There are days as a pro-choice activist that I close my computer, go sit down on my bed, and cry.
Truth be told, there’s nothing the anti-abortion movement can do that really surprises me after eight years of doing this work. I know how it feels to have “baby killer” screamed menacingly from across the parking lot and to wade through protesters with gruesome signs to give a speech about sex education. I know what it’s like to hide my trembling hands in my pockets and look calm and resolute for the cameras as I evacuate a pro-choice meeting because of a bomb threat. I’ll never forget what it’s like to cry with a room of advocates, gathered to celebrate a woman’s lifetime of service to the movement, after learning that yet another doctor had been gunned down for trusting women.
I know the more political ins and outs, too. I know that after the anti-abortion movement figured out that America really is a pro-choice nation and it would be harder than they thought to overturn Roe, they turned to chipping away at access state by state. TRAP laws. Parental notification and 24-hour waiting periods. Legislating the denial of access to reproductive health services for poor and military and Native women. The list goes on and on.
So no, I’m never surprised anymore. But that doesn’t mean that each and every time, it doesn’t make me overwhelmingly, incredibly sad.
The particular instance that set off the waterworks recently was hearing that Louisiana became the 13th state to pass a law mandating ultrasounds before abortions – paid for by the woman. This one stipulates the ultrasound must be performed even in cases of rape.
This story is making me rage.
Let’s get this out there: as a Christian, I do not believe what this school did was in any way Christian.
For those who don’t want to click links: A teacher at the Southland Christian School in St. Cloud, Florida has been fired from her job for getting pregnant three weeks before her marriage.
This women already had five children and her first husband had died. It’s not like she’d never had sex before. But that’s besides the point.
Thanks to the awesome women at Soapbox, I spent last week with a bunch of young feminists from across the US. We met with different feminist leaders, activists and organizations all over New York City. A major goal of a lot of the women in this program is to figure out exactly what to do with their women’s studies degrees, that is, how the hell to be a professional feminist. I’m not an expert on the subject by any means, but I want to dispel a few myths.
1. If you’re asking the question, you probably already live the answer. Being a professional feminist doesn’t mean you’re getting paid for it. Unfortunately, this is a reality for a lot of us. We have jobs that pay our bills and ALSO volunteer on the side as a clinic escort, on our abortion fund’s hotline, canvassing/phone banking for choice, you name it, we’re there and doing it for free. In a dream world, someone (who?) would fund this, but just because you’re working somewhere else to make ends meet doesn’t make you a traitor to the movement. We’d all love to get paid to do what we’re passionate about, but that’s not reality. Feminist orgs are hurting right now, and even in the center of the feminist world (NYC, in my opinion), they just can’t employ all of us with a strong head on our shoulders.
I’m thinking of George Clooney. Angelina Jolie. Bono. Rosario Dawson. Cynthia Nixon. Even Tori Amos. I’m thinking of celebrities, but more than just that, celebrities with an easily identifiable cause. Clearly I err on the side of human rights and women’s health, but it would be right within that cross-section that one should be able to find a celebrity advocate for reproductive justice. And they are just not there. So why is it that the case? Do we really care who represents RAINN or V-day or UNICEF?
We live in a celebrity-saturated culture, and I’m certainly not here to judge. I check Gawker as much or more than I do the Times. Don’t you? And that’s my point. This fact of life is more than something we need to recognize in ourselves, we must leverage it as advocates… just like everybody else.
So why hasn’t empowered sexuality and reproduction attracted a sexy celebrity to play face to the cause? Now I know six degrees of Kevin Bacon may get all the fame, but I believe it is the degrees of Kevin Costner holds the key. Now I know what you are thinking Kevin Costner, really? Hear me out.
I read a blog by the Radical Housewife entitled ‘Rights, not choices,’ which I found to be very enlightening so I decided to expand on some of her thoughts. The gist is that abortion is a part of the right of a woman to control her reproduction. As the author noted, Pam Tebow had a choice to abort, but she twisted “choice” for her purposes to insinuate that she is pro-choice, when in fact she only believes in the “choice” of being a mother. I believe that the language we use with respect to abortions is a part of this problem.
A choice to terminate a pregnancy implies that one must be pregnant before one gets that choice. A right to terminate a pregnancy implies that every woman has that right, regardless of whether they ever become pregnant. I believe that moving towards the language of the right to abort would be of great benefit for the pro-choice movement. In everyday life, we are confronted with endless choices. The common thread is that most choices have limits placed on them by the government. There are limits on who you may choose as a sexual partner, specifically the other person must be a consenting adult. You may choose to drive, but you must be licensed and you must follow the rules of the road. Our everyday choices are qualified for the safety of society and nobody questions that.
When abortion is framed as a choice, it naturally follows that, as with all other choices, the choice to abort may be qualified. As a result, the U.S. ends up with ultrasound laws, parental notification laws, and mandatory waiting periods. These laws are meant to inform the choice of abortion; framing abortion as a choice allows limits to be placed on that choice. In contrast, in Canada, we have the right to free speech, religion, security of the person, association, etc. When it comes to qualifying these rights, the courts are very particular. Laws that restrict Charter rights must satisfy what is known as the Oakes Test, which allows reasonable limitations on rights and freedoms through legislation if it can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. Satisfying this test is not easy and as a result, restrictions on our rights are limited. In Canada, R. v. Morgentaler held that criminalizing abortion was a restriction on the security of the person that was not justified per the Oakes Test. As a result, Canada has zero restrictions on abortions.
Every time I prepare a tax return I find myself shaking my head over the strangeness of the war over abortion. Did you know that a child, as defined by the Internal Revenue Code is one that is born alive? There is no exemption provided for a stillborn baby, or for a fetus as of December 31. Perhaps this is another tax change that the anti choice supporters would like to see enacted? To the best of my knowledge though, there is no bill in any state or in prepartion to be put before the federal government to create an exemption for an unborn fetus. How would such a tax break work anyway? Would you have to attach a pregnancy test to your tax return? Give birth by April 15 the following year? What about women who conceive on New Year’s – we know when a baby is born if it’s on December 31 or January 1, but who is to say if a woman is entitled to a fetus exemption for the year ended December 31 or not? Do you just give all women able to have children an extra exemption because on December 31 they could be pregnant? That doesn’t make sense – it would discrminate against those women too old or otherwise unable to have children, and of course, against men. Giving everyone an extra exemption doesn’t make fetuses into children, because then everyone (men, women, infertile, fertile, whatever) would get it – like an extra exemption for them, not their fetus/child.
Hmm… doesn’t sound like it’s too feasible then to call a fetus the same thing as a child – and the fact that the anti-choicers out there haven’t pushed to incentivize women’s uteruses with an exemption the same as you receive for a child tells me that they know it.
A guest post by Serena Freewomyn of Feminists for Choice.
I was talking to a friend recently who told me that she admired me for being so involved in the abortion rights movement. She said that she has always been pro-choice, but she’s never done anything about it. I responded by telling her that she was in the comfortably silent majority. Opinion poll after opinion poll has shown that the majority of Americans are pro-choice. The problem is that they don’t do anything about it, aside from send an occasional donation to Planned Parenthood.
That needs to change. We just observed the one-year anniversary of Dr. George Tiller’s murder. His death has motivated many people, myself included, to become more active in the pro-choice movement. Many of us have become clinic escorts and web-savvy activists. But there aren’t enough of us out there making a difference. We need more visible allies.
The upside is that the wing nuts who hassle patients at abortion clinics are in the minority. The sad part of this, though, is that they are vocal, well-funded, and extremely organized. They know how to make life miserable for women and the doctors who serve them. And it’s time to make them stop.
Imagine my shock last night as I opened up Facebook to double check my blog feed and scan through news, and noticed this: “Do you think it can be repealed? Something this bad needs to be completely destroyed, in my opinion. Isn’t this like turning history around? Poll Shows Opposition to Pro-Abortion Health Care Bill Increasing After Obama Signed It- LifeNews.com.”
My first reaction was to check who had written such nonsense and then investigate how they came to be friended in the first place. I didn’t have to look long to find out. My dear old Aunt, who joined Facebook not a year before with my instruction no less , had a wall and newsfeed full of these LifeNews.com updates.
We are Italians. My Aunt, like my father, is a first generation Italian American. Use your imagination to sum up the political and social ideology of many within my father’s family. If you guess they are fervently Catholic and blindly Pro-Life you are correct, if not, well I just told you. With this fact, it did not surprise me that my Aunt was posting stuff like this on the internet, she was a faithful Palin/McCain supporter during the 2008 election and often alludes to her volunteer work at Catholic Charities when ever
I have been forced to be around her I sit next to her during family gatherings.
Still, it bothers me. How does one who believes so passionately that people have the right to reproductive freedom, one who abhors gender discrimination, and one who tires of hateful and intentionally misleading rhetoric surrounding reproductive health services, deal with family or close friends that are on the extreme opposite of the spectrum?
In late May 2009, the college choir left Kansas to sing at Carnegie Hall in NYC. This included several days of rehearsals in the hotel, including one on a Sunday. Morning is not my favorite time of day, especially not on a weekend during the summer, so the majority of the rehearsal happened while I was in a fog of sleep.
Break time came, and I headed to the bathroom. A group of girls gathered around the sinks, talking. They were pretty, conservative girls, not the type I would generally talk to, but nice enough to smile and say hello if we bumped into each other. As I dried my hands, I heard one of them say, “Well, thank the Lord I guess, one life for millions!” The others chattered in agreement. I suddenly woke up. What in the world could they be talking about, what happened? Who had died?
I decided it was worth checking out, and pulled up the browser on my phone. Top headline–”Abortion doctor slain in church.” I didn’t have to read any further or look at the picture to know who the doctor was. It took a great deal of energy not to start crying as rehearsal began again.
As a vocal prochoicer, I am not able to always speak my mind.
Every single time I tweet, blog, email or post a comment somewhere, I have to carefully look over each and every word, to ensure that I haven’t said something I “shouldn’t.”
What are these things I “shouldn’t” say? Well, basically it’s anything an antichoicer could jump onto, take out of context, or otherwise use against me. Against us. Against Planned Parenthood. Against women.
I hate that I have to guard my speech. I hate that I have to turn conversations onto random tangents over word use. But if I don’t do these things, antichoicers will run away with my words and ignore anything I say after that.
Well you know what? I’m tired of letting antis decide what I do or do not say.