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The value of being an on-again, off-again activist

16 May

Earlier this year, I stepped away from the reproductive justice blogosphere. I wasn’t overwhelmed or busy; instead I felt bored. I felt as if I had been repeating the same conversations over and over, while getting nowhere. I wasn’t dismayed about the future of abortion rights so much as ambivalent.  I figured I would step away, take a break, and find my enthusiasm. I figured reproductive justice could wait for me.

While on my break, my local newspaper posted an anti-choice opinion piece on the horrors of Gosnell. It went something along the lines of “why isn’t mainstream media talking about this” and “we need to stop abortion now.”  I shook my head, but didn’t do anything about it. I just closed the newspaper.

Another day, I came across a post on another message board I frequent where a user said that seeing a woman breastfeed in public made them uncomfortable, and that women should cover up so that the user wasn’t distracted while eating her dinner. I sighed and closed the thread.

Seeing these two different reproductive justice topics outside of my RJ blogosphere got me thinking, though. The conversation doesn’t stop when I choose to step away–it just loses my voice. And not just any voice for reproductive justice, but MY voice. But that’s not the only thing I realized. I also realized that the RJ discussion doesn’t just happen in the blogosphere, on our pro-choice blogs and twitter hashtags. It happens in everyday conversations, among people who don’t spend their every day engrossed in a battle for our rights.  I don’t need to dedicate every waking hour of my time to pushing for reproductive justice; I can instead go about my daily life and find small conversations or local articles to reply to.

But I’m not the only one who can do this. It can be tough and draining to dedicate your career or all your volunteer time to reproductive justice (technically, it can be tough and draining to dedicate all your time to any one subject).  And while it is essential that we have those 24/7 dedicated people, reproductive justice still needs the “now and again” people. The people who care, but don’t spend their days writing blog posts and tweeting. We need to get our information out into the greater world to the people who may not even know of the term reproductive justice. We need our friends, our siblings, our parents to not just see our dedication but also understand where we come from.

So if your co-worker mentions state funding for abortion, take three minutes to give them a reply. If you see an article in the local paper about TRAP laws, take five minutes to write an email and send it. If you come across a Bowl-a-Thon page, share it on your social media pages. Then go about your day, and realize you’ve done a ton of good for the reproductive justice movement.

A majority of women identify as feminists! Now what?

26 Mar

Good news! A new study recently released shows that feminism is not dying, but instead is growing! Since 2008, the number of women who identify as feminists has increased by 9 points. A full 55% of female voters call themselves feminists. Now you might think that only a specific group of women identify as feminist, but that’s not true. 58% of women under 30 and 54% of women over 30 identify as feminists. 72% of Democratic women and even 38% of Republican women identify as feminists. Feminism is not just a fad or the interest of one group, but instead an issue every group finds important. And yes, I do mean every group–one in three men identifies as a feminist too!

Even more important, I think, is that there are more women of color who identify as feminist than white women. The world of media outside of the feminist sphere seems to assume that feminists are all white women. Large, mainstream feminist organizations are often led by white women, and those are the people most often asked to speak for the feminist movement. But beyond the mainstream groups is a large number of grassroots, feminist organizations run by and for women of color. Organizations such as SisterSong, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Black Women’s Health Imperative and SPARAK RJ NOW all involve women of color working on feminist ideals within their communities. It is my hope that this information will be used by the large organizations such as Planned Parenthood, NARAL and the Feminist Majority Foundation to create new hiring practices and new ways of listening. The groups most often asked to speak for our movement should be asking the reporters to speak with women from these other organizations, or finding new ways to connect with these grassroots activists. Hopefully this study wont just focus on how many people call themselves feminists, but who, why, and what they’re doing about it.

Of course, some people might wonder if people who label as feminist actually vote for feminist values. There have been a number of anti-abortion groups and other groups fighting against women’s rights that are trying to take up the feminist label. The study found that 64% of feminist-identified women voted for President Obama in the last election, as did 54% of feminist identified men. There could be more who voted third party as well. So yes, there is a strong correlation between the label feminist and voting for candidates who support women’s rights. There is power in having such a large, diversified group of people under one label. There are so many opportunities beyond electing a President- if we all stay in contact with our local Congresspeople, we can get so much more done.

Catholic Hospital Argues Fetuses Are Not Persons

4 Feb

On January 25, 2013, anti-choicers from across the country gathered to march on Washington DC, in a show of their support for fetal life. This year, I’d almost forgotten about the March for Life- mostly because the event is a ton of high schoolers who are bused in to increase numbers. It’s a way for teenagers to travel, have time off from school, and hang with their friends- and sometimes they even get a little extra credit for going. So I’m not really worried about hundreds of kids taking a vacation (although you should listen to @ClinicEscort talk to a train full of them about her abortion experience here).

What reminded me that the March of Life was happening soon, was an article posted on January 23 on a Colorado news website titled “In malpractice case, Catholic hospital argues fetuses aren’t people.

What?

Here’s a summary of what happened: in 2006, a woman who was 7 months pregnant with twins arrived at the hospital short of breath and vomiting. She passed out, and had a massive heart attack because of a clog in her artery. The doctor on call never showed up that night, the woman died less than an hour after entering the hospital, and the twins died in the womb. A terribly heartbreaking situation. The  husband is filing a wrongful-death lawsuit for the twins–he realized that his wife was beyond saving, but argues that the doctor should have arrived to perform a cesarean and saved the twins.

The Catholic hospital’s lawyers countered that fetuses aren’t people, and therefore the husband cannot file a wrongful-death suit for them.

What?

If you ever want to know if someone REALLY believes what they are saying, pin it against money, apparently. The hospital has twice–before a court, and an appeals court–argued that persons are born, and therefore the viable, 7 month gestation fetuses are not persons. Once again: the lawyers for a Catholic hospital which has a mission stating, “Catholic health care ministry witnesses to the sanctity of life ‘from the moment of conception until death,’” have said,

…the court “should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as is used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses.”

Now, there is a very important point here I’d like to make- if the Catholic lawyers had argued the other way, things could have been very different. If they had agreed that the twin fetuses could have a wrongful-death lawsuit filed for them, and that the Catholic hospitals recognized their personhood, they could have had the beginnings of legal precedent for recognizing fetuses as persons. Of course, many hospitals and laws already recognize the value of a viable fetus to a family, and this case couldn’t have banned abortion overnight. But they didn’t choose to do that- for this Catholic hospital, it seems that money is more important than fetal life.

I probably sound like I’m repeating myself a lot, but this is a big deal. If a Catholic hospital will argue in a court of law that fetuses aren’t persons, then perhaps we shouldn’t respect their argument when it’s based upon the concept that fetuses are persons (which is quite often). If they really, truly believed and supported their position, they wouldn’t argue against it. If even Catholic hospitals following the rules of the US Catholic Bishops (some of the biggest fighters against abortion) don’t believe their ideas, why should we consider laws they try to pass? Or let them have ways to opt out of the birth control mandate?

I don’t think we should. Of course, these types of things aren’t decisions I get to make personally. But I can remember these facts about antichoicers while I am having discussions with them: that anti-choice people get abortions too; that more people are calling themselves pro-life, but support for legal abortion has not decreased; that Catholic hospitals don’t always follow the idea that life begins at conception. Some people are incredibly sure of themselves, until they face a trial of their beliefs. My goal is not to change minds overnight, or push people further into their beliefs, but to open their mind to the vast possibilities around them. Sharing this story about a Catholic hospital denying the personhood of fetuses is one way to show the world is not completely black and white for anyone, but a huge ball of gray.

It’s #GivingTuesday!

27 Nov

Of course you’ve heard about Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. But have you heard about Giving Tuesday?#GivingTuesday is a new idea that allows people to give back to those in need this holiday season. Did you save a bunch of money by shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday? How about making a huge difference in the lives of those in need, and passing on some of your savings?

Here at AbortionGang, we know of a lot of organizations that are in need of donations. Unfortunately, we can’t list them all- but we will list some below, in case you’re not sure who you can give to (orgs are listed in alphabetical order, and are all equally worthy of your donations!)

Backline  – A toll free talk line for those who need to talk about pregnancy, parenting, adoption or abortion.
Canadian Federation for Sexual Health – An org working to improve access to reproductive healthcare, especially for youth.
Canadians for Choice – An organization that researches and advocates for reproductive health.
DC Abortion Fund – A great abortion fund, this link will take you to their Holiday Event page, where you can buy tickets or just make a donation if you don’t live in the area.
Ibis – A research organization that looks into all types of reproductive health and justice issues.
Ipas – an organization that works internationally to make abortion safe and accessible.
Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy – an organization that works to prevent unplanned teen pregnancies, and also support and empower teen parents.
National Network of Abortion Funds – want to give to an Abortion Fund, but not sure where the biggest need is? Give to the national org!
New York Abortion Access Fund – Sandy interrupted the lives of New Yorkers in so many ways- including doctors appointments. Can you help the NYAAF out?
Patherfinder International – another great organization that spreads family planing access internationally.
PEI Reproductive Rights Organization – Want to give in Canada? Here’s an abortion fund in Canada.
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice – a faith based group that empowers people of faith to speak out in support of Reproductive Justice.

Where are you giving today? Leave suggestions (and links!) in the comments.

Do not let an anti-choice youth conference fool you. Young people are pro-choice.

9 Nov

This weekend, the International Prolife Youth Conference will be happening in California. Their theme is “Abolitionist Rising,” an attempt to compare the abhorrent practice of slavery to legal abortion. Hosted by Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust & Priests for Life, the conference’s goal is to equip youth to fight against abortion and change their perspective of the anti-choice movement.

While many anti-choice supporters, websites and blogs are mourning the election results, the IPYC facebook (which we will not link to) has stayed upbeat. I wondered if perhaps they thought they found the cure to the dying GOP platform: getting youth involved. While it sounds like a good idea, the anti-choice movement gravely misunderstands today’s youth.

The Presidential election just a few days ago tells us a lot about millennials. Sixty percent of those 18-29 years old voted for President Obama, compared to 44% of those 65 and older. There is a clear trend towards younger people being more progressive. The Center for American Progress found that of 21 core values and beliefs held by America’s youth, only four of them could be deemed conservative. They also found that 84% of today’s youth believe that “we should do everything we can to make sure that people who want to use prescription birth control have affordable access to it and that cost is not an obstacle.” Remember that anti-choicers are strongly against birth control, including financial coverage of it and the use of it by women of all ages.

Advocates for Youth researched what today’s young people think about abortion. 68% of Millennials believe abortion should be available in their community, compared to 60% of the Boomer generation (interesting to note the high majority of both; this is one explanation for why the majority of anti-choice leaders are older people). Today’s youth are more multicultural; there are more people of color among today’s youth than among previous generations. This diversity is another point against conservative, anti-choice groups who have a difficult time reaching out to people of color (their “black genocide” movement seems to incite more anger than anything).

Perhaps the IPYC leaders are excited because they believe they can mold young people’s minds into becoming anti-choice? Their facebook description states the conference will “change your perspective of the pro-life movement across the nation.” They might have a point there–until these young people decide to educate themselves on the issues instead of just listening to speakers. Take the example of Libby Anne. Upon doing her own research, Libby Anne realized that the anti-choice movement actually does more to cause abortions than stop them. She realized that the policies of the pro-choice movement reduces unplanned pregnancies and helps women around the world. Youth attending the IPYC will likely listen to speakers this weekend claim they want to “help women,” but many will soon see that the anti-choice movement is causing a lot more harm than good.

So this weekend, when you see anti-choice activists tweeting about the IPYC, remember that just because the election is over, it doesn’t mean the anti-choice movement is going to give up or go home. They didn’t four years ago, and they definitely won’t now. We can’t stop caring either! Sign the Bill of Reproductive Rights, tell the American Association of University Women what you think Obama and Congress should do on Day One,  join the fight to repeal the Hyde Amendment–let’s set our own priorities!

Abortion, Religion, and the VP Debate

12 Oct

Last night, women across the country sat and watched the Vice Presidential Debates, and waited for the two men on stage to mention their existence. Seventy-three minutes into the 90 minute debate, we finally got to hear the candidates talk about abortion.

As a pro-choice Christian, I was both very excited and very disappointed in the question asked of the candidates. I was very excited because a question about faith and reproductive rights gave Biden a chance to show that no, not every religious person lets their personal beliefs dictate policy. Biden said,

“But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews and — I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman.

I — I do not believe that — that we have a right to tell other people that women, they — they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor, in my view.”

This is really powerful. Biden is acknowledging what our Constitution tells us: we cannot let our religious beliefs be the basis for law. There are thousands of religious Americans who have personal beliefs about abortion that do NOT cause them to want to restrict reproductive rights. Even more religious people have beliefs that are actually in favor of reproductive rights. To take one person’s religious beliefs as law would be immoral and wrong.

I was also disappointed in the question. A specific question about abortion and Catholicism limited the discussion greatly. Congressman Ryan has come out against funding for birth control under Obamacare, and wants to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides contraceptives, STI screenings, and cancer screenings in addition to abortion care. By talking only about abortion in relation to religious beliefs, the public didn’t get to hear all of Ryan’s extreme anti-woman views. Limiting the conversation to religion and abortion also made it impossible to bring up the issues faced by women of color, inmates facing pregnancy, or poor people who need to use abortion funds to pay for a legal medical procedure.

The conversation was restricted to such a small part of reproductive justice, but Congressman Ryan’s stance was still terrifying. We all know that Romney doesn’t really have a position on abortion; he flip flops whichever way will get him more votes. But Ryan is very clear that he has a strong stance, which is guided by his personal beliefs. He said,

“I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do.”

Ryan’s private faith tells him that abortion should be illegal in every situations.  So when he goes on to say that, “the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortion with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother,” I don’t believe him for one second. Ryan’s personal beliefs guide him in how he handles public, government policy. With Romney’s lack of a strong stance on abortion, Ryan would clearly lead a Romney/Ryan administration on pushing for a complete ban on abortion. Ryan said this in no uncertain terms: “All I’m saying is if you believe that life begins at conception, that therefore doesn’t change the definition of life. That’s a principle.”  He doesn’t believe in exceptions to abortion bans, and was barely able to fall in line with Romney’s campaign.

It would be extremely dangerous for all of us to have Paul Ryan as the Vice President of the United States.  Those who support reproductive rights must step up to the plate. Talk to your neighbors and friends; donate to a campaign; sign the Bill of Reproductive Rights; ensure you are registered to vote. We need everyone to stand up.

Draw the Line

12 Oct

The Center for Reproductive Rights this week announced a new campaign they are running called Draw the Line. The campaign shows us a number of headlines (including “Woman Arrested for Using Birth Control,” “The Last Abortion Clinic,” and “Roe v Wade Overturned”) that could soon become reality if the current trend in anti-choice legislation continues. In the end, it asks readers to sign the Bill of Reproductive Rights, which has three main components:

1)      The right to make our own decisions about our reproductive health and future, free from intrusion or coercion by any government, group or individual.

2)      The right to a full range of safe, affordable, and readily accessible reproductive healthcare, including pregnancy care, preventive services, contraception, abortion, and fertility treatment, and accurate information about all of the above.

3)      The right to be free from discrimination in access to reproductive healthcare or on the basis of our reproductive decisions.

These are extremely fundamental and important rights. In deciding to create this campaign, Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, told Mother Jones, “We knew it was time to not only continue defending in the courts, but to begin a very aggressive campaign with a clear articulation of what it is that we are seeking to establish.” In other words, this is not to replace the hard work being done across the states to stop current anti-choice legislation, but it is a way for people across the movement to come together and take a stand for the future.

After signing the Bill of Reproductive Rights, I decided to take a stand of my own, and draw a line in my conversations on Twitter. In the past, I’ve tried to inform antichoicers why abortion would still be legal even if a fetus was considered a person. Our rights do not allow us to use the body of another human being without their consent–if a woman didn’t want to be pregnant, she could still end the pregnancy. However, I’ve found that the most common response I get is for the anti-choicer to start questioning my humanity, by calling me cruel and claiming I have no heart. Since this tactic is obviously getting me nowhere, I’ve decided to draw a line and stop letting anti-choicers control the conversation. I will no longer let their assumption about fetal personhood into the conversation. This is one way I can work towards a world where language is led by reproductive justice advocates.

So how will you take a stand? Will you sign the Bill of Reproductive Rights? Will you call your local legislator and tell them to support abortion rights? Will you make a donation to a local Abortion Fund? Will you do all these things and more? Let us know in the comments if you’ve learned of other ways we can Draw the Line and take a stand against anti-choice attacks!