Archive | May, 2011

Learning From American Mistakes

18 May

On May 2nd, Canadians made a horrible decision. Well 39% of the 61.4% (5.8 million of 33 million people) of the population that voted did anyways. We gave Stephen Harper his long-coveted majority.

While he has sworn up and down that his party (ironically referred to as the CPC) won’t touch abortion, nobody in the pro-choice world believes him. His party is full of antis who would like nothing more than to see women die rather than obtain safe, legal abortions. Now that Harper can do just about anything he wants for the next 4 years, the pro-choice world is holding it’s breath, waiting for the first anti-choice bill to be introduced in the 41st Parliament. It will most certainly be a Private Member Bill, which usually means a free vote. But of course nothing is truly free. Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) has just released their breakdown of pro- and anti-choice MPs. Unfortunately there is a large number of, mostly CPC, MPs with an “unknown” stance so the number of anti-choice MPs may very well outnumber pro-choicers or the numbers may be tight. The NDP may be the saving feature because they are a pro-choice party (vs the Liberals who allow MPs to “vote with their conscience”) and the NDP is the Official Opposition. What I am waiting to see is if we learn from America’s mistakes.

Roe v. Wade was not nearly as strong a support for abortions rights as the Morgentaler decision, but that doesn’t mean we won’t fall prey to the “concessions” made with the antis – giving up the rights of low-income women so that wealthy women still have access to abortion. The problem, as is most evident now than ever, is that if you give an anti an inch, they will take a mile. We have been diligent in Canada, us pro-choicers, in protecting our abortions rights, but there is only so much we can do. Now it is up to the MPs in the house to not concede one millimeter. They cannot agree to one concession with the antis because that one concession, over time, will inevitably snowball into the situation we see in America.

Our government is bound and determined to not learn from America’s “war on drugs” and mega-prison mentality. Harper is hell-bent on remaking those mistakes. The pro-choicers in Canada must stand their ground. We must not accept one single concession. We must demand more. More access, more prevention, more freedom. We must not look to “agree to disagree” or appease the antis. We must look them in the eye and tell them they can take their “moral high-ground” and stick it. We are going to demand abortions access in the most remote areas; we must demand more support for those who choose abortion. Pro-choicers in Canada must fight fire with fire. We cannot give in because as soon as we do, as soon as we concede one point, we lose everything.

Write your MPs and let them know your stance on right to access. The antis certainly make their presence be known, so make yours be known as well. Pay attention to the Bills that come before the house. Be diligent. Fight every single one as if it wants to thrown women in jail for abortions because that is what will come if we don’t.

Sterilization by Choice

17 May

I would like to turn your attention to an excellent recent article in the Toronto Star about women who choose to have tubal ligations. It is a great piece and I urge you to read the whole thing, but here’s the part that sums it up for me:

“To [Sarah] Lawrance, tubal ligations are a matter of control and autonomy. And while people have their own opinions, that choice should belong to the woman alone.

‘You need to let people make their own decisions about how to lead their lives,’ she says. ‘Even if you think they’re wrong.'”

I love that this issue is getting some attention. It is one thing to be childfree by choice, which is a movement that is building momentum, and it is another to want to physically, permanently prevent pregnancy. In my experience, many people who are perfectly supportive of the former tend to recoil at the thought of the latter, especially if, as the article mentions, the woman in question is under 30 or hasn’t had children, or both.

I am 27. I recently had an IUD inserted. If I thought there was any chance of a doctor performing a tubal ligation on me, I would have had that done instead, but honestly I didn’t even try. I know at my age, with no children, there wouldn’t be a chance. I was recently talking to a coworker who has had four children (one stillborn), and who is now trying to have a tubal ligation. Her doctor reluctantly provided her with the referral, but not before grilling her at length about how she would react to every possible situation that might make her want more children, such as one of her children dying (“Been there, done that” she says bitterly), or the breakup of her relationship (I’m not sure how that would make someone want more children, but okay). It was only because of her previous deliveries and the fact that she had the consent of her long-term partner that the doctor allowed her to go ahead.

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Why Abortion Restrictions are Big-Government Interference: What Happened in Kansas

16 May

It’s not exactly a secret anymore that “conservative” has become a tragic code word for “hypocritical.” Conservatives want small government, low taxes, and no regulation – on banks, insurance companies, and Wall Street financial institutions (incidentally, these are the people who fund their campaigns). Conservatives want to regulate the ever-loving crap out of the most private, personal matters that concern women and queers, including marriage and healthcare, no matter what it costs – and it just cost Indiana $4 million.

Did you ever hear the joke about the Jewish dilemma? Free bacon.* The conservative dilemma is similar – what to do when regulating bodies requires regulating businesses? What will win out? Will the conservative need to fiercely protect the freedoms of billion-dollar private corporations take precedence, or will the desire to tell people what they can and cannot do with their bodies based on an entirely arbitrary set of “moral” principles prove to be too strong.

The decision in Kansas would seem to indicate which way the wind is blowing, and like everything else these days, it doesn’t look good for uteri.

Kansas legislators have decided to tell insurance companies what kind of medical procedures they can and cannot cover. And they’re not looking to legislate the sale of viagra, or plastic surgery, or non-FDA approved medications – no, they’re coming right for the abortions, which are, obviously, the scourge of American society. Health insurance companies are posting unheard-of record profits while raising premiums, but the government will have no comment on that, THANKS – commenting on the fact that American consumers are getting royally screwed would be interfering with business, and you know America is built on the totally unregulated success of businesses screwing over consumers! So they’re gonna let that slide, for the good of the nation – but not abortion. Offering to cover a necessary, legal medical procedure – now that is just a bridge too far.

*Don’t worry, you can laugh – this moment brought to you by a Jew.

Why I am Pro-Choice

13 May

A guest post by Merinda of Quietly Questioning.

I managed to get through high school, and most of university without having to confront difficult decisions about unplanned pregnancy. I had one or two too-close-for-comfort moments, but through a combination of responsibility and luck, it wasn’t until last year that I had to really think about unplanned pregnancy, abortion, adoption and parenthood in any real way. Prior to that, it was a straightforward, yet abstract notion.

Sure, I had considered what I might do if faced with an unplanned pregnancy at various stages since I had become sexually active, but it was always very hypothetical. None of my close friends had ever really had to have those contemplations either, that we talked about.

So I moved in with my boyfriend who I’d been with for more than a year. We were very much in love and had started to dance around the topics of children and planning into the future and all of the things that simultaneously horrified and excited me.

I was taking the contraceptive pill and we had stopped using condoms. I missed some pills after we returned from a holiday, so, concerned, I went to my doctor; she did a pregnancy test which was negative, and reassured me saying that there was probably nothing to worry about due to the time of my cycle that I’d missed the pills. Around 5 days later, I got what I assumed was a period, and was of course very relieved. However, it turns out that wasn’t actually a period… Around 3 weeks later, I found out that I was in fact, pregnant.

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Pre-Abortion Provider Stigma

11 May

For those of you who don’t already know me, I’m a pre-med student working towards getting into the health care field as an abortion provider. In high school, I shocked all of my friends and family (and still am shocking them) by announcing that I chose not to be a music major and am going into health care instead. After getting over that initial shock, it seemed that everyone was outspoken about their opinion of what I should do with my life except for me. My dad wanted me to be an ultrasound technician. My mom wanted me to go back to music. My private violin teacher wanted me to be a cardiac surgeon. One of my professors even tried to convince me to become a plastic surgeon. Is someone’s voice missing from this conversation? Uh, yeah: MINE!

With so many strong opinions out there about what I should do with my life and with so much stigma surrounding my future profession, it’s sometimes difficult to get my voice out there and “come out” as a future abortion provider. I admit, sometimes I toy with the idea of going back to music; no one heckles you for saying “I am a violinist”. It’s never intimidating for me to tell someone that I play the violin. No violinists have been stalked or murdered just for being violinists. Abortion providers, sadly, do have to deal with these things. A lot of abortion providers have a hard time “coming out”, even to their family and friends, for fear of the stigma surrounding abortion care and being treated badly for their work. Even though I’m not an abortion provider yet, I have experienced some of the same things. I live in an area that is plagued by anti-choicers, so I am somewhat alone in my passion for women’s rights. When I “come out” to someone as a future abortion provider, I have no idea what kind of reaction I’ll get. Usually people just avoid me after I tell them (hey, I’m okay with that. Who wants to be friends with an anti, anyway?) I’ve gotten people who try to start arguments with me. I had one friend who responded by saying “Oh my god, really? That’s so awesome!” The wide range of reactions can be intimidating; you never know what you’re going to get when you tell someone of your plans for your life when those plans involve providing abortion.

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Thanks, White Dude, For Your Insightful Commentary on Black Women and Abortion

10 May

Men are often, historically and in the history of the present moment, great allies for women’s rights and reproductive justice. White people, men and women alike, have been great allies in the fight against racism. Straight people have been responsible for amazing gains made by the LGBTQ movement. Throughout the discourses around our nation’s most fraught issues, people at the intersection of many identities have commented thoughtfully, opening and expanding the conversation, weaving together the threads of communities to create these fragile but precious things we call “movements.”

The Chicago Tribune’s Dennis Byrne is not one of these people.

Posted on April 25th, Byrne’s article “Exploring blacks’ high rate of abortion” makes a pretty perfect outline for “How Not to Be a White Dude Talkin’ Bout Women and Race,” and how. You probably gathered that from the title, Byrne will be exploring “blacks'” high rate of abortion. Oh yeah. That’s sensitively handled. A good tip is to always try it in reverse, Mr. Byrne. How about “exploring whites’ high rate of abortion?” Oh, something sounds funny about that, doesn’t it? You might not phrase it that way. You might write, “Exploring the high rates of abortion among white women,” or something to that effect, yes? Call me crazy, but jumping off with that title does not suggest good things for the piece to follow. And yes – it does get worse.

According to Byrne,

“The rate of African-American abortions should trouble everyone and call for a calm, intelligent exploration of the causes. Not so was the response of the wedge-driving Planned Parenthood. It called the billboards an ‘offensive and condescending effort to stigmatize and shame African-American women while attempting to limit their ability to make private, personal medical decisions.'”

I would argue that Planned Parenthood called the billboards what they are – an offensive and condescending effort to stigmatize and shame African-American women. The billboards do not call for a “calm” or “intelligent” exploration – they make black women out to be baby-killers responsible for the extinction of a species (And in a country with a racially loaded history of equating black men and women to animals, that’s definitely not problematic, at all!). In Chicago, they hold black women responsible for aborting “the next world leader” – because the fate of the world hangs on your shoulders, mothers-to-be, since most children who are not aborted go on to be leaders of the free world. Don’t think of it as an unwanted pregnancy that will cost time you don’t have, money you don’t have, an education you can’t provide for it, food you can’t give it, and will require help the father and the government will not be giving you – think of it as the next world leader. Let’s not even address the guilt that might incur if the pregnant woman in question was raped, or if an abortion is a medical necessity.

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Uninvited To the Party

5 May

Mother’s day: a day set aside to celebrate the mothers of the world with gifts, brunch, cards, and joyful family gatherings. At least, that’s the idealistic form of Mother’s Day we see on TV and in jewelry advertisements. The truth is, for many, many people, Mother’s Day is another sad reminder that a mother or mother figure is gone or that one can’t celebrate the occasion because, frankly, there are no one to buy us flowers or give us a card.

For millions of single mothers, who are busy working and schooling and raising their kids and fighting negative stereotypes perpetuated by society and politicians, Mother’s Day isn’t anything other than just another Sunday that is no different than the previous Sunday, and certainly no more special than the Sunday to follow. For the truth is, Mother’s Day has transformed into something that is about being good consumers rather than being good kids by appreciating your parent, and the new consumerist attitude (rooted in Puritanism and a long American tradition of heteronormativity) blatantly leaves out many worthy parents.

Because let’s be frank, Mother’s Day is mostly about doing the right thing by your mom or mother figure in buying her something. Even simple gifts, like a card that says “Thanks, Mom. I Love You,” costs money, and that’s money that many people, such as myself, just simply don’t have.

What is it like being a single mother, struggling in this economy to raise a child and finish school myself, while trying to keep food on the table? I can tell you, it’s nothing like what we see on Teen Mom and The Secret Life of an American Teenager, or from Bristol Palin. Truly, it’s a daily struggle with what seem far more downs than highs. Living at home is a pain, having to constantly lean on my own father for support is degrading, making sacrifice after sacrifice just so that my son can play baseball stresses me out, struggling to fit time into the day to study is impossible. Of course there are joyful occasions, and the good moments I cherish and am grateful for. I also know that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that I am a smart, soon-to-be college grad that has a huge support system, and I will find a job. And often, it’s that light at the end that keeps me moving-I have no doubt many women like me can say the same.

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How to Better Fund A Pro-Choice Movement

3 May

A guest post by Sarah Erdreich and Rachel Joy Larris.

Several weeks ago, two of the major organizations devoted to protecting women’s reproductive rights, NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood, along with a host of other civil rights organizations, brought thousands of people to Capitol Hill to lobby Senators and Congressmen on reproductive rights. (There was also a rally, featuring speeches from senators Chuck Schumer and Barbara Boxer, and celebrities like Ed Harris and Amy Madigan.)

NARAL’s supporters were given a packet of information on HR. 3 and the bill to defund Planned Parenthood. However, they were not directed to lobby Republicans, or given information about where to find Republican lawmakers; instead, supporters—many of whom came from across the country—were told if they wanted to talk to Republican lawmakers that was up to them, but NARAL wasn’t going to send them into the “lion’s den.”

As for the Democratic representatives, even the offices of ardent pro-choice supporters like Ohio’s Betty Sutton and Virginia’s Jim Moran had no idea it was a pro-choice lobby day. Other offices were aware of this, and had appointments with constituents who traveled from far away. But supporters were not directed to Harry Reid’s office, and were not told to specifically mention the issue of Medicaid coverage of abortions in the District of Columbia. This was an issue that DC’s Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton knew might become a bargaining chip in the federal budget standoff, even if Harry Reid said he was standing firm for Planned Parenthood’s funding.

How much the actual lobby day and rally influenced the eventual outcome is unclear, though it was obvious that the supporters brought a great deal of energy and passion to the day. But as we reflect on our own experiences of the lobbying and the rally, it’s hard not to feel a bit disillusioned, both with the Democratic Party and the current strategies used by the major national pro-choice organizations. Too often, Democratic politicians sacrifice their pro-choice constituents’ interests—but this outcome is made possible because the current strategy of growing pro-choice political power isn’t working. While the majority of the country does not want abortion to become illegal, anti-choice politicians feel more allegiance to their constituency than pro-choice politicians. This is not simply a fault of individual politicians. It is an artifact of how the pro-choice political community does its organizing work: from the top down.

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Fetus Photos

2 May

When is it time to tell the world that you are pregnant?  When does it make sense to start snapping ultrasound pics of your uterus and sending out grainy black and white shots of what appears to be a slightly anemic sea monkey to your friends and family?  A cousin of mine has been taking full advantage of her profession as an ultrasound technician to send out what feels like an almost constant stream of snapshots of her fetus since conception in February.  She is barely three months pregnant, but it feels like her baby (which I’m told will be a boy) should be here already.

And yet, she is barely at the point in her pregnancy where she can even begin to find out whether or not her pregnancy is truly one that will mature into a fully formed human being, independent and capable of surviving outside of her body.  What will she, or any one of the millions of other women who behave in the same way, announcing their children’s existence even before they attend their first prenatal doctor’s visit, if they find out that their pregnancy is not viable?  That their potential children would have no quality of life?  Can she still have an abortion if she has already so publicly and firmly turned her pregnancy, which is a medical condition that she herself has, into a separate human being in her own mind the mind of her friends and family members?

I doubt it.  That is the line that the anti-choice and the pro-choice dance around and use to wound one another.  My body but someone else’s life?  That hardly seems possible.  And yet, the baby-centric culture that we have created, wherein it is somehow bitter or radical for me, a single woman, to defend my right to my own body by belonging to the Abortion Gang, but normal for a pregnant woman to spam her entire e-mail address book with a flood of fetus photos.  Sure, her job as an ultrasound tech means that my cousin is able to scan herself more often than a hairdresser changes her hair color, but she is hardly alone in transforming from a multifaceted woman into an obsessed baby bakery.

I’m not sure whether I find the barrage of baby news and photos so obnoxious because it began upon conception or because of its sheer volume.  It could be because, despite the fact that it is remarkably easy to conceive a child, her behavior indicates that it is somehow a daring or difficult choice.  Yet, I believe, that it is so much more challenging and admirable to make the decision to not have a baby.  To dare to put quality of life above “life,” to make the hard decisions that, unfortunately, no one will be sending you cute little pastel care packages for.  It is so much more difficult to decide to have an abortion, to decide that you cannot have a child now, because, unlike the decision to have a child, there is no one there to pat you on the back, let alone legions of family, friends and acquaintances.  As Mother’s Day approaches, though, if you are one of these courageous women, then please pat yourself on the back.  Whether you have children now or not, know that you decision mattered, and that you deserve to be praised every bit as much as and more than those who decided to carry pregnancies to term.