Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Mississippi Personhood Amendment

Next week, Mississippi voters will be voting on Amendment 26. If passed, a fertilized human egg will be considered a legal person, thus making abortion (and some forms of birth control and miscarriage) murder.

The Personhood strategy goes back to 2008, when Colorado citizens attempted twice to enact similar laws, both of which failed miserably. Colorado is much more liberal than Mississippi, though I guess pretty much any state is more liberal than Mississippi.

Should this pass, and it does seem like it will, this promises to be big trouble for women. Not only because it will like fire up the base and states like Florida, Ohio, and South Dakota have similar movements happening, but because it will reframe the debate to "birth control isn't abortion," away from the core message that women have the right to have abortions.

Yikes. Additionally, there is no exception for rape and incest victims. On Amendment 26's website, they have a "What about rape?" section, and it is simply a link to Rebecca Kiessling's website. Her mother was raped. Because Rebecca is alive and glad about it, this is somehow supposed to imply that all women who are raped should be forced to carry the pregnancy to term, go through the excruciating pain of labor, pay for all the medical costs associated with pregnancy and labor, and then have a baby and pay for all childcare costs as well. The fact that Amendment 26 couldn't even bother to create a separate page to address the concerns of rape victims (and incest cases were completely ignored) illustrates how blatantly they disregard women and others in general. Their view is so narrow and slanted that they are incapable of offering compassion or caring for a woman who has gone through a horrible experience. You cannot say that every case of rape is exactly the same and each woman will want/need the same thing. You just can't.

And then there is the whole birth control thing. Under this amendment, using birth control, the IUD, emergency contraception, and having a miscarriage would all be forms of murder. This is very problematic, obviously, because if having an abortion is murder, then women are going to want to be extra sure to not get pregnant. Yet many common ways to avoid getting pregnant would be classified as "abortion" under this amendment. WTF? Amendment 26's birth control page, "How does Amendment 26 impact birth controll (sic) & bioethics" appears to be all about cloning and IVF, with no mention of how OCPs or the IUD would be impacted by this bill. Again, WTF? I can only assume their complete dismissal of this is because they realize there is no way they can really say that birth control won't be illegal under the amendment.

As for the miscarriage issue, all they say is, "The Personhood Amendment would prevent the intentional taking of a life, but it would not adress (sic) miscarriage."


As we have talked about before, the vast majority of abortions occur before 12 weeks. I know it's a little gross, but if you have a person look at the pregnancy tissue of a nine week old pregnancy and then a 5 year old, and then said, okay -- the tissue or the child has to die -- pick one, most people would pick the tissue. That is because the tissue is NOT the same thing as the child. I know some people believe they are, but my point in this example is that when it comes down to it I don't think most people really think they are the exact same thing. Which is why, until this point, personhood bills have failed so badly. Is a woman who has a miscarriage, a totally natural process out of her control, a murderer? No. And is someone who takes birth control pills killing a baby everyday? Is a woman who has an IUD in killing babies too? NO EFFING WAY. Is someone who has IVF killing a baby if the first egg doesn't take? No. If someone was raped by her father and takes the morning after pill the next day murdering a baby? NO. It's not the same thing. So stop acting like it is.

/end rant

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Telling Dad About My Abortion...Almost!

Sometimes it’s hard to come out as an abortioneer. We know that. And sometimes it can even be hard coming out to family. I never kept my abortioneering work a secret from my immediate family, but I still haven’t told my dad about my abortion. Okay, you’re probably wondering why I am worried about it or care about telling my parent. I mean, I don’t owe it to him or anything. I was in my 20’s when it happened. It’s not part of my job description as his daughter to let him know many years later, “Hey, dad, remember the time I dated that total asshole? You know, the one you hated? Yeah. Yeah. THAT one. Oh, no! Not THAT one, the OTHER one you hated. Well, errr, - uh – yeah, I had an abortion.” Shock and awe!

The thing is: I keep few secrets from my dad. We’re close. Despite this, he hasn’t ever been super supportive of my work or of abortion. He even calls the clinic “the gut and suck.” I’ve heard equally snide comments over of the years about women who have them, the procedure, you get the point; so, when we went to a poetry slam a couple weeks ago where Lauren Zuniga performed “To the Oklahoma Lawmakers,” I was nervous. (Seriously everyone, if you don’t know who she is, you need to.) I’ve mentioned her before to you all, but if you love her like I do, you can never tire of watching her. So, for some ear, eye, and heart candy, here you go.

Though I believe art can be a platform to share ideas and even transform beliefs – if not just challenge them – I was scared about my dad hearing this poem. I shifted in my seat, scratched my neck, and worried he would make another dismissive remark about abortion (which, of course, I take a little personally). Instead, during our drive home, he told me that “To the Oklahoma Lawmakers” was his favorite poem and performance; when pressed, he said it was because “everything she said was true.” I really couldn’t believe it. In fact, I said: “Who are you and what have you done with my dad?!” For the first time in over ten years of my work as an abortioneer, my dad and I spoke honestly and openly about abortion. For the first time in over ten years, I felt he finally got it. Finally understood the humanity behind abortion. Finally got ME. And for the first time in many years, I felt like I might actually be able to share with him that I had an abortion (without being judged) – not for me, really (not in the sense that I need to share my experience) – but so that he can further understand, put a face to, abortion and let loose of stereotypes. Judgment.

All I know is I am grateful for art. For poetry. For spoken word. I will never be able to stop being grateful to Lauren Zuniga. I feel I owe her. And I hope she reads this. Art can transform you. It can transform relationships. Miraculous? Yes. Proof? Dad doesn’t call the clinic “the gut and suck” anymore. And I think sometime soon, we’ll talk abortion again.

P.S. If you want to watch more of Lauren Zuniga, check her out here on YouTube.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Jury duty, or the time my bubble burst

I love living in a bubble of things and places and people that make me happy and comfortable and supported. There is a reason I live in a large metropolitan city, a reason why I mostly hang out with fellow feminist progressives, and a reason why I choose to eat in vegan restaurants. I love being surrounded by people who think/act/work/play just like me. We all like this to some degree, right? While I know my time could be well spent (or not?) getting to know some anti's and trying to convert them, it's just much more enjoyable to be surrounded with pro-choicers. I am privileged enough to live in this bubble and have access to a community that is in sync with my views.

Enter jury duty. I had jury duty a few weeks ago and my bubble was shattered. Yes, even in my beloved liberal city I was faced with a slew of individuals who were very different from me. I won't go into details about the trial, but throughout the process I witnessed many examples of misogyny. I left this experience feeling quite sad about this random sample of my city and what it represented.

I know that for things to ever change (abortion rights, lgbt rights, racism, environment, etc) we need to get out of our bubbles...I would love to hear other people's thoughts on this. How do we survive outside of our bubbles? How do we nurture ourselves when it can be so hostile out "there"???

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pie in the Sky

Sometimes, just to feel people out, I ask, "How do you feel about repeat abortions?" Some people will answer, "One is OK, but more than that is just irresponsible," which I may use as a teaching opportunity, or I might just walk away. It depends on my mood. But one person answered, "It's an expensive type of birth control, but if that's a woman's preference, that's fine with me." That counted as a good answer. Abortions aren't cheap, especially when they aren't covered by insurance. Since the economy has gone downhill, I've seen more and more prospective clients decide to continue the pregnancy because they look at 18+ years' worth of expenses for a kid as paying in installments when a few grand for an abortion is out of the question right here, right now. It sounds preposterous, and it is, but the blame doesn't exactly fall squarely on the shoulders of the pregnant woman.

Mostly, I blame the political climate and the plethora of abortion stigma along with the lack of abortion funding, to say little of sex ed. But I had a whole new perspective when I told an abortion client the cost of the IUD she was interested in--the IUD that had minimal side effects, that would prevent pregnancy for up to five years, that had little room for user error, and the same efficacy as a tubal ligation, and yet, it would be completely reversible at any time. In short the IUD that could be the answer to all of her problems. This client had just paid around $500 for her abortion, and the IUD runs around $800. "Wow," she responded, "So, an IUD costs more than abortion, huh? I'll just try going back on the pill."

The ball's in your court now, pharmaceutical companies. We are the 99%, and we need some decent birth control, too.

Post script: I Googled "diamond IUD" because that would be the best image ever for this post. I'm disappointed that it does not exist. YET.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Newest Anti Craze: Fetal Heartbeat Laws

We all know the antis are constantly trying to push through new laws to restrict abortion, from parental involvement to laws regarding the size and space in and outside clinics. The newest area the antis have set their eyes on is fetal heartbeat. Fetal heartbeat bills, if passed, would actually make it mandatory for women to listen to the heartbeat (if detectable) before getting an abortion. Some of them even go further than that. In Ohio an anti group is trying to propose a law that would make abortion illegal once the heartbeat is detectable.

Can someone explain to me exactly what this would do, other than be terribly upsetting to many women? Do they think women are stupid? Do they think we don't know the fetus has a heartbeat, so we need to sit there and see it and listen to it? Do they think a woman going to have an abortion hasn't already put a lot of thought into what she's doing?

I swear these proposals treat women like ignorant children who need to be protected from themselves. These ultrasound and now fetal heartbeat proposals really irritate me. They aren't about counseling or informing women. They have no medical benefit to them at all. The point of them is to put up barriers and prevent women from seeking LEGAL health care.

These types of proposals really scare me and so do the people proposing them. It really worries me how antis are chipping away at our rights, our right to have control over our own bodies. This election season scares the crap out of me, and it should scare the crap out of you all too.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

If I occupy Wall Street will you stop trying to occupy my uterus?

What does Occupy Wall Street have to do with abortion? Nothing! Well, at least that’s what appears on the surface from my two visits down there. My first trip to Wall Street, and more specifically Zuccotti Park where the protesters have camped out, was the first week of the occupation. The crowds were thin and the media hadn’t really picked up on anything yet. My second visit was last Friday, when I visited ostensibly to participate in a Kol Nidre service, which occurs the night before Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. It was on this second and most recent visit where I saw the true force of Occupy Wall Street and what it had evolved into.

In the main area of the park there seems to be a fully operational and functional community of sorts. It has been advertised that protestors can access health services, a haircut, library, volunteer sign-up area, massages, life coaches, and a kitchen. Code Pink was down there with signs! There are signs about demanding universal healthcare. There are tons of women! So many signs! Signs with messages about every issue you could think of…except abortion. So where were the signs about abortion? Did I miss them?

How does abortion fit into this protest? Does it need to? Haven’t I said in the past that I see abortion EVERYWHERE??? So of course abortion has to fit in somewhere, right? Wall Street has to. Not only is this protest about the current state of our economy, government, and politics, but it is about dissent. So many of us who are involved in left-leaning issues have lacked adequate venues to SCREAM CHANT SWEAR SING DANCE VENT COMMUNE about what we’re feeling. As abortioneers, we often hold our feelings in and let them fester. I see Occupy Wall Street as a form of catharsis (at the least) and a significant potential for social change (at the most).

I also think there is potential for abortion to enter the dialogue at these protests. While they are parading around signs that say: “we are the 99%”, what about making some signs that reference “we are the 33%”, which is the percent of women who will have had an abortion by age 45?

Occupy Wall Street has spread to many cities and I’m curious if anyone has seen some awesome abortion or reproductive rights messages at your protests?

And then there are these condoms...

Side note: As you know “vegan” makes up half of this vegan vagina and I was overjoyed to see signs and messages supporting animal rights AND lots of vegan food being donated to those who have camped out. In fact, the protestors are ASKING for vegan/vegetarian food to be delivered!!!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sometimes I would rather write about butterflies, rainbows, and unicorns:

I resonate with About A Girl's post from Sunday. I often choose not to be the constant defender of abortion. I live my life, I choose to work in a field that I know has chosen me. I often do have conversations about abortion that offer folks perspective they may not have considered. At the same time, I refuse to take the whole world on in regards to abortion. Sometimes I just can't debate what is not debatable for me.

I have an uncle I have not spoken to since the day I told him where I work. A cousin of mine married a republic who is conservative on many fronts. One day he says to me, "so what did you major in during college?" I told him, "Soicology with a minor in Psych." His response was, "so you really aren't using your degree then?" Of coarse I very quickly told him that there was lots of sociology and psychology involved in my daily work duties. I chose not to tell him I also make more money then him because I have my degree.

I know that so often as abortioneers being the most devout abortionista means defending abortion every day. Personally I choose to defend abortion by helping make sure they are available to women in my community. I cannot take on the whole world on.

I understand that most of us who work professionally are passionate about our work. The work, life, politics, etc balance is tricky and very unique to each individual. I know I am fighting for choice each time I am in the procedure room or each time I assist a woman in accessing abortion care. Each person has to find a way to make their own footprint in the world!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Abortion Girl: To the Rescue!!

To delete or not to delete: that is the question. Ever wondered if you should delete someone as your friend on Facebook? Maybe because their political stance is so opposite to yours, you could wave to each other from the different poles (but wouldn’t want to)? Maybe because they’re totally anti?

Right, so there’s this girl who I accepted a friend request from on Facebook. We must’ve gone to high school together, but I honestly don’t remember her (which I feel guilty about). Recently, she posted one of those “repost if you feel the same way” stupid things, but it was all “Dear Mommy, don’t have an abortion.” Immediately, I wondered if I should delete her. By not deleting her, am I being a hypocrite? Not a real Abortioneer? Obviously, I could’ve stood up to her – and for all women who have abortions because surely, some of her other FB friends have had abortions (like me!) – and make a comment on it. I didn’t. Bad, bad Abortioneer, About a Girl. I felt guilty about that, too.

Since then, she’s posted things like, “I will not be forced to learn a foreign language to accommodate illegals in my country.” Yuck, right? Not cool. Clearly, she has dehumanized two groups of people – those who are undocumented in our country and women seeking abortions – and still, I haven’t said a word. Why?

Well, do you ever just wish you didn’t have to stand up for abortion all the time? I get sick of it. I get tired of putting my neck out there just to get it chopped off. By being an Abortioneer, did we also agree to wear the “I protect the freedom of choice” badge on our arm 24/7 for all to see? Are we all really meant to be fucking superheroes all the time? The “Defenders of Choice” On Their Way to Save the Day!!!!” (Maybe sporting a hot pink cape with a great big huge A on it. Abortion Girl to the rescue!!!) I’m tired of being Abortion Girl and I am tired of having to stand up all the time. (And don’t get me started on how pissed off it makes me that we even have to!) I’d like Facebook to be a place where we can all just get along and I can say hi to all my little friends and stalk pictures of their super cute kids. No harm in that right?

Well, I’ve now just posted a response to her anti statement. We’ll see if she replies. That will dictate if I delete her or not. She might even beat me to it. I guess, though, it kinda is our job to be the Abortion Girl.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

CHOICE begins at conception

A stereotype for many reasons.

TV commercials tell us that we should be thrilled when presented with a (blood) diamond from a dude down on one knee. Billboards instruct us to expect all of our problems will be solved after a Botox injection or two. Magazines remind us that we should be melancholy when we gain 5 pounds after a delicious, heretofore enjoyable Thanksgiving meal. In fact, in that publication vein, I wrote my senior thesis on the prescriptive nature of women's magazines, but it doesn't end there--Society as it relates to women is prescriptive. They will ask how we feel about everything, but then tell us how we should feel.

And although it doesn't involve Photoshop and fancy editorializing, the world is all about how we should feel about a pregnancy. How I would love to say that this is limited to the antis, loitering outside of clinics, harassing women about how evil they are for being so selfish for not wanting to be pregnant at this point in time. They do, of course, shoulder most of the blame, and they are certainly responsible for creating guilt instead of acknowledging it. After all, we Abortioneers typically steer away from talking in absolutes, understanding the wide spectrum of emotions following an abortion. But what about when we retrace our steps, walking back to the moment of a positive pregnancy test?

There have been so many times that I perform a pregnancy test at work for a young woman, anxious and alone at the clinic. When I see the second red line appear, my gut reaction is, "I have to tell her bad news." So I deliver the news with a straight, professional, nonjudgmental face, and that face is so often met with an exclamation of, "Oh my god, I'm so happy!" And for every time that scenario replays itself, there is a put-together professional woman in the clinic for a pregnancy test with her husband or partner. I subconsciously prepare myself to celebrate with them after I give the results, only to have her burst into tears, gasping, "This is horrible."

What made me more aware of this phenomenon of assumptions and directives is one of my best friend's recent pregnancy. I make it a point not to tell others' stories here because they are not mine to tell, but the point of this account is that her story is not mine (or anyone else's) to direct, either. Her pregnancy was incredibly planned, and I knew it was in the works. When she disclosed her expectant status, I screamed and hugged her, and she told me, "I'm scared. I'm not sure I'm 100% happy." And I hugged her again and made a bad joke about how she has until the third trimester to change her mind (she smiled), and I told her I understand, because I do. I understand that women and complex and brilliant and have every right to own their bodies and all of their feelings surrounding them.

My dear friend told me that even her other staunchly pro-choice friends have looked at her befuddled, saying, "Why aren't you happier?" As though choice is a straight line, a fluid action, a yes or no. I'm not prefect in my reactions, either, but in her honor, and in her baby's honor (or in her fetus' honor, if she chooses to call it that), I want to remind the world that women's choices aren't limited to the abortion clinic, and our respect for them does not end at our expectations.

Monday, October 3, 2011

35 Years of Suppression Should Not Go Unnoticed

Last Friday marked the 35th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment. You all probably know what it is, but for any that do not, the Hyde Amendment is a provision started by Former Congressman Henry Hyde that is added as an attachment to appropriations bills. This provision prohibits any federal funds from funding abortion services with exceptions for rape, incest, or danger to the life of the mother/pregnant person. In 1976 Henry Hyde proposed this amendment and Congress approved it in response to Roe v. Wade, and it has been reauthorized every year since.

There are many people that believe there is a war on the poor, and they are doing something about it. And you know what, I'm starting to think they might be on to something.

There is a problem with how how our political system treats the poor, uninsured, disenfranchised people in this country. We need to start a revolution. We need to make a plan to not let crotchety, conservative, windbags (and I'm looking at you Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin) rule our lives and the lives of all women. Let's show them that 35 years of the Hyde Amendment hasn't defeated us or weakened our resolve. Let's keep fighting until every woman has the option of exercising her freedom of choice.