Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hump Day

Dear Readers,

To get you through this Wednesday, I bring to you a collection of my favorite anti-choice propaganda. Unfortunately for us, it seems that anti-choice signs contain fewer typos than teabagger signs, so I'll have to give credit where it's due. Still, the logical fallacies remain.

This one infuriates me most of all. DUH. Nobody who was aborted is here. If I were aborted, how would I know? Would we be here having this conversation? WHAT'S YOUR POINT???!?!?!! Also, it's Uncle Sam. Why? Because women who have abortions are unpatriotic? Stupid.

Reason enough to keep an unwanted pregnancy, yes? Maybe your daddy raped your mommy, or maybe your daddy is conspicuously absent, but baby, you've got his eyes!

Melodrama: the anti's calling card. If you wanted to do this correctly you would say "Dead babies cry to me from the ground." Whether or not you believe that fetuses can cry, blood certainly cannot.

Not a typo per se, but this acronym is poor at best. Could you not have thought up "Not-born" for the "N" space? Man, I should be making these things for you guys.

Distressed sigh. How did Catholics go from being at the forefront of human rights issues (even liberal!) to this? Pro-death? I don't even know what that means.

Oh gee, well now I REALLY want to worship him.

I understand quite well the part about not shooting men in church.

Has anyone ever seen a Jew wielding this sign? I triple-dog-dare any anti to march up to a Holocaust survivor and tell him that abortion is comparable to what he went through. No really, go ahead. And if you don't get punched in the face I will pay out of my pocket to print 100 more of these.

Happy Hump Day, folks!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My New Love: Options Counseling

I have a new found love: options counseling. Who knew? I mean, I've done options counseling for years; but in my experience, it's not that common many women ask for it. Usually, women who call the clinic already know they want an abortion. They've had a few days (weeks, months) to think about it. They're certain. Or they wouldn't call to begin with. (Most of the time.)

Occasionally, however, a woman calls and says she is unsure of her decision and wants to talk to someone. Even so, almost every single person I've spoken to only considered two options: abortion or motherhood. Not adoption. I've never thought it was odd women didn't include adoption in their options; and I assumed for those that adoption was a serious consideration, they'd just call the local Open Adoption agency (like this one) or maybe their church. Not the abortion clinic.

I've recently provided options counseling to two women only considering abortion or adoption. Believe it or not, in my many years as an abortioneer, I had never ever ever talked to a woman who considered adoption (unless she was over the gestational limit for an elective abortion and adoption or giving birth became her only options. But that's different.)! How I've gone so long talking to zero women about adoption (because they've all been like, "Um. Nope! Can't do adoption. No way!") might be strange.

I have no clue what I'd do without Anne Baker's "Abortion and Options Counseling" (here or here) and The Pregnancy Options Workbook. I have to say, though, I have loved.loved.loved.loved this new experience in options counseling where adoption has entered the equation. I feel stretched. I'm learning more. And it's fascinating! Maybe because it's new to me. Regardless, these two women have taught me a lot and I find myself thinking of them regularly. They've reminded why I love - even adore - this work so much. They've reminded me to stop. To pause. In options counseling, you need to get to know the women better. To listen to their hearts, their dreams, their deepest desires. I get an opportunity to do a really good job. To excel at my work. To listen.Listen.Listen. To ask hard questions that maybe others can't ask. To feel honored to be the person to listen. To make a connection with more depth and even get to spend more time with them.

When a woman is right on the cusp between two completely different lives, two completely worlds, it's astonishing. Awesome. Really quite amazing to witness. In all seriousness, when these options counseling sessions take place, I hear in my mind Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken,"
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Frost knew what he was talking about. It's hard to make decisions, to make choices. I think these women are quite incredible and brave. And I truly feel honored to listen to them. Grateful, even. And...on that note, dear Abortioneers...if you haven't yet heard, here's some super duper fab news: The Backline (Options Counseling talkline) is re-opening starting THURSDAY! Check it out here. Congrats, Backline!

Monday, June 28, 2010


At the clinic where I escort, there is just the sweetest little anti you ever did see. Curly hair, freckles, a tender voice. She might be picking posies with a basket on her arm, save for the literature in her left hand and the rosary in her right. She greets all sidewalkers, anti and escort alike, with a honey hello, and bows her head in prayer.

She makes me crazy.

Harmless though she and all the other well-wishing antis may seem, I rarely if ever return their pleasantries. The nod of recognition is more than sufficient. It manages to say "Oh, there you are" and "Back the shit off" with a modicum of effort. Two birds, one stone.

I've been noticing some of the veteran escorts getting mighty friendly with the antis, in a slap-on-the-back, aren't-we-the-odd-couple kind of way. The only explanation I can find is that immersion therapy has rendered them indifferent, if not receptive, to the conversation that occurs on the sidelines. I'll admit that dull moments arise in that four-hour span, and it might be a larf to reminisce over the past 15 years of enmity ("Remember that time you published my picture in your Christian magazine as the 'Gatekeeper to Hell'? Classic!"). I, however, could never go down that road. I will never forget Strawberry Shortcake's true purpose.

One Autumn morning, she was manning her post on the sidewalk, having made the trip across town bright and early and eager to save lives. She approached the biggest man I'd ever seen to offer him a rosary and some "information" about how he can be a hero. Either he had woken up on the wrong side of the bed, or he was annoyed by her failure to realize that he wasn't having an abortion that day, but he was not amused.



Still, my initial shock was soon replaced by concealed giggles. Now, I would not have screamed that at that girl, mostly because I would never talk to her in the first place. But boy, am I glad he did. Isn't it what we're all feeling, but we just won't say? Isn't it something they need to hear now and then, if not every minute of every day? So I say to all antis, kind and mean-spirited alike:

Kindly fuck yourselves. You are just awful.

Love always,

Friday, June 25, 2010


The post About a Girl wrote last week -- Coming Out: I'm an Abortioneer -- has had me thinking. The post spoke to me because I have gone through the process of coming out as gay, and I'm an abortioneer. Coming out as a lesbian was a process, and I remember years of silence before I felt comfortable being out in most social situations. I recently began working in a new clinic in a liberal town which nevertheless has a lot of people who do not understand homosexuality and thus fear it or judge it. For the first time in my adult life I am not out at my job. It's challenging some days. When I talk about my lover, which is rare, I change her pronoun because I don't want to out myself. I am slightly confused at my choice to live closeted at my job as an abortioneer; but I am not interested in dealing with others' judgment or debating a part of my life that is not debatable.

I am currently on a trip abroad attempting to learn another language. I have chosen a place where I feel completely comfortable coming out as gay. However, due to the political and religious climate, I have chosen not to out myself as an abortioneer. I have learned to tell people in another language that I work for a clinic that serves women who are pregnant. I tried to think of the closest thing to the truth without "outing" myself. It's challenging to compartmentalize myself like this, but I don't feel I have much choice.

Recently I encoutered a Christian woman who knows I'm gay but does not know about my work as an abortioneer. She told me that she had a responsibility to tell me gay people are going to hell. She compared it to having a cure for a disease and watching someone die. She proceeded to tell me it was really hard for her to keep her mouth shut because she felt like she was not being true to herself and her beliefs. All I could do was laugh inside. I told her that her belief system could not coexist with who I am, therefore I do not care what she thinks. I also told her I can relate to hiding an integral part of who I am.

I know many queer people who are also abortioneers. I often wonder what brings us to this work, when in some ways it could be assumed that it has little to do with our personal lives. Reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights are about freedom, control of your body, and choice. I don't think anyone would choose to live in a closet. It's usually out of necessity, painful necessity.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cardinal Sight

My power animal is a cardinal. I ask the universe a question and a cardinal serendipitously lands nearby to punctuate my thought. Ohio’s state bird. Officially one below the popes and patriarchs in the Catholic Church. Passerine birds of the family Cardinalidae. A shade of scarlet.

The color red attracts hummingbirds. It carries the longest wavelengths of light discernible by the human eye. Sinful. Passionate. The fire this time.

My friends are giving birth to rainbow babies. Infinitesimal babies. Brand new human burritos. So delicious. So warming. These babies melt my heart then re-shape it, and take it waltzing in a sunlit, crystalline ballroom. I realize I have a deep and gracious penchant for newborn children, for those cardinal and fleeting moments when a baby becomes a unique being on this earth.

Recently, I have found peace in specializing in abortion care. I have all but forgotten opposition to our truth. I am here to know the private stories of pivotal moments in women’s lives.

I go to yoga, and when we chant our, Om, I see the air around me is waving. Glowing. Good and right.

Orange butterflies are dancing along summer’s path. Hummingbirds. Fireflies are lighting the night. A female cardinal just landed in my yard.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Abortion in the Developing World

I'll be honest, I don't know a lot about global health, particularly that of the "developing world". I do know that diseases and conditions easily treated in the western world, are death sentences for many in developing countries. We have access to drugs and medical services that medical personnel in those countries probably dream of. So why is it that we would block life saving medical services? Let me rephrase that. Why would politicians of "developed nations" purposefully block funding to programs that can and do save lives? This is a question we should ask those participating in the G-8 Summit that is currently happening in Ontario, Canada.

The G-8 Summit is an annual gathering of world leaders from traditionally developed nations that have long held power over worldwide policies and initiatives. The countries represented in the G-8 are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union (which isn't a country but a coalition of most European countries). According to the website for the G-8 Summit 2010 the summit "addresses a wide range of issues in areas such as international development, health and peace and security." So, what exactly is happening in this year's G-8 Summit?

Some of the items that are on the agenda this year are security - nuclear non-proliferation and the peaceful and safe use of nuclear energy (is that possible?), political and economic support in Africa, and something I'm kind of surprised to see -- maternal and child health. It's nice to see women's health presented as urgent. Let's look more at what the G-8 wants to do to improve women's and children's health care throughout the developing world.

Maternal health truly is and should be a worldwide concern. Hundreds of thousands of women die giving birth each year. Women are expected to give so much of themselves for the sake of reproduction (that's a woman's purpose, right?). Many (most?) of the people living in the developing world live in conditions we would consider deplorable. The spread of diseases like HIV, TB, and malaria cause incredibly difficult conditions for women and their children who can be particularly vulnerable. So the focus on maternal and child health sounds great, right? As we all know, nothing is perfect.

The problem with this plan is that they don't want to provide funding for family planning, contraception, or abortion (and by they I mean Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper). Not only that, he wants to withhold money from any organizations that provide abortions. We know that you can't really have maternal health without including family planning services. The UNFPA estimates that about 74,000 women worldwide die every year from unsafe abortions. These unsafe abortions occur because of laws restricting access, health workers with little or no training, no access to a health worker, etc. I think you get it. There's a reason why complications for abortions in the US and the rest of the developed world are so low. Stephen Harper is a conservative, but abortion is legal in Canada and funded by their public health care! What is going on here? Why do his political views get to interfere with the health of women? Why is this coming from Canada?! Even the US representative spoke out against this policy. “You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health and reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortions,” U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton says. (FINALLY!)

Wake up Stephen Harper. Women will have abortions. Women need access to safe abortion care. They need access to all facets of family planning and contraception. The only thing these restrictions do is put women in unsafe conditions. If she can't get a safe abortion, she'll go somewhere to get an abortion that will likely be unsafe, could make her very sick, and could possibly kill her. But I guess Stephen Harper won't think about that.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Plug for a fellow blogger: more on fathers

Sparky's had an unexpected travel-related contretemps these past couple of days, but that doesn't mean the pro-choice summer reading stops! I urge you to visit Every Saturday Morning, the blog of a team of clinic escorts in Kentucky, where today Dan has written on the intersection of fatherhood and escorting, and about a confrontation with
disapproving men willing to abandon their daughters during their moment of deepest emotional distress, embarrassment, and fear, and leave them to walk through this gauntlet of hatred with a complete stranger, a man who will be in her life for only a few minutes, but is willing and able to be her surrogate father.
The post is both heartfelt and heart-rending. Dan, thank you for writing about your struggle that day, and thank you for being a pro-choice dad and a compassionate escort. And happy Fathers' Day to you!

Monday, June 21, 2010

My father the reluctant pro-choice hero

I suspect my dad never meant to raise a pro-choice feminist. I wonder if he had no idea what he was in for when he had a daughter. He often seems taken aback by my opinions if I don't ease into them or don't take a mild tone defending them. He's uncomfortable with abortion -- knows it's necessary in some cases, but wishes that someone else's daughter were doing the dirty work of "facilitating that." For a while, he seemed outright sorrowful that I had chosen this field.

But I must have gotten these values from somewhere. It always just sort of made sense in my head that it came from him and my mom. The particular differences of our family have always made me appreciate openmindedness and strive to respect others' background and situation. My parents value justice, rights, the common good, public health, and medical truth-telling. And it's because of them that I have always tried to understand all aspects of a person's narrative -- more than is probably possible. So I don't feel bad or wrong when my dad doesn't see it my way -- just sad -- because I know that he knows we are starting from the same values. And finally, in the past year or so, he's stopped asking if I'm considering changing specialties, and started acknowledging aloud that I've found a calling of sorts. 

And yet! Even though we've reached a point where he seems to accept the stories I share with him as good-enough reasons to continue my work, there are certain things that he doesn't seem ready to let go of. Not so surprisingly, they seem related to him as a man, as a father or a potential father: 

1) What if a minor has an abortion without telling her parents? That's wrong, and therefore "parental consent" laws are good. I would want to know if my daughter were pregnant or seeking an abortion, and it's my right as a parent to be involved in her medical care. 

2) What if a married woman has an abortion without telling her spouse? That's unfair to a husband, particularly if he has wanted a child, and therefore wrong, and therefore there should be a law against it. I would want to know if my wife were pregnant or seeking an abortion, and it's my right as a potential parent to have a say in what happens to my potential child. 

Compelling hypotheticals, but I'm forced to disagree with him every time. The number of negative situations that could be dangerously exacerbated by parental consent or "paternal" consent is so overwhelming, and so non-hypothetical, that I just can't abide by the argument that we should pass coercive laws based on the assumption that all families/couples have healthy relationships. It's not just that, fundamentally and morally, abortion is not up to a parent or partner's decision; it's also that women and girls may very well die if we let it be someone else's decision to make. Remember the 13-year-old in Pennsylvania who was hospitalized this month, because she induced an abortion with a pencil rather than comply with her state's parental involvement law. Daughters get kicked to the curb or worse for being pregnant. Adult women get shoved around and beaten up and their abusers threaten their children or pets, all to keep them under control, and impregnating a partner (child or adult) is a sadly common weapon to ensure she's stuck with him. 

That's why, if you're a parent (or partner), the onus is on you to make your relationship with your daughter (or partner) one that she knows she can trust for support in making difficult decisions, and then hope that she decides to share that part of her most private life with you. Like you're supposed to do in your relationship in general, for everything. Ensure in advance that she always knows you are there for her, for any eventuality, whether or not she'd choose what you'd choose -- like I know my dad is. That's really all you can ethically do. If you're already doing it, I thank you from the bottom of my daughterly heart. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Legislators think they are our daddies (and good daddies make things harder on their children)

Happy Fathers' Day! I was going to write you a post about dads, but it'll have to be tomorrow, because I got distracted by an entirely different kind of paternalism. Today I'd like to direct your attention to this post at The CurvatureAnti-Choice Ultrasound Laws Don’t Change Abortion Rates, But Continue Getting Tougher. It's about the wave of state-level legislation that's been passed in the last year or so, much of it having to do with forcing a woman to pay for a medically unnecessary ultrasound, look at it, and/or hear a description of it from the sono tech.

Now, many clinics use ultrasound as a way to determine at what point in the pregnancy the abortion is going to be performed -- there are important technical distinctions between, say, six weeks and sixteen weeks, though ultrasound is not the only way to figure this out -- and I'm all for patients having access to their own medical records if they want it. However!

(a) There is really not that much to see on a sonogram that's made for the purpose of determining gestational age. The screen is pretty dark, the image is fuzzy, and 90% of abortions are performed in the first trimester, a time when all the print-out shows is a roundish grey blur. 

(b) Instructing, as some laws now do, that the technician must turn the screen to face the woman but the woman "may avert her eyes" is pretty ludicrous. So is the idea that a woman averting her eyes must still hear the doctor or tech "describe the fetal development at that stage" (no provision for "averting her ears" in such laws!). If it's in some way relevant to care, a doctor should -- and would -- explain this sort of thing. If it's not relevant to care, well then, it sounds to me like legislators are trying to alter medical practice for political purposes, and as we know that's not OK. Actually it sounds to me like our state reps are practicing medicine without a license -- which happens to be illegal, you know? 

(c) Most of the laws make no provision for victims of sexual trauma who may be re-traumatized by this process. In fact, the Oklahoma bill which was vetoed by the governor even specified that if the abortion is taking place very early in pregnancy, the ultrasound must be done with an intra-vaginal wand, rather than over the abdomen, to "give a clearer image." I was struck to the core when I read this. Like the state was mandating a second rape -- yes, that's what it's called when someone puts something in you that you don't consent to -- if you wanted an abortion. 

(d) Most strikingly: I have never seen a patient change her mind about her abortion because of an ultrasound. My clinic does perform a sonogram before every procedure. By law, clients fill a form indicating whether they want to see the image, listen to the "fetal heart tones if present," both, or neither. We get back forms with all sorts of answers, meaning plenty of clients do choose one or both, but I don't know of anyone who has said, "Oh my god, you know what? I had NO IDEA there was an embryo in there! I thought an abortion was something to do with my bladder! Now that I know, there's no way I can go through with this." 

(e) Which brings us back to the conclusion at The Curvature: it's probably not at all about changing patients' minds, but simply yet another approach in the campaign to guilt, shame, isolate and traumatize women who choose abortion. To punish them for having made this choice that we know she will go through with, because women are not stupid and women are not children, they understand their lives better than a stranger ever could and they already know in their guts what they are capable of at this moment. 

Sometimes that's giving birth and giving her parental rights to another family. 

Sometimes it's leaving high school or going on public assistance in order to afford a wanted, or perhaps unwanted, child. 

And sometimes it's selling her furniture to scrape together 400 or more dollars (have you ever had someone count dollars and nickels on your desk for a medical appointment?), facing a crowd of clueless shame-mongers, listening to maudlin scripts written by state legislators while her pants are down and a high-tech stick is moving around in her vagina, watching a video about a screaming fetus, spending six hours in a crowded waiting room, and having a safe five-minute procedure before going back into the world, back through the clueless crowd, back to her loved ones and not asking them for reassurance that she is still a worthy human being, because they might rebuke her, because they might not understand, because they've heard from ten thousand shame-mongers that anyone in their right mind who's seen an ultrasound would change her mind and leave the abortion clinic. Yes, sometimes women are capable of all that. But god forbid we make it any easier on them. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Voting with my wallet?

I hate getting my hair cut. I loathe going to the dentist. I dread calling my apartment's maintenance people. I have such disdain for these events partially because they involve coming out as an abortioneer when the stylist breezily asks me what I do, when I hand my insurance card with the clinic name to the dentist's receptionist, and when the maintenance man sees an apartment that's basically a shrine to abortion (a plush smiling uterus hangs from my freezer door and every bookcase is full of abortiony titles). But I've mostly learned to handle those circumstances. What's tricker is gauging how comfortable I am giving my business to people who might end up not to be so abortion-friendly.

One of my dear friends and co-workers once told me that she makes a habit of questioning contractors or proprietors about their attitudes toward choice. If she's giving them money, she reasons, she should know exactly what she's supporting, directly or indirectly. I can get behind that. As funny as it is go to out to brunch with a fellow Abortioneer and say, as we each plunk down a Visa card, "This meal paid for by abortion!", how do we really know that our hard-earned abortion money isn't going to fund a trip to Hobby Lobby (I'm not choosing that store arbitrarily. Hoo boy, are they ever Christian. But I'm also not giving it a link.) to get supplies for fetus porn that will appear outside of my clinic?

I've never been able to bring myself to ask about a business owner's views, though. The closest I got was when I was a friend's wing woman at a party and to ascertain whether she would be going home with the right guy, I blurted out, "Are you pro-choice?" (He was, he was lovely, but she ended up not going home with him.) I manage to surround myself with abortion-loving people and I know (thanks to Facebook) who's in the local choice community. But I think I fall short of the comfort level that would let me question it, point blank. What about you, readers? Have you ever vetted establishments for their worth as allies?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cool Abortiony Vids

As a volunteer at the Global Health Council Conference, I had the opportunity to peruse the booths of other global health orgs and reproductive health ones. Always a fan of Ipas (see our previous posts referencing Ipas), I stopped by their booth and grabbed some literature, plus the obligatory "I <3 Reproductive Rights" swag. Then I went stopped by their YouTube channel, and I strongly recommend you do the same, if for no other reason than the following -- take 30 seconds and watch*:

Think About It

I assume this was filmed in Brazil, which is great because it sheds light on the situation in a heavily- Catholic and anti country.

Did you finish? Good. Let's discuss.

I've always had this theory that people who are not intellectual/politically involved/generally thoughtful just regurgitate things that they are taught. I've spoken with lots of folks who, when asked to explain their views on certain subject, respond "just because". It's simple recitation. You can tell that the person has never truly considered what he/she believes, or why, but just believes so because they were taught so by mom, dad, Father Flynn, or whomever else. That's what I love about this spot; everyone has an automatic reaction to they way they feel about abortion, simply because it's against Catholic doctrine. But when asked to consider the morality of the issue, they're stumped!

Granted, this spot was probably edited to emphasize the point, but I can't imagine that this attitude is rare in Brazil or other Latin American countries. It's crazy! Especially considering the Brazilian government's commitment to health and relatively good health indicators. And the way they've managed the HIV epidemic is laudable. It's sad how religion trumps health/human rights. Those minor details.

ANYWAY. Please check out the channel for other videos and promotions. A treasure trove at your fingertips!

*(Clip also available in Spanish!)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Coming Out: I'm An Abortioneer

I've been doing this work for many years, but I'm still not at the place where I "out" myself as an Abortioneer to everyone in my life, all the time. And I'll admit: sometimes I feel guilty about not doing so. Sometimes I analyze myself, trying to figure out why I don't tell everyone; why I don't add certain people from my past on my Facebook; why I block access to my profile to even others on Facebook; why I don't just openly answer the question, "where do you work?" when anyone asks.

I'm proud to do this work. At the same time, I'm very aware there are some extreme "pro-life" freakazoids out there that feel so strongly about abortion, that they'd quite happily make sure we're (all Abortioneers) wiped off the face of the planet. I happen to live in a conservative place and I just don't know what I'm going to encounter at any point in time when I "come out." Still, I mostly have positive experiences when I say where I work. (Positive = no jeering or creepy stares like "I'm gonna get you" or big abortion debate.)

Recently, I spent time with a friend whom I've known for nearly 20 years. It became evident that I pretty much had only told him about the family planning and STI services at our clinic. When I was complaining about our protesters, he was incredibly confused. Certainly, throughout the 20 years of our friendship, I must've - somewhere - somehow actually TOLD him we did abortions! I HAD NOT! I was a bit mortified. (With myself.) So I came out. "We do abortions," I said. Not too shell shocked, he just said, "I thought you took care of infections here." I said we did and that was true. Slightly desperate, I asked, "Haven't I told you before? I've really never told you? Straight out?" Blank stare, "Nope." This friend and I had grown up in the same church, the same religion. I was a bit worried it might be the end of the road in our friendship, to be honest. Instead, as he sat in my office and eyed a sample Nuva Ring, he was just like,"Um. What's THAT?" So I explained. Then he saw our pretty basket which holds our abortion instruments to show women when telling them about the procedure. "What are those?" I explained. And I became keenly aware that Abortioneers' office spaces are *not* typical office spaces! Next, a barrage of abortion questions: how far along can you go; what's legal in the US; how is it done; how often do you do them; are you doing them right now; how many a week do you do? I was shocked. He wasn't mad. I think he's still my friend.

I know I just need to get over myself and be more open, generally, about my work, despite living in a conservative community. Or maybe I don't. I'm still not sure. I suspect I'm not the only person out there that sometimes experiences trepidation when outting themselves as an Abortioneer. Maybe you can share some of your thoughts, stories?

Monday, June 14, 2010


Antis, even you can admit that this is out of line.

Teacher Fired for Premarital Sex.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Case of the Minor

I would like to piggy back off of Revolutionary Vagina's last post about the young girl who self-induced an abortion using a lead pencil. An article about this was posted on, and contains several false and just plain ridiculous claims.

I am sure this story probably has most people wanting to vomit and cry at the same time as their hearts break for this little girl. I would also guess however that many of those same people would not even bat an eye if her method of killing her child had been a RU 486 prescription from the local Planned Parenthood. -Bryan Kemper, head of Stand True, a pro-life group

First of all, you cannot get the pill from Planned Parenthood to induce abortion after about 9 weeks. From the article, it sounds as if she was much much further along, but who really knows. If she was "delivering a baby," I would guess she had to been late second trimester. If she was that far along, wouldn't her parents have noticed? If she was in her first trimester, she wouldn't have delievered a "baby." She would have bled a lot. Kemper makes it sound like you can just take the pill at 25 weeks and boom you're done. Totally not the case.

Secondly, if this young woman would have been able to go to Planned Parenthood to get her abortion pill prescription, she would have had an interview with a counselor. Obviously, we cannot know if she would have told the truth to the counselor or not, but it would definitely have been in her best interest to talk to an adult about having an abortion before trying to perform one on herself. Thus it probably would have been GOOD for her to go to Planned Parenthood.

It is also a very different thing to perform an abortion on yourself and then have your creepy older boyfriend bury the fetus in a ditch. That is just not normal. That is very sad, scary, and bizarre. Having an abortion in an abortion clinic is normal. It is safe. It is not dangerous. The risk of even minor complications is very, very low when an abortion is performed in a safe, sterile environment with trained medical professionals, like at a Planned Parenthood. So, yes, I would not bat an eye at that. If that makes me a monster, then you have a fucked up definition of what it means to be a monster.

Kemper also said, "I can also hear the spin now, 'this is why we need safe and legal abortion,' -- even though abortions are already legal and are supposed to prevent such self-induced abortions." This goes back to precisely what Revolutionary Vagina was talking about. Pennsylvania has parental consent laws. She obviously did not want to tell her parents. How come none of the anti-choicers want to talk about that? If she was able to go to a clinic she wouldn't have been in this situation. THAT is the problem. Further, she is thirteen years old. She is child. I can say at thirteen I was in no shape to be having sex, and definitely not sex with someone SEVENTEEN years older than me. Can we take a step back and ask, why was this thirteen year old doing this? Her boyfriend/partner/creeper said he had sex with her "hundreds" of times. How did this happen? It troubles me this happened so many times yet nobody seemed to be aware. Of course, teens can be very sneaky and do a good job hiding things from their parents, but she is thirteen! I find it hard to believe a thirteen year old could sucessfully pull that off unless she is some sort of smooth talking magical pixie with a unicorn.

My favorite quote of the article is "'If the girl had gone to Planned Parenthood he would probably still be raping her as I doubt they would have turned him in," Kemper explained."

It is true there are cases where Planned Parenthood staffers did not appropriately follow state rules and turn in a man who was engaging in an inappropriate relationship a minor. I think that is terrible. It is beyond messed up. I would prefer if everyone followed the rules about that. I do think that each staffer was trying to act in the best interest of the minor, even if the staffer might not have been in reality. Either way, it is ridiculous to assume that all Planned Parenthoods everywhere just let minors get raped all the time like it's no big deal, because that is definitely NOT the case. I have worked with plenty of clinics that have bent over backwards to get guys arrested who were doing that kind of stuff. Planned Parenthoods and clinics, for the vast majority of cases, DO follow the rules. And rapists get caught. Which is a good thing because they might otherwise have not.

How come anti-choicers don't want to talk about how clinics often get bad guys in trouble. Or that this girl, who could have died, and just went through something terribly traumatic, didn't have to go through that. She could have just had a regular, safe abortion. It wouldn't have been the horrifying experience of shoving a pencil into your own uterus and then becoming violently ill and having to have your boyfriend who is not a doctor deliver your dead baby for you and then take it and bury it in a ditch. The fact she had to go through that is so fucked up. If she had access to a clinic, she would have been able to have an abortion with a doctor who knows what he/she is doing and with counselors who are trained to talk to her about her decision. A fucking sad state of affairs. Perfect example of what parental consent laws are dangerous.

Also -- if anyone stumbled upon this page by googling the story of the girl who used the pencil, and is thinking of using a pencil or anything to self abort. PLEASE DO NOT DO IT. Self aborting is very dangerous and often leads to at minimum serious complications and even death. If you have questions about where to go please see the National Abortion Federation's list of clinics or contact your local Planned Parenthood for a place in your area.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Restricting Abortion

I am so tired of the many abortion restrictions happening throughout the country right now. New ultrasound laws, parental notification/consent laws - all these do is hurt women who have already experienced a lot of pain. They don't stop someone who really wants an abortion from getting one. They just cause her to go through more trauma.

By now you all may have already heard the story of a 13-year old from Pennsylvania who tried to self abort with a pencil. This girl, impregnated by her 30-year old boyfriend chose to risk her life in order to end her pregnancy. Why did she do this to herself? Pennsylvania has a parental consent law. In order for this girl to have had a safe abortion, she would have had to get the consent of one of her legal guardians. Why wouldn't she talk to her parents? Well, she's 13 and was having a relationship with a 30-year old. Now, of course I don't condone the relationship those two had, and who knows what kind of control this man had this girl under. The fact is, she was afraid of being found out, so she inserted a pencil into her vagina, hoping to give herself an abortion, and ended up miscarrying. Why are these laws continuing to be created? Why do people think these laws are a good idea? This story shows that if someone wants an abortion, they will find a way do it and possibly hurt or kill themselves in the process. It makes me angry.

Some light in this bleak scene can come from unlikely sources. In Florida, Governor Crist appears likely to veto a law that would require all women seeking an abortion in the state of Florida to get an ultrasound. He made the following statement to the Pensacola News Journal.
"I have concerns about it," he said. "The notion that there would be a forced ultrasound, if you will, that would have to be paid for by the woman involved — you know, those are the things that seem to be pretty difficult for a woman already in a difficult situation."
Wow. I am amazed to hear a politician say this, and a Republican at that. Could there be hope?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Whatever You Need

Don't Ask Because I Won't Tell

When I'm Ready,
I'll tell.
But for now,
please don't ask.

By Chris Cotrina, from a multicultural queer youth anthology Revolutionary Voices

A friend of mine had an abortion in almost complete secrecy. She didn't tell me or pretty much anyone. There was a moment when I wished she had felt comfortable confiding in me given my line of work. However, I know that her experience of making the choice to have an abortion was not about me. If she needed almost total privacy, I wanted her to have what she needed.

I have had 2 good friends and an older aunt express a sense of regret after their abortions. Those same women have expressed complete releif and gratitude that their life took paths that would have been impossible had they carried that pregnancy to term. I beleive each woman is entitled to feel whatever she needs to feel before, during, and after her abortion. Its hard because the anti-abortion sect often uses media outlets to make women think they *should* feel guilty. Each time my sisters have expressed regret I try to stand with them and tell them thats ok. I also try to help them move to a place of peace. I'm really thankful there are organizations like Exhale who offer post-abortion counseling that is not weighted by the demonization of women who choose to have abortions.

There is no "right" way to feel during or after an abortion. I wish we lived in a world where women could receive whatever kind of emotional support and care they needed before, during, and after choosing to have an abortion.

Want to talk about black women and abortion? Here, have some facts. (Or, I Can't Believe We Have To Say This Again.)

Edit 2: I made a couple late-night errors (swapping "birth rate" for "pregnancy rate" and writing 180% when I meant 87%) which have now been fixed, at lines marked with **. Thanks to @mjbyars for prompting a re-check. 

Hey everyone, happy Monday! How was your weekend? Mine was great, except then I read about something stupid. So, remember those Atlanta billboards reading "BLACK BABIES ARE AN ENDANGERED SPECIES"? The ones that caught the attention of the nation for being so fucking dumb and offensive?

Apparently, the first round of ads were "so well received" that the Radiance Foundation and Georgia Right to Life have decided to roll out Phase 2, namely, Operation Yet More Offensive Billboards!

You know, "Black and Unwanted" is the kind of slogan that should accompany a campaign against employment discrimination, or racially-biased adoption practices*. Do these valiant anti-racist crusaders really want to waste a good catchphrase on fallacious insinuations that black women have abortions because they don't want their children to be black? The claim is absurd.

As Anti-Anti wrote last week, people who make this argument are also making a number of inaccurate and offensive errors. Most clearly, they're saying that by having reproductive rights, black women are colluding with racists to harm "black people" (which i suppose really leaves only black men). Or that they are harming themselves, too, and that someone else knows how best to handle their lives and particular situations. There's lots of wrongheaded stuff in their position, in terms of philosophy and rights, all of which were said before; but for a fun change why don't we take a look at its factual underpinnings this go-round?

Yes, let's talk real-live, grownup statistics for a minute. The Radiance Foundation's website claims its work is needed because of the fact that 13.5% of the US population is black, yet 38.5% of the abortion-having population is black. So black women have abortions disproportionately; fair enough! But they omit several other statistics that add a lot more complexity to the situation. I even made you some pictures, so have a look:

-13.5% of the US population is black, yet 21% of the pregnancy-having population is black.

-13.5% of the US population is black, yet 30.9% of the unintended-pregnancy-having population is black.

-13.5% of the US population is black, yet 26.6% of the unintended-birth-having population is black.

-Among women facing an unintended pregnancy, 60% of black women had an abortion, compared to 50% of white women, which is not necessarily a huge difference (I couldn't calculate statistical significance from the figures available):

-Among women who gave birth, black women were 1.87 times as likely (87% likelier)** to consider the birth unintended compared to white women:

-Black women have both a higher total pregnancy rate (1.65 times as high, or 65% higher) and a higher unintended pregnancy rate** (2.79 times as high, or 179% higher) than do white women. Their intended pregnancy rate is 20% lower:

And here's a view of the overall distribution of pregnancy outcomes by race (excluding miscarriages since I didn't have that info -- though black women are at higher risk for miscarriages than white women, something like twice as much [!], so it'd be nice to get miscarriage data too for completion's sake):

So you know, I calculated all these figures using data from a 1998 Guttmacher spreadsheet, simply because it was something I already have on my computer, but today's rates and proportions are similar. (I've been having internet connection problems, but if I can get the latest data sometime this week, I'll update this post.)

The fact is, although black women have more abortions on average than white women, they also bear more children on average than white women. PLUS, they also carry more unintended pregnancies to term on average than white women do. So...maybe black women are actually extremely pro-baby!

Or -- and this is just a crazy thought, I mean really it could be anything else, it could be that black women are stupid and slutty and hate black babies and enjoy seeking abortions, it could be that Zombie Poltergeist Anthony Comstock is flushing black women's pills down the toilet, but let's just consider this idea for one moment -- maybe black women have less power on average to control their own reproductive destinies than white women do. (Maybe it's related to having worse access to safe and reliable methods of birth control, maybe it's related to being more at risk for sexual coercion, maybe it's related to having diminished resources and external support for raising a family, maybe you should have done your homework and included these on your website.) And maybe (just bear with me here), maybe THAT'S a symptom of racism that everyone should be billboarding against. Fuckers.

Edited this morning because I had more to say (if you don't want to see me ranting, pretend that was the end of the post):

About six months ago, the Radiance Foundation's website even claimed that "14 out of 14 clinics in Georgia are located in majority-black neighborhoods," which they must have gotten by counting up 14 clinics in majority-black neighborhoods and then stopping at 14, because the implied truth (that the same goes for 100% of the state's clinics) is categorically untrue and I can disprove it in a heartbeat. But I can't find it on the website anymore, and it's been replaced by less categorical sentences like this one: "The majority of Georgia’s abortion clinics are located in urban areas where blacks reside, which reflects the national trend (94% of all abortion clinics are located in urban areas)." This "accusation" strikes me as hilarious: do they think clinics should be located only in suburban areas? Or only in whatever urban areas are home to no black people? No shit you're going to locate your clinic in a place where many people need access to a clinic, like maybe a densely populated area! It would be fucking unjust to do otherwise. (And that's why we need clinics in the country AND the city. And in the suburbs too, of course.)

Then they say some bullshit about how therefore, the Guttmacher Institute and the rest of us are lying when we claim there's a disparity in access -- the clinic is right down the street, you'd have to be stupid not to be able to "access" it! Har har. Then they say it's "intellectually insulting" to say that women have a hard time affording birth control, since they have "more than enough money to pay the $400-5000 for an abortion."

Fuck them. Fuck them fuck them fuck them. I dare them to spend a day observing the calls that come in to an abortion fund's hotline, stories about how you're pregnant because you couldn't not buy diapers for your baby girl and you thought maybe for one month you could get her dad to wear condoms when he came around. Or whatever. Shit that people shouldn't have to deal with. Fucking Radiance Foundation and Georgia Right to Life think that just because they've got one biracial man in their midst who was lucky enough to be adopted and survive into (presumably) a healthy adult, they know just how everyone else's life is. Fuck them for not even taking the time to truly listen to people who aren't just like them. Speaking of which, here's the first news report I've seen about the new ads. It actually interviews a real live black woman who isn't on the payroll of fucking Georgia Right to Life. They should try that!

*Actually, I think there's a lot of complexity that gets erased when people talk about adoption practices, including when some pro-choicers say that antis "should adopt black children languishing in foster care" if they are so gung-ho about adoption. (A) it would suck for a kid to get adopted by an anti just to prove they were totes anti-choice enough; and (B) the majority of families in a financial position to formally adopt are white, and transracial adoption can be extremely difficult for adoptees; and also (C) it's really not as simple as whisking away a foster kid and calling him yours, or at least it shouldn't be. For a much more comprehensive perspective on this thorny issue, you can start at Harriet Jacobs' blog.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

You know what also stops a beating heart? Murder.

This past Sunday, I was driving home to spend Memorial Day with my family, my handbag on the seat beside me with a Dr. Tiller memorial button pinned to it. I wear the button daily, when I go to work at the clinic and even when I end up in the rural south for whatever reason (When I'm in the rural south, I wear it just as proudly, but I steel myself.), but on Sunday, I wore the button differently, anticipating, dreading the first anniversary of Dr. Tiller's death on Memorial Day, itself.

Heading home to the family that doesn't need to be reminded of what day May 31st will always be, to the family that has never made choice seem like anything but a fact of life, to the family that is a safe haven, I passed under an enormous billboard on the side of the interstate that featured a woman covering her face in anguish. Next to her image, in yellow, the words, "1 DEAD, 1 WOUNDED." Maybe there was a website or a phone number, too, but I didn't need more details to know what it was all about. I raised my middle finger at the billboard ineffectually, and I felt good about the work I do, thankful that flipping off an inanimate object isn't all I can do.

And in my mind, I replaced the anguished woman's face with my own and with my co-workers' and with my co-bloggers' and with all the allies of choice and with the faces of the women who have had abortions and who aren't sorry. In my version, the woman has a cartoon-style thought bubble with Dr. Tiller's face in it. The caption is still there, but it reads, "1 DEAD, MILLIONS WOUNDED." Let me show the world how to appropriate that language, and let me show what it is to be wounded. Let me fight in the REAL war on terror. Let us all show what it is to be wounded and to carry on a legacy and to work harder than ever.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Psycho Babble

Why pro-life? Because black children deserve to eat pizza!

You know what's boring? The whole black genocide conspiracy theory. It's hardly worth talking about, except as a person of color I feel obligated to defend against such ludicrous proselytizing. I don't understand how blacks, by and large, can support affirmative action on the premise that black folks in this country need a leg up, but are horrified that there are minority funds for abortion care.


If poor black women should not be allowed funding for abortions, neither should they be allowed funding for higher education. But heaven forbid the NAACP should stop providing scholarships, or HBCUs recruit non-black students. All hell would break loose. But if you fund an abortion for a poor black woman such that she can actually attend school, you call black babies an endangered species. Stupid.

I have pretty much come to terms with the fact that I went to a pretentious school on a hefty grant only because I checked a certain box on my application, and because the historically white institution wanted to shake things up a bit. I get that, yet it doesn't anger me. Because I have a funny sounding name, and because I went to a public school, and because I never studied Latin or ancient philosophy, most elites are wont to turn up their noses. But I was given a chance to see and do things that I had never done before, all because a nice group of white folks wrote a little mutt from Nowhere, USA, a check.

I wonder how pervasive this movement is. Not very, at least in my neck of the woods. Seems like a kooky southern/rural thing to me. But if this thing starts making serious progress on the anti front, it might indicate a poor outreach mechanism in black communities. Who knows. Do you think a change in strategy is in order?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I’m grateful for vulva flower’s post yesterday, on Memorial Day, reminding us to remember the man who served so many women, yet lost his life simply because he trusted women to make the best choices for themselves. In the past several days, many different sites have dedicated blogs to Dr. Tiller. He cannot be forgotten, will not be forgotten, and his legacy lives on.

No one can fill Dr. Tiller’s shoes; yet aren’t we all fortunate that many providers have stepped-up to fill some of the gap that was left behind? Dr. Carhart is amazing. He is now constantly under the microscope and also endures dangerous threats from antis. Dr. Hern continues to work tirelessly. So do many other compassionate physicians who care deeply for women and their struggles. They are heroes. They carry on despite the fright that domestic terrorists throw upon them. Sometimes, I wish clients knew just how much these physicians put on the line for them; just like Placenta Sandwich mentioned in this post, it seems so many people just don’t get how much danger providers are in.

Yet despite danger, they continue doing this work. They continue to be brave in all things. Their heads held high, tall. Dignity and integrity fully in check. For many, when they choose do provide abortions, they also put their families at risk. I keep thinking about Dr. Tiller’s family. His wife, Jeanne. His children. His grandchildren. His dear, close friends both in and outside the abortion world. Oh, how they, too, must be missing him. I hope they know all the abortioneers out there are grateful to Dr. Tiller and to his family. It probably wouldn’t be surprising if at some point, his loved ones asked him to stop providing abortions. I don’t know if they ever did or not; I can only speak from personal experience (where I haven’t even come minutely close to the types of anti activity he and others faced, and my family wanted me to quit). If loved ones had requested this of him, it must’ve been difficult to explain to them why he wouldn’t stop helping women. It must’ve been hard for his loved ones. I hope they, too, know, we think of them.

We also think of all those who were murdered in the 1990s. Dr. Slepian. Dr. Gunn. Officer Sanderson. Brookline. Dr. Britton. So, to all of you. We remember you. We thank you. We thank your families. Ani DiFranco sings it best.