Friday, April 30, 2010

Where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain

In case you missed it, some major shit went down in Oklahoma on Tuesday. The Legislature voted to override previous vetoes on two abortion bills.

The first states that women must have an ultrasound to have an abortion. Not so bad, right? That happens pretty much 100% of the time anyway. Additionally, the doctor or person performing the ultrasound must show the sonogram to the woman and describe the fetus in detail. I don’t support this requirement for ANY woman, but this is particularly offensive considering that no exception is made for rape or incest survivors.

Fun example:
Let’s say you were raped. Meaning you were just profoundly violated and will likely never be the same. And since most rape survivors know their assailant, let’s say it was your uncle. Since you were raped, you were not using the methods of birth control you might normally use. Then, you find out you are pregnant. You decide you must have an abortion because you cannot possibly carry the pregnancy to term. A pregnancy created in such hateful and terrible circumstances. You go to the clinic. While walking inside, some dude yells at you that you are “killing your baby” and mostly likely going to spend an eternity in hell gnashing your teeth. Once you are finally about to get the procedure done, you then have to listen to a description of the heart, limbs, and organs of the fetus. Have a nice day!

Linda Meek, director of Tulsa Reproductive Services, said that the new law has already been making patients emotional and upset. It is worth noting however, that no one has canceled her procedure. So, basically you are just getting women super upset. Good job guys.


The second measure overturned by the Oklahoma Legislature on Tuesday is, for lack of a better term, totally fucked up.

From the NYT:
A second measure passed into law on Tuesday prevents women who have had a disabled baby from suing a doctor for withholding information about birth defects while the child was in the womb. Opponents argue that the law will protect doctors who purposely mislead a woman to keep her from choosing an abortion. But the bill’s sponsors maintain that it merely prevents lawsuits by people who wish, in hindsight, that the doctor had counseled them to abort a disabled child.

WHAT!? How is it okay for a medical professional to purposely withhold information that is extremely important to know about the fetus?!?! HOW IS THAT LEGAL? HOW IS THAT CONSTITUTIONAL?

Fun example:
You are pregnant. You are not sure if you want to stay pregnant or have an abortion. Your doctor says the fetus is perfectly healthy and everything is fine. You decide to keep it. Spend 9 months carrying the pregnancy around in your body. You give birth. The baby is severely malformed and has multiple birth defects. Turns out Dr. Awesome knew all along, but didn’t want you to have an abortion, so he just decided to omit those pieces of information. Have fun with your baby that will probably not live past the age of one and will rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills that you will go bankrupt trying to pay. Have a nice day!

Can you imagine? If I were a pregnant woman in Oklahoma, I don't know what I would do. If I go in for fetal testing and the doctor says, "Everything is fine!" I can't breathe a sigh of relief. What if he lying? What if this isn't true? How do I know my baby is healthy? If my baby isn't healthy I need to know that. Women need to know that. They need to make arrangments for caring for a special needs child and how the medical bills will be paid, etc. How can you trust your doctor in Oklahoma if you are pregnant? The answer is, you can't anymore.

Now, I am hoping that these will both be deemed unconstitutional, since they are. The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit for the first measure. The Governor of Oklahoma, Brad Henry, said “both laws will be challenged and, in all likelihood, overturned by the courts as unconstitutional... I fear this entire exercise will ultimately be a waste of taxpayers' time and money.” Probably right. I’m glad all these anti-choice tea-baggers who are complaining about the government spending too much money are so gangbusters to waste it.

The real gem of this whole thing comes from State Senator Todd Lamb.
“The goal of this legislation is just to make a statement for the sanctity of human life. Maybe someday these babies will grow up to be police officers and arrest bad people, or will find a cure for cancer.”

Really? You earnestly believe that? You are willing to go against the Constitution, i.e., everything this country stands for, to “make a statement?” You are okay with women being PURPOSELY MISINFORMED so you can let everyone know you value human life? You couldn’t just put a banner in front of your office that says, “HEY I VALUE HUMAN LIFE”? Valuing human life means treating human life with respect and dignity. Lying to pregnant women and trying to make them feel guilty doesn’t strike me as particularly nice or respectful.

I’m not sure if the “babies will grow up to be police officers and arrest bad people” statement even merits a response… BUT anyway, it is a terrible argument because, obviously, there is also a chance the baby could grow up to be a serial killer...or (GASP) an abortion provider.

Additionally, what if my baby is born without a brain? Or a head? Or vital organs it needs to survive? Is that child really going to grow up and cure cancer or create a new theory of relativity? Or even know what a "bad person" is? I mean, yes, it's possible, of course. But, let's be real: the babies that will be born to women who were intentionally lied to about birth defects and get a surprise in the delivery room are NOT going to be saving the world. As a matter of fact, they are probably going to require endless and extremely expensive surgeries and other medical procedures that the vast majority of women and families could never afford. Who will front the bill to keep these babies alive? I am guessing that the anti-choice, anti-tax Right will want nothing to do with THAT.

Of course, if a woman is informed of her pregnancy having birth defects, a fetal anomaly, etc, and she decides she wants to carry the pregnancy to term, has the emotional and financial ability to care for the child, etc., then that's fine. It takes a strong woman and family to be able to do that. And, of course, people who are born with special needs are people too -- I'm not suggesting they're less of a person or not worthwhile or unimportant. I am talking about women who are unwittingly carrying pregnancies to term that they would otherwise abort, because of financial reasons, emotional reasons, whatever -- they are the ones that we are talking about.

Moral of the story: don’t get pregnant in Oklahoma.

Have a nice day!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pro-Earth Angels

The connections between and among women are the most feared, the most problematic, and the most potentially transforming force on the planet. —Adrienne Rich (captured from a very incredible new friend)

Imagine Earth’s fury when the Patriarchy snowballed, and all those human footprints dancing on her soul claimed divine origin from an invisible, omniscient hand, freed onto her by a fatherly god, granted eternal safety by the sacrifice of *his* sons. In the final chapter of their holy books, she is up in flames.

Can’t imagine it?

Roots blossom from her core into flowers you cannot exact and her spin creates a wind to play with your hair. The birds take flight when you ask for direction. She is not furious—she gives you liquid, leaves, and livestock. The fruits of her womb. She dances just shy of too much sun for you.

Until now.

Earth is suffocating with plastic wrapped around everything, basted with toxic chemicals and waste (our bright ideas), paved with poison. Her coalmines are exploding. Her poles are melting. And when her volcanoes begin seething, we focus on whether or not we get to fly exhaustive vehicles across our sky. We dump oil in water then set it on fire. Our babies are being born with chemical soup in their bellies. WE are making our home uninhabitable, and she will go on with or without us.

I don’t want an invisible hand from an all-powerful father to save me. I want this LIFE.

Abortion is the least of our problems. In fact, it's not a problem at all.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It's NEVER Too Late to DONATE!

Hi guys,

I'm running myself ragged and of course running late once again. Maybe you're getting tired of hearing us say it, but we need you to donate to our virtual bowling team through the National Network of Abortion Funds bowl-a-thon. NNAF has already reached their overall goal, but we have only reached a fraction of our goal and would like to keep going. We can never raise enough, after all -- every dollar we are able to contribute is a step in making reproductive choices possible.

Personally -- I cannot tell a lie -- I tend to be pretty tight-fisted with my money. I donate small amounts to a very select set of causes and organizations. If you have had a friend or organization help pay for your abortion, regular contraceptive method or EC, then you know every single dollar is a step closer. If you're someone who has a savings stash for just in case you need EC or an abortion, then consider donating a small portion of it or maybe even all of it. I did after reading Daughter of Wands' post on April 15th.

Whatever it takes and whatever amount, PLEASE support our bowling team or another. The bowl-a-thon campaign officially ends May 6, but if you need to donate later, the National Network of Abortion Funds and local funds are always accepting donations! 


Monday, April 26, 2010

Tax time

Sorry, I know you've seen this one before. It's just so apt. 

Did you file your taxes on time? I did, but just barely, because unlike the last couple of years, life was just way too crazy in January, February, and March to even think about anything beyond the coming week.

So I was doing the April-Fifteenth hustle and feeling anxious to hear how much I'd be getting back, because my bank balance has been dropping steadily over the weeks, much to this over-scheduled, under-employed wage-worker/student's dismay. And I thought of my funding clients -- the women who were struggling to make one paycheck stretch to the next, couldn't quite scrape together the full cost of their abortion care, and turned to local or national funds in hopes of pleading for the difference.

A couple springs ago, I was fully immersed in funding cases and found myself really impressed at all my clients who were so on top of their shit that they had already filed their tax returns. At some point it dawned on me that they HAD to be on top of their shit -- and they HAD to get an H&R Block "refund anticipation loan" or something similar, and give the preparers a cut of the return -- so that they could count on their tax return to help pay for their abortion services.

To so many of my clients, the idea of having savings for health emergencies is a nice dream. As shitty as it is to be faced with an unwanted pregnancy at any time, the spring clients could at least say, "Thank God this didn't happen in December," when obligations like traveling home and finding your kids a gift and keeping the gas account open would have made it even harder to raise the needed money for themselves. At least, since it was happening in February, they could get to work on a refund advance right away. Even if the tax people do turn it into a 15%-interest loan.

I can't tell you how sick I got of hearing, during this health-insurance reform circus, the petty selfishness of "Why should my tax dollars pay for abortions?" Even as people say that shit, thousands and millions of women out there are diligently filing their taxes each spring, hoping their measly take-home was measly enough to warrant a refund check to serve as non-existent health savings account, because "we" can't be bothered to provide a basic, extremely-common health service with "OUR MONEY."

This is all a very long, roundabout way of saying: Please fucking donate to the National Network of Abortion Funds Bowl-a-Thon. Even if it's just twenty, ten, or five dollars. Then email it to at least three people who might care. Can you do that? Please? It's the least we can do, living in this country full of very pious people who'd rather save their dollars to be dipped in the blood-bath of foreign wars and police abuse than see one cent of public "support" for the fact that women may choose not to be pregnant.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


I'm sitting here in my apartment, looking out the window at the trees dancing in the spring breeze. My cat walked by and gently rubbed my foot as I took a sip of tea. I have no obligations for this day except for writing this post and reading my books in time to get them back to the library. It's the kind of nearly-perfect day that makes me think about what would be absolutely perfect: A world where Sunday means nothing but relaxing with a cat and books and tea, no matter how warm it is outside, and also, a world where OF COURSE everyone wants abortion to be included in the new healthcare plan, where woman talk about their (positive) abortion experiences in the same breath as they talk about the frozen yogurt they had last night, where Medicaid pays for all abortions, where birth control is affordable and accessible and side effect-free, where abortion providers are heroes to all, where every child is wanted, where every termination is a blessing, and where no woman has to panic or give up her dignity or feel complete despair because she doesn't have the money or the means to terminate her unwanted pregnancy. Oh, and also a world where I am 5'9" and I have chocolate pouring out of my kitchen faucet and I have a unicorn.

I'd give up my Sunday afternoon leisure and all the tea in my kitchen (the new version of "all the tea in China," because I'm pretty sure I have more, and who talks about China like that anymore?) if I never had to hear another potential patient sob about how she couldn't possibly continue this pregnancy because she had no job and no support and her kids were already wearing clothes that were too small, so how in the world would she be able to get the hundreds or even thousands of dollars needed to have an abortion? And I would love to see someone merrily purchasing Tory Burch Revas (How do I even know about those?) without automatically, bitterly thinking, "Enjoy your flats. Clearly, they will help the average American woman much more than anything else you could possibly spend your money on."

I'm no Tory Burch buyer, and I'm not even a Chuck Taylor buyer--I can only afford the One Stars at Target. But I pledge to forgo my little splurges on coffee, Lush shampoo, clearance rack earrings, and unicorn in favor of making a donation to the NNAF Bowl-a-thon. Dear reader, will you please pledge to do the same?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Hello, my name is XXX. I am the proud parent of an Abortioneer"

Last week, Daughter of Wands posted a tale of talking with her mother about a clinic experience and how her work as an Abortioneer relates to her family. My own mother is an avid Abortioneers reader, and she later mentioned to me that she liked seeing Daughter of Wands' mom (Wands, herself?) post a comment, and that gave her an idea: My mother, the Progenitor of Desembarazarme (Desembarazarle?), proposes a blog, or maybe a club, or a support group, even, for Proud Parents of Abortioneers. It wouldn't be a place for them to commiserate, because, my mom reasoned, what is there to commiserate about when your daughter (or son) is working every day to give women a choice, to keep abortion safe and legal, and doing work they love? It could be a place to brag about our good work, or to talk about how they wish they didn't have to see us cry in anguish over a tough case. They could discuss how they don't feel free to talk about their kids' jobs because they don't live in a community that lets them talk freely about their beliefs. And boy, oh boy, would they have tales to tell about the time before abortion was legal because don't forget, they lived it. They could also probably discuss their unspoken fears as we walk through protesters to go to work behind bullet-proof glass. And sure, they could talk about how even though they're life-long pro-choicers, until we started working at our clinics or our support jobs, they never had to really think about the realities of a 23 week abortion, and how they got OK with that (or didn't).

I give out pamphlets and brochures and websites written on scrap of paper to clients all the time--materials that direct them to post-abortion support groups or hotlines. I've given out booklets about decision-making, and I love suggesting sites that demystify abortion and de-terrify clients. So why couldn't I give out a card to my colleagues' parents letting them know that THEY aren't alone? I'm sure it wouldn't be the first time they were exposed to a group like that...after all, if they are the parent of an Abortioneer, they're probably used to 18+ years of finding support for parents of a feisty/stubborn/sensitive child. Now, they could get some company as they parent feisty/stubborn/sensitive adults.

Props to my mom and Daughter of Wands' mom and all moms and dads and grandparents and aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters and friends and fifth cousins twice removed who read and who love us. The antis want us to tell you thanks for not aborting us (though let's face it: I'm sure they wish we were aborted, if only they believed in it!), but I say, thank you for believing that you had a choice when you were pregnant with us, and thank you for raising us in such a way that allowed us to become the Abortioneers we are, and thank you for supporting us and our choices as well as all women and their choices. And to my mom, in particular: Thank you for donating to the NNAF Bowl-a-Thon. (And for so, so much more.)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Abortion Abroad: Part 2

I visited a semi-rural reproductive health clinic in Kenya. Impressive! My org has done a great job recruiting talented clinic staff and outreach counselors to give women accurate information (save for one glaring translation typo!) and quality services that I myself have utilized. They even have a system for providing affordable services to women who would otherwise not be able to afford prenatal care or birth control. I donated anyway; do you know how far a measly few dollars goes??

I sat and discussed patient issues with the provider at one clinic: how many IUD insertions he completes in one month (a lot); how many women have them removed (none); how many women/babies had been lost during delivery (only one woman, due to a surprise post-partum hemmorhage). Naturally, I asked - knowing the answer in advance - if he had ever performed an abortion. He had not. But he had seen a handful of women who had sustained injuries or illnesses from clandestine abortions. Every village has its man or woman who has abortion secrets and serves dozens of women in the community. Injuries happen frequently, he explained, though few women present for treatment because they are a) afraid of being punished, or b) dead already. These village practitioners use herbs, potions, sharp objects, the usual. Of course, we in the "developed world" know how dangerous these methods are (right?), but by the time a woman actually presents for treatment from such complications her condition is more dire than this comprehensive, yet limited, clinic can accommodate. The provider sends those cases to the area hospital, many kilometers away from his clinic, down a dirt road with a heavily worn surface that makes for a very uncomfortable, perhaps deadly, ride. The provider was excited, though, about the advent of MVA in the developing world. He had never performed an abortion, nor had he been trained in the technique, but he was optimistic that rural women would be able to receive safe abortion care (where permitted) in low-tech environments without issue. However, he lamented, MVA can only do so much for botched procedures and life-endangering cases. Alas.

Kenya passed its new constitution within the last week, including some controversial language about abortion. This was the subject of debate for months, rife with anti-abortion rhetoric and TV infomercials akin to clinic-protesting signs (yuck). And I just hope that clinic providers like my guy above can band together to, at the very least, uphold the life endangerment clause. I have my doubts however; a female doctor in one of those anti commercials described, in her "medical opinion", that abortion is a "senseless death". I guess having a new perspective helps me appreciate the way things are in the Nifty Fifty.

It's a long road ahead, for all of us.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Religious AND Pro-Choice?

There are so many deeply rooted assumptions about people who are pro-choice, about women who have abortions, and about people who work in reproductive rights that it's truly astounding. I sometimes think we could have a whole blog just dedicated to all the myths and stigma surround abortion. One of my favorites is that you can't be spiritual - or religious - and be pro-choice (or have an abortion).

In fact, most of women who have abortions consider themselves Protestant. You might even be surprised to know that we truly owe many clergy during the 1960s and 1970s our gratitude for helping to pave the way for making abortion legal in the USA. Surprised? Believe it or not, there was a group called the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion in New York in the 1960s. The founder was an American Baptist Minister. This set the groundwork for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

A brief list of well-known pro-choice religious organizations/groups include:
- The Episcopal Church (USA)
- The Presybterian Church (USA)
- Unitarian Universalists
- United Church of Christ
- United Methodist Church
- Union of American Hebrew Congregations
- National Council of Jewish Women
- More...

Are you surprised? You might be. I even know Abortioneers who sometimes are unsure of what their religion teaches about abortion and whether, according to their own church, if they are doing "something wrong" by working in Abortionland. Maybe you wonder sometimes, too. If so, hopefully some of the above resources will help put your mind to rest that many mainstream religious are actually pro-choice.

I was raised in a conservative Protestant church that's anti-choice. I struggled, trying to reconcile my personal beliefs with the beliefs I was taught by people I trusted. Eventually, I realized I was my own person, with my own set of beliefs and I simply didn't accept the things I was taught (it wasn't an easy process). I've made the choice not to be religious; but I've thoughtfully learned (throughout the years) about religious groups that more closely shared my pro-choice view: there are plenty out there and that certainly helped me at times when I considered switching churches.

In high school, while I was practicing my religion of origin, Bill Clinton was up for President. I remember confiding in my Catholic friends that I didn't accept Clinton because he was pro-choice (even though I wasn't old enough to vote). My closest friend at the time told me that our favorite teacher confided in her that his family prayed about which candidate to vote for, and prayed, specifically, about the abortion issue. Their answer: that they should support Clinton and support a woman's right to choose. I recoiled at such a notion and believed that no god would send such an answer in a prayer to anyone. I know that to this day, that teacher, whom I'm still in touch with, is very devoted to their religion. The religion just happens to be on the pro-choice list.

Certainly a lot of women I see ask, "I just hope god will forgive me." I always ask, "Well, what do you believe about god? Do you believe your god is a forgiving god?" I've never heard a woman say, "no" (and I want to say that I personally don't believe there's anything to be "forgiven" of!).

...So, I'm just wondering if any of you have had similar struggles and what you've done - or what you're doing - about it. Feel free to share!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

a monday morning rant

You know what really gets my goat? (yes, I just said that…bringing it back)

The answer: med students who say they are “pro-choice, but am not sure about this whole partial birth abortion thing. I just really don’t agree with it.” Ugh. And, btw, I can complain about med students because I am one. A feisty one.

Here’s the thing. I totally love that these med students are pro-choice. Don’t get me wrong. Love it! I mean, frankly, all medical professionals should be pro-choice, but whatever. But when it comes to looking up facts about abortion and abortion procedures, some flat out fail in my book.

Let me paint you a picture. Throughout medical school, especially the latter portion, we are a sponge gathering and interpreting as much information as humanly possible. A patient has an odd lab value, we look it up, read about it, learn every possible reason for that obscure reading. A patient is going into a pancreaticoduodenectomy (yup) operation, we read about it and do our best to understand it so we don’t look like fools in front of our attendings.

But for some reason, there are med students out there that don’t do the same research for abortion. Why is that? It’s a medical procedure, 1 in 3 of our female patients have had or will have an abortion. And to be honest, I don’t have time to teach every one of those medical students why there is no such thing as a "partial-birth abortion," you might be thinking of an “Intact Dilation and Extraction,” and in the rare circumstances in which it's performed it’s much safer than the alternative (although I make time). Hey! If you are going to be a doctor--learn about it, read about it, know it.

But I guess it isn’t completely their fault. Our medical schools are the ultimate failures at not talking about abortion in the classroom or teaching about it on the wards. Students have to fight to actually be able to learn about it in school. Isn’t that crazy? It is INSANE!

That’s why Medical Students for Choice is so important in helping medical students change their curriculum to include abortion. It’s the most common minor surgical procedure in the country-wouldn’t you want to know about it and wouldn’t you want your doctor to know about it?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Sunday Not-So-Funnies

The fetus replied,
The times when you have
seen only one set of footprints in the sand,
is when I carried you.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The kiss of death

There is a solid, almost silent, understanding in my blood family that if I left abortion tomorrow no one would miss it but me.

I still remember the afternoon my mom and I had lunch about three months following my first day at the abortion clinic, and I was working closely with my first patient who was late in her second trimester of pregnancy.

Every summer, I would pack my winter clothing in a bag to store in one of my parents' various closets. I lived elsewhere, but their house remained home-base. That passing summer, I left the clothing unlabeled in the garage, and my parents accidentally took my entire winter wardrobe to Goodwill. My mother took me shopping for new clothes because I couldn’t afford a new wardrobe on my advocate compensation. Then, we had lunch.

I wanted to tell her about the patient I was working with. The patient was my peer--beautiful, intelligent, on birth control. She had gotten her period throughout the pregnancy and had a hidden, violent history of sexual abuse from her vocally anti-choice father, but she chose to live at home to influence and protect her young brothers.

She was told she miscarried at 14 weeks under her regular practitioner’s care. I was accompanying her through her surgical process for pregnancy termination at 24 weeks, and she felt like she was pregnant with an alien, even a monster. From an otherwise affluent family but overwhelmed by the various circumstances that led her to seek a 24-week termination, she opted to undergo the medical process in utter privacy.

She applied for a credit card to max it out to pay toward the surgery, pawned a violin and her grandmother’s pearls. She slept on her side so her boyfriend couldn't see her swelling tummy, as she was spending most of her time with him as she waited for one more paycheck. The clinic granted her an IOU.

During her surgery, she cried-out the entire time, just sobbed. She wept poignantly with the tender guidance of our immaculate doctor and well-versed doula, and I stood frozen and heart-broken with her pain to the side. Two weeks later she returned to fulfill her IOU, and she had a black eye.

As a nurse, my mom knew I could share no more than a vague description of the private case I was shepherding, even though my parents lived in a town far away, and I worked in a city. I released pivotal snippets. I told her about the violin and the pearls. About the perverted father who called himself pro-life. I cried in-front of my mother at lunch just three months in and working on my very first, multi-complex case.

I was outraged when I met abortion, yet fascinated. Mostly, I wanted to tell everyone why my job was a refreshing and insightful entryway into the professional world and why everyone should take the time to care for reproductive justice, but in the comforting presence of my own mother, I wanted to weep the injustices out like screaming underwater, how I could see that life wasn’t fair and how women struggled silently, valiantly, gracefully, and I might not be able to do anything about it even in my entire lifetime.

I wanted to weep-out how strange and frightening folks harassed me and my doctor and my colleagues and our patients and our patient’s families and the mailman, how they took our most sacral life, and how they covered it in jelly then blew it up on posters. I wanted to weep what we were doing to abortion onto my cottage cheese sandwich, into my bottomless glass of lemonade, all over the lunch booth. I wanted to lay my head in my loving mother’s lap.

Instead, I let a few tears drop before composing my pooling insides and dabbled my sockets with my new scarf and found no more words beyond the violin.

Ignorance is expensive. Anti-choice protesters prey on our beloved leaders. They spin seedy, self-centered stories all the way to a Supreme Court full of stifled, predatory, privileged Catholic men. They take away your private abortion coverage and spit in the faces of women they deem slaves if they deem them anything at all. They rape their daughtersour patients,
and then stand outside our clinic doors wailing about mercy.

In turn
, women,
mothers will quietly move this world until it swallows us all whole.

I’m fairly certain my family wishes to spare me from the sometimes debilitating reality I endure on behalf of this deeply stigmatized rite. They love me tenderly all the way to my childhood smile.

Yet, I cannot leave abortion because in the deep recesses of my most essential being, in the private conversations I cannot share because self-righteous fools are wretched wolves in their sleep, because not everyone can understand a love so deep it will sell its grandmother’s pearls to preserve maternal agency and the however blessed plight of offspring, as costly as abortion may sometimes be, I know abortion is sacred.

I see daily that it is profound and puzzling joy.

Have you made *time* for reproductive justice today? Consider supporting your neighbors who do not have pearls and violins to sell by donating to the National Network of Abortion Funds' annual country-wide Bowl-a-Thon drive. Find out more by clicking HERE.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bowling for Abortion Access

She’s a single mom with two small children. She can’t find a job, and her unemployment will soon run out. If she can barely take care of herself and her kids now, how will she support another child? She’s a teenager who’s afraid to tell her parents. If she has a baby, what will happen to her? What will her parents do? Will she be able to graduate high school? She was raped, and she’s scared. She hasn’t told anyone what happened because she fears they won’t believe her. Her family and friends don’t agree with abortion; what would she say to them? She’s a mom who found out her daughter is pregnant. She wants to be supportive, but she can barely pay her bills as it is.

She’s you.

She’s me.

She’s your friend.

She’s your sister.

She’s your co-worker.

She’s any one of us.

What can I do to help? What can you do to help? As Sparky posted yesterday, the National Network of Abortion Funds is organizing a bowl-a-thon. Local and national funds are participating in it, individuals, and bloggers like us. What can you do to help? You can donate to the cause. Anything helps – even small amounts add up. Our bowl-a-thon goal is $1,000, and the idea is to raise money by the 16th – THIS FRIDAY. We need your help to reach this goal. All of the money goes directly to the NNAF who will then use the money to assist these women in exercising their choice to have reproductive freedom.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Money Makes The Difference

Money is about survival. Money determines the choices we make in life, which choices are available to us, which option we decide, and how the choice is carried out. In anyplace, USA, money is a huge factor in any choice big or small.

We often tell stories of rescheduled appointments, missed appointments, and pregnancies unwillingly carried to term. Of course, that story often ends here with us: we support women who can find a way to handle most of the factors in choosing to have an abortion or not, and the saga can end there. She is then just another women who did, or did not have her abortion. I have helped a friend pay for her abortion, and another friend's birth control, and emergency contraception for another. However, my social network only reaches so far, so it's still important for me to support funds that reach out to women I'll never know.

We can all be abortioneers: supportive sisters and people who help facilitate sexual and reproductive health and care. There are lots of abortion access funds, often 501(c)3, that accept donations. These funds often make the difference for women who need it most. They are able to offer the last $75, $100, or even $150 for a woman who might otherwise have to postpone or cancel her appointment. But they literally exist through support from people like us -- not from the government, and very rarely from official grants.

It is incredibly important that each of us support both local and national funds so they can offer financial support to women who direly need it. To raise money in a public and fun-type fashion, the National Network of Abortion Funds is holding a bowl-a-thon! The nice part is, for those of us who aren't all in one place or anywhere near a bowling alley, there is the Blogger Bowl-a-thon: We write, you donate, and we stop pestering you when the goal is reached.

The Abortioneers have a team, and our goal is to raise at least $1000 of the entire goal of $125,000. This is only a small fraction of the entire goal but I'm confident we can raise $1000 plus some. The National Network of Abortion Funds is a network of many of the local grassroots organizations that help women pay for abortions in their prospective areas.

Please go and support local funds all over the country by making a donation, even if you have to wait til payday! Every dollar counts, literally! Additionally, if there is a bowl-a-thon team playing at your neighborhood lanes, you can support them too and help NNAF meet their total goal.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Reserving all the judgment for ourselves

You know that saying: the best-laid plans of mice and men go oft awry? Well, because of our extensive experience with the going-awry, many of us abortioneers have pretty firm ideas of safer sexual practices, and some of us might have a certain trepidation about using anything other than "highly effective contraceptive methods" (see here for a ranked chart of options and explanation of its use in contraceptive counseling). 

At the same time, we all spend our days hearing every version of sexual history under the sun, and recognizing that women are not evil or dumb or fuckups when their practices or situations diverge from our own. We counsel clients about methods that are easier to remember or longer-lasting or invisible to an abusive partner; we brainstorm with them about ways to approach a partner about getting testing for STIs, condom negotiation, and respect for boundaries; we remind them about transmission methods of various infections and how to treat or manage existing diseases. We don't scold or scoff. The words "stupid" and "crazy" and "irresponsible" may exist in the world outside our walls, but not in here. 

But have you ever seen what happens when WE fuck up? 

This weekend I had a crazy, stupid, irresponsible experience: unprotected sex. The first of my life. I've been with my partner for ages, but we hadn't had sex in quite a while, and -- it seems crazy but -- somehow this time protection just slipped my mind. And afterward my partner asked if I had gone back on the pill, because he'd been expecting me to pause for condom-time but then I didn't. OMGWTFBBQ, said I. How can someone spend years and years trying so hard to avoid pregnancy, working in the world of unplanned pregnancy, and devoutly practicing protection habits -- then just FORGET? Needless to say, I was about as embarrassed and irritated at myself as your average patient who sheepishly tells you her story of one night of abandon, or one vomited pill. 

Well, I headed right to my medicine cabinet, looking for the pack of emergency contraception that I obtained nearly four years ago and set aside for just this purpose -- or more likely, I thought, for some friend who had a more unpredictable social life and might find herself unprepared. Ha. What was that I said about best-laid plans? I couldn't find the pack! I've moved three times since I first picked it up, and it must be in a box somewhere. So I texted a couple work friends, thinking they were likely to have a spare too -- but they didn't, and our clinic is closed on Sundays so it wouldn't be a snap to get it for cheap or free. No problem: I'll skip down to the pharmacy and buy it over-the-counter---Holy shit! I forgot the full price was fifty dollars. And my insurance doesn't have any coverage for non-prescription meds. 

It's so weird being one of the hoi polloi, the everywoman who faces everyday obstacles and needs to decide if she can afford to protect herself and has to deal with an awkward pharmacist. And really weird realizing I'm judging myself for being "such a dumbass" when I would never think that about someone else. 

Later that day, I heard from a friend: 
               um, how much do you know about herpes?
               i engaged in some high risk irresponsible behavior last night due to drunkeness
               i feel like i need to kick myself out of my [sexual-health-related occupation]

My god! We all make mistakes sometimes, and here we are feeling like something is deeply wrong with us -- like we don't belong in the profession! -- now that we have joined the ranks of those who "should have known better [but presumably didn't]."

Well, good thing it was my turn to blog, said my friend: 
              write about how we in sex/repro health expect ourselves to be models of responsibility and healthy sexuality
               but get down on ourselves when we slip up
               you can talk about your plan b
               and my herpes!

Well, there you go. Turns out this unpleasant incident was a good reality-check: it only takes a weird moment of forgetfulness and some bad luck to end up in the patient's seat or the pharmacy, and I must have had some unacknowledged belief that I was "too smart" to wind up there, or maybe "too smart" to get a pass on making a mistake. 

I know some of us have had the good fortune (so to speak) of being in a "dumb" situation early on, and having lots of compassion as a result. If you'd like to tell that story, please do so in the comments...and I promise I won't think you're stupid! 

Thursday, April 8, 2010


The most heartbreaking case isn't the 12 year old who was raped by her stepfather. It's not the woman who is pregnant with a very much wanted pregnancy, thanks to donor insemination, and who now has to terminate because of severe anomalies. It's not the woman who thought she was 14 weeks pregnant, but her ultrasound showed 29. I can handle those. I can handle those because I'm a helper and a fixer and if my clinic is known for anything, it's helping and fixing. But the most heartbreaking case is the woman who takes pains to reassure me, to reassure my manager, to reassure my co-worker, to reassure the doctor, that she isn't a murderer.

A couple of weeks ago, I counseled one of these women. She had told me about her dissolving marriage and her plans to return to school, she had beamed while talking about her four children at home. She had expressed sadness about having this abortion, and we talked about coping and God as a forgiving presence and compassion and the spirit of the pregnancy and I said the words, "You're still a good person." At the end of the session, she volunteered another fact that didn't fit on her medical history: "I'm not a murderer." And my heart broke.

In a world that spares no opportunity to tell women that we can't be trusted, that our bodies are not our own, and that we are monsters for wanting to have a choice, the clinic should be a safe haven. Selfishly, I live my life talking about abortion loudly and exuberantly because even though I haven't had one, I want the world to see that abortion has a face and a presence aside from the crazy people with the signs and pamphlets and plastic fetii. I study the philosophy and culture of choice so that I can inoculate clients against the myths and the anger from the world. (That inoculation sentiment is courtesy of a wonderful woman I can't link to as credit because I don't want her to the target of hate emails.)

And in spite of all the efforts of the pro-choice advocates and allies, the clinic staff, the women (and men) who tell their abortion stories, even I can't be trusted not to judge a woman. I don't want her to justify her choice to me, and I don't want her to tell me she's not a terrible person. I want her to have a safe abortion in a nurturing environment with people who trust her and for her to trust herself. She's not the enemy and neither am I.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Abortion Abroad

As many of you know, I am visiting another country for a few weeks. So I get a break from abortiony stuff, right?


I have engaged, after one week, in 1.5 conversations about abortion. The first occurred during a qualitative data analysis session. I was in a group with some colleagues reading interview transcripts and coding the data into themes. The research was on HIV testing, and so our group naturally digressed into other sexual and reproductive health topics. As we meandered through the abortion topic, it was brought up that abortion is becoming legalized in this country, or at least the fight to do so is gaining ground. One guy, who I dubbed "Supafly" for wearing graffiti Ts and a pageboy hat on a jaunty angle, made a comment that a woman who was raped should be allowed to have an abortion. "Why", he asks, "should a woman be forced to raise a child that she will hate the rest of her life?"

Now, a woman in the group, also young and hip, remarked that when she became pregnant previously she would never have been able to have an abortion, even though she was (I presume) unmarried and reasonably young. Supafly and The Baddest Chick went back and forth, he finding it appalling that a raped woman should be forced to carry a pregnancy, and she describing the transformation that occurs among pregnant women that makes them love what's growing inside of them, regardless of how it happens. Incidentally, I found myself jumping to TBC's defense. Sure, I get it. Everytime I see a baby my uterus skips a beat. And not even in real life; I can look at pictures, TV commercials, you name it. There are tons of women who don't intend to become pregnant, who were raped even, who have no doubt that they will carry their pregnancies. Sometimes, that maternal instinct (or anti instinct, as the case may be) kicks in, full force! And abortion just never crosses one's mind. Just because conception occurs in a non-ideal fashion does not mean that you will hate your child. There are plenty of women who aren't raped who hate their children (remember Renee Bowman?)

But Supafly was not convinced. He became very animated, waving his arms and banging the table. His compadre, Ziggy Marley, agreed with him more subtly, and I found myself in a position that I'd never been in before; I was listening to two males try to make a believer out of a female! What was this place? On our way back from lunch break I held back with Supafly and Ziggy, letting them know that at the end of the day I was with them 100%. At that point Ziggy made his only real comment on the matter, but with conviction:

"It's simply a matter of choice. That's all."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Admitting My Bias

Recently, Revolutionary Vagina wrote this post asking what our bias(es) is/are. I really get annoyed with pro-choice people who get all judgmental on women; but I'm going to admit that I get all judgmental and frustated when clients are/seem: ungrateful.

I especially get frustrated about this when it comes to helping patients come up with funding for abortions, finally obtain it, but then they seem really snotty and ungrateful about it all, demanding more money. In my experience, it's the women who needed the least amount of funds from outside sources that get the most uppity about it (for example, the 25 year old woman who could've come up with all of the funds in a pinch, had financial and emotional support from a relative and a friend on the day of her abortion, but was pissed off she didn't "get more" money from the fund. Her inability to get more money from the fund meant she'd have to pay back her friend and her relative. And she didn't want to do that. So she was mad and called the fund employees and clinic staff lots of fun little names that I won't repeat here).

Why does this piss me off? Because it seems like ingratitude to me. Funds don't have to exist. They exist to help women. They work hard to raise money to have an abortion fund. Most fund workers are volunteers and out of the kindness of their hearts, are giving back to women seeking abortions. Women don't have to utilize the funds and the funds don't have to help them pay for their abortions, either. There are women out there doing crazy ass shit to pay for their procedures. Women who don't have a home, don't have a job, no food, their partner just got shot, and are living in circumstances very much like women live in developing countries; only they live in the US. Some of the crazy things I've heard women have to do to pay for their abortions:

- have sex for money
- sell their food stamps
- sell their children's clothes
- sell their cars
- have a yard sale
- sell drugs
- (I'm sure you could all add to this list)

Women shouldn't have to do this. I believe their abortions should be free - probably like most patients - and I get why women get frustrated that Medicaid in their state won't pay for their procedures. It pisses me off, too. It's unfair. Yet when I'm talking to a woman who is one of the lucky ones who can come up with the balance not raised by funds (without having to put herself in any risky/dangerous situation), and it's been explained to her that the $100 she has to pay the clinic will allow at least one other woman to have her abortion, yet she still doesn't care and still throws a tantrum, then I get pissed.

Thankfully, nearly all the women I've ever had the honor (and I mean that) of working with to help them with their abortion procedures, have been gracious, kind, very grateful, and warm. Rarely, a bad seed comes our way. I shouldn't even focus on it, but: it's my bias, the thing that gets me frustrated at times.

Monday, April 5, 2010

the women

I have delivered a baby and performed a 9-week abortion. Although both procedures were very different, they were equally powerful.

In the delivery, it was the woman’s fourth baby. A girl this time, after three boys. She was thrilled and wept at the sound of her crying daughter. I cried a little bit as well. This pregnancy was so wanted and so desired. Plus, being the first person to touch a baby and deliver her/him into this world is incredible in itself.

In the 9-week abortion, it was the woman’s third pregnancy. This pregnancy was unplanned and unwanted. She had two children at home and was not financially ready to bring another child into the world at this time. Plus, she was with a new partner and was not ready to have a child with him. It was a hard decision, but in the end, the right one for her. During the procedure, she talked about her children and cried a little bit. When it was over, she looked so relieved and thanked me.

I have been so fortunate to have affected both of these women’s lives in unique and different ways. Both were such beautiful experiences that I will never forget.

Delivering a baby only reaffirmed to me that motherhood should be a choice. Women should not be forced into that position or punished by it. Motherhood is beautiful but it is hard and not always at the best time or with the right person.

Performing an abortion made me further appreciate that abortion is a hard, thoughtful and challenging decision. It is personal and sacred. And nobody should interfere with that decision. It also made me realize how easy it is to perform a first trimester abortion. The procedure itself was over in 7 minutes-and performed entirely by me-a medical student. And with over 90% of abortions in this category, it’s aggravating to think anti-choicers and politicians out there are putting so many blockades in front of women, almost forcing them into a second trimester procedure (more expensive and slightly riskier).

Thank you to all the abortioneers out there for continuing to fight for women’s choices. Having participated in both a birth and an abortion, my pro-choice beliefs have been reaffirmed.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Today The Ugliness Is Born Again As Love

Happy Easter. I hope all of you who worked and volunteered at clinics this week were able to stay safe and protect the women coming to you for assistance. I hope the antis trespassing on your clinics recognized the damage they do and the medical risk they are causing to their targets. I hope you are enjoying your Sunday, which is (most) abortioneers' day of rest as well.

I thought I had buried my faith in the public's understanding of critical issues, but I've come to its tomb and found the stone rolled aside. Maybe people out there are more pro-life than I could have hoped. They must have been inspired this week to support life for young women, and life for black families.

That is to say: lately all the goddamn insulting public ads about the "untold" badness of abortion have left me wishing and waiting, wishing and waiting. But I wasn't sure for what. Well, I must have been waiting for this: 

And probably wishing -- breaking news, y'all -- for this: 


The text of this iReport story does not do justice to the joy in my heart at seeing this affirmation, this vast improvement upon the previous eyesore (soulsore!) marring a place I consider one of my homes. But you can read it here. Whatever intrepid and loving soul climbed up there to improve them, they've apparently only done a few so far -- but I enjoy imagining they'll hit all 30-odd, and the other 50 that were planned.

To all our friends out there who are spreading joy: Amen, Amen, Amen. And thank you.

Let us go in peace to love and serve one another!

Have you seen any others around your city? Please share with us!