Absolute Convictions

My Father, a City, And the Conflict That Divided America

by Eyal Press

Absolute Convictions

Hardcover, 292 pages, Henry Holt & Co, List Price: $25 | purchase


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Book Summary

On October 23, 1998, Buffalo abortion provider Barnett Slepian was killed by a sniper's bullet fired through the kitchen window of his home. Days later, police informed another local doctor, Shalom Press, that they had received a threat warning that he was "next on the list." Within hours the Press household was under federal marshal protection. America's violent struggle over abortion—which had already claimed the lives of five doctors and clinic workers—had come to Buffalo. Press's son combines a retelling of his family's experience with firsthand accounts of protesters arrested outside his father's office, patients who braved the gauntlet of demonstrators, and politicians who attempted to appease both sides. Here we see, as never before, the people behind the absolute convictions that have divided our nation for the past three decades.—From publisher description.A journalist describes how his father, a Buffalo, New York, obstetrician, became the target of anti-abortion activists, a campaign that led to the 1998 murder of a colleague, Dr. Barnett Slepian.

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Excerpt: Absolute Convictions

Absolute Convictions

     Naturally, I’ve thought often about why my father has persisted in doing something that so many other doctors in his line of work have for good reason given up. I’ve thought as well about what I would do in his shoes. My father insists his decision to remain an abortion provider is not a political act but a function of his professional responsibilities. But are those professional responsibilities worth risking his life for?
     To know that one’s parents will not live forever—that they are mortal, like everyone else—is part of what it means to be an adult. To imagine they might be targeted by an assassin on account of a commitment to some abstract principle is quite another. Theoretically, such a thing ought to fill one with pride. But who among us would like to see a parent become a martyr?
     In a way no abstract situation could, my father’s experience has forced me to think hard about the tension between remaining true to one’s convictions and
the practical necessity of surviving in the world. This is something that has always fascinated me, perhaps because, as Dr. Slepian’s murder would reveal, it touches on a rift within my family: between the defiant Israelis on one side, and those with a vivid memory of surviving the Holocaust on the other.

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