other issues that are going on in this country and add a voice to them also.
I heard Keith Olberman once tell of a truely religious man say curse words are not what is meant to use the Lords name in vain. I found this important. It is the hypocrisy of some one doing a wrong in Gods name. Like planning and [while in prayer for Gods help] killing these people. I'll remember these words always.