An Nea Grant has been awarded to an “artist” in Utah to erect a monument to the myth of a pre-Roe v. Wade “back-alley” abortion holocaust. Darin Biniaz, a 26 year old who has discovered that “art” is more profitable and less demanding than actual work, has received $2,000 to create a “sculpture” called “No Choice (No Freedom).” The work will consist of a rust-red 40-foot I beam and a sealed box containing the names of 100 American women who supposedly died as a result of illegal abortions between 1932 and 1989. The “sculpture” will blemish a tract of public land leased to Biniaz by the Bureau of Land Management. Previous works by Biniaz have also dealt with political subjects. Last year he filled a Plexiglas cube with air from Deer Valley and dangled it over a Salt Lake City intersection; a sign informed the public that “The Clean Air Is in the Box.” In April he presented a work entitled “No Home for the Brave” about homeless children. These pieces persuaded NEA jurors to fund the pro-abortion sculpture.
According to Galen McKibben of Montana’s Helena Presents (which co-administered Biniaz’s grant), the abortion sculpture was found “at the very top” of 160 applications. Juror Casey Jarman of the Salt Lake Arts Council explained that Biniaz’s proposal “came at a time when the panel felt it made a strong statement and was worthy of funding.” The decision to fund the sculpture came shortly after the Utah legislature, acting with overwhelming support from the state’s electorate, passed a restrictive abortion law. The panel decided to subsidize the pro-abortion side of the Utah argument: in principle, anti-abortion Utahns were being taxed to fund a shrine to pro-abortion mythology—a situation of the sort Jefferson defined as the very essence of tyranny.
The names placed in the monument were provided by Susanne Millsaps, who is executive director of Utah’s branch of the National Abortion Rights Action League. According to legend, hundreds of thousands of women died at the hands of “back-alley butchers” before the 1973 Roe decision. (For this reason it is significant that some of the names on the handwritten list provided by Millsaps were those of women who obtained abortions after 1973; legalization did not make abortion any safer.) Abortion advocates have borrowed heavily from the language and imagery of holocaust survivors. Signs declaring “Never Again!” are prominent at abortion rights rallies; Utah ACLU director Michelle Parish insists that permitting the state to restrict abortion “would be like allowing Nazi death camps.” Through the NEA the federal government has placed its imprimatur upon the pro-abortion legend: the monument will offer tangible testimony of the “truth” of the myth.
Unlike the actual holocaust, the “backalley holocaust” resides in the realm of historical apocrypha. Marian Faux, author of several books about the abortion debate, observes that “When I began to look into [illegal] abortion, several prochoice reformers suggested that illegal abortion was not as dangerous as it had been depicted during the reform movement. Admittedly, an image of tens of thousands of women being maimed or killed each year by illegal abortion was so persuasive a piece of propaganda that the movement could be forgiven for its failure to double-check the facts.” In fact, according to Faux, “women [were] probably better off in the hands of competent but ‘illegal’ abortionists who did hundreds of the minor surgeries every week than with the family doctor who did one abortion a year.”
Writing in the Progressive, Linda Rocawich strives to make vivid the “reality” of “back-alley abortions” for those “women and men who are too young to remember what we women did before January 22, 1973.” She offers testimonies taken from a handful of women who obtained illegal abortions before Roe, but insists that “each individual included here stands in for the thousands of others like her.” The stories shared by Rocawich actually continue the work of debunking the pro-abortion mythology. With the exception of one terrifying story of a woman who beat herself into a miscarriage, the vignettes offered by Rocawich are not particularly unpleasant. “Carol” obtained an abortion in 1966 at the hands of a Cuban physician; the procedure was performed in a “child’s room, just like every little girl always wanted. Pretty white bedspread, frilly curtain, stuffed animals. And it was clean. Really clean.” The procedure was competently performed: “There were no complications, a little cramping is all.” In spite of all this, Rocawich insists that “Carol’s safe, illegal abortion was still a horrifying experience.” “Deborah” obtained an abortion in 1967 from “a trained physician” with a legitimate practice in a city in the Midwest. “Deborah” says that her abortion “was not painful . . . I don’t remember pain.” “Barbara” had an abortion in Philadelphia in the 1960’s. “Barbara’s” abortion had to be certified a “therapeutic” procedure by a psychiatrist. “I had to break down and cry. Say my life will be ruined,” recalled “Barbara.” In short order she admitted that she had “embellished” her story, “but not by much.” (Her embellishments are indeed trivial when compared with the mendacities routinely wrought by the abortion-rights movement.)
Rocawich’s roster of victims includes Kathryn Marshall, a woman who was raped in Dallas in 1971. Marshall didn’t become pregnant, but we are asked to consider her a victim because abortions were illegal in 1971 and she insists that she would have gotten an illegal abortion. “Ginnie,” a young woman who went to Canada to receive an abortion, is also mentioned by Rocawich. In all, her parade of horrors includes one woman who forced herself to miscarry, four women who received safe, clean, illegal abortions, and one woman who never became pregnant. If these stories are representative of “thousands” of others, where are all the victims?
Elements of the pro-abortion movement are laboring to create victims. “Menstrual extraction,” a technique of early self-abortion described by writer Charlotte Allen as “a fad of the early 1970’s bra-burning days,” is being taught once again. Part of the “back-alley holocaust” legend has it that many women died after being driven to self-abort. But Salt Lake City gynecologist (and abortionist) Grant Bagley maintains that “menstrual extraction, as it is being taught by women’s groups, is as safe as a legal abortion performed at the same stage of pregnancy.” If this is true, another element of the “back-alley holocaust” myth is exposed as a fabrication. If it is untrue, Bagley and the feminists who are instructing women in self-abortion techniques are culpably indifferent with regard to the health and safety of women.
The efforts of Bagley and his ideological kindred may indeed produce a stream of victims, and the NEA will sustain the efforts of “artists” like Biniaz to canonize such victims as martyrs in the struggle against the “patriarchy.” Surely the same First Amendment that is regularly tortured into forbidding the public display of Judeo-Christian symbols should prohibit the public subsidy of pro-abortion mythology.