16 and Pregnant, Season 5, Episode 4: The Recap

11 May

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Check out the Mama’s Day campaign at Strong Families

Also: May 12-16 is the time to action in support of the Young Parents’ Dignity Agenda. (Click to learn more.) 

This week, we have Ariana from Smyrna, Georgia. Per usual, you can watch the whole episode here.

Megan: Wow, again with the appearance related to pregnancy. Usually it’s weight, but this time it’s about skin/acne and not being able to take antibiotics. They are really selling not getting pregnant to the teens. WHOA, they mentioned abortion!

Chanel: They said it! It’s a word! It’s a thing! Ariana didn’t consider it.  but at least we’re hearing about options.

M: What is senior kidnapping?

C: I have no idea, but  it makes me think of Gilmore Girls.

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M: I hadn’t thought about what my pregnancy dance was going to be when I have a baby but I am now reconsidering that life choice.

C: I think that’s wise.

Also, I love Ariana’s  friends. They are really good at being her friends.

M: Agree. Unconditionally supportive.

C:  Ariana she could still get a phd. Maybe not now (but also maybe now), but I don’t want her to think that she can’t ever do it. Making adjustments to the plan is not the same thing as lowering your standards for yourself.

I’m glad she said being in labor is really scary, bc it looks really scary.

M: I also like that she talked to her grandmother about her own birth experience, even though we didn’t see much about it here.

“Seeing him being born meant the world to me.” Even though things aren’t working out between the two of them, it’s nice that he can express that.

C: I hate that Maurice STILL thinks he didn’t do anything wrong. I feel like MTV thrives on making us think that these girls are just crazy, manipulative psychos because they want dudes to do something concrete.

M: Yeah, he also should have stopped talking after that sentence. Also, how powerless must it make you feel to be in a hospital bed with someone holding your newborn baby who won’t hand him back over to you. Trapped.

C: Everyone in this situation is terrified, but expressing it differently.

M: So true. What is the reasoning behind not dropping off the stuff? Maybe that his connection to the baby will be lost once he does that? She has no reason to contact him after that if she doesn’t want to?

C: Maybe. Ownership seems to be a big theme this season so far.

She’s not dramatic, Maurice’s mom. WHY ARE YOU DEFENDING HIM??

M: She only has one side of the story.

C: You don’t have to do it alone, Arianna. You have people with you.

Oh, enjoying it! that’s a thing I feel like we don’t talk about on this show very often- that parenting is a thing you might enjoy. Gloria Malone tweeted about that the other day.

I imagine that people are thinking A is punishing M by not letting him see the baby. And also about not breast feeding. I used to read the comments under the episodes, but i stopped because they made me want to set everything on fire.

M: I don’t know why, but I decided to look at the comments after I read that. And it just makes me really glad we are writing this.

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M: I really like the dramatic diaper changing music.

C: It seems like the right choice. This is pretty dramatic.

M: Stop everything. Baby Air Jordans.

C: Air Jordans are still a thing?

M: Baby Air Jordans are. You’re welcome.

C: Ugh, back to the skin again. Stoppppp.

Ariana: “It’ll make me more mature, but do I necessarily want it to be right now? No.I dont’ want to be a mom right now.” Real talk. You can have multiple feelings at the same time, people. She can be glad Aiden is alive and also wish this all wasn’t the case  right now.

Okay, I have to bring this up again- the obsession with the two parent family. It’s literally every week. I theoretically understand-like, two people makes it easier. And nuclear families are seen as “normal.” And fear. But the most important thing is not actually that a kid has two parents.

M: I agree, but I also think it’s more complicated, because for Arianna and Maurice their desire for the dad to be in the picture is based on real and hurtful losses that they have both experienced.

C: I think it mostly always is on this show.

M: I am glad that he apologized, but I also think he has a point that they both need to apologize!

C: Yes. She can be angry and not want to apologize and be a good parent, and I think that’s where people lose sight of the ball. (I’m thinking of the comments.) Again, people can be many things.

M: Word.

C: Oh, good, he gets that he wasn’t being a support system for her. That’s better than him still thinking she’s deranged. TAKE NOTES, OTHER DUDES.

Is that cake? She has a cake box. Now I want cake.

M: You seem very hungry today.

C: I’m being manipulated by MTV. As I am most days.

M: Love to Ariana and baby!

 

 

 

Feeling Comfortable In The Grey

7 May

We live in a world that likes things to be black or white. You’re either for something or against something. Conservative or Liberal. Pro-Choice or Anti-Choice. No matter the issue, conflicting ideas are reduced to defined opposing views, with a clear line that marks the boundary to the other side. This construction is mirrored in our politics and in the media, resulting in structured talking points and campaigns that tell a single story and fit one narrative. The problem is that this representation isn’t accurate. No matter the issue, there is a spectrum of opinions that expand beyond the clearly defined boxes of “for” and “against,” and this is especially true when it comes to choice.

 

Now, I think and know that many in the pro-choice community would agree that choice shouldn’t be presented in this black and white dichotomy. Instead we need to focus on the grey and better represent the nuance and complexity within reproductive choices to honor that everyone’s narrative is different. The problem though is figuring out how to hold onto the greyness, while working in a system that operates in the black and white.

 

I really began thinking about this tension when I was at the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Conference at Hampshire College. CLPP is a conference I’ve wanted to go for years, and I was lucky enough to get to spend that weekend in April thinking deeply and critically about the issues I care about most, while being surrounded by inspiring reproductive justice activists. The last session I went to was called What If We Let Roe Go?, which was facilitated by Aimée Thorne-Thomsen with the panelists Angela Ferrell-Zabala and Julia Reticker-Flynn. The presenters brought up that while Roe is fundamentally important, since it only addresses the legal right to choose, it misses the myriad of other interrelated and contextual factors that intersect and impact one’s ability to have a choice in the first place. The panelists urged us to think about who we leave behind by only focusing on Roe, and how doing this affects the movement. Together, the panelists and audience began a dialogue about how choice is complex, and how by just focusing on Roe we may be limiting our scope. This narrow messaging may fit within the political realm and the need for talking points, but it fails to address the nuances in our experiences.

 

For me, what this session brought up was how limited our approaches can be and made be question whether laws and regulations are the best way to move forward.  This was reinforced last week after reading Jessica Valenti’s thoughtful and powerful article in the Guardian. Sharing her story of the birth of her daughter at 28 weeks, Valenti shows us once again, that this is complicated, and that “choices are far too nuanced and personal for us to ever believe we could create a policy around them.” She reminds us that issues around pregnancy and choice aren’t consistent or clear cut, and more importantly they don’t have to be. Our pro-choice beliefs and reproductive decisions are never in conflict with one another, but result in varied narratives and experiences.

 

Now, I’m not sure what the best answer is or how exactly to move forward. Do we have to operate within the structures that exist in order to affect the change we want to see? Or do we change our tactics? No matter what the best path is, it’s a conversation that needs to keep happening and it has been great to hear thoughts and perspectives from others on what to do. But most importantly, what I appreciated was the reminder that we should dream bigger. It’s time to be bolder and think beyond the limitations in the system. As we go forward let’s find ways to feel comfortable in the grey, embrace our different pro-choice narratives, and support initiatives that focus more broadly on the intersections of experiences that influence choice. It’s a messy world out there, but that’s what makes it interesting.

 

16 and Pregnant, Season 5, Episode 3: The Recap

5 May

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This week, we replaced the 16 and Pregnant graphic with this one, from No Teen Shame,  a movement led by young mothers, dedicated to moving the conversation around young parenting away from shame and stigma. You can follow them on Twitter .

This episode of 16 and Pregnant is about Millina, who’s from Harrison Township, Michigan (near Detroit). You can watch the whole episode here.

 

 Chanel: Okay, that bear heartbeat thing SCARES me. It seems like a CPC (crisis pregnancy center) move.

Megan: Yeah, where did she get that? Is that a thing that people do nowadays?

 C: I don’t know. Pregnant people, feel free to tell us your tales of acquiring stuffed animals at your ultrasound.

Okay, so Millina was against being on birth control. When she says, “all the  things I could have done differently”- is this an abbreviation for other parenting choices she could have made? Are we just not never going to have that conversation?

M: I also wonder what “against being on birth control” means? Especially since it seems like she has changed her mind about that. How has her environment influenced her? Peers?

 C: MTV doesn’t want us to think too hard about certain things, I think.

 M: I have to say something here about Tina’s health condition. It seems like there’s a lot of stuff going on with her besides the physical symptoms, but I do want to plug that people with epilepsy and neurological illnesses can be loving and capable parents (and should check out Girls with Nerve.  )

I wonder at what age Millina was removed from her mom’s custody. It is such a traumatic experience for kids, and you can tell from the way she talks about it how much it is still impacting her and her anxiety about having her own children. She’s used to talking about it. She’s probably had to talk to a lot of people about it over a long period of time.

C: “I’ve learned to fake a smile and tell people I’m okay.”

M: I also wonder how much of that is because she has a younger brother (who seems a lot younger) and feeling like she has to take care of him and be the adult.

C: I also wonder if having the baby is part of starting over for her. But again, MTV doesn’t seem to want to deal with the reasons why she’s choosing to raise Kayden.

M: Did her dad just say just keep the baby away from the adults in her life? Millina and Trevor need the support from others to be able to raise the baby, but they can’t trust most of the adults in their life. I can’t imagine the stress that that must cause.

 C: I think his leather jacket said that, yes.

M: Millina’s attitude and grown-up way of being also says to me that she’s had to grow up too fast. She speaks like an adult.  “I’m trying to talk to you.” She is so mature. I can’t get over it. She is so calm.

C: She has that “I have to parent my parent” tone.

M: Exactly. She is used to having to be the adult.

 C:  I’m glad to hear M say, “I’m done trying to get her to like me.” That’s a hard thing to say no matter how old you are.

 M: “A vagina to Stargate” OMG. Most accurate way to describe the miracle of life?

 C:  I forgive your mustache, Trevor. For now.

M: She is so good at telling her mom that she loves her, and forgives her, but also that she needs her to change.

 C: I hate how she has to parent the adults in her life.I hate it so much I’m mentioning it again.

 M: With most of the teens on this show, we see them trying to grow up and be adults and figure out how to do that quickly. But for Milina, I’m feeling the opposite. She’s already there, and I’m wondering if she’s ever gotten a chance to be a kid, and if she’ll ever have the chance now that she has a baby.

 C: It’s awesome how this judge thinks that keeping someone in jail because they had a drug problem is going to make them better at life when they get out AND STILL HAVE A DRUG PROBLEM. There is a lot to pay attention to here about criminalizing drug use and how it hurts everyone.

Ugh, cue handwringing from viewers freaking out because Milina referred to her baby as an “uh oh.” I remember when Briana in season 4 said she would have made a different decision about having her daughter if she could have. Because people don’t have complicated feelings.

M: Do you know who this is not about? Tina. This girl is taking care of this baby by herself, none of the adults are helping her, and now they are all shaming her for her parenting? Are you fucking kidding me?

C: I’m glad M is clear on the fact that all of this is completely bat shit.

M: Yeah. I would like to validate that they were in fact all ganging up on you, Millina!

C: Trevor, dude, the problem is that you’re trying to make everybody happy. You have to make a decision.

 M: Also making Millina feel bad when she brings the baby to see you isn’t going to make her want to do it again.

 C: Oh, Kayden’s baby mohawk, you are enjoyable.

M: I like that this recap and summary shows that having a baby can have a strong positive impact for some teens. Usually the teens talk about how bad their choice was and how sad they are in the summary, but I’m glad that Millina talks about how she feels like having a baby has made her see her life differently and make different choices.

We will end as always by sending lots of love to Millina, Trevor, and Kayden!

16 and Pregnant, Season 5, Episode 2: The Recap

27 Apr

This week on 16 and Pregnant, we have Autumn, from Richmond, Virginia. You can watch the whole episode here.

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Megan: I just need to announce to the blog that I am 50% done with my MSW as of one hour ago and thus am depending on Chanel to carry this summary through.

Chanel: Whee!! Congratulations!  I will begin by sharing the vital information that everyone in this episode so far has very shiny hair.

M: Also,  they are really into camouflage.

C: I checked with someone who’s actually Southern, and it’s a thing, apparently.

Um…Dustin doesn’t believe in pregnancy tests? Cool.

M: It must be so tough to have you and your partner be in such different places and with drastically different interpretations and expectations for what is going to happen when the baby is born.

I love this mom, “Cool, but weird.” That seems like an accurate way to describe your 16 year old getting pregnant.

C: I get supporting your kid, but this is not the best situation.

M: Yeah, I guess because it was in reference to both doing activities together? Like, they have this thing to bond over.

C: So again this week there’s no discussion of whether or not people considered abortion or adoption. It’s making me uncomfortable that we’re not seeing that, because I think we should see that giving birth and raising the kid is a choice that was deliberately made, not the default.  But we know Autumn was on birth control, although she  wasn’t taking it correctly. That’s important. It basically doesn’t count unless you take it correctly.

M: I hear about the weight gain fears all the time from my patients when talking to them about contraception! It is such a pervasive and persistent worry for folks thinking about birth control options, but it’s important to remember that everyone reacts differently to different methods and will need to test out options to find out what works best for them. (Check out more info on this from Bedsider.)

C: Dustin’s mom: “YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE ME GET LOUD IN THIS RESTAURANT!”

M: While I agree that the situation dictates that Dustin will need to take more responsibility, it’s also not helpful to shame him for his decisions at this point. I’m wondering what’s going on with him that he feels the need to say that he can’t stop smoking.

C: I was thinking that too. I mean, is this an addiction issue?

Unrelatedly, Autumn just used the term “nutsack.”

M:  Most importantly, is Drake an appropriate baby name these days given the superstar?

C:  I didn’t even know about the rapper. My first thought was about cake.

M: OK, well, I didn’t know about that, so we’re even.

C: “Man up” is one of my least favorite expressions on earth. (Along with “awesomesauce” and “amazeballs.”)

I’m not sure how to process this “calling the cops on your kid” thing. Maybe it’s because I am skeptical of law enforcement, you know, given all the bullshit. By the way, if anyone wants weigh in on facts about cyber school and graduation for teen parents, we would appreciate it.

M: Also about whether these OTC drug tests work.

C: I did not need to see Dustin’s cup of pee, MTV. THANKS.

I seriously do not even believe that  anyone is ever “ready” for fatherhood, or motherhood, or parenthood, I don’t care how old you are. People need to stop acting like that’s a thing you can be. The whole idea is a trap, it sets people up to be shamed.

M: My favorite part of this episode so far is when Dustin called the doctor, “dog”. My heart went out to him though when he said that this was the first drug test he had ever passed.

C: Annnddd Drake has been birthed.

M: People had better not be taking pictures of my vag when I give birth.

C: I am sad that that is a thing that has to be said.

M:  Although that scene for some reason got my cat’s attention.

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(this cat’s name is Bruizer)

C: Because of the screaming?

M: He just is mesmerized by the miracle of life. He’s very spiritual in that way.

insert photo of Bruizer.

M: I feel so sad for the mom who has to support both of her daughter’s babies. She is taking it so well. It must be such a stressful financial situation.

 C: Oh, Autumn. Don’t set the bar so low.  You and Drake “Maybe Named After Delicious Pastries But Probably Not” deserve so much more than a bag of diapers a week.

M: Yeah, the question is what is he currently spending the money on?

C: I think we know.

M: Yeah. It’s sad when someone who could be suffering and hurting is treated just like it’s an issue of “teenage irresponsibility”, though. I think it’s interesting that he keeps bringing up the drug use on his own too, by saying the $40 he makes could buy weed, etc. Seems like it could be a cry for help to me. But I am a social work student so I’m into pathologizing everyone.

C: Now would be a great time to remind the universe that doing drugs doesn’t not make you a bad person, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you have an addiction (which also doesn’t make you a bad person). Of course, it depends on who’s doing the drugs. The consequences are different for rich white kids versus for everyone else.

M: It comes down to if it’s impairing or distressing you in your daily life. And it could definitely be the case for Dustin if he sees no other option than to spend all of his earnings on marijuana. But we are just seeing what MTV wants us to see! You are also right that smoking doesn’t necessarily imply addiction or that it’s a morally bad thing to do.

C: Which reminds me of something my therapist is always telling me that she doesn’t believe laziness is a thing- that it’s actually always about something else, usually fear. I think that’s a worthy frame for this show.

M: I agree.

C: Autumn’s mom is a boss. I’m so glad she’s pushing for child support. This  episode is another reminder of the fact that a baby plus parents doesn’t necessarily equal a family.

M: Oh,  this girl needs a hug. We are sending you a virtual hug, Autumn! You are so brave!

 

 

 

16 and Pregnant, Season 5, Episode 1: The Recap

20 Apr

We’re recapping 16 and Pregnant, Season 5!  The first episode of the season starts with Maddy, who’s 16 and from Tinley Park, Illinois. You can watch the episode online here

 

MTV

Megan: Should we start by talking about why we wanted to write about this, besides that we secretly love watching reality television?

Chanel:  I always feel like a terrible reproductive justice activist when I watch this show. I think one of my reasons for wanting to recap is to place an RJ lens onto it, if that’s possible.

M: I totally agree. I think there is a lot of possibility, and when I watch it I always find myself rooting for the moms to be able to make their own decisions without the adults in their lives telling them that they’ve messed up. But when I was thinking about us wanting to watch this for those reasons, I was also thinking about why this show is still on and why so many other people watch it? What do we see in that narrative put out by MTV to scare and shame young people? Why are we fascinated by that as a theme and willing to watch it happen over and over again? Why do people want to see that and not the story we see through our frameworks?

C:  We need to see young women as being incapable of making good choices. Like,  no matter what, I’m not sure M could have made a choice that would have made the audience feel okay about her getting pregnant. Sex is wrong and terrible, and young women are stupid and irresponsible. I think that’s pretty ingrained into our narrative.

One thing MTV has done is bust up the idea that it’s young women of color who get pregnant as teens-the girls on this show are mostly white.

M: That’s true. But while they’re defying the stereotype that it’s only poor girls of color who are getting pregnant, it’s also blocking those girls from seeing their own experiences. So we’re also choosing the narrative of middle-class white girls over low-income girls of color.

C: AGAIN. And perpetually.

M:  As Gretchen Sisson says more eloquently than I have stated here: “Teen Mom will depict an argument with a romantic partner in great detail, but consistently overlook the real sources of struggle that lots of young mothers face: constant stigma and ridicule, lack of social support, and the challenge of accessing public benefits.”

On that note, let’s get into it.

C: The Other Baby, Maddy’s half sister Alyssa, has ears that stick out and is therefore a full on distraction for me.

M: Oh poor thing! One night stand. That is rough. Wait…haven’t we already had a baby named Aubrey?

C: SO MANY Aubreys. I think this is 3?

M: I hope this guy shows up to the doctor’s appointment. It’s such a positive thing to have the boyfriend at the ultrasound appointment. Can you even imagine being 16 and then getting pregnant with someone you just met and then having to figure out what you’re going to do? Like, I couldn’t even deal with just figuring out how to dress appropriately and what to decorate my locker with, let alone plan my entire future family. I don’t think I could have handled it.

C: Cody-“I should have paid more attention in health class. I should have used a condom.” Now would not be a terrible time to mention that it’s also  important that the girl be able to say, “Hey, maybe put on a condom?”

M: Wow, Mom is laying on the shame here.

C:  Oh my gd, Maddy’s mother. SHE CAN STILL BE A LAWYER.

M: Here’s the thing, it’s not going to “be a long time” before she’s going to get to do what she wants to do. Because right now she wants to be a mom. Maddy is more “responsible”-sounding than Mom at this point. She’s able to hold both that she did something she would consider a mistake and also own up to that she can’t change the past and now sees a new vision for herself. That’s a pretty adult thing to realize. But Mom is stuck in this “either/or” thinking.

C: There was an episode a few seasons ago where the girl’s dad was also like, “Hi, just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you have to live with the dude.” Also, here we are again with the “He ruined your life.”

M: Yeah. I just want to yell at them, “YOUR LIFE IS NOT RUINED”. And then give them hugs. I know I’m going to just keep saying this over and over but how responsible are these kids being? They are not romantically involved but their relationship has evolved to be this mutually-beneficial partnership where they are trying to figure this out together.

C: The word “responsible” in these situations always scares me. There are a lot of ways to be responsible, right? Abortion and adoption  are also examples of being responsible.

M: So true. We throw around that word like there’s a morally right and wrong way of being and no gray area. When I was 16 I couldn’t even function in my own home let alone move to an unfamiliar environment with a baby. That is scary shit.

C: Other Baby is the real star here. Sorry, Maddy.

M: What is the plot I’m supposed to be paying attention to? Adorable Baby? Staring at camera?

C: “The only time we ever left his house was to buy a pregnancy test.” Real talk.

M: High school dates: Still as awkward even if you having a baby together.

C: HERE COMES (MORE OF) THE SEXISM. “What kid do you know who has his mom’s last name?” CODY. PLEASE GET IN THE TIME MACHINE AND COME BACK FROM THE SIXTIES.

M: After Maddy raises her baby and takes her first gender studies class she is going to be so impressed by the way she handled this situation and refused to submit to the patriarchy.

C: There’s always stuff on this show about girls going from size zero to size 14 or whatever while pregnant. No one is ever a size 14 originally.

M: Yeah, and the size difference is always talked about like it’s the worst possible thing.

C: Here I will apply my creepily encyclopedic knowledge of this show and point out that Jamie in season 3 asked her doctor  if her stretch marks would go away when asked what she was most worried about. It’s normal, I know, but the emphasis is still bothering me.

M: Is this the appropriate time to mention that my cats really are into this right now? Or they want dinner. It’s one of those.

C: Cats love MTV.

M: You’re really missing out on this nail polish commercial where models rub their hands all over men’s faces.

C: Is it disembodied hands? Or can you see the models’ faces?

M: Disembodied, obviously.

C: Of course. Faces are superfluous. Especially on women.

M: As soon as you see faces, you think “people” with “minds”.

C: Just cut to the chase! This is about nail polish! AND MEN..

M: Not just any men, “alluring men”, says Youtube. I don’t know about you, but I’m sold.

C: I will be buying a lot of this nail polish. You are working, capitalism.

M: You just get me, MTV.

C: Oh, here comes Cody’s patriarchy induced temper tantrum.(re: Maddy wanting Aubrey to have her last name.)

M: The way that the men/boys act and fight about the last name stuff just reminds me about how the patriarchy hurts everyone. It makes people feel like they have to hold to these systemic ideals, and when those ideals are not met it makes people feel bad, like something is being taken away from them and like they’re not in control.

C: Yes! And not being able to show that something (a lady, a child, etc) is YOURS is threatening. It undercuts your masculinity.

M: Now is the only part where I feel old and yell, “Are you seriously telling them you’re not moving in via text?” Is that what the kids are doing these days?

C: Ughh. This makes me want to get a lawn so I can tell kids to get off of it.

M: I support Maddy in her decision to do what’s best for her and move into the environment where she feels most comfortable and supported, but if I were Cody and his mom, I would have preferred receiving that information in person. But I am not 16 so what do I know!

C: What do we know about on line classes in high school and if they keep ple from dropping out?

M: It seems like a great model to me, but I’d be interested to hear more about it. There must be data on it somewhere.

C: I really like M’s dad pushing her to do what’s best for her. And I’m reminded of how much of a role class plays in all this. I mean, her dad has an extra room in a house.

M: Yeah, an extra room and enough income to be able to feed two additional people!

C: Do we think Maddy’s jeans came with those holes?

M: I like how we’re not judgemental about teen moms but we are judgmental about teen fashion. And methods of virtual communication. And baby names.

C: I mean, I’m not made of stone.  So, do we have closing thoughts?

M: I guess mine are that the show is trying to paint Maddy as an irresponsible teenager who got herself into a serious and terrible situation that she can’t get out of, but I think there’s another more powerful narrative that she faced getting pregnant as a challenge instead of an obstacle, was able to stay true to herself, and has a solid vision of what she wants her future to look like and what she can accomplish.

I think we should end by sending some love and well wishes to Maddy and baby.

C: Agreed. (Maddy, I’m sorry about what I said about your jeans.)

 

We’ll be back with another recap next Sunday! 16 and Pregnant airs Mondays at 10/9 c. 

 

Abortion Gang at CLPP 2014

14 Apr

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Bloggers from Abortion Gang recently spent 3 days at the radical glory that is the CLPP conference, and we tweeted up a storm! You can find the tweets by searching #CLPP2014 on Twitter.

Check out Abortion Gang bloggers @chaneldubofsky, @annapopinchalk, and at @PProvide, as well as @graceishuman,@OpinionessWorld, @AbortionChat,  @RBraceySherman@poonam_pai ,

@SisterSong_WOC@LeahDoolittle@KimberlyInezDC@aimeett and others.

 

Stay tuned to Abortion Gang for more blog posts on CLPP!

 

 

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Choice and Childbirth: The Birthing Center of Buffalo

2 Apr

On February 14th, the Birthing Center of Buffalo opened, making it the first combination birthing center and abortion clinic in the country. Buffalo Womenservices & The Birthing Center of Buffalo are located within the same building, have the same waiting room and the same provider. As a licensed and accredited free standing birth center, The Birthing Center of Buffalo offers certified midwifery and OB care. Buffalo Womenservices has a staff consisting of RNs, LPNs, social workers, counselors and physicians who offers abortions up to 22 weeks, and additional reproductive health care services including contraception.

Dr. Morrison opened the center after working with Eileen Steward, a homebirth midwife. During that time, she “realized that the women coming to her for abortions were being treated much better than women having in-hospital birth,” and Dr. Morrison wanted to change that. With that in mind, Dr. Morrison started the very long process of opening a birth center, a feat that is really hard to accomplish in New York and one that requires a lot of hard work, dedication and money.

Since opening, the feedback from patients has been extremely supportive. There has long been a desire for better maternity care in Western New York, and the birthing center offers an alternative for those who want a different birth experience. While not all Birthing Center patients are pro-choice, they continue to come to the Center because they see the importance of offering birth options. And even though there are protestors at Buffalo Womenservices, patients haven’t been deterred by them.

While there has been a lot of support and encouragement from around the Country, there remains ambivalence and mixed reactions from others. The Buffalo medical community and media have been mostly silent. Insurance coverage also remains a significant challenge, as most insurance companies have been resistant to covering the facility fee even though birthing center births are more affordable and have greater positive health outcomes when compared to hospital births. Since making services affordable and accessible is a priority for The Birthing Center, identifying ways to increase insurance coverage, like supporting New York to sign on to the ACA provision that requires coverage of birth centers, is a top priority of the Center.

The opening of The Birthing Center of Buffalo is an exciting and much needed addition to the healthcare landscape. Apart from providing important accessible care to those in Western New York, it is an example of integrative and holistic reproductive health care that addresses the whole patient and their life span. The Center represents that individuals who choose to have abortions and those who choose to give birth are not separate people. In fact, many individuals will experience both over their lifetime as 60% of those seeking abortions are already mothers and one in three women will have an abortion during their lifetime. But too often we treat these decisions as separate ideas when really we need to acknowledge that the reproductive choices one makes are intertwined. Abortion shouldn’t be stigmatized and treated as a siloed type of healthcare, because even if someone chooses to have an abortion, it doesn’t mean they aren’t going to also want to learn about breastfeeding, VBACs or birth options in the future.

The Birthing Center of Buffalo also reminds us that choice extends to all our reproductive decisions. When asked about the parallels between abortion care and birth options, Dr. Morrison mentioned how her background in abortion care helped her place on emphasis on a person’s ability to make decisions best for them, which includes the chance to choose different birth options. This is an example of the type of reproductive care we need more of. Where healthcare providers provide options, and honor that individuals are the experts on their bodies and experience. Because whether it’s getting an abortion, an IUD, or choosing a homebirth, excellent reproductive health is about respecting an individual’s choice in those decisions and supporting in their capacity to do so.