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

8 Jun

chanel and megan-01

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.

 

The Ties that Bind: It’s Time to End Shackling

4 Jun

By: Catrina Otonoga

They’ve been saying that love has made its way to PA this week. They’ve been saying that equality for all has worked its way down the winding East Coast and is on the brink of the South and Midwest. Love. Equality.

But what has gotten washed away in the seas of good tidings for the state of Virtue, Liberty, and Independence, is a woman tripping and falling face first onto her pregnant belly because of shackles around her legs and waist. She could not protect herself or her fetus because her hands were cuffed behind her back.

What has gotten lost amid tales of happy couples finally getting to share their love is a woman in labor, her ankles shackled to her hospital bed rubbing her skin raw until scars are left, her legs unable to fully open so she can birth her child. Lost is the story of her child being born into a set of shackles, years after the state has banned the practice of shackling.

Shackling is the act of restraining pregnant incarcerated women by chains that link their wrists, ankles, and their bellies. These shackles are used in correctional facilities across the US throughout pregnancy, including during trips to and from the doctor, during labor and delivery, and postpartum.

For a while there, Pennsylvania seemed like a model of the anti-shackling and reproductive justice movement. In 2008, Philadelphia Prisons Commissioner Louis Giorla prohibited the widespread practice of shackling women during labor. And, in 2010, the Healthy Birth Act was passed in Pennsylvania that prohibited the use of shackles on pregnant incarcerated women in their second and third trimesters of pregnancy during prenatal visits, labor, delivery, and postpartum.

But, the law isn’t being followed. The state of Pennsylvania has continued to illegally shackle incarcerated women during their second and third trimester of pregnancy stripping them of any of the mores Pennsylvania so proudly scrawls across bumper stickers and state quarters. The ACLU of PA estimates that 820 women a year are restrained while pregnant. Facilities in Pennsylvania filed only 109 incidents of restraint for 15 women in 2012-2013.

Four years later, prenatal clinics are unfamiliar with the law. Four years later, doctors didn’t know they could ask a correctional officer to remove the restraints. Most clinicians had never spoken to a correctional about security concerns, and many believed that using restraints was only for the correctional officer to decide and not medical personnel.

Only twenty states restrict the use of restraints on pregnant women with a statute. But, if what is happening in Pennsylvania is happening with a law in place, what is happening across the rest of the country?

I have never given birth. Honestly, I don’t even know if giving birth is in the cards for me. I imagine it hurts, an unbearable amount. I also imagine that there is nothing more joyful and loving than holding that bright red screaming baby after that hurt. I imagine it’s like no feeling I can imagine.

I have never been arrested. Never felt that cool steel around my wrists or ankles or pregnant stomach. Never felt that gut dropping feeling of uncertainty about the rest of my life.

The idea of facing these two forces, this incomparable pain and joy, the horror of detainment and arrest is unimaginable to me. Yet, every day women across the United States face this. They face it while they are in labor and delivery and while they hold their screaming red baby for the first time.

The reasons we imprison women in this country are complex, the reasons we shackle them are historic and myriad. But it does not make them right. Like many historic institutions in this country, it is time for shackling pregnant incarcerated women to come to an end. It is time to bring love and dignity to Pennsylvania.

For reproductive justice oriented organizing and mobilizing in PA check out New Voices Pittsburgh

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

1 Jun

chanel and megan-01

 

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.

Positives in miscarriage, abortion, and the continuity of reproductive experiences

27 May

[Trigger warning for abuse/abusive relationships and miscarriage experiences.]

I got out of an abusive relationship just in time to realize I was pregnant. Like over a month pregnant, with a fetus of a man who had slammed me against walls, told me I wouldn’t achieve my dreams, and belittled me until I was a shadow of who I’d been when I moved in with him.

I hated him for so many reasons, but the pregnancy was number 1. We slept together after I moved out; he finished and drove me to the airport. I cried the entire cross country plane ride.

I found out I was pregnant about five weeks later when I returned to our shared city. From the moment the Doctor told me I couldn’t stop throwing up–not from morning sickness, but from hate. I could not believe he would be my first pregnancy after he’d already taken so many firsts from me. I rocked myself in my apartment. I didn’t sleep until I was so exhausted from crying that I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think. The world made no sense.

And then, a little more than two weeks later, I miscarried. I miscarried alone, laying on the stupid floor of my stupid studio.

I drank too much that summer to forget the images of my empty uterus, and the ultrasound tech saying my body had done a “very good job” expelling the fetus. I took pills to black out my impregnator’s face. I numbed myself with anything I could find in order to ignore what I knew he would have said if I told him: You are not even good enough to carry a baby.

The abusive relationship and miscarriage ruined me. I spent time with people who actively did not like me. I dropped out of school. I lost 30 pounds. I moved home. Looking in the mirror was impossible. I couldn’t stand myself; I believed so deeply in his degraded image of me.

Fast forward through rehab and therapy, and I was unintentionally pregnant again. I scheduled my abortion the day after I peed on a stick. I did not doubt myself or even think twice. My second pregnancy did not ruin me, but instead was a stark reminder of how far I’d come in loving myself. Choosing abortion meant I believed in my future as a Doctor. Choosing abortion meant I’d uninvested in my abuser’s degraded image of myself, which placed my highest achievements at being a wife and mother.

I do not for one minute “like” that either of the fetuses came into my life, but I am thankful for both the pregnancy experiences none the less. I am thankful for the miscarriage because I believe that out of a place of self hate, I would have chosen to keep the fetus. And I believe being a single mother of an abuser’s child would not have been conducive to my personal or professional success. I am also thankful for the miscarriage–in which I had no choice–because it was in part what allowed me to feel empowered by the ability to choose my abortion.

My experiences illustrates the perils of abusive relationships on reproductive health, and the heart break of a miscarriage. But they also illuminate the positives sometimes found in miscarriages, and the can-be positive impact of the continuity of reproductive events. I am stronger on the other end of these experiences, and though I would not wish abuse, miscarriage, or unwanted pregnancy on any one, I am so proud to be the person I am today, in part, because of them.

I think we sometime separate reproductive experiences into bad or good. But these experiences, for me, were a healthy mix of both. In accepting that reality, I am better able to accept myself, and the extreme complexity of reproductive health.

16 and Pregnant, Season 5, Episode 6: The Recap

25 May

chanel and megan-01

 

(Art by Megan)

This week! Karley, a high school senior from Toole, Utah. Watch it here

 

Megan: So the first thing that we learn in this episode is that they got married when they found out she was pregnant!

Chanel: Every time that happens on this show, I worry.

M: Karley’s mom says: “I’m scared. It’s going to be so hard for you.” I wonder if there are any support or resources for parents of teen parents? Karley’s mom seems like she is very sweet and supportive but is just sad and doesn’t know what to say.

C: I don’t know anything about parenting, but I feel like it’s not the most productive thing to tell your kid you’re disappointed in them. The opposite, actually. It seems totally unproductive.

M: Unrelated: Utah is beautiful.

C: It is! Plus, now I know how to pronounce “Toole.” (It’s not “Tooley.”)

It must be crazy frustrating to think that you’re going to bust out of your parents’ house when you turn 18 and then realize you actually have to be there for way longer because little people are depending on you.

M: Mom is so worried! She is doing enough worrying for all three of them.

C: ABSOLUTELY NOT WE ARE NOT HAVING A “CRIPPLE PARTY”. THAT IS NOT A THING. SHUT IT DOWN.

M: Wait what? Is it a real cripple party? I’m confused.

C: No one in this situation has a physical disability.

M: That’s messed up.

C: At the baby shower Kaley’s husband Tony says: “There’s not going to be one thing that says, “I love Dad.” She replies: “Probably not.” #babyshowerpartyfoul

Wow, Karley, way to parent your husband.  “I’m sorry that you feel that way.”

M: Yeah, they are in an impossible situation and no one is happy. But they kind of just both have to deal with it because there aren’t any other options. It sucks that he can’t quite figure that out.

This kid was born 5 minutes ago and they have already put a bow on her.

C:  QUICK! GENDER HER!

M: Thank goodness. Usually when we’re watching this and the baby comes out I am just confused.

C: People who are probably psyched not to be pregnant anymore: Karley

M: Having twins seems like the worst. (No offense to my lovely friends who are twins.)

C:  Can we talk about  the word “help” in this context? Bro is not HELPING. He’s PARENTING.

M: Yeah, it’s another example of how parenting is not considered work. She says, “even though he’s working, he helps with the babies at night.” That’s great, but let’s not forget that you worked all day too!

C: Oh, maybe not. Apparently he’s not parenting, he’s buying a truck. Tony, we are about half way through the episode. Please start sucking less.

M: I almost laughed out loud when he said it seated three people. That’s not even enough for her and both babies! There’s also a weird similarity between him wanting to buy a truck and the guy last week wanting to buy a dog. What is it that makes them want to “do something for themselves”? Is it the focus of attention on the baby(ies) instead of the partner?

C: It’s like a push present for the dude? Which…no.

M: Grrrl is telling it like it is: “Sure you make the money, but it’s both of our money. And I don’t appreciate you throwing it in my face all the time. I’m not in a position where I can go out and work right now. You can go out and do things for yourself and I can’t.” She may have been the only one who got married before she had the babies this season, but she is bringing the feminist discourse here and trying to get him to consider what being in a partnership means and valuing her participation in it.

C: “You disrespected the person who takes care of your children.” Burn.

I’m kind of hoping that Tony knows what a scumbag he’s being and that’s why he’s so mad? Like, it’s all him being angry at himself?

M: That’s optimistic of you.

C: I’m trying. This dude and his best friend The Truck are on my last nerve.

M: I’m also just trying to imagine what having your mom overhear your intimate fights with your partner is like. And having to mediate your partner and your mom.

C: Ugh. It’s crazy how you do this thing, have kids, that is supposed to make you an “adult” (in some absurd, bullshit version of the word), but it actually puts you in a situation where you’re more dependent than ever.

M: Yeah, and it puts mom in a position of having to let her not-yet-fully-grown daughter live as an adult and make adult decisions even though she is still a teenager. She is still holding onto her parental role. It’s hard to figure out what the new roles are.

C:  “I don’t blame anyone else but myself, it really is my own fault.” It’s not TOTALLY your own fault, dude. There was a penis involved. An unsheathed penis. (Sorry, readers. Kind of.)

Can we talk about the magical thinking re: not using birth control? It’s not only teenagers who think this.

M: It’s really not! I’ve had a lot of patients seeking abortion who have also subscribed to this line of thinking.

C: It feels a lot to me like my logic as a pedestrian in  New York- you go enough time making sketchy street crossing decisions w/o getting hit by a car, and then you think, “I’m not ever going to get hit by a car!” Until you do. Except getting hit by a car = getting pregnant.

M: Yeah, it’s definitely the “this can never happen to me!” Except I think with pregnancy a lot of it is also “this can never happen to me because I’m not one of those girls”.

C: Talk about where you think that comes from, the “one of those girls” idea.

M: I think it comes up a lot working with folks obtaining abortions, but it’s probably similar  for some teen parents: that they can’t entertain that outcome because it’s so stigmatized. Because they’re taught that “good” people aren’t the ones who get pregnant and drop out of high school, or the ones who get pregnant and have abortions. And they know that they are a “good” person, so it doesn’t seem as likely.

C: I was thinking that the stigma of being a teen parent is different from the stigma re: abortion. Like, you messed up, but at least you’re not a selfish baby killer.

M: That’s true to some extent, but teen parenting is public. It’s out there all the time. You can hide your abortion, but you can’t hide being a teen mom. And everyone knows.

C: Katie Yeager said something during  Teen Mom 3 that sticks with me: “You’re kind of shy about being a parent to your child in public..If you see an older couple out with their kid and their kid is misbehaving, you just think, ‘Oh, that’s a bad kid. If you see a young parent with their kid out in public, it’s ‘she’s a horrible mom.’ It’s always your fault. It’s ‘Well, this wouldn’t happen if she were older.’”

M: That’s how stigma works. You become reduced to the label that people give you instead of an individual.

C: That was one of the reasons we wanted to do this recapping in the first place- to complicate teen parenting rather than letting these folks be reduced to labels.

M: Absolutely. Let’s end with wishing love to Karley and babies! We can’t wait until you take your first gender studies class – you are going to be a boss.

Ellen Willis on Abortion, 1968

23 May

“A young girl, a friend of some friends, comes to town to get an abortion and stays with me. Doctor is a well-known, respected abortionist. Charges her $700, which she has to borrow. I’m disturbed to learn she was given no antibiotics. Next day she starts hurting. Neither of us wants to face trouble, so we wait. But the pain gets worse. I waste an hour calling private doctors, leery of a police hassle at Bellevue. Her fever shoots up and I call an ambulance, panicked that I may have waited too long. The doctor, if you can call him that, lets her have it. While he’s examining her and giving her shots and sticking tubes in her and she’s yelling, in terrible pain and scared to death, he starts in, “YOU WENT TO A QUACK, RIGHT?” keeping at it until she says yes, and then, “That was a stupid thing to do, wasn’t it? How much did it cost you?” and on and on. She asks him if she’s going to die. The prick won’t say no. When he’s through I ask how she is. He gives me his nastiest you-East-Village-sluts-are-all-alike look and says, “She’s very sick,” loud enough for her to hear, and strides out of the ward. The nurse reassures me. She’s full of penicillin and it’s going to be all right.

She spends a week in the hospital. When she’s ready to go home one of the doctors gives her a prescription for birth control pills, but the clinic pharmacist won’t give her all the pills at once. She has to come back every month. Regulations. I argue: there’s no point to this, it’s harassment. “Don’t be smart, lady,” he says.”

From Up from Radicalism

An Open Letter of NARAL Pro-Choice America and NARAL Pro-Choice MD: Do Better

20 May

Our movement is small. You can count USA’s national organizations whose mission is to advance reproductive rights and access on one hand. NARAL is among them; NARAL is a leader in our movement.

As a leader in our movement, I am disappointed that you’ve turned your back on one of our own in the fight for access to abortion in the US.

I am referring to the news that NARAL MD has decided to endorse County Council President Craig Rice over his opponent, the fierce, well known, and unabashedly pro-choice activist, Neda Bolourian.

Neda is a vocal feminist and abortion advocate. She is a clinic defender, a natural leader, and a passionate activist and fundraiser for keeping, protecting, and expanding the full range of reproductive health options. She co-organized the grassroots movement Summer of Trust, welcoming Dr. Carhart into Montgomery County in 2011, and has not for one moment shied away from her strong belief in access to legal, safe abortion whilst on the campaign trail.

Candidates like Neda Bolourian are the future of our movement. We need actively prochoice politicians to move our movement forward so we can stop playing defense.

If NARAL MD researched the candidates for Montgomery County Council, there would be no ignoring Neda’s commitment to vocal pro-choice activism, which is clearly identifiable hereherehere, and here (to site a few of many exhibitions). Especially disturbing is that NARAL MD has a facebook album of a weeklong pro-choice Summer of Trust event Neda co-organized in Montgomery County in 2011. The album has pictures of Neda’s sisters including Lily Bolourian, her campaign manager.

NARAL MD needs to do better. NARAL MD needs to do better, more diligent research before endorsing candidates, and/or needs to do better at actively supporting upcoming pro-choice politicians. When NARAL, a pro-choice movement leader, supports the established order over a pro-choice activist, they join the patriarchal forces of oppressing feminist, pro-choice voices, rather than fight them. Furthermore, NARAL’s endorsement of Neda’s opponent sends a deeply troubling message to future pro-choice women candidates: That pro-choice leaders are more willing to support the establishment than feminist activist.

As someone who cares deeply about the future of our movement, I request that NARAL MD switch their endorsement to support Neda Bolourian and reflect core values of NARAL, and the pro-choice movement. Please join me in asking NARAL to do the same here at change.orgNARAL MD, Endorse Neda Bolourian.