Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Does A Parent Have a Right to Know?

I know this has been talked about on this blog before and probably done better, but please humor me.

Those of us that work in the abortion field, and probably many that don't, know that a minor's ability to get an abortion can be a tricky thing. Depending on the state the minor lives in or is going to for their abortion, they may or may not need to have their parents notified or get consent for their abortion.

In 34 states parental involvement in a minor's abortion is required - 20 require parental consent, 10 require parental notification, and 4 require both. There are exceptions to these including a judicial bypass, medical emergency, and 6 states allow a grandparent or other adult relative to be involved instead. For those that might not know a judicial bypass is a process where a minor goes before a judge and that judge decides whether that minor can make the decision without parental involvement. (Stats from the Guttmacher Institute)

What set me off on this is the recent issue of the parental notification law in Illinois. I will try to explain this as clearly as I can. Illinois has a 15 year-old parental notification law that wasn't being enforced, but in November the Illinois Medical Disciplinary Board decided to change that. A temporary restraining order was immediately issued - filed by the ACLU of IL. After what to me is a confusing series of grace periods and restraining orders, the law is still not going to be immediately enforced, but the initial restraining order has been lifted. Currently there is a 60-day grace period in effect while appeals are pending.

Do parents really have a right to know? What is it about being a parent that allows you to control every move and decision your child makes? It's not like abortion is illegal (I don't want to hear the argument about if the parent being held responsible if a minor engages in illegal activity - which I don't think is necessarily true). Aren't teens people? I know they're not legal adults, and many if not most or all of them have growing up to do. But why can't they at least have autonomy over their body? Why do parents get to control that? Isn't that weird or wrong to anyone? I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but I really don't understand. The pregnant girl/woman is ultimately the person who has to live with the decision that is made, so why can't she make it without interference?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Love Letter to The Abortioneers Everywhere!

I love us, and abortioneers everywhere. This blog makes me feel good about what I do and what I believe in. When I've had a really long day and all I want to do it waste brain cells, it gives me something productive to think about. Then, when I read it I learn about laws, health, medicine, pregnancy, families and a lot more. I learned about one of my favorite spoken-word artists from About a Girl.

It's an outlet for thoughts not all people will necessarily understand, and commits me to writing in the public arena. It's kept me grounded in what I believe. After a short hiatus from abortioneering in my professional life, it's one reason I know I can go back. Abortioneers everywhere, on this blog and others, and those who rarely or never grace the Internet highways, are powerful women and people who make me feel proud and sure.

I went to visit a clinic in the town I'm currently living in. I'm considering a job there. It's a bit of a leap for me because I have not worked in a clinical setting. Most of the work I have done was through funding and even though I spent a lot of time dealing a women seeking abortion, I did not spend days learning the ins and outs of a clinical setting. It would be a whole new experience. It would mean facing the ills of protestors and even worse crazier antis. That part scares me, but I refuse to make a decision not to work in the field based on those fears. The women who run this particular clinic will be a much larger part of my decision than any fears.

Today I shared that I had a really long day. I guess long days happen in every professional setting. For a moment, writing tonight was just one more task I had to get done -- even though there is so much I could write about. Don't worry, I try to write all my ideas down.

Abortioneers almost everywhere seem to understand some very basic part of life that some people just can't get. We know that women are life-giving and thus are sacred. We know that we must trust each other.

P.S. Did I mention that I love us?

Over Worked and Underpaid

Yesterday I was brimming with ideas for a blog post and they are all still floating around in my skull. I even got some of one written, then the world got a hold of me and before I knew it, it was 4:45 pm, and I'm not even half done with my work day. Please excuse the delay but this overworked abortioneer will be posting late today. I promise I'll try to make it good.

Monday, March 29, 2010

What Do C-Sections Have To Do With Abortions? Working toward a reproductive-justice perspective

the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, environmental and economic well-being of women and girls, based on the full achievement and protection of women’s human rights

don't we all deserve to decide our reproductive future? 

Recently I was going through patients' charts at the end of the clinic day, and was struck by the number of times I saw "MEDICAL ISSUES: c-sections." The details would list how many and how long ago.

I'm happy and proud to be associated with a clinic that can take on patients with all sorts of medical histories. All of our patients with prior c-sections did have the abortion they sought that day. But in other places, this might not necessarily have happened.

Why? Because cesarean sections can increase your risk of placental problems in future pregnancies, and those can make an abortion more technically difficult or risky. In placenta previa, the placenta covers the cervical opening; if there is complete previa, an abortion may require a hysterotomy. In placenta accreta, the placenta is too deeply attached in the uterine wall, which can cause hemorrhage during an abortion. Hemorrhage is also a risk if the placenta is growing embedded in an old c-section scar.

All of these risks are much GREATER if the woman carries to term and goes into labor, actually! But doctors often prioritize the individual, treatment-specific risk, and not in comparison with the alternative treatment if that alternative will be under a different doctor. It happens in all specialties, I think by the nature of the medical profession.

So some doctors will say "In light of your two c-sections, we'll need you to have a special ultrasound done at the local imaging center," and a woman might pay $200 for that ultrasound and if it shows a placenta accreta, the doctor might say "I'm sorry but we don't have hospital admitting privileges at this facility" and refer you to a hospital, and the hospital will say "We don't allow abortions at this facility," and the nearest non-Catholic hospital is three hundred miles away, or the nearest abortion clinic that is also an ambulatory surgical center may say "we can provide your procedure but must charge an additional $300 high-risk fee," and at some point the woman will run out of time and out-of-pocket funds and be stuck with a pregnancy that is more dangerous to her than the abortion she was seeking in the first place.

I tell you all of this as one example of why birthing rights are an abortioneers' issue. Even those of us who expect to never want children should care -- and many of us already do! -- about unnecessary c-sections and the right to attempt vaginal labor. You already know that reduce the c-section rate (which is triple what it ought to be in the US) will improve the health of birthing women and their children; it will also improve access to abortion care.

And I tell you that as one example of the interrelationships that "reproductive justice" is concerned with. Here's another:

Under the newly-passed health insurance reform law, immigrants have to wait five years before they can be eligible for insurance on the public exchange (yes, all immigrants, not just the undocumented who were used as the boogeyman to restrict coverage). Yet, as Public Health Doula explains, in some states with underfunded "pregnancy Medicaid," this means that pregnant women will suffer unhealthy pregnancies and give birth to less-healthy children -- who we'll then turn around and fully insure because they're American citizens, even though their care will now be costlier because we couldn't be bothered to care for their mothers.

Then there is the cruelty with which pregnant women are
-thrown in jail for struggling with a drug addiction (when many detox centers turn away pregnant women because of the liability!);
-arrested for falling down the stairs while ambivalent about their pregnancies (after a doctor violates confidentiality and a nurse lies about you to police, natch);
-detained in a hospital to compel them to follow bedrest orders;
-jailed for being HIV positive;
-forced to remain handcuffed to the bed while giving birth. If you live in Phoenix, Arizona, your sheriff publicly prides himself on the shackles thing, as well as on denying inmates pregnancy care and delaying emergency care that would have saved an infant's life.

What about those who can't even get pregnant? Lesbian or single women barred from assisted reproduction (adoption too), or women who can't get the endocrine-disruptor-spewing factories out of their neighborhoods?

And don't forget that until the 1970s, some states continued to perform unconsented sterilization -- the "Mississippi appendectomy" -- on women of color, poor women, and disabled women because they were presumed bad parents and bad genetic stock. That may be illegal today, but we still have lawmakers proposing to offer substantial-yet-insulting amounts of money to poor women to be sterilized (Brilliant! Why didn't we think of this before!) while white women's large families get the fascinated media treatment. We all have the right to have children, yet not even Nadya Suleman has experienced contempt like the average black mother of four black children (but did you know black women are far likelier to be infertile than white women?).

So there you have it. Just a few examples off the top of my head of why my commitment to abortion care goes hand-in-hand with concern for the rest of the spectrum of reproductive needs, rights, decisions, and battles. We all have our own expertise and area of advocacy, but together we can defend all women's right to decide whether, when and how to parent.

Please also check out this awesome article on black women's complicated relationship with fertility control by Dorothy Roberts, author of Killing the Black Body; and these two papers explaining the origin, significance, and priorities of this "Reproductive Justice" business, courtesy of Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice and SisterSong, two of the coolest grassroots groups around.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Empire State of Mind.

Spring has sprung. The time has come to support your local abortion fund! Abortion funds are local, grassroots organizations that raise money to support women in need of abortion services.

In honor of my current home, I am highlighting the fabulous New York Abortion Access Fund!!

"NYAAF is a volunteer-run, 501(c)3 non-profit organization that provides financial assistance to low-income women in New York State who cannot afford to pay for an abortion." They are an affiliate of the National Network of Abortion Funds and believe that abortion services should be available to all women, regardless of their ability to pay.

Why New York (you may ask)?

Yes, New York is what abortioneers call a 'Medicaid state' -- in other words, low-income women who are eligible for Medicaid (public health insurance) and can provide documentation can have their abortion paid for, up to 24 weeks (in some cases). Yes, abortion access in New York is better than in most other states (there are no parental consent/notification laws or state-mandated waiting periods). In New York, no metropolitan area lacks an abortion provider.

Even so, many women struggle to come up with the funds for basic reproductive health care. Whether it's because they are undocumented and cannot get on Medicaid, fall in the "donut hole" where they aren't eligible for Medicaid but can't afford private insurance, or a slew of other reasons, the need for abortion funds is substantial because many women fall through the cracks.

NYAAF supports not only women who are from NY, but also women who have to travel there from states where they cannot have the termination because they are too far along, or if it is less expensive in NY than in their own state. NYAAF has made grants to women from New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and even Texas! From 2008-2009, "NYAAF provided over $43,000 in assistance to support 77 women."

What can YOU do to help?

1) Make a donation directly,

2) Volunteer to help with fundraising, technical assistance for the website, stuffing envelopes and other tasks.

3) Host an event to raise money.

4) Join their Board.

Thank you, NYAAF and all the other wonderful, dedicated abortion funds across the country that help women access their reproductive rights everyday. Without you, many women would not have the means to exercise their right to healthcare.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Abortioneer Lovin': a MOTA follow-up

"I wonder if he thinks I have the right to reproductive autonomy." 

Hey there. Just popping in on a busy Friday to share a little bit of awesome.

Does anyone remember this entry? I wrote there that I often think that "if I separated from my partner, I'd probably remain single for a long time, because meeting someone who is fun, caring, smart, feminist, anti-racist, and pro-choice and who's a foodie and who doesn't care that I'm always running late (etc etc) can take a long time, and I'd much rather be single than settle for less."

And surely you remember Mr. Banana Grabber's post about meeting a boyfriend's mom for the first time, and several by other co-bloggers mentioning the frustration of first dates and bar flirts always wanting to have "the debate," and how we just can't help ourselves from saying what we do anyway, because how could we not?

Well! A Famous Internet Feminist (Jaclyn Friedman) talks about all this and more in an interview by another Famous Internet Feminist (Amanda Hess), and yet another Famous Internet Feminist (Jill Filipovic) weighs in with lots of stuff I totally sympathize with. I love all these women, and I love that most of what they say sounds so very familiar. I also feel for Jill when she says she'd be OK with not settling down if it required a compromise of values - and wish she didn't say that "maybe something is wrong" with her for it!

Well, how do you feel about it? What are you willing and unwilling to accept in a partner? Would you put up with some sexism but not the anti-choice variety? Are you more likely to fuck them or date them?

Do your answers vary according to whether you are currently abortioneering or simply pro-choice but not in the field? Does your experience vary based on your or a partner's gender identity, sexual orientation or anything else?

And...good luck to those of you with Friday-night dates :)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Using my job

In high school, I really, really wanted to go to the prom, and to me, pretty much the only thing worse than not going at all was going alone. There was this guy I knew, and to him, the only thing better than sliced bread was yours truly, and he made no secret of his crush. I, meanwhile, didn't make much of a secret that his crush wasn't reciprocated. But when prom time came around? You better believe I asked him to go with me. I totally used the poor boy. And if, for some reason, he's reading this, I'm sorry.

But I'm going to confess that I totally use my job. I know that I seem pretty rad and outgoing and great and all on the internet, but in real life (IRL), I'm still rad, but I'm shy. Sometimes, I try to push myself to go out with friends or to reach out and talk to someone at the gym, especially if they've given any sort of clue that they might be a bit of an activist. Without help, my "conversation starters" are along the lines of, "I have a cat!" But with help? "You said you're involved in working against domestic violence? I'd love to hear more about it. I work at Anonymous Clinic and we see a lot of patients who have gone through that." I throw in Anonymous Clinic's name and magically, I'm interesting and engaged and involved and coherent for once.

And I use the powers for good, too, like when my dear, life-long friend casually mentioned, "I picked him up from the airport and we didn't feel like stopping to buy condoms, and the sex was great--" I'm not an interrupter, but I damn well interrupted her and said, "When was this? Was it Saturday night? I can get you a discount on Plan B. We're going to the clinic right now."

But then, there was the infamous housewarming party. I had gone alone and I think the closest any of the other attendees had come to abortion was voting for Obama. I'm not sure how it happened, but I started talking about abortion. And the clinic. It just sort of came out like abortion Tourette's Syndrome, if we're being politically incorrect. Before I knew it, I was regaling this crowd with descriptions of the procedure and explaining why "partial birth abortion" is a myth. Who knows what kind of eye rolling there was after I left, but boy, howdy, was I the center of attention for a hot second.

The event that reminded me of this habit of mine was running into my neighbor last week. She's a lovely person, but she is a chatty person, and clearly, I'm not. I'd never really talked with her before, which didn't stop her, and I was trapped for a good 15 minutes, sweating and fidgeting and trying to act like a normal person and have a normal conversation. And then, she asked what I do for a living. I could have said I worked in healthcare, and left it at that. But my desperation was such and my palms were so sweaty that I volunteered, "I work at an abortion clinic. Yup." The reason for this was that I hoped a tiny bit, for once in my life, that she was an anti and that she would have disdain for me that she would just stop talking and let me go inside my apartment. Of course, she was unfazed, and of course, she followed it up with the dreaded, "I just don't think abortion should be used as birth control." And there I was dealing with the most uncomfortable amalgamation of a lecture fraught with social justice, social anxiety, and general anger. And I still wasn't inside my apartment where I wanted to be.

So, yes, dear reader, I use my job. But I will tell you this: I would absolutely ask my job to the prom, and not just because I would need a date. I would ask it because I totally have a mad crush on my job.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Health Scare

So. About that health reform.

Can I admit that I stopped following it months ago? Can I admit that, more than frustrating, I find the debates on health care utterly uninteresting? I simply can't pay attention. It's like arguing with a parrot who can only respond in one of three wise cracks, only far less amusing. We Abortioneers go through this time and again. You come at them with the knowledge, they retort with the yakety yak. YAWN.

That said, I proceed with my confession to admit that when the bill was signed, I had no idea what was in it. I Google it on occasion to see if anything interesting pops up, but what I've learned amounts to "Obama rules" and "It's better than nothing". What I do know, however, without having to watch CSPAN or read regurgitated AP articles, is that anti-abortion congresspeople just won't let up. What's the deal with this executive order? What does an executive order even mean? I had to ask my politically savvy BF, who informed me that it means dick and does not hold water in many cases. It sound to me like the antis calling for blood where it is not warranted or necessary. So what does this E.O. actually mean for abortion? Probably nothing, right? The Hyde amendment is still firmly in place (God bless it), and Lady Abortion is still dangling by a thread. I guess this just reaffirms what I already knew: our country sucks and always will.

As a self-proclaimed ignoramus on this issue, please enlighten me. But what I figure is we're sticking to the status quo and fighting in the trenches as per usual. I'm happy to do that, but at this point making myself angry by indulging anti banter is just not the way. Discuss, dear Abortioneers!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Letter to My Local Protesters

"There are five people you meet in heaven, each one of us was in your life for a reason. you may not have known the reason at the time, and that is what heaven is for. For understanding your life on earth."
-the five people you meet in heaven

Sometimes I imagine that if heaven (if I really believed in one) included five people who affected your life (like in Mitch Albom’s novel), there might be five of the local “peaceful” protesters looking at me. There are things I’d want them to know. Things I’d want to tell them about how their protesting affected my life. This list is not exhaustive:

1. Your rosaries and hail marys don’t make you a nice person.

2. I see you and my blood pressure rises several points past boiling.

3. When I see you, my jaws clench, my fingers tense, my head pounds, my stomach turns in knots, and I get scared.

4. Despite your old age, I don’t trust you haven’t got a pistol behind your sign, ready to blow my doctor’s head off. Or mine.

5. When I have to walk past you or see you, I think of my child. Hope today isn’t the day someone decides to shoot me, leaving my child without a mother.

6. When you stare at my co-workers and write down their license plate numbers, I want to follow YOU home.

7. For years, you have hurt women, causing them pain and anguish. I see them. They cry. Are angry. Feel judged. Yet you have no place to judge her.

8. Because of you, when I leave the clinic, I look both ways exiting the door.

9. Because of you, when I leave or arrive at the clinic, I speedily get into the false safety of the building or my vehicle.

10. Because of you, when I drive home, I check my rear view window to see if I’m being followed.

11. Our doors are a little tighter. Our windows shut harder. Our curtains drawn darker.

12. Because of you, we can’t have normal glass. We have bullet proof glass.

13. Because of you, we have panic buttons.

14. Because of you, I may get a home security system. And I live in a very nice little neighborhood with no other need for a home security system.

15. I really think I hate you.

16. I want to spit on you when I see a woman weep (who was raped by her father; or found out her wanted pregnancy has anencephaly; or who just got her lights shut off because she can't pay any bills, let alone keep another baby; who can die for our country in battle, but is about to get court marshalled if her country finds out she's pregnant; or who slept with the wrong guy on the wrong day and realized she really wants to finish school and make something of herself; or who might even be your daughter or sister or niece or granddaughter) after listening to you scream at her, judge her, beg her not to have an abortion. FUCK you for hurting her.

17. I watch my colleagues and doctors and nurses get tense and nervous and scared because you exist outside our building.

18. You’ve stripped from us basic things: the ability to hire staff without questioning if they're anti spies; the ability to walk freely to and from our cars; the ability to do our jobs in safety free from fear.

19. You’re a terrorist.

20. I really think I hate you.

21. Your hail marys and rosaries don’t make you a nice person.

22. You are not a nice person.

23. You're quite awful, really.

24. Oh yeah. I hate you.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Abortion won't be sinking with this ship

Presumably, Congress and supporters let loose like unicorns doped on hope for the possibility of Extended coverage! Reduced deficits! Regulated insurance companies!

Certainly, we hope that our neighbors' health will improve two-fold when they access the expensive health care they need, that every human will now be an optimally healthy human. Yet, it is nearly impossible to imagine a bright and beautiful future where every woman and child is holistically treated throughout their lifespan when common, vital, and necessary reproductive health care was pitched with the bath water during this *revolutionary*, yet sloppy, reform.

Any local or national, abortion fund would be unhappy to connect our Congress with recipients of this poly-savvy hate. Though, we suspect the actual truth is far too complex for elected sociopaths to face. It may also cut-in to precious time allotted for schmoozing.

Every Abortioneer knows that many women pay for abortion care out of their own pocket. Whether Congress sets Abortion on a pedestal to stone her or to endear her with angel kisses of sheer gratitude, Abortion's heart will go on.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Oh, Colorado.

Great news for people who might get pregnant in Colorado -- Anti-abortion groups there say they have gotten enough signatures for a proposal to make abortion illegal in Colorado. They are hoping to get this measure onto the ballot this fall.

If you don't remember, back in 2008, Colorado put a personhood amendment onto the ballot, which defined personhood occuring at "the moment of fertilization," thereby criminalizing any and all abortions. This amendment was defeated by a large margin, with 73% voting against it.

You would think antis would get the hint after that, but apparently not. The new amendment defines personhood as "every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being." Um.... what? Is it just me, or did they swap out the word "fertilization" for more vague terminology? A human is a human when it starts developing biologically??? What does that even mean?? Video killed the radio star??? Things that make you go hmmm.

Hilariously, a volunteer going around gathering signatures said, "This was harder. I don't know why, but people were more callous this time and didn't want to listen." I wonder why they didn't want to listen?? Could it maybe be because YOU ALREADY DID THIS TWO YEARS AGO?? AND THE VAST MAJORITY SAID NO THANKS? AND NOW YOU ARE AT THEIR DOORSTEP AGAIN?

The VP of Colorado Right to Life, Leslie Hanks, said "It's time to let the babies reclaim their liberty." Um, well, the use of the term "baby" is a bit deceptive, since it makes it sound like people are rounding up 2 year olds and putting them in front of a firing squad, but also, I am wondering what about the woman who is carrying the pregnancy? What about her? Neither the 2008 or current amendment appear to have exceptions for rape, abuse, incest, or the woman's life. So... to honor the "babies" liberty, we will be taking away women's liberty and LIVES in the process. What about the woman whose husband is physically violent toward her and won't let her use birth control? What about the woman who is mentally disabled and pregnant (Yes, that happens)? I mean, I could go on for days here with these examples.

It just baffles me how groups can be so passionate about saving "babies" and then so flippant about the women involved. She is simply a vehicle for the pregnancy to get to term and her life/ plans/ goals/ dreams/ wishes/ etc are expendable. Once her baby is born, I hope it is not a girl who lives in Colorado and one day gets pregnant.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The paradox of pregnancy

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. -Mother Theresa

Earlier this week, President Obama sat down with a crowd and told a real-time story about a woman from Ohio who is dwelling in a chronic death-hole due, in-part, to our healthcare crisis. Instead of his usual: This bill will cover 30 million uninsured Americans, he made a single, emotional argument.

Those who raise money for abortion funds that primarily support low-income and uninsured women and families across the country know this empathic appeal may be the only true way to the light of justice. Regardless of the venue--a luncheon, an afternoon business-meeting, a personal ask, the happy hour, or house party--you will inevitably hear a compellingly heart-breaking story about a woman who needs an abortion tomorrow, and you will think of no other viable use for the twenty-dollar bill in your wallet than to love your neighbor.

Voila! Belief you can believe.

Jonah Lehrer blogged about Obama's approach and connected his refreshing impact to *decision researcher*, Paul Slovic's, observations in: If I look at the mass I will never act: Psychic numbing and genocide. Slovic’s article title is inspired by Mother Teresa1 who said, “If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”

Slovic ponders the phenomenon of widespread indifference (aka. psychic numbing) toward the plight of one among many, in terms of mass murder, and concludes that humans are not wired to empathize with statistics, numbers, dots, and lines. Images are powerful persuasions--particularly images of one victim with one woeful face.

Between the work of Jonah Lehrer, Paul Slovic, and my last blog that highlights a research study that concluded that images of babies are like crack for your brain, I am kart-wheeling over here between Eureka! and No-F*@#%&-Duh!

This week, Guttmacher Institute released a vital new tool for researchers, advocates, policy-makers, journalists, and seriously-curious folks: the Data Center. Over the years, Guttmacher has ushered several solidifying moments for me: half of the pregnancies in the US are unintended! 9 in 10 abortions occur within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy! Most abortions occur in *developing* countries! 70,000 women die each year from clandestine abortions!

The truth resonates to my core as I stroll past the lovelorn Antis toting larger-than-life images of dead feti, as I drive past the billboard images of babies singularly declaring their unique worth in the *eyes* of *god* that pepper the Midwest: Who the hell has the audacity to protest pregnancy sacrifice when we know full-well that women and families suffer and/or die in droves when abortion is not safe, legal, and accessible?!

Consider this past year. The Abortioneers downward-spiral over the tragic loss of a women's-health leader; decreased funding for abortions for low-income and uninsured women in light of a tricky recession; unprecedentedly, poetically frightening, anti-abortion legislation proposed throughout the country; increased violence and harassment occurring outside our integral, healthcare facilities; and being fed to wolves in the healthcare reform debate.

Meanwhile, the male-dominated, anti-abortion movement is scheduling press-conferences with the Associated Press in jail, and our families would still prefer we talk about something else behind closed doors.

The declarations: One in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime! 45 million in the US!, are still deeply lost in worldwide translation. In the case of abortion, the translation is often lost between the front door and the curb.

When I counsel women who feel alone in their decision and ashamed of their plight in the *eyes* of their *god*, I ask them to do something mathematical when their heart is tormenting their head, my cliche explanations of lines of commonality, and their honest, practicality do not comfort them. Go to church on Sunday, and instead of spacing-out while Father Gaga rambles on about some overspent, biblical chapter that sends you into the useless agony of total numbness, try counting heads. One in three. Chances are, you're not so alone even in hell, yes?

For now, President Obama can simultaneously sweep abortion under the rug while tackling healthcare reform for the masses. Several *free* states can give birdies to pregnant women everywhere. Delusional Antis can call me a satan-following, baby-killer as I walk into my expertise. Non-Abortioneers need not take the time to empathize with the life-work imbalance and harassment that pervades this actvists' movement.

But every Abortioneer knows how quickly the images of jelly-drenched feti can turn to hospital beds full of mutilated, septic women with dead feti invisibly rotting in the womb, how valiantly these 45 million voices will move mountains and salve volcanoes one story at a time, how swiftly we're now embracing the Age of Aquarius, how lovely is the love awaiting us when we choose to become an empathic civilization.

Curmudgeonly patriarchs don’t understand? We’re not surprised.

1 Apparently, Mother Theresa was declaratively anti-abortion during her lifetime - probably because she failed to count heads during her countless years of service to the masses. She may have also been psychically numb due to all those years of attending Mass.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What Brought You to This Work?

Recently, someone asked me how I became involved in abortion care work and who or what has guided my journey in that work. After writing to her I thought I would share that story here.

As a child my mother took me to clinic defense rallies. I didn't really understand what it was were defending but I knew that it was important to my mom. I don't really remember a time when I learned about abortion or choice. Abortion was always a part of life just like pregnancy, miscarriage, or childbirth is a part of life.

I sort of fell into abortion work, or rather it chose me. I wrote a personal narrative about coming out as gay and being from a multi-racial family for an adjunct professor my freshman year in college. She encouraged me to attempt to publish the piece, but I didn't follow through. As the school year came to an end, I told her I was looking for part time work and asked if she had any suggestions. She told me she didn't know where I stood in regards to choice but she worked for a pro-choice organization while in school and gave me the information, and I pursued a job working in direct service with women seeking abortions.

The question of where I stood in regards to choice was not really a question for me. The understanding that women should be able to control their bodies and lives seemed like something very basic and unquestionable. I distinctly remember having a crush on a boy in first grade, who I then saw in the midst of a huge pro-life rally with his family. My mom and I were on the clinic defense team. At that moment my 6-year-old heart was crushed, because I knew he was on the wrong side of something really important and my infatuation with him was over. As a child, when my mom told me she had an abortion a few years before having me as a single parent, I told her it was me. I told her this because it made sense to me that I was meant to be my mother's child. It just wasn't the right time when she found herself pregnant the first time at 20 years old. I told her it was me and I came back when the time was right.

When I was hired in abortionland I did not feel particularly passionate about the work. I had just come out as gay and I was hired the week of a catastrophic disaster in my hometown, so it was really the least of my concerns. But I needed a part-time job, and I was all about helping other people regardless of how much or little it had to do with my life.

I had to have an ovary removed within the first 6 months of working in abortionland, and as time went on I was just going through the motions. I knew I was good at the kind of phone counseling I was doing, but I felt highly disconnected from abortion. My supervisor during most of the time I worked for this organization was definitely instrumental in solidifying my understanding of how abortion was important to me personally. My supervisor and the women I spoke to each day are the primary people who shaped my journey.

One day I went to my supervisor for a new security card because I had been robbed. She looked at me and said, "Your life has never been easy, has it?" I responded, "No, not really." This authority figure's acknowledgment of my personal circumstance made the work I was doing to help women seeking abortions feel more important to me.

Some of the staff and I began joking that I would win the award for having the most pregnant friends of anyone in abortionland. During the first few years that I worked in abortion care, I had several friends who had abortions and several more who had babies. I had a friend call me on my personal cell phone one day when I was at work to tell me she had been raped and she was pregnant. I was able to leave my break, call her from a work phone and attempt to assist her. I ended up lending her half the cost of her procedure from my next check so she could be seen as quickly as possible.

The many women in my family and friendship circle who have made the difficult choice to have a baby or an abortion have guided my journey too as I have become passionate about reproductive choice, health, and education. For me this work is the closest thing to what a lot of people, especially Christians, might identify as a calling.

I would love to hear others' stories of what brought you to this work, so please share.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What is this "work-life balance" of which you speak?

Sometimes, you just gotta.

My lovely coblogger About A Girl recently wrote about self-care and the symptoms of getting too wrapped up in your work. I have to say, "Not going to pee" really made me say "Oh god, hell yes." Isn't that insane? Not going to pee? Jeopardizing your long-term organ health because you feel so pressed for time that you pretend you're a machine and not a person who needs to pee??

On several occasions I've gone entire workdays without getting up to have a drink of water or use the bathroom (and eating a snack from home at my desk). Iterated over the long-term, those are NOT good ideas! I did get a lot better about it over time, though -- partly because I realized the importance of self-care, and partly because I got more efficient/effective at the parts of my job that had been keeping me busybusybusy.

The interesting thing about that list is some of it is really physical and direct -- not going to pee, for example -- while others have more elaborate pathways or are more about emotional coping when faced with other people's traumas, or even about getting along in the midst of office politics. It's clear that everyone's different, and we don't all necessarily struggle with the same effects of putting too much into our work. In my case, it tends to be more of the physical stuff -- not eating right or not peeing regularly because I felt tied to my desk or the flow of clinic was just nonstop -- and much less of the mental/emotional stress. On the other hand, I can get LOTS of mental/emotional stress when an officeplace situation is bad, just like it might be at any other (non-abortiony, non-hectic, etc) job.

I'm super interested in learning more about sustainable work practices in our field. My focus has always been on giving clients what they need, and that will always be paramount to me, but I also want my colleagues to be able to stick around for many years. Non-profit and social-good work in general tends to drain people without giving back materially, with the justification that you're in it for the satisfaction of doing good anyway so you don't care about crass things like money or forty-hour work-weeks (ha!) or the flexibility to take a vacation. Acting like we're "in the trenches" is supposed to be normal. And the smaller and more marginalized the field, the more this applies (usually!). I've talked a lot about pee in this post, but of course I'm really talking about the whole shebang.

I was trying to remember the name of a woman I once saw speak (and a reader commented speaking about the same person and reminded me, so thanks, Courtney!) who should probably be part of a yearly retreat for anyone who works in crisis care or other fields where clients bring you their traumas or urgent, high-intensity needs. The speaker's name is Laura van Dernoot Lipsky and she has peered right into your soul and written down what she saw. Her book is called Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide To Caring For Self While Caring For Others.

In other news, another of our lovely readers (hi, Ali!) tipped us off to the ending of BUMP+, the weird-looking show that Revolutionary Vagina blogged about a while back. I haven't been watching -- life's busy, TV's hard to watch on a DSL connection, and this show looked weird -- but supposedly the fictional pregnancy outcomes were pretty much par for the course when it comes to abortion and "television" -- even, I guess, if the television is on the internet. Did anyone else see it? What do you think? Spoilers are more than welcome! 

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Legal Shmegal.

Just because abortion is legal, does not mean it is accessible, affordable or available. So what's the point?
Why is getting an abortion so damn hard? Well, I’ll tell you some reasons:

· Laws requiring parental notification and parental consent
· Mandatory waiting periods
· Lack of providers
· "Crisis pregnancy centers" (CPC’s)
· The need to travel long distances for an abortion
· Areas that lack providers
· Appointment arrangements
· Appointment availability
· “Sono-ing over”
· Not having enough MONEY to pay for an abortion
· Harassment of clinics, providers and patients
· Lack of public funding for abortion
· Having private insurance that does not cover abortion
· Having insurance that requires a deductible before getting an abortion
· Confidentiality concerns with insurance
· Gestation limits set by states and providers
· Fewer facilities providing second trimester procedures
· Lack of knowledge about availability of abortion services
· Ambivalence about pregnancy
· Not having proper identification for an appointment (ID, birth certificate)
· Having your driver leave you at the clinic
· Not being able to find childcare
· Forgetting to fast if you’re planning to have sedation
· Car breakdowns
· Missing the bus
· And so many more…

We should always be thinking of ideas to do what we can to make accessing abortion services easier for women. There are things we can’t change on an individual level like legal and policy barriers, so we should focus our energy on problems with access we CAN change. Here are some ideas:

1) Childcare in clinics
2) A volunteer driver’s network to help patients with transportation
3) Texting patients their appointment information
4) Having information available online about what is needed for a successful appointment
5) Your turn! 

Abortion may be legal, but until women can access and afford abortion services, free from judgment and harassment, our work is not done.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Appreciation every day

Yesterday was Abortion Providers' Appreciation Day. In honor of myself and my colleagues and friends and patients, I ate chocolate that was sent to the clinic (from a reputable, known source who wouldn't poison it, or anything, because yes, we have to worry about things like that) and I assisted with abortions. A day with chocolate and choice is a good day, and if I were the Christian type, I would say it was a day of blessings.

Blessings were on my mind because of a patient we saw a couple of weeks ago. It wasn't her first, or even second abortion. She remembered me from my roles in her past abortions and from my willingness to advocate for her to get birth control pills at a reduced cost. She spoke to me in Spanglish, and I noted that her comfort with English and with me had improved and grown snce her last appointment. "Tengo tantos hijos, y ay, no mas, no more! Pero thank you, you help me so much. So much con todos!" Putting my hand on hers, I thanked her for entrusting me with her care, and because I was trying to keep our conversation focused on her consent form, I acknowledged in Spanish, "I know that you're familiar with this process, but it still might seem scary for you." "Oh, no," she replied, now fully in Spanish, "I know God will be with me throughout everything. He'll be with me when I see the doctor." "Seguro," I assured her, thinking that it is ostensibly the same God who the protestors pray to as they ask to end abortion and to punish or help (who knows what they ask) the women who sin. I like the God who remains by the side of women during their abortions.

I also remained by her side during her abortion, holding her and and coaching her through deep breathing, interpreting for her and her doctor. She didn't need me, though, when she told the doctor in clear, practiced English, "Thank you so much for everything." The doctor replied in one of the few Spanish phrases she knows, "De nada," meaning, "You're welcome," but also, "It's nothing." And as I engaged the patient in talk about where she was from and reminded her to picture being in a soothing place (she chose the beach), she focused on me, clearly a bit bothered that I was bringing the beach into this when she had gratitude to focus on. "Que Dios te bendiga mucho," she told me, then repeated it in Spanglish, "May God bless you. May He bless you and your family, your friends, bless you." "Igual, igual," I told her, wishing her and her family the same, even though I've never said it in English. And later, as I walked her out of the clinic, arm in arm, and when I ate my chocolate yesterday, and every day I go to work, I felt very, very blessed.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Things I would rather do than carry an unwanted pregnancy

1. Eat seafood (those of you who know me know what a big deal that is)
2. Play World of Warcraft
3. Eat poo
4. Not bathe for one week
5. Succumb to mononucleosis
6. Watch a marathon of Lord of the Rings (again)
7. Go bald
8. Attend a Jonas Brothers concert
9. Attend a Justin Bieber concert
10. Receive medical care from Baltimore's Union Memorial Hospital
11. Lick a flagpole in Fargo
12. Go first base with Rush Limbaugh (but that's where I draw the line)
13. Have my hair done by Snookie
14. Have my hair done by The Situation
15. Live in an igloo
16. Smell tuna fish for a month
17. Live in Darfur
18. Watch Paranormal Activity again, but by myself in the middle of the night on Halloween
19. Wear Crocs
20. Sell my soul to Satan for a giant donut
21. Watch an episode of "The O'Reilly Factor"
22. Work at The Office
23. Have a credit score of 200
24. Be Kate Gosselin's partner on "Dancing With the Stars"
25. Be a Gosselin child

And so on. Please share your tragedies that are less tragic still than being denied an abortion!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Nurturing Self

Do any of the following sound familiar to you?

• Skipping breakfast to get to work on time (after oversleeping because so tired)
• Skipping lunch (too much to do, have to help that one client who needs extra help)
• Getting home, very hungry, and thus overeating after not having breakfast or lunch
• Spending a bit of extra time with that bottle of wine (or two or three…)
• Needing extra cigarettes to get through the stressful day
• Not going pee because you’re too busy seeing/talking to clients
• Not taking breaks
• Dreaming about work
• Talking about work a lot
• Difficulty relaxing in the evening
• Taking work home

If you answered yes to….well…any of these, then it might be helpful to take a look at your work/life balance. (Okay. I’m one to talk: I recently gave a patient my cell number and spent time on the phone with her outside regular work hours and I rarely take lunch.) It can be hard to strike a balance between life and work when your primary function is to take care of other people and often even put their needs before your own. This can be especially challenging when we work in a sometimes hostile environment (say, external hostility from protesters), and it can be super hard to explain our jobs to people in our lives. “How was your day?” is such a benign question, but I often ask myself, “Seriously? You really want to open THAT can of worms and know how my day REALLY was?”

Maybe you feel similarly from time to time. Here are some things that have helped me, and things I know that have helped others, too:

• Eat breakfast. Seriously. It really does help!
• Drink coffee!
• Take your breaks and your lunches, even if it seems impossible to do so. Take them.
• Have interests and hobbies outside work and indulge in them. Write, read, hike, run, go to the gym, play music, spend time with your friends, your children.
• Have something at home, after work, that is really important to you to focus on that is completely non-work related (I think this is easier for parents, as often their children can be the distraction).
• Spend personal time doing non-abortiony things! Really!
• Have friends from Abortionland so they can understand you.
• Have friends outside Abortionland so you don’t have to talk about Abortionland all the time.
• Shop.
• Go on holiday.
• Go to movies.
• Take a day off. And do something fun.
• Get rest.
• And sometimes, indulge in a few bottles of wine, or a few margaritas with your Abortionland friends.
• Cry.
• Take long baths.

Basically, just remember you, when you’re in the middle of remembering everyone else. Nurture yourself. Personally, I'd like to be right here. Any other suggestions?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sad Times

Recently, federal agents raided Dr. Kermit Gosnell's clinic in Pennslyvania and discovered one of my worst nightmares realized: an unsafe clinic, with unsanitary conditions, sketchy staff, and to top it all off, fetus parts in jars. The doctor has killed at least a couple women, injured more, and who knows how many women who went there and just had a bad experience. So why did women go there? It had a terrible reputation. The answer: Gosnell charged very low prices. Women who were going there couldn't afford the extra it cost to go to a safe clinic. So, essentially they had two choices - carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, or go to this super sketchy clinic that was affordable, and hope for the best. Not really very good choices, huh?

Since most of his patients were poor and uneducated, that meant most of his patients would not be filing lawsuits, sending in reports to authorities, going to the press, etc. Other pro-choice organizations had tried to intervene on behalf of patients to no avail as well:

More than a decade ago, CHOICE, a Philadelphia abortion referral service, contacted the state medical board about Gosnell because some of his patients had called CHOICE with appalling stories, said Brenda Green, the organization's executive director.

"We were told that we could not file a complaint. It had to be a patient. It could not be a third party," Green said.

Reproductive health activists and Gilbert Abramson, a lawyer who filed the 2008 case that was later dropped, said they urged Gosnell's patients to file complaints with the state. But when the women learned that they would have to provide medical records and other forms, plus attend a hearing in Harrisburg, they changed their minds.

So, you just had a terrible experience in a medical facility and want to file a complaint -- but in order to do so you must be willing to submit all your medical information including the abortion you just had, and be able to travel two hours to another city to go to a hearing. And people wonder why more reports weren't filed.

I am so glad that this clinic is closed and this doctor is not allowed to perform abortions anymore. But this brings up a sticky topic -- bad clinics. We have all heard stories about this place or that place. I have plenty of experience working with a clinic that drives me insane. (I should pause for a moment and clarify that when I say "bad" I mean that the quality of care isn't amazing -- clinics that have rude staffers, won't be flexible with low-income women, etc. Dr. Gosnell's clinic is definitely AWFUL and the vast vast vast majority of clinics are not even vaguely like that.) What can we do to make clinics that don't provide the best care possible better? And what can we do to make sure a clinic like Dr. Gosnell's never exists ever again?? Can we create some sort of regulatory commission? Since clearly, the health department dropped the ball on this one big time. How we can get this information to low income women?

Unfortunately, many anti-choicers hear stories like Dr. Gosnell's and think that is what abortion care is like and all clinics are like that and they just want to make money and blah blah blah. None of that is true. I think I can say I speak for all the Abortioneers when I say that we all want clinics with qualified, caring doctors, spotless floors, compassionate staff, etc.

I think the saddest part of all of this is best summed up by Susan Schewel, executive director of the Women's Medical Fund, which provides financial help to poor women seeking abortions:

"What happened inside that building is not the real story. The real story is why women sought care there at all," Schewel said. "This prohibition on Medicaid payment leaves desperate women vulnerable to substandard providers."

Friday, March 5, 2010

Man, oh Man

Ambiguously-gay dude and Wayne Knight look-alike: the word is "vagina". Say it with me.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Little Earthquakes

Did you know that:

A scientific study that came out this year is the first to offer firm evidence that human beings undergo a chemical reaction deep in their brains when they look at babies. It was conducted by biologist Melanie Glocker of the University of Muenster, while she was a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, and it has resulted in two groundbreaking papers published in the journals Ethology Proceedings from the National Academy of Science. Specifically, Glocker’s series of experiments demonstrated that the act of looking at baby pictures stirs up an ancient part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens.

“It’s in the midbrain,” Glocker says, with a slight Teutonic accent, “which is an evolutionarily older part of the brain involved in reward processing. This region has also been shown to be activated by a variety of rewarding stimuli, including sexual stimuli, food stimuli, and drug stimuli.”

No wonder! They are miraculous human beings barely themselves without mother's milk, sleep, and skin. They are mushy, fragile promises of everything new.

One sweet and righteous day, the clinics will have the long-over-due capacity to provide a full range of health care and all the women's brain-enhancing children will come too.

Then what will the Antis do? They will know we serve them and their God. They will know the whole story. We will serve them as we already do.

A tender, lime-sized abortiony thank you to Angie Jackson who affirmatively and courageously shared her abortion story with the world. She shared her personal experience with medication abortion (subject to changes among variable women with variable history, blood, uteri, etc) via Twitter and You Tube and seemingly consequently has received a whirlwind of strong support and life-threatening backlash.

Most frightening to the fearful I'm sure - a woman who has the capacity to willingly miscarry in the privacy of her own home without anyone ever knowing.

Abortioneer question of the New Age:

Almost completely tangential but pertinent to my own abortioneering, I have been wondering if anyone else is experiencing an increase in patients and significant others trying to simultaneously use wireless devices for texting and surfing during counseling sessions? How do you address the distraction? Do you find it interesting in terms of human behavior and social culture?

The clinics where I've worked have always enforced a No Cell Phone policy, but now I find it nearly impossible to mind. Almost everyone is using a wireless device, and abortion is common, but so is life, so the waiting room is always full of wireless devices.