Sunday, February 28, 2010

Black Like Me

Can't get over this.

Now, in all fairness to the rest of the world, I am not 100% black. But to establish my black credibility, I grew up in a black community, went to a 85% black school district, and joined the Black Student Union in college. I would have been a slave. I count!

So, re: conspiracy theories pertaining to racial oppression, they run rampant in black communities. Legit or not, I have heard/been involved in all. Since that poor rating at an orchestra competition at age 12, I'd joined the ranks of angry folks who claim "It's because we're black". On occasion, we're right. But often, we buy into the hype because we need to explain away the feelings of self-loathing and inadequacy that accompany our shortcomings. Thus, rather than coming to terms with certain truths about abortion and black women - e.g. black women are among the most oppressed demographics in the U.S. and internalize feelings of inadequacy, helplessness, and hopeless in far greater numbers than their male or white counterparts, or that they earn much less on average to boot - we conspiracy-theorize.

Black women have abortions because white people make them.


Alveda King is the niece of MLK, Jr., is black, has had two abortions, and is an anti. She, too, buys into the black abortion conspiracy theory. I read an article on her during the 40 Days in 2008, in which she was quoted as saying many stupid things, among them something to the effect of: "Like my uncle, we have to stand up for people who have no voice." Talk about your classic case of self-loathing. Black people have no voice? Nor did they have a voice during the civil right movement? Black people were powerless to bring about change, and only did so thanks to the leadership of MLK? Dr. King, hero that he was, did not speak for the entire black race during the Civil Rights Movement (Black Panthers ring a bell?), and was just one of many public figures who stood on the shoulders of the masses. I hope you all are paying attention: Alveda King, riding on her uncle's coattails to sociocultural notoriety, just reduced the collective political power of all blacks in the United States to that of a fetus.

Thanks, Alveda, and fellow conspiracy theorists. You just set black people back 300 years. Godspeed.

How Pro-Choice are you?

Yesterday was my final day in a series of Values Clarification seminars, where we focused exclusively on attitudes toward abortion. My values about abortion are extremely clear, unlike most other issues in my life where there may be many gray areas. However, I find that it is often the case, even with people who identify as pro-choice, that people have their own limits. Their own boundaries with abortion, when things start to become fuzzy. Unclear. With the rise in technology, it has been said that the viability of a fetus will continue to be earlier and earlier. Do your values change if a fetus is viable at 20 weeks? Should there be limits to abortion procedures? 35 weeks?

In my opinion, no. I constantly try to re-evaluate where I stand on all facets of the pro-choice abortion movement, and I am still in favor of protecting the right of the woman until the first breath is taken, when the baby is born. For me, I have remained clear on this for some time, but realize that even within our community, people feel differently about these issues. About the possibility of fetal pain, injecting the fetal heat with digoxin to stop the heart beat, and how late in the pregnancy is too late to terminate.

I think, especially in our field, it is important to engage in values clarification activities. I have posted an exercise below that is useful when clarifying attitudes towards abortion in a fairly homogeneous group of pro-choice individuals, but can also be tweaked for a more heterogeneous group to fit the values of people who are unclear about their stance on abortion. This activity can also be done with a middle alternative or a scale, in case people don't feel strongly on either the agree or disagree side. Also, if a room is available, the statements can be read aloud and people move to sides of the rooms that are labeled in a continuum with "Agree" "Unsure" and "Disagree" and can stand where ever they feel most comfortable.

Do you Agree or Disagree with the following statements:

1. Every woman has the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy regardless of when during the pregnancy.

2. Abortion should be allowed even beyond 24 weeks of pregnancy.

3. Parental consent should be required for any teen under the age of 18 requesting an abortion.

4. Women who have more than 5 abortions are irresponsible.

5. Women who have more than 10 abortions are irresponsible.

6. Women should not use abortion as a form of birth control.

7. I think reproductive health advocacy organizations should promote the use of emergency contraception in order to decrease the number of abortions in the US each year.

8. I feel uncomfortable if a woman has an abortion because of the gender of the pregnancy.

9. Male partners should have the right to be a part of the decision to terminate a pregnancy.

10. I think a woman's right to choose to have an abortion is an absolute and inalienable right no matter what.

One more activity to sit with is an open-ended finish the sentence:

1. Abortions are:

2. Women who have abortions are:

3. A woman facing an unwanted pregnancy needs to:

4. In this country, abortion should be:

5. People working to restrict abortion should:

6. People working on behalf of women's right to choose should:

I personally really liked this activity, and encourage everyone to fill it out, THEN take it to your work place (if possible), your family, friends of whoever else in your community and get the conversation started!

Have you clarified your values today?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Salt Lake State of Mind

Hmmm. I've been thinking about nature long and hard and have decided that we might as well criminalize hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, snow blizzards, and floods. While we're at it, we should sue rainy wedding days, as well as the flu on birthdays.

Sound inhumane, complicated, ignorant, misguided, misdirected, power-hungry, sociopathic, and egotistical?


I've also been thinking about alllll of this:

February 18, 2010: Measure on illegal abortions heads to governor from the Salt Lake Tribune

February 20, 2010: Utah Bill Criminalizes Miscarriage from RH Reality Check

February 24, 2010: In Utah, Miscarriage = Criminal Homicide from Amplify

February 26, 2010: Womb is Utah’s from Feminists for Choice

And, while we're dwelling in the bottom half of the glass:

February 25, 2010: Nebraska bill seeks to ban most late-term abortions based on argument that fetuses feel pain from the Los Angeles Times

February 23, 2010: Four anti-abortion measures receive Oklahoma House panel's approval from NewsOK

February 15, 2010: Legislation would create abortion waiting period in Missouri from the Kansas City Star

February 11, 2010: Kansas bill would bar insurance coverage of most elective abortions from the Kansas City Star

February 7, 2010: Susan Hill - Abortion-clinic owner, 61 from the Philadelphia Inquirer

February 2, 2010: Mississippi abortion initiative could end up in court from WDAM

(Similar efforts have been under way in several other states, including Colorado, Florida, Montana and Nevada.)

February 2, 2010: Anti-abortion group opposes facility's move to E. Knoxville from Knoxville News Sentinel

February 1, 2010: The Invisible Dead from Slate

In the words of a bright friend: GET OUTTA MY LIFE, FEBRUARY.

(Precious gem of the month: Montgomery Council Approves Regulation Requiring Pregnancy Centers in County To Disclose Actual Scope of Their Services from

PS. News involving healthcare reform could not attend this post due to the fact that it's beating dead horses

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Will "web 2.0" change abortion, too?

Yesterday Bob R tipped us off to the story of a Florida woman named Angie who's been live-tweeting her medication-abortion process for several days now.  That's right: 140-character updates about her nausea, cramping, bleeding, clotting ("some women also experience dizziness headache fever and diarrhea") for all the world to read on twitter. The process is winding down now, but it was interesting while it lasted. 


Unfortunately, her tweeting, which started out as a way to let her friends know how she was doing and describe to others what the process was like, has also attracted negative attention in spades. Angie's gotten insults and death threats. Some responses are weird, creepy or violent ("I'd like to pull on her ear til it rips from her head"?). I really appreciate what she's doing for all of us despite the creepsters. I also respect that she agreed to an interview with an extremely anti-abortion dude who asked absurdly leading questions and didn't fall apart laughing; her answers were thorough, compelling and supportive of all other women's need for reproductive choice. (To give credit where credit's due: the extremely anti-abortion dude was also extremely polite.) 

Then, not 24 hours after we read about Angie, I came across another woman doing the same thing: live-tweeting her medication abortion. She's just begun it. I also saw some more creepy twitter people messaging her every other minute trying to change her mind: "puke [the pills] up. please puke them up. i'll adopt your child. please save your child." I am not making this up. So the notion of Web 2.0 has been on my mind: it's revolutionizing everything else, so why not abortion? 

On this site we already have a permanent link-list of blogs started by women in the midst of an unwanted pregnancy, blogs dedicated to what happened once they decided to have an abortion. Presumably/possibly, these women have their own blogs in "real life" where they write about their jobs, how their day went, and maybe they even use their real names or post pictures; this blog and that blog will be registered to different email addresses, and never the twain shall meet. And that's understandable. I already can't thank them enough  for sharing their experiences with fellow travelers in a way that providers cannot. They're not responsible for changing the world in one blog. 

But what happens when someone who has a personal website and a personal twitter feed updates us about her abortion like it's no big thing? To me this is looking like the next step. The internet (version "1.0" or whatever) at first enabled us to have more information at our fingertips than ever before -- but only the authoritative or the moneyed could provide that information. Blogging has allowed some of us to share day-by-day accounts of a procedure we formerly only discussed in our living rooms. Now tweeting: by-the-hour, by-the-minute details -- a scale where little things like "cramping got worse for a while but I curled up on my side and that seems to help" are worth mentioning. And where some of us may feel that we can incorporate this little thing into our account of daily life -- our primary account, that is -- not segregated or anonymous, just normal, like it really is. 

Update: turns out Salon just wrote about this, too, and includes a Youtube video of Angie explaining the situation (found via abortion clinic days, one of my very favorite sites). 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mad about Michigan

Man oh man, has my home state gone bananas.

First, Bart Stupak is at it again! Blubbering like a baby, he condemns the new health plan for not telling women how to spend their money. The new version goes so far as to require insurance companies to itemize everything in their plans so abortion costs can be isolated. I wonder what the individual costs are for prostate exams and treatments. Actually, I don't really care. Men have the right to healthy prostates. None of my beeswax. As far as the ladies out there who might be screwed insurance-wise, start saving! Start making a list of your best friends and how much they're good for should you need to ask. Everyone else, start donating to local funds to help said women! Stupak, you are dumb. Also, get a haircut.

In other news, the pro-choicer who shot and killed an anti is heading to trial, and jury selection is beginning. Trouble is, the anti who was killed was so obnoxious that it is becoming difficult to find a neutral jury/jury members who didn't actually know the anti. Oops. Now at the end of the day, a murder is a murder, and I do not condone murder of even the most detestable of human beings. I am not pro-death (honest). But it just goes to show that being a jackass doesn't pay. I especially enjoy this little morsel:

"A barber, Jim Corrin, 63, once asked Pouillon, a regular customer, why he didn't display two pictures of happy children on his sign instead of just one accompanied by an aborted fetus."

Jim, you ask an important question with a simple answer. You see, antis do not actually care about people. They would rather use their Saturday mornings to scream at people than feed the hungry or read to children. But as far as I know, flies still prefer honey to vinegar.

And that's the latest from the Mitten State.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Anti-Abortion Best Friend

Something unexpected and surprising happened recently. I learned that even if you're about to have an abortion, your very pro-life, anti-abortion best friend can still be your best friend. Confused? So was I.

Let me explain. A few weeks ago, a client came to our clinic for a pregnancy test. She knew she was pregnant, but wanted a health clinic to confirm this. She brought her best friend with her. Not unusual. I thought it was quite sweet. When I gave the positive test results, both the client and the best friend were present. The client didn't flinch and said, "Okay. I need an appointment for an abortion." The best friend's lips were terse. I took that as a red flag. The appointment was set. The best friend flipped her long blonde hair, looked me straight in the eye, and stated, with distaste, "How can you do this job?" I must've looked confused. I was, in fact, confused. After I asked what she meant, she cleared her throat and said, "I mean, how can you do this? How can you work here?" Her face screwed up again. I quickly stated, "Well, I love my job." Then I looked to the client, as if she could give me some clarification because I was still confused. The client tilted her head towards her best friend and casually stated, "Oh, she's totally anti-abortion and doesn't agree with what I'm doing at all. She's been trying for several years to get pregnant. So, she doesn't get abortion."

I was a little concerned for the client, worried her only support person was totally against abortion. The best friend flipped her blonde hair again. "I don't get it. And I have tried to have a baby for years, like she said. But she's my best friend. So I'm here. And I'll be with her to help her with whatever she decides." I was impressed. And not so sure the client would show for her appointment.

But she did. And so did the best friend. The best friend took off a day from her job. A job which was really difficult to get off from. She sat with the client all day. And it was an exceptionally long day. She even stayed with her during the abortion procedure and held her hand. At the end of the day, filled with a lot of waiting, the best friend pulled me aside. She touched my arm, smiled, and flipped that blonde hair once again. "I know why you do what you do now." I smiled, quizically. "I read the journal you guys have in the waiting room. You know, the one where all the women can write about how they're feeling about their abortion. And now I get it. Now I get why you are here and why you love your job and why it matters. And I wanted to tell you I think it's really great." Her blue eyes sparkled and she smiled. A sincere smile. I wanted to hug her.

Actually, I want to put her up as a great big billboard of what best friends are supposed to be. How they're meant to act. How they're supposed to be there to support their friends, even when they don't really agree. And if I were to have an abortion tomorrow, I sure as hell would want a best friend like that around.

We all could do with a best friend like the blonde hair flipper who has been trying to have babies, is against abortion, but stood by her friend and held her hand during her abortion: because she loves her best friend. I think she's amazing. And I think you may think so, too.

Monday, February 22, 2010

"Every child is valuable, and children aren't a punishment"

Sorry you haven't gotten your regular Monday-morning post. Work and/or school are swallowing a couple of us whole, but come back and chill with us tomorrow!

In the meantime, we don't want to leave you totally bereft. Check out the words of a man who's pious enough to give us his honest take on the worth of disabled kids and what Christians "suggest" for sinners:

Legislator Says Disabled Kids May Be God's Punishment
By Kelsey Radcliffe
Sunday, February 21, 2010
RICHMOND, VA – State Delegate Bob Marshall of Manassas says disabled children are God’s punishment to women who have aborted their first pregnancy.
"The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children," said Marshall, a Republican. "In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There's a special punishment Christians would suggest."
and check this out:
"Looking at it from a cultural, historical perspective, this organization should be called 'Planned Barrenhood'" [Marshall said].
[Dean Nelson, executive director of the Network of Politically Active Christians] suggested that the organization be called "Klan Parenthood".

Oooh, zinga-zing-zing! They got you good, Planned Parenthood! Maybe next time you won't choose such a DUMB RYHMABLE NAME. (I actually think it's a fantastic name and a fantastic goal. Poor PP.)

Oh, on that note, can I tell you how many of my clients through the years have mistakenly called it Plant Parenthood, Planet Parenthood [a place where you don't want to go!], Parent Planethood, Paired Planning? A lot! It sort of rolls off the tongue and people don't always remember the specific words, I think.

There's so many other funny name mix-ups I've heard for clinics and funds -- one by the acronym of EMA which a client kept referring to as "she" and I eventually realized she meant "Emma." Abortioneers and friends! Any similar misnomers you're able to share?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What's Your Sign?

I have seen A LOT of stupid anti-choice signs, posters, comics, etc over the years. Here are some of my favorites:

So... you were designed by God? Cool. I heard God designed a lot of stuff. Trees. Grass. Animals. Bagels. Apparently World War II? Isn't everything in the world a part of "God's Design"? If it's so bad to kill stuff God designed, why do you eat meat? And kill doctors?

AH! Yes, Mary. Full of life. The lady who magically became pregnant without having sex. She is definitely a good example of a normal woman's circumstance. I will definitely not have an abortion if I get pregnant without having sex.

EVERY baby is a blessing? What about the 12 year old who is pregnant with her father's child? That strikes me as unfortunate.

Ok, this is actually pretty good. Hahaha.

Well, people who supported slavery also supported the disenfranchisement of women. And anyone else who wasn't a white dude. Also just because I was born doesn't really mean I should therefore decide if other women get to carry unwanted pregnancies to term?

Um. Well first off all, nobody has elective third trimester abortions. NOBODY. And women aren't flippantly going around having abortions. It's a deeply emotional, difficult decision. So yeah....

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My pro-abortion father focuses on HIS family

Please pardon me. My visions are skewed.

When I was a child, my dad would place a box of donuts outside our quaint doorstep then claim that Mark the
flying, magical horse delivered them especially for our family. He also claimed a whale named Wally lived in the Great Lakes, and a pelican named Peter could fly my brother, sister, and I in his pouch to Florida to see our grandparents in the winter. Two Oreo-eating elves named Orie and Dorie lived behind our dog's ears, and the spider sometimes in the corner is Sammie.

We watched the The
Cosby Show, Highway to Heaven, and Beverly Hills 90210 together, swam in the lake, played ball, rode bikes, went for boat rides, and built art projects. My dad crafted bunk beds, swing sets, basements, several sheds, a sunflower garden.

He took me to Take Your Daughter to Work Day, and I wrote an article about the experience so he had it published in the city paper.

My dad makes a mean lightly breaded, lightly fried perch filet. His worst quality is his sweet tooth.

I have confessed my deepest mistakes to and shared my most profound victories with both my mom and my dad.

When I call home, I know one of two people who love me to high heaven will answer the phone. My dad is unequivocally available to me by cell phone, home phone, work phone, and e-mail 24/7. In fact, my mom, siblings, and I playfully mock his devotion to his children while nestled around the fire feasting on soup, cheese, and bread during warm and toasty holiday reunions.

Thank goodness he's coaching high school football lest he lose himself to his children's adulthood, and yet my-adult-self could halt his entire hometown game at Homecoming if need-be.

Okay okay okay.
Footsteps was right. During my times of great sorrow, my father has carried me through.

It's amusing only when it's so delightfully true.

Please don't misunderstand. There is no perfection. One Christmas, my dad drank too much whiskey and said some stupid things. His cholesterol is spiky, and he falls asleep during movies. Sometimes, when the conversations continue past about an hour, we know he's no longer listening. His keys, loose change, and socks make stylish places crappy. He doesn't fold clothes well. Recently, he suggested that he's stellar because he changed for my mom...

This is a slice of patriarchy and it’s comforting but bittersweet and chalky tasting until lucky love is not peppered with privilege. My sense of idealism is tainted with the pure privilege of being born into one of the floating concepts of the nuclear, American Dream in synchronized motion, and the *Dream* was created to work for certain mostly-white-men, and it turns out that one of those mostly-white-men is my dad.
Ding ding ding ding ding.

The dream may vary.

My mom and dad may be your dad and dad or mom and mom or sister and grandma or teacher and friend or boss and dog or coffee barista and neighbor or child and plant or boyfriend and BFF. Heck, it may be your whole congregation of worship.

You may hate donuts and horses and lakes and elves and sunflowers and Take Your Daughter to Work Day.

It's more than possible you don't have a father.

But you're never hungry. You laugh often inside and out and feel periods of mild to full contentedness if you're dwelling in the notions of the *Dream.* More or less, your life progresses. Neither of your parents abused you, and while they raised you to slit your own throat rather than fight wars with violence, they'd abolish any soul who'd ever try to burn you down.

You'd rather be you than anybody.

The dream may vary.

The unconditional love bubbling at the root does not.

Why did she wait so long?

When I'm fundraising for someone, one of the questions I hate the most is, "Why did she wait so long?" I wonder, why does it matter? And what does that mean? It shouldn't matter, and it doesn't matter to me why someone "waited" so long. Although I would like to examine the reasons why someone would "wait".

First, I want to say that many women don't wait. They don't wait to get further along. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Many women I talk to want an abortion as soon as possible. If they can move their appointment up they will. However, there are a myriad of things that come between women and their abortions. Here are just a few.

Money. An abortion in the first trimester can cost on average of $400-$500. To you and I that may not seem that bad. I have a job, maybe you have a job, but not everyone has a job. So many people in this country live in conditions that many of us really cannot imagine. Maybe she can barely take care of herself, her children, her parents, her brothers and sisters, let alone come up with $500 for her abortion. She may not have anyone she can borrow money from. She might pawn everything she can and still not get enough. There is a reason they call it "chasing the price".

Unknown pregnancy. It's not that hard to be pregnant without realizing it. This is coming from someone who's never been pregnant -- but I've talked to enough pregnant women to realize this is the case. How many of us get irregular periods? How many of us are that in tune to our bodies? How many of us have so much stress and drama in our lives that we don't take time to take of ourselves, to think about why we feel sick, rundown, haven't gotten a period in a couple of months? I talk to so many women who swear they are "a couple of months", and then we find out they're in their 2nd trimester -- teenagers and older women alike. We don't always know our own body as well as we think we do.

Complications. You can't foresee them, and they can be so heartbreaking. Some women have complications in their pregnancies - some they cannot overcome. They may be threatening to the health or life of the woman. Maybe their baby will not live more than a few moments, hours, days. Maybe they cannot possibly take care of a child with so many problems that could seriously compromise its life if not treated properly.

Let's not judge. Let's not assume we are "better", that it would "never happen to me". Rather than judge, let's embrace each other, help each other -- donate to a local abortion fund, volunteer at a clinic, help promote comprehensive sex education, and help elect candidates for office that support a woman's right to choose (in actions and not just in positions statements).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dr. Tillerisms

Dr. Tiller had a whole bunch of sayings that he said guided his behavior, temperament and advice to others. At some point his clinic staff typed up a list of them, and after his murder many of us found it comforting to pass it around. Some of them are borrowed, others probably original. Some seem cheesy to me. But in person Dr. Tiller had a self-assured, positive-thinking kind of vibe and when I met him it all made sense.

Some go over my head, and others really hit close to home. Which of these are meaningful to you? I'll say one of mine at the end of the list, too.

  • The great battles of life are fought between our ears and not any other fields of contact.
  • Don't let the protesters live rent free in your head.
  • Solutions...not problems.
  • Always say thank you personally.
  • A life of reaction is a life of spiritual and emotional slavery.
  • If there is plenty - take plenty; if there is none take it all. (great grandad Romney - quoted by Stanley Tiller '91)
  • An infinite amount of quality can be added to any service.
  • It's nice to be important but it's more important to be nice.
  • It's not going to change until you change.
  • When you have to eat crow - chew rapidly, swallow quickly and it doesn't taste too bad.
  • It is better to do a good deal poorly than a bad deal well.
  • If you are going to bet on someone - bet on yourself first.
  • It never pays to dance on someone else's grave.
  • You can change the world - if you do not have to take credit for it.
  • If it's too hot in the kitchen, DON'T COOK.
  • A man has got to know his limitations.
  • You cannot be all things to all people.
  • Ego trips are expensive.
  • It is never the wrong time to do the next right thing.
  • Paddle your own canoe. - Grandma Tiller '59
  • Glory may be fleeting BUT mediocrity is forever.
  • The only requirement for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
I think that last one was made famous by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "The only requirement for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." One of the most frustrating parts of being an abortioneer is dealing with pro-choice friends and family who don't vote, don't attend rallies, don't say anything about anti-choice remarks from acquaintances or coworkers. Why so quiet? Silence helps others erroneously believe that everyone they know is against abortion, and that no one they know cares about abortioneers or our patients.

OK, your turn.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Will The Revolution Be Funded...or Free?

e.t.a. CAUTION: I'm procrastinating on a paper, so this post is really long!

Did you check out Desembarazarme's Thursday post? You should. It rocks. I'll wait while you read it. Okay?


Thank god for Desembarazarme, who reminds us how rewarding our jobs are, spiritually if not so much materially. Now here I come barging in, wanting to talk about compensation, but in the crass way.

I want to talk shop. This is aimed more at soliciting thoughts and advice from fellow abortioneers and other do-gooder types. There's these two things I struggle with, similar in a lot of ways and partly intertwined.

I. Money makes the world go round, and private charity steps in where our social safety nets have been unwoven. In most states, clinics and emergency funding programs can only get by financially if they register as official 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations. And those rely on tax-deductible contributions from individuals, funds from grant clearinghouses, or even donations from big foundations set up as tax shelters for privately-owned corporate wealth.

Yet in most endeavors, and certainly when dealing with the corporate-bred (not to mention governments), the biggest pay gets the biggest say. This may interfere with the non-profit's ability to offer certain services, give certain information, or take certain positions even in arenas not touched by the donor's generosity (for at-long-last-vitiated international examples, see: PEPFAR Anti-Prostitution Pledge, Mexico City Policy!). Thus are many clinics and funds drawn into what's known as the "non-profit industrial complex."

From experience, I'd say the longer and more directly your livelihood depends on the structure of the NPIC, the less mental energy you have to think about all its implications for our world. But from outside of it, it's a frustrating thing: you want to be grateful for the private goodwill that makes good work possible, but you hate that the numbers game means some organizations are at the mercy of one or two large donors and might either cave or close if push ever came to shove. It seems wrong, doesn't it? Plus, capitalist blood money! But then, all money is some bloody -- how to get anything done?

II. Money makes our lives more livable, obvi. People who do this thing called "happiness research" say that after the first $40,000, more salary doesn't translate into more happiness. Well, if I had any money to spare, I'd wager that the vast majority of abortioneers wouldn't know what that first $40,000 feels like. I don't. I've earned slightly-above-minimum wage, and then I moved somewhere 50% costlier but made only 40% more money and tried to save like crazy, then slowly raked in pay raises, then traded that for another relocation and the relative poverty of a full-time graduate program. Observations from this:
    A) It's pretty hard to live on basic clinic wages and not stress. When I was a full-time clinic employee, I lived happily, but in the sense that I shared a house with four other people and not enough bathrooms, didn't buy clothes or other Stuff, thanked the stars for my no-deductible HMO, ate well, and almost hit the bottom of my account every pay period. Needing new glasses AND a new tire in the same month posed a serious threat.
    B) Small raises somehow do make a big difference. Then again, so does lucking out big-time on your housing situation, which for a renter is never solid enough ground to put your fears to rest.
    C) The farther away you are from direct client service, the more money you make: true in abortionland as well as most other fields. (Excluding doctors and CNAs, though even they make less than their non-abortionland counterparts.) There seems to be a ladder starting at the clinic and going through small, medium and large research and advocacy organizations. And sometimes it seems like there's an expectation -- maybe from your coworkers, mostly from others -- that you're going to climb that ladder professionally and financially, trading in face-time with women who need it for a series of raises and, sometimes, the supposed authority to speak on those women's behalf.

So Item II often brings me right back to Item I. Abortioneers clearly aren't in it for the money, which is scant, but it seems wrong and exploitative to take that for granted. At present, the most common career model I see is to get promoted out of direct-service abortioneering, yet that's not what many of us want. In addition to removing us from our clients, it brings us further into the non-profit industrial complex, which we then can't help but accept, internalize and reinforce. But the trade-off isn't just money, it's also often a salary instead of an hourly wage, more stable hours, more benefits, more responsibility, and/or simply less in-your-face stress. Sounds like a fair recompense for those burning out in lower-paying positions. And then there's the lifelong clinic staff, the other model, and it doesn't look like their raises are commensurate with their accumulating experiences.

I'm currently in school for a master's degree, even though I'm now unsure what I'll do with it. The program is instructive and fascinating, but it seems to pave the way for me to be some kind of technocrat: smart enough to tell others how to fix problems, and too expensive to be put to work doing something that supposedly "anyone can do" (if only!). It's also assumed that the money spent on this degree will generate dividends of future income. If given time, these assumptions permeate my thinking too. But god knows if I went back to full-time clinic work they couldn't "pay me my worth" for a master's! So are my studies forcing me, financially, out of direct service? Should I quit school right now to remain free of career-defining debt?

Some of the people who graduated from college or high school with me started their first jobs making several times what I made at my last pay raise. Several of them are well on their way to conventionally-approved adulthood: the storied trifecta of homeownership, marriage, children. I'm not sure that's a road I'd want to take anyway, because I like communal living and seeing new cities and not raising kids -- but it's weird to think that it's structurally almost impossible for me to "grow up" even if I choose to. And should I not even bother thinking about retirement?

I've had conversations with some of you, here and there, about old white men's money and the CEOs of women's groups, about this dilemma between the long-term risks of the NPIC and the immediate need to get our work done, and about where our lives will head as the years pass. Do you have any thoughts for me now? How will we do what we do authentically and freely, and perhaps be the movement's future, while enabling a decent-enough material life for each other and those who come after us?

While we brainstorm, I'll be reading this book, the source of my paraphrased title, by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, and hoping to make sense of it all.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Spread the Abortion Wisdom

Being pro-choice is part of my identity. It is who I am, at my core. It is not simply an adjective to describe me, like having brown hair or hazel eyes. And as part of my pro-choice identity, it is my job to spread the word, the abortion word. To spread the knowledge, life experiences, untold stories and statistics, in hopes of instilling love, empathy and abortion wisdom into another person. By doing this, we as abortioneers are widening our circle. We are trying to invite people into our world so they can see into women's hearts as we do, as Dr. Tiller did, and as every human being should.

This past Friday, I was talking to two girls who are also pro-choice. One is a provider who performs abortions and was a strong voice in organizing people to march in protest against Stupak in the nation's capital. We got to talking about women in prison and their stripped rights, when the abortion provider said, "and they can't even get abortions in federal prisons."

My mind immediately went back to my "abortion wisdom box" and I remembered learning at my last job that "Prison officials must ensure that women have access to the full spectrum of pregnancy-related care, including abortion."

She seemed unsure about my statement, baffled by the very idea of it. I was outnumbered because the other girl had also never heard of protected reproductive rights for prisoners, and she worked in prisons!! I stuck by my abortion wisdom, and tried to think of the calls I've had from moms, partners and families of prisoners, all trying to help their loved ones get an abortion. The first step was telling them, "No matter what you have heard, what the prison guards and officials have told her, she has the legal right to a safe and legal abortion even if she's in prison."

Now here's the tricky part: Information, Access and Affordability are most often NOT provided to incarcerated women. They rarely know they CAN have an abortion, much less get information on how to pay for it, where to go, or who to call to find all this out.

I am a strong advocate for making abortion services accessible for women, because it is simply not enough that they are legal. Legality does not equal accessibility -- for this reason, many people do not know about the legal rights of women in prison, because they are so heavily restricted from accessing this right. There are SO MANY barriers set in place to keep women from knowing and attaining the pregnancy-related care they want.

It is our job to keep spreading the word, to impart our knowledge of the ins and outs of the abortion world to everyone we meet. Even our friends to subscribe to being pro-choice may not know wisdom we have, and vice versa. Share the wealth. Spread the word. Educate and Inform. For with knowledge comes power, and with power we hope for change.

Happy Vday Everyone :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Sometimes, I think about other lines of work I could go into. I think about it not because I'm irreparably damaged by the alleged horrors of my work (sorry, anti-choicers, I'm not), but because of the meager income I make at the clinic--I hover just above the poverty line, as do most of my colleagues. (sorry again, anti-choicers who think we're in it for the money and it's all about the Benjamins).

And other lines of work appeal to me a little bit, but none as much as abortion does. Abortion is so much more than a surgical procedure, more than choice, and more than feminism. It's about domestic violence and helping women come up with plans to leave their abusers after they end their unwanted pregnancies. It's about building up a child again after incest brought her to the clinic before she even entered her teenage years. It's about collecting irrefutable DNA evidence after a rape that WILL be prosecuted.

We see classism in healthcare and try to even the playing field in our particular brand of healthcare. We know why it's called reproductive justice rather than pro-choice because we've seen the disparities and barriers women of color face. We find funding and build trust with homeless women and we work to connect with the privileged, upper-class white woman who flippantly says, "I can't believe all these women are having abortions! I wish they wouldn't use it for birth control. My situation is different."

We've seen demographic data--it's not just heterosexual women having abortions, but queer women who also need a choice or who got pregnant through donor insemination, then were faced with fetal anomalies. For every macho man who's bored with having to spend his day at a clinic, we've seen men cry and express fear.

We know women who drive H2s have abortions, but so do women who have been exposed to environmental toxins that affect a pregnancy in terrible ways. We meet women who need D&Cs because of demanding work environments that caused them to miscarry.

We know how mental illness works. We come up with plans of care for women who deal with depression and anxiety, we evaluate and alter treatment, language, and protocol for women who are developmentally disabled. When we talk about post-abortion coping, we also talk about emotional, binge eating or exercise and restricting food, as well as body image and body autonomy.

As I wrote in my last post, we see undocumented immigrants who can't believe abortion is legal in this country they've adopted that hasn't fully adopted them. We also see women in the military who forgo this pregnancy so they can serve their country, proudly or bitterly.

We've met women who are staunchly childfree and women who need to be able to care for their large families by not adding to them. We see tired women who thought they were safely and squarely in menopause as well as teenagers who thought they couldn't get pregnant the first time they had sex.

And all of these diverse women are the reasons I don't mind buying thrifted clothes, driving an aged car, and living simply. Their experiences and their willingness to share them with me make me better, and that sure isn't near-poverty to me.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Crisis Pregnancy

I used to think that having a baby would be a breeze; my mom used to tell tales of strength and glee at having had four babies in five years. "I just loved being pregnant. I never wanted to stop!"


Now I'm starting to realize that 1) I have neither my mom's tolerance for pain nor her childbearing hips, and 2) fun pregnancies are probably less common than I had thought. Few and far-between. I wrote a post last year about how cute this pregnant woman at work was. Now that she's back from maternity leave, we're learning just how tough it really was for her. Looking back, she took and awful lot of bathroom breaks.

Behold: The truth about pregnancy!

In a nutshell, pregnancy is rough. It's a huge physical and emotional responsibility. As I type, I am watching a childbirth special on TLC, with a woman wailing in pain after having missed the epidural boat. Yikes. I can't imagine subjecting unwilling women to this. What about young women? Girls? Torture! Childbearing is not for the unwilling. Stupid anti men.

If you could get pregnant, would you still be an anti?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Telling Stories: You're Not Alone

It's that time of year again around the world: The Vagina Monologues will probably soon be coming to a city near you. I've been thinking about the Vagina Monologues a lot and though I'm a huge fan, I do think it's very strange they don't talk about abortion when they talk about vaginas. I wish they did!

VDay is coming up too - I think this week. It's all about raising awareness of the violence against women and how it's important to give voice to such things. Even during difficult, terrible times, women can still obtain power. And I'm grateful that as Abortioneers, we get to help women regain some power when faced with an unwanted pregnancy.

For us, one of the most important aspects of giving women power is access to options and choices. Sometimes, this could be as simple as telling the undocumented client who came to us for abortion services - who had been brutally beaten and nearly killed by her strict Catholic husband when he found her birth control pills - that she could regain some control over her fertility (and freedom - hopefully - at least sometimes - from being used as a human punching bag) by using Depo, an injectible birth control that her husband won’t be able to find in her dresser drawer. As you probably know, when a woman is pregnant, the risk of domestic violence increases dramatically. In fact, the time when a woman is most likely to be murdered in domestic violence is when she is pregnant. This client cried when she learned that her husband wouldn’t find any more pills and she could at least prevent a pregnancy; because as you can imagine, this woman had no power to negotiate when her body could be used for sex, under what conditions, nor did she have the power to negotiate condom use, let alone be able to discuss birth control. She was grateful. And though she had endured painful circumstances, and though controlling her fertility doesn’t mean she’ll never be abused again, she gained some power over her own body. Her own life.

I recognize she didn't go home and have a voice against her abusive husband; but for the hours she was within our clinic, she had a strong, powerful voice of bravery. I'm proud that she had a haven, a place to go to where we recognized her strength. Somewhere she could safely tell her own story. Perhaps it saved her life.

Find a V-Day event near you.

Monday, February 8, 2010

endangered species?

I woke up this morning to hear a new attack on women’s reproductive freedom…billboards have gone up around Georgia stating that black babies are an endangered species.

Yikes! What a disgusting ad…the antis are really desperate, aren’t they?

On MSNBC this morning, the pro-billboard woman was stating that black women are targeted for abortion and that abortion is affecting their fertility rate. Ugh-idiots! Seriously, this is the most ridiculous thing I have heard a in a long time. First of all, women make a choice to come in to the clinic to seek abortion services. We are not out on the streets soliciting women for abortions. Second, let us not forget that women who have abortions are usually mothers already-having already contributed to that fertility rate.

Unfortunately, for the Right to Life Georgia group, there is no data to support their outrageous claims. The CDC reports that Black women have higher than the national fertility rate (births per 1000 women in reproductive age) and it has gone up over the years.

The amazing executive director of Sister Song was quoted in the NY times saying “The reason we have so many Planned Parenthoods in the black community is because leaders in the black community in the ’20s and ’30s went to Margaret Sanger and asked for them,” Ms. Ross said. “Controlling our fertility was part of our uplift out of poverty strategy, and it still works.”

Hey anti-choicers, way to shame black women for the choices they make. By putting a message out there that black babies are “endangered species” you are sending a message to black woman that by having an abortion they are, in essence, committing a grave crime against their "species." You are sick. We are women, not baby-making factories.

Perhaps we can flip this message. Like Sister Song said, controlling one’s fertility-either through contraception access or abortion-is a way to lift women out of poverty. By putting this message out there, targeting black women, you want to keep the cycle of poverty going by decreasing their access and shaming black women, their families, and their communities.

Wow, antis, you must be so proud.

Picture from NY Times

Sunday, February 7, 2010

quick Superbowl addendum

In addition to mr. banana grabber's excellent post below (complete with excellent mock-ad find), we hope you catch this today, instead of that annoying Tebow ad:

Super Bowl Sunday

It's that time folks. Grab your corn chips, your salsa from a jar, and a good old American Bud Heavy and sit down to watch the Saints try to keep the American Dream alive and beat the Colts. And also to see the much talked about, much hyped Focus on the Family commercial.

For those of you blissfully unaware: Pam Tebow, Tim Tebow's mother, was pregnant when she was on a missionary tour in the Philippines. She became extremely ill and went into a coma. The drugs used to get her out of her coma and to treat her dysentery caused a severe placental abruption to occur. Basically, the pregnancy detached from her uterus. REALLY BAD. In fact, "fetal mortality rate of 20-40% depending on the degree of separation. Placental abruption is also a significant contributor to maternal mortality." So the doctors said that the baby was likely to be stillborn and recommended abortion. She was in the Philippines, where abortion has been criminalized and illegal since 1870, so I am not sure how great her doctor was since he was apparently ignorant of the country's laws?? Anyway, she said no, and carried the pregnancy to term. AND TIM TEBOW WAS BORN WOWOWOW MIRACLE OF LIFE.

This commercial is getting a TON of press, and my head is about to explode if I have to read another article talking about how IT'S NOT A BIG DEAL AND TIM TEBOW IS SO NICE AND WE LOVE HIM. (Note Revolutionary Vagina commented on this briefly a few weeks ago) Take for example, Roland S. Martin of CNN, who says
There is no rule anywhere in existence that says that the Super Bowl should be free of politics and social causes. None. So what's the big deal over Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mother starring in a pro-life ad?

I agree with you, Mr. Martin. Whole heartedly. Expect that apparently there ARE rules, put in place by the Super Bowl, about what kinds of ads they air. In 2004 PETA wanted to run an anti-fur commercial and they were rejected. wanted to air a commercial about how much Bush is running up the deficit, and they were rejected. The United Church of Christ wanted to air a commercial letting the world know they don't discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and that EVERYONE was welcome at their church. They were rejected. Why? The Super Bowl peeps said they had to reject those ads because they were not going to “touch on and/or take a position on one side of a current controversial issue of public importance.” Even this year, a homosexual dating website wanted to air a commercial about the site and they were rejected as well. I am just confused how Pam Tebow's story is not a controversial issue? Abortion has been and seems like always will be a hot button issue in this country.

Oh wait! CBS has CHANGED THE RULES about what is "controversial" this year. So I guess a gay dating website is, but anti-abortion is not. Ohhhhhhhhhh okay I toadily get it. Thanks guys.

I guess what bothers me the most, besides CBS playing favorites on political issues, besides the story of Pam Tebow's pregnancy being riddled with inconsistencies that don't add up, is that everyone is forgetting, as Revolutionary Vagina pointed out, Pam Tebow did have a choice. If she was really in the Philippines were abortion was 100% illegal, then not really, but the point in all of this is that she CHOSE to keep the pregnancy despite the risks to the fetus and to her own life. I know we are not getting the full story here in terms of what actually happened, but either way, she chose to carry a pregnancy that was dangerous to both her and her fetus and she was aware of this and made that choice anyway. That is a brave choice and I give her props for that. I do not give her props for making it seem like it was NBD and that we should always choose life. Unfortunately, carrying a pregnancy to term is not always choosing life because sometimes both the mother and the fetus die. Sometimes the mother dies but the fetus lives. Sometimes the fetus dies. There are a lot of risks and complications involved with that kind of stuff and it appears as if they are sweeping all that under the rug. Just not cool, you know?

And this is from Upright Citizen's Brigade, so, you know it's gonna be hilarious:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Change you can believe in

Abortion changes you.

Abortion Changes You is a trademarked Web site and book. Abortion Changes You welcomes visitors and encourages those who have experienced abortion to begin their healing process through a series of virtual interactive (yet confidential?) reflective exercises. Michaelene Fedenburg is the author and creator, inspired by her own profound sadness and feelings of loss after having an abortion. (She's also a Facebook fan of Feminists for Life.)

We feel her.

When I began this work, I wanted to start a post-abortion support group at my clinic, but I was not a registered or licensed counselor, and the clinic feared looming lines of liability involved in expanding our services as we struggled to provide a common and vital surgery to nearly a quarter of our notoriously anti-choice state.

To our credit, we provided phenomenally safe, comprehensive, sacred, and respectful ABORTION care. We listened to every story, held every hand. We understood the profound sadness. The fear. We did not judge the relief. In many situations, we celebrated it. We accepted that our robust and unconditional support was off-putting to some depending on where they were in their grief process. It was a sacrifice we were willing to make for the collective of humanity.

We honor and observe the stories of our lives.

I was drawn to Abortion Changes You by The Stacy Zallie Foundation. Every once in a while The Stacy Zallie Foundation comes dancing out of the mad woods to drive tremendously BIG ad campaigns, waving full page testimonials in USA Today and bus stop ads. No Judgment. Just Support. Not Pro-Choice. Not Pro-Life.

Please forgive my wary head-

The premise of The Stacy Zallie Foundation is heart-breakingly tragic. The foundation is dedicated to Stacy Zallie who took her own life. It is founded by her father and mother, George and Linda. Though, the Web site and foundation seem to be managed and framed by her father who keeps in-touch with women around the world regarding their abortion experiences (aka, George's Post-Abortion Comfort Portal). Her father is convinced that Stacy's abortion at age 20 lead to her suicide less than one year later.

We deeply sympathize. We feel the weight of the women we know we did not help enough. Pregnancy termination is a tremendous experience. It is tragic and blessed and complicated. We wish someone could have helped Stacy too.

Abortion changes you...

We also deeply sympathize with women who cannot access safe abortion services, for families that suffer when basic health care needs are not met. We feel the weight of the women we know we did not help enough. (For a dose of ground-breaking reality, please see the Turnaway Study.) Pregnancy termination is a tremendous experience. It is tragic and blessed and complicated.

The Stacy Zallie Foundation (Not pro-choice, not pro-life, unbiased, donate here, blah, blah, blah) promotes Abortion Changes You and Abortion Changes You helps you find resources in your area. The resources?...drum roll, plllleaZ........................................Crisis pregnancy centers.

Crisis pregnancy centers need your money to spread no-good lies about ectopic pregnancies and breast cancer because no-good Prez-money-bags skipped town. Abortion not only changes you. They want your name, address, bank account and routing number if it fucked you up so they can *save* you. (For ground-breaking CPC legislation, please contact your local NARAL chapter.)

Abortion changes you.

So does waking up, going to the bathroom, brushing you teeth, falling in love, reading a book, crying, watching a film, having a baby, going on vacation, getting married, clipping your toe nails, eating peanut butter, parting your hair in the middle instead of to the side, getting raped while on a date, getting cancer, losing your job, having an orgasm, opening your mail, taking shots, baby-sitting, bird-watching, crossing the street, dancing, having a picnic, saying a prayer, doing downward dog, looking at the moon, jumping up and down, eating Sushi, joining the military, knowing faith-based organizations lie to you for their own good, realizing you have the innate power to choose your family's destiny...