Bill O'Reilly doesn't scare me. I have been on his show a few times and know that his bark is a lot louder than his bite. He's a bully, in that classic playground sense – he's not nice, unless you play his game. That said, however, when his producer invited me to contribute to a segment about the then impending Supreme Court cases dealing with later-term abortions, and the medical records from two abortion providers in Kansas being turned over to that state's Attorney General after a two year escapade, I was apprehensive. The stakes seemed higher – my other appearances dealt with dating on college campuses and unwed mothers – and abortion is automatically a heated conversation; having that conversation on contested territory seemed pointless. I agreed because I felt I had a few things to offer: exposing the anonymity that was inherit in one's medical records would make patients vulnerable and putting restrictions on "later-term abortions" would jeopardize a woman's health because it would deny her medical expertise otherwise available to her – selling her a lap belt rather than a shoulder strap, with proof that the latter was safer. Plus, when it comes to the disproportionately conservative media, I felt I owed it to viewers to offer them some hope of another perspective.
In the five minutes that I "conversed" with O'Reilly, we never got past what was happening in Kansas. O'Reilly's distillation: George Tiller, one of the providers, was killing babies weeks before their due date, and rapists were going un-prosecuted because of doctors sequestering their patients' records. Knowing the work of George Tiller, I maintained that he saved women's lives and was only doing what he was legally allowed to do as a medical professional. (Roe v. Wade states that a pregnancy can be terminated anytime before viability – once a fetus can live independently of its mother.) It's not my job as an "advocate" or O'Reilly's job as a spin doctor, to determine what women can or can't terminate a pregnancy, but to leave it as a choice between a woman and her physician, as the law states it should be. There are a myriad of reasons of why women turn to Tiller, most often because they are desperate and literally have no where else to go. In my opinion, some stories are undoubtedly sad and a good example of the importance of Tiller's work, for instance, a baby who won't make it full-term and a mother who doesn't want to deliver a dead baby – for her own sanity or perhaps she has small children at home and wants to protect them. Other stories are harder to rally behind, for instance, a mother who just didn't make a decision earlier. It's not my job (or O'Reilly's) to determine whose choices are legitimate, only to ensure that women who feel that they want access to Tiller's medical expertise can have it.
"The Factor had proof" that ten year old girls were being raped, going to Tiller for an abortion and he wasn't reporting the rapist. O'Reilly harangued me for not being outraged. I was curious about how O'Reilly had these records, since they weren't intended for mass consumption – but in the two seconds you have to make a point, you can't ask for footnotes. Going with what information O'Reilly forced on me, I reiterated what I know to be true – exposing someone's story isn't the way to justice and having the name of a rapist wouldn't get us very far in convicting rapists – acquaintance rape and incest are far more common than stranger rape. Having spent more than a decade running an online advice column, Ask Amy, where I have heard from hundreds of rape victims, I know that few cases actually get prosecuted because of bureaucratic laws and societal judgment, which shuns those who are raped, thus making anonymity and personal healing a more viable solution than criminal proceedings.
As I slumped into the car on the way home from the show, I had a new empathy for those folks who do this work everyday – Doctor Tiller and other providers, the staffs of Planned Parenthood and other service providers, the lawyers who go before the courts. I can certainly handle being called a baby killer, but I can't digest that someone challenges my investment in this movement. I don't gain anything from this advocacy – and frankly, as a white middle class woman it's something that I will always be able to access – but I support these procedures and this access because I know that access improves women's lives.
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Editor's note: To watch Richards on the O'Reilly Factor, click here.