Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hallmark Keepsake

Will you keep it.

Keep what.

The moldy loaf of bread. The ring. Wilting bouquet. Steak fat. The upside-down floating fish named Danny. The jumping bean. Sea monkey. Benign tumor. The appendix. The changing mole. Will you keep the kitty cat. The broken television. Vacationer’s plants. Keep close to your heart. Keep tabs.

Will you let the tick suck your blood until he’s the size a newborn baby?

The baby. Will you keep the baby. The zygote. The embryo. The fetus. Conceived. Pulsating sac. The heart beat. Muffin. Pumpkin. The burrito. Something that is very real in someone's head. The pregnancy.

Will you keep the callous-less bundle of human being and hope it never grows into a stinky person.

What's the uterus say. What the heck is she holding on for. Those, eager ovaries, wistful tubes. Whores. Cannot see the light of day, the reeking economy. The cupboards are stocked with toxins that lead to a host of reproductive health deficiencies. Dick Cheney’s heart’s still beating. They’re poking holes in the moon because we’re thirsty. On speed. Apparently have no effect on this womb.

Will you keep it?

Keep what?

The abortion.

* image of Hide N' Seek Pickle, a new edition to the Hallmark Keepsake collection

Monday, November 29, 2010

Media Monday! "Abortion Democracy," the documentary

A few weeks ago I met a German woman named Sarah Diehl, who's in the US doing a screening tour for her documentary, "Abortion Democracy: Poland / South Africa." I saw a short preview of the film and have been looking forward to seeing it ever since.

Poland is one of the few countries in Europe that has criminalized abortion in almost all cases -- and this isn't an ancient law, either, but one passed in 1994. I remember a few years ago reading about a Polish woman who sued the government in the European Court of Human Rights after being denied an abortion that would have saved her deteriorating eyesight. Alicja Tysiac is functionally blind as a result of this denial; the court found that the Polish law did not even uphold the narrow exceptions it claimed to make for cases where a woman's health was endangered by pregnancy, the government had failed by the standards of its own law and  Tysiac's human rights had been violated. The court awarded her compensation, but of course that won't restore her sight. The story both outraged and terrified me: abortion policies aren't an abstraction limited to proving ideological points -- they are terribly, viscerally real for the women whose decision-making they vitiate.

South Africa, on the other hand, is one of the few countries in Africa that has legalized elective abortion. The law was changed in 1996 to allow abortion "on demand" in the first trimester and abortion on certain legal, medical or socioeconomic grounds in weeks 13-20. (Quick fact: "on demand" means that women are not required to stand before a judge, panel of doctors, or other jury who will approve or reject their 'case' for an abortion.) Yet legally-qualifying abortions are still quite difficult to obtain for many South African women, especially in the second trimester. In fact, "Abortion Democracy" suggests that it may be "easier to obtain an illegal abortion in Poland than it is to obtain a legal abortion in South Africa." In this sense, national policies are not the only thing that determines the nature of on-the-ground access, not by a long shot.

I'll be watching the movie tonight, so I'll be back with an update on how it was. In the meantime, I hope this trailer gets you as intrigued as I am.

Friday, November 26, 2010


I don't do it for the thanks. If I did, there are plenty of days that I might have quit! I've had women shout at me, swear at me, tell me I wasn't a good feminist, I hadn't secured enough financial assistance for them, I didn't answer my phone often enough, I wasn't checking them in fast enough, doing enough, caring enough. When in fact I care really hard and I try really hard. Sometimes I'd hear a coworker have a similar interaction -- maybe just an abrupt goodbye after she phoned to delivered news of a donation toward a patient's abortion costs -- and hang up and mutter, "A little gratitude would be nice." Idunno, I say screw that. Women have a right to choose abortion; I don't have a right to clients' gratitude just for providing their care. It's a matter of social justice that women have access to abortion, and they don't owe me thanks for their rights. They weren't mine to give anyway.

Don't I appreciate a word of thanks from a patient who, by all rights, ought to have her mind on anything but my feelings? Of course--quite a bit. It's wonderful to hear, "You all have been so kind and so professional; thank you for making this so much less stressful and scary than I expected." It's wonderful to get letters that read "This means the world to me. God Bless and may heaven smile upon you guys. Thank you."

But it's the part that comes before it that keeps me doing this work: "Due to my pregnancy I was discriminated against at work, they cut my weekly hours from 40 to 15 and I could barely afford rent, let alone paying for an abortion or even having a baby."
"I'm involved in domestic violence and have had no one to turn to. You have saved my life from eternal abuse and my child from growing up with violent torture."
"This year I earned a sports scholarship to go to college, but when I found out I was pregnant I was afraid I wouldn't even get to graduate high school."
[Excerpted to protect privacy, but these are women's own words.]

Those women don't owe me thanks! We, as a society, owe them all that we can do to reverse workplace injustice, end domestic violence, increase educational opportunities, AND make reproductive freedom a reality. And I thank them: for not giving up, for seeking to make their own life, for being patient with the unfairly long process of seeking a provider, an appointment, the money, the ride, the babysitter, the day off to recuperate.

Thank you, so much, for the compassion and companionship that I hear you offer each other in the waiting rooms and the recovery room.

Thank you for the times I was training and you consented to have me in the room, even though my presence was of no particular use to you that day. Thanks for everything you continue to teach me and my coworkers as we strive to support you and connect you with what you need. In short, thank you for the privilege of being involved in your care -- I will try to earn it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

We are one thankful rafter of abortioneers

Here at the Abortioneers we wanted to share with all of our great readers what each one of us is thankful for this year (and also what we have been thanked for). Sit back and relax in your Thanksgiving food coma and see what we are thankful for in our lives.

Revolutionary Vagina:

Sometimes we go through life taking for granted the amazing gifts we have. I certainly do my fair share of that. Whatever many of us think of Thanksgiving and its origins, it is a holiday that causes us to take a moment and reflect upon those great gifts in our life. I am thankful for my family. I have the most amazing, supportive family, and I am so appreciative of all they have taught me. I am thankful for great friends. I am thankful for a fabulous roommie, and her cute little dog who brings me joy every day. And while it may drive me nuts sometimes, I am thankful for a job that fulfills me and pays my bills.


border terriers
hawaiian pizza
natty boh
in-flight movies
reese's peanut butter cups
st. ives apricot scrub
and her two sisters whose birthdays come exactly one week before and after TG, making it a nonstop party til xmas

About A Girl:

Thankful for:
1) legal abortion
2) amazing doctors who give a shit
3) incredible co-workers who are compassionate
4) a boss who remembers what our work is about: the women
5) to work for an organization I'm proud of
7) Medical Abortion
8) Providers who do abortions later in gestation
9) Abortion funding
10) The women!

Things I've been told "thank you" for lately:
1) For helping to find abortion funding
2) for being non-jugmental
3) for giving information

Placenta Sandwich:

It's nice to get thanks from patients, but for various reasons, I don't really expect it: they have much bigger things on their minds; they are stressed out; their abortion is a right, not a privilege; and they don't owe me anything for doing my job. In a way I think we abortioneers take on the responsibility for gratitude. When a volunteer fund agrees to allocate their scarce resources to my patient's care, I thank the funding volunteer profusely; and when our clinic agrees to discount the price of care for a woman in need, her case manager thanks our clinic manager. When our doctor leaves the clinic, I say "thank you, Dr. X," and when I leave the clinic, my supervisor says "thank you, placenta sandwich" -- we're all thanking each other for showing up and being part of the team, even if we've had a rough day. And when people ask how to avoid burnout at work, I think of all the coworkers I'm thankful for and say, "It helps if you get lucky and work with awesome people."

Thank you, abortioneers, for being the funnest, funniest, coolest, cleverest, biggest-hearted, best colleagues of all time. You're dedicated to our work, you're good-humored in tough times, and you're so good at supporting women in their various situations that I am always startled when I go out into the real world and remember that not everyone is like you.


I am always thankful for the work I do. Each time a patient is thankful, I feel thankful she was able to get the care she needed. Last week, in a pinch where the native Spanish speaker I work with was tied up, I was thankful to be able to talk to 2 Spanish-speaking patients with some fluency. Then, I was thankful when another patient, an older woman with several children, hugged me as she left the clinic after her procedure. I am thankful every time a woman expresses gratitutude, relief, or self-assurance.


I'm thankful for passionate staff, caring and competent doctors, endless research, all of our clients, the right to choose, the myriad of birth control options, and the part I get to play in so many women's lives.

Mr. Banana Grabber:

I am thankful for abortion providers. I am thankful we live in a society that decided in 1973 women should have the control over their bodies. I am thankful I have resources available to me which enable me to make sure I do not get pregnant. I am thankful that if I did get pregnant, I could choose to have an abortion. I am thankful that I have that option available in a safe setting. I am thankful for those who support me and my work. I am thankful that, unlike many of my patients, I know where my next meal is coming from and where I am going to sleep tonight. I am thankful I have never in my life had to worry about that. I am thankful my parents love and support me. I am thankful I have a partner who respects me and honors me. Finally, I am thankful for my fellow Abortioneers for their work, love, and support.

Vegan Vagina:

I am thankful for my health, family, friends, my best-in-the-world-EVER dog, embracing veganism, being comfortable in my own skin, opening my home to women in need, living a life that challenges me to grow, anything made out of fleece, clean air, and rollerblading.

Finally, we want to all thank our READERS. That is you! Anyone reading this right now---thank you thank you thank you. Without you we would not have anyone to share our stories, opinions, efforts, successes, failures, and everything else we love to talk about regarding abortion. We love having such smart, passionate, and engaged readers and it is such a joy to have this as a place for the abortioneer community to gather.


Love, all of the Abortioneers (and Harley the turkey who I adopted this holiday!)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Another One Bites the Dust: Feminist Clinic in Washington State Closes

We need to expand access to abortion services. We all know this. So, the question may now be, within our own Abortionland, what exactly does expanded access mean? How can abortion access expand without crushing little, struggling clinics? Is it even possible for different service delivery models (hospitals, Planned Parenthood, etc.) to expand without hurting independent clinics? And if possible (which I believe it, of course, is), is it realistic? Will providers set aside competition for altruism (increased access)? And at the risk of sounding cynical, should they set aside competition? And....are independent, feminist clinics now obsolete?

These questions are – hopefully – being asked by people besides me. You’ve probably heard all the buzz about another feminist abortion clinic closing down: Cedar River Clinics’ Yakima site (one of three in Washington State) just closed down last week after 30 years. Let me say that again: after 30 years.

I read about this closure on RH Reality Check’s site here. It’s a lovely tribute to the Yakima clinic which appears to have served women from all over the Pacific Northwest and beyond (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana). The closure also has created a big hoopla – a controversy even – because Cedar River Clinics points the finger directly at Planned Parenthood as the reason for their closure! (Ballsy, I know!) The comments on the article obviously get very feisty. (Pretty fun to read if you’re in the mood for feistiness!)

It seems like there is this clear divide, an us versus them between some independent clinics and Planned Parenthood. If you’re not up on the debate, the issue seems to be the apparent recent Planned Parenthood decision to expand all their abortion services… even in areas where there are already providers. It’s pretty obvious there are many who are uncomfortable with this pointing of fingers, saying that by pointing fingers at Planned Parenthood, abortioneers are unnecessarily feeding into all the negative media that the antis put out against them. (After all, Planned Parenthood does do a lot of good work.) Well, on this blog, we pride ourselves in talking about the things that are hard to talk about. We speak the unspeakable – the unpopular, even – at the risk of antis twisting it however they will (they’ll always twist things around).

Let’s say the independent clinics out there are right: Planned Parenthood plays a role in closing down little clinics (not intentionally, I’m sure). Should people NOT talk about it just for fear of what the antis are going to say? Of course not!! Sure, we’re all in the same boat: we want to provide abortion services to women; but like I talked about here in September, there is, of course, competition. We're only in the same boat up to a point. Abortion rates are down. Clinics still have a business to run. If another provider comes in and offers the exact same services (same gestational limits, for example) as another clinic in town, then that’s direct competition. If a small clinic is already struggling, a direct competitor will surely hurt said struggling clinic. It sounds like that’s precisely what happened in the case of the Yakima Cedar River Clinic and the Yakima Planned Parenthood.

We don't like to talk about competition: it's the big elephant in the room. The reality is, competition exists. The analogy of the big corporate store coming in, causing the little independent store to close is very similar to the small abortion clinic versus a corporate-like Planned Parenthood. I am an idealist at heart, so it's difficult for me to even acknowledge the elephant. I want to tuck myself into a little world of abortion safety where everyone is in it just for the women and the focus is so entirely on that, not politics and competition and business models and strategies and blahblahblah. The harsh - ever so harsh - reality is that when big corporate business comes in and succeeds, it offers a service that customers/clients/patients respond to. They're doing something right. That doesn't mean the small, independent clinic is doing anything wrong...

Or are they? Little businesses often fall prey to "treading water syndrome." They can be hyper-focused internally and don't always invest/have the resources to look externally. For all business - non profit or profit - it's vital to not only scan your external environment, but do an in-depth analysis. The for-profit sector and non-profit sector are not really that different. (Despite how much I'd like to bury my head in the sand and pretend they are.) They compete. And abortion providers compete, too. In the case of Yakima, it appears that Planned Parenthood came up with a strategy that worked for them. You can bet your bottom dollar that Planned Parenthood has the resources to do an in-depth SWOT analysis and probably really researched the opportunities in Yakima (and other places). Did Cedar River Clinics? Like so many small businesses, did they focus too much on putting out fires that they didn't stop to recognize Planned Parenthood as an external threat and then decide what to do about it?

Look, I am a huge fan of supporting local businesses. I support my local book store. Unless....Amazon meets my needs when browsing the internet at 1am. I would go to my independent abortion clinic if I knew it was locally owned. Unless... Planned Parenthood was more convenient (price, location, abortion days/times that fit my schedule) and made themselves more known to me (advertisement). I'm talking about the marketing mix. The Four P's:
- Product
- Promotion
- Place
- Price

Do I wish that Planned Parenthood could've expanded their gestational limits in, say, Spokane where they could've better met the needs of rural women? Or maybe opened a clinic in a region of Washington State (or Idaho, or Montana, or Oregon) where there wasn't an abortion provider at all, instead of going to Yakima and directly competing? Hell, yes. That would've been the altruistic thing to do: the thing that would've truly been in rural women's best interests (women travel upwards of 10 hours because Yakima is the only provider going further than around 15-16 weeks west of Missoula and east of Seattle). There are large areas of Washington state without abortion providers, so it seems there was/is growth potential there. Why didn't Planned Parenthood take the high road instead of directly compete? On the other hand, we could all ask Cedar River Clinics why they didn't expand to an unserved area to improve access, too.

My point is: Cedar River in Yakima must've missed some opportunities for growth that Planned Parenthood captured. So if small, independent clinics are doing anything wrong at all, it may be that they don't/can't meet the demands of the clients and what their needs are when (gulp) Planned Parenthood did/does (like Amazon sometimes meets my needs better than my local bookstore). And this does make me cringe. But we're talking about consumer behavior here.

Planned Parenthood has nothing on a legacy of a feminist clinic. It can't stand up and say it's been there for its community like a small clinic can say; but if the competition wins, it's not just because they're terribly corporate. Look, little independent clinics need to LEARN from Planned Parenthood. What do they do that's right? Branding. Clients trust them. They're everywhere. Like McDonalds. Independent clinics need to be firmly rooted in their communities. They need to promote themselves. They need to advertise. They need to be involved. They need to prove to their communities they know them better than Planned Parenthood does. They can't ostracize themselves just because they do abortions. They have to have their finger on the pulse of their clientele. Offer different days. Different hours. Have nice buildings. Decorate them well. Have them in good locations (see my dream clinic blog). Ask clients what they want. Make appointments shorter. Small, independent - even feminist - clinics will become obsolete unless they figure this out, significantly invest in strategy, and learn from Planned Parenthood. My sincere hope is that they will....

...who will pick up this gauntlet?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lord, Excuse me...

Sometimes at work we talk about religion. Several of the people I work with are quite religious and the balance between their work and spiritual beliefs is complex. One of the medical assistants has made it clear several times that she is only there because it is a job and she knows that "God knows where her heart is." I believe she is right that her God does know where her heart is; I also know that her God is much cooler than she thinks. She is doing God's work, right in the abortion clinic. But not everyone who works in abortion clinics is staunchly pro-choice like the people on this blog.

The nurse at my clinic is Catholic and when asked how she feels about abortion she is unsure. She has verbalized, off the record, that sometimes she is not sure about her personal beliefs around abortion. Her job is separate from her life and most people don't know exactly where she works, they only know that she is a nurse. But -- most importantly -- her internal struggle between her work life and personal life has never been apparent in her patient care. Her ability to provide quality patient care despite contradicting personal beliefs amazes me.

I'm agnostic; I've just figured out that this is the best way to describe my personal beliefs. I believe in a higher power and I believe awesome people existed, like Jesus for example. At the same time I don't claim to know one universal truth. I believe that reproduction is sacred thus Women's bodies are sacred. Abortion is one part of reproduction, it is a sacred decision and only an individual woman can know if it's right for her.

I can't believe in the modern day institution of Christianity or in almost any of the various denominations. I can appreciate some values of Christianity. However, modern-day Christianity as a religious institution contradicts who I am. I'm a lesbian, I'm an abortion provider, I swear, and I'm sure I am full of other sins. When people call abortion provision "baby killing" it's a joke to me because I am 100% confident there is no murdering involved in abortion provision. In fact, I believe abortion it is often life-giving for women and their families. I cannot relate to the shame I have seen some women express due to religious values. I can reassure them. I often ask women who express these kinds of thoughts whether their God is a forgiving God. Although I don't believe they have done anything that warrants being forgiven.

There are several groups that seem to have the complex relationship between religious values and abortion worked out. There is a group called Faith Aloud that offers counseling for women who are pregnant or who have had abortions. This organization also came up with "40 days of prayer to keep abortion care safe and legal" in response to the "40 Days For Life" anti-choice protesters. The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice is another great organization that brings together people of various faiths to advocate and educate about reproductive choice.

*Christianity is the only religion mentioned because this is the primary religion with which I have come in contact in the context of abortion provision.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Friends Of The Abortioneers: a gripe

Not long ago, my BFF told me that "on second thought, [I] probably shouldn't meet" one of his new friends because she had briefly expressed anti-abortion sentiments (something like "Well not that I support abortion") the last time they hung out. I asked my friend if he had said anything to respond to her...like, oh, say, "Well, I do support abortion rights, so you don't have to make any disclaimers around me." Or that his best friend provides abortion care and is a perfectly okay person. I don't know.

He said no, he hadn't said anything, and I realized I was hurt. He's known me for years, knows how important abortion is; why isn't that worth rocking the boat with someone he's just met? And why wouldn't you want to state your position early on -- what if this new friend simply assumes that's an OK thing to say to him, or to say in general? I even wondered if she's said it in front of women who, unbeknownst to her, have had abortions and now might never feel comfortable mentioning it.

I felt hurt even though I don't know this woman and don't particularly need to. I feel hurt when my mom lets her psycho friend be vocally anti-abortion in her presence, or when my dad seemed visibly relieved that I was going back to school and he could tell the relatives we were visiting that his daughter "works in public health." It's not outright rejection, but their silence isn't just about abortion as an abstract concept; it's like they're avoiding sticking up for me. And it bothers me even though I don't always stick up for myself.

Am I ashamed? Don't I want to educate people? Why wouldn't I always stick up for myself?

No; No; and, Because. No, I'm not ashamed. Okay, Yes I do want people to "be educated" about abortion, but No I don't want to do it in my local pharmacy or the video store I rent from every weekend. And maybe -- sometimes -- I don't want to be the one to do it. Maybe it would be nice if other people did some educating. People who could say "Someone I'm close to works in an abortion clinic, and from what I can tell it's an important part of healthcare that we shouldn't stigmatize or demonize." People who are far enough away from actually doing the work that, if they said this, it might make someone uncomfortable, but not make someone violent. People who are far enough away from the work that a bad reaction might make them disappointed, but not break their soul yet again.


If I were someone else, I might have been offended that my BFF thought I was too narrow-minded to hang out with someone who opposes abortion -- and I recognize that some people reading this might feel that way too. But I know that he was looking out for me, because I am that narrow-minded; or, less facetiously, because over the years I've decided that my time is better spent with people who can get their head around the fact that I find my work meaningful and valuable, and not wasted on those who need to be gently led back to Square One at potentially great personal risk.

I make exceptions for my grandparents, my middle-school teachers, my parents' close friends; I'll be social with them and skirt the subject. (Although I sense that if I have to see my mom's psycho friend again I'm going to snap.) I also make exceptions by not bringing it up with people I meet at parties, bars, or other noisy places where I am trying to have fun, not an upsetting high-decibel "debate," and don't plan to know you in the long-term. Or if a stranger on the bus wants to chat -- do you know that someone I know was followed on her commute home by an anti? After some instructive mishaps, I now make exceptions when meeting friends of friends, too. I don't like making a friend's evening awkward just because I responded to "So what do you do?" and their other friend couldn't pass up the chance to be rude.

On the face of it, maybe it doesn't sound fair for me to give myself all these passes but hold my family and friends accountable for their silences. But I don't care, actually. They could be my allies: their expenditure and risk in speaking up would be so low compared to mine. They ought to.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Internet Fridays

Hello, faithful readers!

This lovely Friday afternoon, I want to share with you a couple valuable internet offerings (is there any other kind?). This week Slate published two articles reflecting on a conference held at Princeton University, attended by pro-choicers and pro-lifers alike. The idea of the conference was for the two parties to learn things from one another and find (here we go) "common ground". The first article summarized what pro-lifers should take from pro-choicers, and the second vice-versa.

These are, if nothing else, very interesting! I will make one observation and leave you all to it. Sarah Brown, CEO of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, made this comment about the need to reduce repeat abortion:

"About half of all abortions are to women who have had at least one previous abortion. Half. That suggests not only the family planning systems, but also the people who provide terminations, are not doing enough to prevent additional unintended pregnancies, including such things as immediate post-abortion IUD insertion."

To which the author replied: "That's a scandal. One unintended pregnancy should be enough to warn you—and the doctor who vacuums out your uterus—not to risk another."

I could punch both people in the face. At what point did we start to blame abortion doctors for high unintended pregnancy rates?! Doctors can't just shove IUDs in every woman for whom they complete an abortion any more than they can monitor every sex act for every patient and ensure that it was protected. On top of that, having more than one abortion is not a scandal, it's a CHOICE. If a woman is comfortable enough to use a non-hormonal method and plan to have an abortion in case of emergency, THAT'S COOL TOO.

Anyway, I'd love to hear thoughts on this. Happy Friday!


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Baggage Claim

We all come to abortioneering with some type of baggage. It's no secret that I would have an abortion in a heartbeat, no second thoughts, no regrets, no sadness. I've known this since I was 15 or so. And when I counsel women before their abortions, I am as neutral as can be, helping them to work through whatever issues they bring to the table. But I know that a part of me that never shows itself on my face or in my actions thinks, "Is it really that big of a deal?" because it wouldn't be for me. It's not conscious, and again I will stress that it influences my counseling to a negative degree, but I recognize it's there.

I've had a few co-workers who are 110% pro-choice, but in off-the-record conversations, they've admitted that if they got pregnant, they would probably have an abortion, but they wouldn't be happy about it. And these co-workers are the ones who say, "Yes, a woman can have as many abortions as she wants to! No judgment!" but they also counsel about birth control with just a little bit more umph. Because an abortion would be a big deal for them.

And then there are the women who say, "I'm pro-choice, but I'd never have an abortion." Those women in my life don't work at the clinic with me, but I'm curious about ones who do. It would be ridiculous of me to assume that every woman working at every abortion clinic in the world would have an abortion. (Although I'm now picturing some kind of reverse-Margaret Atwood-style novel about a world that's so pro-choice, women are required to have abortions just to prove that they mean it.) I think most of them would at least allow for cases of fetal anomaly or rape, but who knows? Readers, are any of you or your friends Abortioneers who would NEVER have an abortion yourselves? And if so, what do you bring to the table? Because I'll bet it's also a pretty amazing contribution.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Anti Taxonomy

I've encountered lots of different types of antis in my day, and I find them all deplorable. See my list below:

1. Barks up the wrong tree: The kind of anti that tries to convert you, even though you work/volunteer at an abortion clinic, wear a coathanger pendant around your neck, carry an "I [heart] Reproductive Rights" bag, or otherwise indicate that you've already chosen a side.

2. Carries a sign: This anti prefers to boil all the complexities of pregnancy, abortion, and decision-making into one trite slogan, e.g. "I'm a child, not a choice."

3. Yells a lot: That's about it.

4. Prays for you (a): A young, sometimes prissy female anti who is more concerned about your salvation than about feeding starving children, who seems to have forgotten that good works, not kvetching, get you into Heaven.

5. Prays for you (b): A morose dude who likes to moan without saying anything articulate.

6. Pedophiles-to-be: Usually an older priest with several younger ones in tow. Hoping that women have more babies to serve as their lust objects.

7. The born-again: She regrets her abortion. But, ironically, if she hadn't had one to begin with she'd have no cause to which to devote her free time and would not be a better person today.

8. Living proof: Someone whose mother considered an abortion, or attempted one that failed, who grew up to be a productive member of society, spending Saturday mornings yelling things in the street.

9. Song in the heart: You'd think I'd tire of tone-deaf renditions of Ave Maria by scratchy-voiced youth, but nope!

10. The solution: These antis can solve all your problems with a pamphlet and a phone number.

11. The Oscar nominee: Riveting in the role of "fetus pleading for its life", portrayed with all the sincerity and believability of Keanu Reeves or Lindsay Lohan.

12. Never too early: How charming is youth! Nothing thrills me more than a 4-year-old telling me what to do.

Still, loud or quiet, belligerent or holier-than-thou: THEY ALL SUCK.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Energy Healing in a Time of Abortioneering

...he allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves
. (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in a Time of Cholera)

Reccently, I went to a reproductive health conference after a significant break from abortioneering and was instantly struck by the life energy—the gentle passion and brilliant intention that sweep through a room when abortioneers are near.

Be still my heart! I told myself. You can always come home.

Recently, I have begun to study the Yang style short form of T’ai-chi Chuan—the ancient practice of conscious movement of energy—chee.

The most basic form is called yuan-chee, literally primordial energy. This refers to the original burst of pure energy that occurs at conception and breathes life into the foetus in the womb. It begins to dissipate from the moment of birth, and the rate of dissipation determines one’s lifespan.

Oops! Abortioneer correction on ancient wisdom: It begins to dissipate from the moment it breathes life into the zygote in the fallopian tube and the rate of dissipation sometimes results in implantation failure or the demise of some pregnancies.

Recently, I co-initiated the cultivation of yang-chee with a precious companion.

When I became a brand new abortioneer (was born into abortioneering, if you will) some years ago, I was at the tail end of a toxic, psychologically tortuous non-love affair. The magnitude of distress I embodied at the time boded terribly on my abortioneering (and my overall health). It’s hard enough to face deranged, anti-abortion pests, innocent yet pervasive cultural ignorance about motherhood and abortion, and to effectively neutralize the fear and undue shame felt by women and families experiencing pregnancy termination on a daily basis...

I spent many evenings during my first year of abortioneering reflecting, contemplating, then weeping on my couch alone. It wasn’t abortion that broke my heart. The Knowing felt so immense to me, the needless misery that haunts life because we cannot see the first steps to liberation, the fear that debilitates us—the fear of woman’s innate power to bring forth life, to intuit life force.

The toxic, psychologically tortuous non-love affair ended shortly after my entry into abortioneering because in knowing that abortion is love, I am also subjected to sheer awareness of non-love (fear, ego, greed, stupidity by choice), to sheer acknowledgment that such nonsense is bad for life force, bad for chee.

Recently, recently, recently: My brand new precious companion and I have begun cultivating our yang-chee, the sort of energy that builds in the body during the excitement of intercourse, associated with warmth, light, and motion, cultivating our yang-chee among everything.

Our bodies are mind-boggling machines. So resilient. So delicate. His touch to my body, the tenderness our bodies try hard to remember. Breathing into the tension is the best thing I’ve ever done for abortion.

Recently, my precious companion and I have begun integrating our chee. Thus, the gratitude for every new month that the blood flows so long as we explore each other, so long as we are not ready to reproduce LIFE FORCE for heavens' sakes. Simply put, life is great and all, but not being pregnant is a blessing too.

Concepts of chee borrowed from The Tao of Health, Sex, and Longevity by Daniel P. Reid

Monday, November 15, 2010

Children raising children

I'm sure by now everyone has at least heard a rumor about a "pregnancy pact" among a group of highschool girls a few years back. Yuck. Whether or not this is true, I can't say. But what I can say is that during the 2007-2008 school year at Gloucester High School in Gloucester, Massachusetts, 18 girls became pregnant and 17 carried to term.

The Media Education Foundation put together "The Gloucester 18", a documentary about these young women and how they came to make and cope with their decisions. Regardless of your views on teen motherhood, I think we can all find this fairly shocking (or not, if you know anything about sociology and anthropology).

I'm not going to say a whole lot about it because I, as per usual, have more to say than this space can accomodate. But watch this preview and try if you can to get your hands on the DVD. Very interesting analysis of the woman-child phenomenon that occurs with teen mothers. We can discuss in the comments section!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Trying to "have it all" in abortionland

There's so much I want to do for abortion -- provide care to women, improve work life for abortioneers, increase access in rural counties, push for legalization in more countries, and research more about everything -- that I don't know how to find enough time in my life for it all.

...Let alone blogging, which often feels less like a service I provide for others and more a kind of "journal" for myself. I notice that whatever I've been doing most of in a given week is what makes its way into my posts -- and when I'm doing everything at once, my posts are long, or overly digressive...or about trying to do too many things.

Forget about work/life balance -- I'm struggling to find work/work balance! (And grateful that my "life" component is full of people who support my struggle.) I want to hear from those of you who have been in this work for ages -- do you have to let go of some things after a while? Can you continue to "do everything" beyond, say, the ten-year mark? Does anyone out there find a balance between research and practice? Between direct services and affecting policy? HOW do you do that? Or do you have to be a superstar like Amy Hagstrom Miller or Leroy Carhart?

As I'm nearing the end of my graduate program and starting to think about what's next, there's an obvious expectation that people pick one thing to do "full-time" -- what kind of person willingly has three jobs? -- and relatively long-term. But I feel so full of ideas and motivation and different directions, and so short on sleep and time in the day. Someone talk to me about this! Who is making this work??

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Dream Clinic

I don’t usually dream about my job, but I did the other night. It was kind of a weird dream…I actually owned and operated a clinic. It was a beautiful building with lots of light streaming in. There must not have been security risks, or surely I wouldn’t have been stupid enough to buy a building that had sky lights and floor-to-ceiling windows. The building looked a little like this, but only terms of light and windows:

I'm not into ultra-modern architecture, so in my dream, my clinic wasn't mod like that, but we were safe. We could have loads of windows. When you walked in, there was a large lounge with a fireplace, leather sofas, and comfy club chairs. Such as:

There were board games and playing cards mixed with a variety of books and magazines on the bookshelf. The receptionist wasn’t behind bullet-proof glass. Large, green plants were inside with ecru carpeting. Beautiful, original art splashed vibrant color on pale walls. It felt cozy and comforting. Women were given wristbands and their friends/partners/relatives were given buzzers that would vibrate when the client was ready to see them or they were needed for some reason. It was quiet in this room; however, there was a distinct smell of coffee...

All you had to do was follow your nose and to the right of the receptionist, there was a small café selling lattes and small pastries. All proceeds went to an abortion fund. We were proud of this fund. Another stone fireplace was in this café with small bistro tables. Several flat screen monitors were against one wall where you could sit down, enjoy your coffee, listen to some music and access the internet. The whole building had wireless.

The café overlooked a mature garden with more tables, chairs, wooden benches, and beautiful pathways curving against the flora.

A glass door led you outside where cherry trees and spring flowers kissed you on the cheek. Green, pink, purple, yellow abound. Women, men, and children sat quietly in the garden, whispering, so not to bother the hummingbirds flittering about.

A doorway from the café led to another room: a family room. Large flat screen TVs were in various places. Some had Wii attached, some had regular television. The room was large enough to have these areas without the noise being too overbearing. Children had art tables, games, toys, books. I felt proud that children could have a beautiful place to be, create, and stay active while they waited for their mother. We didn’t tell women they couldn’t bring their children. We knew how hard it was for them to find childcare. They felt less stress knowing their children were nearby and in beautiful, safe surroundings.

Women had private waiting areas within their exam rooms. Fresh flowers were in each exam room. Lush recliners that both vibrated and heated brought comfort to achiness. Aromatherapy, massage was on offer – for a slightly higher fee – for those who wanted it. Proceeds again supported our abortion fund. Exam rooms were spacious, with beautiful lighting and comfy, large tables. The rooms were not too cold or too hot, but just the right temperature, all with sky lights. Their support person could be with them during the abortion and just afterwards. They had their own private restroom. The abortion and the counseling would all be done in a room (not JUST like this) private, such as this - only more feminine and happy:

Abortions at my clinic were affordable. They didn't cost anymore than any other clinic. The staff felt peaceful in their work and the surroundings helped. It was accepted. No one picketed us. Our doctors didn't need bullet-proof vests. It was beautiful.

...if only….

Monday, November 8, 2010

These roots were made for abortioneering

I was born into abortion. And yes, that statement is logical.

My earliest memory of being exposed to abortion was when my sister told me “We don’t get pizza from Domino’s, they are pro-life”. I didn’t know back then what pro-life meant, but I knew I didn’t want to be it (because I eagerly mimicked everything my sister did including ice skating, gymnastics, and playing with Barbies).

Years later I ended up working at an abortion clinic and I was fortunate to have the support and approval and encouragement of my entire family. I have met many abortioneers over the years that hid their profession from their loved ones and I luckily never had to be quiet about my work and passion.

Am I a direct product of my pro-choice upbringing? I often wonder if I would have been born into a pro-life family would I have ended up pro-life? Well thankfully that is a scenario I was never faced with. So here’s the rundown on my family tree:

Dad is a pro-choice neonatologist, and yes that is also extremely logical. He has spent his life taking care of babies who were born premature or ill. Oftentimes these babies were not wanted and he sees the direct result of women who were denied access to abortion and how an unwanted child impacts their health. He understands how women and girls don’t have access to family planning and he understands rape and incest. He is an advocate for women and for what they choose and that is ultimately the best kind of medicine. My dad was the first person I would call after a heartbreaking case at work. I needed someone to vent to and I knew he would understand the hard things I was constantly dealing with at the clinic.

Mom was a nurse midwife for years. One of her first jobs out of school was at an abortion clinic right after abortion was legalized. She is the first person I go to any time I am fundraising for pro-choice causes because she is such an incredible supporter. She is the epitome of pro-choice and would never question the choice of a woman or pass judgment.

My aunt is currently a prison nurse but worked in an abortion clinic years ago. She is also a no-questions-asked advocate for women.

My half-cousin who is a generation older than me is a nurse practitioner who has worked at Planned Parenthoods all across this great nation of ours. Once when I was babysitting her daughters I ordered pizza from the above-mentioned Domino’s (they were the only number I knew to call for delivery)…when she got home she promptly threw out the leftover pizza. I have never ordered from Domino’s since!

So those are my roots…I look forward to passing on my own abortioneering to the next generation.

Love in the meantime

Here's some lovin from your long lost friend silky laminaria. Sorry for the delay, today's post will be up in a few hours.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It's an Abortioneer's World...Kinda

I work at an abortion clinic and I have a pregnant friend and a pregnant acquaintance. For what it's worth, one pregnancy was planned, one wasn't, and both are welcome. I can't wait to meet their babies, and I tell them that. I even call a 9-week fetus a baby in the case of the shopkeeper I chat with. It's all about the intention, and even though I can completely visualize what her 9-weeker looks like thanks to my pathology experience, and it sure doesn't look like a baby, I respect that her outcome will be, barring any complications (knock on wood), a full-term baby.

See how I knocked on wood there? After clinic work, which includes D&Cs for miscarriage management and terminations due to fetal anomalies, I can't think of a pregnancy without thinking of what could go wrong. I also can't ask about the gestational age (I do ask the pregnant ladies in my life, "How far along are you? because I know it would be odd to inquire about gestation like I do at the clinic. We try to avoid "How far along are you?" because it implies that a pregnancy will be carried to term.) without envisioning the development I've seen in pathology. I can't visualize the third trimester development because I've never seen that, but I really do feel so fortunate to have gotten such an intimate glimpse of human biology and development. (And no, I don't say to my friend, "Oh! Your baby is about the size of a mango! Have you had an anmiocentesis? Because now is when something might go wrong.")

Working at the clinic isn't just about abortions. I've met the babies of clients who have decided not to terminate and who brought the baby to see us. We also provide care for infertility and we cheer when someone gets pregnant. Several co-workers of mine have been pregnant and bring their kids to work to see all of their aunties. I once told a toddler, "I remember seeing you on your mama's ultrasound around 19 weeks!" Remember the Jennifer Baumgardner book, Abortion and Life? That's my life. Abortion and pregnancy and life and me, and they're all beautiful.

Stock photo because that's just all-round safer.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

In her shoes

Ahhh. A lovely Autumn day. The kind that starts off kind of chilly but nice, because you finally get to wear that cute jacket that's been collecting dust in a bin under your bed. And you bring a pair of gloves just in case but end up not needing them, but aren't you clever for having been prepared?

All the Target-brand gloves in the world could not have prepared me for my first day back on the job as an escort.

I had taken some personal time since Spring and hadn't been escorting since. I felt like crap each time I got that email requesting volunteers and deleted it. So I was pretty excited to get back on the pony and set myself up for ridicule and harassment. I was the first escort to arrive and was met by a regular that we have dubbed "Sign Guy". He must have forgotten my face, because as soon as I headed up the sidewalk to the door he accosted me with his nonsense. Now, I usually do not engage the protesters or even talk to them except to request that they not block the sidewalk or the clinic door. But apparently I had eaten Honey Bunches of Bitch for breakfast because my rebuttal was "Go fuck yourself" followed by "fuck off". It actually worried me that I wasn't more quick-witted than to drop the F bomb twice in five seconds. It was bound to be "one of those days."

And it was!

As more protesters and escorts arrived things felt a little more normal. I was out of the swing of things and managed to miss a couple people on their way in, but I was otherwise OK. At one point we spotted a woman sporting a T-shirt that revealed her support for an aggressively Anti candidate in the upcoming election. Yuck. We kept an eye on her, but she kept her distance for a while, planning her attack. I had planned to ignore her (promise!), but she came to me the exact wrong way that morning:

"You should write a letter to your mother and thank her for not aborting you!"


I don't even remember how it happened, but all of a sudden we were nose-to-nose and I was yelling in her face that my mother was dead and how dare she tell me shit about my mother and to go fuck herself, too. Had I been coherent and articulate I might have mentioned that my mother had had something like three abortions, some before me and some after me, and that I thanked her for that. For knowing when enough is enough (four, to be exact) and that she really wanted more kids and loved being pregnant but simply couldn't balance being the breadwinner, a workaholic, and having seven kids. But I didn't say all that because a) why bother, and b) I was sobbing after the last "fuck".

I went into the clinic to cool off, but couldn't really. I couldn't believe what had just happened. I had never before been on the receiving end of protester banter, and I finally learned what it felt like. I felt VIOLATED. I felt ABUSED. And good thing I did, because it was that that reminded me why I was standing out there to begin with. I had to protect women from feeling the way I just did. And I know I can't guarantee that it will work, but damn it all, I have to try. So I went back out there, and the crazy lady was long gone. It hadn't been 90 seconds since her near-death experience and she had already run off. Did I scare her? I dunno. Did the other escorts strongly suggest that she take a hike? Maybe. In any case, I like to think that it was our collective awesomeness that sent her packing.

You know what cheered me up a billion percent? A mother walking down the sidewalk with her ~12-year-old daughter slowed down just enough to thank me for what I did. Then the girl, who had Down's Syndrome, waved and thanked me too. I'm not sure if she was just mimicking her mother or if she understood what was going on, but DAMN that felt great.

Nobody thanks the protesters.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Meant to be

I have made a habit out of knowing seemingly otherwise mishaps are good luck. The clock breaks—that’s good luck. Miss the bus—good luck. Stuck in traffic—total good luck. Spilled drink—cheers! 11:11—make a wish. Abortion—meant to be.

I see abortion is good from my deepest being. I have made a habit out of wanting women who have them to go forth with winged hearts. I went to the bookstore one evening last week, opened a book about Religion and randomly, absolutely landed on the topic of abortion. I’m sure everyone means well in their blanket contemplations. Though, the best of abortion follows me. I carry it everywhere. We both know it wants the sun.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Warning: I don't know how to perform a life saving procedure. Signed your Doctor

I recently heard a disturbing story that should outrage you.

An Ob/Gyn trained at a residency program that offered abortion training. However, she opted out of the training. She had only seen one second trimester abortion and had performed first trimester D&Cs for miscarriages, not elective terminations. She was later offered an attending ob/gyn position at a Catholic Hospital in the Midwest.

One evening, a patient presented to the ED in septic shock. She was well into the second trimester with a wanted pregnancy. However, the fetus had died and was causing a massive infection throughout the patient’s body. Along with broad spectrum antibiotics, the patient needed the fetus to be manually removed from her uterus with a D&E (dilation and extraction).

Unfortunately, at this Catholic hospital, not one physician knew how to do a D&E. The only physician that had any experience was the Ob/Gyn that opted out from the residency program that offered training as described above. Before the procedure, this physician had to call one of her colleagues from her residency program-one that had not opted out of the training and was well trained in first and second trimester abortions-to talk her through the procedure.

Fortunately, the procedure went well and that patient survived. But how crazy is it that this woman could have died because not one provider had properly learned this medical procedure in the entire hospital. A well trained physician from an outside hospital had to be called in order to ensure the procedure was done correctly and the patient had the best possible outcome.

Unfortunately, this is the reality we face. Many residency programs in Ob/Gyn do not train physicians in second trimester abortion procedures. Although women have elective 2nd trimester abortions for various reasons, there are some women who need a late abortion for life-saving reasons. It is insane to me that physicians are not required to have this skill (thanks Coats amendment) and we could very well see women die because their trusted physician is not trained in this procedure. Can you imagine if physicians didn’t know how to take out an appendix for appendicitis? It would be unheard of.

What kind of doctor would I be if I refused to learn a procedure that could save my patient’s life? I have a hard time grasping this concept and so should you.