Archive | September, 2010

Live-Tweeting an Abortion

30 Sep

It’s time to welcome abortion into the public world.

What? Abortion is already in the public world, you say? Politicians have positions on it, activists blog about it and laws are made yearly to restrict it.

Well, now abortion is getting even more personal. A couple of women have decided that writing about their experience on websites like thanksabortion.com or imnotsorry.net just isn’t cutting it. They have decided, instead, to tweet their abortion experience.

Being able to tweet your abortion is fairly new. As more and more women opt to use mifepristone, the abortion pill, instead of a surgical abortion, there is more of an option to share what is happening. Of course, it isn’t just the abortion itself which these brave women are sharing, but also the process.

A new twitter account called AbortionReality has just shown up, to take us through the process of obtaining and having an abortion. Already she has tweeted about the difficulty of finding the funds to afford an abortion, as well as locating a clinic which provides abortions. Another user, antitheistangie, was the first to publicly tweet her abortion. Now AbortionReality follows her down this public path.

No doubt, there will be many different reactions to people reading her tweets. Antichoicers are already trying to convince her not to have an abortion. Ironically, they are telling her “don’t just listen to one side.” At the same time, they refuse to accept her reasoning (which she shouldn’t even have to give). Prochoicers, from what I have seen, have mostly been giving her support. Which is great because regardless of our political views or job or marital status, women who have abortions are women who need support from the prochoice community. 1 in 3 US women have an abortion sometime in their lifetimes, but it’s not a label worn on the sleeve most of the time. Pro-choice activists can fill that gap by supporting women who are open about their abortions.

But not every prochoicer feels the same way. Some pro-choice folks keep to the philosophy that abortion is a personal, private matter- and therefore it shouldn’t be shared on the internet publically. I absolutely believe that these people have a right to their opinions. I also think they can still support women who abort while wishing they kept it private.

I personally think that tweeting an abortion can be a great way to show people outside the prochoice movement how difficult it is to obtain an abortion. Recent surveys show that many people believe it’s too easy obtain an abortion right now. We need to show the reality and educate people. Between the Hyde Amendment, blocks on insurance paying for abortions, waiting periods, forced ultrasounds and sidewalk harassment, many women find it extremely difficult to obtain a legal abortion. That’s why some people are turning to DIY abortions- with cow medication or trying to fall down stairs. These types of things need to be prevented by stopping and removing the outrageous and unnecessary restrictions on abortion.

The first step to remove them is to open up the eyes of the public. AbortionReality is doing just that.

Junk Mail: Catching Up with Antis, Judgmental Edition

29 Sep

A series a la Anti-Feminist Mailbag where we respond to some of the hateful and/or bigoted comments we often get on our posts.

We got an e-mail a while back here at the Abortion Gang in response to a post we had up, and I opted to address the ‘concerns’ of the sender. Not because I felt that the sender had put so much thought into their questions that they deserved to be responded to, and not because they had touched on anything that profound or original. Mainly because their message was so hateful baring overwhelming classist and racist overtones that I did not feel like they should get to sit smugly in the glow of their computer screen feeling proud of themselves for the baseless things they said thinking that they were helping change minds and make a difference.

Also, I wanted to address this e-mail, because I know a horrible truth. That there are others out there who believe just like the sender of the e-mail. Perhaps one of them can be reached through a thoughtful reply to these ideas. The message, in all its glory, is shared below. The name has been withheld to protect the ignorant…you know who you are. As you read, just remember to breathe. This too shall pass.

Here’s a novel idea. How about women make the CONSCIOUS DECISION to NOT get pregnant while they’re homeless, jobless, already have several children, in an abusive relationship, etc.??? Take responsibility for yourself! I’m not about to feel sorry for a woman because she’s pregnant with her 4th child (and probably 4th baby daddy) and now “the gubment” isn’t doing enough to help her out. Of course this isn’t indicative of all homeless women and I’m certainly over-simplifying the situation. But it’s comparable to the situation in many 3rd world countries. People are sick and dying, not enough food or clean drinking water, but they’re having babies! I don’t understand the logic.

First things first. A novel idea is one that is defined as new or unusual in an interesting way. Unfortunately you suffer from a bit of naivety in believing that anything you have proposed here is new, unusual, or in any sense interesting. So right off the bat, I had to burst that bubble, because I previously mentioned, I have heard these utterances in the past. Now onto your next statement, or rather should I say, modest proposal. Rather than answer it right away, I would rather make a proposal of my own to the sender and anyone else out there is prone to this same disrespectful behavior. How about everyone STOP JUDGING women and their situations, especially when you have no idea about their lives or their circumstances?? Mind the business that is yours and yours alone!

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Is Colorado’s Amendment 62 Showing the Truth about the Anti-Choice Movement?

28 Sep

We’re dealing with yet another personhood amendment here in Colorado this year. Amendment 62 is essentially a slightly beefed up version of an amendment defeated in 2008 by a margin of 73% to 27%. Hopefully we’ll have just as much support this time around, especially since this one would stretch the definition of a person much more than the original to include stem cell research and in-vitro fertilization.

The specifics of this amendment and the controversy surrounding it shed some light on the way the anti-choice movement uses false information and what they’re really all about.

Recently the 2010 Colorado Ballot Information Booklet (or Blue Book) was published. This book is provided by the state of Colorado to provide a fair and impartial analysis of each initiated or referred constitutional amendment, law or question on the ballot.

Personhood Colorado, an offshoot of Personhood USA and one of the main groups lobbying for amendment 62, has filed a lawsuit against the Legislative Council of the General Assembly alleging that the Blue Book used false statements and was not fair and impartial as is required by Colorado law.

They claim that none of their arguments were used for the pro side and the arguments presented for the con side were factually inaccurate.

Here at the Abortion Gang, we point out examples of anti-choicers using made up and/or skewed facts to promote their side on a regular basis.  This is yet another example of anti-choice lies backed up by the Legislative Council of the General Assembly.

The lawsuit states “the ballot information booklet is, in effect, one big argument against Amendment 62.” Could this be because there are no legitimate arguments for passing amendment 62 other than it being a ruse to do away with reproductive freedom?

I tried to find the pro-62 arguments that Personhood Colorado gave to the council but was unable to. I did however find the points that they claim are false in the anti-62 arguments.

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Lessons of Old Battles

27 Sep

The Center for Reproductive Rights report this month about the number of women affected by the Hyde amendment corresponds with a book I’ve been reading about the history of abortion politics, specifically the battles of the ‘80s and early ‘90s. The book is Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War by William Saletan. I’ve often asked that Saletan stop writing about abortion for Slate.com, because he’s the pro-choice side’s worst “friend” (he is touted as both their “expert” on abortion as well as a “pro-choice” defender). But if his history of the various state and federal battles that occurred well after Roe’s passage is to be believed then some old lessons should be brought to light.

The book covers various specific abortion campaigns: Arkansas in 1986, the 1989 Supreme Court Webster decision, Virginia Governor Doug Wilder, parental control battles in North Carolina and Georgia, how the Clinton administration failed to pass the Freedom of Choice Act, and how, in what was a forerunner to the Stupak amendment, they also would have abandoned abortion coverage had Clinton’s healthcare plan passed.

In Saletan’s book two themes dominate most of the battles: the decision of pro-choice campaign consultants to win certain fights using any language that works, even if such language later gets twisted in other campaigns for the opposite side. The other main theme is “triage.”

In war, medics overwhelmed by wounded soldiers sort them into three categories. Some don’t need prompt attention. Others can’t be saved. Those who need prompt attention and can be saved take priority. Doctor’s call this logic “triage.” If there were more help, some of the patients deemed unsalvageable might be rescued. But there isn’t. Among pro-choice activists, a nationwide pattern of triage was emerging and the young and the poor were its losers. (p.122)

In the issue of the first theme, it’s difficult to overstate some of the challenges pro-choice organizations faced running campaigns in conservative states in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Women’s rights? Bodily integrity? Those were concepts that voters in Arkansas, Georgia, and Louisiana voters (and many other states) did NOT want to hear about. But what did sometimes work? Anti-government themed campaigns that asked whether “the government” should get to decide about abortion or “the family” should. “The family” meaning images of fathers/husbands and sometimes even clergy. But the activists then watched how difficult it became to explain why there shouldn’t be a parental notification/approval law if “the family” should get to decide. Or why if “the government” doesn’t get to decide why should pay for abortions for women who couldn’t afford it? Live by the anti-government theme, die by the anti-government theme.
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Being Pro-Choice vs Working Pro-Choice

24 Sep

On my first day at my job doing intake at an abortion clinic, the manager mentioned that because I had already worked in an abortion clinic for three years, she didn’t have to give me “the shpiel about the difference between being pro-choice and working pro-choice.”

“That’s right!” I replied, nodding sagely, as I thought to myself: “What the hell is she talking about?”.

You see, the clinic I used to work at was the only game in town. Well, in province, actually. In New Brunswick, we are still fighting against illegal restrictions on abortion, and we are still fighting for access for rural women and poor women and women living in Prince Edward Island where there is no abortion at all. My job at that clinic evolved from being a volunteer clinic escort; I went into it out of a commitment to the cause more than a need for a job. As one of only four non-medical staff, I did a lot of activism through the clinic around the issue of access. After having media training, I became pretty much the go-to person for local media to interview about abortion issues. Activism was part of my job.

Here in the big city, there is a difference. Some people work at abortion clinics because they need a job. Full stop. I went out socially with some of my co-workers one evening, and they were talking about how the work we do (intake) just does not work out for some people. There are the  people who think they are pro-choice but they find out they are not, of course. But one of my co-workers also mentioned the “starry-eyed feminists” who come and go. As a feminist – and one who could certainly be considered “starry-eyed” from time to time – this hit me in the gut. Was this the difference? Am I too soft, too idealistic to work in abortion care, here in the real world?

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Junk Mail: Catching Up With Antis, Obsessed with Abortion Edition

23 Sep

A series a la Anti-Feminist Mailbag where we respond to some of the hateful and/or bigoted comments we often get on our posts.

This comment was left in response to Sophia’s post on the tea party movement:

Why do so many nodern feminists focus only on letting women abort, as if no other right matters? What about forced prostitution and sex trafficking? What about the horrible way Moslems (even in this country) treat their women? Did you know (dis)honor(able) killings are happening in the U.S. now, among the Moslem population? Did you know there is a push to let Moslems in America have Sharia law in family matters? What does that do to women’s rights? Wake up and smell the coffee, sister. There are a lot more issues threatening women’s rights (and their human rights) then just the right to scrape their uteruses out.

But since you insist on focusing on abortion, what are you doing to protect the right of choice for the women who are killed every year, because they refused their husband’s or boyfriend’s demand to get an abortion? What about their right to choose? Is it only women seeking abortions that have a right to choose? Or do women who want to give birth get the right to choose too? Or do you think women who refuse abortion aren’t really making a valid choice and are somehow asking for it?

Come on, show some outrage for the abuse and killing of women who don’t need, or want, an abortion. Considering how mad you get when someone is inconvenienced by a 24 hour waiting period, I’d think you’d have a little outrage left over for the women and girls whose lives are devastated by forced sex trafficking. Why don’t you show at least as much outrage for women who are killed. This regardless if she’s a Moslem who angered her family by talking to a man, or angered her boyfriend by refusing his demands that she get an abortion.

It is always refreshing when we at Abortion Gang get mail from readers telling us what we are doing wrong.

First Statement: “[m]odern feminists focus only on letting women abort, as if no other right matters.”

Reality: This statement couldn’t be further from the truth. I know I am speaking for everyone at AG when I say that we care about a vast number of issues. Dear Reader, if you had just taken a look at our blog roll, you would see that. I, for one, write my own blog entitled Finding My Feminism. On my blog I actually rarely talk about abortion – it is but one small aspect of my blog. The reason this blog talks almost exclusively about abortion is because that is its purpose. Dear Reader, when you come to a blog entitled ‘Abortion Gang,’ chances are it is going to be almost exclusively about abortion. Even though I have basically refuted your entire letter in one fell swoop, I will continue.

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Pro-Choice and Penniless: Making Progressive Events Affordable for Everyone

22 Sep

Last week, I got an email from Choice USA inviting me to an event in DC to celebrate young people in the reproductive justice movement. My heart started pounding – Food! Young people! Gloria Steinem! I started thinking about how to rearrange my schedule to be able to attend until I scrolled down and saw the price tag for the evening: $75. My heart sank.  I knew that attending was out of the question when the combination of traveling to DC, missing work, and that high admissions fee were all out of my budget. How can an event that’s supposed to celebrate young people totally ignore the circumstances and realities of our lives?

Who can afford to spend $75 on an event? Not most people my age. We’re in debt from undergrad or graduate school and struggling with low-wage entry level jobs, if we’re lucky enough to have a job at all. According to the Pew Research Center, over the past year, 35% of people aged 18-29 had trouble paying their rent and 36% of people in the same age bracket had someone in their home who was laid off or lost a job.

But this isn’t just about young people. According to newly released Census data, 43.6 million people, or 1 in 7 Americans, are poor. Janell Ross at Change.org breaks it down:

Here are some of the most disturbing details (pdf): nearly 26 percent of blacks and just over 25 percent of Hispanics were poor in 2009. Only about 9.4 percent of white Americans were poor during that same period of time. To be fair, gargantuan gaps between white, black and Hispanic poverty rates (and income levels (pdf)) aren’t new. They just got worse — much worse — in 2009.

Having a high price tag for an event doesn’t just block access for young people with little or no income. The poverty rate rose for almost every ethnic group in the United States. How can we expect diversity and inclusiveness in the pro-choice and reproductive justice movements when we’re not catering to the economic realities of 43.6 million Americans?

I understand that awesome organizations like Choice USA need to raise money in order to do the great work they do.  Why not offer a sliding fee scale admissions fee  so that those who can pay more will, and those who can’t will still show up? How about offering scholarships or alternative ways for people to contribute to the organization, like volunteer services or time? We fail as a movement when we are unable to recognize that if we’re going to talk the talk of inclusiveness, we need to walk the walk as well.

Listening to the Right Voices

21 Sep

My brother has Crohn’s Disease, a typically genetic auto-immune disorder that affects the intestines and digestion. It can cause severe cramping, diarrhea, weight loss, and other terrible symptoms. He’ll have it every day for the rest of his life. Some days, even just the thought of food will keep him in the bathroom for hours. Other days, he can eat a huge plate of nachos covered in jalapeño peppers with no problem. On days when he’s having what’s known as a “flair,” days when the symptoms are really bad, he has to take medicine. Flairs can last anywhere from weeks to months, depending on the severity. If he doesn’t take his meds during the flair, he’ll continue to get worse and possibly need surgery on his intestines.

The medicine for Crohn’s Disease is made up of mostly anti-inflammatories, which help his body to heal so he can go back into remission. Most doctors (we’re talking regular practice, not gastrointestinal specialists) and my parents think he should take his medicine everyday, regardless of how great he feels. The problem is that if you take these medicines for too long, their effectiveness can wear off, and the patient has to move up to the next level of treatment, which can include shots and weekly IV treatments.

My mom and step-dad both went to my brother’s doctor’s appointment today, so they could tell the doctor he hasn’t been taking his medicine. They’re hoping he’ll get a scolding from the doctor, go home, and go back to taking his huge pills four times a day, because “that’s what he’s supposed to do.”

My grandmother also has Crohn’s Disease. She’s also supposed to be taking medicine everyday, but she doesn’t always. She’s learned to manage her flairs by watching her diet. It doesn’t always work, but when she feels sick, she takes her pills for a few weeks until the symptoms go away. She’s noticed that my brother has been gaining weight. He seems healthier and happier. In her opinion, he shouldn’t be forced to take medicine if he’s feeling better. She’s been there, and she thinks he should have a vote.

Now, I’m sure most of you are wondering why I took the time to tell you this very personal story. The argument here in my family reminds me of the pro-choice argument. No one has asked my brother what he thinks. Yes, he’s only thirteen, so my parents are still the ones who are in charge, but doesn’t he get to have a say? Can’t he share how he’s feeling?

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The Rise of Tea Party Women and What it Means For the Pro-Choice Movement

20 Sep

One of the most head-scratching, or scary if you will, parts of this year’s election season has been the rise of the Tea Party: uber-conservative , religious, and mainly  white voters and candidates that are booting “moderate” republicans in party primaries across the country.  It has been a common theme that the Tea Party members are overwhelmingly male, but the women, led by Fox News contributor Sarah Palin, seem to be having the most impact and are  winning the most support, which has been recently confirmed by a Quinnipiac University poll.

Some would argue the fact that women are so actively involved in politics and are winning primaries is a great thing for the women’s rights movement; the reality is that many of these women hold extreme anti-choice, anti-abortion, evangelical views, which obliterates any notion of progress for women.

So who are the Tea Party women? What do they stand for ? And what does the country stand to lose If enough of these extreme positions are instituted into law if enough Tea Party candidates are elected?

Peggy Drexler of Cornell Medical School writes on the Huffington Post on what the women of the Tea Party stand for, saying,

“Aggregate statistics don’t neatly translate to individual intent. But it’s fair to assume there aren’t many coming out of this base who will champion issues like gay marriage, choice, and single parent families. Gay marriage and choice are clearly high on Sarah Palin’s list of American evils. Single parent families get a pass for obvious reasons. But as Colleen Campbell quotes her speeches in a recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial — single mothers are ‘strong enough and smart enough’ … to ‘handle an unplanned pregnancy,’ while continuing to pursue education and a career. In other words: when the going gets tough, the tough keep the baby.”

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Comprehensive Sex Ed: Teaching the Teachers

17 Sep

Originally posted on RH Reality Check

On September 15th, the CDC released a new report on the share of teens in the United States that were taught about birth control.  This report shows that one-third of teens were never taught about birth control in their health classes.  This is crazy; some schools are still not teaching about birth control, though the public overwhelmingly agrees that it needs to be taught.  One poll even showed that 85 percent of parents believe that teens need to be taught about birth control.  The other two-third of teens, which are taught about birth control, may not know enough about how to use it.  Birth control methods seem to be the most taboo topic in the sex-ed world.

To try and figure out why this is, and learn more about teachers opinions on sex-ed, I sat down with my old health teacher, just hours after this study was released.  After our conversation I began thinking, and I realized it’s not that educators are against birth control, it’s that they’re afraid of it.

I attended Mr. Hanson’s (not his real name) class every day first period for twenty weeks last year.  Mr. Hanson describes the curriculum he teaches as “fairly comprehensive,” though from my own personal experience I know the main focus is on abstinence.  When I asked him about this, Hanson explains that he tries to “inform students that sex can be great, at the right time, with the right person” and that he can’t decide when the right time is for his students to have sex.  He also tries to instill in his student’s minds that “if sex is to occur, a condom must be worn.”  As a result, he does talk about birth control, though usually in the context that the Pill does not prevent sexually transmitted infections or disease.   Even so, his students are already part of that two-third that learned about birth control.  Just because students know what birth control is–that it exists–doesn’t mean that they know how to properly use it or how to get it.  Many girls won’t talk to a parent about getting birth control because they think that their parents will be displeased that they are having sex.  Students are sometimes afraid to buy condoms because of fear someone may see them, among other concerns.  Though these are not reasons why someone should ever have unprotected sex, these taboos are a reality in today’s society.  Hanson believes that may not be a bad thing.  He says that students that do have sex need to be responsible, and if they are unable or unwilling to secure birth control for themselves or their partner, they may not be ready to have sex.  If only that was the situation, life would be simpler.  Sadly many teens don’t see it that way.  Teens are still having unprotected sex, even with knowledge of birth control options.  And what does that mean for that one-third of teens that aren’t educated about birth control…?

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