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April 17, 2000


Communications Department

Oscar Winner John Irving Awarded Honorary Membership from the National Abortion Federation

Pittsburgh, PA - The award-winning author and Oscar winner John Irving received an Honorary Membership today from the National Abortion Federation, in recognition of his longstanding commitment to safe, legal abortion for women and the sensitive portrayal of abortion in The Cider House Rules. "One of our goals at NAF is to humanize both the women who choose abortion and the dedicated health care professionals who provide them with this care," said Vicki Saporta, Executive Director of the National Abortion Federation (NAF). "Through his work and his advocacy on behalf of a woman's right to choose, John Irving has contributed to this mission."

Saporta continued, "The Cider House Rules has had a tremendous impact on millions of people around the world, including the men and women who have dedicated their lives to providing safe abortion care to women. In order to open people's minds you must touch their hearts, and John Irving has a rare gift for accomplishing both."

"John Irving has been able to impact countless people around the world who may not have thought about abortion in a meaningful way until they came in contact with this story. For some of them, The Cider House Rules may be the first exposure that they have had to the consequences of unintended pregnancy for women and for society. It is rare for a movie or novel to accurately portray abortion, and we are grateful to John Irving for devoting his time and talent to bringing us such a compassionate and compelling story," said Saporta.

"Over the years, our members have told us of the profound effect The Cider House Rules has had on them and on the women they've cared for. Some of our members have kept copies of the book in their waiting rooms for their patients to read. Others, like Dr. Fred Hopkins, have been inspired to become abortion providers largely through reading the book. Still others, like Dr. William Harrison, have practiced medicine before Roe v. Wade and can still recall the devastating effects of illegal, unsafe abortion."

Dr. Fred Hopkins, an abortion provider in San Diego, told Irving of his experience in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer, where he watched a woman die after a clandestine abortion. "It was the look on the faces of her children the next morning that made me understand what 'being of use' meant. I left Africa determined to become a doctor." Hopkins attended medical school at Harvard University, where he learned to deliver babies on the labor and delivery floor named after Irving's grandfather, Dr. Frederick C. Irving.

"I learned to think like a doctor in Boston, but I was told on more than one occasion that you don't go to Harvard Medical School to become an abortion doctor," said Hopkins. "I really felt lost. I knew what it meant to think like a doctor, but I didn't know what it meant to feel like a doctor: that is until I discovered The Cider House Rules; until I discovered Dr. Larch. Through your work, Dr. Larch and Dr. Irving have touched me in ways that I don't have words to express. But I do have the words of women I have cared for. Through them, I thank you for giving me the courage to 'be of use'."

Dr. William Harrison, an abortion provider for almost 30 years in Fayetteville, Arkansas, also shared with Irving his reasons for providing safe abortion care to women. In 1967, during his ob/gyn rotation, Harrison was assigned to a middle-aged woman who appeared to have a large intra-abdominal tumor. "She was single, desperately poor, malnourished, hopeless, defeated by life and dead tired from her daily struggles to feed and clothe her children. A quick history and examination confirmed that her 'tumor' was a far advanced pregnancy. 'Oh God, doctor,' she whispered quietly as she stared at me. 'I was hoping it was cancer.' This was my first exposure to the level of desperation that can occur in some pregnancies, and this experience opened my eyes to the thousands that followed during my last years of medical school and residency in ob/gyn," said Harrison.

Pittsburgh resident and expert on early medical abortion Dr. Mitch Creinin said, "Providing abortions, just like any part of medicine, can be frustrating, but it is always rewarding. I help more people in one day than most doctors truly help in their entire career. As a very wise friend of mine once taught me, I give a woman a chance to truly have the first day of the rest of her life."

The incoming Board President of NAF, Dr. Maureen Paul, related her experience of being denied an abortion prior to Roe v. Wade and the disastrous effects that decision had on her life at that time. Dr. Paul, an abortion provider in Boston, Massachusetts, recounted, "As a young woman, I was denied an abortion and was forced to carry a pregnancy against my will. That is why I became an abortion provider. Every time I provide an abortion for a woman who makes that choice, I know I am helping her realize her life and aspirations."

Irving received the Honorary Membership at the NAF Annual Meeting, where he was also the keynote speaker.


The National Abortion Federation is the professional association of abortion providers in the U.S. and Canada dedicated to ensuring that abortion remains safe, legal and accessible.

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