Leslee Unruh is the President of the Abstinence Clearinghouse and Executive Director of Vote Yes for Life, which spearheaded the efforts to ban abortion in South Dakota. She's also dabbled in crisis pregnancy centers, mobile crisis pregnancy centers and even a home where unwed mothers can live rent free. These days, while keeping her toes in the anti-abortion movement, she spends much of her time trying to convince girls not to give it up until their wedding nights. She is committed, convincing and on the opposite side of pretty much every issue as me and Amanda Robb, the author of Unruh's More magazine profile.Unruh's journey from hippie to anti-abortion activist began, she says, with her late-seventies abortion of her fourth pregnancy — an abortion that she claims her doctor encouraged for less-than-accurate medical reasons. Unruh's public story departed from the truth of the situation some time long before Robb got to her — in the course of the research, she admits that Allen Unruh was not her first husband. By her accounting, she met him in 1976 — though a she told the Washington Post they married in 1972. Actually, she married her first husband, Larry Kutzler, in 1973 (while she was, apparently, already pregnant), divorced him in 1977 and it was his child that she aborted "sometime in 1978 or 1979." She married Unruh in late 1978 and had two children with him after that. In 1984, Unruh opened a crisis pregnancy center, followed by a home for unwed mothers in 1986. In 1987, she pled "no contest" to charges that she paid young women not to have abortions and arranged adoptions without a license. But she'd apparently already decided that the best way to stop abortions was to prevent unwanted pregnancies — but not through birth control. She got into the chastity movement, which started eating from the federal trough after Bill Clinton signed into law his 1996 welfare reform bill — the first time abstinence-only education was federally funded. Like many other government programs, it's only gotten bigger. Unruh's obsessions include pedophiles, rape, molestation, pornography, disease, peer pressure to have sex and the idea that having multiple sexual partners automatically makes sex less intimate. She swears her daughter never even kissed her own husband until her wedding day. She thinks that taking birth control pills that limit menstruation is an effort to turn women into men. She also loves to hand out dolls of baby fetuses. It would be — and often is, if you Google Leslee Unruh — easy to mock her politics, her religious beliefs, her fanaticism for her causes and her looks**. But if you're an advocate for reproductive freedom, then mocking her doesn't help your goals any more than demonizing us helps her achieve hers. Leslee maintains a memorial garden for women (and men) to commemorate their abortions and doesn't go off on rants about how women who've had abortions (or premarital sex) are going to hell and — when she's not ranting about Big Pharma wanting to control our uteri, not that any Jezebel would ever hate on the pharmaceutical industry — it's why she's effective. Sometimes, when you're tired or scared or whatever, part of you wants your mom to tell you what to do. And Leslee's apparently very effective at playing Mom and telling you to have the baby. So who's the Leslee Unruh of the left? Do we even have one? Or in the midst of talking about "safe, legal and rare" to try to convince the right that we're all sort of vaguely in agreement, did we forget to talk enough to scared women about why it's okay to be scared and to have an abortion?
**Please don't body snark her here. There's enough to discuss without that.
Leslee Unruh's Facts Of Life [More]