The Obamas entered the White House and everyone danced pretty with a bohemian newness not yet felt as if we'd been sleeping for years. But then Abortion went to war and it was never a maypole, field day to begin with. A deranged man abandoned his family and killed our doctor so dozens of doctors expanded their specialty--the Hippocratic Oath lulling them to sleep at night and maybe women will have to set up lemonade stands to pay for their basic health care but abortion lives on.
You can tell us that you don't believe in it, that you'd never have one, that you're pro-choice but-, that we need to repent, that you pray for us, that there are alternatives. You can tell us we're wrong. You can make women register their abortions with an online database and teens cross state lines to not have babies. You can threaten us with bombs and tie-up our phones lines. You can video tape your appointment. You can talk shit in People magazine and on Bill O' Reilly.
Tell us abortion isn't health care and make it illegal.
2009 was a zig zag but in 2009 The Abortioneers were born and in 2010 we'll be born again.
I remember when I first came out as an atheist. It was generally anti-climactic; I had never believed in God, and so I had never hidden my atheism per se. If people asked, I told them. But the first time I actually made the declaration in public was a very personal victory. Even my best friend at the time, another staunch heathen, was too insecure or self-conscious or whatever to announce the same about herself. She did, however, give me a sneaky low five with a "you go girl!" glint in her eye. It remains one of the proudest moments of my life. I was 12 years old.
I caught Hell. One kid even gasped, like the coming-up-for-air-after-a-near-death-drowning kind. I'll never forget you did that, KJ!
Point is: It is impolite (to say the least) to question people's religious beliefs. ALWAYS. If somebody wants to start fussing and feuding with you, then I'll concede that you have the right to defend yourself. Fine. But at what point in the process of marching up to people AT RANDOM and telling them you'll pray for them or that Jesus loves them did you decide "Hey, what a super idea"? I have never in my entire life told a person that I would worship Satan in his or her name, nor have I ever considered it. I have never believed that it was somehow my business to save others. But seriously, what is up with that? What difference would it make in my life if you pray for me? It only works if I pray for myself! What happens to me in the "afterlife" is God's call, not yours.
This is particularly frustrating when I deal with antis. They offer me rosaries, invite me to church, say "God bless you!" almost ironically as though they mock my heathen ways. Stop it. I am not on your side. Ever. I just can't be. You are not doing any favors, even for fellow religious folks. Remember my post about this very issue from last month? You can upset people with your banter. You might think you're doing some noble deed, but you have no idea who you're effing with when you go there with people, even with close friends and family. These are truly and deeply personal matter that are nobody else's business. (What? I thought everything was the antis' business!) Bottom line: it is inappropriate! It's this pseudo-magnanimity that antis interpret as ungratefulness when they get an adverse response. Duh. People don't like being told what to do, last I checked.
I would solicit the antis to put the shoe on the other foot, but who are we kidding. They're serpentine and have slithery tails that are not conducive to shoe-wearing.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel our work can be incredibly isolating. I don’t live in a big, urban area where I have the luxury of being around lots of liberal like-minded people; so for me and my co-workers, it can sometimes feel like we’re alone. No one wants to hear about where you work or what you do. Often family and friends don’t even want to know about your day. Maybe it’s a sign I’ve been doing abortion work a long time because I just simply don’t talk about my day anymore. And I hardly notice that I don’t. Who’s going to understand, anyway? Only other Abortioneers, really. Sometimes – often – I wish that I lived closer to many Abortioneers so I could just let go of my day. Debrief. Talk about our women. Make jokes. Support one another. Get support.
This week, though, I’ve been reminded of just how much intrinsic solidarity there is between all those who provide direct abortion services. Recently, I talked to staff from four different clinics across the country trying to help a client access an abortion after we couldn’t help her at our facility. Each of the employees I spoke to were willing to bend over backwards to help. I didn’t know any of the staff, but I was connected – or at least felt connected – to each of them. Without knowing their name, or having ever met, we had something profound in common: the willingness to help women access abortion care. And I realized that part of me almost yearns to reach out and talk, just chat, to these other Abortioneers. I realized that I could’ve spent a long time on the phone with them, listening to their kind voices also encourage me that we will do – collectively – whatever we can to help the client.
I usually have to be the advocate, the cheerleader, the go-getter for clients, telling them not to give up hope: we will find funding for them; we will do our best to get that abortion for them; we will try everything we can to get her 2,000 miles away to access care; we’ll make sure that asshole partner doesn’t come near her on the day of her abortion, etc. This time, though, my cup was filled. I was bolstered up. I was given strength by the incredible, warm, caring women I talked to at different clinics who reminded me that we’re all in this together, trying to toss barriers out of the way of our clients. I didn’t feel alone or isolated. So, to all of you abortion workers out there: thank you. Thanks for lifting me up. Thank you for helping me realize we’re not alone in this work. Thank you for caring.
I worked with a young woman about a year ago that I found myself thinking about over the holidays, hoping she was okay. Let's call her Sarah.
Sarah was 20. She already had a two year old daughter. They were living with her mother, who was addicted to crack. Her only other family member in a 500 mile radius was her uncle, who was also addicted to crack. Her father and brother had passed away. I didn't probe into how/why they died because that didn't seem right. Anyway, she was raped and found herself pregnant.
Sarah wasn't too far along, and needed to get a couple hundred dollars together to be seen. Even though she was unemployed and living off of food stamps, she was able to get the funds needed together by pawning a few items and borrowing money from friends she had in the area.
The morning of her procedure, she called me in tears. Her mother had stolen her money from her purse and used the money to buy crack. So Sarah was not going to be getting her abortion today and we were back to square one in terms of trying to find some money for her.
I just remember feeling my heart sink in my chest because I knew she had worked so hard and pretty much exhausted all her resources the first time around.
So I encouraged her not to give up hope and that we could keep working on this, maybe I could call some local funds, some national funds, etc. We talked about her living situation, about her mother's addiction. Sarah cried and cried saying she felt horrible her daughter had to grow up in a house with a drug user and how she wanted to get out but she had nowhere to go. I gave her some numbers for shelters in her area. There were only two unfortunately, but it was at least a start.
Then she dropped off the map. I tried calling her many times, but her number had been disconnected. I wasn't sure what had happened but I was obviously concerned. When I can't reach her on the only number I have, though, there isn't much more I can do.
Sarah calls me back five or six weeks later. She had been trying to get money together, trying to get into a shelter, trying to take care of her daughter, trying to find food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She had been able to cobble together a very small amount of money. Sadly, the shelters were full and the cost of her procedure had gone up dramatically. She didn't even have 10% of what she needed to get seen. I called every fund I could think of and I was able to get $200. Most every fund I called was out of money and they wished they could help, but they couldn't. We were still way off what we needed and it seemed like we were pretty much out of luck.
The next morning, Sarah calls me crying. Her mother had stolen her money again. Sarah had followed my advice and kept her money on her body at all times. She had hidden the money in her pajamas and her mother waited until she was asleep and stole her daughter's money off her body while was she was sleeping.
I told Sarah we still had the money from the fund, we could try to work something out and she said yes yes ok. She was going to keep working on it.
Then she dropped off the map again. I never heard back from her. Ever again.
She never got her abortion to my knowledge, but I am not sure.
I find myself wondering from time to time about Sarah and her daughter. I hope she is okay and I hope she was able to get out of her living situation. I hope she was able to get her wings.
Merry Christmas, happy Chanukah, happy Kwanzaa, happy Yule, merry Generic December Holiday. My gift to you, dear pro-choice, pro-abortion readers, is an old school mix tape playlist. Some of the songs are ones I listen to as I drive to work, preparing to walk through the protesters. Others are ones I listen to when I get into a funk wondering if anyone thinks about Dr. Tiller anymore. And some of them are ones I jam out to when I'm feeling good because abortion is safe and legal and my fellow Abortioneers around the world just rock. Happy listening!
2009 Abortioneers Mix
Soulja Boy, Turn My Swag On--OK, so he's not terribly feminist. But when we wake up in the morning knowing that we have a long day ahead of us, and especially when we're psyching ourselves up to walk through protesters, we sure as hell "hop up out the bed, turn [our] swag on, take a look in the mirror, say 'What's up?"
Pat Benatar, Invincible--When we wonder if we're really making a difference, if we should really keep fighting, Pat says YES:
What are we waiting for ?
Won't anybody help us ? What are we waiting for ? We can't afford to be innocent Stand up and face the enemy. It's a do or die situation - we will be invincible. This shattered dream you cannot justify. We're gonna scream until we're satisfied. What are we running for ? We've got the right to be angry
Tracy Chapman, Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution--Sometimes, it "sounds like a whisper," but it's there and that's why we do what we do.
Big Country, In a Big Country--I never thought much of this song until I listened to the lyrics:
So take that look out of here, it doesn't fit you.
Because it's happened doesn't mean you've been discarded
Pull your head off the floor, come up screaming
Cry out for everything you ever might have wanted.
And now, it's an anthem for we determined, stubborn activists.
Ani Difranco, Hello, Birmingham--I am a firm believer that you can never feel weak when Ani's voice and lyrics are behind you. She remembered Dr. Tiller before he was even gone, and she reminds me of all the other heroes we lost before I was even an Abortioneer
Kanye West, Stronger--I've been working in abortion for longer than I ever planned on, and I have no plans to stop. The work we do does make us stronger, and every patient I see is stronger than she ever believed she was.
Wilson Phillips, Hold On--Throwback ca. 1990 songs are instant pick-me-ups, especially when Carnie, Wendy, and Chynna are reminding me to keep on keepin' on.
Ani Difranco, Lost Woman Song--Thank you, Ani, for speaking up and speaking out, and for reminding me what it's like for a patient.
Beth Orton, Ooh Child-- It's a remake, but isn't it more comforting to hear Beth tell you that "things are gonna get easier"? She says it like she means it.
Jay-Z, Dirt Off your Shoulder-- They say you're an evil, baby-kiling monster? Brush that dirt off your shoulder! Abortioneers are pimps, too, you know.
Talk, Talk, It's My Life--It's my life and it's my choice.
Martina McBride, This One's for the Girls--She's never been my absolute favorite singer, but she's the only one who ties us all together with song that's also great for belting out in the car.
Journey, Don't Stop Believin'--This is the consummate last track because it just makes you feel good, and sometimes, we just need to feel good, am I right?
the ability to exercise my legal right to choose what happens to my body - not some old white men who will never know what it means to have an unexpected, unintended pregnancy. And yes, I include the crazy antis with nothing better to do with their time than harass women, who probably read this blog at 3am in their bathrobes.
Luckily, it looks like the particularly awful anti-abortion language (attempt to take away basically any insurance coverage) will not be in the final health care reform bill. Although, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I think they just replaced it with the same crap that basically defends the Hyde Amendment. I find it particularly funny that Republicans/conservatives call themselves small-government and claim that they don't want the government in their affairs. This is OK? Interfering in someone's ability to make their own health care choices is OK? It seems pretty Big Brother to me. Hypocrisy really pisses me off. But I guess it's OK when you're forcing your moral code onto everyone else.
How about this: Why don't you spend more time worrying about getting us out of the economic dump we're in right now and less time worrying about my body and what I do with it? As an adult, I think I can handle these affairs on my own. Thanks.
Since it doesn't look like women are going to get any help soon, and we all know choice means nothing unless you have the ability to exercise it, it looks like it's in our hands to help each other out. By us I mean, the abortioneers, clinic staff and volunteers, fellow pro-choice/pro-abortion bloggers, abortion fund workers, and all of you out their on the internet. In the coming new year, let's all do what we can to support each other. That might mean volunteering as a clinic escort, donating to a local abortion fund (you know how I like to plug for the funds), volunteer at a local clinic/Planned Parenthood with advocacy work, etc. - whatever you can do. Let's show that there are a lot of people out there in this country who support choice in all its forms.
In my family everything is a political debate, EVERYTHING. Very few of us agree on things like welfare, health care, elected officials, or abortion. I try to avoid these debates, they irritate me, people become angry or emotional and nobody really actively listens to each other so they are pointless as far as I'm concerned. When alcohol is involved they are usually more than pointless, more like ridiculously unproductive, sort of like taking steps backwards because everyone just become more strongly entrenched in their own opinion and NOTHING is going to challenge it no matter how incoherent that person's logic may be.
The other day one of my very polite, very sweet, non-debating male cousins used the "N" word. He's a cute 20 year old white boy from the south raised in a relatively liberal family. I love him, really he is one of the most enjoyable people in my family. I responded by telling him I didn't think it was appropriate for him to use that word. He said he just didn't get that. We didn't get deep in it but I told him that the use of that word to degrade black people is not some ancient part of history but people who were around when white people used that word as a form of verbal terror are still alive and kicking, and some aren't even that old. He didn't really respond, and I hope I gave him something to think about.
So, what does this have to do with abortion? For kicks I then asked him his opinions on abortion. I really had no idea what he would say. He says "well if a girl is dumb enough to get pregnant she should have to bear the responsibility of her actions." Not a surprising answer. I let him continue before I responded. He continued talking about these dumb girls who go around fucking every guy in town. He rambled about this and then went on a tirade about stupid girls who try to sue their boyfriends for money for their abortions. At this point I said, "dude, that does not happen." He said "I know girls that have tried that" and insisted that it does.
I told him I worked in abortion care for 4 years, it does NOT happen and if these "stupid girls" threaten to sue their idiot boyfriends, and their boyfriends believe its possible it sounds like they're the dumb one in the situation. He actually agreed once he realized it really doesn't happen. I mean, hello it would take nearly the whole pregnancy to get the case in court, not to mention she would lose. I remember a woman who had to wait until her second trimester to get an abortion, because she was 2 months away from 18 and she went to get a judicial bypass but the judge said since she already had a child she would probably regret it. So, she stayed pregnant for another 2 months until her 18th birthday. The bottom line is the American court system is not going to make men pay for abortions, the same courts can't get most men to pay child support and when they do it takes years to win that battle. Abortions are pretty time-sensitive.
I then followed up and said, what about someone whose been raped or molested? His response was, "yeah, well they should get an abortion if they want it." I dropped it at this point because I didn't want to debate, and it was clear that women's health and sexuality is just too complex for some people's ignorance. I can think of 1001 reasons why that one individual should be able to get her abortion, in fact daughter of wands listed 51 of those reasons in a blog several months ago. It's not productive to judge which individuals have the right combinations of reasons that make an abortion OK. I try to think of the kind of ignorance my cousin expressed as just that, pure ignorance; he does not have enough information or life experience to understand the complexities involved in women's health and reproduction. I wish that people could accept that they don't have to get it, they just need to be willing to let people live and make their own choices without judgment or questions. Of course, to give my cousin credit, I asked for his opinion, he did not pass judgement on someone else, but his opinion made it clear he has a judgment of young women who face unintended pregnancies.
Many women I know and respect immensely too would describe themselves as pro-choice but have issues with late-term abortion. The other day I spoke to another cousin of mine who is a young mom. We discussed late-term abortions and I told her, "you know if a woman is willing to go through having a late-term abortion she obviously needs it, and doesn't need a child regardless of the circumstances." She agreed, no questions asked. I was not really surprised, but my cousin would not identify herself as a feminist nor is she an activist or highly educated. However, she gets it because she is a young woman who has struggled with her own choice to be a mom. It made me question why so many pro-choice, feminist, activist people can't just get that it's an individual woman's decision, no questions asked, no matter what the circumstance.
A 'C'? A 'C'? I got a 'C' on my coathanger sculpture? How could anyone get a 'C' in coathanger sculpture?
(who doesn't like a little humorous misapplication of a classic cartoon line?)
I can never tell if it's more frustrating or funny to realize I'm talking to someone who thinks pro-choicers support coerced abortion. It happens about as often as I venture into anti world -- which means, depending on how patient/masochistic I'm feeling. The thing that seems obvious to me is, "chosen" is like the opposite of "coerced," so you'd think pro-choice might suggest...anti-coercion.
The questions (they are usually questions, though I'm not sure if they're earnest or intended as a-ha! traps) are things like "What about that woman whose husband tricked her into taking the abortion pill" or "What about the woman whose parents threw her in the trunk of the car and drove her to an abortion clinic" or "What about the woman who was told by an evil genie that she had to either get an abortion or be sold into a harem on the lost island empire of Atlantis". #1 and #2 are specific examples of questions I've been asked, and they refer to actual events that have occurred. #1 and #2 are also called 'assault' and are punishable by prison time.
The other main twisting of "choice" that I hear a lot always feels like a punch in the gut, and I do hear this one a lot because our culture is full of slut-shaming, not just in anti world. People who think they're cute pipe up with this semantic tour-de-force that goes something like, "I believe in a woman's right to choose -- she could've CHOSEN not to spread her legs!" Ah, clever. The idea being, if you're dumb enough to CHOOSE to have sex, and then get pregnant from it, you fucked up and deserve to stay pregnant. I mean, we don't let speeding drivers seek treatment for their broken limbs, do we? Fifty-five means fifty-five! So if a woman finds herself pregnant in a situation where she can't stay pregnant, even though she knew from the get-go that getting pregnant would really suck, then she's an idiot and pretty much earned what she gets, which is to take her life into her hands, nearly kick the bucket, be refused emergency care from her own doctor, be told she's crazy by another doctor and also lose her job.
“You hear these legends of coat-hanger abortions,” a 26-year-old former Marine sergeant told me recently, “but there are no coat hangers in Iraq. I looked.”
Synopsis, though I hope you'll just go read the article: active-duty military who become pregnant are discriminated against and those who seek abortions get it even worse. So they're trapped, and might do the next logical thing: the Russian roulette of DIY. (You can also see this sergeant interviewed in the documentary The Coat Hanger Project.)
The policy, which went into effect Nov. 4, makes it possible to face punishment, including a court-martial and jail time, for becoming pregnant or impregnating a servicemember, according to the wording of the policy and confirmations from Army officials. ... The policy also applies to married couples who are at war together.
To recap, your beloved Department of Defense:
(1) forbids medical personnel to provide abortion care except in cases of rape or life endangerment;
(2) refuses to cover the cost of abortion care except in cases of life endangerment only;
(3) by its very nature stations its personnel in places it has utterly ravaged so that, if they everdidhave safe specialty health services, welltheydon'tanymore.
...so far so good, right? The DoD is doing an awesome job preventing abortion -- hell, they've made it practically impossible!
(4) engages in under-the-table discrimination against pregnant soldiers and, now, outright criminalizes pregnancy.
So now what? Well, like I said, now you take your life into your hands, nearly kick the bucket, get refused emergency care from your own doctor, get told you're crazy by another doctor and also lose your job. It's that or jail (or maybe both). You don't have much choice.
This blog is primarily for us to share from our perspective in the field, so you might wonder if now I've accidentally digressed into extrapolation or punditry. But I could tell you a surprising (to me) number of stories from work involving women in the military, or married into the military, needing an abortion as a result of their connection to the military and then having a hard time obtaining one as a result of their connection to the military. They're not all the same situation as that of "Amy" in the RD interview -- there's a lot of different ways to get screwed over for serving one's country while uterused. Maybe this will be a two-part post, so next time (around the new year) I can share some of those with you. But you don't need to hear them all to see there's an unjust price for being a woman in uniform.
Sorry we didn't have a full post for you today...Silky Laminaria's off on some exciting travels and we didn't plan a sub for her! I'll be back tomorrow for my own blogging day, but in the meantime head over to Angry Black Bitch, who reminds us that a majority of our elected representatives are trying to back us into politely requesting that our rights not be trampled upon if that wouldn't inconvenience everyone too much please. Is that all that Reproductive Justice is?
There are a few things for you to know about our clinic so you will be prepared on the day of your appointment.
#1 Please expect to spend anywhere from one to eight hours at our facility. We will escort you through the preliminary, medical, and recovery processes as safely and respectfully as possible, but you are seeking a deeply stigmatized procedure, and we must slay dragons on your behalf.
#2 We do not accept checks or cash. Please be prepared to pay for your services with a money order, debit or credit card. We understand that this complicates a majority of real-life scenarios, but when we accept cash, everybody pays with cash, and then someone who probably waited too long (because *we forgot to inform* them of #1) will eventually rob us.
#3 Please bring paperwork (variable by state and patient background), and prepare to answer several questions openly and honestly. We are here to help you and will support your health care needs with concentrated medical expertise and painstaking confidentiality.
#4 There will be protestors but please understand that they terminate pregnancies too.
#5 Please bring no more than one support person. We respect your desire to be involved with family and friends throughout your experience, and we understand the limits and obligations of parenting, but the surgery you seek is common, and we simply cannot comfortably and privately accommodate the soul-group of every human-being.
#6 We ask that you not bring children into this facility. We know there are other parts of the world where both intentionally pregnant and unwantedly (sic) pregnant women gather in practice together, and the world will progress, but here we revert to 1 through 5 and repeat: We cannot accommodate children.
#7 Lucky charm
#8 Please allow me to provide directions for traveling to, entering, and exiting our clinic...(variable by clinic and terrorist actvity).
I help women who ask for abortion services. Who want them. Who believe that abortion is the key to their futures, their successes, their happiness.
And all of a sudden, I'm the bad guy.
Women are smart. I repeat: women are smart! Women know what they want, what they need. They pursue it ruthlessly. A woman who wants an abortion wants an abortion. Is this unclear?
Can I help a woman by not respecting her desires? Can I help a woman by trying to convince her that she's nutso, that she really only wants the abortion because she's been brainwashed? Can I afford not to listen to other human beings who are reaching out to me? I understand now why the homeless and hungry become so enraged when do-gooders refuse to give them money, but offer sandwiches instead; it's not what they asked for, not what they want, not what would get them through the day! Do they care what I think is best for them? Do they care if what they want is completely contrary to what society tells them is good and wholesome? They don't! They might just really want that cigarette. Maybe some homeless folks would really like that sandwich, but is that up to me? Not so.
This reminds me of a horrible episode of "Trading Spouses" that I once saw. At the end of each episode, each family uses $20,000 or something like that to buy gifts for their temporary families. In this particular situation, a well-off family traded moms with a not-so-well-off one. At the end, the not-so-well-off mom gave wonderful gifts to each member of the family that they loved. She listened to them, learned their personalities, put thought into things that would make them feel happy and appreciated, e.g. bought a guitar for the aspiring teen rock star. But the well-off mom...yikes. She put all the money into a savings account for the kids with the stipulation that they graduate college before accessing it. Graduate?! How were these poor children going to get to college to begin with? Did you consider that, crazy lady? And I'm sure she thought she was doing them a great service, and in another world she might have been. But when you don't understand the contexts of the people you're "helping", and their hopes and dreams and realities, its easy to say and do INSANE things without considering whether these people are actually better off after you come into their lives.
And so, as Abortioneers, we help people. We help them all the time, and we improve lives. Whichever decisions women make, we help them by respecting those decisions. We respect who those women are, what they want, what they need, and from their own standpoints and not from our pie-in-the-sky pedestals in Abortionland. I would never tell a woman who asked, begged me for help to access an abortion that she would be better off doing something else. Because something else is not what she wants. You see, Abortioneers grant wishes :)
"I'm pro-choice because a woman can choose what to do with her own body. If that's what she wants [abortion] to do to it, then she can."
"I'm pro-choice, but I don't think anyone should have more than one."
"I'm pro-choice, but I don't get it when people are irresponsible with their birth control."
"How could anyone refuse starting a birth control method on the day they're having an abortion? How could anyone want to do that again to themselves?"
I'm sure you've heard these statements before. You might even agree. Probably a lot of people do. I just don't happen to be one of them. I realize that abortion as a birth control method is taboo and no one really wants to talk about it. Some pro-choice organizations even try to dispel "abortion as a birth control method" as one of those "myths" that antis like to drum up; the fact of the matter is, abortion really is the ONLY birth control method. Contraception ("birth control") prevents pregnancy; it doesn't "control" it. The only thing that actually controls whether or not a birth takes place is abortion. The other fact is - like it or not - some women do use abortion as their method of birth control.
Personally, I don't see what all the hoopla's about. Big deal if a woman refuses contraception on the day of her abortion! So what if she gets pregnant and has an abortion again (gasp!)! Yes. You read that right. I am asking you, "so what?!" The fact of the matter is that if she decides she wants to have an abortion, I don't care if she ends up having only one in her lifetime or if she ends up having 27. It's her choice. And it's my opinion that abortion may actually have fewer long-term and short-term side effects than most hormonal contraception anyway! (Double gasp!) Many women gain weight, experience mood swings, have crazy bleeding, get acne, stop wanting sex, deal with headaches, get bloated, become dizzy at times, experience sore breasts, and/or get nauseated at some point when taking hormonal birth control (obviously, this depends on the type of hormones used. And no, I am not anti-contraception). I don't know about you, but I get a little nervous when I hear the birth control pill adverts out there warn about stroke and heart attack if you smoke and are over 35. Newsflash: if you smoke and are over 35 and have an abortion, you're not at risk for stroke or heart attack.
I think that when we say things like "abortion should be the last resort" or "women should get on birth control so they don't have to have another abortion," we're basically saying there's something intrinsically wrong with abortion. I'm saying there isn't. I'm saying that if a woman wants to use abortion as her birth control method, then so be it. Let her. It isn't hurting her. Abortion doesn't hurt people. Okay, well, maybe you're uncomfortable for about 10 minutes (max!), but it's nothing that a little pain reliever can't help with.
I don't mean to be flippant. I know very well that for some women - and some couples and/or families - abortion is a huge decision that is not taken lightly.at.all. I also know most women feel grateful/relieved and don't regret their abortion decision. Sure, there are some who have a different experience (ambivalence and a lack of support are red flags); but just as we give a voice to those who had wanted pregnancies, or were raped or whatever, I think we should give voice to the few that actually do use abortion as contraceptive. It's not common, but it exists. And, I, for one, honestly see nothing "wrong" with it. And I argue that anyone who does, then must believe there is a line that's crossed when abortion becomes "wrong." This Abortioneer, however, doesn't see that line.
The Abortion Distortion: Just How Pro-Choice Is America, Really? at the New York Magazine -- I actually think this title/subtitle and ostensible subject are kind of tired and overdone since the beginning of this year, but in fact there's a lot of good stuff in the middle of the article: check out Claire Keyes, Peg Johnston, Jeannie Ludlow and other counselors interviewed on pages 3-4. (I also love a comment someone left on the article: "Selfish is eating all the ice cream. Abortion is a necessary back up plan. Abortion is Self-Preservation.")
Family Planning: The Link To Achieving All Eight MDGs in Global Health Magazine. That would be the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals for 2015. It's easily evident that not just safe abortion but also contraception make a huge difference in saving women's lives -- for example, complications from unsafe abortion account for 13% of maternal deaths (about 70-80,000 women) around the world, much more in some regions; in countries where abortion is penalized, the abortion mortality rate is 330 deaths per 100,000 abortions, yet where it's legal that figure is one in a million or even less. So that would be a big stride toward Goal 5 of improving maternal health. But it only takes a little imagination to see voluntary family planning's potential role in many other strategies for alleviating the strain on human welfare worldwide.
Mammogram Math in the New York Times Magazine, for even more variety in your women's health reading: a quick rundown explaining the latest batch of news about breast-cancer screening guidelines. There's been quite a bit of pushback to the announcement that a federal panel found (in agreement with existing information) that mammograms risk doing more harm than good before age 50. I've even seen some people express suspicions that this is just a way for the government to "ration our health care"...but if you consider the math, it's probably irresponsible to make women in the relatively low-risk 40-49 decade get screened every year.
And this brings me back around to abortion -- eventually! -- via enjoyable reads from two breast cancer survivors. Gail Collins, who is awesome, gives us The Breast Brouhaha, which was awesome; it's mostly about breast cancer, though she also throws in, "Has anybody noticed that the people who darkly warn about government bureaucrats forcing insurance companies to cut back our coverage appear to be the same ones who just voted to force insurance companies to stop covering abortions? Where’s the sanctity of the marketplace when we really need it?", to which I say, my thoughts exactly! And Barbara Ehrenreich in We Need A New Women's Health Movement echoes Collins's pointed question, talks about snafus in women's health recommendations including but not limited to the mammogram thing, and asks "Has feminism been replaced by the pink-ribbon breast cancer cult?" For more reading on said "PRBC cult," you can check out Pink Ribbons, Inc., and thinkbeforeyoupink.org.
(To be excruciatingly clear up front: I have nothing against breast cancer research or advocacy, but feel it's time to stop lining Yoplait's and Kitchenaid's pockets -- much as I love a good heirloom-quality stand mixer -- and start asking hard questions about environmental causes and prevention.)
And that's the past several weeks in women's health!
So I was rocking out to some Lauryn Hill the other day, and a song came on, "To Zion," that I hadn't heard in a longggggggggggggggggggggggggg time. I mean LONG. I didn't have my period the last time I listened to it. Anyway, the lyrics sort of struck me because she was obviously talking about being torn on what to do when she became pregnant unexpectedly.
Here are the lyrics: Unsure of what the balance held I touched my belly overwhelmed By what I had been chosen to perform But then an angel came one day Told me to kneel down and pray For unto me a man child would be born Woe this crazy circumstance I knew his life deserved a chance But everybody told me to be smart Look at your career they said, "Lauryn, baby use your head" But instead I chose to use my heart
Now the joy of my world is in Zion Now the joy of my world is in Zion
How beautiful if nothing more Than to wait at Zion's door I've never been in love like this before Now let me pray to keep you from The perils that will surely come See life for you my prince has just begun And I thank you for choosing me To come through unto life to be A beautiful reflection of his grace For I know that a gift so great Is only one God could create And I'm reminded every time I see your face
That the joy of my world is in Zion Now the joy of my world is in Zion Now the joy of my world is in Zion Now the joy of my world is in Zion
Marching, marching, marching to Zion Marching, marching Marching, marching, marching to Zion Beautiful, beautiful Zion
(Note: her son is named Zion.)
So I was reading the lyrics on my go to lyric website, songmeanings.net. A really interesting debate was sparked in the comments if the song was pro-feminist, anti-abortion, if the song should be a new "pro-life anthemn" etc.
I tried googling Lauryn Hill and her views on abortion but I couldn't really find much reliable information about it. So I'm not sure what her personal views are -- if she is pro-choice or anti-choice.
Anyway, I found a couple of the lines really interesting "... everybody told me to be smart / Look at your career they said, 'Lauryn, baby use your head' / But instead I chose to use my heart." She says that she ignored her head, which seemed to be telling her to have an abortion, and listening to her heart and kept the pregnancy. It seems the underlying statement here is that having an abortion is not "using your heart" but using your head. Abortion is smart and keeping it is loving?
She also refers to her pregancy as a life so it seems like she defines life as beginning with conception.
All that aside, I think the most important part of the song is that she struggled with the CHOICE. She got to decide what was best for her. She had the option of ending her pregnancy and she had the option of keeping it if she wished. It sounds like she definitely made the best decision for her (The joy of her world is Zion) and I think that is awesome she was able to figure that out. One thing I feel like is misconstrued about Abortioneers is that we WANT people to have abortions. I want each woman to choose what is best for her. If someone decides she wants to keep her pregnancy, great! Here are some resources on pre-natal care. If someone decides she wants to have an abortion, that's great too. Here are some clinics I'd recommend. You know? I just want everyone to be happy and do what is right for her.
Anyway... everyone should check out the song, it's very pretty!
Last week, after talking with a patient about coping and depression, I implored her, "Please call me at the clinic if you need to. I'm happy to listen if you need someone." She hesitated and responded, "REALLY? I won't bother you?" "I promise, you will not bother me," I assured her. This week, after receiving the confirmation of her unplanned pregnancy, I asked a patient, "What's going through your head right now? What do you need?" She sighed and said, "I need to go to McDonald's. That's what I need. I'll think about the rest later. Where's the closest McDonald's?"
Women are, either by nature or by nurture (or both), self-sacrificing people. Like the patient I had last week, we don't want to inconvenience anyone. We've all seen the Weight Watchers ads that tell us to "do something for [our]selves," because we're so busy caring for others, we never do that. And Weight Watchers suggests that we remedy that by making sure we take up no extra space, thus inconveniencing no one. (And there's my plug for Fat Acceptance.) It's completely against nature, not to mention against Weight Watchers to just want to go and eat a cheeseburger in an effort to be--GASP--selfish.
My McDonald's aficionado of a patient was an anomaly because I've gotten so accustomed to hearing women saying, "I can't have another child right now, and I don't really want one, either. But my daughter would just love a sibling, so I feel like I'm being really selfish." I hear, "I guess I could ask the sperm donor [that's what they call 'em, and it's brilliant] for some cash to help pay, but I don't want to inconvenience him," never mind the fact that he has inconvenienced her with an unintended pregnancy that he won't deal with either way. Women fret, "I talk to my mom about everything, but I can't tell her about this. She already has too much to worry about," not thinking that a daughter in crisis might be the most important thing to worry about. I've seen women who say, "I'm going to have local anesthesia only because my best friend has to go to work and I'd feel bad asking her to drive me to my abortion," even though a best friend probably wouldn't think twice. Even when the patient is feeling so alone and helpless, the first concern is that she will make someone else uncomfortable or obligated or even responsible.
Maybe a lot of those responses stem from what women hear from anti-choicers: That women who have abortions are selfish monsters. They internalize it and they will do anything they can to prove that they are the furthest thing from selfish and needy. When I counsel them, I suggest that everything they've told me about why they can't be pregnant right now indicates that they're anything but selfish. They are so selfless that they will work through whatever feelings might surround an abortion to ensure that they will not bring someone into the world under the wrong circumstances. And sometimes, I just want to tell them that if this is selfishness, then be selfish. I'm pro-choice, pro-abortion, and pro-'selfishness'.
I'm from a southern town where french heritage lingers in our language mixed with some West African, Native American, and Haitian languages, and Spanish. All my life words that are unique to this region have formed my speech patterns and some might say my thought patterns as well. Since returning here I have come across many people sporting a bumper sticker that reads "Preaux Life". Apparently this sticker is a campaign for the Louisiana Right to Life Federation.
While I rarely do things like visit anti websites, I wanted to check out what the bumper stickers are funding. So they charge $1-$2 for a bumper stickers and I'm guessing the proceeds go to help them develop their "cause". I didn't see any links to the fund where they help mothers with their babies' needs...but I suppose the site made me feel so nauseous that I didn't look hard enough. However, there is a link to a camp, "Camp Joshua," where they train young antis to speak out against abortion and learn how to be anti-choice advocates. This particular camp happens every summer and is funded by the Knights Of Columbus, a group of Catholic Christians that formed based on the ideals of Christopher Columbus and now funds many anti-choice campaigns. Colonialism, racism, sexism, and women's rights is such a labyrinth of history, oppression, and struggle.
I really try not think about antis, even though every time someone wants to know my professional background I have to think about who that person is, and whether I am willing to risk enduring their BS response if they are against abortion. I watched the trailer for the camp and it was hundreds of white kids being taught to "educate people" and bring light to this issue from an anti's perspective. Quite sickening if you ask me.
So I'm thinking, where is our pro-choice camp where we teach young people to empower women to make choices that are conducive to enhancing their lives? My first thoughts are that we just have too much going on in our lives. Survival tends to sap the energy of people who are pro-choice activists and women who know they deserve choice. We are so busy trying to figure out the day-to-day necessities of accessing health care that we do not proactively train young folks to join our movement. Now, my second thought is there are so many forums in which this is possible. I used to teach a comprehensive sex education program, and there are liberal groups of youth involved in organizing movements across the nation.
I want to create a camp N'Zinga, where young people come to learn about how to advocate for women, abortion, justice, and health! A really wonderful woman, who was actually against abortion, said she believes part of the problem women face is that we do not envision ourselves in positions or power or authority. We do not know how to envision ourselves accomplishing goals that might seem out of reach. I am envisioning a place where dynamic young people come together and learn about sexual health, advocacy, or how to start and run an abortion fund, a baby sitting club, a writing group, or a book club. A place to learn activism that is guided by social justice principles that support women's rights and challenge racist, sexist, and classist systems, especially those pertaining to health care.
This is for my grrrls all around the world!
Recently I was talking with someone whom I admire very much as a professional in the field -- someone who was a provider in the past but has done many years of research, education, and advocacy since then. Nearly all of this work has been around abortion, and for reasons similar to my own: abortion is a neglected/marginalized need and until it is not, those who are willing should work for it.
Anyway, this recent conversation involved the time that my friend headed the reproductive health department of a large institution, and the birth defects department "offered" a merger between the two. My friend ended up telling them, essentially, "No, because we'd be addressing birth defects and you still wouldn't be addressing abortion." And that until that attitude changed, "combining resources" was only going to marginalize abortion further. Given the context, it was a risky but wise response.
So, here's what I am turning over and over in my mind -- something I've turned over and over in my mind for a couple of years now, and still haven't satisfactorily decided about: if holistic health care is probably better health care, but everyone else does everything but abortion care, what's the best way to structure your health services, as a provider or organization?
Focus everything on abortion care until a day comes when the need no longer so greatly outstrips availability? Or offer as many health services as possible under one roof, from primary care on down, so as to help normalize abortion care rather than section it off from health needs that are perceived as more "legitimate"? I think there are moral/ethical arguments for each.
There's also the "strategic" question of having limited resources that you might want to focus carefully, or on the other hand of trying to reach out to other providers and other patient populations in order to increase resources -- not just money and space but also, crucially, a support network.
In terms of clinical benefits to the patient, I'm again torn: it seems like specialization would promote a culture of expertise around abortion, but on the other hand integration would promote continuity of care and possibly better whole-person treatment (not sure how to quantify that!).
I know just among the authors of this blog, there are going to be differences of opinion. What do you think, fellow bloggers? And what do you think, readers? Have you worked in an abortion-and-contraception clinic, a women's health center, a sexual health clinic, a private doctor's office, a general hospital, a fertility center, a family health center? What worked, what didn't? If you went into medicine and intended to provide abortion care, are you / would you be a gynecologist or a general practitioner or...? What would your ideal abortion-providing setting be? (Assume it has to be within the medical paradigm, I guess -- but I'd love to hear counterfactual fantasies, too!)
Abortion still seems to be a “fringe” topic. I have come to realize that there’s a difference between being “pro-choice” and really believing that abortion is a central part of women’s lives (all women’s lives, and men’s, and families); until we can find some way to make contraception affordable and accessible to ALL women (and men), and to provide unbiased and accurate information about sexual health (not just reproductive health), and a whole slew of other economic, social and political changes….abortions will continue to be common and not rare (unfortunately). SO, what does this mean?
For the time being, you cannot talk about sexuality and women’s health, without talking about abortion. It happens! It’s like…. when people on the phone used to tell me they “didn’t believe in it” after I spent weeks helping to fund their abortion.I would scratch my head and think…. “How can you not believe in it? It’s not like a ghost, or God, where you can’t see them and don’t really know if they exist.
Abortion is a common medical procedure, so how can you not believe in it? It’s real.”
Still, there are people in my everyday life who think it’s talked about too much (maybe from me), and even seem a tad annoyed that it is constantly brought up.Let me clarify by saying, some of these people are studying sexuality!! I simply do not understand how you can talk about sexuality WITHOUT talking about abortion? It’s just that common. For instance, my roommate tells me the other day, “Hey, guess what? Did you know 1 in 3 women will have an abortion before the age of 45?” I ponder for a moment as I’m thinking… “Haven’t I repeated this statistic to you a million times?”
1 in 3, 1 in 3, 1 in 3!!!!
Speaking of abortion, I went to a discussion forum about Stupak on my campus and got SO RILED UP! (obvi) I was furious, I was outraged, and I was pissed off! And I as I looked around the room, everyone else seemed surprisingly calm. Was I the only one who was hearing this? As I was saying things under my breath (and not under my breath) in response to the health care reform updates, I was once again being hushed. My friend put her hand on my knee and looked at me, telling me quietly to calm down.
Wasn’t everyone else OUTRAGED?! Who else is Outraged?!
SO… a classmate and I are on a mission (an abortion mission) to bring up abortion in every class discussion.We managed to do it in statistics class AND in our theory class, where we strategically inserted statistics like “77% of anti-choice leaders are men, and 100% of them will never become pregnant,” during a discussion on gender and social movements.It has already become clear, that it makes some people “uncomfortable.” But HEY, get uncomfortable! Because watch out world, here we come!
So I'm grappling with some homework on a chilly Saturday evening, but I always have a minute for something thoughtful and abortiony. Look what I just read: the "Five Stages of Grief" as applied to clinic escorting. This was a really thoughtful way to look at how clinic escorts experience the stress and disillusionment of angry confrontation. Also, sidenote, it made me like the Golden Girls even more! No, really. I Remember Exactly Where I Was...when I heard Bea Arthur had died.
(..At an abortion providers' conference, actually, where an afternoon speaker on "abortion in the media" recalled Arthur's great portrayal of deciding to have an abortion in the 1970s TV show Maude, and how different it was from what you see today. RIP, you clever deadpan sarcastic hulking lady!)
(Our Bodies Ourselves needs to raise $50,000 by Dec. 31 to maintain staffing and continue program work at current levels. Royalties from the books account for less than 6 percent of their budget. They depend on donors and grants to make up the other lean 94 percent. Our Bodies Ourselves is there for women seeking trusted, independent advice from our meticulously researched books, updated online health center and daily news blog. For nearly 40 years, they have been there when you needed honest answers and expert information.)
(Regardless of how an Abortioneer will re-define gratitude in order to sustain motivation throughout the countless, thankless days.)
Which brings me to my point of this molasses blog: No one in the history of humankind has ever planned an unplanned pregnancy, but when did humankind become so sociopathic and short-term thinking that we forwent our capacity to empathize with the fish that walked out of the water, with our ancient wisdom dwelling in the ethers?
Are you a pro-choicer who kind of doesn't like the term "pro-abortion?" Seem a bit too extreme for you? Well, I'm not one of those pro-choicers. I actually strongly prefer the term "pro-abortion" and have for some time. I know some pro-choicers who say, "Well, no one is really pro abortion!" I am. Completely. Whole-heartedly. And absolutely unapologetically pro-abortion. For whatever reason. If a woman wants an abortion, then I'll be her whatever-she-needs-hand-holder-tear-wiper-cheerleader-pro-abortion-girl. If a woman says she wants to carry her pregnancy to term and become a mother (even if she's 15 and lives in a car), then I am pro-motherhood. I will be her referral-seeker-set-up-an-appointment-with-an-ob/gyn-get-on-prenatals-find-out-a-way-to-stay-in-school-cheerleader-pro-motherhood-girl. My point: I'm really pro-woman. All real Abortioneers are.
"Pro-life." Oh, how I hate that term. Really. It's such an asinine label. Seriously. Who isn't pro-life? Um. Besides the likes of crazy mass murderers? I've said it in another post before, Abortioneers, pro-abortioners, pro-choicers (whatever you want to call us!) are the most pro-life people I know! Why? Because we value the life of actual human persons, not just the embryos that have the potential of becoming human persons. (Let me just say that we will also get excited, becoming pro-motherhood girls, for those who want to love their potential human persons. FYI: lots of abortioneers happen to be mommies, too.) If you like where I'm going with this, don't get too excited: I'm not a fabulous philosopher; but Leonard Peikoff is.
Who? Leonard Peikoff. Don't worry, I only just learned about him, too. He's a philosopher of objectivism (termed for the philosophy of famous author, Ayn Rand). He wrote a fabulous essay called "Abortion Rights is Pro Life" and you can read it here. Read it! Well, and though I am a self-proclaimed feminist, I'm not a HUGE fan of Ayn Rand's books. (Gasp!) I am, however, a fan of this quote of hers:
I cannot project the degree of hatred required to make those women run around in crusades against abortion. Hatred is what they certainly project, not love for the embryos, which is a piece of nonsense no one could experience, but hatred, a virulent hatred for an unnamed object...Their hatred is directed against human beings as such, against the mind, against reason, against ambition, against success, against love, against any value that brings happiness to human life. In compliance with the dishonesty that dominates today's intellectual field, they call themselves 'pro-life.'
Yay Ayn Rand!
The term pro-choice? Well, I suppose that's just the default political label, but I don't really like it. It's a bit lame for my taste. Abortioneers are more than pro-choice. We're pro-abortion and pro-woman and pro-motherhood and pro-adoption and pro-whatever-the-hell-a-woman-believes-is-best-for-her-at-this-point-in-her-life type/label/people. We're out there doing the direct service work, day in and day out. We're the real experts in this field (not to toot our own horns) because we're the ones with our fingers on the pulse of women's lives. And really, we're not the experts. I was being coy. The women are the real experts. (Nearly one in four American women, to be exact!)
So we throw all these labels around like they actually mean something; and they don't really: I know people who call themselves pro-choice who are actually anti-abortion in certain circumstances and I know people who call themselves pro-life who are actually very pro-abortion in certain circumstances (like rape). We talk about all this abortion stuff like what we do is rare. Like abortion is rare; but it's SO not. It's very common. And I suppose that's the ONLY common ground all of us label wearers will ever have. And that's just fine with me.