Abortion foes invade NY Metro

A new attack on reproductive rights is underway, this time on New York City subways. As if the Georgia anti-choice campaign linking abortion rights to Black genocide or the Polish campaign linking abortion to Hitler weren’t enough, now we have a soft sell campaign complete with well-dressed women ostensibly traumatized by a past abortion and downcast men who  yearn to be good fathers.  Come on, folks. Is it possible that (often poor, often desperate) women choosing to have an abortion have perfectly good brains, and not many of them have the man in question offering support?

The 2,000 ads, which straphangers (are now seeing) in nearly every subway station, depict either a woman saying, “I thought life would be the way it was before,” or a man saying, “I often wonder if there was something I could have done to help her.”

Many people, certainly including this writer, will have reservations about all this.

“The campaign suggests that feelings of sadness and self-harm are the universal experiences for someone who had an abortion,” said Samantha Levine of NARAL Pro-Choice New York. “And there’s no evidence to suggest that that’s true.”

“The organization behind these ads has an agenda,” continued Levine. “They aren’t seeking to help women — they’re seeking to get abortion banned.”

But Michaelene Fredenburg, who started San Diego-based Abortion Changes You (25 years) after her own abortion, says her ads are more about helping people than politics.

“I had an abortion when I was 18,” said Fredenburg, 44. “I had a hard time … I wanted to reach out and say you’re not alone.”

Fredenburg’s agenda could be broader than Levine suggests, or narrower, depending on your degree of cynicism. She has, surprise, a book. You can purchase it on her website at a 20% discount, for $19.95. Plus “outreach materials” that include cards ($20 for 250), posters (set of three, $50.) A disclaimer at the bottom of most pages says it is “not a professional counseling site” or meant to replace such, but you are offered ‘Healing Pathways’ to follow or other readers’ stories to read.

Fredenburg was 8 when Roe v Wade paved the way for her to choose a safe, legal abortion 10 years later. Had that not been the case, she might well have joined the uncounted thousands who died at the hands of back alley butchers rather than lived to create an organization. Contributions are invited, and purportedly tax deductible, although there is no mention of 501(c)3 status. Miscellaneous retreats (and the phone number of a suicide prevention hotline) are listed under the ‘Find Help’ button. Planned Parenthood is notably not listed, although they often help, and they do not force anyone to have an abortion.

I have no reason, other than it seems a great way to sell stuff and make a few bucks, to question Fredenburg’s altruistic intentions in founding Abortion Changes You. (PS, so does an unwanted pregnancy.) But if she is not in cahoots with those who seek to eliminate a woman’s right to control her own body, she is their tool. Should they succeed, women will return to a dark age that today’s 44-year-olds cannot begin to imagine.

When Fredenburg agrees to fight for all women’s right to control their own bodies, and to have access to the safe, sterile, legal abortion she presumably chose for herself, as well as to console others who have long-afterward regrets, I’ll buy her book.

Metro – Don’t look now: You may not like the ads you see.

A novel suicide prevention plan

Every now and then an innovative idea comes along, and should be applauded. This one, for those who worry about suicide rates, might merit a standing ovation — if it works. Time and Japanese commuters will tell.

As of November, East Japan Railway Co. has put blue light-emitting diode, or LED, lights in all 29 stations on Tokyo’s central train loop, the Yamanote Line, used by 8 million passengers each day.There’s no scientific proof that the lights actually reduce suicides, and some experts are skeptical they will have any effect. But others say blue does have a calming effect on people.

“We associate the color with the sky and the sea,” Mizuki Takahashi, a therapist at the Japan Institute of Color Psychology, a private research center. “It has a calming effect on agitated people, or people obsessed with one particular thing, which in this case is committing suicide.”

What a lovely thought: a moment of calm could save a life. Since long before Anna Karenina flung her life away in Tolstoy’s memorable tale, trains have served as lethal weapons for the desperate and the depressed. Obviously, the blue-light theory wouldn’t work where tracks are in the open  — as with a recent spate of young people in Northern California who tragically ended their lives this way. But passengers on the New York Metro and other subway systems could surely use a moment of calm, whether feeling suicidal or not. In Japan, economic woes added to the usual stress factors have brought rising suicide rates, and the need for response has taken on a special urgency.  Nearly 2,000 Japanese committed suicide by jumping in front of trains last year alone. Conductors, reports Shino Yuasa of the Associated Press, “describe them over the public address system as ‘human accidents’.”

East Japan Railway has spent about $165,000 for the special lights at all the Yamanote stations. The lights, which are brighter than standard fluorescent bulbs, bathe the platform below in an eerie blue light. They hang at the end of each platform, a spot where people are most likely to throw themselves in front of a speeding train. Shinji Hira, a psychology professor specializing in criminal psychology at Fukuyama University in Hiroshima, speculated that blue lights could make people pause and reflect.But he said that if railways want to go further to ensure safety, they should set up fences on platforms, as several Tokyo subway stations have. The barriers have sliding doors that allow passengers access to the trains.

For those of us who grew up in American small towns with Railroad Avenue as the traditional main street, trains hold a special place in the heart. May the blue light plan help get them out of the lethal weapon category soon.

Japan tries to limit suicides on train tracks.