Archive | March, 2012

Spring break!

12 Mar

We’re taking this week off for some much needed rest and relaxation. Check back the week of March 18 when we’ll resume our regular schedule of reproductive justice badassery.

Love,

The Abortion Gang

 

Why we can’t get “tired” of each other

8 Mar

The women and men in the pro-choice movement can be some of the most uplifting, wonderful, caring people that I have ever met. And most of the time, we are tirelessly patient with antis, political leaders and fence-sitters. The patience that we project can be inspiring and impressive, because, as a movement, somehow, WE have been tasked with always being the “reasonable ones.” We are the ones who double- and triple-edit our comments on blogs and in papers for tone, accuracy, and -isms (sexism, sizeism, racism, etc.). We are the ones who have to calmly and patiently walk through gauntlets of antis screaming and harassing women outside of clinics. We have to police ourselves constantly for any whiffs of “crazy.” Because we’ve been branded, we are always needing to prove ourselves.

But I’ve noticed that our patience is being worn thin. The constant pressure to be something other than human; to be the ones who are always logical, calm, cool and collected, is getting to us. We are starting to get tired. And in our tiredness, we are starting to go after the ones who are the closest to us: each other. On the blog, we consistently receive hate mail from antis (I simply do not understand how Steph handles it on a regular basis. I would go insane.) This is, at the very least, expected. But on some of our more recent posts, the hate mail was coming from other pro-choicers. Simply because we disagreed with something that was said by another pro-choicer. We did not intend to attack that person. In fact, we went to lengths to avoid that very thing. It backfired, and we are still feeling the sting.

Somehow, amongst ourselves, we have unintentionally created an environment where there we can’t disagree with each other or ask for help from each other. We will gladly band together against a common enemy, but we have ostracized our friends. Just a few days ago, two important women in our movement disagreed with each other publicly, and it wasn’t a pretty sight. I’m not going to link to articles, because that would be fanning the flames, but I have to admit that I am frustrated by this.

We are often forced to use up our compassion on those who would work against us. This is exhausting. I would suggest that when we find ourselves trying to be compassionate with each other, it’s the opposite. It’s fulfilling and rejuvenating. We should be critiquing each other and the movement on a regular basis. How else can we improve? How else can we become more effective? But we need to try to do it with respect and care. Sometimes we’ll be really good at this, and sometimes we’ll be really bad at it. There will be a learning curve, to be sure, but it would be great if we could get a place where we are more good than bad at it, so that we can redirect our energy elsewhere.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, but I feel like it’s becoming more common as more and more women’s rights are coming under fire. I’m begging that we stop and consider the fact that we are all tired. We are all tired of fighting for things that should be or already are legally our rights, we are tired of having to be patient with the other side, we are tired of reading hate mail, we are tired from the million other things that are happening in our daily lives. We are tired. But we have to remember that we are a family, and we will always be there for each other, even when we disagree or don’t particularly like some other person for the moment. And that is something special, that we need to cherish, especially when we are at our wits end and our most exhausted.

Women are already waiting

7 Mar

A bill that recently passed in the Utah house would triple the current required waiting time for an abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours. One of the supporters of the bill, Rep. Steve Eliason, stated:

“Why would we not want to afford a woman facing a life-changing decision 72 hours to consider ramifications that could last a lifetime?”

But 72 hours is just the time between clinic visits. Women are already waiting far more time than that when they make decisions about pregnancy.

I recently saw a woman who had done a lot of waiting. I’ll call her Maria. She realized she was pregnant as soon as she missed her period, but I didn’t meet her until over a month later. Maria had spent that month hoping she would reconcile with her estranged husband, hoping her Section 8 application for housing would go through so she and her 2-year-old daughter could move out of her mother’s cramped 1-bedroom apartment, and hoping her hours as a home health aide would be increased so she would have a little more money in her monthly budget. But none of those things happened. She spent a month waiting for her life to change in such a way that she could imagine
going through another pregnancy and caring for another child, but it didn’t. So she decided to have an abortion.

Maria had waited a week for an appointment with me and was entirely certain of her decision. She was 9 weeks and 1 day pregnant when I met her. Unfortunately, that one day ended up meaning more waiting for her. Had she been exactly 9 weeks or less, she could have had a medical abortion that day. Since her pregnancy was more than 9 weeks, I had to make her an appointment for another day when she could have an abortion procedure. When I broke the news to her, she immediately burst into tears. Because it was the day before a holiday weekend, the soonest I could get her in for the procedure was a week later. Because our medical system is not set up to meet women’s needs, Maria would once again have to call out of work, once again find a baby-sitter for her daughter, and spend another week feeling exhausted and nauseous.

Maria waited 4 weeks for her life to get easier, 1 week to see me, and another week to have her abortion. This waiting is not uncommon. Even if she had decided to have an abortion as soon as she was sure she was pregnant, she would have had to wait a few days, or possibly as long as a week, for her clinic appointment. All this in a state with no waiting period at all, with Medicaid paying the cost of the abortion for her, and with a clinic down the street from where she lived. I think about Maria’s challenges and then imagine what life would be like for someone in a similar situation in a state like Utah where insurance is banned from paying for most abortions, where 97% of counties have no abortion provider, and where, soon, all women will have to wait an additional three days to have a legal medical procedure, just because their legislators think maybe they haven’t waited long enough already. It’s a frightening thought.

Confessions of a Teenage Slut

6 Mar

A guest post from Tara.

I’ve always been a very sexual person. In high school, when all of my friends were worried about what people would think when they finally lost their virginities, I was bragging publicly about my latest conquest. My thought process was hey, if the guys can boast about the girls they have bedded, and they do, so can I. Thus began my love affair with making people feel uncomfortable with a female being so open with her sexuality.

Losing my virginity was average. I was 16 years old with my then boyfriend, it was quick and painful but I was proud. I was proud to cross over the threshold from girlhood to womanhood. I was proud to share this milestone with anyone (besides my parents) who would listen, and so was he. However, I quickly leaned that sex turns teenage girls in to sluts and teenage boys into men. I grappled with this idea for a few weeks. How can sex be a positive masculine activity while simultaneously silencing feminine voices? What was my place? How something be so dominant in our society but I, not my boyfriend, couldn’t even talk about it? I was perplexed to say the least.

I was supposed to be ashamed, I was suppose to keep quiet, I was suppose to keep my legs closed. Contrary to cultural criticism, I fell in love with the notion of being slut. I fell in love with the control I had over my sexuality and my sex life, the control over my body. When I broke up with the guy I lost my virginity to I began sleeping around, I was often the topic of conversation. When people would ask me how many people I’ve slept with to try to embarrass me, I’d just reply with more than zero, less that 100 (which is still my standard answer). My classmates tried to make my sexuality define who I was, I just chalked it up to cultural naïveté.

Today it bothers me that slut is a bad word not only because of the general negativity towards women, but because men are hardly ever labeled as sluts. Pleasure isn’t a man’s game nor is it a breeder’s game. The juxtaposition between the our sex obsessed society, the accessibility of pornography and all that is great with the world and the sexual repression of women is embarrassing to say the least. Women can be half naked on billboards to sell a car but a woman breastfeeding in an airport is repulsive? When I watch the news with my parents all too often I see commercials for Viagra so old men can keep having sex, but the moment I mention that birth control should be free I’m in the wrong? If I even mention that I’ve had to take emergency contraception because of a broken condom people automatically judge me but don’t even care about the man I was with.

Even in college people attempt vilify me as a slut, but honestly, what’s wrong with my actions? I’m safe, responsible, and I know what I’m doing. I should be the least of your worries. Stop waging a culture war against me.

Tara is a 20-year-old college student living in Westchester, NY. She’s majoring in calling out the flaws within society and changing the world.

Utah wants you to wait 72 hours before having an abortion

6 Mar

Here we go again. I just got word that Utah passed a bill through their state house that would require a 72-hour waiting period before a woman can have an abortion. This is by far one of the most restrictive abortion waiting periods bills short of a personhood amendment and it is scary to think it will likely become law. In fact, only one other state, the infamous South Dakota, thinks so little of women to require a 72-hour waiting period.

Forget for a moment that making a woman wait for a legal medical procedure for three days is likely to induce mental anguish and unnecessary suffering, let’s talk about how fucked up it is that these conservative state houses around this country keep passing these bills. You know the bills I speak of, the ultrasound requirement bills, the waiting periods, the parental consent. Each type of bill is presented under the auspice that women need a legislator to help them make a tough decision because women really don’t know what they are getting into when they elect to terminate a pregnancy.

Well, guess what? Yes, women are actually entirely capable of deciding to terminate a pregnancy without a waiting period, viewing a screen, or hearing a heartbeat. Women know what they want and what they feel is right for their bodies, their families, and their lives.

Utah law-makers may say this is about “helping women making tough choices,” but really, it is about creating more restrictions to a legal medical procedure in order to please their voters, religious sponsors, and narrow-minded moral agenda.

There is no way in hell mandating a 72-hour waiting period is about doing what is right for women, because if they really cared about women’s mental health and ability to make tough choices, they would LET THEM MAKE THOSE CHOICES WITHOUT STIGMA, WAITING PERIODS, OR JUDGEMENT.

No Utah woman should have to wait for three. fucking. days to have a procedure that is her personal right to legally obtain. Yet, Utah wants to make her wait, cause her pain, and probably undue suffering in order satisfy their belief systems. There is nothing moral, helpful, or good about Utah’s stance because making a woman wait three days is cruel.

Let us not be silent.

Just like we have all come together to stand up to Rush Limbaugh’s misogyny and are pressuring his sponsors to stop funding his hate; just as we worked so tirelessly to keep Mississippi’s personhood amendment from passing by massive voter education and get-out-the-vote-efforts , we have to stand together once again to get rid of Utah’s attempt to legislate women’s right to obtain a legal medical procedure.

Please know that no act is too small. This bill is not yet law because it still has to make it through the Utah State Senate. Tweet, email, or call Utah’s Senators and voters. Tweet, facebook, and speak your outrage. Get the word out, NO 72-Hour Waiting Period for Utah Woman!

If you are looking for another way to help: donate to a national abortion fund to help Utah women maintain access to abortion. Better yet, start an abortion fund in Utah so that women can afford to get the care they need!

What is so bad about thinking that abortion should be rare?

5 Mar

Everyone from our celebrated allies to mainstream anti-abortion commentators have recently lauded the mantra that abortion should be safe, legal and rare. I’ve tweeted at these older (white) gentlemen in an attempt to explain why the “rare” framing is so problematic, but sometimes 140 characters just isn’t enough. Thankfully, I’m not the first to explore this subject, so instead of reinventing the wheel, I’m going to summarize one of my favorite articles on this: Tracey Weitz’s Rethinking the Mantra that Abortion Should be “Safe, Legal, and Rare.” 

So what bothers me so much when even President Obama says he wants abortion safe, legal, and rare? Well, the safe and legal part I’m behind 100%. The “rare” aspect? Not so much. Here’s why.

1. By saying that you want abortion to be “rare,” you’re passing a negative judgement on the people who perform abortions and the women who have them. This judgement is harmful to women and clinicians. Dr. Weitz explains why:

“Rare” suggests that abortion is happening more than it should, and  that there are some conditions for which abortions should and should not occur. It separates good abortions from bad abortions. It creates an understanding that women’s individual decision making is somehow responsible for the violent disruptive social conflict over abortion in the United States.

Do we really want to suggest that women who have abortions and clinicians who provide these health services are the reason that abortion is such a lightening rod social issue in the US? To do so is not only simplistic, but absolutely wrong.

2. Saying that you want abortion to be rare implies that there is something wrong with abortion, that abortion is somehow different from other parts of health care.  Specifically, marginalizing abortion care

has contributed to the significant decline in the number of locations where abortions are performed in the United States…Increased access to care is not  part of the “rare” message and efforts to expand services could be construed as working against the goal of making it less frequently used.

There should be as many abortions as there need to be. Instead of saying abortion should be rare, we should be working on expanding access to safe, affordable abortion services.

3. Wanting abortion to be rare suggests that training clinicians to provide abortions is unnecessary. In reality, we need more abortion providers to increase access to safe abortion care. In fact, as Dr. Weitz states,

The uniform acceptance that fewer abortions is good creates the inability to recognize the consequences of reduced access or to accept credit for efforts that actual increase the number of abortions.

What happens when abortion is not accessible to every person who needs it? According to Guttmacher, every year 47,000 women die as a result of unsafe abortion. What would that statistic look like if we trained every doctor worldwide to provide safe abortion care?

4. Another consequence of the “rare” framework is that it legitimizes the need for abortion restrictions, and these anti-abortion laws have the most dire consequences for women with the least resources. In addition to abortion restrictions being medically unnecessary and insulting to women and clinicians, there’s absolutely no proof that they actually reduce abortion rates. They just make it harder for women to access the care they need.

5. The “rare” framing sets up the unrealistic expectation that there’s a magic number of abortions that are acceptable, and once we reach that number, abortion will cease to be a divisive issue in American culture. Dr. Weitz uses the example of Dr. Tiller to elucidate this issue:

Unfortunately, numbers have little to do with ongoing opposition to abortion and the rarity of some abortions seem to be their reason for aversion. Take for example the situation of George Tiller, MD, the physician recently killed in Wichita, KS. In addition to having a robust practice of first trimester and early second-trimester procedures, Dr. Tiller also provided medically indicated abortions in the third trimester. While these abortions were “rare” in numerical sense, occurring only 2,400 times a year in the entire country, they were the abortions for which he was most reviled. The rarity of these procedures did not provide any protection for Dr. Tiller. Instead the specialness of those abortions provided evidence that such abortions were abnormal.

Bottom line? As Dr. Weitz puts it, saying that we want abortion to be rare “does not achieve the underlying goal of reducing  the social conflict over abortion and has real consequences for women’s health and well-being, including reducing access to care, increasing stigma,  justifying restrictions, and establishing unattainable goals.”

Where do we go from here? Thankfully, Dr. Weitz has four suggestions:

  1. Accept that abortion is a polarizing issue in the U.S.;
  2. Acknowledge that abortion has and will always be part of the human condition;
  3. Validate the rights of women to equal participation in society and control over their  reproductive lives; and
  4. Engage in the hard conversations about abortion regarding the moral status of life, the extent of the rights and autonomy of women, the limits of the state to intervening in personal decisions, and
    the role of religion in public life.

Instead of stigmatizing abortion by pushing for it to be rare, let’s work on achieving those goals instead.

I quoted extensively from Tracy Weitz’s article. Please go read it if you have the chance!