Thursday, July 29, 2010

Happy pills

The other day when I answered the phone at the clinic, a Spanish-speaker was on the other end of the line asking about "the pill that brings on your period." I've gotten used to breaking it down on the phone after chatting with clients who ask for a Pap smear, then end up incensed that the Pap didn't test for HIV because that's really what they wanted to check out, and what do you mean that "Pap smear" doesn't translate into "all things vaguely gynecological"? (But that might be another post for another day.) I asked her a series of questions about "Did you take a pregnancy test?" and "Is this the first period you've missed?" because maybe she really DID want to start birth control that would regulate her period. But no, she definitely was referring to the series of pills that would cause an early miscarriage and soothe the conscience into believing it's only a late period, not an abortion.

Women of all demographics are drawn to the RU486/Mifeprex & Misoprostol regimen because it's kind of like Abortion Lite, but women from conservative, Catholic countries where abortion is illegal and money is scarce especially like this route. And when they end up here, in a country where they don't speak the language and they don't have the time to navigate the laws of choice, they often do the familiar thing and buy the pills (usually only one type of pill--the cheaper one that doesn't really cause an entire abortion) on the street. Of course this is dangerous for a variety of reasons, and it ends up being pricey when they have to come to the clinic for a D&C, anyway. So, on the one hand, I appreciated this woman on the phone calling a clinic so that she could get the medication from a medical provider and be overseen by a doctor.

On the other hand, though, I struggled with the desire to give her accurate information and be straight with her with the lingo of "abortion," not "inducing a period" and also respecting her need for coping with this unintended and unwanted pregnancy in a way that she knew how, and especially, not scaring her off an into the streets where she would acquire the tablets from someone who would fully go along with her "bring on the period" plan. Women aren't dumb, and they know full well that a period of this type comes along with a fetus, but where does that leave as as providers and as advocates for women? Readers or co-bloggers, have you ever been faced with this situation? Do you fully disabuse the woman of this notion of the innocuous pill since eventually, they will end up having an ultrasound that clearly diagnoses a presence in the uterus? (That's what I ended up doing.) Or do you go along with the plan a little bit, allowing the woman to see the experience as she wants to see it?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Man's World

Was jetting home one day last week, eager to get to the grocery store for some dinner fixins, and ignoring people on the sidewalks. Being asked to contribute money for something is not unusual in my town, and the ubiquity of shameless fundraisers rivals that of pigeons. I'm whizzing past folks in green polos, yellow vests, all variety of uniform, when I actually stopped for a nice young man in a light blue T-shirt.

"Excuse me miss, would you like to help support women's rights today?"

BTW, the T-shirt bore this logo:

It was a revelation. And when I thanked him for his manly commitment to a woman's cause, he pointed out his associates across the street, two more young hip dudes representing PP. Not a female in sight!

I was terribly excited, but he didn't see why. Why wouldn't a bunch of bros raise money for pro-choice organizations? Abortion, he reasoned, is every woman's right and every human's issue. True story! So we chatted for a few minutes, me forgetting the urgency of my dinner date and he comforted by having attracted non-negative attention (just as I approached him, a burly bearded man in a T-shirt with a bald eagle and American flag responded to his above question with a huffy "Oh, I do support women."). I made a donation and shook his hand before moving on, very pleased with what had just happened.

As a budding feminist, I am still feeling out my attitudes towards men and the abortion issue. I like to wield our go-to catch phrases like "77% of anti-abortion leaders are men; 100% will never need an abortion" and the like, but I do appreciate that men are a vital resource to protecting our rights. Even though they suck sometimes (some might argue they suck most of the time), I want to send an enthusiastic shout-out to all the men out there avoiding fatherhood as long as possible.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Barriers: Stigma and Language

In the work we do, we come across barriers to abortion care all the time. I think stigma is actually one of the greatest barriers: it can stop women from seeking support from medical staff; it may inhibit a woman from talking to her best friend about her abortion; she may have to lie to her employer about why she needs a couple days off of work, for fear of judgment. Or unemployment. The list goes on and on.

But....say you're a woman from a developing country where abortion is highly illegal and clandestine. Suppose you now live in America, but don't speak a lick of English and are completely reliant upon strangers, friends, relatives to interpret for you. Assume you're from a country where already an immense amount of stigma (making the US run-of-the-mill stigma look pale in comparison) surrounds abortion. You must risk speaking to a stranger - from your community - to translate that you need an abortion.

...Think about that for a moment. Just let that sink into your heart. How would you feel? How hard would that be for you? How scary would it be to tell a complete stranger your needs and desires? Could you trust this interpreter from your community? Could you trust that person to maintain your privacy and not divulge your information to other community members? Family? Husband? Could you trust this person to do their job and actually tell the healthcare worker your need to have an abortion? Now...imagine how brave and how difficult it must be to put your trust in all these strangers and not have a clue about the outcome. Not know if the abortion will be safe. If you'll survive. If anyone will be compassionate or understanding. Imagine the power these strangers have over you. The power of the interpreter. The power our medical institution has you. The power the stigma so embedded in our own country has over you.

I worry about these women. Often. I worry they don't know their rights: that their lovers don't have to give permission for them to have abortions; that she can access healthcare in a safe way; that abortion is legal; that she will be okay - that she will not die; that abortion providers will do everything they can to ensure she understands her procedure and understands how to access us if needed afterwards.

Yet, how easy would it be for her, really? I've been working with a woman who is from a country where it's difficult to find a pro-choice interpreter. A country where no one talks about abortion. Where women are regarded very little. Where men have all the control. She doesn't speak English. So, through the interpreter, I tell her, to call me if she needs me. The reality is, though, how would she call me if she needed me? How would I understand her? How would I help her? Of course, I'd find an interpreter to translate our conversation. Yet, still then, I wonder if the interpreter is being accurate in the information being translated - let alone kind and compassionate.

I feel for these women. I have compassion. And even some empathy regarding what it's like being a stranger in a new land. Without much help. And it's not fun. It's scary and hard. And. Well. We're thinking of them here in Abortionland.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Little Funny For Your Sunday Night

A quickie post today! I thought I would point you guys to some of my favorite Onion articles relating to abortion. There are tons, but these ones in particular I've always found funny from my Abortioneer perspective.

Christ Kills Two, Injures Seven In Abortion-Clinic Attack

Supreme Court Agrees To Disagree On Abortion Issue

(As if THAT would ever happen)

I'm Totally Psyched About This Abortion!

New Law Requires Women To Name Baby, Paint Nursery Before Getting Abortion

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I am not your cornfield

Perusing through my first abortion notebook this prime of summer day, I found several saved copies of The Right to Life by Marge Piercy. I may have posted this poem in the past. In fact, if I have not, then I am surprised, and I work in abortion care so nothing much surprises me. This poem is timeless, and I find solace in poetry because while hard facts may not change the minds of opposition to our noble truth, the art of experience eventually will.

Right to Life

A woman is not a pear tree
thrusting her fruit in mindless fecundity
into the world. Even pear trees bear
heavily in one year and rest and grow the next.
An orchid gone wild drops few warm rotting
fruit in the grass but the trees stretch
high and wiry gifting the birds forty
feet up among inch long thorns
broken atavistically from the smooth wood.

A woman is not a basket you place
your buns in to keep them warm. Not a brood
hen you can slip duck eggs under.
Not the purse holding the coins of your
descendants till you spend them in wars.
Not a bank where your genes gather interest
and interesting mutations in the tainted
rain, any more than you are.

You plant corn and you harvest
it to eat or sell. You put the lamb
in the pasture to fatten and haul it in to
butcher for chops. You slice the mountain
in two for a road and gouge the high plains
for coal and the waters run muddy for
miles and years. Fish die but you do not
call them yours unless you wished to eat them.

Now you legislate mineral rights in a woman.
You lay claim to her pastures for grazing,
fields for growing babies like iceberg
lettuce. You value children so dearly
that none ever go hungry, none weep
with no one to tend them when mothers
work, none lack fresh fruit,
none chew lead or cough to death and your
orphanages are empty. Every noon the best
restaurants serve poor children steaks.

At this moment at nine o'clock a partera
is performing a table top abortion on an
unwed mother in Texas who can't get
Medicaid any longer. In five days she will die
of tetanus and her little daughter will cry
and be taken away. Next door a husband
and wife are sticking pins in the son
they did not want. They will explain
for hours how wicked he is,
how he wants discipline.

We are all born of woman, in the rose
of the womb we suckled our mother's blood
and every baby born has a right to love
like a seedling to sun. Every baby born
unloved, unwanted, is a bill that will come
due in twenty years with interest, an anger
that must find a target, a pain that will
beget pain. A decade downstream a child
screams, a woman falls, a synagogue is torched,
a firing squad is summoned, a button
is pushed and the world burns.

I will choose what enters me, what becomes
of my flesh. Without choice, no politics,
no ethics lives. I am not your cornfield,
not your uranium mine, not your calf
for fattening, not your cow for milking.
You may not use me as your factory.
Priests and legislators do not hold shares
in my womb or my mind.
This is my body. If I give it to you
I want it back. My life
is a non-negotiable demand.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Money, money, money

It's been a while since we've had a fund spotlight, and many funds are really hurting right now. As I'm sure many if not all of you know, abortion funding is a real problem in this country. Federal funding for abortion care is outlawed due to the Hyde Amendment, a law that has been renewed annually since its inception in 1976. There are 15 states that, by law, fund some abortion care through their state Medicaid program. Some of these Medicaid programs are better than others but none of them go far enough. It's difficult to qualify for Medicaid, it can take a lot of time, and not all women know how to adequately advocate for themselves through the government "red tape".

This is where private abortion funds step in. There are abortion funds throughout the country, some that help women nationally and some that help women in a local area. These funds do the best they can, working hard to fundraise as much as possible. However, due to their extremely limited resources they have to restrict who they can fund money to and how much they can give per person. This leaves many women out of luck. Right now many, probably most, of these funds are in dire straits and desperately need help to continue on.

National Funds - those that help women across the country.

The Make a Difference Fund is 100% volunteer run and all of the money they raise goes to help women.

The 3rd Wave Foundation runs programs aimed at women and transgender youth, 15-30 years old. One of the programs they run is an abortion fund for women in need under 30 years old.

The Women's Reproductive Rights Assistance Project
. They help women of all ages going to clinics that are part of the National Abortion Federation and/or the National Coalition of Abortion Providers.

Local Funds

There are too many local funds for me to fairly list them here, but the local funds are in particular need of help. They help women in a specific state or part of a state and often work very closely with the clinics in their area. Because they're local, fundraising can be more dificult, particularly if they are located in a more conservative area. Visit the National Network of Abortion Funds to find a local fund near you that you can help.

I know times are tough for everyone, but these funds need our help. Nothing is too small, even $10 a month would go a long way.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Racist Patients

"I'm just not used to all the N**gers touching me"

Recently we had a minor from the Deep South travel to the clinic where I work. I work in a clinic whose staff is a majority women of color and two-thirds of our doctors are also people of color. It was obvious from early on in her visit that this woman was slightly uncomfortable. I am one of two white staff members, and the other was out on vacation during this patient's two-day visit. She seemed scared and obviously responded to me better than anyone else despite the fact that I am not a clinical staff member. After being sedated she didn't want help getting dressed or getting to the recovery room, because it meant more people of color touching her. The patient's health and safety has to be our number-one priority regardless of her overt racism.

White women often come into our clinic and inadvertently direct their eyes at me when they ask questions, even though the woman of color standing next to me might be the person with the best answer to their question. Its often difficult to balance validating my co-workers' knowledge and ability with the desire to make the patient comfortable no matter how prejudiced or ignorant she might be. We have lots of women travel here from many places, including rural areas where overt racism is alive and well. I don't believe there is ever a justification for white people to use the "N" word. Really no one should, but that's a complex issue that I don't feel equipped to analyze.

The other women in the clinic where I work were appalled by this patient's overt verbal racism, and so was I. And there are so many other white patients who don't use such overt language to assert their racist attitudes. So often white women ask me questions, or try to get answers from me, or in some way validate my authority over other staff members. I find it really hard to figure out how to respond in those instances. I want to challenge other white people to realize the way racism operates in very inadvertent ways. I want them to realize racism is embedded in the assumed validation of my authority over a woman of color who has worked in the clinic for 20+ years.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The upside of talking to strangers

just kidding

Hanging out with foreigners is a whole other Thing for me.

I don't mean foreigners exactly. What's a good word for "people who aren't from Abortionland"? I'm in a new place with lots of new people, so this is kind of on my mind lately (can you tell?).

Sometimes it makes me nervous. Obviously. I pretty much eatsleepbreathe abortion-related business, and those split-seconds of anxiety when someone thinks they're making innocuous smalltalk and asks So What Do You Do, they're an occupational hazard we've all come to know well.

Of course we've built little silos of experiential knowledge about ways to ease into it or leave it subtle (Women's Health, Reproductive Health, Family Planning), in case the person asking is not someone you want to get into it with. Other times you want to just say it, so you just say it, and hope that's OK. And once in a while you're feeling kinda wild and might even tell someone who never asked. But no matter what you say, that anxious split-second might pass and be forgotten, or it might drag out into interminable minutes, even hours if you're unlucky, of "debating" whether what you pour your heart into is evil and exploitative. (Whee!)

The reason I still bother is that sometimes it's totally fine -- is it sad that at this point "totally fine" can be kind of a thrill? -- and what's more, someone who doesn't eatsleepbreathe this stuff might say something I haven't heard or thought of before. As you know, I am a very clever and thoughtful and well-read and humble person, so you can imagine my surprise at learning something new, but it's true.

Longwinded Example Time: yesterday I was telling a new friend (who's training in public policy) about this unexpected hitch in what sounds like a great abortion policy. Where we are, first-trimester abortion is theoretically covered -- paid for! free! -- for residents who have public health insurance and go to a public health center for the procedure. It turns out, though, that to get the required preliminary ultrasound and bloodwork, patients often have to choose between waiting THREE TO FOUR WEEKS to have those processed at the hospital providing the abortion, or paying around a hundred dollars for a private office to do it within a few days. If you're poor and you are working within a short legal time frame, this could be disastrous. (Really. I've counseled so many women through the daunting challenge of finding a hundred dollars in a couple weeks, and as a result am aware of my enormous economic privilege every day.)

So, yeah, my constant and immediate thought about this situation is: even if you have great policy, you also need support and will all the way down the healthcare structure, so that the time-sensitive nature of abortion care is given importance and so that possibly-antis within the system don't cause unnecessary delays. Otherwise safe and timely abortion access continues to be segregated by economic class. Is anyone surprised? Same old story, sucks, now what?

When I paused my rant to take a breath, my friend said, "Sounds like the market organizing to meet demand that the health system hasn't caught up to." Oh yeah: that is another conclusion you could come to. And it isn't just about how or where ultrasounds get performed. It's also about how, where, and whether abortions themselves get performed. Having only worked at non-profits, I sometimes forget that the chance to make or lose money drives service availability -- it often feels like we're giving away care, which I'm proud of, but the wider world doesn't work that way. Assuming you have a public abortion system, if its workflow or providers are causing choke-points in service delivery, would-be patients aren't going to give up. Potential consequences:
  • Feminist clinics [pdf] arise to provide women with care that isn't dependent on the patriarchal medical system (or on its judgments of what is urgent and what can be delayed). They are traditionally not-for-profit and its employees have a conflicted relationship with the need to, like, keep a roof over their heads. Seeking donations for sustenance is a whole other piece in this, Idunno, let's talk about that some other time.
  • For-profit clinics arise to fill the supply void; some are great and perfectly feminist too, and some are mostly a business like most other medical practices and seek to maximize income.
  • Private OB/GYNs and family practitioners begin providing abortions in-office after realizing that their regular patients keep seeking their advice, getting referrals to the hospital, then getting delayed.
  • People who have little or no medical training begin offering under-the-table "pregnancy remedies" that range from safe and effective to useless or lethal. A client who survives is unlikely to report them because she knows they may be someone else's only recourse, too.
  • Pharmacy workers will sell women misoprostol, an abortion-causing medication which is also prescribed as Cytotec to treat gastric ulcers, but at a significant markup because both parties know that the seller is doing an illegal favor and the buyer is desperate.
  • What else?
ETA: look at this graph I found just this afternoon!
The Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI), Sharing Responsibility: Women, Society and Abortion Worldwide, New York: AGI, 1999.

Anyway, I have been turning over in my head how my own experiences and training get me in a kind of thinking-rut, where certain conclusions and interpretations are super-obvious to me, and I lose any sense of how many other useful lenses there are out there. (Notice how I ended up wandering back to economic justice anyway?) So yeah, this is something for me to keep thinking about and try to be more open to. In conclusion, um, talking to strangers can be OK.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Abortion in My Dreams

Last night I dreamt I was walking through the halls of a University. I’m not sure I even went there. I overheard three girls behind me talking about “some pill” that could induce an abortion. They called it some dream name I don’t quite remember. One of the girls in the group disagreed and thought it was just a myth. I whipped around to face this group of strangers and said, “Actually, it’s true.” They all looked at me like, what does she know? So, I continued to talk.

I continued to impart every ounce of knowledge I could spew out before they would no longer listen. I told them how no matter what you end up deciding to do with an unplanned pregnancy, it is a difficult situation to be in for every woman. The same girl who disagreed with the idea of a medical abortion, then told me, “it would never happen to me. I would never be in that situation.” I proceeded to list off the endless ways; she absolutely could be “that girl.” The girl who thinks, this could never happen to me. I’m not like them. I wanted to help her see and feel and empathize with all the women who may have thought it would also never happen to them, to be pregnant with an unwanted pregnancy.

Now the dream gets a little fuzzy...

Last thing I remember is screaming out through my tears, pleading almost, for them to understand how inaccessible an abortion is for many women. How expensive it can be. How health insurance does not always cover abortion. How Medicaid often does not cover abortion. As they walked through the heavy locking doors to their gymnasium, they all looked back at me. I could see in their eyes, a touch of pity, for trying desperately to reach through to them; a touch of sympathy, for my unyielding passion about abortion acceptance and accessibility; and just maybe, a touch of understanding.

When I awoke, I still felt the desperate urge to relay how important it is to keep abortion available and affordable, free from stigma, violence and shame. I wanted those girls to feel as dedicated to the struggle for abortion’s acceptance into the medical field, as a simple, safe procedure that should be afforded to any woman who chooses to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

I used to dream a lot about abortion. When you are working in the field (at a clinic, a fund, a non-profit organization, as a counselor, a provider, etc.) abortion permeates every atom of your being. At least, it did for me.

After 5-6 years of working “in the field,” I have become distanced from this way of life. As if I have been pushed into the periphery. I chose to study sexuality and reproductive health in graduate school, in hopes that I would have a wider forum to talk about abortion. This is rarely the case. It is no longer part of my everyday language. Days can go by where I don’t even say the word-Abortion. This is a big shift for me, from saying it around 100 times a days-to patients, their friends and families, clinics, provider, MY friends and family.

My dream reminded me, that although I feel separated sometimes from the everyday discussion of abortion, I am just as passionate, energized and determined to fight for abortion acceptance in all realms of life. I continue to educate people whenever I can about the intersecting social/political/economical issues that abortion effects. I will continue to join like-minded people in discussions, fundraisers, blogs, and marches to keep abortion at the forefront.

I believe no matter where my life takes me; I will never be far away from the abortion world. And that makes me feel good.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Heath Educator?

Part of my job description is health education, and I totally own it. Some of my co-workers aren't big fans of counseling our teenage clients because the time that could be spent on "we recommend 800 mg ibuprofen" is, instead, spent on "your cervix is the opening to your uterus," but I particularly love teenage clients because they're eager and interested to learn about their bodies, and sometimes, I even get to meet them before they've been exposed to the idea that the vagina is gross. I also often introduce myself as a health educator whether or not I disclose the abortion element of it because it's just a cool job and a succinct description. I health educate off the clock when I get together with my middle school best friend and she genuinely wants to know how an abortion procedure works and today when I got my eyebrows threaded, as the aestheticians spoke in their native language, I caught "birth control pills" and itched to interrupt and say, "What are you talking about? Can I answer any questions? Or give you my number if you need a refill?"

But there are only 40 hours in my work week, and maybe two additional volunteer hours when the above situations arise. During my off hours, sometimes I like to pretend that abortion is just a fact of life and focus on my downtime activities of reading or working out. And mostly, the thing is that like differently-abled people don't exist to be spokespeople for how to treat someone in a wheelchair and people of color aren't here to educate the masses about what is or isn't racist, sometimes, I'm just here to do my job, not to explain to you that there's no such thing as partial-birth abortion or why it's infuriating for you to say, "Abortion just shouldn't be used as birth control." I educate about health and rights, not about ignorance and human decency. And most of all, I'm over the "Hey, I just want to have a friendly, intelligent discussion about pro-live versus pro-choice" defense. Because honestly, I would have to be on the clock and be paid a litigator's hourly wage to even begin to be able to stomach that.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Shout Out to Faith Aloud!

Piggy-backing on my post from yesterday, I just wanted to give a shout-out to Faith Aloud and how amazing they are. Some of our readers reminded us about them yesterday; so if you're not "in the know," then check them out here!

Unlike Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and Catholics for Choice, Faith Aloud offers free one-on-one counseling with clergy of differing faiths. This can potentially be very useful to clients who are reconciling their spiritual beliefs with their abortion decision. They even have a YouTube channel (here)and clinics can buy their DVDs.

So....HURRAH for Faith Aloud!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

To Abortioneers: Help Out About A Girl!

Dear Abortioneers Out There:

I have a confession. I'm having a mini - tiny even - crisis. OK. "Crisis" is a bit dramatic; but I could totally use your help. The dilemma: I can hardly relate to clients who worry about god and if this god is going to forgive them for their abortion(s). Why is this a mini crisis? Well, because:

a) where I live, some of our abortion clients seem to be concerned about this (at least on some level), and
b) because I'm meant to have a counseling session with someone tomorrow to further discuss her spirituality and her abortion decision-making decision.

I hardly feel qualified. I used to be religious. Perhaps even zealous. I've probably even blogged about it before. I was super conservative....a long, long time ago; but that religiousness has now been out of my life for as many years as it had been in it. So I find myself at this...strange place....where I can sort of/kind of remember when I worried what god would think of me, but mostly, I just can't.

Not remembering and grasping onto this I'm-concerned-about-what-god-would-want-me-to-do thing isn't helping me at work right now. When I was a bit religious (occasionally going to church) and still holding down my abortioneer job, I loved it when women mentioned god during counseling sessions. I could relate. I could talk about god and spirituality easily. I wasn't in the slightest offended by the idea of a god or by religion itself (whereas now, religion offends me). So it seems like some twisted act of fate (or perhaps god has a sense of humor? Ha!) that I'm meant to talk to a bright, capable, young woman tomorrow who holds in her hands her very future, and the only thing stifling her is something I think is imaginary: god. I don't understand. I just want to say to said bright, capable young woman, "You know. I hate to break it to ya, but there is no god. Or if there is a god, this god is sooooo not going to care about if you have an abortion or not. If there's a god, it might be a teensy bit more caught up with more important matters like, um, global warming, civil wars across the world, genocides. That sort of thing." Yet, I can't bring myself to say that (at least not to her), because....well, she believes in some god who is going to care if she has an abortion or not.

I'll be frank (or - um - even more frank). I'm not really sure what to do. I keep re-reading literature from RCRC (Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice) and other documents, but it's not really helping me get back to understanding this spiritual concern she has. I want to give her some words of wisdom, of comfort. I want to be able to say something she can relate to, that helps her heart feel at ease: whatever decision she makes. Yet the reality is, it doesn't - I don't think - really matter what I tell her because it truly only matters what she thinks/believes. Problem is: I just can't relate.

I suppose I need to get over myself a bit. Not expect that I have to have words of wisdom. But I still am supposed to say SOMETHING to her, RIGHT? If she comes to our counseling appointment talking about god and her spirituality and reconciling that with her abortion decision (which is exactly what she told me she needs help doing!), I really don't know what I'm going to say. (BTW - I am trying to find clergy or something willing to talk to her!)

So, sisters in abortionland, maybe you can help me out. Do any of you relate to what I'm talking about? I know there are abortioneers out there who are religious/spiritual. What kind of wisdom do you give to women? Do you have some advice for me? I appreciate it. Thanks!

Much love,
About a Girl.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Free The Pill!!

For too long our birth control pills have been held hostage by our doctors. Every year we are forced to lie on an examining table, put our legs in stirrups, and "try to relax."

Finally, there has been some main-stream media discussion of switching these precious little pills to OTC. This means easier access for all women, teens, and tweens! And guess what?!? When more women have access to contraception, there are fewer unplanned pregnancies...which means fewer abortions. I mean, everyone should be behind this! (I know, I anti-choicers who are against everything to do with reproductive freedom are going to be against this...don't worry, I haven't forgotten...waaaa waaaaah).

I admit, as a future physician, I was skeptical at first about having these pills over-the-counter. But as was mentioned in the NY times article, ocps are far safer than many medications already easily available in pharmacies. They are easy to take and do a spectacular job of preventing unwanted pregnancies-better than condoms already available in pharmacies. And, early studies have already shown that women are still going into their doctor's offices to get pap smears, it's just a more pleasant experience when their ocp refill isn't dangling in front of their face...or should I say cervix.

I, ideally, would like to see ocps on the out! They are a great method, but are too burdensome. I hope we develop a more European approach with longer acting methods-like the IUD. After I had trouble getting in to see my doctor and get my damn pap smear, I decided to go with the IUD. Best decision and the #1 birth control method for Ob/Gyns in this country!

But I digress.

In essence, it's time to free the pill. More access=fewer unplanned pregnancies=fewer abortions. I get that you old farts are going to have a hard time with this. Get over it! Times are changing with or without you, and let's face it-you're not getting any younger.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Sharron Angle is running for the Senate in Nevada. Think Progress has unearthed what I would describe as a terribly chilling soundbite from an interview earlier this year:

Here is the key part:

Interviewer: Is there any reason at all for an abortion?
Angle: Uh, not in my book.
Interviewer: So, in other words, rape and incest would not be something?
Angle: You know, I'm a Christian, and I believe that God has a plan and a purpose for each one of our lives and that he can intercede in all kinds of situations and we need to have a little faith in many things.

Let me just get this off my chest:


Anyway. So you’re telling me, that after a young woman has been violated in the most terrible way possible by, say, her dad, she has no right to an abortion? She just needs to buck up and have a little faith in God?

Dear God,

Last night Dad raped me again. I am getting sad that this won’t ever stop and I have nobody to turn to. I feel like this is all my fault and I want to die. To top it all off, there’s a good chance I’m gonna get pregnant out of this whole thing. I know it’s in your plan, though, for this to happen to me. LOVE YOU!


UM. NO. This is a perfect example of why we have a separation of church and state! Give me a break, people! What if you get in a car accident? And you need to have major surgeries to stay alive? I’d love to hear a surgeon say, “Well sir, we would operate… but it just looks like this is in God’s plan for you. Have a nice day.” Better yet, what if you were just walking down the street minding your own business and you got hit by car and needed to have a big operation afterwards? No way would someone say, "We'd love to help you out, but... it's just, this is a part of God's plan, so you just gotta roll with it, you know?" If someone running for public office said he/she supported that idea people would flip out! I despise the double standard for women seeking abortions.

Either way, if you live in Nevada make sure you get out to the polls! Sharron Angle should not be elected!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Friends don't let friends watch TLC

Pardon me. I’m visiting my parents, and they have a television. I was compelled to surf the channels at 11 pm last night to view The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to see if it seemed sexist. But you know I was side-tracked when I found TLC’s I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant—a half-hour docudrama featuring two women, their men, and children describing re-enactments of their experiences giving birth to unintended and UNKNOWN pregnancies. As in, *Something’s* coming out! …for the entire viewing network to see: a beautiful 7-pound miracle human burrito at about 22 weeks. Every.single.15-minute.segment.

I don’t even know what to say about it. Sure, women everywhere discover surprise pregnancies during every stage without previously knowing they were growing life in their bellies. They use birth control, still have periods, think they are old enough to experience menopause, have no symptoms, think the symptoms are cancer, drink booze, smoke cigarettes, ride bicycles.

Some pregnant women give birth and some pregnant women have abortions.

No miracle. Just nature (and far-more unique and COMPLEX stories behind the televised time-suck).

Why does TLC feature non-dimensional, air-brushed shows about women’s health and homes and weddings then blast us with commercials about mops and deadly yet pristine cleaning agents and apple juice laced with chemicals and previews of
Kate Plus 8 tending chickens and changing screens on a country home while yelping *like a girl* and previews of women who enroll their babies in beauty pageants where entry costs $1000 and dresses cost $1000 and the children look just like every other cute child but judges have a clear penchant for the toxically-tanned blondies that blow kisses?

Does anyone else tender-loving-care that there’s an oil well hemorrhaging beneath the sea or that perpetual and systemic violence is ingrained in our daily lives or that everything at Target was made in China or that some people can’t afford to EAT?

We could save the world if we invested as much in reality as we do in show-biz.

I hereby re-claim my protest of television, and by protest, I don’t mean I’m going to stand outside of the TLC lot with gigantic posters of starving children or factory conditions in China. I simply mean I turned my parents’ television OFF and went back to facing reality.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Keep Your Hands to Yourself

Early on in the process of American socialization most children learn a key life tool: "Keep your hands to yourself." 

What do I mean by "the process of American socialization?" In each society people are taught that certain behaviors are normal and acceptable. People learn these social norms through many sources. In the United States the family is the first source of socialization, schools and media are other sources of socialization people come in contact with at a very early age.

Most children in the U.S. at some point in school or in their home are told to "keep your hands to yourself." Its such a seemingly simple concept. However, lawmakers and other authoritative figures still seem to be confused.

When our government implements laws that require women to have waiting periods, counseling, and veiw an ultrasound prior to an abortion they are not longer keeping their hands to their self. When religious figures force unrealistic images of dismembered fetuses on women they are not keeping their hands to theirself.

It seems so simple when I tell a three-year-old to keep her hands to herself, yet somehow people are unable to transfer this very simple concept to broader arenas such as laws and beliefs. All we ask is that people remember one simple lesson: Keep your hands to yourself. In the world at large your hands might include your beliefs, morals, and laws. Regardless of what you call them, please keep them to yourself. When you pray to your God, I would never try to stop you. So please just let us live our lives as we see fit.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sigh of the week: "With Liberty and Justice for Most" (In which I try to play well with others)

So I wanted to write you a little post all about Plan B and ellaOne. There is good news and bad news, about that. The good news is, I spent this weekend at a little surfing beach on the Pacific, complete with fishing boats and coconut at snacktime and very little internet access. The bad news is, there are no carefully-explained, well-researched blog posts to be had around these parts! Only chilled beers and split coconuts, it turns out.

So, sorry. You can read all about emergency contraception here soon, I promise. In the meantime, do check out NYCProchoiceMD's super post at abortion gang about mostly the same topic.

Today, a burning question: Am I the only one who's had bad experiences with libertarians?

You know, I get that libertarians supposedly value individual liberty above all else, even to a fault -- for example, to the point of denying responsibility for the suffering of many individuals due to collective oppression, or to the point of forgetting that the roads they drive on are paid for by taxes -- uhm, et cetera. But what's so interesting is that, given those values, some libertarians still (1) introduce themselves to me as "libertarian" [not normally of external prompting] and then (2) dare to tack on "...except for abortion."

Argh, fuck you, buddy!

This has happened to me multiple times, in inappropriate contexts -- like the noisiest bar I've ever been in, or a mutual friend's house party. Actually, I don't even think I've met libertarians who DON'T make exceptions to liberty when it comes to abortion. It's like, I'm minding my own business, maybe making small talk or waving down a bartender or trying to avoid secondhand smoke, and then some dude (it is always a dude!) decides that "I'm a libertarian" is a good conversation item, and then that "except for abortion" is totally consistent and sensible and not at all likely to provoke a negative reaction, and then what? Well, then I'm faced with the perpetual shitty choice:

A) Have a whole long conversation (they are always long!) about how no sense is being made, in which the dude will never attempt to understand the point of view of someone else (which shouldn't be a surprise because, hey, libertarian!), eventually leading me to despair of ever being able to meet a stranger normally like normal people do;
B) Let him say whatever he wants to so I can get through the situation with a minimum of time wasted;
C) Tell him I have a policy, ever since a few years ago, of generally not talking to "libertarians" and definitely not talking to "anti-choice libertarians," and try to gently leave.

After enduring too much heartache with strategy (A), I've moved on to (B) and (C). But recently I've acquired this temporary neighbor, who I know will be easier to get along with if I don't shut down on him. And he's perfectly nice most of the time, it's just: I'd be lying if I said I didn't cringe when he revealed a few weekends ago that he identifies as a libertarian, and I'd be lying if I said I haven't been avoiding the subject of abortion ever since because I don't even want to deal with the part where he might turn out to be anti-choice.

On the other hand, he's quite young and not from where I'm from and maybe it's not all his fault and potentially at this point I can/should afford to give him a break, or a chance to learn better, rather than avoid it entirely? But ugh, what a drag that is. Help, what do y'all think?

In exchange for your advice, here's a ridiculous picture I found:

(saw this in the Washington Independent)

PS: I recently told someone else I was an abortioneer -- after watching my first episode of "Sixteen and Pregnant" (very harrowing!), hah -- and he took it fine, we are even totally friends I think. Score one for notdouchebags!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lessons on Assumptions, Altruism, and Abortion

Without violating HIPAA, let me just tell you that I've interacted with several clients who are a little bit unlike me. Let's say that maybe they're sorority girls or Baptist ministers or aspiring rappers or women very much hooked on drugs. And without violating BIPAA (Blog Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, coined by me and referring to my wish to remain an anonymous blogger), let's say that I'm a casual, quirky, non-religious loner. (Also, not on drugs, for the record.) And I've counseled a handful of women who I could probably hang out with, but honestly, I've counseled more women who fall on the other end of the spectrum. I don't judge them when I see their Louboutins (I was going to say "when I see Greek letters," but it just occurred to me that I've rarely, if ever seen letters come through the door. Is there a code in sorority bylaws that states no Phi, no Omicron may pass through the doors of an abortion clinic? Let's look into this.), but I do subconsciously think, "Well, she's different than I am."

A few years ago, before my era of abortion 24/7 began, I would definitely think, "Not my friend." I would still be nice, but I would probably dwell on how snotty that one Greek girl was in college, or I'd silently judge the druggie based on what I'd read allll about in the news. I was still a feminist then, but my feminism was a little bit more narrow, including the ideas that porn is always bad and a feminist should look like me, or at least similar. But then I got more involved in the feminist movement and I learned about why sex workers' rights are a feminist issue, that feminism is for anyone, and so are abortion rights. I learned a lot of this from local activist groups and friends, but I learned more of it first hand from our clients.

I've talked feminist philosophy with escorts, I've bonded with debutants, I've listened to the dreams of a woman who wasn't a "drug addict," but a "woman addicted to drugs," I've learned about Christ and abortion from a preacher, and I've discussed Lil Wayne with a rapper-to-be, possibly even betraying my own stereotype of a white girl in Chuck Taylors who's into My Bloody Valentine. (I contain multitudes.) And these clients are some of my favorites because of what they've shown me, and also simply because of who they are. This isn't just tokenism where I thank them for being soooo brave and for showing me what it's like outside of the suburbs, but it's me thanking them for being who they are and for abortion as the great equalizer and for trusting me. And now, we will all sing "Kumbaya," if I can find a Lil Wayne remix.