Archive | February, 2011

Speaking Power to Our Truths

28 Feb

I am unapologetically proud of my reproductive justice activism, including the seven months I worked as an abortion counselor and sexual health educator at a local reproductive health clinic.  Supporting female-bodied persons – and at times their partners, friends, family members and loved ones – as they moved through and processed their abortion experience was work I poured my entire heart into.  In the near future, I hope to return to the reproductive health care field to serve in a similar capacity.

Á few weeks ago I was shamed for the pride I take in my experience.  I was in my ophthalmologist’s office to have a stye removed from the underside of my upper eyelid (sexy, indeed).  The walls are covered in pictures drawn for him by his children.  His desktop is a picture of them all decked out in their ski apparel on top of some mountain in what I imagine is some place I can’t afford to visit in Colorado.  A “family man.”  He comes in, talks at me for 15 minutes, then leaves.  My mom is with me.  “Bella, don’t be so cynical” is her response when I start snapping off about how he doesn’t let me finish my questions before he starts to answer them.

We move to the operating room and he starts the procedure, which, let me assure you, is not very pleasant.  There were multiple injections of lidocaine, then miniature forceps, followed by many failed attempts at grabbing a hold of my eyelid, flipping it over and pinning it down.

“Just make sure you don’t move around too much,” he cautioned.

So this doctor dude lances and starts digging around in my swollen exposed eyelid and decides to start making small talk with my mother about the instruments he is using.

“Oh, that is an interesting-looking tool,” she commented.

“Yeah, what it is?” I asked, feeling suddenly that I was awkwardly being excluded from the conversation surrounding the invasive procedure being performed on my body.

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What is NOT the Matter with Kansas, or Why I Suppport Planned Parenthood

26 Feb

I’m borrowing Rachel Maddow’s words from her Wednesday night broadcast here, but I hope you’ll forgive me. As I watched her broadcast from Lawrence, Kansas, I couldn’t help a swelling of pride at what I saw on the screen. Kansans, like myself, who wanted every woman to have access to their full reproductive rights (among other “liberal” ideas) were gathered around Ms. Maddow in the Free State Brewery. Maddow showed the good side of Kansas, the side of Kansas I love–not the radical, ultra-conservative side that was shown around the death of Dr. Tiller.

The next day I called my grandmother to tell her about the broadcast.

“I already knew about it,” she replied.

“How?” I asked her. She never stayed up late enough to view it.

“Sister Rose told me about it,” she said.

Some background here–my grandmother is the manager of an apartment complex for retired folks in western Kansas. Everyone who lives there is over 65, though many are around 80. Sister Rose, age 80, is a retired nun who entered her convent at the age of 14.

“Sister Rose?” I asked. “How did Sister Rose know?”

Sister Rose watches the Rachel Maddow Show every night, my grandmother told me. That morning after coffee with the other residents, Sister Rose made her way into my grandmother’s office, as she usually did. Only today, she had a more specific purpose.

She was angry, and she needed someone to talk to about it. Since she didn’t figure any of the other residents would lister to her or care, she decided she’d try things with my grandma. Between what she had seen on the Maddow show–the talk of Phil Kline’s trial, among other things–and the news that Planned Parenthood could lose funding, she had heard enough!

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It is Her Choice

25 Feb

What’s your story?

What makes you pro-choice?  Why is it so vital to you that you can make your own choices about your body?

Here on the Abortion Gang blog we have spent nearly a year discussing why we are pro choice, why anti abortion legislation hurts women, and how you can support women’s right to access a safe and legal abortion.

But we are one small group of activists, and based on last week’s House vote to strip Planned Parenthood of funding for necessary medical procedures like Pap smears (which have nothing to do with abortion), we need to be louder.

We need your voices.

Please join us on the new Facebook page, It’s Her Choice, to speak out on why the decision to have an abortion or to have a baby is something that is up to each and every individual woman.  Share your abortion stories, why you are pro choice, and how we can all combat the seemingly tireless wave of anti choice legislation at the state and federal levels.

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Remembering Women in the Politics of Abortion

24 Feb

There are so many reasons why I am pro-choice that it would probably be impossible to list them all. I can, however, summarize these reasons fairly easily; it’s for women. Women need abortion. Some need it to stay alive. Others need it to maintain their happiness and health. If I were to get pregnant, I’d need abortion to help me stay in school and reach the goals that I have in life. There are many reasons why society needs abortion, but when you break it down it is fairly simple. It’s for women’s lives, women’s liberty, and women’s rights. Ask me any question about my pro-choice beliefs and my answer will come back to it being about women. In fact, you won’t hear me talk about the fetus much at all.

The abortion debate, however, revolves around the fetus. The questions asked about abortion include “does the fetus feel pain? Is the fetus alive? Is the fetus a person? Does the fetus deserve rights?” and women, despite being the ones most directly affected by pregnancy and abortion, are completely forgotten. If you take all of these questions and replace “fetus” with “women” then you get very clear answers; yes, women feel pain. Yes, women are alive. Yes, women are people, and yes, women deserve rights. However, despite the conspicuity of these questions, we fail to implement these basic ideas in real life. In our minds, we (well, most of us) recognize that women are persons deserving of equal rights. In our actions and debates, however, we ignore this fact and act like it isn’t true. We always come back to the fetus, while neglecting the woman involved.

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Congresswoman Jackie Speier: I Had an Abortion

23 Feb

Last Thursday, the House of Representatives debated on a proposal to completely strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding geared towards women’s health and sex education services. Amidst the talk, Representative Jackie Speier (D-California) spoke about the effects of her abortion in relation to Planned Parenthood. What does it mean that a congresswoman came out and shared her own #ihadanabortion story?

Congresswoman Speier courageously took the House floor and told the world about her own abortion. The abortion was to terminate a wanted pregnancy that could not be carried to term due to complications. She stated, “For you to stand on the floor and suggest as you just have, that somehow this is a procedure that is either welcomed or done cavalierly or done without any thought is preposterous.” She also discussed the vendetta against Planned Parenthood and Planned Parenthood’s right to operate in this country and its right to perform legal abortions.

Following Speier’s courageous and brave speech, Representative Gwen Moore (D-Wisconsin) discussed the falsities of the concept that abortion is black genocide. According to Jezebel, Moore argued against Representative Paul Broun’s (R-Georgia) statement that, “more black babies” were killed by the presence of organizations such as Planned Parenthood. This indicates that the belief of abortion as black genocide is alive and well in this country.

Preventative Care is Critical to Reproductive Health

22 Feb

Six months ago I moved away from New Brunswick, the province that had been my home for thirteen years. I did so with a great deal of relief. Sometimes it is easy to look back with rose -coloured glasses, and I often wonder if it was really such a backwards place, or if I had just exaggerated the conservative, elitist, whiteness of it because I was so unhappy there.

And then, I see something like this.

This is a provincial government page on getting tested for chlamydia (which is absolutely an EPIDEMIC right now, in case you are wondering. Please get tested if you can!). Scroll down to the part about where you should get tested if you are 19 years old or younger and don’t have a health care provider. Now compare that to where it says you can go if you are 20 to 29 and don’t have a health care provider. See the difference?

In New Brunswick, you have to be 19 years old OR YOUNGER to access sexual health centres. Let that sink in for a second.

New Brunswick is a province with a dangerous shortage of family doctors. I would hazard a guess that most people who live in NB don’t have a health care provider. When I lived in Fredericton, the capital city, a government and university town with a population of about 60,000, I had no access to regular sexual health care. As a university student I went to the student health centre. The age limit for the sexual health centres then was 24, so I could go there once I graduated. But when I turned 24, there was nowhere – literally nowhere – I could go to get a pap test. And now that age is 19.

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Frances Kissling Does Not Speak for the Pro-Choice Movement

21 Feb

For pro-choicers to succeed in the battle for reproductive justice, the last thing we need to do is give in to the wants of those who stand against women’s rights. The last thing we should ever do is sacrifice the rights of some women in an attempt to gain rights for others. After all, who is the pro-choice movement supposed to stand for? Women. If we stand for some women and not for others in order to please those who work against women’s rights, then I am confident that we will fail.

However, a recent article written by Frances Kissling seems to suggest that, as pro-choicers, we should not stand our ground. She suggests that we should sacrifice some abortion rights and give in to fetal worship if we want to win when she says that we “pretend the fetus is invisible” and that we should sacrifice more second and third trimester abortion rights. She claims that these “are not compromises”, and I have to ask, if they are not compromises, what are they? If we sacrifice the rights of of some women and take the focus off of women so that we can put it back on fetuses just to please a misogynistic society, how is that not compromise? Yes, it’s true that the abortion rights movement is fetus orientated. However, pro-choicers are not going to win by giving into the fetus obsession. Pro-choicers all have different opinions on the value of the fetus; that is fine. If all pro-choicers wake up tomorrow and say “oh, fine! There is a moral difference between a first trimester abortion and a second trimester abortion!” we will not be any better off than we were. The problem is not our differing views on the moral value of fetuses, the problem is that we live in a society that cares nothing for women’s lives and women’s rights. The abortion debate is already revolved around the fetus, and we are not going to win by making it even more so. If we want to make society recognize the fact that women deserve full equality, even when pregnant, then we need to recognize that, ultimately, it is not about the fetus.

Kissling claims that “we need to firmly and clearly reject post-viability abortions except in the most extreme cases.” Newsflash: women don’t wait until they are 36 weeks along and then decide “hm, I think I’m going to have an abortion today!” Women take this seriously, and it is certainly not up to Kissling to decide what is an acceptable abortion and what is not. This is where trusting women comes in; there are many reasons why women have second and third trimester abortions, ranging from rape to financial difficulties to fetal anomalies to mental or physical health reasons to not realizing that she was pregnant. All of these women deserve respect, and none of these women’s rights should be sacrificed. Also, taking away second and third trimester abortion rights will, inevitably, lead to the infringement upon first trimester abortion rights, as well. Anti-choicers are not going to settle for restricting late term abortions only, so we should stop attempting to appease to them. They will not stop fighting until they have eliminated all reproductive rights (and yes, I do mean all of them).

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Planned Parenthood Saved My Life

19 Feb

I doubt there is a person in this country who’s life hasn’t been in some way touched by Planned Parenthood and the work they do. Many of them may not even know it; many of the people in my life don’t know it. There are a thousand stories about the work that this organization does and how it changed or save a life. This is mine.

In the summer of 2009, I was preparing to leave for a volunteer trip to Africa. With the intention of quitting my job, packing up my life and leaving the country for months, I fit in one last lady doctor appointment while I was still covered by insurance. I knew everything would be fine. I had been sleeping with one person for years, and I had been tested before and during the time we were together; this was a mere formality.

A month later, home in Boston with my family, I received a polite letter informing me that something was wrong with my pap smear. I needed a follow-up appointment. I had no insurance.

I had already escaped the possibility of cancer years before and quite frankly, I had other things to do with my time. I left for my trip and forgot about the letter. But because I am, despite my frequent best efforts, a responsible adult, I left the letter on my desk so it would be there when I got back. And so, heartsick and strangely homesick for my adopted country, very broke, dirty and exhausted, and physically ill, I returned home to face the very real possibility that something was deeply wrong with my health.

This would be where Planned Parenthood comes in.

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Dr. Gosnell and William Saletan: Bad Medicine

18 Feb

Kermit Gosnell was a bad doctor.  He practiced outside the scope of his capabilities, employed unqualified staff, did not appropriately dispose of medical waste and failed to use aseptic technique.

Unfortunately, there are other bad doctors out there.  Lots of them. On February 17, 2011, Dr. Rey Bello of New Jersey surrendered his medical license for performing unnecessary tests, fraudulent billing, and incompetence.    Dr. Conrad Murray will soon go on trial for his role in the death of Michael Jackson; his alleged activities include administering IV narcotics and medications used only in surgery. Dr. Hellfried Sartori has a near 30-year record of using dangerous, ineffective treatments all over the world despite multiple revocations of his license to practice medicine.  Delaware pediatrician Dr Earl Bradley was indicted last year for sexual abuse of over 100 children.

The good news is that although there are a few bad doctors out there, there are a lot of great ones.  My colleagues and I are kind, caring, sensitive, and so devoted to taking the best possible care of our patients that we literally will reach out to people from all over the country for help if we encounter any unfamiliar scenario.  We go to medical conferences several times a year and spend hours every week reading medical journals to make sure we are on top of the latest research.  We study every aspect of abortion provision to continuously improve our services, from the experience in the waiting room to the best way to provide follow up care.  We go to bat for our patients both in the exam room and on Capitol Hill, and are involved in regulatory efforts on both local and national levels to improve access to family planning services.

William Saletan described what he deems a similar situation to the fiasco surrounding Dr Gosnell in Florida 20 years ago, and comes to the conclusion that physicians were complicit because they were too afraid to point out unsafe conditions at an abortion clinic:

“As little as the good providers trusted the bad ones, they trusted the government less. Nothing would make them break their silence. Not even a woman’s death.”

The suggestion that any of us would not act on the knowledge of a doctor providing dangerous care is insulting to us all.  We work tirelessly to make sure all women have access to safe abortion care. We are anything but silent in the face of the many challenges women face and we expect all abortion clinics to provide the highest quality of care to everyone.

Our patients trust us, as should Mr. Saletan.

Your Representatives are Terrified for You

17 Feb

In the years I worked in public policy and non-profits in Washington, D.C., I saw adored and reviled Members of Congress (MoC) alike engage in frequent, slightly outlandish hyperbole. Cutting taxes was an attack on the needs of the American citizen; raising them was an attack on citizens themselves. Passing the Patriot Act was an assault on the constitution; not passing it was an assault on America and All It Stands For. Unless an issue was near and dear to my heart or to someone close to me, I learned to tune out a great deal of the white noise. And now, as I see MoC jumping up and down, screaming, trying to get the attention of not just the pro-choice community but also every man and woman in this country who believes, however minimally, in a woman’s right to choose, or to have access to affordable medical care, or not to be left to die in a hospital emergency room because a medical provider has a moral stance to take that they deem more important than that woman’s life, I understand what is happening here. Our elected officials are trying to get through the white noise.

Your elected representatives are terrified for you.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is calling anti-choice legislation in Congress “a violent act against women“; these are not words to be taken lightly from a woman whose close friend and colleague, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was actually shot in her district by a man intent on preventing her from doing her job. Representative DeGette says these bills, “are really about limiting women’s rights to reproductive care.”

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