Thursday, March 31, 2011

Abortioneering Parent? Or Soon-to-be-Parent? Or Someday, Might Wanna Be a Parent?

...if you answered yes to any of those questions, you've (hopefully), come to the right post. Those of us who are parents and who are abortioneers have different slants on the realities of direct service work from those of our non-breeding abortioneer friends. What, you ask? For starters, security/safety issues (parents are directly responsible for their little ones so when, say, bomb threats occur or you get threatened by a protester, it gets more complicated. Enter: Mama Bear). Other typical concerns are how NOT to get outted to neighbors, your kids' teachers, the PTA, and so on. Getting outted is no fun for anyone; however, with children, there are additional implications for them (being treated differently by teachers, peers, their coaches).

So, I want to do a twice monthly series called...."The Yummy Mummy's Guide to Abortioneering." Until interest dies off, I'd write about some of these topics that impact us as parenting abortioneers. Any interest? If so, comment to this post, on FB, Twitter, take our poll, whatever. Let me know of any particular issues you'd want me to bring up/discuss.

Let me also just state this disclaimer: though I am a parent, I am by no means pronouncing myself as expert in all things parental. Far from it. I will speak from my own personal experience and bring up topics that I hear other parents talk about and will ask for your thoughts, too! The point is to interact.

Must rush now. It's storytime in this house: The Cat in the Hat is on demand tonight.

Much love!

PS: If you think the Yummy Mummy title is a bit too non-inclusive and have a more inclusive thought for a title, hit me up.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Facing my fears

In case you don’t know me personally (which you don’t, right?), I have OCD. That means Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. And no, I do not have it in the sense that I use it casually or jokingly to describe my Type A personality or fear of germs or anal-retentive nature. I have a diagnosis from medical professionals that describes my symptoms/issues/behaviors as fulfilling DSM IV criteria for OCD. Ok, now that that’s out of the way….

When I first told my close friends and family that I was going to host strangers in my home during their abortions I could see the look of fear in their eyes. Some of them asked me things like, “Are you really sure you can handle that with all of your issues?” “Aren’t you afraid someone might make your apartment messy or move things around?”, and “What if someone steals from you?”. Those were all valid concerns from the people who know me best, and trust me, I was really frickin nervous that first time I hosted. Some people might worry that a woman will have abnormally severe cramping or start passing the pregnancy in their home, but my biggest fear was that my books or DVDs would be reordered. I worried about things like food spilled or muddy shoe tracks or stray fallen hairs. I knew I could handle all the emotional aspects and counseling that came with hosting a woman during her abortion, but it was the weird little stuff that freaked me out.

So far I have not faced anything I could not handle. The thing with OCD is that people who have it know all their fears and obsessions and compulsions are irrational. I am very cognizant of how my mind works and have gone through enough behavioral modification therapy at this point to talk myself out of my worst thoughts. The OCD issue is very similar to the non-vegan food one (which I wrote about here), meaning that at some point in my life I have to put others first, and if that means I am a bit uncomfortable, well I can suck it up. I don’t love having meat or dairy/eggs in my home, but I do it because I know it makes my guests happy. I also don’t love having strangers in my intimate space, but I can overcome that anxiety for the time they are with me.

And guess what? Someone did steal from me once. They stole a bath towel. I was upset that they had taken advantage of me, but was not really bothered by the actual towel loss. I really thought it over and realized they must have really needed a towel and at this point I am able to not be upset about it and I am still comfortable hosting without the constant fear of theft. This same person also ate lots of messy junk food on my pullout bed and got food and drink everywhere. It was a bit stressful for me that night but I never let on…and I just told myself I could do a major cleaning the next day and I did and the world did not end!

Ok, so I lost a towel. However, I should mention that many of the women I have hosted have gone out of their way to clean up after themselves or to insist that they put the pullout bed away and fold all the linens. I usually take women back to the clinic around 7am and the last thing I want them worrying about at that hour is making the bed (and I would remake it anyway after they left, right?).

I host women because there is a need. I host women because I love being there for them. I host women because it is a way to overcome my OCD one woman at a time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The South Dakota 3 Day Waiting Period, and Other Reasons I Am Angry

South Dakota, South Dakota, South Dakota. What are we going to do with you? Recently, the illustrious Governor of South Dakota, Dennis Daugaard, signed a law, which requires a woman seeking an abortion to wait three days after meeting with the doctor before she can obtain said abortion.

That is bad enough, right? South Dakota is a big place. To put it in perspective, it is 210 miles wide, and 380 miles long. That’s a lot of space. There were two abortion providers in 2008.

So, it’s safe to assume women in South Dakota already have to do a fair amount traveling to get to an abortion provider.

Once she has made up her mind, driven to the clinic, been counseled by the clinic staff, met with the doctor, had her blood work, etc, she must then turn around and go back home and wait THREE DAYS. You know, just to make sure. If you have a job, need childcare arrangements, have transportation issues, an unsupportive partner, or whatever – good luck getting an abortion in South Dakota! You’ll need it.

BECAUSE, on top of all this crap, a woman seeking an abortion must all consult with a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) before she can get her abortion. CPCs are anti-abortion and basically lie to women and say whatever to convince visitors not to have an abortion. They’ll tell you that you’ll get breast cancer, that you’ll become infertile, that God will not forgive you, that you’ll spend an eternity burning in Hell – if you get this abortion. They’re just so filled with Christ’s love, right?

There is no real relevant comparison in the real world, because shit that this whacked doesn’t actually happen for any other medical procedure. Suppose you were 15, homeless, pregnant, and wanted to give birth. Before giving birth, you had to go to the doctor, consult with him, be counseled by the doctor's staff, have medical work done, then go home and wait three days before you could formally decide if you wanted to give birth. During those three days, you would also have to visit an Anti-Birth Center, wherein the staff would do anything in their power to convince you to not give birth. They could tell you lies, including that God would never love you again if you carried this pregnancy to term. That tons and tons of women die during childbirth. That women who carry pregnancies to term often go crazy afterwards and their breasts fall off. Then, after three days, you could drive X hundred of miles back to the doctor. Whom your state just tried to legalize the murder of.

It seems completely f*cked up and ridiculous to try to force someone who wants to give birth not to. I'm sure most of us would be completely appalled if our pregnant friends had to go sit in an abortion clinic before they could give birth. You know -- just to let them "cool off." After having all that sex, they ought to think about what they've done and reallllllly truly ponder if motherhood is for them.

JEEZ THAT SEEMS SO AWFUL, MR. BANANA GRABBER. Well, it is JUST as f*cked up to do this to a woman seeking abortion.

For many women, obtaining an abortion is the kind, sensitive thing to do. Most women who seek abortions are already mothers, young, and low income. I feel like a broken record on this, but sometimes when women already have children and cannot make ends meet having another child is not a reality for them! Or their partner is jerk and won't provide! There are 9.3 million different reasons and they are all valid and deserve the same amount of respect as a women who choose to carry their pregnancies to term.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Guest post: Just go balls out, already

On Friday we hosted Steph's guest post about discovering that non-profit pro-choice organizations are not 100% enthusiastic about the prospect of having employees who engage in activism or community organizing outside of work. Sure, Steph could've just happened to interview with an unusual number of control freaks. Or, just maybe, she's found one limitation of a system that forces would-be agents of change to rely on the goodwill (and coinciding self-interest) of granting foundations whose endowments come from fundamentally change-averse corporations. Call it the nonprofit-industrial complex
A grassroots organization, called INCITE! Women of Color Again Violence, edited a book on this very subject and entitled it "The Revolution Will Not Be Funded." But if it won't be funded -- if we can't rely on billionaires to solve poverty (we can't even rely on employers to employ us!) -- how will we make any progress in ensuring that women facing problematic pregnancies can actually use the rights they supposedly have? Our Monday guest blogger, WentRogue, has plenty of good reasons for you to join her in grassroots fundraising. 


Putting the fun in grassroots fundraising!

Last night as I was mulling topic options for my fifteen minutes of honorary tangential abortioneer fame: hmm, do I want to rail about the class warfare being waged, right now, on the bodies of the poor? (Seriously? How pedantic can I be?) About the darkest of language arts used so skillfully against us all by the likes of Frank Luntz? (What do I think I am, a semiotician?) Maybe I should just steal someone else's words, someone like Lynn Paltrow, who sums it up so perfectly that I tried to use this paragraph* as my defining Facebook profile quote for a while? WAIT, JUST WHAT AM I TRYING TO GET AT IN ONE PITHY BLOG POST ANYWAY? an email from a friend came in, a distraction amidst distractions:

Subject: Do you know of any resources for this woman?

And you KNOW what kind of resources she's going to be asking about.

And no, I DON'T know of any resources for this woman, who it turns out is majorly screwed by geography and circumstance. She's in a town on the far western side of South Dakota, smack in the middle of the country a good six hour drive from the only abortion clinic in her state and a little further still from the nearest clinics in Montana, Wyoming or Colorado. And even though she's only a couple of weeks into a pregnancy that she tried to prevent with a dose of emergency contraception she could barely afford—giving her a couple more weeks' time to scramble for $500, fast—how the hell is she going to get time off from the job she just started and who the hell is going to watch her three kids while she's gone on her twelve hour odyssey (not including pit stops or the entire day at the clinic)? And oh yeah, she doesn't have a car.

All of that is BEFORE her state's 72-hour "cooling off period" takes effect.

I HATE these emails. I HATE them. As an honorary tangential abortioneer, I don't directly provide abortion care but I do know that the abortion fund in Minnesota is nearly dry. I know that the abortion fund in South Dakota is, too. I've answered the phones at my local abortion fund hotline and I've heard the resignation in women's voices when the most we can pledge just isn't going to be quite enough. It is, as you can imagine, a horrible sound.

I work part time for the National Network of Abortion Funds. That may be what earned me an honorary tangential abortioneer post, and it may be why my friends forward emails like these, with the glimmer of hope that I just might know about a secret stash hidden somewhere in the supply room. But the only stash I know about is the one we're padding right now: the get-your-friends-and-lace-up-your-bowling-shoes stash.

A bowl-a-thon for abortion access?

Is that really the single answer to the wealth inequality gap? No! But it is a way to DO SOMETHING TANGIBLE, NOW. Last year, grassroots activists, including the beloved Abortioneers, bowled their hearts out and raised $180,000—that would pay for a lot of twelve-hour car trips—in the first ever national abortion access bowl-a-thon. And this year, we're aiming even higher, because the stakes are even higher. The beauty of it is that EVERYONE CAN BE A PART OF THIS EVENT, by joining a local, on-the-ground bowl-a-thon, or pledging to raise $100 in a virtual bowl-a-thon, or simply contributing to the event itself. And, well, it's the most fun you'll ever have in rented shoes!

*Today's highly politicized and polarizing abortion debate creates the false and destructive illusion that there are two kinds of women—women who have abortions and women who have babies. The reality is that they are all the same women and they are all increasingly facing state control, as well as limitations on access to care as a result of conflicts with professional organizations, imposition of religious directives in health care institutions, anti-abortion/fetal rights laws and rhetoric and issues concerning health care financing that interfere with their ability to make decisions regarding their pregnancies, birthing options, the childbirth process, their lives and their families' well-being.
Lynn Paltrow, National Advocates for Pregnant Women


WentRogue is more than an "honorary tangential abortioneer": in offering women practical resources to obtaining abortion care, and speaking with them about their situations and needs, she is providing abortion care! When not organizing local, national and virtual communities to provide tangible support for women facing reproductive injustice, WentRogue can be found tweeting for abortion access and other vital things at  

Friday, March 25, 2011

Guest Blog: When the Movement Disappoints

A warm welcome to Steph, a fellow blogger at Abortion Gang and the founder of I Am Dr. Tiller, a site for abortioneers to make their voice heard. Steph is guest blogging at Feministe this week and has graciously agreed to cross-post here because the topic is so important to me, and one we've discussed privately many times. Expect to see more on this in the near future. Steph can be reached at


When the Movement Disappoints

I moved to Brooklyn from Philadelphia almost a year ago. My partner got his dream job here, so I left my decent reproductive health gig to live in the feminist mecca. I had high hopes – almost every major feminist and/or reproductive health organization has a presence in NYC. Surely, I thought, it will take me no more than a few weeks to find a job that I love.

You can imagine my excitement when over the course of a few months, I landed interviews at many of the big pro-choice organizations here. I don’t have to name them. You know who they are. I interviewed for jobs at these places that fit my experience, jobs at which I could’ve kicked ass. But each interview ended with some version of this: “I’m sorry, but you are too radical/too much of an activist to work for us.”

At one particular organization, a senior executive looked me in the eye and said, “If you work here, you have no voice on reproductive rights.”

Another organization wanted me to delete my twitter account. Some wanted me to stop blogging. Others said that because I have a published opinion on later abortion, I would be a liability. One wanted me to resign from all my volunteer pro-choice activism, namely being on the board of the New York Abortion Access Fund.

These requests were not implied. They were said to me in no uncertain terms.

I have a few theories about why this happened. Each theory deserves its own blog post, but I’ll summarize them in three bullet points.

1. New media is still, somehow, an intimidating enigma to these organizations, and they have no clue how to deal with it and with people who know how to use it well.
2. The thought of new leadership coming in means the old leadership has to go somewhere, and, well, where would they go?
3. Fear of the anti-establishment approach and of hiring someone who could potentially offend your board/donors.

Or I just could’ve been wearing the wrong outfit.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many reasons I could’ve been rejected from these positions. I’m not on some kind of vengeful rampage against these organizations. What I AM on a rampage about is this: how can a pro-choice organization tell a job candidate that her dedication to pro-choice activism disqualifies her from a job? How can you STILL, in 2011, not understand the activist potential of new media? The necessity of using anti-establishment approaches every now and then?

I can’t tell you how profoundly disappointed I was in the movement-at-large every single time this happened. Not because I’m special and deserve to be hired, but because I can’t be the only one having this experience. There is something perverse about not wanting to hire people who are so committed to the movement that they work in it in their spare time.

How many other young activists are being cast aside because we are “too radical”? How many people who do great work on their own are disqualified for being “too established?” How is a young, fired up activist supposed to pay her rent in this town without selling out?

It breaks my heart that so many of the organizations I admire mirror the corporate world: they are just as hierarchical and scared of the power of young people. We should not have to apologize for our experience or our passions. I ultimately got lucky and found a job at a place that does great work AND doesn’t force me to compromise my extracurricular activism. I remain furious that young people are treated this way, this profoundly un-feminist way, in our own movement. If your organization isn’t going to treat young, committed activists with respect and dignity, it has no future in the feminist movement.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Blinded with science

When I was very little, I decided I would never be a doctor because kids disliked doctors, and I didn't want to be disliked. In middle school, I eschewed the sciences because they gave me anxiety attacks. As a high schooler, I declared that I would never work any place that had stirrups (I disliked both horses and what little I knew of gynecology, so it worked out). And in college, I avoided the math and science buildings like an anti-choicer avoids logic and reason. When I started working at the clinic, it was because of the opportunity to advocate for women and reproductive justice, and for those causes, I could overlook the stirrups.

I was never the number one candidate for the really clinic-y part of clinic work. For a while, I focused on counseling, administrative work, advocacy, and interpreting, and I left the medical side to the professionals. But the more time I spent at the clinic, the more I found myself jumping at the chance to observe procedures and asking clinicians about the hows and whys. For fun, I learned how to prick my own finger and test my own hematocrit. I taught myself medical abbreviations and Googled hypothetical drug interactions in my free time. I became fascinated by the way a chromosomal shift can wreak havoc and also, how a body knows how to restore itself.

I also became the amateur gynecological resource for friends, and I offered my party trick of suggesting the best contraceptive for your life in under five minutes. And I never felt like more of a true science nerd than when I saw Iron and Wine in concert and kept seeing "Fe and Wine" in my head. Except maybe for when my brain automatically transliterated "salt" to "NaCl." Formerly an avowed humanities major, I'm now a walking periodic table.

So thanks, pro-choice movement, for having the unexpected side effect (ha--see what I did there?) of turning me on to science and medicine. Maybe if my high school chemistry teacher had explained molecular structures in terms of pharmacology instead of hexagons on a paper, I would be holding a B.S. degree right now. (If not an M.D.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How the Pro-Life Movement Killed America

I live in a town where organic, local fare reigns supreme and there is but one franchise where I can buy my mass-produced, rubber-brush, chemical mascara: Target—that red encircled wonder where hipsters flock to stay hip and purchasing more than one cotton/spandex T-shirt and colorful socks that bear holes with one wear, feels powerful.

While American-pretty, God-washed zealots try to sting
Planned Parenthood, National Public Radio, try to capture national and state Congress and hold us hostage on the edge of the Lake of Fire; while infertile-looking folk with dirty baby dolls and gross signs, babble angry travesty into our neighbors’ ears as they enter the only non-judgmental, comprehensive healthcare clinic around; there appear to be vast cracks in our manmade inventions, our towers of potential nuclear disasters.

Vast cracks in our handlings of our planet, our life bread. Vast cracks in the bounty of our smaller delights (shopping at Target to afford everything while next door neighbors get laid off and global neighbors
Made in China get dismally, dreadfully paid off). Vast cracks in mis-talk and publicized fantasy about healthcare and well-being. Ever going to see the cracks before it’s too late. Never wanted the earth to fury for someone’s so-sad, daddy dream.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Any Given Day

When I tell people that I want to become an abortion provider, one question I get asked often is if I am concerned about the violence against providers. Of course, this is always a concern and something that you must think about when entering the field of family planning. I have already thought of ways to protect my family from harassment and live a relatively normal life. I know many providers that live peaceful lives while still providing comprehensive health care for their patients.

One provider who I greatly admire once told me how she puts the threat of violence into perspective. The day Dr. Tiller was murdered, a small plane went down in South America killing everyone on board. Later that afternoon, her co-worker was riding his bike and was hit by a car, instantly becoming a paraplegic. Bottom line-life happens and things can change in an instant.

I am certainly not diminishing how tragic violence against providers is…and how unacceptable it is, but my point is that the threat of violence is not deterring me. Providing comprehensive women’s health care for women is extremely important to me and something I am determined to provide in my lifetime. Life is unpredictable, but I can choose to make a difference in other women’s lives. And I will.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

My Abortion Commitment

This work has had a profound impact on me. Sometimes that impact has been like the sun stretching its rays into my heart; other times, it's been more like smashing head-on, full-force into a brick wall. I suppose, like love, or relationships in general, it takes work. You go through phases: the passionate awakening (I've found my calling!); the honeymoon (this is such a great organization!); the growing apart a bit...the stretching (well, there are some things that aren't perfect about my employer and sometimes I'm uncomfortable with xyz). Sometimes that stretching bends you, makes you flex between two worlds: abortioneering and "home." You may feel you can't keep stretching without something having to give. You may feel you don't belong fully in either world. You might leave said organization. Leave abortion work. Separate yourself more from "home"/non-AB work. If you can find a balance - one foot in each world - it's cool. Feels good. Real nice.

This work has stretched me. I'm more compassionate. Less judgmental. More open to life's experiences in general. I have a core belief that as women, we know what's best for ourselves. We could do with a bit of self-gentleness: we don't have to be perfect. And through this realization, I've learned the virtue of being kind to strangers. The power of just listening. Of just being present. And simply: kind. I learn from our women. I've watched many of them find their own Spring through abortion: they are reminded of who they are. What they want out of life. What they want from themselves. And from others. My own abortion was a lot like a wake-up call ("this man in my life is not someone I should be a parent with. Maybe he isn't someone I should be a partner with, either").

These lessons and values helped me decide what kind of people I want in - or out - of my life. I try to parent this way, too. I want my child to be compassionate, kind, and to care. I hope my child will respect women and not be super judgmental. If I manage to bring these concepts into parenting, I will forever thank my abortion relationship. My beautiful, romantic, warm-fuzzy abortion story. The one with the sun inside me.

Moving onto "I'm in it for the long-haul/totally committed to you, dear abortion," has long-term impacts that aren't always positive. I try not to stress too much, because I don't want the tender balance between abortion and my personal world to snap. I don't want to bring my work fears home. I don't want them literally on my doorstep with my child fearful of personal safety. I want to feel confident in developing relationships within my community without being the abortiongirl. I don't want to get outted to my neighbors or my child's teachers. I fear kids at school/teachers/parents will say mean things about abortion, about my work, about me as a parent, inevitably hurting my child. This balance between abortion and home becomes more tenuous.

Nothing's perfect. More compassionate, yes; but I'm more anxious, too. Granted, I can calmly handle an emergency. I know what to do if there's a bomb threat; but I'm the type that gets silently worried, waiting for the "next bad thing" to happen. Basically, I'm the victim of the type of relationship where abortion threatens to leave me. Shakes me up so I don't get comfortable in my job for too long. Insecurities abound: will abortion stay legal? can we keep doing abortions in the second trimester? oh, shit! parental consent! oh, shit! mandatory waiting period! oh, god, insurance might not cover anymore. am i going to lose my job? will those fucking protesters just stop their stupid 40daysoflife? will our business be the next to go under in this bad economy? It's like whiplash: Stop.Go.Stop.Go. Now: FIGHT!FIGHT!FIGHT! Stop.Breathe.ItWillBeOK. FIGHT!FIGHT!GO!GO! Exhausting.

When you're tired, you make compromises. Something has to give. How to give all the light I've learned from this work, while protecting those I love from the dark parts? I struggle. And I don't know what this phase in my relationship with abortion is called. We're not as close as we used to be. For better or for worse.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Walking Contradiction: Confessions of an Abortioneer

Recently, I've caught myself looking at my pro-choice friends (which should be ALL of my friends because I aim to have no anti-choicers in my life) and thinking, "Sure, she SAYS she's pro-choice, but when is she gonna put her money where her mouth is?!" (Or put her pen and paper where her mouth is, or put her mouth where her private views are, or put her volunteer hours where her mouth is or whatever convoluted metaphor describes it best.) Never mind the fact that just last week, I was saying, "I don't care how you do or don't show your views; just support choice!"

And even worse, I've caught myself looking at some of my other pro-choice friends and thinking, "Sure, she volunteered as an escort once, but that doesn't mean she can run her mouth all the time about what it's like to fight to abortion access on a daily basis! I'm the only one who knows that!" And then, read the above paragraph, rinse, repeat, and shake your head at me.

I didn't even realize that I was doing this until recently. I shake my head at me. And friends and family who read this, no, I'm not talking about you. And the thing is that even if I were, the point of this post is my unique experience as an abortioneer and my strange, strange biases. I don't have answers and I'm not proud of this confession, but when I put it out there, it loses some of its power over me. And sometimes, I need to show my unpretty side of abortioneering.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

UNBORN IN THE USA: Inside the War on Abortion

Land of the free: until you're faced with an unwanted pregnancy...

Lately I have found myself fascinated with people who are against abortion, particularly those people who are anti-abortion activists. My fascination grew as I began to collect the brochures discarded in our waiting room by women who were there to have an abortion. The pamphlets are handed out by anti-choice street "counselors." These pamphlets are an extreme embellishment of possible complications involved in abortion procedures and include dramatic photos of mothers and children, images of fetuses throughout pregnancy, and describe the procedure using words that create images of dismembered babies and knife like objects inserted into a woman's vagina. They are such an embellishment on the truth that I think it's safe to say these kind of pamphlets are lies!

I recently stumbled upon a documentary called UNBORN IN THE USA: Inside the War on Abortion. This documentary included interviews with dozens of pro-life activists and sheds light on the anti-abortion movement throughout the country. The documentary explored training institutes for college-aged students such as the Focus Institute where young people receive intensive instruction on how to "minister" to pro-choice people and women to encourage them to join anti-abortion forces. The students at this institute practice role playing in order to gain skills about how to approach pro-choice people. The tactics are pretty sick, including giant gruesome pictures of dismembered fetuses as a conversation starter. I have said it before and I will say it again we need a training institute for pro-choice, pro-women, pro-family warriors! The longer I work in this field the more I think we need practical training for doctors, medical assistants, nurses, ultrasound technicians, and counselors. Thankfully there are organizations like Medical Students For Choice. We need pro-choice people trained to provide the services necessary in abortion provision.

One of the most sickening things said in the whole documentary was during one of these training sessions. The facilitator addresses how to deal with the "concern" of rape. One of the questions the students are encouraged to ask women who have been raped is if the child should pay for the crimes of their father. As someone who has been raped before and who has helped many women who were pregnant as a result of rape seek abortions I cannot even comprehend how this seems plausible to anyone, anti-abortion or not. No person's experience of rape can be minimized to a "concern," and surely most sane people would not agree with the notion that a woman should carry a pregnancy that is a result of rape so that the "child" does not pay for its father's crimes.

Another key tool developed by the anti-abortion right are Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPC). Staff from a CPC located next door to Dr. Tiller's clinic was interviewed. This clinic offered multi-dimensional ultrasounds and was identified by the staff as a tool to help women choose motherhood. A Time Article from August 2010 estimates that there are over 4,000 CPCs in the U.S. and nearly five times as many CPC's as there are abortion clinics. These clinics purposefully choose location close enough to abortion clinics that they can easily be confused for the abortion clinic. I have spoken to dozens of women who have stumbled into these kind of centers. They are a waste of time, money, and energy. Maybe we could turn these centers into day care centers where women can bring there children during the multiple appointments that are often required to obtain an abortion.

Overall I found this documentary extremely informative; it shed light on the weapons used to fight against abortion. I hope to see the day that pro-choice people are fighting back even harder. The documentary is definitely worth checking out -- know thy enemy!

Monday, March 14, 2011

A woman is a living, growing human being

In our sidebar we link to blogs of people who have had an abortion and want to write about their experience. Here's a new (to me) one: My Journey Through Abortion. The post I'm linking begins like this: "I think I am going to talk about what I have learned."

This is a wonderful, fascinating topic. How the abortion was good for me. Not just, How it sucked less than the alternative; not just, How it didn't really suck any more than getting wisdom teeth out sucks and I'm damn glad that both services exist in safe legal settings. Yes, those are interesting too. But those are already part of the public rhetoric about abortion, and the one that people who've never experienced abortion feel most comfortable joining in. It's wonderful and fascinating when a woman who's had an abortion feels able to say out loud that she is a better person after her abortion -- not in spite of it or in opposition to it or in penance for it, but thanks to it.

She is better after her abortion than she was before it. How remarkable! This exists completely outside the discourse where, no matter what else you believe, abortion must be a loss, and a taking-away -- where mathematically, and thus objectively, and thus morally, she is less than when she was pregnant. (You < You+embryo. More is more. Very baroque.) But women know this isn't true, especially when we are at our healthiest: being "good" doesn't mean saying Yes to every request; it doesn't mean taking on more than you can just-because; it does mean being true to yourself.

In the documentary "The Coat Hanger Project," interviewee Jeannie Ludlow says something remarkable that people don't discuss enough. I'll have to paraphrase: In her experience as a clinic counselor, she says, abortion can be a good thing for women; it allows some women to grow in ways that they otherwise would not have had the chance to grow. This doesn't mean, though, that no women feel wistful about their pregnancy, or that no women think of their embryo or fetus. Of course some of them don't; and some of them do but also feel joyous about returning to non-pregnancy, some of them do but also think of themselves or of their born or future children.

A friend told me about her recent experience with abortion and how it is changing her life already -- from a series of crises and dangerous disregard for self, to a new stream of moments where you face the same old decisions and this time you choose life: your life.


I'm willing to bet that some of our patients, if they had a blog or a diary, would express something similar to this blogger's words:

"I have learned that I am not really good at pulling the trigger on moving forward. It is like I am sitting in my car, flat tire, spare in the trunk. And I am too damn lazy to get out, open the trunk, get the jack out, and get to work. It is not because the view from the car is spectacular or because there are good tunes on the radio. It is because I am scared to move forward. I am too focused on the fact that I have a flat tire, and I have forgotten that I can FIX THE FLAT."

Especially when talk turns to second-trimester abortion, so many people seem to imagine women as two-dimensional things. If anyone ever asks you "why did she wait so long?" -- remind them of three things:
1) Health care is expensive, abortion isn't covered, and most people aren't rich.
2) Sometimes biology is sneaky and pregnancy isn't discovered quickly.
3) Women are people: sometimes they're unsure what to do, or they freeze, or panic, or they take time to weigh an important decision. Just like you.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

You Are A Good Woman

I wanted to share this amazing brochure that the Abortion Care Network developed, designed to address the negative messages about abortion in our society. I felt compelled to share this because the past few weeks it has been non-stop attacks on women’s rights from all over the map. Between South Dakota attempting to legalize the murder of abortion providers, the House attempting to redefine rape so its victims have less access to abortion, Ohio trying to ban abortion after 12 weeks, there has been a lot of talk about abortion in the media.

I kept thinking about how stigmatized and shitty women who are pregnant or recently pregnant must feel. What if I had just had an abortion? Turning on the television to hear Republicans describing the legal medical procedure I just had as murder, legislating what I can and cannot do with my body…

This document is an excellent alternative to that narrative. I think it’s a great resource for women to read generally, but especially for women who are post-abortion. I found it very moving, and thought a Sunday night would be the perfect time to share.

Please be sure to check out the Abortion Care Network's store! They have notepads with this handout available, plus tons of other great stuff.


You are a good woman. It may be hard for you to believe that right now, but deep in your heart you know you are making your decision out of a place of goodness. This pregnancy and whatever choice you make about it doesn’t change that.

For some women abortion is a clear, certain decision. For others it can be really hard. For most women it is somewhere in between.

Many Women Have Chosen Abortion
For thousands of years women all over the world have wanted to prevent pregnancy and birth when they are not ready to have a baby. Since 1973, when the United States Supreme Court made abortion legal, there have been more than 53 million women in America who have chosen abortion. Those abortions also involved nearly 53 million men. One in three American women will have an abortion during her life. Each day, good women and men just like you make that choice.

There Are People Who Want to Make You Feel Bad
Here is something that may surprise you. Even though you know you are doing the best you can, there are people who are working hard to make you feel guilty and ashamed. These are the people who want abortion to be a crime. For nearly forty years since abortion became legal, these people have spent millions of dollars and used politics, religion, intimidation, terror- ism, threats, arson, violence and even murder to try to make it so you don’t have a choice. This may already be a hard time for you. It’s not fair, but making you feel even worse is part of their plan. They believe that if you feel guilty and ashamed it will be hard for you to stand up for yourself, let alone for any other women. The people who don’t want women to have any choices act as though they speak for God—-as though they are God. And they think if they act righteous enough they might be able to control you.

The anti abortion activists are a small group. They are not necessarily bad people. Some of them may be very sincere in their beliefs. But they think they are right and everyone else is wrong. The only thing they care about is their crusade to make abortion illegal. You may have had to walk past some of these people if there were picketers outside the clinic.

They Don’t Know You
These anti-abortion people don’t know you. They don’t know what’s in your head or your heart. They don’t know about your life or your values. They don’t know if you have other children depending on you. They don’t know if the man involved is someone you can trust or depend on. They don’t know if you are ready to be a mother, or if you can afford to care for a child. They don’t know your spiritual or religious beliefs. They don’t know your situation. They don’t know what you want. And the truth is… They don’t really care.

When People You Care About Judge You
It is very hard when you think that people you care about will judge you—or think that you are doing a bad thing. It hurts when people think less of you. How can you feel sure of yourself and your own decisions when you don’t have support from people who are important to you? At those times, you need to be as sure as you can of what is right for you. One of the challenges we all face is learning to trust our own hearts and being OK even if other people don’t agree. It is also important to find someone, even if it’s only someone at the clinic you are going to, who isn’t going to judge you.

Sometimes criticism may come, not from friends or family, but from your church. No matter what you think the rules of your religion are, what is the heart of your faith? What does your religion teach about forgiveness? How does it provide support and comfort for you at times when there is no easy decision? What does the God inside your heart say?

How You Feel is Up to You
You are making two very important decisions. The first decision is whether to continue or end your pregnancy. The second decision is how you’re going to feel about that afterwards. Most of us don’t think that how we feel about things is a decision. But who else is in charge of your thoughts and the meanings you give to things?

When you hear something over and over, like “abortion is murder”, it can get into your head—like a commercial. But if you really believed that abortion was the same as murder you probably wouldn’t even be considering it.

When you’re facing tough times, it can sometimes feel like you are a scared little kid. That can give an angry, judgmental voice of authority, like the anti-choice protesters, even more power. The anti abortion people have not been able to make abortion illegal yet, but they have made many women doubt their own goodness.

Honor Yourself
One woman could have an abortion and might forget how hard she worked to make a good decision—and how much she cared. Later, she might decide she is a bad, selfish woman who will never be forgiven.

A different woman could have an abortion and might remember her reasons for choosing abortion and have compassion for herself as a human being in a difficult situation. She could accept whatever feelings she is having, and decide she is a good woman doing the best she can for herself and her family. Which woman would you choose to be?

Do You Judge Yourself?
It never feels good to be judged from the outside. But it can be even harder when the mean, critical voice of judgment is coming from inside your own head. Women so often judge themselves without mercy. It’s like we have a horrible bunch of picketers in our own minds! Who benefits when you punish yourself? Who pays the price when you are suffering? You, of course. But also the people closest to you—your family and friends. If you decide to treat yourself with kindness you give a gift to yourself and everyone close to you.

In Real Life Things Are Not Black and White
In real life things aren’t just one way or another—black or white. We are likely to have mixed feelings about difficult issues. But when it comes right down to it, how we live our lives, whether we are miserable or happy and how we feel about ourselves, is pretty much our own decision. What kind of life do you want to have?

Women Know
Can it be that women know something very deep inside, even deeper than fear and shame? Can it be that women know it is their responsibility to decide when to bring a new life into this world? Can it be that you know better than anyone else what is right for you? If you doubt that, think for a moment-- who else would you trust to make this decision for you? Women are not the enemies of our children—even those we decide not to bring into the world.

Don’t You Deserve to Feel Peace?
If you have thought carefully and made the best, most responsible choice you can, then what’s all this judgment and criticism doing in your head? Don’t you deserve to feel peace and resolution? If you begin to doubt yourself, remember your goodness. You could take a deep breath and put your hand on your heart and say to yourself, “I am a good woman doing the best I can.”

You are a good woman.

Abortion Care Network Abortion Care Network

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Who Has Appreciation? We do!

From the bottom of my heart I thank all abortion providers for all that they do. You endure harassment, even death threats, new laws restricting your job, news articles denouncing you and what you do, and even more. Through all of this you continue to go to the clinic, day after day, to help women access choice.

You spend hours calling funds, discussing her finances, and looking for ways where you can discount the cost. You do all of this to help low income women access choice.

You volunteer your time to answer phone calls, before, work, after work, on your lunch break, on the weekends. You listen to her story and try to give her as much money as you can to help her. You participate in activities to fund raise more money. You do this to help women piece together they money they need, so they can access choice.

You get up early to wait outside the clinic and are yelled at by protesters, pushed around, harassed. You do this to help women get into the clinic.

All of those that work in abortion care - doctors, nurses, counselors, receptionists, clinic escorts, local funds, and all of those that I missed. You are amazing. You are the reason women have access to safe, legal abortion care. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

Dear Beatrix (as inspired by Kill Bill)

Back-story: The following letter is written to a real friend of mine who I met in Atlanta three years ago. In 2008, I received a phone call that a woman was en route from five states away and was desperate to find anyone to be her “driver”, aka she needed someone to pick her up from and take her back to the clinic for her 2-day abortion procedure. This was the last week that she could legally obtain an abortion. Little did I know when I agreed to this that she would help me as much as I helped her, and we would form a unique relationship that endures today.

Dear Beatrix*,

I just finished reading Linda Lovelace’s autobiography, “Ordeal”. Linda was the star of the infamous Deep Throat, which was considered scandalous for its time and featured the plotline of a woman who had a clitoris in her throat so giving head provided her with immense pleasure (as if, ugh). I have never actually watched Deep Throat, and after reading Linda’s autobiography I certainly never will. Linda details how she was forced to do the film by her abusive husband and raped repeatedly during the filming and forced to “service” many of the people involved with the production. Linda spent four years with this husband who essentially kidnapped her and forced her to be prostituted for his benefit (financial and psychological). She details in her book many examples of verbal, mental, physical, and financial abuse she suffered while trapped with this man. Abuse is the only way to describe what happened to her while with his man. Nothing else.

When I think about women I know in abusive relationships so many people come to mind. Some have varying degrees that they endure and it is often really hard for me as an outsider to make a judgment or to know exactly how bad things are. With physical abuse there are bruises and cuts and burns and attempts to cover up with makeup and scarves. With verbal and emotional abuse it can be so hidden yet so intensely damaging. I think about you and I think about me, because with both of us, at the point in our lives when we met, we both so desperately needed to leave people who were emotionally and verbally abusive. I still struggle to type the words, and even still doubt them. I have no physical scars or markers, only my memory and my confidence in how I experienced things.

I don’t remember when you started to open up to me about your abusive boyfriend, the person who you had gotten pregnant with. Was it at the clinic the first afternoon we met? Was it that night as we shared dinner over two steaming bowls of Pho? Was it months later over email, where you shared with me your emotions around your abortion? In the many emails we exchanged after we met, the topic of your abusive boyfriend came up. You knew that as long as you were with him you should not and could not bring a child into the situation. You knew that you needed to leave him before you could be the best mother you wanted to be. You knew that you had to prioritize yourself and grow strong enough to leave him before you could add a child to the mix. Having a child would have tied you to him forever. So you had the abortion, and he made you feel bad about it, which was just more evidence of his manipulation and emotional abuse.

I never equated my situation with yours. I was never faced with the added pressure of an unplanned pregnancy that would complicate my messed up and unhealthy relationship. Yet, the words you spoke about how he treated you felt like my own. I did not tell many people about the depths of what I was going through, just like you did not tell anyone about your own abuse and about the abortion. I was in major denial, and was living in a fantasy world where I hoped things would change. However, every time I heard from you and found myself giving you advice, I knew I had to stop being hypocritical and heed my own words.

Three years later and where are the two of us? I moved away from the city where memories of the emotional scars still haunt me. You left him and are making your way on your own. It is hard to tell over email how someone is really doing, but I trust your words. We reunited this summer when I traveled to your city and, while it was only the 2nd time we were together, I saw a light shining in you that was clearly absent that weekend back in Atlanta. I have seen so much strength in you over the years, first with the decision to have the abortion and then to leave him and finally to make solid steps to move on with your life. It took me living in a new place to truly rid myself of the damage I incurred. I think we both have grown immensely in these years and know what we deserve for the future. And if I ever forget you better remind me.

So to you I say thanks, and I’m always here for you.

Love, Vegan Vagina**

*not her real name
**not my real name

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Conscience Clause

So I finished the book that I reviewed/ranted about a couple weeks ago. Learned a lot and I highly recommend. Makes you very angry about the state of pro-choice affairs, especially internationally. And though I really don't need another reason to hate antis even more, I found one thanks to Christina Page. I'm even shocked that I, in my infinite wisdom, hadn't though of it before.

Why can docs/pharmacists opt out of learning about abortion/performing life-saving abortion services/writing scripts for or dispensing contraceptives, but pro-choice professionals can't opt out of reading the slime to their patients that abortion takes the life of a "little, tiny" person that is a separate being independent of the woman carrying it?

Take a look at all the states that have so-called "conscience clauses", reserving the right of providers and pharmacists to refuse to do their jobs. Consider a doctor in, say, THE GREAT STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA, where the conscience clause exists, plus doctors are required to read this tripe to patients before an abortion:

Why can't that doctor refuse, based on his/her deeply-held scientific - or even religious - conviction, to speak to something that s/he does not believe? CAN THIS CASE NOT BE MADE?! WHY CAN'T WE TAKE THIS TO COURT?!

Legitimate questions, not just my own anger speaking. Why has this point not been brought up or acted on? (or am I just unaware?) It seems airtight to me, but then again I have common sense. THOUGHTS?!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Evolution's Coming Out of Its Shell

I went to a poetry reading at a bookstore strictly devoted to poetry (and cafĂ© fare) last week. It was a nook of thing—twenty by twenty shelves of chapbooks and one long table nearly the length of the bookstore. A poet and sitar player performed translation of the Gita Govinda for this degraded age where god is the body—what’s left of it.

I stood in the back, against the bookshelves. A striking woman with a fur lined hat sat toward the front. A striking woman with a fur lined hat sat toward the front but never removed her hat so I was reminded how comfortable privilege can be, how blind.

(Speaking of lost sight, Ohio, you clown show. Get some sunshine. )

A woman wrote a book about being the opposite of a tiger mother—leaving her children behind—the antithesis to loving kids is leaving them if you are a woman. What is the opposite of a tiger mother? Lilith? A deadbeat dad?

I digress and recommend, “Why Men Need to Speak Up About Abortion.” Aaron Traister reports: “I think this may be one of the reasons so many men have trouble talking about this issue. For me, it represents my low point as a human being and as a man: I was a failure, I couldn't take care of myself let alone a child, I couldn't provide for myself, or a wife, or family. My weakness and carelessness resulted in people hurting. I was not a man, I was something so much less than that. Why would anyone ever want to talk about something like that? I recognize that not every man out there has found himself in my situation specifically. I've been told a lot of pro-choice guys don't talk about "women's issues" for fear of saying the wrong thing. All I know is: We're not talking -- as if it doesn't have to do with us, as if it's "their" problem, not ours.”

I still believe we’re waking. I still believe.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bowling for 'Bortion

Sorry about the late post today. This abortioneer has had a long couple of weeks.

While looking around on facebook the other day, I saw that NNAF is launching its annual bowl-a-thon. If you haven't heard of this, in the next month or so funds across the country will be "bowling for abortion access." If you go to the bowl-a-thon website, you can see more details including which funds have signed up so far. You can start a team, register with the site, and start raising money. Then you get to go bowling with lots of other fun pro-choicers. I don't know about you, but this abortioneer cannot wait to strap on a pair of awesome rental shoes and throw some balls (hopefully strikes) to raise money for my local abortion fund.

Events like this are so important for small abortion funds. These funds do their best to help the poorest women have the same access to reproductive health care that many of us do. With the economy still struggling, and many women pinching pennies just to put food on the table and pay their bills, it's nice to be able to help.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Our Un-Simple Work

I'm one of those people that rarely get demoralized about abortioneer work and will totally go out of my way and advocate as hard as I can for a patient. If a woman needs a boat load of money for her abortion really fast/needs a ride to her appointment/needs a ride to get her medications/wants to communicate only via text message/wants to talk about her abortion at 9pm on a Saturday night/or needs someone to hold her hand during the abortion procedure, I'm your girl. I'll jump through hoops, break rules, do whatever I have to, to help someone get their abortion. If they want one.

You're probably like that, too. Or maybe even used to be, but are a little less so right now. I had a co-worker once say that she didn't want to stay at work later (she was planning to leave early) because she was pretty sure the person I wanted to get an ultrasound just wouldn't ever show up. She'd been "burned" too many times after "going out" of her way. Her solution: stop going out of her way. Stop advocating so much. Stop trying so much.

I've had a hard time swallowing that; but I know it can be hard when you do a lot for a client and it doesn't materialize - or doesn't feel like it materializes - into much. Maybe you spend your time trying to find a shelter for her, get it all set-up for after her abortion, and she never shows there. Maybe you help her get one of those out-of-state abortions (since your state won't go as far as you wish they did) and she doesn't get her abortion. Doesn't show. Or perhaps you convinced your doctor to reduce the abortion fee enough so she could finally afford it after you've raised money, only for her to drop off the face of the earth. It's hard. And it's hard when the clients follow-through after you've built a relationship with them (you raised their money, you helped with their lodging, you counseled them, you held their hand), then never see or hear about them ever again. You they are. If they're okay. If they left their bastard boyfriend. Finished university. Got off drugs. Got counseling for their rape. Found some peace after the anecephaly diagnosis of the very, very wanted pregnancy. Went on to do all the things they had hoped and dreamt of doing.

It's hard sometimes, this unfinished bit of business we're in. We never get the whole story. Find out how things turn out: full circle. I wish we knew sometimes.

Yet, I know, really, our job is fairly simple: help women, who want them, to obtain safe abortions. Yet that's really a lie. Because it's so not that simple. How could it be with pregnancy is not simple? Life is not simple. Abortion is not simple. Our work...our so, so not simple.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Gimme Presents

If I ever have an abortion you can damn well guarantee I’m having my friends throw me an abortion shower. In addition, I will register online for a gift registry where my loved ones can support me through buying me stuff. Ok, so this is one-part mockery of the baby-industrial complex and one-part me recognizing that abortion is just as important in terms of family planning. If you are friends with me you have been hearing me talk about this abortion shower idea for years. I almost want to have an abortion JUST to have a shower and registry.

So, I think an abortion shower is a great idea because it will serve to reduce stigma and silence around abortion and instead create a way for a woman to share the experience and be supported. Additionally, who wouldn’t want to get all sorts of abortion gifts from a registry such as heating pad, Glee DVDs, lots of vegan baked goods, comfy sweatpants, and maxi pads? For friends low on cash they can offer non-monetary presents such as writing you silly (or serious) poetry, performing an interpretive dance at your shower, or offering to run errands if you need a day to stay in bed after your abortion. For people who have more creative friends, they could come up with gifts that represent what the woman has to look forward to in her life, such as an SAT prep book, supplies for a dorm room at college, or presents for the kid(s) she already has.

Then there are all those silly games people play at baby showers. Things involving chocolate stained diapers and guessing games about baby weight/length. I think a fun game for an abortion shower would be something involving maxi pad sculptures and/or pin-the-pad on the female silhouette. Perhaps a guessing game about sonogram measurement of weeks/days since last period? Really the possibilities are endless.

If you think this whole abortion shower and registry sounds ridiculous, well then you now understand how bizarre baby showers (and wedding showers while we’re at it) sound to me. This could be because I’m Jewish and we traditionally do not participate in these pregnancy rituals—it is considered bad luck to have a baby shower before the baby is born. Hmm, but it’s also probably because I think it’s ridiculous to expect my friends and family to outfit MY kid. I understand that many people use baby showers as a way to get all the necessities in the beginning and that makes sense if you are financially strapped and need help. However, the obsession with baby showers has gone way beyond providing for those in need and has morphed into out of control consumption regarding baby things that borders on baby/pregnancy worship.

For those of you who had an abortion, what do you wish someone gave you? Have any of you given presents to friends who had abortions?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Racist Anti-Abortion Bill Boards, Again?

Many of us heard about these billboards popping up in Georgia last year, Anti Anti, , Vulva Flower and I wrote about the racist bill boards reading "Black Children are an Endangered Species. I had not heard about any more of these offensive bill boards until now. The Life Always group recently unveiled another equally offensive bill board last week. However, there is victory according to this blog the Women Of Color Policy Network announced that the bill board would be taken down immediately.

This newer bill board reads "The Most Dangerous Place for An African American is in the Womb" This message is so appalling I almost don't know how to respond. Do the folks who put this together take modern day manifestations of racism into account at all? Black men and people are still routinely harassed by police for simply being black, Black people are still being incarcerated at an insanely high rate for non-violent crime, and even Wikipedia knows that race and poverty are linked, poverty rates are much higher for people of color than white folks. So the point is if the people funding these bill boards, Life Always, are so concerned for the well being of black folks it sounds like there are a lot of ways redirect there energies and actually work towards dismantling systemic racism in the United States, its rampant.

I'm glad this bill board was taken down. I have heard rumors that similar bill boards were removed in Atlanta but remain up in other parts of rural Georgia. A writer from Colorlines identifies several reasons she hates these bill boards but makes the point that they have motivated women black women to come together across class and religious lines. I also hate these bill boards and I hope that blatant racist disrespect of black womens' lives and choices motivates women to voice their support for reproductive rights and choice.