Archive | September, 2011

Why I Did Not Switch Sides After Watching “180”

30 Sep

Recently I put 33 minutes of my life aside to watch the much ballyhooed “180,” a film (sorry, “award winning documentary”) purporting to change “the heart of a nation” on the question of abortion (and no I will not link it). I got my hopes up a little when I saw that one of the recommendations on the website, from a John Piper, went: “I give my unflinching, joyful, trembling Yes to ‘180’.” Well! Sounds sexy, no?

No.

The film opens with the question: “Have you heard of Adolf Hitler?” Don’t ask me what this has to do with abortion, because I was still trying to figure it out after the interview subject answered, “no” (no?? really??) and old news reels of Hitler’s Germany began to run. You’re really winning me over already, guys. Godwinned in the first fifteen seconds. We then meet Ray Comfort, who is “deeply concerned” that a generation is forgetting about the Holocaust. It goes downhill from there.

Comfort seems to have rounded up a disturbing number of young people who either don’t know, or are pretending not to know, who Hitler was and what he did. This should be a documentary about the failure of our public schools. But it’s not. It’s about how if you don’t know anything about the Holocaust, you’re probably going to lack a moral centre and have lots of abortions. I think that’s what it was about, anyway. I spent a lot of the time marvelling at the lack of ability his interview subjects possessed for putting together a coherent argument. I feel that for those he has convinced to turn “pro-life”, there will be little trouble turning them back. You don’t even need a logical point.

What the film consists of is a series of “man-on-the-street” style interviews interwoven throughout, all conducted by Comfort and intercut with footage of the Holocaust, as well as ultrasound images (thankfully used sparingly). I did expect some gruesome fetus porn, because of the disclaimer about disturbing images, but it must have been referring to grainy footage of piles of dead people from the concentration camps (in which I was amused to note, the genitals had been blurred. Yeah, because that’s the image we need to protect people from).

I was disappointed, but not surprised, to find that Comfort did not have some revolutionary new argument against abortion, but instead used the same old talking points and ridiculous hypotheticals that those of us in the pro-choice movement have heard (and refuted) many times. It can be overwhelming to be approached on the street though, and if you are not equipped to answer those questions I can see how some people might find them somewhat thought-provoking, even mind-changing. There was a lot of “I never thought of it that way before” comments from the subjects.

The film itself is fairly well put together for what it is, although I am not sure who it is supposed to be targeted to – I can’t imagine it changing the minds of anyone who has given even the slightest bit of thought to their pro-choice position. Sample hypothetical (paraphrased): “I’m a construction worker. I’m going to blow up that building, but I’m not sure if there are people inside. I think there aren’t, but I’m not sure. What would you say to me?” Um…..do your job and check? I’m reporting you? Get out of my womb with your goddamn dynamite??

I really wish people would stop coming up with hypothetical situations they can equate to abortion. Can’t we all agree there is no equivalent?

Abortion itself does not come up until 13 minutes in, after Comfort has already badgered his surprisingly good-natured subjects about whether it is better to bulldoze a bunch of Jewish people in a pit, shoot them to put them out of their misery, or take a bullet yourself from a German soldier (I’m not even kidding). There were also some questions about whether you would kill Hitler, and whether you would kill Hitler’s mother, that served to show morality as shades of grey, only to have Comfort totally contradict all that at the end with a very black-and-white approach to Christianity – a dangerous position to take for someone whose Bible never explicitly condemns abortion, and actually implicitly condones it.

Here are some reasons why this film did not make me change my mind about abortion:

1. I do not believe abortion is the moral equivalent to bulldozing Jewish people in a pit.

2. I feel conflicted about being on the same side as someone who would say to a young, pleasant woman of colour: “Hitler declared Jews as non-humans, and that’s what you’re doing when you say it’s ok to kill a child in the womb.”

3. I believe one can be moral without being a Christian.

4. I have the capacity for rational thought and am not instantly converted to an idea by being berated by talking points until I break down and say yes so the interviewer will just go away.

5. If I label myself, I do it based on what I believe, and not vice versa. I will not change my beliefs in order to fit into a category (ie “Christian”).

6. There was a really cute, self-identified gay woman in this film and it didn’t look like Comfort was able to convince her, and I still want a shot with her.

7. “It’s common practice to have a low moral standard when we free ourselves from the Ten Commandments, or when we’re unaware of their true meaning.” No.

8. It does not, in fact, concern me that if I were to die today I might end up in hell. Mostly because I follow my own moral compass and would rather suffer judgement than follow the (in my opinion, immoral) laws of a god I don’t believe in.

9. I don’t want to associate with a cause that has to put this disclaimer on their video and website: “We strongly condemn the use of any violence in connection with protesting abortion.”

and…

10. I trust women to make the right choice for them, regardless of their religious or spiritual beliefs, I want to be on the side that trusts and supports women, and I truly believe that abortion can be, and often is, an act of love.

Sorry Ray. Better luck next time.

Pro-Choice Canadians: The Time to Speak Up is Now

29 Sep

The Canadian Criminal Code reads as follows,

223. (1) A child becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother, whether or not

(a) it has breathed;

(b) it has an independent circulation; or

(c) the navel string is severed.

(2) A person commits homicide when he causes injury to a child before or during its birth as a result of which the child dies after becoming a human being.

Sounds great for pro-choice Canadians, right? Wrong. As a general rule, I refuse to refer to the law when making my arguments for abortion rights. There are some rights that are inherent that cannot be changed by legislation. The right not to be discriminated against due to race was always wrong, even when it was legal. The right not to be discriminated against due to gender or sexual orientation does not change, even if it is illegal. Currently in Canada, there is no legal right to die.Sue Rodriguez challenged the law and lost in the Supreme Court. I believe that every human being has the right to decide the time and manner in which they die and that they should legally be allowed to seek the assistance of a physician. I agree that the right needs to be regulated to some degree to ensure it is not abused but ultimately every person has a right to die. This is a right regardless of what the law says. The law is slow to change and often does not accurately reflect society. Sadly, sometimes the law reflects society, but it is still wrong.

The reason I never like to use the argument that a fetus does not become a human being until the criteria in s 223 of the Criminal Code is met, is because it would not take much to change that definition. In Canada, the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC for short by no small coincidence) has a majority government. Not because the majority of Canadians voted for them, not even because the majority of voters voted for them. In fact, 50% of Canadians voted for other parties but because of the way our system works (for better or for worse) all it took for their majority was for the party to get 40% ofvoters’ support. Now that the CPC has the majority of seats in the House of Commons, the party makes the law. Except for very few “free votes,” the members of the CPC will toe (or tow, depending on your view) the party line and vote in unison to abolish the long-gun registry and to pass a massive 9-in-1 crime bill that was already voted down when they have a minority government, among other things. As a party they could very easily change the definition of when a fetus becomes a human being to the moment of conception. And the law would be changed.

Guess what? CPC anti Brad Trost is making a very big deal out of the government’s decision to fund International Planned Parenthood Federation. Do not let the title mislead you, a huge percentage of CPC MPs are anti-choice; Trost is no rogue. Their base is made up of the far-right former Reform Alliance. That base did not disappear when the Alliance merged with the Progressive Conservatives to form the CPC. They are still out there and they see the CPC majority (the first in almost 2 decades) as the ticket to controlling a woman’s right to abortion once and for all. Brad Trost has vowed to take a more aggressive stance against abortion rights and his base in the Reform Alliance. They are the tea-partiers of Canada and they are just as well-funded, just as angry, and just as dangerous.

Even if the CPC changed the law and effectively made abortion illegal by giving a fetus the right to personhood, it would not change the fact that abortion is a woman’s right. Perhaps the only saving grace is that a court appeal would be quickly launched and any CPC law infringing on abortion rights would be put on “hold” while the courts sorted out the legality, which would take long enough that Canadians could come to their senses and remove the CPC from government.

But because the law can be changed so easily, I prefer to rely on the moral arguments in favour of abortion. The fact is, nobody has the right to use another person’s body without their consent or permission. That fact does not change when it involves a woman and a fetus. Regardless of whether the law supports that fact does not change it and the fact that it does support it just means that fewer women will die. Pro-choicers are better off using these arguments rather than relying on “because it’s legal” type arguments. Legal abortion is tenuous, especially in the US. There are very well funded groups that would like nothing more than for women to die from back-alley abortions and they are working hard to make that a reality, both in Canada and the US.

If you want to let Brad Trost know that Canadians do not support him, please email him at Trost.B@parl.gc.ca or you can let him know on Twitter @BradTrostCPC. If you happen to be a constituent of Saskatoon-Humboldt, even better! Let him know by putting ‘Constituent Correspondence’ in the Re Line.

Mr. Trost, Canadians are pro-choice even if you are not!

Glee Perpetuates Adoption Stereotypes

28 Sep

Confession: I watch 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom like it’s my job (because it kind of is).  I pay careful attention to how teen pregnancy and young parenthood are portrayed in the media, because I think it’s incredibly important how we think about these young women and their families; their portrayals provide insight into how we, as a society, think about teens and sex, relationships, reproductive choice, and public support for families in need.

Two years ago, I had Glee on that list of must-watch shows because Quinn Fabray, perfect-cheerleader-turned-Glee clubber was pregnant.  Despite the convoluted conception story and contrived “Who’s the father?” subplot, I actually liked the way Glee handled Quinn’s pregnancy.  Her friends at Glee club came together and supported her, and those that rejected Quinn (her own mother, the cheerleaders) were the bad guys.   At the end of the season, Quinn placed the baby, Beth, for adoption – without a lot of clear development about why she made that choice – and then no more.

Last season, Quinn wasn’t 16 and pregnant.  She was a birthmother.  And the adoption was hardly ever mentioned.  Quinn walked away from the adoption, didn’t look back, didn’t grieve, didn’t communicate with her daughter’s adoptive mother.  Instead, she recreated her former golden-ponytailed self with Cheerio tenacity.  To be frank, I stopped watching the show for a while because I was so frustrated they’d turned Quinn into a Juno.

That’s right, a Juno.  In my analyses of how birthmothers (and sometimes birthfathers) are portrayed, I’ve come up with four clichéd, awful stereotypes, which are not mutually exclusive.

1. The Juno, brought to you by the blockbuster movie that shaped a generation’s opinion of birthmothers as people who make an adoption plan, walk away, don’t look back, and conclude “I think he was always hers.”  While there are some women who might choose closed adoption and move on quickly with their lives, I’ve spoken with a lot of birthmothers, and I’ve never found them.  (This doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  I’m sure they do.  But I think they are a minority.)  In fact, the walk-away-and-forget myth is a dangerous one for women that was used to justify coerced adoptions during the Baby Scoop era before Roe v. Wade.

2. The Crackwhore, brought to you by American conservatives.  Most usually, the crackwhore (and I cringe to write that word, believe me) stereotype is used not in voluntary adoption placements, but in instances where social services intervene and place children in foster care or public adoptions.  Despite this difference, the stereotype is used to portray birthmothers as epitome of the bad mother, incapable of caring for and wholly unworthy of raising her children.

3. The Birthmartyr, brought to you by Dr. Drew and the folks at 16 and Pregnant.  When Dr. Drew says the young women who choose adoption are “so incredibly mature” and “selfless” and turns to the birthmother dealing with post-adoption grief and tells her to “move on for the good of her child”, that’s the birthmartyr trope in action.  On 16 and Pregnant, the young women who chose adoption are self-sacrificing heroes, while the young women who chose to parent are (according to Dr. Drew) immature and poor decision-makers.

4. The Baby Stealer, brought to you by Loosing Isaiah and every adoptive parent’s worst nightmare.  As open adoption (where birth and adoptive families have ongoing post-adoption contact) becomes more and more common and society continues to not understand that relationship, the continuing presence of the birthparent is seen as a threat – either metaphorical or literal – to the bond between adoptive parent and child. Indeed, open adoption should (and often does) foster a relationship of mutual trust and respect between all the child’s parents that alleviates any such worries, yet we still represent birthparents as constantly scheming to regain custody of their child.

On last night’s episode, Shelby, Quinn’s daughter’s adoptive mother returns and invites Quinn and Puck (the baby’s father) into Beth’s life.  Early in the episode, I was pleased: Open adoption! An adoptive parent recognizing that contact with birthparents will benefit her daughter in the long run!  But things were messier than that, as they usually are in adoption.

Did Quinn and Puck want contact?  Because actual adoption was glossed over so quickly, it’s hard to know what the terms of their agreement were.  In my research, I’ve found that most birthparents do want contact, but they also deserve some degree of control of that contact.  Being blindsided by an adoptive mother showing up at their school, expecting them to be grateful for a brief glimpse of an iPhone photo, does not represent a mutually respectful arrangement.  Furthermore, for most birthparents, the first few years after the adoption are often the hardest.  Perhaps they needed time to process their decision more before contact was made.

Does Shelby have the right to put stipulations on Quinn and Puck’s contact with Beth? Yes, she does.  She is Beth’s adoptive mother, and she has an obligation to protect that child.  If Quinn represented a threat, or even a very bad influence, perhaps Shelby would be justified in setting limits, but she seems to be rejecting Quinn because she has pink instead of blonde hair and a snazzy fake nose ring.  If, as an adoptive parent, you want your child’s birthparents involved in their life (and research shows you probably should, to some extent), you need to accept them as a complex person with flaws and phases, as someone who is living a life different than your own.  And you need to be accepting of a young high school girl acting out by dying her hair and wearing grunge clothing – especially when, as Shelby (and all the other characters) did, you believe the behavior changes are, for the time being, her way of processing the adoption.

Of course, by the end of the episode, we realize that Quinn isn’t a Juno.  She’s a baby stealer.  She tells Puck, “I have to get her back… We’re gonna get full custody.”  Not only is this a legal impossibility, Glee has swapped one damaging stereotype for another.

Most people don’t know (or don’t know that they know) any birthparents, so they really rely on these TV and movie representations to help understand who places children for adoption. If we don’t actually know what birthparents look like, we don’t really know what adoption looks like and don’t really understand it as the complex, loving, messy, sad, and beautiful lifelong process that it is truly is.

And if we don’t understand adoption, we can’t protect it as an important reproductive choice that all women should have access to, without judgment, without stereotype, and with a clear understanding of the long-term commitment and consequences involved.

Prime Time Abortion

27 Sep

A guest post from  Jane Cawthorne.

Cristina Yang had an abortion. In Prime Time. Yes, it’s true.

The Grey’s Anatomy character, super whiz-kid, tough-as-nails with a hidden heart-of-gold cardiac surgeon-in-training, got pregnant, and told her husband, Owen, she wanted an abortion. They had a big fight. Owen wanted to have a baby (or more correctly, wanted Cristina to have a baby), got all “lifey” on her (Cristina’s word) and threw her out. Then Cristina stayed over at Meredith’s house and helped Meredith with her new baby, the one she was adopting from Malawi with McDreamy, demonstrating that she, indeed, could (if she wanted to) look after a baby and even smile at it and kiss it on the cheek, all the while affirming her desire to have an abortion. Cristina convinces Meredith that she really really really doesn’t want to have a baby and that she wants to concentrate on being a surgeon. She says she needs Meredith to be supportive because Meredith is her “person” which is “Grey’s-speak” for bigger than best friends or kind of soul-mates without sex. Meredith in turn convinces Owen that indeed, Cristina does not want a baby and says he should not pressure her. She boosts Cristina’s case by adding that she, Meredith, knows what it’s like to be the child of a woman who didn’t want you. And anyway, Owen knew who Cristina was when they married, and shouldn’t expect her to change her stripes or something like that.

In the end, Owen goes with her to the appointment and Cristina actually has the abortion, but not before the doctor performing the procedure says very sternly, “I’m going to ask you one more time, are you absolutely sure this is what you want to do?” It is. She does. Surprisingly, the writers didn’t get out of the story line by making her have a miscarriage, a change of heart or an ectopic pregnancy like she did in an earlier season. Let the chips fall where they may. There has been a Prime Time abortion.

Wow.

What will happen to Cristina now? This is the most interesting question in TV, as far as I’m concerned. Will she just move on with her life guilt free, possibly expressing feelings of relief as most women do who have abortions? Or, will she be made to suffer? Well, it is Grey’s Anatomy, so we can assume there will be some suffering, but will the cause of it be the abortion?

This is what should happen. Cristina goes on to have the life she is planning and has worked so hard to get. She feels relief. She finishes all of her training and becomes a world renowned cardiac surgeon, unencumbered by offspring she did not want. She has a good marriage with Owen, with no more than the normal ups and downs that any relationship faces. She is a fun Aunt to Meredith’s new baby, assuming social services does not take that baby away, which is currently a possibility.

In a future episode, Cristina considers what birth control is best for her. Meredith and Cristina have a long discussion about the relative merits of everything from birth control pills to IUDs. Cristina, never one to do anything in half measures, decides to have a tubal ligation. Meredith is aghast and says, “Seriously?” She tries to talk her out of it, saying there are effective non-surgical options to control fertility. But Cristina says, “Mer, I’m some kind of pregnancy magnet. Please, respect my decision.” Then Owen dramatically intervenes just as the nurses are prepping her for surgery and announces that, out of love for his wife and his new understanding that she will never want children, he will have a vasectomy. America is informed about this safe and viable option. Owen gets snipped and goes back to work the next day.

A further series of episodes involves Cristina and Owen creating an abortion clinic when they realize a lot of women have trouble accessing services.

Episodes that we should not see include Cristina being plagued by guilt, Owen resenting her, Cristina second guessing her decision the next time she sees a chubby-cheeked newborn, Cristina getting hit by a car, Cristina losing her job or suffering in some way that might be construed as punishment, Cristina being left behind in the Rapture. She lives, as much as anyone can on Grey’s Anatomy, happily ever after.

A Response to Jennifer Fulwiler: Why “40 Days for Life” is Harmful

26 Sep

A woman named Jennifer Fulwiler recently wrote a piece called “What I Learned from Praying in Front of an Abortion Clinic.” This piece provides an interesting and  disturbing look into the anti-choice movement and their “40 days for life” protest. From being made to sign a contract to be “peaceful” (as peaceful as a group of anti-choicers could be, anyway), to how she claims that the anti-choice movement views women, it provides an eery look into the other side.

Like virtually every other anti-choice article ever written, this piece fails to honestly address the women involved in abortion. Fulwiler claims that the anti-choice movement, along with the sidewalk harassers, truly care about women. The truth is, the vast majority of the women who are walking into that clinic don’t want you there. Just put yourself in their position. Most of them are not particularly happy to be there (who likes surgery?) and just want to go through the experience with as few complications as possible. Many of them consider you, sidewalk “counselors,” a complication. Sidewalk harassers are strangers who, despite claiming not to judge, are there because they think these women are or are about to become murderers. Who the hell likes to be considered a murderer? Sidewalk harassers are there presenting themselves as hostile, unfriendly people, no matter how friendly or quiet they claim to be, and if they did respect women, they would respect the fact that the vast majority of them do not want creepy people standing outside of their doctor’s office “praying” for them. This is why so many women are grateful for clinic escorts. Furthermore, Fulwiler states later in the article that, by harassing women at their clinics, “mothers (are) saved from undergoing a procedure that would harm them both psychologically and physically”. Why, hello there, paternalism! Fulwiler’s internalized misogyny becomes painfully obvious here. Women do not need you, Jennifer Fulwiler, to decide that having an abortion would hurt them psychologically. You also don’t get to make up facts about the safety of the procedure; especially considering that an early abortion is safer than carrying a pregnancy to term.

Fulwiler states that “communities don’t want abortion facilities in their neighborhoods” because she got some positive responses from people driving by, and again completely neglects to look at it from the woman’s point of view. Someone who doesn’t want or need an abortion may not necessarily want an abortion provider in their area. It’s a tough fact to face, but people generally only see things from their point of view and fail to understand the need for abortion providers until they themselves need one. She forgets, however, that the women who are here in the first place obviously want, and need, an abortion provider in their area. A lot of these women are grateful to be able to access abortion in their area, rather than having to drive long distances just to obtain a simple medical procedure.

At first glance, Fulwiler may have seemed like the only level-headed anti-choice activist I ever encountered. It didn’t take long, however, to unearth the paternalism and misogyny in her writing. Fulwiler, you are free to continue your sidewalk harassing, but pro-choicers will continue to counter it. Pro-choicers, “40 days for life” is coming up on the 28th. If you can, please turn this into “40 days for women’s lives” and volunteer to become a clinic escort by calling your local clinic and asking if they need any volunteers. A list of the locations which are being targeted can be found here.

Enough Infighting: Planned Parenthood Saves Lives and Must Be Supported

20 Sep

In 2010, the midterm elections sent a deluge of freshman politicians deemed part of the “tea party,” who immediately targeted Planned Parenthood funding under the pretense that somehow the health care organization was the main contributing factor to the United States debt. Yes, the tax debate happened and more pretend-issues were hotly debated on cable news shows. But really, nothing has dominated the headlines more than those  that would restrict women’s right to have an abortion.  The main target of course the most visible health organization: Planned Parenthood.

To those that do not want women to have access to reproductive health care, Planned Parenthood is the easiest group to attack and (in their wildest dreams) totally destroy. The sad part about all of this is many pro-choice activists and Planned Parenthood itself are helping the anti-choicers do just that.

I know many activists are frustrated with Planned Parenthood’s sometimes tone-deaf approach to reproductive concerns today. Some argue the organization has trouble adapting to contemporary activism. That Planned Parenthood has been slow to accept the new wave of young pro-choice activists that are likely to use contemporary avenues (like social media)  to stand firm against the anti-choice bills, laws and rhetoric sweeping the nation.  Others argue that  Planned Parenthood has too many awful bureaucratic problems making the organization  less able to quickly  refute false attacks and launch necessary counter-protests and truth-telling campaigns. Some activists feel Planned Parenthood has capitulated one too many times to the increasingly right wing Federal government’s demands.

With that in mind, consider this story in which Gloria Steinem’s recent speech in support of Planned Parenthood garnered a fiery response from anti-choice protestors and even some pro-choice supporters as well. With women in the audience over 80 years old stating they are counting on the new generation of women to keep the fight for women’s rights just as they did 50 years ago, is it conducive to the pro-choice cause as a whole to criticize Gloria Steinem for supporting Planned Parenthood? I think you know the answer.

And on the other hand, Seattle Weekly reports that Planned Parenthood Seattle spokeswoman, Kristen Glundberg-Prossor, wants a group of clinic defense protestors (that picket and protest in front of anti-choice protestors at clinics) to stop, because she says, it’s “confusing.” While Planned Parenthood certainly has a point in wanting the distraction of protestors to simmer down so patients feel safe entering and exiting the clinics, is asking pro-choice activists to stop protesting doing the overall cause any good? Again, I think you know the answer.

While I was in  high school, Planned Parenthood provided me with birth control, condoms, and sex information I would not have had  access to otherwise. I received services for free  and took just a short bus ride to the nearest clinic. That was almost 8 years ago, for many women today, the nearest reproductive health clinic and/or Planned Parenthood is hours away, the fees no longer affordable for people that earn little to no income.  When I suspected I was pregnant, Planned Parenthood administered my pregnancy test, confirmed my pregnancy, and offered me counseling  and brochures on every option (parenting, adoption, or abortion) available to me. The nurse gave me her card and said, “call me any time you need me.”  Afterward, she gave me a big hug.   In many places in this country,  in this political and social climate, how many women can tell that same story? Not as many as 8 years ago, that’s for certain.

I accept readily that Planned Parenthood is not perfect, but still, the health organization offers services to so many people that desperately need them. Without Planned Parenthood, I know this country would be much worse off, and not just for women. Because when women suffer, we all suffer. When one person’s rights are stripped away, we all lose something. And if we all sit around and become angry at organizations that we should be working in solidarity with, the in-fighting just makes the anti-choice groups and politicians feel that what they are doing is working.

Want more abortion providers? Offer them training!

15 Sep

The ongoing shortage of abortion providers is blamed on many culprits: the stigma attached to abortion provision, the hostile and sometimes dangerous practice environment, and even a perceived lack of interest in abortion provision. One of the less known problems, however, is the lack of training opportunities. If medical students and residents don’t have the chance to learn how to provide abortions, they simply aren’t going to be providing them when they’ve finished their training.

Prior studies have shown that an increased amount of abortion training in residency is associated with an increased likelihood of abortion provision in the future. A recent study showed that, in addition to having training available, integrating abortion training into residency training for obstetrician-gynecologists may be key to reducing the abortion provider shortage.

The study followed residents at two different programs. At one of the programs, OB/gyn residents had the normal exposure to family planning (contraception and abortion). In the other program, a structured specialty family planning rotation was instated. Those who participated in the structured program were much more likely to report planning to perform abortions after graduating from residency than the other group. In addition, at the beginning of the rotation only 1/3 of residents planned to perform abortion after residency, while after the rotation all of them stated they would perform abortions.

Results like these show us that although many in the abortion community attribute the decreasing numbers of abortion providers to lack of interest on the part of younger doctors, the situation is much more complicated than that. There aren’t enough training opportunities for those who seek them out, but clearly even those who don’t seek out training find they are interested in providing abortions when they have a high-quality experience with family planning. Abortion training needs to be a regular, structured part of all OB/gyn and family medicine residency programs.

Unfortunately, political resistance to abortion education is only growing. In May, the House approved the Foxx Amendment, which would have prevented residencies receiving federal funds from providing abortion training. Since all residency programs are almost entirely funded by money from Medicare, such a restriction could essentially end all abortion training in residency programs, shutting down the pipeline of new abortion providers. (The Foxx Amendment was not approved by the Senate, granting programs a temporary reprieve).

Several programs are working assiduously to improve training opportunities. If you are a medical student interested in training, Medical Students for Choice has resources to help you increase training at your school, externships you can apply to (some with funding), and guides to help you pick the right residency. Residents can contact the National Abortion Federation for help finding training opportunities if such opportunities are unavailable at their residency. Such initiatives are, however, a drop in the bucket. As the studies above show, leaving residents on their own to pursue abortion training leads to few if any choosing to be abortion providers. Routine training leads to doctors who want to perform abortions after graduating residency. If we want to fix the abortion provider shortage, we have to focus more closely on training opportunities.

Egg Donation: A Lesson in Patience

14 Sep

A friend of mine, and fellow blogger here, gave me some words of wisdom a short while back regarding this whole egg donation business. She said “The coordinators are always enthusiastic about placing people. I was more realistic about how long I thought my placement would take, since I’m very short. Honestly, the process took about 6 months before a match was confirmed.”

A lesson in realism and patience. It’s been 3 months since I started working with Columbia, and 2 months since I had my physical. I’ve been matched with potential recipients twice. So far, no takers. It’s tough to sit and wait. And it is worse when they call you and tell you that in 2 weeks, you may be starting the process. Then 2 weeks go by with no news, and it’s a huge let down.

Part of what sucks is how excited my coordinator was. She told me flat out that there would be “no issues with placing me really quickly.” What she didn’t specify is what she meant by “really quickly.” My old coordinator suggested that “quickly” could be a matter of weeks. I was already skeptical heading into Columbia, but still. It’s frustrating, because you can’t talk to the recipients and tell them how awesome you really are. And it’s humbling, because these families are choosing someone else, and you will never know why.

I’m lucky to live in a huge city where there are lots of places for me to try to get matched. And I plan on applying to NYU next. The more locations that I can use, the better my chances are. But at this point, I’m getting a little downtrodden about the whole thing. It’s not like I dwell on it everyday or anything, but once a week or so, someone who knows that I’m trying to do this asks about my matches. It sucks to tell them that I wasn’t chosen.

So, for those of you out there who are thinking about becoming egg donors, consider the waiting game. And for those of you somewhere along in the process, good luck! I hope that you are matched soon.

Lynn Paltrow on the Strengths and Weaknesses of Pro-Choice Lawyering

12 Sep

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Lynn Paltrow, Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, is a genius. In her latest article for the New York Univeristy Review of Law & Social Change, she talks about missed opportunities of pro-choice litigators. A few snippets below:

On the limitations of only litigating on abortion:

If “pro-choice” advocates keep responding to efforts tore-criminalize abortion only by arguing for the legality of abortion, then we accept a narrow image of women as “people who have abortions” rather than as people who sometimes have abortions and far more often have children and take responsibility for raising them and caring for them and the homes they live in.

On the importance of fighting for women as both mothers and people who have abortions:

By recognizing that Roe and the debate around it also affects mothers,  “pro-choice” activists can more effectively challenge the existing framework that falsely suggests that  there are two kinds of women: those who have abortions and those who have babies. If pro-choice advocates acknowledge that the vast majority of women who have abortions are the same women who have babies, they have the opportunity to reframe the debate. They will also find many more potential allies to work with to ensure not only the right to choose abortion, but also to advocate for the social and economic conditions necessary to enable pregnant women to make real choices.
On the importance of human rights framing and challenges of “thinking like lawyers”:
As discussed below, the efforts of anti-choice activists keep public debate focused on abortion rather than other important issues of our day. Their false claims about science and history, if repeated often enough and left unchallenged, become more likely to be believed and relied upon by judges and policy makers. Furthermore, the more we permit anti-choice activists to frame the issue as a question of abortion’s legality and morality, rather than as a question of the rights and dignity of pregnant women and mothers, the more dominant this frame becomes in the public debate. The pro-choice movement’s stunning non-response reflects two concepts that are relevant to this Page to Practice Symposium. First, thinking like lawyers blinds us to a wide variety of advocacy tools that are as important as, if not more important than, legal arguments. Second, thinking like prochoice lawyers blinds us to the larger political issues at stake in the ongoing effort to overturn  Roe v. Wade and deny women their civil and human rights.
You really should read the whole thing. Then tell us what you think!

Who is the 2012 Most Misogynistic Candidate? Rick Perry

9 Sep

Every election, whether it is for a local school board spot, a state governor or the White House, there are some candidates who can only be described as “out there.”  The guy running on a platform of legalizing marijuana – for medicinal and recreational use, Ralph Nader and his Green Party, and dozens of others.  What makes these candidates so “out there” is that, no matter how much money they raise or how many elections they run in, their views are wildly disparate from those that the rest of us hold.  Which means that no matter how bizarre their speeches or strange their platforms, most Americans can rest easy knowing that their chances of being elected are slim to none.

But what do you call a candidate who believes that Ohio’s so-called “Heartbeat Bill,” which will outlaw abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks of gestation, is something that should be rolled out to the rest of the country?

What do you call a candidate for President who signs a law in his home state which, were it not for the intervention of a federal judge, would force women seeking abortions to have (and pay for) sonograms and listen to the fetal heartbeat at least 24 hours prior to having their abortions?

Or  a man who wants to lead our country while forcing women who were the victims of sexual assault or incest to attest to that in writing before obtaining abortions?

This week, I have to call him Rick Perry, a man who the latest polls by ABC News and the Washington Post is in the lead to become the Republican contender in next year’s Presidential election.  Which either means that there is a lack of would be Republican candidates who care about woman or that there are more than just a few Republican voters who agree with Mr. Perry, who has been criticized for preferring to hew to an antiquated “Just Say No” style abstinence education plan in Texas, where he is Governor, rather than combat that state’s teen pregnancy rates, which have skyrocketed to become one of the highest in the country with more than 60 out of every 1,000 teenage Texan girls becoming pregnant.

What do you call Rick Perry, when he says that his abstinence only program “works” after being faced with those statistics?  Or the flock of pundits, politicians and voters who seem set on promoting his bizarre set of misogynistic values?

I’m calling it scary – what about you?