It's no secret that Rhode Island Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee supports abortion. Still, even Chafee's supporters might wonder why his transition team features a doctor who boasted of performing secret abortions in Latin America.
“I never thought that I would be performing an abortion in a room with a picture of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, but there I was, in the middle of the Andes,” Dr. Pablo Rodriguez wrote in an essay published shortly before the 2000 presidential election.
The former medical director of Planned Parenthood, now a part of Governor-elect Chafee's transition team, packed his essay with disturbing Christian references– describing his clandestine abortion work as a “ministry” to spread the “gospel of reproductive rights.” He mused on the presence of religious imagery inside the clinic, noting that protesters outside U.S. clinics tended to display the same images.
Rodriguez also compared the American government's withdrawal of contraception funding from Latin American countries to the Biblical “Angel of Death,” and offered the possibility that the local women he was training to “stem the flow of misery” might regard themselves as performing “God's work.”
“Inside my heart,” Rodriguez wrote, “the story of the Andean cholitas (native women) spreading the gospel of reproductive rights will forever lift my spirit.”
Although Rodriguez did not disclose the name of the “Andean country” in which he performed abortions, one of CNA's Latin American experts explained that the term he used to describe the native women is a Peruvian term used only in that country. If Rodriguez's “cholita” trainees were in fact Peruvians, he could be subject to four years' imprisonment in that country.
On Nov. 8, 2010, the Providence Journal reported that Rodriguez had joined Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee's transition team, alongside members of his onetime senate staff and other “close advisers.” Chafee, a former Republican U.S. senator who ran as an Independent, won the governor's race after defeating his closest competitor, Republican candidate John Robitaille, by less than three points.
The recent Providence Journal report described Rodriguez as a “leader in the Hispanic community” and the former medical director of Planned Parenthood in Rhode Island. The introduction to his 2000 essay, which he published under his own name, also described him as holding that position.
These disclosures allowed pro-life activists to identify Chafee's new advisor as the same man who had publicly described his covert abortion work 10 years earlier.
The Associated Press additionally noted Dr. Rodriguez's employment at Rhode Island's Women and Infants Hospital, a clinic offering surgical abortions during the first nine weeks of pregnancy in its public literature. The governor-elect himself received a 90% approval rating from the abortion lobbying group NARAL during his time in the U.S. Senate.
As of publication time, the Chafee campaign did not respond to requests from CNA to clarify Rodriguez's role on the transition team or comment on his past activities.