Sunday, January 31, 2010
An old friend came to visit me this weekend. We will be forever bonded. We began our journey together as teenagers, counseling women in crisis who needed money to have an abortion, to save their lives, and the lives of their families. Our organization had very little money and so we were always saying, no. We continued to come to work and continued to say no, saddened and infuriated by the health care system's neglect to women's health needs. The women we talked to everyday, the women we cried with, the women whose stories we listened to...about rape, incest, suicidal thoughts and threats. Stories about working three jobs with five kids to feed, about partner violence, language barriers and the ultimate fear of having a baby. Which, in reality, was going to happen without the money.
People still do not seem to understand that even though because abortion is legal, it is completely inaccessible to women if they can't afford the services, find the providers, have the information to make the right choices, and lack access to a clinic or hospital.
Now let me clarify: Sexual rights are the "universal human rights based on the inherent freedom, dignity, and equality of all human beings."
List me list them for you, as laid out by the Declaration of the 13th World Congress of Sexology, World Association of Sexology (WAS) Declaration of Sexual Rights:
1. The right to sexual freedom (free from coercion, exploitation and abuse)
2. The right to sexual autonomy, sexual integrity, and safety of the sexual body
3. The right to sexual privacy (HELLO! Including the records of all abortion patients)
4. The right to sexual equality.
5. The right to sexual pleasure (YES! It is a sexual right and FGM denies women this right)
6. The right to emotional sexual expression
7. The right to sexually associate freely.
8. THE RIGHT TO MAKE FREE AND RESPONSIBLE REPRODUCTIVE CHOICES (This encompasses the right to decide whether or not to have children, the number and spacing of children and the right to full access to the means of fertility regulation - which includes abortion!)
9. The right to sexual information based upon scientific inquiry.
10. The right to comprehensive sexuality education (Get with it United States!!)
11. The right to sexual health care (Sexual health care should be available for prevention and treatment of all sexual concerns, problems, and disorders).
Now, these rights have been clearly laid out, within the human rights framework, and it's about time for them to be recognized, promoted, respected and defended.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Guilty on all counts.
I tried not to pay a lot of attention to the trial of Scott Roeder, now convicted of 1st degree murder for killing Dr. George Tiller. I read a little bit of news on it and read some of Roeder’s testimony. I am amazed that someone who talks about how murder is wrong, and that only the “heavenly father” can take a life, spent so much time thinking through how he was going to kill Dr. Tiller.
Today he has been found guilty. His sentencing will be in March.
It’s weird to say that justice has been served. It certainly doesn’t make me feel any better. But at least the antis are being shown that they can’t murder our doctors, our clinic staff, and get away with it. Scott Roeder is a murderer, he cannot justify it, and now he will pay his court mandated consequences – nothing in comparison to what we have suffered.
Now if only we could go after the anti groups that spew hatred and are also responsible for actions like these. Let’s tell Randall Terry, Troy Newman, Fox News, etc. that it’s not ok to incite violence, it’s not ok to justify killing our co-workers.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Choice is different for Latina women. Latina women ask about a "legrado" in hushed tones, using the word that's more delicate and more ambiguous than "aborto." They explain, "I have four children and I'm out of work and my husband just left and I just missed my period and no, no, no, no, no," leaving me to draw my own conclusions, gently suggesting, "And you're interested in information about abortion?"
Latina women not only remember the time before Roe v. Wade when abortion was illegal, but they remember their home countries where abortion is still illegal. They remember people labeling them, as people, "illegals," so why wouldn't an abortion be illegal, too? When I quote prices and describe the procedure, I slip in the fact that abortion is legal and safe. Sometimes, I forget, and then the woman is about to go and meet her doctor, and she asks quietly, "Is this illegal?"
The clinic isn't the first exposure to abortion for many Latina women. Her first exposure was a sister suffering complications from an at-home abortion years ago in Mexico. Or her first exposure was the series of pills she bought from an acquaintance, pills that promised to "bring on her period," and pills that she bought right here in town because she was too ashamed and scared to do anything else.
A lot of Latina women are good Catholics, and good Catholics don't have abortions, they tell me. And then they go on to tell me the most beautiful, well thought out reasons for choosing this path. They're willing to pour their hearts out to me and to God and to themselves, and they're willing to try to believe that they are still good Catholics who made a difficult decision for the good of their families and their lives.
Latina women are the ones more likely to go through the abortion experience alone, going to extreme measures to put on a charade of going to a clinic for a "surgery on a cyst." And they're more likely to stare blankly on the pile of forms we hand them, until an interpreter comes over and quietly asks if they need help. A lot of times, it's because they stopped their schooling after elementary grades and they can't read this complicated translation of a medical history.
And Latina women are the ones who will never add her abortion story to the litany of their experiences in America. They are strong and proud and wonderful, and this is a tiny part of their stories.
No prologue necessary. Sensitive antis: take a hike.
1. That baby could be the next Gandhi!
That baby could also be the next Jeffrey Dahmer or "Jersey Shore" cast member.
2. How would you feel if you were aborted?!
3. Pick on someone your own size!
Bring it on, similarly-sized anti.
4. Keep your legs closed!
Everyone has sex. Even priests. With small children.
5. Babies are miracles/blessings!
Not to the women who end up killing their children -- you know, somewhat less legal than abortion. Also, we all know where babies actually come from, and it can be pretty unmiraculous.
6. I will help you raise your baby!
No you won't. When have you even given your address and phone number to a pregnant woman for free child care? Oh right, you only give out that information about clinic staff so your anti friends can stalk them.
7. Your baby wants to see your face!
Eh. I'm not sure babies actually want to be born. It's a frightening experience for them. That's why they scream bloody murder. The real world is noisy and freezing.
8. I don't want my tax dollars to pay for abortions!
Yeah, well MY tax dollars pay for wars and bailouts for shoddy industries, but it's something I have to deal with.
9. I regret my abortion!
Your bad. Most women don't.
10. The government is Socialist!
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
As I was perusing the interwebs to find something to blog about today, I came across a film that is in this year's Sundance Film Fest called 12th and Delaware. There was also a piece about the film in the LA Times today.
The film is about an abortion clinic and a CPC that is located across the street from it. What intrigued me the most about it was how very insistent both directors were that they were being totally unbiased in the filming, that they were just trying to capture both sides. Other Abortioneers probably felt a lot of the same things I felt when I was watching the video above. At first I was annoyed -- I personally feel that CPCs are lying disingenuous pieces of crap. It seemed to me at first like they were trying to make the CPC "look good" or something. But the more I watched of the video clip the more I believed that they were really trying to create an accurate representation of what they saw and felt out there on that street corner in Florida. Also worth noting, the filmmakers showed the movie to both the CPC and the abortion clinic depicted in the film and both said it was fair.
Anyway, I am not how easy it would be to see this in a theater (I'm guessing pretty difficult), but it looks like it will be good, definitely worth checking out!
Monday, January 25, 2010
Sunday, January 24, 2010
I talk to parents all the time. Usually moms. And I’ve been thinking about how they must feel, what they may experience as their child decides to have an abortion. Sometimes they just need to vent: they’re angry their daughter is pregnant; angry she didn’t tell them sooner; confused because they’re pregnant at the same time (maybe even same gestation) as their daughter who wants an abortion; devastated their daughter was raped. Sometimes, parents’ values and beliefs about abortion change in the face of their child’s pregnancy. I’ve heard dads and moms say they didn’t agree with abortion, but…their daughter was so young and had so much going for her and they wanted to protect her and they thought a pregnancy would ruin her life. So. Their minds changed. Their hearts changed.
Did any of you see Thursday’s episode of ABC‘s “Private Practice?” The 15 year old daughter, Maya, of two doctors, was pregnant. One of the parents was very anti-abortion, but was adamant her daughter have an abortion. At one point, she screamed, “Do I believe I’m going to hell for forcing my daughter to have an abortion? Yes! Do I regret it? NO!” Though some of how this parent handled the situation annoyed me to no end (I thought it was narcissistic and over-the-top), I had to ask myself how I would feel. How would I feel if my daughter was pregnant? How would I react if she didn’t want an abortion?
I’m a parent. I have a daughter. I’m fiercely pro-choice and am grateful that my daughter will have the right to choose whether she continues a pregnancy or not in the future; but, if my daughter came home at age 14, 15, 18 even and said she was pregnant, how would I respond? How would I want my daughter to be treated when she called a clinic to make an abortion appointment? How would I want the person to talk to her? What would I want from the person who took my call? I would want them to take time with me, with her. To listen to us cry. To let me rant. To tell me they’re sorry and it must be hard. If my daughter had no clue how far along she was, I would want them to bend over backwards to help her find out, even if it meant going out of their way to stay at work a little longer, just to give her an ultrasound, so she could sleep that night, instead of waiting one more god forsaken day. I would want staff who were not burned out.
On the day of her abortion, I would want her to be treated gently and kindly. Like she was the only patient. I’d want to be with her - if she wanted - during the abortion. I would want desperately to hold her hand, kiss her forehead, help her breathe, and tell her it would be okay. I would be a hot mess if I had to wait in a room, far from her, not allowed to be with her during her procedure. I would want the staff to smile. To be warm and reassuring. I’d want them to acknowledge me, too, as part of the story. I would want them to acknowledge that I, too, might need support. And maybe all that I’d need would be a pair of knowing eyes, looking at me, nodding as though they understood.
I just think we can do more sometimes. More for the moms. More for the dads. More for the boyfriends and friends and aunts and uncles and cousins. Sisters and brothers. Look at them, knowingly. Listen to them. Yes, it’s all about the patient, the woman.
It’s about all the people in her life, too.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
I bought a $50 Biofit Uplift bra at Victoria’s Secret’s annual Semi-Annual sale. It cost $29. I was inspired to rummage through the sale bins full of properized underwear—where even the black bras are pink—after reading all my friends’ bra statuses on Facebook. I didn’t think much about cancer when I was trying the bras. Rather, I was fascinated by Biofit’s conscientious coverage and adherence to the curve of my back.
I do think about cancer most of the time. I’m not exactly sure why, but I imagine it has something to do with following tailpipes all day long as I traverse this quaint city teeming with BMWs and garbage trucks on my own two feet.
If I was Focus on the Family, and I had $3 million to blow on a Superbowl commercial, I wouldn’t talk shit about abortion because abortion doesn’t tip anyone’s iceberg. I’d talk about this industrial nation full of comfy geniuses rattling out inventions of convenience so we can do more and never sleep.
I’d say, Yo, 100 million viewers! Don’t believe in global warming? What about cancer? Then I’d thumb my nose at prime time, and tell everyone to shut-off their televisions, and go play outside while there’s still trees. (This is most likely why no one who has $3 million wants to sponsor me.)
Please enjoy this random timeline:
In the beginning: Obviously, at some point something didn't have an abortion, but eventually (approximately the fifth pregnancy) someone or something was pregnant, and it wasn't right, so she did the life dance, and the pregnancy shimmied right out of her. Abortion becomes commonly sought and unconditionally available prior to quickening.
1550: An unhealthy and painful device designed to narrow an adult women's waist to 13, 12, 11 and even 10 or less inches, the invention of the corset is attributed to Catherine de Médicis, wife of King Henri II of France. She enforced a ban on thick waists at court attendances and started over 350 years of whalebones, steel rods, and midriff torture.
1700s - 1800s: The US Constitution is adopted. The Bill of Rights unfolds. The Industrial Revolution launches its fangs into the atmosphere.
1906: The electric washing machine is first mass-produced.
1910: By 1910 all but one state [We dare you to guess which one.] criminalizes abortion except where necessary, in a doctor's judgment, to save the woman's life. In this way, legal abortion is successfully transformed into a "physicians-only" practice.
1913: The first modern brassiere to receive a patent is invented by a New York socialite named Mary Phelps Jacob.
1928: Maidenform, responsible for grouping women into bust-size categories (cup sizes), is founded by Ida Rosenthal. Abortion is still illegal in the US.
1940s: 60% of the 25,000,000 wired homes in the United States have an electric washing machine. Many of these machines feature a power wringer, although built-in spin dryers are not uncommon.
1973: The right to have an abortion in all states is made available to American women when the Supreme Court strikes down restrictive state laws with its ruling in Roe v. Wade. The Abortioneers imagine that January 22, 1973, felt much like the intersection of 14th Street and U Street felt on November 3, 2009. Sigh.
2008: Leeds University invents a washing machine that needs just one cup of water and the Biofit Uplift bra is released.
2009: George Bush and Dick Cheney pack up and move out.
2010: Kenmore invents a whole new spin --a totally new way to care for clothes using SmartMotion Technology. The Elite Washer produces the custom clean of 5 motion washes.
January 21, 2010: EPA Increases Transparency on Chemical Risk Information
Hey! Where are my abortion breakthroughs!?
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
This Tupac song is always inspirational to me because it recognizes that life is hard for women, and women give our lives to our children, families, and communities every day. One day I was jammin' this song for at least the 1,000 time, and I noticed this portion of the first verse:
I love this song. The survival of women will determine the future of our world. Reproductive choice is about healing, loving, and entrusting women with their own livelihood. I could criticize the possesive language in the song, but the semantics don't matter; the song recognizes the divine nature of women's role in the future of all people.
It reminds me that working in reproductive health and education is about healing women's hearts, "And if we don't we'll have a race of babies, that will hate the ladies, who make the babies."
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
I was browsing the internet and stumbled upon this little gem. One of my favorite, love-to-hate-'em, college football players is going to be in a Super Bowl commercial. This is not your ordinary Super Bowl commercial - scantily clad women enticing men to drink really terrible beer, eat junk food, etc.
Oh no. This commercial is sponsored by Focus on the Family. Oh take that, Gator Fans, your beloved Tim Tebow is going to be in an anti-abortion ad during the Super Bowl. I can't seem to find a sneak peek of this ad. All I know is that he and his mom are going to talk about how her doctors recommended she have an abortion during her pregnancy with him because she was sick while doing a mission trip to the Philippines.
Interesting -- it was recommended she have an abortion, but she made a choice not to. She made a choice! I honestly am glad that she got to make a choice. And now she will go on national TV and promote denying that choice to others. Splendid.
And why the Super Bowl?
Monday, January 18, 2010
Today was my day to blog and I had so many things to talk with you about: pre-op counseling, clinic finances, provider security, reproductive health in emergency settings. I was itching to write!
But today was also the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday, and between going to a meeting, going to a cemetery, going to a memorial exhibit, and scrambling to get some work done, not only did I neglect to blog before 8pm, I also neglected to eat before 8pm.
I'll be back later in the week with some thoughts and stuff. In the meantime, don't forget to donate to organizations doing relief work in Haiti: how about MSF/Doctors Without Borders (emergency medical treatment in the direst of situations), CARE (large-scale capacity for mobilizing needed Stuff like water purifiers, mosquito nets, obstetric kits), or Partners In Health (healthcare provider for the most marginalized with 20 years of continuous presence)? Read this or this (two among many very knowledgeable aid bloggers) to get a sense of where your contribution will be of most help (and least hindrance).
Thanks for reading. See you soon.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Friday, January 15, 2010
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Dr. Eugene Glick passed away on Sunday. Perhaps you've read the book the size of a collection of poetry called Surgical Abortion or watched him speak about about providing illegal abortion in Voices for Choice (see embedment). You may have cried out loud (col) in solidarity when you heard him say: I felt good about the fact that I could help somebody when I knew they were really hurting. I knew it was against the law, but I also knew the law was wrong. I really felt that this was crazy. That this was a law that was bound to be changed.
I still remember the conundrum that fascinated me first when I entered Abortionland--the graying of abortion providers. And by fascinated, I do mean deeply and existentially fearful of our future. The only thing that gives us this choice? --A tight group of compassionate, bohemian, warrior doctors who witnessed women rot to death due to septic shock...
Dear diary: The graying doctors are dying.
Certainly, not every passionate provider is *gray* and reaching an age where death may be inevitable. I have had the good luck of regularly meeting with expert doctors all over the country. (Note: vagueness of the who, what, when, where, and why that may draw lines of solidarity between us have been omitted due to stalkerish, terrorist activity.) In fact, my docs are young spry things capturing the world of truth, integrity, and wellness like rock stars and serving it to every deserving woman on gleaming, silver platters.
You come in for an abortion at the tryingest time in your life. You're cared for, and you leave precisely satisfied at the very least. Abortioneers do that for you.
Dr. Glick was an Abortioneer.
You may understand: Once you’ve bounced around in Abortionland for a while, you do find faith and hope tucked away in cargo pant pockets. You meet the second generation, post-Roe v Wade, genius providers and realize they don’t necessarily cover every county in the country, but you also meet researchers and entrepreneurs, artists, foundation officers, educators, and politicians who WANT and WILL find reproductive health care for every woman in this world. They have tailored their lives to fight peacefully and methodically for abortion so that you don’t have to if you can’t or don’t want to.
You may be fairly new to Abortionland—a freshman or sophomore, a student in training, still catching your bearings, and finding your niche. You may notice that a good number of young providers and medical students for choice are women who have had, do, or may have abortions, miscarriages, and babies. You’ve noticed that lines of gender, race, and sexuality blur in the reproductive justice movement, and you feel more comfortable as a living, breathing human-being than you’ve ever felt before. Sometimes you are sad and scared due to the violence and harassment we endure. You mourn the first degree murder of one of our wise leaders, Dr. George Tiller, and you whisper gratitude into the air in the likely event that Dr. Glick may still hear you.
You have a wild and lovely imagination, and you envision a world where your truth is not absurd. Every so often, you put the oxy-moronic, current stats behind you because you imagine the day when people know that the voices of choice are sitting beside them, quickening inside them.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
We normally have a full post up on Wednesdays, but for right now I'm just pinch-hitting for Anti-Anti. It's actually three in the morning here, and there's a city repair crew on the sidewalk right outside my window, and their jackhammer's been going for an hour. Seriously, guys? I saw you out there last night, checking out a leak; you couldn't have started this earlier?
So even though I need to wake up in under five hours, I figured I'd stop by the blog. Here's a song I like a lot. Possible reasons I've been playing it so much: (a) Regina Spektor is funny and weird and makes music out of ha-ha laughing; (b) I'm an atheist/agnostic/don'tcare and this song pokes around the edges of that (for the record, I've always thought the quip "there are no atheists in foxholes" was silly); (c) it's got a line that sounds like it was tailor-made for Fred Phelps and his less-sensational ilk, which is always fun; (d) the pre-trial hearings of the narcissistic shitfucker who murdered George Tiller are taking place right now and I'm feeling serious. Hard to say!
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
I don’t get it. I don’t get all the stigma and myths surrounding women who have abortions. It is crazy to me that in 2010, people still go around acting like the one in four American women who have/will have an abortion are selfish whores who are totally irresponsible. It frustrates me even more when the women who seek abortion care slap themselves across their own faces with these horrible stereotypes that are just plain false.
Equally, I am really getting annoyed with all the stereotypes people have about Abortioneers. We must be cold, heartless child/man/woman/baby hating bitches to do this work. None of us have kids: by choice, as we hate them. We’re all man-hating lesbians. And we’re super mean and will force a woman to have an abortion. Seriously?
Every single day I talk to women who are shocked to find we’re, in fact, nice. Every single day, I talk to women who are shocked to find many of us are parents or at least have children in their lives on some level. I also happen to work with at least four grandmothers. I love it when we have a staff member who gets pregnant. I feel like with one glance, as she opens the door to the waiting room, a clipboard resting on her swollen belly, she sweeps away hundreds of myths about us. I’ll never forget when our female Ob/Gyn was heavily pregnant, performing abortions. The patients were surprised and I feel her belly shouted something profound about who she was and what she believed about choices and all women. Oh, how I admired her for that. Her own wanted, loved pregnancy challenged women to understand that as Abortioneers, we respect all choices, for all women, in all stages of their lives: so how would we ever try to make her have an abortion, or make her continue a pregnancy, or make her do anything?
I wish I knew where some of these stereotypes came from. Maybe some of them are just stereotypes for feminists. Oh, and regarding sexuality: really, who cares? But if others must know, I happen to work with people from many different sexual orientations: that doesn’t even matter though. I also happen to have worked with people from many different religious orientations and spiritual backgrounds, including non-spiritual and non-religious backgrounds. Again: it doesn’t matter.
This does matter: Abortioneers are nice. And we give a shit. And we work hard with very little recognition. And I hope that you hold your head high. I hope you shout - loudly, or quietly - all the many profound things about choices and women and life and complexity and beauty that surrounds you each day; because you’re not a cold, heartless bitch. Rather, you’re quite astounding.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Choice really is a beautiful thing.
I have met women that are struggling to conceive. And although the odds are against them, they have made the choice to continue with the long, challenging, expensive, and sometimes heartbreaking process. Their doctors support them and foster this decision.
I have met women that are very sick during their pregnancy. They have diabetes, high blood pressure, seizures, and/or blood loss. It may have been in their best interest health-wise to terminate the pregnancy, but they made the choice to continue. They fight for this pregnancy, a wanted pregnancy, even when it dramatically hurts their physical well being. Again, the providers stand by these patients with their decision, care for them, and do the best they can to help bring a healthy child into this world.
I have met women who are struggling financially, have no support, are in an abusive relationship, in danger physically because of the pregnancy, are not ready to be a mother and have made the choice to have an abortion. Their provider supports their decision* and provides them with unbiased information to help each woman make the best decision for her.
Choice is everywhere in healthcare and in women’s reproductive health. We need to support women, we need to listen to women, and most of all we need to trust women.
*I realize this isn’t always the case, but it should be.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
It's my turn to blog and I don't have anything to say. I am emotionally drained. I saw Precious last night which for me felt like I put in another day at the office. My friend asked me how I made it through the movie without crying and I told her if I cried at that stuff I would spend most of my workdays crying. I feel burned out. I feel bitter. I am angry I have a job which is very demanding and I am changing people's lives and doing good, and I have to spend my free time defending it. Some people would say that I am bitter and burned out because it is God finally intervening and showing me the light.
This is not true.
When you hear about the worst things that people do to each other, to their wives, to their daughters, to their families, over and over and over and over -- that is what happens. You get mad. You push it in the back corner of your mind.
When your coworkers get murdered it's hard not to get bitter. When I have to organize a vigil and go to CVS and buy 100 tealights because one of the best people I have ever or will ever know is dead, I get bitter.
When people in the government are working to take your rights away it's hard not to get angry.
When you hear how hard some of these women have it, it is difficult not to get upset. When people don't even know how deeply disenfranchised many of these women are. What it would be like to walk a mile in her shoes. What it would be like to have a monthly budget composed of $237 from food stamps for you and your two small children. And that's it. People don't even know and they make judgments and want to decide this woman's life for her. It's not fair.
This is why I don't have anything to say today.