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April 13, 2007

The Last Clinic Standing

Beliefs and Bullets

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Kate Looby

Photo Credit: Andrew Hetherington

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I disagree, my uncle Bart Slepian, was an OB/GYN who also performed abortions in Buffalo, NY. I used to write the rare speech he gave. In his last one, he said, "abortion is undeniably the taking of potential life. It is not pretty. It is not easy. And in a perfect world, it would not be necessary."

It's true he made a lot of money doing abortions. Though a relatively cheap surgery (between $275 and $700), abortions don't generate heavy billing costs because they're not covered by some insurance plans. Also, the procedure often takes less than five minutes; in an eight-hour day, a doctor can perform dozens of them. Still, the majority of my uncle's income came from routine gynecology and obstetrics.

On October 23, 1998, my uncle and his wife returned home from Friday-night synagogue services. They were in their kitchen, chatting with three of their four children (ages 7 to 15), when an anti-abortion activist hiding in the woods behind their house fired a rifle into the domestic scene. The bullet hit Bart in the back, shattered his spine, and tore through his aorta before exiting his body through his left armpit-barely missing his 15-year-old son's head. My aunt began CPR, and one of my cousins ran for paper towels to stanch his father's wounds. But Bart was already dead.

A few years before he was killed, my uncle opened his front door and invited the people singing "Jesus loves the little children" on his stoop inside for breakfast. He said if they would stop harassing him and his family (he particularly didn't like them following his kids to school and asking them not to grow up to be "killers like daddy"), they could set up a table inside the clinic where he worked two days a week and pass out pro-life information. He suggested that the real way to stop abortion-which he was all for; no one was more critical of repeat abortion customers than Bart-was to make birth control free and easy to get.

The minister in charge of the "Jesus Loves" choir didn't want to discuss birth control. "They're not interested in solutions," Looby, the Sioux Falls clinic director, tells me. "They only want to talk about abstinence."


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