How do you feel about being self-interviewed by The Nervous Breakdown?

Intrigued and challenged. I’ve always been tempted to have one (a nervous breakdown)—but that is a luxury I could never afford. There is an unyielding voice in my head urging me to go further, do more, achieve—and that sense of responsibility has never allowed me much rest, or the space to emotionally deconstruct. It is also the reason I don’t drink or do drugs.

 

Why did you name your memoir Intimate Wars?

We are all soldiers (whether we consciously enlist or not) in the great struggle for reproductive justice.

Ultimately women’s bodies are battlefields in the most intimate of wars; that is, the ability to determine when and whether or not we want to become mothers.

 

For a relatively private person, you have shared a lot of yourself in this book—was that difficult for you?

I am comfortable leading marches and defying dangerous forces, but it did take a special kind of psychological courage to look at myself in such a bright light. I gave myself no place to hide, and in the end, I learned that I accepted all of it—who I was and who I am.

 

How did a budding concert pianist end up founding and owning one of the largest women’s medical centers in the country?

When I gave up studying to be a concert artist and began working to create Choices, my mother told me it was a “sin against God not to use the talent I was given.” But I quickly found that the process of creating a new reality from theory, law, and philosophy was the most artistic thing I could do. To define the meaning of abortion in society and politics, to create the concept of Patient Power, and to help to save thousands of women’s lives was the ultimate expression of the “art of the possible.”

 

You write that you are a “philosopher”—which philosophy do you feel most congruent with?

The Stoics. I very much like Marcus Aurelius. He understood the fleeting nature of reality—the drive for fame, ambition, and the importance of being true to your nature. And as an emperor, he had to deal with a lot of administrative issues. He also had many “paid enemies,” so I can relate to that. And of course Nietzsche, whose dictum “what does not kill me makes me stronger” has become my mantra.

 

You have been called a “Hitler” and accused of making a business out of abortion—how do you respond to that?

First of all, I do not take any of these attacks personally. As Elie Wiesel told me:  “You cannot let these words hurt you— people who call you that do not know what the Holocaust was.” And as far as abortion being a business—well, women’s lives are my business, and I make no apology for that.

 

What do you think would astonish people most about you?

That I love country music and dinosaurs, and that I am an armchair mountaineer. Maybe that I belong to the Society of Friends of King Richard III, or that I manage to get at least six hours of sleep every night.

 

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MERLE HOFFMAN is one of the most important advocates for the women’s rights of our time. In 1971 (two years before the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion nationally), she opened Choices Medical Center, one of the first legal abortion clinics in New York State. Under Hoffman's direction as CEO and president, Choices has expanded into a multifaceted women's medical center, offering full reproductive and primary health care. Choices currently serves more than 50,000 patients a year. It has also become a multimillion-dollar business.

Hoffman was a co-founder of the National Abortion Federation and founder of the New York Pro-Choice Coalition, the first umbrella organization of pro-choice individuals and organizations committed to ensuring legal, safe abortions in New York. In April 1989, Hoffman and the coalition led the first pro-choice civil disobedience action at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, protesting Cardinal John J. O'Connor's support of Operation Rescue.

In 1975, Hoffman founded STOP (the Second Treatment Option Program), the first ambulatory breast cancer program specializing in an interdisciplinary model of patient care. She recently broadened the services of the medical center by creating CHOICES Mental Health Center, which addresses a full range of psychological issues including rape, incest, and domestic violence as well as general psychiatric and psychological services. In the wake of the 9/11 tragedy, CHOICES Mental Health Center became a Project Liberty provider of mental health services to those affected by the attacks, offering free counseling at satellite centers in neighborhoods throughout New York. In 1982, Hoffman began On the Issues, a magazine of CHOICES, created to share informaton with other health care providers and pro-choice activists. In 2008, On the Issues was revamped and introduced as a free online publication. It has approximately 20,000 readers every issue.

Hoffman has received numerous awards throughout her career, including several for lifetime service to the movement from the Veteran Feminists of America, and the Front Page Award from the Newswomen's Club of New York in the political commentary category for her article "Selecting the Same Sex." Recently she was profiled in Forbes.com.

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