Saturday, August 16, 2008

leslee unruh: traces of humanity?

normally, just hearing the name "Leslee Unruh" or seeing a picture of her face gets a whole lot of angry blood pumping through my system. it's not often that one person can incite that much negative energy in me. Leslee, though, is a sure bet. she infuriates me...and, as much as i hate to admit it, she scares me. not because i think she can win this fight she's working so hard at, but because she can come close. because, unfortunately, she's a good strategist. and because there's just something about her that instills fear. when i worked on the campaign against South Dakota's abortion ban a couple years ago, my friend Christine told me that some of the CHF staffers had dressed up as Leslee for Halloween. it would be a totally appropriate, totally horrifying costume.

so normally, my reactions to Leslee range from terrified to horrified to hate-filled to infuriated.
which is why this article, published in the most recent issue of More magazine threw me off. i expected to be angry. i expected a description of the work she puts in to limit women's lives and choices, and i expected to be appalled that this woman could exist. that a human being could exist like her.
my reaction followed the same lines as Cara's: she called it "creepy and compelling." on some level that shakes me up a little, it also intrigues me. she intrigues me. and i'm a little more convinced that maybe there's a little bit of human being in her still.
and my grand Theory of Leslee has changed: maybe instead of being just pure evil incarnate, maybe she's just possessed. because little bits of humanity peek out in this article.

it was written by Amanda Robb, whose uncle, Barnett (Bart) Slepian, was an ob/gyn and abortion doctor back on my home turf in Western New York. He was murdered in 1998 by an anti-abortion activist. it's an incredibly well-written article - for journalistic value only, it's worth the read. Robb was somehow able to get close enough to Leslee to make her seem human. real. it showed her for how crazy she can get, but it also showed her as a real person, with what appears to be a trying past.

i could look at the article, at the discrepancies between Leslee's story of her life and the lie that Robb catches her in and call her a dirty liar. i could look at the legal/safe (though not incredibly well-executed, patient-advocacy wise) abortion she got a while back and call her a hypocrite. i could look at the manipulations that Unruh describes, the manipulations that make up almost all of Unruh's campaign work, and say that she's utterly deplorable. but i'm not going to. because even though it was a very long article on one of the people i most deplore, i wasn't left with a nasty taste in my mouth. i was left wanting to know more.
i was left feeling....well, i feel kinda bad for Leslee.

what else has she gone through to make her feel this need to construct her life around controlling everyone else's sexuality and sexual choices? what does she gain from this? does it really give her the satisfaction and fulfillment that (i'm guessing) she's pursuing? and if so, why does the control of other people fulfill her? what void is she trying to fill here?

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