Charlotte's Web

At the Routh Street Women's Clinic, Charlotte Taft created a controversial feminist enclave and waged war with anti-abortion zealots. Then she questioned her movement's gospeland it all fell apart

When I phoned Routh Street's new director, Mary Jones, and asked her if there had been any changes in philosophy at the clinic, she remarked, "We are just doing the same thing we always did. There haven't been any changes. It's just business as usual."

What she failed to tell me was that five people had followed Charlotte out the door; three had been fired, and two quit of their own accord. Two more quit recently, after my conversation with Jones. Ginny Braun did interview the staff as planned, but her inquiry focused on whether anyone harbored negative feelings toward Dr. Braun.

In Charlotte's letter of resignation, she asked Dr. Braun to "withdraw any materials with my name on them from any public use right away." Because these included counseling materials, Mike Collins and Ginny Braun used her request as an opportunity to review the entire counseling program. A "Ph.D therapist" was hired who later determined that the homework and counseling forms were too suggestive, might bring up feelings patients would not otherwise have. Neither are currently in use.

"In the new improved clinic, less information is better," said one counselor who wishes to remain anonymous. "Every time I want to send someone home, I can feel Dr. Braun glaring at me."

"If they are so worried about liability," says another staffer, "doing an abortion on a woman who doesn't want one is what's going to get them sued."

Although Dr. Braun says counseling is now optional, no one I spoke with at the clinic seems to know this for certain. Yet with the counseling toned down and Charlotte gone, Dr. Braun says the clinic will again seek referrals from Planned Parenthood.

Charlotte Taft has lost her platform; Dallas has lost a voice of reason in an escalating political war. Yet she claims she is not done with abortion.

Maybe she will write a book about her experiences. Maybe she will move to another city--someplace green and mountainous and placid. Once there, she may even buy an abortion clinic. "If you want to be a real pioneer, you have to be the owner," she reflects. "Most real pioneers who are not owners get fired."

Charlotte still has trouble talking about Routh Street without her eyes welling up in tears. "I would have never left the clinic in my whole life," she says. "I always acted like it was mine. I just forgot to buy it.

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