The reports had been dribbling in from Minnesota and Utah and New York, and points in between. It appears that anyone running for any public office in America - be it Congress or the local historical commission - is being asked for an opinion on abortion.
There is a vehement group of voters who will not vote for you for dog-catcher unless you wear the red rose of "Life" in your lapel.
but the news from pittsburgh would be ridiculous if it weren't ominous. It seems that in Allegheny County you can't even get a public job.
The latest story began on Feb. 27, when Pat Miller, a 44-year-old assistant attorney general of Pennysylvania, was made the sort of offer that anybody could refuse. She was asked to consider a job as staff attorney of Allegheny County's Senior Citizens Legal Services for a salary cut of $4,000.
Now, generally in life, people hang up when they are offered harder jobs at lower wages. But Miller was already on the advisory board of the legal-aid program and was impressed with the services. It not only helped senior citizens, but also employed them as para-legals.
So on March 30, against the advice of her accountant, I'm sure, she turned down two other job offers (both of which paid more), gave her boss 30-days' notice and accepted the new job.
Well, everything was fine and dandy for 30 days. On April 28, Miller had a goodbye party at the office and ten went to attend the fifth anniversary dinner of the Women's Health Service, the largest non-profit abortion clinic in the area.
Pat is a well-known advocate of choice. Back in her former home, Colorado, she and Cynthia Kahn and an assemblyman named Dick Lamm (now Gov. Lamm) put through the first major bill reforming abortion laws back in 1967. Since moving to Pennsylvania, she had been a founder of the Women's Health Service and is now president of the board. There is no secret about her activities. They are on her resume.
That night she was on the podium, standing next to Sen. Birch Bayh (D-Ind.), and the next morning she was unemployed. Her new job mysteriously disappeared when two of the three county commissioners refused to sign her contract.
Now, needless to say, those commissioners insist that their refusal had nothing to do with Miller's opinions on abortion. One of them is Tom Foerster, a prominent leader of the anti-abortionists. The other is Jim Flaherty, wose brother Pete is the Democratic candidate for governor. I, for one, am sure that their next of kin believe wholeheartedly in their protestations.
But the rest of Pittsburgh is a touch more skeptical. The third commissioner, Bob Pierce, who signed the contract, was told that his colleagues balked because, "Well, she's not exactly a pro-lifer." The head of the legal-aid project felt compelled to resign. Even some of those who are against abortion thought that this was just too much. Father Donald M. McIlvane, for example, reminded Foerster that his action was "contrary to the Bill of Rights of the Constitution."
Miller herself has now made two decisions. One is never again to accept a job with a pay cut. The other is to file a civil-rights suit. She is convinced she is "being punished for my beliefs." She insists that her civil right to free speech and belief have both been violated.
"If I can be denied a job for my opinions, who can't be? This is dangerous. Not just for me, but for everyone. Even for the anti-abortionists."
If this is a precedent, a new stategy or whatever, it's a lulu. Logically, teachers, administrators and a whole range of public employees would be much more vulnerable to this kind of attack than was Miller.
After all, the lady was taking a job as a staff attorney for the elderly. The elderly are not exactly notorious for clogging the abortion clinics.
As Miller herself put it, "Maybe I should swear that when the first senior citizen comes to me with a problem pregnancy, I'll take a vow of silence."