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CCS Participants

Strange bedfellows: Hugh Hefner and the Clergy Consultation Service

Hugh Hefner has died at the age of 91. We’d like to note a connection that not many of his obituaries will mention: that the Playboy magazine empire he founded also helped a group of Chicago clergy to start a chapter of the Clergy Consultation Service on Problem Pregnancies (as it was called there) and to expand throughout the Midwest.

Hefner started the Playboy Foundation in 1965 with the goals of “fostering open communication about human sexuality, reproductive health and rights, protecting and fostering civil rights and civil liberties in the United States for all people, and protecting freedom of expression.” Those were noble liberal causes . . . but one can’t help noticing that they also served Hefner’s own interests in enterprises that sexually objectified women for the gratification of men. It was a paradox for many grant seekers, especially for those who thought of themselves as feminists.

But Playboy Foundation grants went to some very good causes. Illinois Citizens for the Medical Control of Abortion, a legal reform group started in 1966, received one. It was through that group that the founder of the Chicago CCS, Rev. E. Spencer Parsons, first met University of Chicago doctoral candidate Ronald L. Hammerle. In 1968, the Chicago CCS received a Playboy grant that allowed Parsons to hire Hammerle as a full-time administrator for the group. Nationally, the CCS had almost no direct employees; only the Chicago CCS and the national group in New York seem to have found the means to hire a full-time (though temporary) employee through a grant.

Hammerle not only organized and administered the Chicago CCS but also reached out to organize CCS chapters in other Midwestern states and to find capable doctors. He collected follow-up reports from women about their experiences with doctors.  Hammerle also kept statistics for the group and wrote his dissertation on the work of the CCS. His research provided statistics used by CCS clergy as they testified at state legislative hearings around the country. Women counseled by the Chicago clergy would never have dreamed that the referral service was partially funded by a Playboy Foundation grant.

When Hammerle’s year of full-time employment was done, Parsons and Hammerle decided not to reapply to the Playboy Foundation for funding. Hammerle moved on to work with the CCS’s New York City abortion clinic, Women’s Services, and then for Planned Parenthood in Chicago and Iowa. The CCS owed a great deal to Hammerle–and it was the Hefner business empire that had enabled the CCS to hire him.

 

Links

Coming attractions: A film about ‘Jane’

The television series “The Handmaid’s Tale” has been a hit for Hulu, and won Elisabeth Moss an Emmy award. (Full disclosure: Margaret Atwood’s compelling and frightening book did not make either of us want to relive the experience as a drama . . . but we hear that it’s great.) Now Moss has signed on to a film project about the 1960s women’s abortion collective Jane–a group that began by referring Chicago women to a safe abortion practitioner. When the women discovered that the provider was not actually a physician, they realized that they themselves could learn to perform abortions–and they did. Jane and the Chicago Clergy Consultation Service had a respectful relationship: the clergy had national contacts as well as social and legal standing as clergy; Jane could offer low-cost local abortions, while the CCS generally referred out of state. For the full story, we highly recommend Laura Kaplan’s book The Story of Jane.

CCS Participants

Remembering Howard Moody

It was five years ago now that Rev. Howard Moody died. He was a founder of the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion. He was always its spokesperson, chief motivator, trainer, defender, and conscience, and yet always modest about the role he had played. In administering the group, he and Arlene Carmen made sure that the safety and dignity of women came first.

But he was first and foremost a prophetic preacher and pastor, and the CCS was only one of the many causes he championed. Under his ministry, Judson Memorial Church was a home for progressive people of many faiths, a haven for avant garde art, and the birthplace of modern dance. He worked for civil rights, fair housing, healthcare for sex workers, and the reform of drug laws, and many other causes, and he inspired generations of ministers and activists. His New York Times obituary gives a quick overview; you can get a better sense of his vision and work from his memoir, A Voice in the Village.

Even in retirement, Moody was so busy that it was always hard to pin him down. Both of us suffer from phone phobia, and it took many phone calls to arrange our first meeting with him. But once we finally met Howard and Lorry in person, we immediately wished to be adopted into their family–and, no doubt like everyone who met them, we felt that we had been. We visited with them whenever we were in New York City, and when we met them at their home in Santa Barbara, they took us out to a wonderful brunch. Howard was generous with his time and recollections, and with us. He was compassionate, a passionate advocate on behalf of others, charming, funny, bold, inspiring, and prophetic. How lucky we were to know him.

With the Moodys in Santa Barbara
Pat Relf, Howard and Lorry Moody, D.A. Dirks in Santa Barbara, 2006

 

Links

D.A. Dirks and Dr. Willie Parker on “Faith in Choice” podcast

D.A. Dirks and Dr. Willie Parker meet again, at least on the Seminary Co-op Bookstore‘s new podcast, Open Stacks. This episode, “Faith in Choice,” combines their separate Co-op events from this summer. D.A. talks with Sandra Sullivan-Dunbar, associate professor of Christian ethics at Loyola University Chicago, about the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion. Dr. Parker, author of Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice, talks with Dr. Melissa Gilliam, a gynecologist professor at the University of Chicago, about his journey to become an abortion provider in the Deep South. At the June 22, 2017 event, D.A. was delighted to find among the audience a good friend of the late Rev. Dr. Spencer Parsons, chair of the Chicago CCS, and you’ll hear her addition to the conversation during the podcast. Click here to listen or find the Open Stacks podcast on iTunes and elsewhere.

2017-06-22 Dirks Seminary Coop Chicago
D.A. Dirks and Sandra Sullivan-Dunbar at Seminary Co-op, Chicago, June 22, 2017
Abortion Access Today, Links

‘On the Media’ on Abortion

So many gems to recommend in the August 4 episode of the NPR program “On the Media,” which devotes itself entirely to the topic of abortion . . .  Host Brooke Gladstone talks with with Harvard historian (and New Yorker writer) Jill Lepore about the 1950s and ’60s, when it was generally Republicans who favored access to contraception and abortion–and how that changed. Then Gladstone speaks with Sherri Chessen, now 85, about the obstacles she faced in 1962 when she, a “Romper Room” program host then known as Sherri Finkbine, sought an abortion after taking thalidomide during pregnancy. Chessen went public in order to warn other women of the dangers of the drug; she wound up setting of a media firestorm. Chessen speaks eloquently about her experience and its ramifications. Then the wonderful Dr. Leah Torres, a Utah OB/GYN describes with sanity and humor how she has dealt with restrictive state abortion laws, requirements that she provide patients with incorrect information, and the state legislators who made those laws. Finally, scholar Dorothy Roberts, author of Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty, gives one of the most compelling explanations we’ve heard for why reproductive justice, a term framed by women of color to encompass much more than just the legality of abortion, should replace the term  pro-choice. We touched upon all of these topics in To Offer Compassion, and Brooke Gladstone has provided depth and color commentary. Highly recommended.

Amusements

A 4-star review–with a new perspective

General_insignia_4_gold_stars

Publishers urge authors not to read the customer reviews of their books on Amazon, but we did sneak a peek at the single review posted so far. For your enjoyment, this glowing recommendation:

on May 24, 2017
Format: Hardcover
Great and affordable product. Good weight which means less pressure while cutting. Excellent ergonomic. Sharp. Cutting tomatoes and onions was a pleasant experience. I bought this product to replace a old one. OK . great, and very happy. as a gift to my colleague, it is recommend.

Agree or not, feel free to post your own review at Amazon, Goodreads, or elsewhere.

Cheers!

Links

‘Criminal’ podcast features CCS

Episode 70–titled “Procedure”–of the always fascinating podcast “Criminal” features several Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion members talking about their experience. Rev. Finley Schaef, Rabbi Harold Kudan, Rev. Barbara Gerlach, and Rev. Robert Hare are interviewed, as is scholar Gillian Frank, who is researching the CCS. You can download the podcast via iTunes or other service, or listen to it here. “Criminal” is a part of the Radiotopia network, and was created by Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer.