Archive | September, 2012

36 years of Hyde: Where are our success stories?

28 Sep

36 years ago this week the Hyde Amendment was passed, prohibiting Medicaid coverage of abortion in most cases. It is because of the Hyde Amendment that people who have health insurance coverage through the government are deliberately denied access to affordable abortion care, which result in someone putting off paying bills, selling belongings, or even putting his or her family at risk to pay for an abortion. In the reproductive justice movement we talk a lot about Hyde, which has far reaching and devastating consequences for people on Medicaid, and has also paved the way for further abortion restrictions, including barring abortion coverage for federal employees, people on Indian Health Services and Medicare, and those serving in the US military.

There is no question that Hyde was put in place by politicians who wanted to outlaw abortion completely, but could only restrict access for poor people. There is also no question that the consequences of Hyde, compounded with poverty in the US, hurts people and limits health care decision-making. 36 years ago, the mainstream pro-choice movement did not fight this, and dropped poor people from their agenda – a legacy that continues to this day. Since then, we, as reproductive justice activists and abortion fund volunteers have been struggling to pick up the shattered pieces.

Those of us fighting to repeal Hyde and to increase abortion access understand the complicated and harsh realities for people trying to obtain abortion in the US. But the abortion access landscape varies from state to state, and even from even city to city. What we do not often discuss are our success stories, where there are fewer gaps to care or hoops to jump through. We don’t discuss them because we are afraid; we know the attacks are coming fast and strong from the other side and we want to hold on, quietly, to what we have. But in not discussing the places where more people have abortion coverage, or are able to access timely and safe care, we risk letting a valuable asset slide away.

We talk about Hyde all the time, but we rarely talk about the 17 states that have extended their own funds to cover abortion in all or most cases. (However, research shows what advocates have long known—that two of these 17 states (Arizona and Illinois) do not offer that coverage to women in practice.)

Amanda Dennis, Associate at Ibis Reproductive Health, explains: “In states like Massachusetts, New York, and Oregon, Medicaid covers abortion regardless of personal circumstances in both policy and practice. Individuals seeking abortion in these states report being able to weigh their pregnancy options, easily secure accurate information about whether their insurance plan covers abortion, find a health care provider who accepts Medicaid, and make an appointment with confidence.” In these states (“Medicaid states”), a person on Medicaid is able to receive care with fewer stressful complications, compared to his or her counterpart in a non-Medicaid state, where he or she, unable to afford it, may not be able to get an abortion at all.

As people who have worked in Medicaid and non-Medicaid states will tell you, the differences are stark. For a person who has comprehensive health insurance coverage, finding out that it does not cover abortion is unexpected, jarring, and upsetting. It means that she or he can’t get care quickly, will struggle to come up with the money on top of other living expenses, and may jeopardize his or her health or safety. The landscape is vastly different in Medicaid states, where state governments have stepped up to fill the gap and to make it possible for more people to obtain coverage for abortion, trusting that each person should have the ability to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. For people accessing abortion services in these states, it is covered like other health services are covered. That is how it should be: abortion is a legal health service in our country. It is unfair for the federal government to interfere with personal decision-making, and we should applaud the states that allow individuals to think for themselves.

There is still work to be done in Medicaid states to ensure that all people can obtain abortion, particularly for immigrants and minors, We know that Medicaid states aren’t perfect, and the work that we are doing despite Medicaid-covered abortions is necessary and will not go away any time soon. We do not live in utopias, but we do acknowledge abortion is vastly more accessible and affordable. If we don’t talk about Massachusetts, New York, and Oregon, among others, as successes, we will not be able to demonstrate the importance of insurance coverage for abortion, which is desperately needed in the current climate. We, no matter the state we live in, must work together repeal Hyde and to ensure that all people are able to access abortion care regardless of their financial means or insurance status. We can also be proud of those states that have stepped up when the federal government has failed. Let’s shout our success stories loud enough until more state and local governments hear us, loud enough that they take on the responsibility of protecting the health of all of their citizens, not just the ones who can afford it.

Over-the-counter abortion? Why not?

21 Sep

Access to abortion services is becoming more and more difficult around the country, and remains problematic worldwide. One potential way to improve access for the majority of women who need abortion services in the first 9 weeks of pregnancy would be to make the medications that induce abortion available over-the-counter at pharmacies nationwide.

Medical abortion (see below for a detailed definition, but for our purposes, an abortion that is completed at home, with just pills rather than a procedure in a clinic) is an extremely safe and effective way to end unintended pregnancies. The most effective regimen, a combination of misoprostol and mifepristone, works up to 98% of the time. In other words, 98% of women who take these two drugs correctly to induce an abortion at up to 9 weeks after their last menstrual period will expel their pregnancy completely, with no medical intervention whatsoever. So why not take the providers out of the equation?  It would certainly make abortion far more accessible and affordable for many women.

Additionally, such an approach might present a missed opportunity for providing contraceptive care. If women aren’t seeing a medical provider for their abortion, they may lose out on the opportunity to start a contraceptive method immediately after their abortion. In fact, offering contraceptive counseling and providing a method if desired is a key component of quality abortion care. It’s true that in a perfect world, women would be able to start their chosen contraceptive method immediately after their abortion in all cases (and in fact it would be much easier for many women to do so if more contraceptive methods were available over-the-counter as well!). However, it is never appropriate to make availability of one health service contingent on provision or acceptance of another. (Unfortunately, this is common practice; many medical providers still require patients to come in for their preventive care visits before they will renew prescriptions for contraceptives. Just because it’s common doesn’t make it right).

Finally, some may worry that women who are past the recommended 9 weeks since their last period will use the method even though the instructions say not to. First of all, as I mentioned above, many people do not follow the directions for the use of over-the-counter products. It doesn’t mean those products should not be available. Second, although misuse of over-the-counter products such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) are frequent causes of death and disability in the United States, there are no restrictions on their sale. Third, these medications are still safe to use after 9 weeks of pregnancy; however, their efficacy decreases. In other words, women who use the medications in these doses after 9 weeks of pregnancy are less likely to have a complete abortion, although much of the time the regimen will still work correctly. The worst case scenarios, therefore, are an incomplete abortion or an ongoing pregnancy if women do not use the product as recommended. Such situations would require medical attention, but if a good referral service is available women would be able to access appropriate follow-up care.

What would my dream over-the-counter abortion kit include?

1) Clear, easy-to-understand instructions and a 24-hour phone number to call with questions.  Information is key.  The instructions should help women determine if a medical abortion is the right choice for them, based on their gestational age and medical history, as well as provide information on where she can go if a medical abortion at home isn’t the best option for her.  Additionally, women need to have someone they can call at any time if they have questions before, during, or after the process.  The instructions should also point
women to websites and hotlines they can call for information and referrals for contraception after their abortion.

2) Mifepristone and misoprostol.  The mifepristone-misoprostol regimen is the most effective for inducing abortion.  If the method is going to be used by women on their own, it needs to be a method that is extremely reliable.

3)  Several doses of ibuprofen.  The most difficult part of a medical abortion for some women is the cramping; pain control is a key component of abortion care.

4) A low-sensitivity urine pregnancy test.  Women could take this test themselves at home 2 weeks after their abortion.  Although medical abortion is extremely effective, and most women are able to determine from their symptoms alone that their abortion is complete, this test will catch the very rare cases of continuing pregnancy.

Although this may seem to be a radical proposition, the fact is that we have the evidence to support that it would be safe and effective. I would like to see research that it is, additionally, acceptable to women, but it’s hard to believe women wouldn’t be happy about having more choices and more control.  What do you think?

———————————–

Medical abortion: Medical methods of abortion, or medical abortion, is defined by the World Health Organization as follows: The “use of pharmacological drugs to terminate pregnancy. Sometimes the terms “non-surgical abortion” or “medication abortion” are also used.” Medical abortion in the United States is most commonly performed using a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol (this is the recommended protocol as it is the most effective), although sometimes methotrexate is used in combination with misoprostol. In countries where mifepristone and/or methotrexate are not available, misoprostol alone can be used, although it is less effective, that is, less likely to end in a complete abortion.

Low sensitivity urine pregnancy tests: Similar to regular urine pregnancy tests, except they only are positive at higher pregnancy hormone levels. Although it can take several weeks for pregnancy hormone (ß-HCG) levels to become completely undetectable after an abortion, these tests will only turn positive if hormone levels are still high.

Teens are having sex. Get over it.

19 Sep

A new study came out this week saying that 2 in 5 women don’t use birth control. The two most common reasons listed for not using birth control were not being sexual active, and believing they were unable to become pregnant. The study also mentioned that many women underestimate their ability to become pregnant. I believe our current lack of comprehensive sexual education is partially responsible for this situation. I also believe that sex education is not the only change needed. We need to stop being afraid of young adults having sex, and we need to stop thinking of it as a horrible tragedy when young adults have sex. We need to stop believing that it’s wrong to talk about sex with anyone, at any age. We need to start seeing our body’s sexual organs, cycles and activities as part of us.

Young adults, yes,  teenagers, are having sex. Our culture’s refusal to acknowledge that has led to the situation we’re in now. Any sort of talk about teenage sex is deemed as “encouraging” or “promoting” teenage sex, and thus seen as a horrible thing. While parents and teachers and administrators and policy makers squawk back and forth at each other over how they shouldn’t talk about sex because we don’t want teens having sex, teens are having sex. They are having sex and not paying attention to the discussion others are having about whether their sexual activities are right or wrong. And it’s not just teenagers who are in this situation, but also unmarried adults. Even married adults sometimes falter when trying to talk about sexual activities- after being taught for so long that sex is bad, it’s hard to make a 180 turn and say sex is okay.

Our refusal to educate the public about sexual activity has put them at risk, and it’s time for us to stop worrying about whether we are encouraging sex or not, and start teaching teens (and everyone!) about how our bodies and reproduction work.

One result from the above study should be easily resolved with education. As previously stated, one of the most common reasons for not using birth control was a woman believing that she couldn’t get pregnant. This is surely due in part to our fear mongering over pregnancy. Many people believe they have an equal chance of getting pregnant every time they have sex. In reality, one’s chances of becoming pregnant are higher and lower at different parts of the ovulation cycle. If a person has sex when they are not near ovulation, and thus does not become pregnant, this can lead to a false belief that they are unable to become pregnant. While I do not support NFP for teenagers as a way to prevent pregnancy, I highly suggest we begin educating teenagers (male and female) about the ovulation cycle, and encourage young women to track their cycles. Tracking your cycle as a young adult can lead to better understanding of your body, and help you figure out when to have your chances of becoming pregnant when trying to avoid pregnancy or when trying to create a pregnancy. Tracking your cycle can also help you notice something out of the ordinary that requires a doctor’s attention.

The other man reason for not using birth control was a lack of sexual activity. While I see nothing wrong with this, I do believe that even people who are sexually inactive should be educated on condoms and hormonal contraceptives. Anyone who is currently sexually inactive could change their mind and become sexually active, and they should be prepared for that if/when it happens. Hormonal contraception is not easy to get quickly- one usually needs a doctor’s appointment, then to actually purchase the birth control at a pharmacy, and then wait for it to take effect. While we hope sexual activity is well thought out and planned for, often it actually happens in the heat of the moment. No one should have to be risk pregnancy or STIs because they weren’t educated on effective contraception since they weren’t yet sexually active. Education should always come before activity.

A person facing an unplanned pregnancy should not be judged for their situation or lack of education. We should not be asking the individual, “why didn’t you know better?” or “why didn’t you use birth control?” We should be asking the establishment, “why didn’t you provide proper education?” and “why did you limit access to contraceptives for this individual?” Our cultural fear and shame around sex has led to a situation where people rely on rumors whispered among friends, websites that aren’t always accurate, and even lies taught in schools practicing abstinence-only education. We need to stop hiding sexuality under the rug, and start talking about it openly and honestly.

 

Final Egg Donation Post about the Actual Event: The Recovery

12 Sep

So, I’m going to lay it all out there. This may be TMI, but for those of you who have or are considering doing this, you’ll thank me later. For the rest of you, I’m sorry. Fair warning, this post will mostly be about poop.

So, I walked y’all through the actual donation. I think I stopped at the point at which I woke up and was like, damn, this is sucky… no? Ok, backtracking a little bit: when I woke up from the anesthesia, roughly 10 mins after the procedure was finished, I was like damn, this is sucky. Ok, now you’re caught up.

So, I woke up from the pain of being dilated. Being dilated is balls, guys. Terrible. Like the worst fucking feeling. Instantly induces cramps, major ones, and they don’t go away for a while. So the nice nurses gave me a shot of an extra painkiller for that day. That was nice of them, and I went home feeling ok. My friend picked me up, and we went and got diner food, which was a rockin decision because when are johnnycakes (corn pancakes) ever not a good idea? (The answer is that they’re always a good idea. Always.)

After he dropped me off is when I decided a nap was in my best interests. So I napped. And I woke up in a ton of pain again. Took more Aleve, per the nurses instructions.

WHAT NO ONE PREPARED ME FOR WAS THE CONSTANT AND PAINFUL NEED TO POOP FOR THE NEXT 4-5 DAYS. I feel as though this is something that SOMEONE should have mentioned to me. Like before it happened. Like WELL before it happened.

So, from what I can gather (mostly my own observations), as your ovaries are getting more and more swollen, you are being more and more ginger with them (it’s a weird fucking feeling), and you’re doing less of the things that put pressure on your swollen abdomen, like pooping on a regular basis. Thus, you’re left with an abdomen full of poop that would have otherwise been eliminated, but you were being a wuss about it, so now you’re cramping and we all know from getting our periods what cramps can do to your intestines. You poop. A lot. The end.

Except, in this case, not the fucking end. Because you still can’t exercise, so aside from the cramps, which in and of themselves are shitty, you can’t even do anything to help make the pain go away and get the poo out of yourself faster (a good, long run would accomplish both of these things). Because you’d totally put yourself at risk of twisting your fallopian tube. Because your ovaries are still swollen like motherfucking key limes. And I can’t stress this enough: you have to shit like all the time. For the next 5 days. It was total nonsense.

Sigh, so you cramp for 3 or 4 days, you shit your brains out for a week, and then at some point, walking doesn’t feel entirely shitty, and you start being nice to people that you work with again (and they stop asking if you if you’re feeling ok, because you don’t look so hot), and you try bouncing on a trampoline (if you’re me) and you feel pretty ok (7 days later).

Two weeks later, it’s like nothing ever happened, except you’re $8,000 in the positive and you’re mildly traumatized by your own bathroom.

Recommendations: have some stool softener on hand. Take pain meds in advance of the pain (not in advance of the surgery though, duh). And buy nice toilet paper for that week. Your ass will thank you (and me) for it.

Happy donating!!

Able of Mind and Body: Why Reproductive Justice Needs to Address Mental Health in Pregnancy

11 Sep

“An estimated 500,000 pregnancies in the United States each year involve women who have or who will develop psychiatric illness during the pregnancy.”

Think about that. Half a million women each year.

We know about 1 in 4 Americans suffer from mental disorders, 15-20% of American women suffer from depressive symptoms DURING pregnancy, and that depression during pregnancy is a global issue. Clearly, psychiatric disorders during pregnancy are common, and in my experience are not acknowledged nearly often enough.

Depression is a symptom of pregnancy seen all over the globe, and most moms do just fine. Is it fun? No, but that’s why it’s called depression. It is the opposite of fun. Does that preclude you from carrying a pregnancy to term? No. Can we connect the dots to say that if women who experience temporary mental illness shouldn’t be stopped than women who experience semi-permanent mental illness shouldn’t be impeded from carrying to term? Yes, yes we can. [President Obama gets a shout out after all the women’s health love at the DNC. Though I’m pretty sure he would still be afraid to have one of us AGers go up on stage.]

“Mental competence” in pregnancy is surely often an excuse stemming from socially unjust motivations to prevent a pregnancy from going to term. Its more socially acceptable for some people to be a parent than others. Poor people, shouldn’t parent. Rich people, should parent. Some folks have too few kids, others too many. Women contending with mental illness shouldn’t. Not because they are inherently incapable, but because they are disenfranchised. These cases are not about mental capabilities, but about privilege. Social injustice is the determining factor here. This is just another realm where we see the same patterns replicated, only with different excuses.

What is perhaps most strange to me, is that there is a cultural dialogue about postpartum depression, see: Gwyneth Paltrow’s confession, but almost no external discussion of depression during pregnancy. We are all so beholden to the image of the glowing orb of sunshine pregnant person, there is no space for an alternative leaving women without models and information. We need to create this space, and we need to make sure to discuss mental health at-large.

The two major stories I’ve seen make their way through the reproductive health circuits (which does not mean there are not more) are one of a young schizophrenic woman was who ruled mentally incompetent, and her parents forced her to have an abortion and be sterilized against her will. The ruling was made on the basis that if the young woman, Mary Moe, were “mentally competent” she would have sought an abortion. The other is thankfully slightly more uplifting. Here a woman pro-actively chooses to stop taking her mental health medication to pursue a pregnancy to term and paid a full-time babysitter to keep her from hurting herself. We need to hear more of these stories, or really the half a million women grappling with mental illness (in a wide range of forms), each year during pregnancy need to hear these stories. They need to know they are not alone. That there are women in situations more difficult than themselves, and women who have made conscious choices after considering their options (and that this is something they can be empowered to do too). We especially need models for dealing with depression during pregnancy, which is the most common illness faced.

Now we got that out of the way, what about the women who decide to continue using medications for mental disorder during their pregnancy? Though the scientific evidence is still limited, the results are tentatively promising, but women still need to be educated about the risks of drugs on themselves and the fetus, and enabled to make decisions for themselves. But there is a clear need for more research, especially studies longer periods of over time. In the interim, if you decide not to go off your medication, you are not without alternatives to care. However, many women are faced with slightly more complicated medical circumstances and often run from doctors who either says your only choices are to go off/not start medication or have an abortion, which happens. It is very common for women with mental illness to be untreated because they are pregnant, not just untreated with medication, but unable to get a spot at a psychiatric hospital. So everything I said about alternative care is true, to the point you can actually access it. Which without access, it all goes out with the baby and the bath water and we are left back where we began with disenfranchisement through social injustice.

Remember the 500,000 pregnancies are affected each year, in the US. It could easily be you one day sitting across from a doctor leaving you a choice between an abortion or your necessary medication, and simply ignoring your choice to carry to term in the best way you deem fit.

Around the Web in Abortion Access: September 7 Edition

7 Sep

This week at the Abortion Gang

Empowering Birth Awareness Week| An Open Letter To Nancy Keenan | Candies Foundation , You Are Doing It Wrong The Trouble With Privilege | International Reproductive Rights Roundup  | I Know Women That Are Glad They Had An Abortion 

Abortion and Politics 
The DNC has all the women folk speaking! Which is amazing, but not quite good enough. Where were the women of color on prime time beside Michelle Obama? This was  is my own critique of the DNC that trotted out women like Sandra Fluke to speak to or on behalf of all women. Sorry, Fluke doesn’t stand for me. But her message to people in the USA is what needs to be said out loud, on prime time, over, and over, and over again.

Michelle Obama’s message to voters of color. 

Bill Clinton and Elizabeth Warren talked about hate, privilege, and poverty.

As Steph Herold noted on twitter last night, there were many signs at the convention asking for middle class equality, but what of the poor and very poor?

In sharp contrast to the last few days, the Republican National Convention in Tampa last week got under way with nary a mention of war or poverty, and managed to completely avoiding any information about Romney’s policy’s, taxes, and George W. Bush. Also, the RNC decided to officially make hardline, extreme anti-choice policies the central part of their nomination shindig.

Last week, Republican delegates from around the country approved the anti-abortion platform, and even though Romney is trying to distance himself from the unpopular embryos-are-more-important-than-women stance, his campaign approved the platform and the delegates voted the extreme anti-choice stance as the official party position.

Rick Santorum and Abortion, gross. 

From the LA Times: Does Ann Romney Really Know What Women Are Going Through? She spoke only to mothers, essentially removing women and people without children from the conversation. So, my guess is, no, she doesn’t know what women are going through. She totally transparently tried to cash in on the so -called “mommy wars.” She said, “YOU are the hope for America.” To all other women? Fuck off.

What we didn’t hear but understood immediately, is that Mrs. Romney’s speech essentially relegated all women that are not mothers by choice, don’t like/want/need monogamous partnership, are gay, lesbian, queer, trans*, questioning, who cannot have children, who do not want children, and/or basically any women without a kid are not important and in fact, are second class citizens. That’s my take, and I am not alone.  

In Colorado, ‘No Personhood’ campaign gets off the ground. 

Ann Friedman writes for New York Magazine about the ‘Penis Game’ in American politics. 

The long game on this is pretty bleak. Once the election is over, no matter who wins the presidency, reproductive rights battles will be fought over a couple of paragraphs affixed to a budget bill and other arcane legislative tidbits. Or in state-level legislation in places like North Dakota or Mississippi, which makes it hard to convince all women, nationwide, that their rights are at risk. It’s then that truly pro-choice Americans — those of us who’d rather let individual women decide which circumstances necessitate abortion — will cry foul. We’ll feel sold out. This isn’t why we voted for Democrats, we’ll protest. But we will have helped set the stage for this, each time we shared a crazy GOP abortion quote without trying to broaden the conversation beyond unwanted pregnancies that result from rape. Each time we shouted these men’s words back at them, instead of amplifying information on policies that directly affect women.

First Person Experiences and Abortion 

Thanks, Abortion! An entire site devoted to women writing about why they’re glad they had an abortion.  Aug 9, a woman named Rachel wrote, “I made the right decision for MYSELF and I’m not looking back.”

I Had An Abortion And I Don’t Regret It, an essay originally printed in CosmoGirl magazine.

Al Jazeera English has a new film out called ‘The Abortion War,’ a documentary chronically the so called “war on women” in the US and the USA’s political  history since Roe V. Wade. Laila Al-Arian of Al Jazeera English writes in the Huffington Post about why such a documentary would even be made.

We wanted to understand why this has come to be the case and to hear from the people at the center of this debate. We began filming our documentary months before Congressman Todd Akin’s controversial comments about rape, which he made in the context of discussing abortion. But when we started the project in April, it was clear that abortion — and even birth control — were already playing a prominent role in the 2012 election. This year, all of the Republican presidential hopefuls declared they were anti-abortion and both parties have released campaign ads about President Obama’s contraception mandate.

Abortion Access 

The better healthcare a person has, the less likely they are to have an abortion.

A school in Louisiana is forcing female students to take pregnancy tests- a gross violation of human rights.

Empowered Birth Awareness Week

5 Sep

Did you know that this week (September 3 – 10) is Empowered Birth Awareness Week? This is actually an educational week that happens every year, starting the first Monday of each September.

Empowered Birth Awareness Week (EBAW) is all about educating the general public about birth options, birth interventions, and the risks and rewards of different types of birth. Those participating in EBAW want ALL people to be educated about birth, so that we can have the best outcomes for both mothers and babies.

The United States is not at the top of the list for safe births. In fact, we have the highest maternal mortality rate ofany industrialized nation; women here have a higher risk of dying of pregnancy related complication than 49 other countries, including Kuwait, South Korea and Bulgaria. All this is true, even though we spend more money on maternal healthcare than any other country.

Why is birth in America so dangerous? Perhaps it’s because it takes so long for evidence to change public policy. According to the EBAW page, it takes 20 years for proven research to be implemented in practice. We spend money on birth, but are we spending it in the right places, on the right practices? The World Health Organization recommends that c-section rates be at 15%, yet the USA c-section rate is 34%, and higher in some individual hospitals, even getting so high as 61.8% of births in 2010 at South Miami Hospital. C-sections are more expensive than vaginal deliveries, and actually have twice the risk for the mother and baby when the infant is positioned correctly.

Routine c-sections aren’t the only problem EBAW sees in our maternal healthcare. EBAW seeks to empower pregnant people, doctors, hospitals and the general public to fight back against routine procedures and ask, is this procedure necessary? Is this good for the woman and her baby? Will this cause more harm than good? Each birth situation is unique, and therefore should be treated uniquely, not as part of a factory assembly line. Many people assume that birth is routine and safe, and they fail to research the different procedures and risks. EBAW hopes to encourage families to take ownership of their pregnancy and birth by doing all the research, finding the best birth place, method, and provider for them, and thus getting the best outcome possible.

For many people, the meaning of EBAW is to educate the general population. But for some women, EBAW can have a bigger meaning: whether or not they will give birth in chains.

The United States has a large female inmate population. Being in prison does not stop or prevent pregnancy. Women who become pregnant in prison or who enter prison while pregnant end up facing extremely dangerous situations where their rights are ignored and their bodies are harmed.  Sometimes, the medical needs of pregnant women are ignored, leading to miscarriages and stillbirths. Other women are moved to a medical facility to give birth, only to be chained to a bed by both hands and both feet. Only 16 of our 50 states have any regulation against women giving birth in shackles and chains. And even some of those states still practice shackling women even though it’s illegal. The American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are both against this practice, but there is little publicity about it, and thus, it is very hard to make any progress to stop it.  Luckily, there are organizations like the Prison Birth Project, which is working to help these women.

EBAW started on Monday with rallies across the United States called Improving Birth National Rally. Mothers, fathers, children and their advocates joined together in front of hospitals (who often welcomed them and provided refreshments and bathrooms) to educate the public. It continues with supporters sharing information through facebook, twitter, blogs and in person communication. The more people who share data, the more lives we can reach- and perhaps, save. If you want to get involved, visit Improving Birth and Birth Power.

An Open Letter to Nancy Keenan and the Boomers from the Abortion Gang Millenials

4 Sep

Dear Nancy,

Thank you for kindly reaching out to us and suggesting a more open-door policy for what you call the “prochoice” movement and which we generally refer to as the pro-choice and reproductive justice movements. We have often discussed here how difficult it is to be a young person in the movement. Much of the money and power is concentrated in big, mainstream organizations like NARAL, Planned Parenthood, Emily’s List, and many others. We grew up with, admire, and often look forward to working with these organizations. But many of us suffer a great deal of disillusionment. While our painfully cheap labor is welcome, our voices, ideas, and innovations often are not. We appreciate your recognizing this problem, and beginning to bring it to the attention of your peers and colleagues from your much higher platform.

Unfortunately, your essay serves to highlight some of the many cross-generation intra-movement issues we so often encounter as we undertake this vital work. Our profound generational differences go far beyond “Twitter and hashtags.”

First, there is the “prochoice” framework itself, which many of us find limiting. We use “reproductive justice” because our needs are so much greater than abortion, and because we recognize that choice is meaningless without access. The Hyde Amendment, and other restrictive policies, mean that abortion simply isn’t a choice for many women. In addition, people need access not just to abortion and family planning services, but also to support when they choose to become parents. This means help for young mothers with continuing their education and access for all parents to paid family leave, paid sick days, affordable child care, and high quality education for their children. It means treatment for infertility for everyone, not just families with means. These issues are as important to us as abortion access, yet we don’t see our values reflected in the work done in the past or present by the Boomer generation. And as access has become ever more restricted, mainstream orgs like NARAL, located largely on the coasts, have dug in their heels and insisted that because abortion is technically an option, the fight is still about choice. This is no longer the case.

Equally important to us is challenging the heterosexist and gender-normative framework of the language employed not only by our society but also within the pro-choice movement itself. Without meaning to, you continue to insist that this fight is about women. By women, for women. But we are a generation in which men get pregnant, in which many people in our movement do not identify as women, in which we believe that all people must fight together for us to be free. Male-identified individuals belong in this fight too. They should feel responsible, and when called for, be held responsible for making sure we have access and support.

The assumptions often made about “millenials” are not in keeping with our real, lived experiences. You assert that “Millenials have never known what it’s like to live in a country in which abortion is illegal.” This statement is based on a Boomer idealization of Roe v Wade as a vital line, a last battalion between women and the annihalation of our rights. Our generation has grown up to see Roe so stripped of significance that even though abortion is technically legal, there are now entire states where people cannot access it. Abortion has always been less accessible to those of us who are poor, young, and not white. While your generation is full of stories of women who died trying to get abortions, ours is full of those who sold all their possessions, dropped out of school, or fed their children nothing but beans for weeks to pay for their abortions, and of women who simply give up and watch their lives become even more difficult and their dreams grow ever more distant as they struggle to raise children before they are ready. Such stories are only growing more frequent in an economic downturn that has left 25% of college graduates unemployed and far greater numbers of unemployed among those without a college degree. This inter-generational disconnect leads the direction of the vast resources of the movement to issues that do not reflect the needs and realities of those of down on the ground.

You speak of “what our generations share,” but we must ask, how do you know? How many people age 35 and under sit on your board? How many hold leadership positions in your organization?

When you say we will “flock to the polls,” what makes you so sure? Many of us will be working our third job, desperately trying to make ends meet, too tired to even vote. Some of us will be denied the vote because of voter suppression laws. Many of us feel that you are no more supportive of us in many ways than people who wish to deliberately deprive us of our rights.The message you have, however unintentionally, sent with this piece, is, “We need to embrace young people and tell them what to do, and what they need to do is what we did: save all the women that count.”

We appreciate the gesture of inclusion – however tired and angry generally we may be, please, do not think we do not recognize your good intentions – but the “women’s movement” needn’t bother to bring us in from the cold, as though we have been outside the door, shivering, unsure, and in need of the warm embrace of your guidance. We are already here. We are already organizing, without you, because you have not made us welcome. We are changing the world, right before your eyes. And we think it may makeyou afraid and unsure; what is the world becoming without our rules? It is going to look very different when we are done with it. It is no longer time for you to lead us. If you want to win – if you want abortion access and birth control and choice for your daughters and granddaughters – you need to get behind us. Throw your weight and your organization and your money behind us and stop making us build this from scratch. Share the wisdom you’ve learned from the battles you’ve fought, but do so in a way that acknowledges that we live in a different world and we need a different movement. That is how you can save the movement. We say unto you all, with respect, love, and gratitude, what you said to those who came before you: “Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall.” You can obstruct or you can help, but either way, ours is the vision leading the future.