Archive | November, 2010

Who Deserves to Have a Baby?

30 Nov

It’s always interesting to look into the mind of an anti and see what they believe. The latest thing I’ve noticed is that antis have a very, very strange view of who will make good parents. Many antichoice harassers will stand outside a clinic and tell any woman walking in (whether there for a pap or an abortion consult) that she would make a great mom. They tell her she deserves to be a mother and will instantly fall in love at birth.

Yet at the same time, a woman with a wanted pregnancy who has gone through fertility issues and miscarriages, who has researched the development of her fetus and given him a name, who has never stepped foot in or near a clinic- this woman they believe would make a horrible mother. So horrible in fact that they think her infant, once born, should be removed from her and placed up for adoption. Others have suggested that the mother has an emotional or mental illness that needs to be looked into.

For instance, Kristen on JillStanek’s post says “I think they should give the baby up for adoption – they are obviously not good parents.” Aengus O’Shaughnessy  replies, “Kristen, you are absolutely correct–these people should give the poor child to someone who will raise it properly.” Jennifer agrees: “The bottom line is these people are already terrible, terrible parents and they don’t deserve this baby. Lord Jesus, have mercy on this innocent child and save him from his own parents. How sick and disgusting this is.”

What made antichoicers hate this Glenn-Beck-loving woman so much that they want to take her child away by force? The simply fact that her husband put up a hoax website inviting people to vote on whether they would abort the pregnancy or not. Both prochoice and antichoice [Warning, link is to Jill Stanek] websites have proven the vote is a hoax. The couple wants people to consider how important voting is.

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The Election of 2012: The Handmaid’s Tale

29 Nov

Margaret Atwood is a celebrated, Canadian, dystopian author. One of her most famous works, The Handmaid’s Tale, outlines a terrifying future where women are property of the theocratic government composed entirely of men. They aren’t allowed to hold jobs or positions of power, and their lives are dedicated to serving the needs and desires of men, according to religious doctrine (of course).  Serving these desires consists, at least for the main character, Offred, of acting as servant and concubine for a prominent and wealthy but infertile, older couple.

Offred is afforded little luxury and absolutely no freedom. She, legally, must follow the rules of the house as set forth by the Commander. A major part of her bizarre life is a ritual referred to as “the Gathering,” where the household gathers to pray and then Offred, the Commander’s wife and the Commander abdicate to the bedroom so that Offred and the Commander can have sex, with the intention of producing offspring. Possibly the most bizarre part of this ritual is the description of Offred laying between the legs of the Commander’s wife, holding her hands, while the Commander has sex with her lower body.

Ok, so you’re thinking, “that’s a really crazy book, but what does this have to do with abortion?” Well, that’s sort of the whole point. Women don’t have control over anything in this dystopian future, least of all their bodies. And this may sound like a dramatization on my part, but, if we elect officials like Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell, this is the future we are choosing. The worst irony is that, in the future that we may be choosing, women are doing these horrible things to other women. Don’t want the freedom to marry who you would like to marry, elect Sarah Palin. Let’s go a step further, and elect Christine O’Donnell, and your freedom to masturbate in the privacy of your own home is at stake. In a world where masturbation is an illegal activity, can you imagine what the punishment for having an abortion would be?

In Atwood’s universe, the punishment for an infraction is death by hanging, or firing squad, or stoning. For us, who knows what it might be? What I do know is that this terrifying future is not that far out of the realm of possibility. Women’s rights are being attacked and, gradually, being limited. If we elect officials who hold ridiculously narrow and uncompromising views of the world, this is the future that we are inviting.

A 5-Step Program for Making Me Anti-Abortion

26 Nov

One thing that I pride myself on is my willingness to challenge my opinions and beliefs and, if necessary, change them. I am an atheist and I have always said that if God were proved to me in a falsifiable way in accordance with science, I would believe. I previously challenged my disagreement with polygamy when I could no longer support my beliefs, and I have outlined what it would take for me to view male circumcision as anything other than a needless cosmetic procedure. I hold very strong opinions on a great many topics, but there is not one that I am not willing to be proven wrong on. Even abortion. As a result, I am going to outline what would cause me to become anti-abortion.

Just like telling me that God must exist because we exist, circular reasoning will not get me to be anti-abortion. The following must be proved to me before I would be come anti-abortion. In fact, if all of the following were proved to me, I would have no choice butbecome anti-abortion because these are the things that I base my pro-abortion opinion on. Here goes.

1) All women would have to be able to prevent unwanted pregnancies. This means accessible birth control regardless of a woman’s socio-economic status. It also means the knowledge to know how to use birth control. Abstinence is not legitimate birth control; women are entitled to enjoy sex just as much as men without being required to have a child. Not to mention practicing abstinence doesn’t help when women are raped. Birth control would also have to be effective, which means a 100% success rate for all women who are taking it.

2) No woman becomes pregnant through a non-consensual sexual act.

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What We Are Thankful For

25 Nov

As pro-choice activists, as humans, we have a lot to be thankful for. I asked my fellow Abortion Gang bloggers what they’re most grateful for this holiday and this is what they said, in no particular order:

I’m thankful Twitter exists connecting me to so many cool feminists.

I am thankful that my passion is also my profession.

I’m thankful for reproductive justice activist allies of my generation, like Abortion Gang founder Steph Herold, for doing revolutionary, world changing work and putting the strength of their convictions out there in new, revolutionary ways. I’m thankful for my young feminist family for always being there to work out kinks in my thinking, to think out kinks in the movement, and laugh with me until I cry or cry with me until I laugh.

I’m thankful for older reproductive freedom fighters, like Gloria Steinem, who recognize young activists as equal co-collaborators and emerging revolutionaries and do everything in their power to support us, to understand and listen to and respect us, and to gently nudge us toward organizing and thinking even bigger and better.

I’m thankful for the providers who, to quote Ani DiFranco, “daily provide women with a choice, who stare down a threat the size of Oklahoma City to listen to a young woman’s voice. ” I’m thankful for the strong reproductive justice activists who escort patients through hordes of screamers to the clinic door, who open their homes and their wallets and their hearts to help women get the money for an abortion, who teach sex education classes and become doulas and take to the internet to refute anti-choice lies.

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An Open Letter to William Saletan: Please Write Another Book About Abortion

24 Nov

Dear Mr. Saletan,

We haven’t met but I’ve been following you on Slate for quite some time now. So when I read your last two articles “What pro-choicers/pro-lifers can learn from the Princeton abortion conference” none of your recommendations were new to me. In short, you said pro-choicers should:

  1. Admit the value of the fetus.
  2. Embrace abortion reduction.
  3. Treat contraception as a moral practice.
  4. Reclaim stigma.
  5. Target repeaters.
  6. Reconsider the legality of second-trimester abortions.

In return you said pro-lifers should:

  1. Reduce the abortion rate through voluntary means.
  2. Subsidize maternity.
  3. Embrace contraception.
  4. Early abortions are better than late ones.
  5. Choose your friends by your mission, not your mission by your friends.

Here’s my main problem with your approach to finding common ground in the abortion issue. Since you know who the existing players you should also know that many of these recommendations are not “common ground,” but points of debate and contention. Now to be fair, there probably are many people who would say they are either pro-life or pro-choice and would see this as “common ground” — but those people are the not leaders or activists in either movement.

You wrote:

The reason why young, poorly funded people represented the pro-life movement at this conference is that the old, well-funded people who think they own the movement failed to show up. That’s the role young people ought to play in history: thinking in new ways and taking on new challenges when the older generation has lost its compass or its courage. If the pro-life movement is going to be a movement and not just a self-congratulatory fundraising machine, it will need people like Gushee and Camosy to lead the way. These forward thinkers may have to choose between preventing abortions and pleasing the pro-life establishment. It’s up to them to choose well.

Your need to define what the “real” pro-choicer/pro-lifer beliefs are is a bit like pundits who point to Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and say that they are the real Republicans, not people like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. Sure it’s good to be aspirational when writing about movements. It’s why Obama’s campaign slogan was “Yes We Can.” But you saw what happened to him when he tried to deal with a Republican leadership of his imagination instead of the Republican leadership that actually exists.

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We Need to Support Independent Abortion Providers

23 Nov

Supporting Planned Parenthood is something that’s always been a part of the
pro-choice movement. It’s easy, because they are the most well-known provider of abortions and reproductive health care in the US. But by no means is Planned Parenthood the only type of abortion clinic. In fact, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 90% of abortions occur in private clinics. In the wake of the closure of a ground-breaking feminist health center in Yakima, we need to talk about supporting independent providers.

It’s important to remember that one type of clinic is not necessarily better than the other, and that women have different experiences no matter where they go for reproductive health care. What’s different about an  independent abortion provider compared to Planned Parenthood? A lot of things. Amie at RH Reality Check explains how the origins of the Yakima clinic’s pro-woman policies, saying, “The reproductive and sexual health care provided was distinctly feminist with a focus on ensuring that each woman retained decision making power over her body and her care – care which was as supportive, woman-focused and non-judgmental as possible.”

Independent abortion providers follow a small business model and are often not beholden to red tape and bureaucracy (except for those pesky anti-choice TRAP laws). What does this mean in practice, for women who go to these clinics? Care that is tailored to their individual needs, clinics that can feel more like spas instead of  medical facilities, and access to staff who are trained in specifically  feminist or woman-center care. This can mean anything from getting to spend 45 minutes with a counselor talking about pregnancy options to the ability to talk to the doctor for as long as needed before the procedure.

I’m not going to tackle the possible connections between the closure of independent clinics and the rise of Planned Parenthood — Amie does so quite artfully in her piece above. We need to make sure women have all options available to them when choosing where to have their abortions or where to go for prenatal care. While Planned Parenthood is a great option for some people, it’s not for everyone. As reproductive justice activists, it’s our responsibility to defend and support every person’s ability to decide for him or herself where they receive care. In order for everyone to have these options, we need to value independent clinics.

To learn more about independent clinics, visit the Feminist Abortion Network and the Abortion Care Network.

CPCs Are Stealing Your Tax Dollars

22 Nov

Most of the women who find themselves debating whether to carry a pregnancy to term are not on the front lines of the war on women’s rights to their bodies – which means that when they open up their phone book or start typing into Google, they may not know that there is a difference between Planned Parenthood and a “Crisis Pregnancy Center” (CPC).  CPCs often come adorned with church affiliations, and even Christian sounding names.  When life takes scary dips and turns, many of us turn to religion – and women often pick a CPC over another clinic because of that association.

When you call a Crisis Pregnancy Center, the receptionist will tell you that you can come in to talk about the “options” they can offer you – what she won’t tell you is that abortion is not one of them – even though they advertise heavily in phone books and online under “abortion” and “family planning”.  At the CPC, you will be given an unnecessary ultrasound, but you won’t be told that the woman wielding the wand is a volunteer, not a trained medical professional.  The information that follows is purported to be “educational” but instead is a mix of outright lies about a non-existent abortion-cancer connection, a made-up post-abortion mental health disorder, and even the threat of inevitable infertility due to birth control pills.

These anti-choice outposts are not rare – In fact, according to the Feminist Majority Foundation there are more than 3,500 CPCs in America – outnumbering comprehensive women’s health clinics.  Most of them exist as the result of your federal tax dollars through Bush era abstinence education grants – and because they are 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations.
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The Anti-Choice Obsession with Abortion and Black Genocide

18 Nov

Over the summer, while interning at a well-know, pro-choice feminist organization, I visited a crisis pregnancy center (CPC).  Upon visiting, having created a scenario about being a possibly pregnant, woman of colour, I was bombarded with myths about abortion being used to sterilize black women and wipe out the black race. Namely, Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was highlighted for her part in the Eugenics movement. I wondered, why is the pro-life movement so obsessed with this false connection between abortion and Black genocide?

According to “Fighting the Black Anti-Abortion Campaign: Trusting Black Women” by Loretta J. Ross, sixty-five billboards were erected in mainly Black neighborhoods in Atlanta, Georgia in February 2010.  Two organizations—Georgia Right to Life and the Radiance Foundation—spent approximately $20,000 to publicly claim that “Black Children are an Endangered Species.” Apparently, these billboards were in the wake of legislation that sought to criminalize abortions provided to women of colour because of the “race or sex” of the fetus.

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Tweeting About Abortion is Not Oversharing

17 Nov

If you have a Twitter account, or if you’ve been keeping your eye on the news for the past few weeks, then there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the #IHadAnAbortion trend. #IHadAnAbortion, started by @IAmDrTiller (aka Steph), is a hashtag in which women who have had abortions can come out and share their abortion stories. It’s a way for women who have had abortions to say “Antis, your shaming tactics will not work on us. We will not back down and shut up.”

Some people claim that #IHadAnAbortion is “oversharing”. It makes me wonder, is tweeting about pregnancy oversharing? Is tweeting about birth oversharing? If not, then what makes tweeting about abortion oversharing? Having an abortion is a personal decision, true. Going through a pregnancy is also a very personal decision. Neither decision is a bad one, and in neither situation should a woman be shamed into silence. With abortion being as common as it is, there is no reason that someone simply speaking about it should be shamed into silence.

Those participating in #IHadAnAbortion (save for the misogynists who try to hijack the hashtag) are helping women overcome silence. They’re sending out the message that those who abort are not evil, they’re not uncommon, they don’t all feel the same way, and most of all, that they are not alone. I feel that #IHadAnAbortion has accomplished this and more. #IHadAnAbortion has inspired so many people to come out with their stories and to help end the silence. Of course, our work is not done. It’s not like the #IHadAnAbortion hashtag will make all misogyny and abortion-shaming go away, but it does help. Abortion-shamers will continue to try to put women back in their place by screaming over their voices, but pro-choicers can not let them succeed, because, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

What Scares You?

16 Nov

Unplanned pregnancy scares me – which is why for me, morning after emergency contraception ranks right up there with penicillin for most-amazing-scientific-discovery.  Why?  Because it prevents pregnancy.  It’s not an abortion, because pregnancy doesn’t even occur.  It’s peace of mind, and best of all, it’s available Over The Counter.  Of course, OTC should mean that you can walk into your local CVS and pick it up off the shelf.  It should mean that any woman who needs it should be able to get it well within the five day period after unprotected sex, when it is effective.  Of course, the sooner you take it, the better, so ideally (and legally) you should realize that you may be at risk for an unwanted pregnancy, make a quick stop at the pharmacy, pop a pill, and get on with the rest of your life.  It really shouldn’t be any bigger a deal than taking an aspirin – and there are no medical reasons for it to be restricted based on age.

In fact, there are no reasons for it to be restricted based on anything.  There is not a single medical condition that precludes a woman from taking it.  Plan B has never been causally linked to a single death, or even to any serious complications.  Meanwhile, other over-the-counter drugs like aspirin and acetaminophen (Tylenol) have been linked to hundreds of deaths each year, and thousands of serious side effects.
Because Plan B is so safe, the FDA has been court-ordered to allow its over-the-counter sale to everyone.  However, it continues to require pharmacies to keep Plan B behind the counter, selling it only to those men and women ages 17 and over.  They even require a government ID to prove age.  And why?