Thursday, September 27, 2012

Guest Post: An Abortion Love Story

Please give a warm bloggy welcome to Rebecca, a fellow abortioneer who’s agreed to spin us a MOTA (mates of the abortioneers) romance for the ages. Consider this Chapter I of the story of Rebecca and her husband C. I can't wait to read more. 

I can’t remember how I first told him I worked at an abortion clinic. We met online, which was sort-of new territory 10 years ago. I had this rule that I wouldn’t meet anyone in person unless they were pro-choice. We’d talk online and on the phone, I’d gauge how liberal they were, ask lots of leading questions, then pop the big one: “are you pro-choice?”

Even if a guy told me he was pro-choice, I’d still wonder how pro-choice he was. Wonder if he was pro-choice enough to handle me working at a clinic. So I’m sure C and I had an initial discussion about abortion, but I doubt I immediately told him I worked at the clinic.

Isn't it strange that I don't remember the first time I mentioned my abortion work to my husband? I must've told him very soon after meeting him, though, because he came home with me the first day we met...and I had clinic the following day! Ha.

Here’s something interesting. I just asked C if he remembered when I “outed” myself to him about working in a clinic. He doesn’t. He thinks that tells a lot about his feelings/thoughts about abortion: it wasn’t a big deal to him, he just admired the work.

He also wants me to point out that he wasn’t exactly a typical guy (that’s for sure!). He’s not American, and he had been doing overseas development work in emergency situations. So he was aware of the consequences of unsafe abortion in developing countries. Providing safe abortion, from his perspective, was a no-brainer. He remembers we did discuss my interest in women’s global rights and health, so that all tied in to the big abortion reveal convo…Which wasn’t a big deal after all.

So, C was traveling around the USA when we met. He had been on the Afghan/Pakistan border during 9/11 and got a little burned out from doing aid work. He wanted to be in a country with smooth pavement, clean water, and good food. Within a week of arriving in the States, he was hanging out at my house.

One evening, I came home from a long day at clinic, feeling exhausted. It was one of those days where you felt emotionally drained afterwards. Well, more than usual. We were having protester issues, to complicate matters. I couldn’t wait to open my apartment door, get a huge mug of tea, and fill up the bathtub. This was my ritual: soak in the bath for ages, read a book, then make phone calls from the tub and talk. I lived alone and it's how I relaxed after work, decompressed from work. How I tried to leave work at work.

So that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t stop to hang out, say hello, or have a chat with C. Just went straight into the bathroom to run the bath. C didn’t know me well enough to realize this was my usual routine. And I didn’t realize it needed explaining!

You can see where this is going.

C was left wondering if he had upset me, had overstayed his welcome – if I was sick of him being around. It made him very uncomfortable and he asked if I wanted him to leave!

That wasn’t the case at all, of course. But I realized I had to communicate about my needs, about how I had to take care of myself, especially after a really stressful clinic day. Obviously this work can be very stressful at times. I had to learn to become aware of my ways of taking care of myself and how they might impact my partner. That was new for me, and a first step in the gradual intertwining of our lives.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Army of One

In the wake of all this anti-woman sentiment that’s been blowing around the last few years, the public has started to take notice of the plight of enlisted women in the armed forces. Entrenched in a nearly all-male environment, women have been victims of discrimination and violence since they were first allowed to serve during WWII. Women have not been allowed to fight in combat with men; they do not receive coverage for abortion under military health plans, nor can they receive abortion services in military health facilities. Most egregiously, they are frequent targets of sexual  violence by officers and fellow enlistees. I take that back; the worst part of all is that complaints of sexual violence are rarely taken seriously, assuming a complaint is made in the first place. Most cases go unreported, for fear of retaliation or punishment. 

That’s right. In the US Armed Forces, you can be punished for being raped. It sounds like something that might happen somewhere far away, like the woman from Morocco who killed herself after being forced to marry her rapist. But nope. This is happening right here at home. It would surprise me, but little does these days. 

I first learned about this phenomenon a few years ago watching The Coathanger Project, in which a former soldier told her story of being dishonorably discharged for having sex and then attempting an abortion. More recently, I watched The Invisible War, a documentary about women enlistees (and some men) who were raped, even drugged and beaten, and received no help from those in charge. They were slut-shamed, victim-blamed, or plain told to suck it up. When a group of victims brought a lawsuit against the military for mistreatment of them and their cases, it was dismissed on the grounds that sexual assault is an occupational hazard of being enlisted. 

Gag me with a spoon. 

If you haven’t seen the film, DO. I can’t remember the last time  I was so angry, so if you’re interested in draining yourself emotionally it’ll do the trick. One issue that wasn’t addressed in the film was the what happened to those who became pregnant as a result of rape (which can happen!). As we know, you can’t get an abortion with military funds or in military facilities, so I’m sure those people have quite interesting (and horrific) stories to tell. But I suppose that would become a six hour movie. 

You know, I’ve gotten lots of flack in my life for not loving my country as I should. For threatening to move to Canada if Bush was elected. For not buying that the military has anything to do with protecting my freedom. For hating American flag  and “Support our Troops” bumper stickers. For questioning why our defense budget is out of this world but we can't feed the poor. For not identifying as a patriot, because being a patriot these days apparently means toting a gun, driving a big car, and popping off firecrackers in a South Carolina rest stop in a "USMC" t-shirt. But the reason I don't love my country as I should is because, call me crazy, I believe in an America where women are treated as equals. Where they can fight alongside their brothers without fear of incest. Where they can love their country so much that they'll die for it without feeling unsafe around the people who supposedly keep us safe. Support our troops? Not as long as they're raping our other troops.

 Look, I have lots of thoughts on this, but sadly I don't really know what I can do except stand together with victims and support reform in the military. I think some minor changes are happening (better moves than these god-awful posters, and these, and these), but I'm pessimistic that nothing will change on a large scale until misogynistic looneys are six feet under. I guess I just want to raise awareness, and give readers the opportunity to learn and pass on their learnings to others. Talk about it, make sure that people understand why this is such a problem. And pray not only for our troops, but for the sad, angry place this country has become in hopes of REAL security and freedom. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

AB Playlist

You, know, there’s some good stuff coming out on the music scene about abortion right now. Good timing. Necessary timing.  Sadly, there’s still a need for timing in all this.

But, while we’re still fighting all this misogyny that I ranted about here, the least we can do is soothe ourselves with a music balm.

A previously unreleased Michael Jackson song, The Abortion Papers, has been discovered. You can read about it here in the  Atlantic.  I love what MJ had to say about the piece: 
"I have to do it in a way so I don't offend girls who have gotten abortions or bring back guilt trips so it has to be done carefully....I have to really think about it."
side note: did you just read that in MJ's voice? Oh, good. I'm not the only one! Whew! Moving on...

I love that he realized abortion can be complicated. That the reasons surrounding the decision to choose abortion are often complicated.  Love him for that.  You can hear a little snippet of the song on snippet.

A quirky, fun, and danceable song “Won’t Go Back” has gone viral onYouTube. Haven’t seen it yet? Oh, please check it out It will really put you in a good mood. I promise. WE LOVE THEM!

But one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard on abortion is from Digable Planet.   Nothing else needs to be said. They said it all.  It’s encouraging. It’s empowering. It tells women that no matter the choice they make, feel pride.  Be proud.  It’s full of love. 

It needs to be played over and over and over and over.  I wish my clinic streamed it through their speakers. 

The lyrics, the lyrics, the lyrics. Here. It's poetry. 

And...these guys need to get back together and TOUR THIS SONG. FOR REAL. 

Digable Planet: hear us? Please, please, please re-release this song. Before the elections. Thank you.

All this made me think about the need for an abortion playlist. I found only a few lists out there on the subject. I came up with one here over a year ago - but it was a playlist I hoped clients would play for themselves. Sarah, a blogger on Feminists for Choice, came up with a great list. Of course, Ani DiFranco (thank goodness for her!) is mentioned: Hello Birmingham and Last Woman Song

One of the things you're gonna notice is a lot of these songs are not current. We're talking the 70's, the 80's, the 90's. And we're STILL TALKING ABOUT THIS SHIT. These songs are relevant NOW. And just wrong.

 Here’s a list of others with links to YouTube videos:
  • Tiptoe, Ani DiFranco (antipicate/tiptoe mix: great video! please wait til the end where she does her spoken word bit. it's amazing.)
  • When Under Ether, PJ Harvey  You may not know of PJ Harvey: I don't think she's too popular in the US yet; but this song is clearly about an abortion + it's powerful. Lyrics here.
  • Red Ragtop, Tim McGraw *it’s neither really pro-choice or anti-choice, but I put it here b/c it’s good the country music scene has at least two songs that aren’t anti abortion.*  Also - this is an acoustic video by the songwriter, Jason White. It's beautiful.
  • Nine Month Blues, by Peggy Seeger *sadly, no YouTube video, but you can listen to a bit of it at the link*
  • Judge’s Chair, Peggy Seeger *about a girl who can't get a judicial bypass. No YouTube video, but you can check out the lyrics at the link.*
  • Oasis, by Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls *she's been ridiculed for writing music in such a 'happy beat' way about a rape that caused a pregnancy which was terminated. But, come on. Sarcasm. Hello! Also, the lyrics are not all happy-go-lucky. Please, please, please, please read this AWESOME article she wrote for the Huffington Post about her song.

Enjoy. Pass along. Think about. 

Oh, and Digable Planets? I was serious.  We need you.