Tuesday, June 30, 2009


So I'm submitting a purchase order for a completely mundane office supply. I'm not in accounts or purchasing, so I don't typically deal with POs and the financial jargon, and I don't know how to buy things without using money I can actually hold. It's all foreign to me. So after the order is submitted, I get a call back from the accounts manager at aforementioned office supply company. Apparently their legal team is nitpicking at the language of our PO, which indicates that we have attached some documentation outlining terms and conditions (we have not). Accounts manager admits this is a pain in the butt, tries to back me up on this one, because there was some language printed at the bottom which would technically count as "terms and conditions". So then I ask him to kill the motor for a minute, because I've never even seen a PO before, let alone read it thoroughly. I search for the section of the document he's referring to, and read over the TERMS AND CONDITIONS of this purchase order:

"This certifies that no funds made available by [my company] for this purchase order/agreement/subcontract/subagent will be used for the following family planning and population assistance activates [sic]:

1) procurement or distribution of equipment provided for the purpose of inducing abortions as a method of family planning;

2) information, education, training, or communications that seek to promote abortion as a method of family planning;

3) payments to women in less developed countries to have abortions as a method of family planning;

4) payments to persons to perform abortions or to solicit persons to undergo abortions."



Granted, we are a non-profit that receives tons of gifts from very generous donors and we wouldn't want to spend their money on things they do not deem appropriate. Of course. But really? Seriously?

I think tomorrow I'll submit a purchase order for crack cocaine. Or maybe an AK-47. I'm feeling dangerous this week. Who knows, I might requisition a stack of Uzbeki porn and a mail-order bride and go to town. The world is my oyster baby. Cuz I don't need an abortion!

Gee whiz.

Uncommon Ground

I’m grumpy and feeling sick of all this “common ground” talk. Obama says our nation can find “common ground” on the issue of abortion; but tonight, I’m so-over reading pro-choice/pro-voice/pro-life/pro-whatever-you-want-to-call-yourself people writing about the ground we all walk on, how everything can be hunky dory, kumbayah, let’s all hold hands and all that other bullshit. Are we seriously having this conversation less than a month after Dr. Tiller was assassinated?

Common ground? My ass! Am I the only person who didn’t see any “peaceful, non-violent” pro-lifers at a Tiller vigil? I mean, I know I wasn’t granted super-powers during the first week of June that would enable me to send my hologram image to all the vigils across the country and internationally; but somehow, I really doubt there were many – if any – “pro-lifers” in the audience, weeping for Tiller. Until providers are safe; until clinic entrances are free of harassment and pests; until women can speak openly about their abortion experiences (if they so choose) without being shamed; until we Abortioneers can say where we work without being worried of the repercussions; there is no common ground. “Common ground” sounds all too nice and fluffy for me when tonight, I’m praying to the great, almighty Abortion Goddess Protector that our security guard will actually show up for work tomorrow morning. I don’t really want to find any common ground with that taunting, cruel, distasteful protester who blocks my side of the car with his large body and pounding voice, intimidating me into not going into the clinic. (I work there and I get scared!)

Common ground? I’m annoyed that John Stewart, when talking to Mr. Huckabee in a recent interview, said that a lot of Americans feel they have to choose sides on abortion and those sides look like: “frenzied and maniacal or callous and indifferent.” Though I love RH Reality Check, I’m further annoyed that a blogger basically backed up John Stewart and said Americans feel this pressure to choose sides like: “Do I side with those who understand that abortion can be emotional, but who want to limit its availability, or do I side with those who try to make it more available but refuse to acknowledge its emotional impact?” http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/commonground/2009/06/29/getting-emotionally-involved

Seriously?! I don’t know any Abortioneer who “refuse to acknowledge its [abortion's] emotional impact.” I realize I don’t hang out with loads of Pro-Choice Advocates on Capitol Hill; maybe some of them are a bit out-of-touch with the reality, the stories of individual women. Maybe policy makers come off “callous” (but I really don’t think so. I suspect it’s more of a sexist remark about strong women). What I do know is that Abortioneers do nothing but acknowledge the emotional impact of abortion on a woman every_single_day. We work at clinics. We make appointments. We counsel. We escort. We draw blood. We are on-call 24/7 and answer, “yes, you can take your ibuprofen” at 3:30am. We hold hands while an abortion takes place. We call Medicaid offices and fight for coverage. We call funds to try and raise money so an abortion can be paid for where the government fails. We cry. We dream about clinic. About abortions. We cradle infants in our arms, or give wee ones crayons in the staff lounge while their mother has an abortion. We listen. We support her no-matter-what. We acknowledge HER. Her feelings. Her heart. Her experience. We recognize and know she carries her own unique story. She is unlike the last woman we counseled, the last woman we provided funding for. We stand by her regardless of whether she chooses an abortion or not. We bend ourselves to fit her. We become contortionists; become anything she needs, right then, right there. Right now. For her: we will defend her abortion; we will defend her becoming a mother; we will defend her trusting there is a family better suited for her fetus; we will feel angry with/for her when she is angry at her unique situation, her unique life; we will bend to her needs. And we’ll give her love. Dignity. Respect. Most importantly, we trust her.

Maybe some of these researchers, academics, and political advocates, etc. come across to the public – and maybe even our own “movement” – in a slightly negative way. Maybe some of “us” in this vast and varied pro-choice/pro-voice/pro-whatever forget that it’s all about the woman. Not the women: the woman. The individual.

But enter ye into a clinic, enter ye into Abortionland and you will find our Abortioneers swifty drawing a line in the sand. That line becomes a deeply rooted continuous circle around the woman. With honor and gratitude, we proudly stand in that circle with her. And don’t you dare come near her. Don’t you dare step on our ground, muddy it up, make us all feel dirty. Our ground is sacred.

Monday, June 29, 2009


She was fairly far along in her pregnancy when she came in for her abortion. Maybe 16-17 weeks. She didn't speak English, only Spanish. No bother, most of us were bilingual.

Before you start any procedure, you need to confirm with the patient their name and birthdate. When we asked our patient these questions, she hesitated. It was almost as if she couldn't remember. She got the name right, but the birthdate wrong. Perhaps we entered it wrong? When asked her a few more questions (ie. address, telephone number), she didn't know the answers.

Then she broke down, tears streaming fast and heavy. I can see her in my mind. Lying on the table, already vulnerable, in a room full of strangers, hooked up to an IV, harboring a secret she had told so few. Finally, her lips separated: about 4 months ago, she had crossed the border illegally. Upon crossing, she was raped. I cannot remember by whom-border patrol, coyote? But this pregnancy was a result of that rape.

She was staying with friends when she decided to terminate the pregnancy. But she was living in this city as an undocumented citizen and had no health insurance. What options did she have? She then posed as her friend, using her friend's insurance to pay for the procedure.

And here she was, on the table, crying quietly, surrounded by strangers, her painful secret exposed.

Although the women in the room did not know this patient personally, we all knew someone like her. She was our friend, our sister, our acquaintance, she was each one of us. In that moment, it didn't matter she didn't have insurance. Her body had been violated, her womb inhabited by an unwanted stranger, and we were there to help her. Because as women's health providers, we believe that abortion is part of a woman's reproductive health, not in addition to it.

After the abortion was completed, I could only see relief in her eyes. A part of her had returned and she was so grateful.

I will never forget her. She, and patients like her, remind me why I want to be an abortion provider and why abortion providers are so incredibly important. Like me, she is a woman with choices, with a story, with a body that is hers.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


1. So... how much does an abortion cost anyway? (Followed by look of nonchalance)

This is hands down the most common question when my line of work comes up. I mean, I guess I didn't really know how much an abortion was before I moved to Abortion Land, but I figured one would be at least a couple hundred dollars. I find that most people are utterly shocked to discover that most abortions are around $400.

Which leads me to the second most common question.

2. WHAT?! THAT IS SO MUCH MONEY! WHY IS IT SO MUCH? (Accompanied by wide eyed look of shock)

"I know... right? [Insert plug for your local abortion fund here]"

But really... I don't know why they are so much? It's not like a t-shirt at Urban Outfitters that is $50 and was made in China and you know probably cost 25 cents to make and is therefore a rip-off. Abortion is a medical service, and since it's not usually covered by insurance or whatever (whole 'nother rant), you gotta pay out of pocket. Getting a throat swab at the doctor for strep is like a $75 if you don't have insurance... it seems kind of a logical a surgery would be about that much? Right? Plus, abortion prices have increased at a much much lower rate than other medical procedures over the past forty or so years.

3. What's the latest you can get an abortion? (Coupled with look of curiosity)

When someone asks me this I sigh deeply on the inside. So many complicated issues built-in to answering this. When I say that it depends on state law, but probably 26 or 27 weeks, people are usually like "WAIT WHAT?! THAT IS LIKE 6 MONTHS PREGNANT WHAT THE HELL" and then I have to go into the age old Why Second Trimester Abortions are Deeply Misunderstood in America speech. It really bothers me how opinionated people can be on this issue and yet know nothing about it. When I explain that these later abortions are usually for fetal anomaly, the life of the mother, or some other really disturbing reason (rape, incest, etc) then people usually respond saying they didn't know that and that seems reasonable. At least that's what they say to me, they could be hiding their true thoughts since I ooze pro-choiceyness out of my pores. In fact, I only wear EAU DE CHOICE. Eau de Choice is a refreshing, zesty, and vibrant perfume with notes of apple peel, orange, sherbet and plum.


4. Wait... how many women get those really late ones? (Followed by a look of skepticism intermingled with suspicion)

It is estimated that "really late" abortions account for 1% of the abortion-getter population. So... hardly any. See handy Guttamacher chart:

I find it really strange/weird how many people think late term abortions are super super common and comprise like 40% of all abortions.

5. So.. can I have your number? (Followed with a wink)

Drum sound brought to you by little Bobby

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Snack: Media Post

I recently discovered a super-cool organization called Ipas, based in Chapel Hill, NC. They do all manner of reproductive health advocacy internationally, including abortion rights (w00t). Emmy-nominated filmmaker Lisa Russell, in conjunction with Ipas, created the short documentary Not Yet Rain. Based on an African proverb ("Thunder is not yet rain"), the film documents the struggles that Ethiopian women face accessing safe and legal abortion care. Elective abortion is only legal in two African countries - South Africa and Tunisia - and other countries have very strict laws against abortion except in the rarest of circumstances.

Complete with tear-jerking and heart-warming testimonials, Not Yet Rain paints a vivid image of the struggles with women's rights in a traditional and patriarchal context. You can order your free DVD from the film's website (just clickity click the image above). Share it with loved ones!

Also, check out this public radio interview with Lisa Russell about the film and abortion in the African context: http://wunc.org/tsot/archive/sot0611c09.mp3/view.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How to lose friends and influence people

Because I take the internet too seriously, I recently decided to unfriend everyone on Facebook who I could discern was anti-choice.  It was mostly based on the very scientific method of making assumptions and then checking which groups they joined and what they were fans of.  I didn't do it because I "wasn't interested in having an intelligent debate," as devil's advocates and/or antis like to say, but I did it because I don't believe there is a debate.  Abortion is legal and it's necessary, it's what I do 40 hours a week.  End of story.  And I didn't have much ambivalence when I clicked that I was "sure [I] want[ed] to remove Jane Schmo as a friend" because I learned long ago that anyone in my life just has to be pro-choice.  

Days after the Great Delete of '09, I posted something or other abortion-related on Facebook, and I got a scathing reply from an acquaintance who I hadn't been able to pigeonhole properly.  It was actually the first time I'd gotten that response, but I wasn't particularly bothered.  It was like hearing protesters yelling at me as I walk into work--I know which one of us is truly wrong (hint: not me), and the weird argument just makes me care even more about my work.  

But when I scanned my list of Facebook friends later, I noticed another face missing.  It was a former college professor of mine who I had really respected and appreciated.  He had unfriended me. We talked literature, not politics, but I'd always taken him for an open-minded person.  And I was wrong, at least when it comes to students turned Abortioneers.  What I was not ready for was having someone I genuinely cared about essentially cutting me out of his life for what I do and what I believe in.  Sure, it's naive to expect it won't happen, especially when I know people whose immediate families have cut them out for the same reason.  

And that's why a lot of us get defensive.  That's why we sometimes selfishly expect for clients to bow down and thank us.  That's why we lie about what we do.  I may get angry about bomb threats and shootings, but I get flat-out sad about sacrificing friends.  

(Then again, I'm pretty certain that the friends I've made through abortion far outweigh and outnumber the ones I've lost.  Abortioneers, on this blog and not, are some of the greatest people I've ever met.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Allow me for a moment to feed off the hype from the reality TV nightmare that is "Jon and Kate + 8".

I am hopelessly addicted, for no other reason than I get teary eyed by watching those little faces and big eyes. They fascinate me, the way they communicate and interact. It's wonderful! A second component, which doesn't particularly please me but still keeps me interested, is Kate. Not because I think she's anything special, but because I need to reaffirm myself of the woman that I want to be (read: NOT KATE). I stand firm in my belief that their marriage is disintegrating not as a result of the show, nor as a result of Kate's shrill and hateful demeanor (really!). It all started over five years ago; Jon and Kate went to shit because they were too pro-life. Observe:

If you watch closely, you can understand very clearly that Jon never wanted more than two kids. He was 23 for cryin' out loud! In fact, as the story goes, Kate begged and pleaded for one more (just one more!), and Jon relented. To make her happy? Possibly. To make her shut up? More likely.

Mistake #1: Intentionally having children you don't want.

Kate undergoes further fertility treatment to conceive. Rumor has it that they had the opportunity to adopt a baby, but passed (reasons unknown). Kate went ahead with the treatments and ended up with seven embryos (one miscarried). She - as a nurse and as a common sense human being - knew that said treatments tend to result in multiples. They pump you full of baby material for tens of thousands, damned if they don't get it right - and then some. Was Jon aware of the risk? Who knows. His self-professed lack of communication skills could have caused him to wander blindly into this travesty.

Mistake #2: Conning your unwilling husband into having more children than he's interested in.

Congratulations, you're pregnant with far more fetuses than the human body is equipped to carry! Doctors recommended selective reduction, the abortion of some of the fetuses to allow the others room to develop and reduce competition for resources. Speaking of resources: Jon had some sort of entry-level IT job; I think we can safely say that without a college degree he was not raking it in. Kate was a nurse, but probably not a well-off one. She was young herself (25?) and - assuming she actually had an advanced degree in nursing - probably a n00b in the field. They were living in a moderate sized condo, perfect for FOUR PEOPLE. Finally, note that in this family full of aunts and uncles, fewer than a handful were ever on board to help out.

Mistake #3: Kidding yourself.

Now, allow me to disclaim that as a pro-choice individual I am expected to respect the reproductive choices that Jon and Kate made. Sure, I respect that. But man, am I pissed about it. The love these morons have for kids is overwhelming: they love them so much that they have to quit their actual jobs and whore them on cable TV to survive; they risk the kids' safety each time they go out in public; they risk normalcy, childhood, by having to teach their kids at the tender age of five why daddy doesn't live with them anymore; and above all, they had them when they were young and stupid and completely unprepared for the realities of the choices they were making. A shame. And thank God that these are happy and intelligent kids. If they were any less well-adjusted there would be a shitstorm of child protective services and Rorschach blots.

This is where abortion saves lives and hearts. Imagine if Jon and Kate had had just one more. They'd struggle, sure. They wouldn't get to go on ski trips to Utah or have weddings in a tropical paradise. They'd probably send their kids to public school, and probably wouldn't eat 100% organic. They might adopt a pound puppy instead of buying purebreads. Jon might have finished his degree, earned more money. Kate might have been happy with that. And they might have saved eight children from the horrifying reality of having every angst-ridden moment of their childhoods documented on film or in print. This my friends, is the side of choice that we rarely see: women are often criticized for having too many abortions, but what about those women who have too few? Why is this not considered a form of child abuse?

I just hope it was all worth it; just one more little bundle of joy for decades of hurt and regret.

feminist <=> abortioneer?

Sparky's post from yesterday reminded me of a piece of writing that affirms why I do what I do, so I'd like to share it. It's almost amusing that I am about to reinforce certain stereotypes here, but OK: in the passage below, replace the word "feminists" with the word "abortioneers" and you'll understand why, at least for me personally, they are inseparable -- why the imperative to facilitate women's access to abortion is part and parcel of my belief that women are human beings and that is that.
Feminists have a vision of women, even women, as individual human beings....This is not a bourgeois notion of individuality; it is not a self-indulgent notion of individuality; it is the recognition that every human being lives a separate life in a separate body and dies alone. In proposing “the individuality of each human soul,” feminists propose that women are not their sex; nor their sex plus some other little thing—a liberal additive of personality, for instance; but that each life—including each woman’s life—must be a person’s own, not predetermined before her birth by totalitarian ideas about her nature and her function, not subject to guardianship by some more powerful class, not determined in the aggregate but worked out by herself, for herself. Frankly, no one much knows what feminists mean; the idea of women not defined by sex and reproduction is anathema or baffling.
(the notorious Andrea Dworkin, in Right-Wing Women: the Politics of Domesticated Women, 1983.)

It bears repeating: Each life must be a person's own, not predetermined by totalitarian ideas about one's nature and function.

I know of people who claim to be feminists but against abortion, and I know of people in the abortion field who do not appear to be feminist or womanist or pro-liberation. Both seem to have completely misunderstood what they are doing. It's not for me to define either of these for everyone else, I know; but sometimes I want to say COME ON! What do you think you are doing??

Today I spoke with a woman whose young daughter was turned away by a doctor who couldn't be bothered to treat her but kept a lot of their hard-scraped money. The reason for the turning-away sounded pretty bogus. Obviously you often hear only one side of the story, but I mean pretty bogus. Their remaining hope was to scramble for more money, travel to another city, and hope that by then she wasn't too far along for the clinic there. I wanted to go out there and shake the first doc, ask what s/he is thinking, what is s/he in this profession for, and why is s/he parading around being the bad stereotype that none of us knows personally but anti-abortion folks love to believe is all of us?

I am here to help women fight against being reduced to their reproductive organs (and they do fight!), to help them remain free to become their fullest selves, to brace my arms with them and stretch open the pouches of their lives that risk shriveling in this air salty with scorn, so they can exist beyond their officially-sanctioned "nature" or "function" as receptacles of men's urges and battlefields of men's power struggles. I am not here for anything else.

I am not here for "population control" -- arguments about environmental wellness have their place but it is not in my clients' counseling rooms or their vaginas. I am not here for the man who wants her to "take care of it," it being the cramp in his style. I am not here for her father or her mother who have already decided the best course for her life, informed consent be damned. I am clearly not here for the money -- ha ha ha!

I am here for every her who needs me to be here, recognizing the self beyond the female pronoun and the "female problems." If you're not here for that, then what are you doing?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Activism or Advocacy

In response to being identified as a victim of right wing anti-choice violence Dr. Tiller once said, "I am a willing participant in this conflict… I choose to be here." I read these words for the first time shortly after Dr. Tiller was murdered. His life was taken as a result of the conflict he willingly participated in, becoming a martyr for choice. I have been pondering what it means to be a pro-choice advocate versus an activist.

In order to be an activist one must be willing to face conflict, we cannot hide under the many “what ifs…”. I believe confrontation often shows people’s true strength, conflict is uncomfortable and difficult more so for some than other’s. Dr. Tiller’s response to being called a victim made me ponder what it means to be a willing participant in a conflict over abortion. What does is mean to be an activist and not just an advocate? An activist intentionally makes choices and acts to create social change, while an advocate speaks on one’s behalf.

A few times in life, I have heard someone say men’s conflicts are fought over women’s bodies. I am not sure who the first person to plant this seed of thought in my mind was. Access to abortion is one way conflicts are worked out over women’s bodies. Women are the source of reproduction, thus we hold the future of humanity in our bodies. Our bodies are a source of power, both politically and economically. Women who seek abortions are criminalized in many places and even in places like the United States where abortion is legal but inaccessible women are stigmatized. Our bodies are a means of control, a means of asserting power and control. Women are often systemically raped as a tool of terrorism. This not only damages the woman psychologically and physically, but also makes her and the child she bares outcasts. These are only a few examples of how men’s conflicts are waged over women’s bodies.

In a book called The Ethical Slut, by Dossie Easton and Catherine Liszet, I read the words, “We need to politicize to protect our right to accurate and positive information about sex.” (p.94) This book is about our culture in regards to negativity towards sex and pleasure. This quote reminded me that in order to act as a willing participant in any conflict one must be willing to become political, one must be willing to take a stand and act on that stand. I can not simply advocate for access to abortion; I have to help my sisters’ access. I have to be willing to drive my sisters to the clinic, to help her find information on clinics, and lend her money when I have it. I have to support her choice no matter what and I have to be willing to motivate other people to support individuals that are beyond my personal reach. Abortion Activists work towards creating a world where reproductive health is available even when these rights are under attack.

Activism means becoming a willing participant in a conflict, and it is essential to politicize. As long as women’s bodies are terrorized and controlled by political forces, those of us who advocate for women’s rights must be willing to fight. We must be willing help educate, motivate, and mobilize others.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

why can't all women just conform?

Sometimes I wonder if anti-abortion protest is really only about the fetus. That unknown being, that potential life, that is growing inside of a woman's body. There can be so much passion and conviction behind the anti-choice movement. There can also be a tremendous amount of hate, violence, and fear mongering. Is it all for the fetus? If the anti-choice movement fought as hard for infant and child rights as they do for fetal rights, I would have to say yes. But, unfortunately, that is not the case.

The anti-choice movement will go to great lengths to make sure that unwanted fetus/child is born. Who cares what the mother wants to do or what is in her best interest-that fetus MUST be born. But then what happens after that child is brought into this world? To put it bluntly, the anti-choice movement doesn't really give two shits. If they did, they would fight equally as hard for healthcare for all children, outstanding education for all children, safety for all children, and general quality of life for all children. They would fight for increasing access to prenatal care and decreasing maternal mortality. But they don't. Their battle has already been won.

So this begs the question-why the passion to bring this infant into the world when they honestly don't care what happens after the pregnancy is over?

In my opinion, it is about control. Control over women's bodies, control over their sexuality, and punishment for their inability to conform to what women should do-give birth. If history tells us anything, women have always been punished for their inability to conform. For example, women who refused to conform to religious doctrine were stoned, burned at the stake, and drowned. Hundreds of thousands of women were murdered for being accused of sorcery and witch craft. Or in plainer terms, their inability to conform.

It is no surprise that those who protest abortion the most are intensely religious--following scripture that has traditionally viewed women as second class citizens with rights equal to a donkey's. They believe that women who are impregnated must continue that pregnancy, regardless of how they feel, what they want, and if the pregnancy is safe for their bodies. It is what they are created to do, what they are supposed to do, and anything against that is a sin. Laws are created to force women to conform or perhaps scare them into conforming. It is interesting to also address that the majority of anti-choicers are men--traditionally those that lead the procession of conforming women into activities that are against their choice. And those women who don't believe in a women's right to choose? They are the conformed, believing women should do as they are told and what there bodies were made to do.

I am thankful, however, that we have grown as a society and species to allow women to make their own choices...and this time, we won't be murdered for it (although clearly, that is not true of our providers). I am thankful for the men and women who may have their own beliefs with regard to abortion, but have chosen not to push, or attempt to conform, others. I am thankful for those that are religious, but view abortion as a divine right or a private decision. I am thankful for my fellow abortioneers who will continue to fight for the rights of all women.

We still have a ways to go before we can truly live our lives without fear of forced conformity by those who think a woman's body is theirs to own and dictate. However, if the anti-choice movement believes women will fall in line and conform to their beliefs and structure, they are very much mistaken.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bundle of Joy

A woman at my job is pregnant, and boy, is she lovin' it.

She brought in fancy chocolates to break the news a few months ago, passed up a luxurious business trip to protect the little one, and decided to take an extra two months of maternity leave. You can tell by her glow, her smile, the way she bounds through the hallways grasping her precious cargo how insanely happy she is. It's a perfect set-up: healthy middle-aged woman, married, great job and two (two!) doctoral degrees. Slap a baby on top and you've got one hell of a parfait. And what a tender mom she'll be! Charged with office plant maintenance while some colleagues were away on business, I watched her clutch a vase of bamboo to her chest, walking steadily so as not to spill a drop of water and deprive the poor plant. Motherhood certainly agrees with her.

So then I thought: why aren't all pregnant ladies so pleasant to be around? Isn't pregnancy a miracle, a gift?

Behold: The Pregnancy Merriment Flowchart! *

* Not to be used for diagnostic purposes.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Abortion is a Blessing

Unfortunately, it's uncommon to hear religious leaders in the US speak frankly about abortion from a supportive standpoint; however, Reverend Katherine Ragsdale, an Episcopalian priest of 17 years and now the President and Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School, has done so for years. She has sat on the board of NARAL, The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and The White House Project. Though I am personally non-religious, I am grateful for her wisdom and her support, especially after Dr. Tiller's murder.

I, too, believe abortion is a blessing for those who choose to have one. My abortion several years ago was a blessing. I don't know what I would've done, or who I would be, if I had continued that pregnancy. I may very well still be in a terrible relationship overrun by emotional and verbal abuse, quickly heading towards physical abuse. I would never had met my husband or had my beautiful child, who was planned, wanted, and is very much a blessing. So, I just want to thank Rev. Katherine Ragsdale and other religious leaders who support and understand a woman's private decision to have an abortion. Below is an excerpt from a powerful sermon.

Sermon by Rev. Katherine Ragsdale,President and Dean of Episcopal Divinity School

Let's be very clear about this: when a woman finds herself pregnant due to violence and chooses an abortion, it is the violence that is the tragedy; the abortion is a blessing.

When a woman finds that the fetus she is carrying has anomalies incompatible with life, that it will not live and that she requires an abortion — often a late-term abortion — to protect her life, her health, or her fertility, it is the shattering of her hopes and dreams for that pregnancy that is the tragedy; the abortion is a blessing.

When a woman wants a child but can't afford one because she hasn't the education necessary for a sustainable job, or access to health care, or day care, or adequate food, it is the abysmal priorities of our nation, the lack of social supports, the absence of justice that are the tragedies; the abortion is a blessing.

And when a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to a safe, affordable abortion — there is not a tragedy in sight — only blessing. The ability to enjoy God's good gift of sexuality without compromising one's education, life's work, or ability to put to use God's gifts and call is simply blessing.

These are the two things I want you, please, to remember — abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Let me hear you say it: abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Your mom should share her story

Conundrum –

I work at a human rights non-profit, a clinic, a local fund. I am going to school to become a family doctor. I escort women into the clinic. I am a community sex educator. My title willfully includes the word abortion. I talk about abortions at family holidays, happy hours, the work place, in church, in bed. I use condoms. I don’t use condoms. I take hormonal birth control at the restaurant table if I am in a restaurant when it is time to take my birth control. I note my cycle milestones on my calendar in my kitchen where anyone who visits me can see. I love sex and it feels so good because I’m soft, curvaceous, tender and connective, hormonally-charged and passionate.

If I became pregnant tomorrow morning, I am 90 percent certain I’d have an abortion, and I’d only tell one soul within my entire tightly-knit abortion-embracing community: my dearest local friend, my likely driver.

Why so secretive, so shameful, so cold?

None of the above.

I’d be overwhelmed and wouldn’t feel like sharing.

There is a common movement of pro-choice activists who believe that women who have abortions must share their stories. I have seen many women positively compelled and inspired, joyous and grateful, open and daring, cohesive and resolved in their exploration and declaration of their fertility experience in this lifetime to their friends and family, allies and supporters, even opposition.

I have also met a married woman who wanted to conceive a child with her husband but was also raped by her biological father the first time she met him. Genetic testing in her second-trimester proved her nightmare so she and her otherwise anti-choice husband had a dreadful experience but a meaningful abortion.

She shouldn’t have to share her story to realize her dreams.

Furthermore, there is a deeply viral and deadly movement of anti-abortion hate zealots that delight and engage in threatening the lives of anyone who says boo about abortion that does not first declare their firm belief that conception is god’s work and eggs are fetuses are babies are exultant over the life of any sinful and used woman. Her only purpose—to serve Man his babies on a golden, sugar-crusted plate.

Ho hum. Share your story at your own risk.

The thing that will make this all less complicated?

Less liars and bullies and abusers. Less sexist, chauvinist pigs or anyone who appeases sexist, chauvinist pigs in any single way.

Most to the point: less Antis.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Plan C?

One of my friends saw someone wearing this shirt recently. He thought it was pretty funny, I mainly found it disturbing. We got into an argument over if the shirt was good or bad. He was on the "good" side -- he thought that the shirt's underlying message is See? This is what happens if you don't have Plan B. And, while the shirt is pretty offensive, it is still making people think about abortions, bringing up a topic that most people don't talk about. The thought of a woman using a hanger to self induce an abortion is a horrifying thought to most, thus making abortion at a clinic seem safe/nice. Right?
...or not? Because the shirt is also supposed to be funny. Women being reduced to self inducing abortion isn't exactly hilarious, and many women die from botched back alley abortions of the coat hanger variety every year, which is really sad and heart breaking.

I also found a bunch of different abortion t-shirts on the internet:

What do you guys think? Is the Plan C shirt good or bad? What about abortion shirts generally? What makes an abortion shirt okay? The "I had an abortion shirt" has been divisive amongst many people, even pro-choicers because some people see it as being flippant. I think it's kind of cool to be able to be that open about it though? What say you?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

There Will Always be More Dr. Carharts

I'm not an optimistic person.  I'm good at pretending to be, but that doesn't mean I believe myself.  After Dr. Tiller's death, I assured everyone I knew, as loudly as I could, that there will always be abortion and there will always be providers and there will always be access, and I would make sure of it.  But 10:30 Tuesday night found me on the phone sobbing to my mom about how Dr. Tiller's death and the closure of his clinic signified the end of an era and the end of access.  

And yet, I faced Wednesday morning like normal, with a smile on my face and a ribbon in honor of St. George on my lapel, because it would do no good for me to stop.  I can't even conceive of leaving abortion work behind--whether it's legal or not.  And today's announcement that Dr. Carhart will continue to provide third-trimester abortions in Kansas showed me that I'm not the only one.  For every outspoken abortion advocate I know, there are ten more silent ones.  It might be a young guy who stays quiet at his conservative workplace, but anonymously Twitters about injustices surrounding abortion access in his off hours.  It could be a mother who never talked openly about her abortions, but who lived every day since then giving thanks for her experiences in 1971 (yes, 1971) and making periodic donations to clinics.  And I work directly with doctors who are just as passionate and hardworking and brave as Dr. Tiller and Dr. Carhart are, but who are less apt to be in the spotlight.  I have the privilege of knowing that they're available and they're on our side, even though no one would ever identify them at the grocery store.  And as much as it pains me to see an anti-choice woman have an abortion, come to terms with it, and leave the clinic STILL not admitting that she's pro-choice, that tiny shift in her consciousness is a tiny bit of hope that the world of the Abortioneers will go on.  

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


The Pill Kills

This campaign is going around the country holding anti-contraception rallies, decrying the horrors of the birth control pill (BCP). Not only does the BCP kill real live babies, but it also kills grown women who take them. Apparently we've lost millions of women to the pill right out from under our noses, thanks to their fatal side effects. Not sure what these are, exactly, but lots of heart and blood stuff, the meanings of which are unclear to me; they just sound like really bad things that BCPs could do. Additionally, the BCP causes "spiritual" and "relationship" side effects, opening the door to marital infidelity and tempting youth into acts of illicit and possibly illegal sex. And you haven't even heard the worst side effect of BCPs: intolerance to contact lenses.


As an aspiring researcher, allow me to dispel the dangers of the abuse of scientific research as in the TPK campaign:

1. The three-page list of physical side effects came from three sources only: footnotes 4, 7, and 8. In fact, this entire campaign is informed by 13 resources, only THREE of which were featured in peer-reviewed journals and FOUR of which were published in religious or anti-abortion media. Also, it seems that nobody informed the brains behind the TPK campaign that newspaper articles do not count as scientific literature.

2. Major source 4 is, of course, a biased source (Eternal Life publications), rendering its findings less-than-credible. All peer-reviewed (read: worth its salt) literature must declare conflicts of interest as a prerequisite for being read by a panel of unbiased experts prior to publication. Considering that this source was not published in a peer-reviewed medium, it's likely crap.

3. Sources 7 and 8 are the drug information inserts from Ortho Tri-Cyclen and Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo pill packs. That is, these are fully disclosed to users of the BCP, as are the risks associated with the pill when combined with certain other pharmaceuticals and medical conditions. As a user, I am fully aware that if I am predisposed to heart/blood problems (I'm not), then I should not take the pill. I also should not smoke or wear contact lenses.

4. NONE of the "research" cited for this campaign uses a longitudinal or cohort study design, meaning that NONE of these findings can determine causality. To say that BCP "causes" any of these problems simply because they share even the most tenuous relationship is a flagrant abuse of research methods and disrupts the integrity of scientific research. For shame.

No need to continue. Just thought I'd point out that there is no theoretical or scientific bases for many of the claims presented in the campaign, much as with anti-abortion campaigns. One that really gets my goat: post-abortion stress syndrome. Anti-abortion activists claim that abortion causes a host of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. See, they interviewed a bunch of women, asked if they had abortions, and then asked if they had any of those problems. And lo, women who had had abortions in the past also tended to have mental health conditions. Jiminy Crickets!

Consider, you non-scientific nutjobs:

1. Directionality! Flip the script, would you; maybe women who suffer from mental conditions are more likely to have abortions. I can think of a few reasons (just a few) why person with a mental illnesses wouldn't want a baby.

2. Social desirability bias! A TREMENDOUS impediment to cross-sectional research, social desirability bias influences respondents to give the answers that they believe researchers and the public would be most happy with. Have I had an abortion before? No way! Do I have a mental illness? You wish!

3. Respondent bias! Maybe women who are more comfortable talking about their issues with mental health are also more comfortable talking about their abortions. Maybe you just happened to get a bunch of these for your sample by some twist of fate. There is no telling how screwed up cross-sectional data can get when you deal with multiple taboo issues at once.

Yikes. Someone send these folks to public health school.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Thank You

Sitting at work earlier today, I kept thinking that I would write a “normal” blog post. Get back to writing about a patient story, or a funding story. Tonight I went to a memorial service for Dr. Tiller – I have been to a couple of others this past week. It made me want to say something on the subject.

I never met Dr. Tiller. To me his murder meant more of a general want and a need to continue to work in reproductive health, so that his death would not be in vain. It still does. And even though I was extremely saddened by what happened, and it filled me with a new fire to try to help women in whatever capacity I can, it wasn’t personal. I didn’t feel a personal connection to it until tonight. Tonight I sat at a memorial service listening to a friend of Dr. Tiller’s speak of him not only as a doctor, and a champion for women’s health, but also as a husband, father, grandfather, and friend. Someone who provided abortion services because there were women who needed these services and providing those women with health care was his duty and the right thing to do as a doctor. Because I never knew him I didn’t stop to think of him as that person, stop to think of his family.

I think of the sacrifice he gave and the sacrifice his family gave, so women could have access to safe, supportive abortion care. As I walk past a local abortion clinic daily, I now think of the staff who work there. I think of the sacrifice they are making, that their loved ones are making, so they too can help women. I think about the clinic escorts who volunteer early morning hours – Saturday, before work – to help women and their companions safely get inside to their appointments.

I want to say thank you. Thank you for putting yourselves in harm’s way. Thank you for not thinking of yourselves, but for what you can do for others.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Taking on the Torch

A week after the murder of Dr. Tiller, pro choice doctors, advocates, counselors, and health care providers are still thinking, “now what”?. During the Clinton administration there were numerous acts of violence by “pro-life” fanatics, doctors were killed and clinics were terrorized. Once Bush was in office there was a dramatic decline in “pro-life” violence, whenever the political administration is more conservative “pro-lifers” seem to settle down. With Obama in office will “pro-life” people continue to mobilize fanatics to commit these kinds of acts of terrorism? The pro-choice community must mobilize to demand access to basic health care rights, we must be willing to risk our lives, as long as “pro-life” advocates believe it’s their right to threaten to our lives.

I’m no doctor, but I am an educator, a counselor, a friend, a sister, and a resource. We have to continue to make our rights our reality. It’s not easy to commit to making our most basic rights accessible; in fact it’s much more difficult for many of my sisters. Life and circumstance does not always provide the ability to create one’s own reality. However, some of us can grab that torch and keep going forward. We will not leave our sisters in the dark, but we hold their hands and carry the torch as we all walk forward.

We need doctors who will perform abortions; young people in medical school are not choosing to perform abortions, very possibly because it means choosing to risk your life. Fifty Seven percent of abortion doctors are over the age of fifty, we need young physicians and medical students to step up to the plate and demand to learn abortion care. Some of us will be able to carry on this piece of the story in many capacities. Dr. Tiller was one piece of that story. He understood that abortion was about a women’s heart. We need people who are willing and able to risk their lives to make abortion health care an accessible choice.

At the vigil I went to, for Dr. Tiller, one woman gave her testimony regarding Dr. Tiller’s involvement in her life. She was from Wichita, Kansas and Dr. Tiller helped her birth mom choose to arrange an adoption. This woman believed abortion is a completely acceptable option even for her birth mother. However, she is here in this world because Dr. Tiller supported a woman’s choice, no matter what. Dr. Tiller also made sure the babies who were adopted were given to pro-choice families.

My mother had an abortion about four years before she got pregnant with me. When she got pregnant for the second time she was relatively young, single and unsure of what to do. She met a life long sister who offered to support my mom in any decision she made about her pregnancy. This woman offered to raise me with or without my mom’s involvement. She offered to hold my mother’s hand during an abortion or childbirth. She offered to support her in choosing to become a single parent. This woman held my mother’s torch. My mom had the support to commit to having a child because she had the support to choose any path she needed to take.

This woman is my aunt; she did support my mom in raising me and has always loved me like her own. As women, sisters, daughters, mothers, and friends we have to try and hold each other’s torch whenever possible. I am my sister’s keeper.

We need all people to step up to carry on the work to make reproductive choice a reality. Each of us must step up to make our rights our reality in whatever way possible. Some people will be able to go to medical school and can choose to perform abortions and provide women with information to make their own decisions. Some people will support a sister, a friend, or a stranger in working through a decision making process. Some people will work towards productive policy changes. Whatever torch you carry, this is time to step up, hold someone else’s hand, and walk forward.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

In Memoriam, make a difference

This week's fund spotlight is made in awareness of the many, many women and girls who were able to recover their "hopes, dreams, potential, the rest of their lives" with the help of Dr. George Tiller, and the many who will need that same kind of help in the future. The fact that Dr. Tiller is gone from us, while heartbreaking and gutwrenching on so many levels, will not lead us to despair. We will redouble our efforts to serve women's health, and to serve each one of our clients with "kindness, courtesy, justice, love and respect".

Dr. Tiller's clinic often treated women who could not afford the high cost of their complex procedures, often with the help of national and local funds, but also often by waiving a significant portion of the fee. His was a compassionate practice that recognized the injustice -- and the medical trauma -- suffered when vital health care, though legal and available, is not accessible or affordable.

A coworker of mine once helped a young girl and her mother raise enough money to travel some 1,500 miles to get to Women's Health Care Services. By the time they arrived in Wichita, paid for their hotel room, and paid the "second consulting doctor" as required by Kansas law, almost all of their money was gone. I will never forget that a religious pro-choice organization found someone to donate airline miles to get them to Kansas, that the mother waited by the phone all day to find out if her small loan application had been approved, that my coworker waited by the phone all evening to find out if her funding requests would succeed, that national funds and local funds in the girl's area contributed more than they could afford, that some small local funds in entirely different regions agreed to pitch in, or that the clinic ended up waiving the rest of the fee when they still couldn't reach the total needed. The clinic staff, some of whom have worked for Dr. T since before I was even fertile, were instrumental in carrying out the doctor's philosophy of compassionate care by coordinating the financial arrangements for this low-income family.

The National Network of Abortion Funds writes:

In response to requests from Dr. Tiller's clinic staff, emails and phone calls we received from Dr. Tiller's friends and former patients, and a groundswell of support online, the National Network of Abortion Funds created the George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund late in the evening of Sunday, May 31, 2009.

Within the first 24 hours of the Fund's existence, we received more than $15,000 in donations.

The George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund will provide assistance to the same women Dr. Tiller served: women seeking abortions in their second-trimesters, women facing extreme obstacles to abortion, and women who often must travel from their homes to obtain the abortion care they need. The Fund will assist with the cost of the procedures as well as the costs of travel and lodging. Notably, this Fund will be available to patients of the late Dr. Tiller's clinic, Women's Health Care Services in Wichita, at such time when the clinic is able to regroup and reopen.

To donate to the Fund in Dr. Tiller's name, please send contributions to:
George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund
c/o National Network of Abortion Funds
42 Seaverns Ave
Boston, MA 02130

You may also donate online.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Videos to give you goosebumps

Abortion is not about babies, it's not about familes: abortion is about women's hopes, dreams, potential, the rest of their lives.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

51 problems and having a baby isn't one of them

“For every woman, each pregnancy is an invited guest into her body and a welcome addition to her family. (Dr. George Tiller, The Declaration of Reproductive Independence)

Oh, merely a few reasons why a woman may seek an abortion beyond the limits of our commonly pointless fascination with conceptions of viability:

1) Lupus

2) Hypertension

3) Diabetes

4) Esophageal atresia

5) Gastroschisis

6) Hydrops fetalis

7) Placental abruption

8) Congenital heart disease

9) Chromosomal disorder

10) Down syndrome

11) Structural/neural tube defect

12) Spina bifida

13) Anencephaly (a condition in which the brain is incomplete or missing--picture vanilla pudding)

14) Metabolic disorder

15) Severe Rh incompatibility

16) Infection

17) Lung immaturity

18) Conjoined twins

19) Cancer

20) Pharmaceuticals

21) Freak accident or severe injury

22) She was raped by a stranger

23) She was raped on a date

24) She was raped by her boyfriend

25) She was raped by her husband

26) She was raped by her father

27) She was raped by her brother

28) She was raped by her cousin

29) She was raped by her uncle

30) She was raped by her grandpa

31) She was raped by her biological father

32) She was raped by her foster brother

33) She was raped by her priest/pastor/minister/rabbi/life coach

34) She was raped by her boss

35) She was raped by her coach

36) She was raped by her neighbor

37) She was raped by her teacher

38) She was raped by a soldier

38) She was gang raped

40) She’s nine

41) She’s ten

42) She’s eleven

43) She’s twelve

44) She’s thirteen

45) She’s fourteen

46) She’s fifteen

47) She’s sixteen

48) She’s seventeen

49) She’s pregnant with an extraterrestrial being

50) Fetal death

51) Other (also known as: none of your business unless YOU perform third trimester abortions)

artwork: The Fetus as Invader, illustration by Blair Drawson

*note to reality: trust us, fetal anomalies are not that purrrrdy