Archive | October, 2010

Talking About Reproductive Rights in a Recession

19 Oct

A guest post from Abigail Collazo.

The New York Times recently reported that Democrats in tight races are starting to focus on abortion rights as a strategy for attracting base voters. All I can say is, it’s about time. Republicans have argued that the new emphasis on abortion rights is an effort to distract voters from jobs and the economy, claiming that Democrats know they can’t win on the issues that really matter.

 

It’s no secret that the economy is the number one issue for Americans this fall. However, Democrats have made a huge error in focusing so narrowly on job creation. Financial stability and job security permeate every aspect of American life. While it’s a relief to note that the Democratic establishment has finally remembered that it is pro-choice, even the campaigns that are talking about it are doing so in a vacuum – Republican strategists are likely not the only people thinking it’s a “desperate attempt made by desperate campaigns.” Instead, Democrats should be making the case for the connection between reproductive health and the economic crisis.

 

Reproductive health is not just about a woman’s right to choose what happens with her body, it’s also about her right to choose what happens to her life. Many women indicate that their financial stability greatly affects their decisions about when to have children. Considering how opposed so many Republicans are to “hand outs” like welfare, (also known as much-needed assistance to those in desperate need of aid), they are often irrationally unwilling to give poor women the tools they need to prevent unplanned births, including comprehensive sex education and funding for birth control.  Last year, half of all pregnancies in the United States were unplanned – approximately 3 million. For the more than 2 million women who have lost health insurance as a result of the recession, unplanned pregnancies pose even greater burdens on already strained finances.

 

This recession has hit everyone hard. But this economic crisis is not an independent issue, unrelated to women’s access to reproductive health.  The Democratic Party would do better to remind voters that these issues do not exist in isolation, but rather are directly related.  Want to make a poor women’s life more difficult in these tough economic times?  Restrict her access to reproductive health. See how fast the economy recovers with hundreds of thousands of children whose parents can’t afford to take care of them or themselves.

What the Midterm Elections Mean for Reproductive Rights

18 Oct

For the first time in history, more women than ever before are running for elected office in the midterm elections.  It’s been dubbed the “Year of the Mama Grizzly” and the “Year of the Woman.” With so many women running for elected office, what will happen to women’s reproductive rights?

Let’s take a look at the many candidates running, shall we? We have GOP candidates Carly Fiorina, Sharron Angle, Meg Whitman, Nikki Haley and Christine O’Donnell.  Carly Fiorina, former chairwoman and CEO of the Hewlett-Packard Company who is running for the California Senate, is socially and fiscally conservative.  She is anti-choice and has reportedly earned an “A” rating from the National Right to Life Committee and has earned a plethora of endorsements from the Susan B. Anthony List, a national anti-choice political action committee.  In addition, Fiorina is not a supporter of marriage equality and is a strong proponent of the death penalty. Sharron Angle, running for the Senate in Nevada against Harry Reid, is also fiscally and socially conservative. She is anti-choice and has received endorsements from Concerned Women for America and the Life and Liberty PAC. Meg Whitman, running for Governor of California, is fiscally conservative and socially moderate. While she supported the anti-marriage equality Proposition 8, she supports civil unions between same-sex couples. Surprisingly, she is pro-choice and supports the right of women to choose whether or not to pursue an abortion. Nikki Haley, running for Governor of South Carolina, is staunchly anti-choice and is a fiscal conservative. Likewise, Christine O’Donnell, running for the Delaware Senate, is also staunchly anti-choice and is fiscally conservative.

What do most of these women have in common? They are mostly all anti-choice, excluding Meg Whitman. It seems that if these anti-choice women are elected to office, they will have a direct effect on legislation that affects women’s bodies, reproductive rights and reproductive health. At a time when anti-choice groups are gaining supporters and ground across America, these anti-abortion candidates could energize and mobilize the anti-choice movements. There is no doubt that their politics and personal views will pollute legislation aimed at women’s bodies, women’s reproductive rights and women’s choices.

Just something to think about. If you haven’t already, register to vote and vote in these midterm elections. Vote for your rights and your choices.

Who God Really Is

15 Oct

Many people assume that, because I am active in the pro-choice, pro-bodily autonomy movement, I am an atheist. I’m not. God and reproductive justice are not, and should not be, exclusive from each other. In fact, as taboo as it may be, Christian women abort, too. Now, I don’t belong to an organized religion, but I do believe in God. I was brought up as a Catholic. I actually found Catholicism to be detrimental to my faith in God. There has always been something in the Catholic church that has told me “Get out. We don’t want you here”. Some people find peace and love in the Catholic church, pro-choicers included, so I don’t mean to bash Catholics. I just found that the Catholic church was not the most welcoming or loving place for me.

When I got old enough and rebellious enough, I defied my parents’ wishes and just stopped going to church. That was when I started believing in God, ironically enough.

To many people, liberty and God seem like two totally conflicting ideas. I don’t blame them for thinking this. It seems like the loudest believers in God, the loudest Christians in particular, are ready and willing to use God as a weapon against all people who they deem unworthy of respect (all women, people of color, people who aren’t straight, etc). These are the people who will gladly do everything that Jesus wouldn’t do and say that their actions are in the name of God.

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A Day in the Life

14 Oct

One of the main reasons I love my job is because I love stories. Working on the phones, I get to hear the first, often uncensored version of a woman’s abortion story. So many women think they don’t want to talk about it, especially not with a stranger, but then some unexpected trigger makes it all come tumbling out. I assure them they don’t have to tell me anything, or justify anything, but some of them just need to.

Certain patterns have emerged. Women who are older than 35 tend to try to laugh it off; they think they are old enough to know better, silly to have to tell their medical information to a girl as young as I am. But they always open up over the phone, without prompting, more than any other age group. This one already has four children. That one was on the waiting list for a tubal when THIS happened. This one’s husband had a vasectomy that didn’t take. They have practical reasons, pragmatic reasons. They have balanced things out. Women younger than me (I’m 26) often have very different stories: they are struggling to get out of abusive relationships, they have tried three different methods of birth control and nothing works, they thought he used a condom; their stories are fraught with drama. They are having a hard time deciding; they like babies, they know they are expected to have them, but it’s not the right time, he’s not the right guy, there’s not enough money. Some of them laugh, but uneasily.

In the middle of that age range there are the most interesting stories: lives that are almost settled, real careers just getting started, decisions that have not yet been made about how many children, how much time and energy there is to invest. These women know about the big city, they know their rights; they are the ones who want to know why they can’t have their abortion sooner, why the clinic isn’t closer to them. They are sometimes combative. They have no time for nonsense. Their stories are not told explicitly, not by them: I like to fill in the space and guess what’s going on by the tone of their voices, by their names and accents and neighbourhoods.

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My Path to Abortion Provision

13 Oct

I have been pro-choice since I was old enough to understand what it means.  When I was in high school I had a pin on my backpack with the picture of a coat hanger with a big red slash over it, but I had no idea what kind of craziness the topic of abortion inspired until my first year of college.  I was looking for an internship or volunteer opportunity, and made use of my college’s career services center.  There was an internship advertised to counsel young women on pregnancy options.  It sounded like a good idea to me, and I was optimistic until I heard a horrible-sounding video playing in the waiting room while I was waiting in the director’s office.  I still didn’t totally understand what was going on, though, until I began to speak with the man who ran the office.  Within a few minutes it was clear that he had an anti-abortion agenda, and was trying to convince me with some ridiculous claims about increased cancer, depression, and car accidents in women who had abortions.  I got out of there quickly, and later realized that I had experienced a full-fledged “crisis pregnancy center,” and that the video I had heard was an anti-abortion classic full of misrepresentations known as “The Silent Scream.”

For some reason I didn’t act on my anger at that situation at the time.  I attribute it to my lack of ability to care strongly about anything other than keeping up with my pre-med classes and my less emotionally fraught volunteer activities with children.  I put the whole incident out of my mind, but the issue of choice showed up again when I started medical school.

Medical schools have a woeful lack of education about reproductive health issues affecting men and women alike.  Although we would spend hours learning about a rare disease few of us would ever see, we spent about one hour learning about contraceptive methods and no time at all learning about abortion.  Our Medical Students for Choice chapter tried to bring in someone from outside the school to discuss early abortion methods, only to find our efforts quashed by higher level administrators.  We tried to incorporate an options counseling session into a student-run class on adoption but the course advisors left that session out of the syllabus.  Our only success had nothing to do with our medical education (and everything to do with our well-being): we finally convinced the student health insurance provider to cover contraception.

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We Are Not Afraid to Speak Out About The A Word – Will You Join Us?

12 Oct

A guest post from Education for Choice.

Many pro-choice Americans think we in the UK have it all: free abortion on the National Health Service (NHS), providers who don’t have to wear bulletproof vests to work, and the general acceptance amongst society that abortion is a medical procedure that women should be able to access whenever they need it.  Growing up in the Midwestern U.S., I thought these same things. Because women have free access to abortion on the NHS, even a heck of a lot of Brits think that there is no work to be done here, but I’ve been working at EFC since January 2010 and I’ve learned that there’s no room for complacency. People here are always surprised to hear that anti-choice organisations are using American-style tactics to spread lies and misinformation in schools and at crisis pregnancy centres across the UK every day.

In the U.S. there are numerous inspiring and active pro-choice activist organisations, groups and advocates, but in the UK Education For Choice (EFC) is the only educational charity dedicated to enabling young people to make and act on informed choices about pregnancy and abortion. We at EFC are here to say out loud that abortion is not a dirty word and that our abortion rights should not be taken for granted.

This month, the new Government is having a Spending Review which promises drastic public sector cuts and the strong chance that some key public health strategies will not be renewed. EFC will no longer be able to rely on funding from the Government so we are looking at alternative sources of support. We met with a professional fundraiser recently. Her first suggestion was that we should leave the word abortion out of our organisational description. She described it as ‘the A word’ and explained that ‘it puts people off’.

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Fear, Loathing and Dancing Genitalia

11 Oct

A guest post by JustJane.

I’m older than most of the Abortion Gang and happy to be in solidarity with all of you as an (aging) guest blogger. I’ve been in the field for about twenty five years now. Longer if you include my confusion when my grade three teacher gave us a pamphlet about fetal development that I was finding fascinating until I reached week twelve, at which point it said, “Today my mother killed me.” Yes, I went to Catholic school. But even at eight years old, I knew there was something fundamentally screwed up about this pamphlet and the teacher who had given it to me. It would be years before I dared to articulate my feelings because I was afraid. Figuring out what I was afraid of was a big part of breaking free of that community and being able to think for myself. Little did I know I’d have to go through that same process again at forty-eight when once again, I noticed myself avoiding speaking out.

Back in the days when I was eight, my fear was of God and the Church, not the anti-choice folks that claimed to speak for them. Their tactics were pretty mild back then and involved showing colorized images of the fetus in the womb, with some thumb-sucking thrown in for good measure.  These images appealed to the idea of women as nurturers and portrayed the fetus as already human and in need of protection. They were meant to make pro-choice people feel guilt, not fear.

But in recent years, the images employed by the anti-choice have changed drastically. A particularly heinous group of anti-choicers has taken up the assault on reason in my neck of the woods. They’ve been setting up campaigns called the “Genocide Awareness Project,” “Show the Truth,” or other propagandist titles through “campus pro-life” groups, which as far as I can tell, are just a campus front for the people, money and churches that are really behind the display. And as if this weren’t bad enough, the advertising maxim, “Any media is good media,” seems to be working for them. They’ve been getting a lot of press, mostly because their displays offend community standards. Even bad media seems to encourage them. So they have become increasingly bold and visible. They often drive a truck around with their awful pictures plastered on the side and hold random street protests. You probably have something like this near you.

These images are not meant to appeal to women as nurturers or to make pro-choice people feel merely guilty. These images are bloody and horrific. The alleged dismembered fetuses plastered on trucks and held up by street protesters assault unsuspecting drivers and passersby like a perverted flasher in a school playground. People who have seen the display report that it can be several minutes before they understand what the images are supposed to be. One friend told me that the first time she saw the truck, she thought it was the worst advertising for barbeque she had ever seen. Then she got it. And she got angry. She said she felt like she had been mugged.

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