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Book Review: ‘One Kind Word: Women Share Their Abortion Stories’

22 Aug

I was so happy and excited to receonekindwordive a copy of One Kind Word in the mail. I had not heard much about it so was doubly excited to see the faces (and stories) of a few people I knew included in the collection. How lovely to see my wonderful friends’ choices validated – celebrated! – in such a beautiful collection.

One Kind Word is the product of arts4choice, an artistic project by Martha Solomon and Kathryn Palmateer in response to a 2007 Ottawa Citizen article about abortion wait times. The goal is to collect stories of people who access abortion in Canada as part of the ongoing efforts to share stories and in so doing, to combat stigma and normalize abortion as a healthcare choice.

Canada is viewed by much of the world as a progressive haven in regards to abortion access, because we do not have a law governing it and so are therefore seen as having ‘no limits’ on abortion. However, the reality is more complicated: healthcare is provincially mandated, so services are determined more by the political bent of the provincial government than by the lack of federal law. Added to the economic disparity of the provinces are additional barriers that limit access: regional disparity in services, long wait times, long travel times, and systemic inequality and indifference to issues of reproductive health. Canadians are subject to the same stigma and alienation around abortion as are Americans and others around the world; the work of making abortion accessible – and contextualizing it as healthcare – is still important here.

Arts4choice approached the project in an artistic way, illustrating each of the 30+ people’s stories with a black and white photograph of the story teller. The result is a bold, brave, unapologetic presentation similar to the attitude behind imnotsorry.net. Each story teller has different feelings and ideas about her abortion, but even those with ambivalence look straight into the camera as if to say, I am not ashamed of this.

Palmateer’s photography is gorgeous, challenging, and definitely the highlight of the book and what sets it apart from other compilations of this nature. I believe this project would be a compelling visual art exhibit as well, which would perhaps make it accessible to a different demographic. Meanwhile, many of the portraits (and stories) are available to be viewed at arts4choice.com.

In the right context, abortion story-telling can be a powerful tool for activism. This book provides a space for that in a beautiful and stylish way that I greatly appreciated – and will be a great conversation starter on your coffee table!

You can buy the book from Three O’Clock Press.

16 and Pregnant Season Finale: Part Two

23 Jun

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In part two of the 16 and Pregnant season finale, is Savannah,from Missouri. (You can read part one of our recap here.)

Chanel: Okay, has every pregnant teen in the state of Missouri been on this show?

Megan: Is this the first time we’ve heard someone use the phrase “co-parent”? It’s a different way of thinking than “helping”.

C: I think so? “We didn’t ever use protection,I didn’t think it was possible for me to conceive.” Can we discuss this? I feel like we’ve heard this like 800 times this season.

M: Yeah, again it’s the “it could never happen to me”, “I’m not like that” phenomenon.

C: I think I’ve said this before, but it’s important to note that it’s not just a thing that teenagers think.

M: I’m with everyone on the “don’t name your baby after a car” thing. What it is about these boys and cars? I don’t get it. We should have a man help with these summaries next year.

C:  I am serious proponent of not naming your kid whatever the hell you want. Names matter. Trust me on this.

M: I think it’s worth noting that a large percentage of the tension and frustration between Savannah and Stone is due to Savannah’s mother’s history of alcohol dependency. It must be tough for both of them to feel like they are trapped in a possible hostile environment and powerless to protect their kid.

C: Did he just say, ‘that girl gave me the ‘do me’ eye”? This whole thing is disgusting.

M: Yeah I can’t even figure out how to respond to how Stone and his friend are “talking” to these girls.

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C: ‘I don’t have to be with you to coparent.” THANK YOU.

M: This scene with Savannah confronting her mom about her drinking is really sad.

C: I feel like her mom is the thing she’s trying to fix, instead of Stone. Like she’s the substitute? (Hello, arm chair psychology.)

M: I wonder if the debate about deciding the name of the baby is again, the boyfriend’s way to try and take control over something when he feels like all of the control is being stripped away from him. The same way that we’ve seen the boyfriends wanting to purchase something, etc. That the name of the baby would be something that’s “his”.

C: “I want you to enjoy this with me.” I LOVE that she’s talking about enjoying pregnancy and parenting. Way to bust the myth that teen parents can’t enjoy those things. Teens can be happy to be parents. Just FYI.

M: Everyone seems really amazed that this baby is peeing.

C: WHY MTV, WHY? I find the fact that MTV wants to show us baby excrement constantly kind of amazing/disturbing.

M: Yeah, but they don’t talk about pooping while giving birth NEARLY enough. Another TMI/amazing statement from this episode: “You don’t know hard until you have five stitches in your vagina.”

C: Stone, man. Wise words.  “You can support your mom, but you can’t support her addiction.”

M: Her little brother at the door while Savannah confronts her mom about being drunk is breaking my heart. Not only is she parenting her baby, but also her brother.

C: Does the lack of imagery in this recap reflect…ennui? It is the last recap of the season, after all.

M: I’d like to end by sending love to Savannah and baby, and also to her brother Ben.

16 and Pregnant Season Finale: Part One

22 Jun

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For our first summary we have Courtney from Woodland Park, Colorado! The video isn’t yet available on the MTV website.

Chanel: Okay, the part that did not go so well is where there was no birth control or failed birth control, not sex. Unless the sex wasn’t good, in which case, I am sorry.

Megan: Yeah, there seems to be a lot of black and white thinking about sex v. no sex in this episode. Courtney thinks that she wants to stick with her religious beliefs and morals, and says, “I’m worried that if I move in with you I will be tempted to have sex.” There is no room for having sex and enjoying it before marriage.

C: What “level” are you on, Courtney? Is it a level that we can actually get on? Ughhhh. I don’t want to shame her or her beliefs, but it’s hard to deal with the association between sex and morality, because I don’t actually think sex is not moral.

M: I think what’s sad to me is that it’s clear that she loves Scott, enjoys sex, and knows it would make sense to move in with him so that they could both help parent, but feels like it is something immoral to be sleeping with him before they are married. She says: “I got my morals back” after she started not having sex after she became pregnant.

Horribly phrased question: Dad: “Where are you at now with being pure?”

C: It’s confusing to me that there’s not shaming from her dad. He says it’s normal to want sex. It doesn’t seem like he’s punishing her? (Yet?)

M: I mean, he kind of is, though? It’s great to say that it’s normal for her to want to have sex, but at the same time, he’s saying she’s “not pure” and that she messed up. So in some ways I think she is getting mixed messages.

C: That’s true. I think I’m looking at this episode alongside Jazmin, and compared to that one, Courtney’s  dad is a feminist.

M: Ha! So true.

On the other hand, Courtney is good at holding multiple emotions at once and understanding complex realities, both about her decision not to have sex and her baby’s cleft lip. She says, “We’re blessed, but I’m keeping an open mind.”

C: Okay, it’s possible that I’m confused bc so far Scott is not an asshole? BUT I’m also automatically pissed off when dudes say, ‘I’m trying to think positive. You’re being negative.’ ‘Negative’ is code for seeing things as complicated, instead of as black and white.

M: Truth.

Hey! This is one of the first times that we are actually seeing the couple apply for benefits.

C: Yes! Good work, you two. Also, we’re talking about self image in whole new way this episode, for once. It’s not about weight.

M: Courtney: “I’m scared for the epidural.” Dad: “You don’t have to have it.” I’m so confused about whether I like her dad or not.

C: I think she means she’s scared of the needle?

M: Oh, I know. But he continuously speaks to her in a way that is supportive of her choices and gives her multiple options? Except for the sex before marriage thing – kind of.

C: True. I don’t know what to make of him either. My ability to evaluate anything on this show has gotten so warped…by this show.

M: I am kind of appalled that they have to pay out of pocket for this cleft lip surgery. Is it not covered by health insurance or do they not have health insurance?

C: I’m seriously still reeling from the fact that Scott asked about money.

M: Scott: I work an 8 to 5. Courtney: I work a 24/7. #Truth

C: Okay, it’s time to bring this up, I think. The language, “helping” v. “parenting” piece. Especially in this situation, with the purity issue and feeling like she “gave in” and failed, I think it’s not an accident that she says “help.” Does she think she has to shoulder all the burdens of childcare – yes, i’m using the word burden- because pregnancy was her fault, plus also all the shit we internalize about women being the primary care giver?

M: You’re right. It seems like she does think that he should “help” but that the rest of it is her responsibility.

I would like to propose that in each of these episodes we have the boyfriend and girlfriend change responsibilities for one day. Get on that, MTV.

C: Ugh, I do not know what to think re: Sexy Times being halted here. I get where Scott’s coming from, they were having The Sex and now they’re not and that’s difficult, but also, Courtney’s entitled to say she wants to wait and to follow through with that. It feels like an impossible situation to me. Maybe they shouldn’t be living together?

M: Yeah, it seems like they are just on two separate pages and both are resentful of each other.

C: I just realized that the crying baby is coming from inside my headphones and not from the coffee shop.

M: OK I was rooting for Scott until now. “He doesn’t need to be a little girl and be held.” “You take care of him all the time… that’s a stay at home mother’s job”. “Everything [we have] is because of me.” OH, OK, RAISING YOUR CHILD IS DEFINITELY NOT PART OF EVERYTHING. And you would definitely have “everything” without having a girlfriend carry, give birth to, and support your baby.

It’s so sad to me that our capitalistic society equates money with identity. Because Courtney isn’t the one making money, she is subordinated and her identity as a mother and her work is not valued.

C: OH SHIT. “It’s been how long now without sex?” Cool, so sex is a commodity that she owes you? It’s a weapon? Are there some MRA’s camped out in your stupid hair whispering in your ear?

I like how this episode crashed and burned in the last five minutes.

M: I can’t even. We were doing so well in the beginning and it ended on maybe the worst note of all of them.

C: What is the take away here? Dudes need sex. ORIGINAL.

M: I would like to end as usual by sending love to Courtney and baby, but also by letting her know that she does not have to settle for defining her self worth based on outdated patriarchal constructs.

C: My ending thoughts consist of inarticulate sputters of rage.

M: I like that you can tell the severity of our feelings about each episode based on the number of images we choose to include.

 

 

16 and Pregnant Recap Double Header: Part Two

15 Jun

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Part two (here’s part one) of our recap double header is Savon, from Marietta, Georgia. The link to the episode isn’t up on MTV, but you can watch it here.

Megan: Oh my gosh. Savonl did not have an abortion because of “the money.” That is devastating.

Chanel: According to the National Network of Abortion Funds, there are some resources: Georgia Reproductive Justice Access Network (GRJAN), Women in Need Fund, and the Atlanta Pro-Choice Action Committee.

Oh, there’s some nuance around abortion in this episode. Savon had thought of abortion herself, but when Eli told her to get one, she thought, ‘You can’t tell me what to do.”

Also, this is a sweeping generalization, but online high school doesn’t seem like it works on this show.

M: I think no school post baby seems to work, no matter if it’s in person or online? I would guess it’s not the method, but rather the time commitment and energy it takes to parent taking priority.

C: Um, did Savon just say she’s looking for a job that’s relaxing?

M: That stopped me too! I just think about how she is trying to get a job but no one is helping her to interview, etc.

C: I totally get where she’s coming from, re: being scared of sex because of pregnancy. I’ve never been pregnant, that I know of, but I totally get the idea of being pregnant  terrifying you to the point where you would not want to do the thing that leads you back to the thing you don’t want.

M: Me too. But I also hear people all the time who are getting abortions say, “I am never having sex again.” And while they mean it, I also worry that that means they won’t have a plan for how to protect themselves in the future.

C: Talk to me about why yellow is not the right color for a boy, Savon’s aunt.

M: The pooping talk in this episode combined with the poop shot in the last episode is really effective birth control for me.

C: I’m totally not a fan of Mauwi telling Savon to take care of her son. It’s okay for her to want to have a relationship and be a mother.

M: I agree with you that she could want more. I think she is just overwhelmed.

C: I also feel like you can’t underestimate the loneliness one might feel having a baby in high school. I like that Savon’s aunt is urging her to talk about her feelings, and she’s telling her that things happen in life that aren’t what you planned. She’s not shaming her. (How low has my bar gotten that not shaming is worth a gold star?)

M: Mauwi is so good with her too. He says, “If you really want to [go to college] you can make it happen. You’re not even 20 yet. You still got more than enough time to make things happen.” It’s clear that he is supportive of her and cares about her.

I wonder if she is depressed? Shutting people out and breaking off relationships could also be a symptom of this. She says, “I don’t feel anything.” She even seems so matter-of-fact in her closing statement.

C: Oh gd, they’re getting swarmed by geese. RUN.

M: I seriously hate geese.
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C: Are we ending this recap with a side eye towards geese?

M: I do what I want. I guess you’re right though that we should end by sending love to Savon and Jordan and babies! I also want to hear Savon sing.

 

 

 

16 and Pregnant Recap Double Header! Part One

15 Jun

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For some reason, last week, MTV decided to air two episodes of 16 and Pregnant in a row? So we recapped them. This is the first, Jordan, who’s 17 and from Baltimore, Maryland.

Megan: Derek, “It’s your fault. I hate condoms.”

Chanel:  OH THIS KID. It took eleven seconds for me to hate him.

M: I really appreciate the conversation between Jordan and her friend, Sugar, who got pregnant at around the same time and had an abortion. They both appreciate each other’s decision and are able to talk about what both of their decisions mean for each of them. “Your life still gets to move forward, and mine is moving forward in another direction.”

C: Sugar is such a boss.

M: I think this episode really emphasizes how critical parental support of teen parents is. Jordan and Derek have no money and no place to stay with a baby on the way.

C:  “You need another woman figure in your corner.” So good.

M: I don’t know what makes me suspicious of people who want to help other people for no reason. What does that say about me?

C: I’m also suspicious of that. Especially when it’s something like, letting a pregnant teenager and her boyfriend who won’t get a job live in your house? I’m not that giving.

M: Sugar: “Can you get pregnant when you’re pregnant.” This girl needs some sex ed.

C: Sugar, if you can explain to me how that would work, using actual science, I will be really impressed.

Also, all this talk about strength annoys me. I’m thinking about specifically why.

M: I agree. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I think it’s because a. she is already incredibly strong and keeping everything together and b. she shouldn’t have to always feel like she has to keep everything together.

Derek is annoying me more than the other boyfriends, I think because she is totally dependent on him and he is refusing to look for a job.

C: Jordan: “I have a lot to be stressed out about.” Derek: “Like what”? Dude, are you even on this planet?

M: I think at the point where you are making a pregnant girl walk a mile in the snow because her car broke down is the point in which you step in as documentary filmmakers.

C: Gooooodd  point. I always forget that there are people taping this for some reason.

M: Derek: “You’re stuck here. I’m not.” I literally gasped out loud. I am so upset that he would say that to her. She does not deserve that. I usually try to understand the boyfriends’ points of view but that was just so mean. He is all she has.

C: I can’t believe he just told her she’s breathing wrong. YOU’RE BREATHING WRONG DEREK. I’m so mad at this dude that I’m losing my respect for punctuation.

M: Jordan: “I’m sick of relying on handouts.” I understand that it’s not a comfortable feeling to have to accept help from others, but given their situation, it’s what makes sense. I wonder if this same feeling is stopping her from trying to apply for other government benefits? It would make a big difference to have support when the baby comes.

C: I’m starting to think about the impact of having people filming your life on these kids. It’s hard to know what exactly that is.

M: Yeah, especially the more popular the show gets? I imagine you also have to think about your peers watching it later.

I really needed to see that poop/diaper shot. Thank you.

C: Is it supposed to be a scare tactic? Because it’s working.

M: I’m convinced. Tracy: “I don’t have a family to fall back on.” I wonder if she was also a young parent without familial support? Maybe that’s why she feels like she should take care of these young parents.

C: Derek says Sugar is always thinking about the negative stuff that could happen. I feel like he’s probably not into the fact that she had an abortion.

M: We’ve also seen this pattern of thinking from a lot of the fathers on the show. The wanting to not think too many steps ahead or plan for anything negative to happen, whereas the moms usually are thinking farther into the future and stressed out about not having things in place to care for their children. I wonder how much of this is related, even subconsciously, to the fact that the fathers can leave the situation but the moms can’t.

C:I’m totally scared for Jordan and Evie. I also wonder about the policing around the idea that you can’t say you regretyour kid. You can say, “I regret having her now,” but not that you regret having had her? You’re allowed to say that. It’s a real feeling.

M: I mean, she did say that, kind of? That she regretted having her “at such a young age”? I see what you mean but I also kind of get where she’s coming from. Would you ever want your daughter growing up and watching this and then hearing your mom say that she regretted having you? I think she’s trying to protect her and emphasize that she loves her.

C: I agree that it’s important to protect your kid, and I also think there’s a super taboo about women ever expressing ambivalence or regret around parenting that also ties in with the stigma of both teen parenting and abortion. In general, though, I just want people to be able to say their real feelings and not feel trapped by expectations.

M: Yeah, you’re right about that.

Second recap (Savon) on the way! 

 

16 and Pregnant, Season 5, Episode 8: The Recap

8 Jun

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This week! Jazmin! From Missouri! 

Megan: The one-sentence summary of this episode calls Jazmin a “sassy midwestern teen”. I’m pretty sure sassy is another word we should eliminate.

Chanel: Agreed. Unless you’re talking about the superb yet now defunct magazine.

M: There’s no mention of abortion, and I wonder how much their religious household played into the decision to parent.

C: You can, however, tell your daughter you’re “majorly disappointed in her.”

M: Jazmin: “I thought birth control would make me fat”. She was also worried that it would cause hair loss.

C: Where did Jazmin get her information about birth control? I feel like the thing about hair reeks of some kind of scary religious/abstinence only program.

M: There’s so much misinformation out there! I’ve had people tell me things they heard about birth control like it will make them unable to have a baby in the future, etc. It’s so easy to get myths and not facts when you’re not sure what websites and information are reputable.

C:  J’s mom is really working this “you had so much potential” angle. She still has potential. That’s what potential IS. You always have it.

 M: It’s so true. Potential isn’t something you lose when you become pregnant. That just speaks to the way we equate careers with identity and devalue parenting.

 C: Oh man, her mom is so sure Dell’s going to screw up.

M: It’s pretty amazing that they are still enforcing the “house rules” (no staying over after 10 PM, no sex) given the situation. It’s another example of how complicated it is when you are trying to parent a parent.

C: They’re so mad. I feel like this is all about shaming.

M: Yeah, they can’t get over the betrayal they feel about the “rule breaking”.

C: Which I feel like is no longer the point.

M: Definitely no longer the point! The whole situation has changed. They have to shift the way they are defining their relationships and what is going on.

C: OH WHAT? “Her legs are crossed, she’s already a little lady.”

M: Oh thank goodness. That way we can wait a few days before we put the bow on her.

C: I just feel like it’s an extension of the shaming re: female sexuality that is all over this episode. Starting early.

M: It’s so terrible! What they are doing is really shaming their daughter and putting all of the childcare responsibility on her.

C: Yep. It’s that bullshit about making your bed and lying in it.

M: It’s also no wonder that there has been so much gendered talk in this episode given that her parents have no qualms about her having to take care of the child by herself without her boyfriend.

C:OH, “when you do things out of Gd’s order….” Right. I forgot about Gd’s order. Maybe they could remind me again.

M: Jazmin’s friend: “Respecting the rules of the house, and raising a daughter, you realize those two things aren’t compatible, right?”

C: Her parents are just not even giving them a change to make it. I mean, they need help. Resent all you want, but don’t sabotage.

M: It also makes me angry that Jazmin and Dell now think that they shouldn’t have had sex and feel guilty about it. Those aren’t the only two options.

C: Yes! This whole episode is such a classic example of what happens when young women learn that they should be ashamed of sex and their bodies AND are given bad/no information about birth control. I’m so mad right now.

M: I would like to end by sending love to Jazmin and baby, and also encouraging Jazmin to check out Scarleteen.

 

16 and Pregnant, Season 5, Episode 7: The Recap

1 Jun

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This week!  Aleah from St. Louis, MO. Watch the whole episode here

Chanel: Okay, so far we’re only at the opening and we  have diabetes, juvenile detention, and a dude with a kid.  Yikes.

Megan: It’s interesting that his mom is so willing to babysit. She says it’s the “grandmother’s job”.

C: We’ve seen a few different ideas of what it means to be a grandparent this season, right? Folks have been reticent, resentful, and now this.

M: It just goes to show that there’s no “right way” to be a grandparent, just like there’s no right way to be a parent.

C:  I feel like Depo hasn’t been talked about on this show so much before.

M: Depo is a great option for people who want a hormonal method but might not be able to remember to take the pill everyday. But the catch is that you have to be consistent with getting to your provider to get the next shot! I’ve talked to a lot of folks who have missed the appointment for the next shot and gotten pregnant in the interim.

C: This segment reminds me of how much basic maintenance there are with kids. like, you have to remind them to brush their back teeth. Yikes.

M: I hadn’t thought before about how much stress it must cause to have to worry that you are going to pass along diabetes to your infant. On top of the general stress about pregnancy and parenting!

C: Seriously. Also, again, there’s no mention of abortion ever being an option, even though this is a high risk pregnancy. I am getting really sick of MTV editing out, or never asking, about the process of deciding to give birth.

M: So she is having an early delivery and her doctor said they wanted to “avoid a stillbirth”! Most terrifying thing to tell someone! Ever!

C: I like how Aleah’s saying the word “vagina.”

M: I am so relieved that the baby is OK. Can you imagine how much you would beat yourself up if you thought you were responsible for something wrong with your newborn?

C:  Why are we not talking about the fact that Shawn/Sean might be speeding with tiny people in the car? Why has that not come up?

M: At least he doesn’t want to buy a new truck?

C: Or a dog.

M: So what’s interesting about this episode is that Aleah is the one living with the boyfriend’s family and the one who feels trapped and needs to leave. This seems like a reversal from what usually happens – that the boyfriend feels trapped by the baby, parents, and situation and wants to leave.

C:  It’s not clear to me that she feels trapped, just that there’s not space.

M: That’s true. It also means that she must trust him in a caretaking capacity to leave the baby there overnight, even though it is clearly tearing her up. That’s not usually something we see either.

C: “I don’t think you should split with Shawn/Sean because I think the natural parents should try and try again.” That sentence just gave me an enormous headache.

M: “Natural parents” is a phrase I could go without hearing again.

C: SHAWN/SEAN. “Our relationship should go both ways, at least until we get our own place.” It goes both ways no matter where you live, dude. GOD.

M: OK, does he just not understand what he’s saying? I think he means he’s willing to sacrifice and meet her where she is and hopefully they will be more on the same page once they move in together. But maybe that’s me being too optimistic!

C: It’s hard to tell, I think, between editing and the fact that every week on this show is a depiction of a power struggle.

M: This one ended on such a sad note. She is teary and regretful and wishes she “had it together” because her kids “deserve better”. I just want to let her know that it’s fine to be sad but to remember that she is a good mother who is doing her best, and that what kids need to thrive is a safe and loving environment.

C: I think that’s the lesson no matter what, right? Every week.

M: Every week I just want to hug them all and tell them they are doing their best! You are all such good mamas. Don’t let anyone (like, the internet) tell you otherwise.