Missing a clue in coroner's trial
Perhaps John McIntire would like to revisit his clueless defense of Cyril Wecht ["Buchanan Goes Gonzo," Oct. 31] given the recent rulings by U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab, who forbade Wecht from claiming during his trial that the charges against him were politically motivated. Or does McIntire think the judge is part of the Republican conspiracy against Wecht? While U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan's prosecution of Tommy Chong was ludicrous, Mr. McIntire demonstrated his total ignorance of the former Allegheny County coroner's history of allegedly using county facilities for personal gain. Where was Mr. McIntire 27 years ago, when Cyril Wecht was accused of basically the same charges and ended up reimbursing the county $200,000 to settle the civil case against him?
If Mr. McIntire was not in Pittsburgh at that time, shouldn't someone on the City Paper editorial staff have clued him in before printing his "grasping at straws" defense of Allegheny County's notorious bombastic, notoriety-seeking former coroner?
-- Gerald Schiller, Penn Hills
Editor's note: In fairness to Dr. Wecht, and in an effort to prevent us from getting a blistering letter we'll need a thesaurus to understand, all but one of the criminal charges filed against Wecht were eventually dropped. He was acquitted of the lone remaining charge in 1981. A civil case resulted in a $172,000 judgment against Wecht two years later; he appealed, but a decade letter settled the case without admitting wrongdoing.
CP makes bad choices
The Nov. 28 issue of City Paper featured two front-page articles that discussed abortion in a rather grim and despairing way [the main feature "Pregnant Questions" and a film review of the documentary Lake of Fire] and split abortion decisions -- and the many women who put great consideration into making them -- into sensationalized camps of "pro-life" and "pro-choice." While this is not out of step with common representation of stark "red state/blue state" separations of people, it is not an accurate depiction of the wide spectrum of experiences that include many different reproductive choices.
This distracts us from recognizing that the same woman who is judged for having a child at one point in her life (because she is poor, or young, or carrying a fetus known to have a birth defect, or herself has a disability, etc.), may be judged for having an abortion at another point, and then will probably be judged for her parenting choices at another point. I wish the articles offered support of women making all decisions, and included women with disabilities themselves about institutional barriers they face in being able to choose to have children.
I was disappointed that City Paper chose for the issue's cover a large still shot from the documentary Lake of Fire of an anti-abortion protester dressed as the Grim Reaper, accompanied by the dismal headline "Reaping What We Sow." Was that guilt-trip of a message appropriate standing alone on the cover? Clearly, there was not consideration of what women who are coping with abortion decisions -- whether they are considering having an abortion presently or have had one and are dealing with difficult emotions -- may sense.
Both articles seem to lament that there is stigma attached to reproductive choices, namely choosing to test for fetal abnormalities, choosing to have children who may have disabilities, and choosing to terminate a pregnancy. Yet, both articles only reinforce societal judgment of people and their reproductive choices. The goal should not be to further herd us into opposite sides of debate. The goal should be for communities to have access to real choices -- to be able to have pregnancies and births that nurture women's confidence, accessible and supported (emotionally, spiritually and physically) abortion, and community encouragement in parenting. That is what we call "Reproductive Justice" (www.myspace.com/newvoicespgh; www.sistersong.net).
Reproductive Justice offers a holistic analysis of each experience, breaking the mold of controversial binaries. It does not force women to split their identity for the convenience of political labels, rather it fosters a sense of intersectional life circumstances of race, class, sexuality, religion, etc. Women of color, young women and women with disabilities are left out of reproductive-rights dialogues -- as with these articles. As women of color, we are inspired that women of color before us dedicated their lives to social justice. We honor our own experiences, and through them we know what is best for us; we have our own tools to cope and to thrive.
We hope that Pittsburgh offers a more inclusive perspective on women's health, as we continue to build networks, develop leaders and elevate the voices of marginalized women of color.
-- Andrea DeChellis
The writer is a member of the East Liberty-based New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice