Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Two Years

Take at the St. Louis Vigil for Dr. George Tiller on June 1, 2009.

It was two years ago today that Dr. Tiller was gunned down in church and brutally assassinated. In the wake of his murder, there were many calls and cries for increased security, for better laws, and more protection for these doctors who provide legal medical services to our citizens.

Just six days ago, Ralph Lang was arrested after accidentally firing his gun in a motel room, located near a Planned Parenthood he was planning to attack the next morning.

Thank goodness Ralph Lang is an idiot and was caught before he could take any lives, but that was a really close call. What would have happened if he didn’t accidentally shoot off his gun? What if more doctors, or even nurses, were killed? Lang didn’t seem to have a particular bias in terms of who he was murdering, stating that he wanted to "...line them up all in a row, get a machine gun, and mow them all down."

Today, two years after the death of Dr. Tiller, are abortion providers safe? Are they at least safer? I don’t think they are. Between the House’s completely messed up agenda, the Planned Parenthood debacle, terrible new state laws, it just seems like the environment is so overwhelmingly toxic.

Though many doctors, nurses, clinic staff, volunteers, and others are stepping up to the plate to help fill the void left in Dr. Tiller’s absence, it is still very apparent that he is gone. On one hand, it seems like so long ago that I spoke with patients, trying to help them make alternate plans after his death, hoping there was someone else out there who could see them. Yet it seems like just yesterday I got a phone call from Placenta Sandwich, letting me know the terrible news that Dr. Tiller had been shot.

I still have his picture hanging in my apartment. I still look at it often, thinking of what he did for people; he really made a lasting impact on so many women’s lives.

RIP Dr. Tiller. You are missed.

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Day of Remembrance

Beginning as a day to pay tribute to deceased military service men and women, Memorial Day has transitioned to a more general day of remembrance. I remember many in my life I have lost and since becoming an abortioneer, I also remember those in our field we have lost, the heroes.

Dr. Tiller carried on his father's practice in Wichita, KS and was a beacon of hope to women desperately seeking an abortion. I never had the opportunity to meet him, but I know from others that he was a lovely person who cared deeply for everyone who walked through the doors of his clinic - patients, their loved ones, and his staff. He had been harassed for years, shot, threatened, yet he continued to go to his clinic.

Dr. Barnett Slepian who was killed in his home. Soon after the shooting, antis held protests in the Buffalo and Rochester, NY area where Dr. Slepian lived and practiced. They used his murder to try to incite more violence against providers.

A clinic in Birmingham, AL was bombed killing an off duty police officer, Robert Sanderson, who worked as a security guard and severely injured and maimed a nurse, Emily Lyons. The bomb was detonated by remote control - a truly cowardly act.

Two clinic receptionists were shot and killed at two different clinics in Brookline, MA - Shannon Lowney and Leanne Nichols; many others were wounded. The perpetrator later committed suicide in prison and amazingly, had his convictions overturned because he died before his appeals could be heard.

Dr. John Britton, and clinic escort, James Barrett, were killed outside a clinic in Pensacola, FL. They were just arriving to the clinic, James Barrett and his wife had picked the doctor up from the airport. Dr. Britton's wife was also injured. The man who killed them was convicted and sentenced to death.

Dr. David Gunn was also killed outside a Pensacola clinic and like Dr. Tiller, he had been harassed and lambasted by Operation Rescue - an anti-abortion group that regularly incites violence against abortion providers.

Many others have been harassed, threatened, followed home from work, their clinics bombed. They prevail. Anti abortion zealots won't defeat them, they won't defeat us. This Memorial Day let us all honor the people who gave their lives, so that women can continue to access safe abortion as well as those that continue to go to the clinic everyday knowing they are putting their lives in danger. They are all heroes.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Don't Sweat It: Abortion and the Gym

Today, while in my gym's locker room, I saw the same group of women I always do. You know the type: working moms who are trying to get fit again after having babies and eager to have coveted "me time." We usually make small talk about such and such trainer, the workout, how we're losing/not losing weight, the weather, etc. A couple of them exchanged business cards. Then I got asked the question, "where do you work?" I'm ashamed to admit that I felt nervous. I wished I had Harry Potter's magic cape that makes him invisible. I didn't want to answer and I really had no idea what they'd think about it. (I de-stress at the gym. I don't want to talk about work!) I gave my standard,"Oh, a health clinic" answer. My elusiveness was not appreciated or respected. They waited for more. (Harry Potter, take me away!) After shifting, I added (a little too quietly), "like Planned Parenthood." Enter: uncomfortable silence. I was hoping they would just move the conversation onto other topics. No such luck. "Oh, no wonder you were vague. That could upset some people," was the response. Quickly, I was excluded from the continued chat...

...about how so and so is pregnant, when they're due, how far along they are, and so on. Sadly, one of these pregnant women had been trying in vitro with no success for years. Happy news: she's pregnant! The other had just graduated from dental school and didn't have plans to have a baby, but "you know, that's just life. And sometimes you just have to take what's given to you." (Sideways glance to me.)

Okay, so I'm on my period and a little emotional, but still: I don't know what happened to me! I got this terrible urge to make it very clear I'm not a baby hater, that I lurrrrrvvvv (not in a creepy way!) kids. I piped in. Loudly. I
acted SUPER (!) excited for these two pregnant women I don't even know. (I don't get excited for pregnant women I don't know.) "Oh, how EXCITING! That's GREAT!" I exclaimed. Silence. So I upped the ante. I asked about the one who "just managed" to graduate from dental school, "Has she been sick?" Quickly, I got a scowled face stating firmly, "She's happy. It wasn't in their plans, but they're VERY happy."

WTF?? Did she think I was soliciting abortion and about to offer a discount? Now hyper worried, I said, "You mentioned she 'just managed to graduate.' I wondered if she was really sick during her graduation." Scowl face said again, "No. She's NEVER been sick. They're VERY happy." Did I shut up? No. So eager to prove to them I'm a nice girl (even though I work at an abortion clinic - gasp!), and needing to prove to them I won't try to make every girl have an abortion, I got grossly gushy about how AMAZING motherhood is, how exciting it was these women were pregnant, and how my kids are the best thing that has everevereverever happened to me (True. But it doesn't mean it's always a walk in the park!).

What did I get for this? Silence. And scowls. It was one of the weirdest experiences of my life. Mostly, because I have no clue what came over me, making me feel like I had to validate myself in some way. I had this rushing feeling that they had liked me before, but now I was going to become the unlikable abortion girl who kills AND hates babies and is a fake mommy. I just fed into the whole stupid stigma thing about abortion and I know better. I felt like I was a teenager instead of a grown up.

I'm embarrassed to even write about it because now there may be the stigma that I'm not a good enough Abortioneer. Well, I am. And not all Abortioneers have to shout from the roof tops that they are Abortioneers. I'm not a shout-from-the-rooftops kinda girl. That, I'm not ashamed of. (And none of us need to judge others as being less down with the cause for not making public announcements about our Abortionhood.) Still, I was totally "out there" and weird about the whole situation. And do I want to see those scowl faced women tomorrow? No. (Gulp.)

I know what I need to do though: stand up tall and just be myself. They don't have to like the abortion girl...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Abortion and Animals Part 1: How PETA gets it wrong

Today, I am pleased to announce that we are beginning a new series called: Abortion and Animals. I got together with ProChoiceGal from Abortiongang.org, and with us both being passionate pro-choicers and passionate vegans, we have decided to do a series of collaboration posts. It may not seem so at first glance, but veganism and reproductive justice do have quite a few similarities. I was thrilled to come across another pro-choice vegan activist, and I am excited to explore the ties that veganism and reproductive justice have with one another along with ProChoiceGal.

So, a quick introduction of my co-blogger who goes by the handle ProChoiceGal. ProChoiceGal first caught my eye when she wrote a very impressive and thoughtful post about veganism and pro-choice connections. ProChoiceGal has been vegan for about a year (she acknowledges that this might seem like a short time, but she knows she'll stick with it ;), she’s a pre-med student/majoring in health sciences, and she has a passion for reproductive rights and animal welfare. Welcome to the Abortioneers, ProChoiceGal!

I am sure some of you might be wondering what kind of connections and intersections exist between animal welfare and reproductive rights movements? I think because I am so deeply involved in both of these issues the parallels are very apparent. One of the biggest examples that come to mind is PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and they will be the focus of our first blog in this series.

PETA is an animal welfare organization which has caused a stir in the feminist community more than once. They have been accused of everything from racism, to sexism, to fatphobia, to transphobia. It goes without saying that PETA is controversial. Today, we are going to address some of these issues in the form of a Q and A.

Q. PETA has been known for using women's nude or near-nude bodies to get their message across about the evils of fur. Do you ever feel like they are justified in their tactics? Is this a case of the ends justifying the means?

PCG: In PETA's fight to get people thinking about animal welfare issues, one of their main "weapons" that they have used has been sex. Sadly, I think they're missing the point. In many of their advertising campaigns, they have reduced women down to things as opposed to living, sentient being who deserve respect. PETA seems to forget that humans are animals, too. When you ignore human rights and human welfare, you are inevitably ignoring aspects of animal rights and welfare, as well. In short, no, I don't believe that PETA is justified in doing this.

VV: No, I do not think they are ever justified in their tactics. Essentially, PETA uses sensationalism and a shock factor to get attention. They exploit women and reduce them to “meat”, which seems a bit hypocritical. I love animals and live a very intentional life in order to protect as many as I can, but there have to be more creative ways to bring attention to animal welfare than exploiting women and their bodies. The ad campaign using naked women’s bodies renders these women silent and voiceless, which puts them in the same situation as voiceless animals who are also exploited to turn a profit.

Q. PETA has a brief section on their website where they address abortion. Here is what they write:
PETA does not have a position on the abortion issue, because our focus as an organization is the alleviation of the suffering inflicted on nonhuman animals. There are people on both sides of the abortion issue in the animal rights movement, just as there are people on both sides of animal rights issues in the pro-life movement. And just as the pro-life movement has no official position on animal rights, neither does the animal rights movement have an official position on abortion.

What do you think about this statement?

PCG: I understand why PETA wouldn't want to take a direct stance on abortion; it would alienate a good portion of their supporters. However, I do believe that it is important for vegans to recognize that, again, human rights are essential to animal rights and animal welfare. A huge part of veganism is about respecting sentient beings and their bodily autonomy. Vegans should respect that for all animals, and that means being pro-choice. Still, I do understand why PETA would not take an official stance on abortion.

VV: I find it interesting that this even comes up on their website. I am curious what prompted them to make an official stance on this, and I suspect it may be that anti- abortion groups tried to align themselves with PETA to show their support for all forms of life and then PETA needed to respond that they are neutral. Ok, so first off, PETA’s statement is annoying because they use the term “pro-life”. I also strongly agree with PCG that PETA claims to respect bodily autonomy of all sentient beings, yet they do not show this respect for women. I think their neutral stance is one more example of them trying to please as many as possible in order to achieve their end goal, yet in the process they have alienated many feminists.

Q. In response to Dr. George Tiller's assassination, PETA proposed these ads in Wichita, KS. What are your thoughts on this campaign?

PCG: The ads themselves are not so bad, in my opinion. The fact that they were a response to Dr. Tiller's assassination, however, absolutely disgusts me. I feel as if they exploited such a tragic event in order to further their own cause. It was, at best, inappropriate and at worst, downright hateful.

VV: As a Jew I was thoroughly disgusted when they previously exploited the Holocaust in these ads. Well, just in case I thought PETA couldn’t piss me off any more, they did with their ads in response to Dr. George Tiller’s assassination. I want to know who thought up these ads and why they ever thought these would be appropriate. I keep stressing how they think their ends justify their means, but this was insensitive on so many levels. These sorts of polarizing advertising campaigns give vegans and animal welfare organizations a bad name.

Q. Considering all of this, do you believe that feminist vegans (or just vegans in general) should withdraw support for PETA?

PCG: I do believe that we should withdraw support for PETA. PETA has, time and time again, promoted all kinds of bigotry without apology. I believe that we should show them that, if they're okay with promoting bigotry, then we are okay with ditching them and supporting vegan organizations which do not do so.

VV: I am mixed on this. I know I was pretty negative about PETA in my answers, but there are some parts of their organization I respect and support. Personally, it was a PETA pamphlet that got me to switch from vegetarian to vegan almost two years ago. Unfortunately, they are one of the best-funded vegan organizations so they can dictate and control what gets out in the media about the movement. They also make the news a lot! In fact, they often create ads they know will not make it into actual media just so they can get news attention about an ad that was too radical/racy/offensive to be on TV.

For me, I don’t give them any donations and I don’t direct people to them if they are thinking of going vegan. I would love for them to exist but in a much more feminist and non-sensationalizing way, but maybe I’m just too much of an idealist.

Thanks for reading and please let us know your thoughts about our first co-blog! You can look forward to future posts from Vegan Vagina and ProChoiceGal on topics such as factory farm footage Vs. fetus posters, vegan birth control methods, and vegan sex toys! We would also love to hear your ideas for future posts.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Because I'm Blessed

Often times we talk about the challenges we face in our jobs. We shed light on the difficulties we face in the world due to our jobs. Sometimes we write about funding and policy. We write about patients' joy and tears, we write about our own tears. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge some of the things in my life that make me thankful to be an abortioneer:

  • I feel needed every time I make an appointment for a woman and/or help her figure out how to make the logistics of state laws and clinic schedules work for her needs.
  • I sort of get off on the "shock value" of saying exactly where I work and what I do, especially when the shocked individual is someone who annoys me anyway.
  • I'm working in a field where I see room for professional growth and I am learning valuable skills every day.
  • I learned to speak spanish with some fluidity through work in abortion care.
  • I figured out that I have a strong interest in health sciences, when I spent most of my life scared to attempt any academic coarse in the physical/biological sciences.
  • I am more in touch with my own body, sexuality, and health because of the knowledge I have gained working in abortion provision.
  • I'm thankful for each and every patient because I am constantly learning life lessons from each of those women.
  • I like my job, each day I go to work with out dreading the day ahead of me.
I'm sure I could find 100 more blessing that are related to or because of my job. Its so important to count our blessings every day, especially when you live a life that is so scrutinized by so many different people.

What are you thankful for?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ever been grudgingly told your work is "better than the alternative"? (You might be an abortioneer if...)

So here's another twist on "coming out" to someone as an abortioneer. I have an old school friend, you know the type: we really don't have much in common these days but when we go home for the holidays we give each other a call. I was just remembering the time I told her about my new job after college...

I told my friend I was doing [vaguely hard-to-explain job] at a non-profit reproductive health clinic. In response she asked if they did abortions there, and was our mutual, very-Catholic friend going to have to put me on her "prayer list" -- jokey jokey, of course, except not really I guess.

When I told her yes, she replied, "Well, but you just work in the office, you're not doing the abortions" -- with an unspoken implication of "...so I guess you're not doing evil," as though the reason I could be at peace with myself is that I wasn't the person holding the cannula or flipping the aspirator switch or what have you, and so I somehow was not implicated in the whole abortion thing.

I suppose I could have just agreed with her and dropped the subject, but that would've made no sense whatsoever. Like, her claim-and-implication were the opposite of fact on both counts. Because in my eyes, even back then when I had not been a clinical assistant, I was implicated in the whole abortion thing, and that felt like doing good. Like, I would never take a job as office staff for (say) Operation Rescue, and if I did I would never rationalize to myself that I wasn't contributing to the mission of the organization.

So I said something in that vein to my friend. "Well, actually I DO feel like I'm helping women who are seeking abortion care obtain abortion care, and I think it's really worthwhile." Then she changed tack and said, "Well, we know that people will try to get abortions whether they're legal or not, so this is better than the alternative." Which is true, of course, but. Like, if outlawing them DID prevent people from trying to obtain them, she'd have no problem with a ban? That's a damn shame.

I know, I should be grateful for small mercies. For example, as it is, many people are not even swayed by stories of women being taken to emergency rooms with their intestines spilling out of their vaginas, and so forth -- so I should be glad she does take that seriously. And I am.

But here's why it's a shame: To many people, it's not enough for women to simply have their lives changed or ruined in less physically gory ways, such as "I had to drop out of high school" or "I couldn't travel the world" or "My partner skipped out on me." All these life-changes that people don't think are bad-enough results of unwanted pregnancy, they're all things that are often called "selfish" reasons for wanting abortion. Oh yes. Women are called selfish all the damn time. Like as soon as you have baby-incubating capacity all your needs and desires and passions properly become baby-focused and anything less would be thinking too much of yourself! Selfish!

So all those things are selfish reasons for deciding to end a pregnancy, but if you, like, DIE, or have your organs fall out of you, then that is more like what we could consider acceptable needs in a person of babymaking capability. Sure, I'm glad that among people who feel uncomfortable about abortion, there are some who at least recognize how terrible a ban on it would be for half the population's physical safety; but I'm simultaneously dismayed to think that, if only they could "safely" ban abortion, such people would be fine with all the other kinds of damage caused to our wellbeing and freedom.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet." - William Shakespeare

As summer rolls forth and the roses bloom, I contemplate one, sad rose: Lila Rose, aka. Live Action cover girl and puzzling breed of UCLA alumni.

For every schizoid, Scott Roeder, there is a seemingly sane and quasi-educated (well, if being home-schooled doesn’t delude—she was first inspired by her parents’ book,
Handbook on Abortion, which is dubbed hella-anti-choice by Amazon, and it’s worth noting she’s even *exposed* UCLA’s student health center), anti-abortion obsessianado to startle us in our tracks, if not to inspire tears the size of a seven-week embryo.

Somewhere between the man-crazies who are somewhat, simply corralled into one, large lump of woman-haters,
Anti-Anti’s sexy antis, the nuns, and the innocent children antis—there perched, is a Lila Rose, and her dozen or so minions, hell-bent on clawing abortion’s eyes out.

But, really. I don’t care to wax on this poor, misguided girl. I, too, was a too-devout Christian once and said fantastical things just like Lila Rose:

I believe with my whole heart we will be victorious, just as I pray and believe in the Kingdom of God and that we can do God’s will on earth. We have a perfect loving God who inspires and authors our work. If we lay down our lives, we cannot fail.

Luckily, I went to college (after public school and reading books like
The Scarlet Letter, The Crucible, and Light and Matter: A Physics Textbook) and discovered THE PATRIARCHY.

Ever think about how *God* and *Jesus* of *The Bible* are both detached *men* (ahem. Please excuse me, I mean, a *father* and a *son*), exalted as all-powerful, all-omniscient, and all-loving, yet neither could hold a candle for even one woman but virginal Mary. Totally weird. I’m sorry.

However pretty or presidential or conniving or meditating Lila Rose and her blah blah mission to save innocent life may be, if she were walking into any medical arena other than the ever-non-judgmental and accommodating world of reproductive justice, she’d be slapped with the paranoid schizoid label and medicated into a California corner where she could write, unplanned parenthood, all over the walls into eternity.

And for the record: there was no rapture. Yet, I had hoped we’d have this place to ourselves—this Kingdom of Earth, this age of the present moment (where abortion helps women). Instead, I’ll keep reminding myself that my conversations may be recorded for ignorant purposes…

Author’s note: This Abortioneer knows well that wherever there’s a *president* such as Lila Rose, there’s a Board of Operational Rescuers and a team of $upporters giving her the go-ahead.

PS. This post lacks links for obvi reasons.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"Stop the hate"

PETA activists throw paint. Anti-choice protesters throw weird little plastic fetuses. Gay-rights advocates throw...glitter bombs.

I really tried to resist the urge to add my commentary that if Newt is all about "liv[ing] in a free country," it's interesting that he's not in favor of the freedom to love and marry nor the freedom of choice. But ANYWAY.

One of my mentors told me about this video last night as we also talked about fear. Antis fear strong women and autonomy and a complex right to choice and reproductive justice that they don't fully understand. Abortioneers don't fear antis as much as we fear the loss of our rights and our beliefs and options.

I don't think that much about bombs when I go to work, but recently, I made a dark joke to a loved one and she responded, "Oh my God, I never considered that danger for you. Be careful!" It's simultaneously encouraging and horrifying that I can joke about something like that, and it's sobering to be reminded that it's a reality.

Last night, my mentor mused, "You should just throw a glitter bomb at the protesters," and I like her style. Shouldn't we all subvert what bombs are and how fear is expressed, keep it light as we deal with the heavy, and "feel the rainbow"?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

**Today Only!**

I interrupt my regularly-scheduled blog post to bring you this news:

Today, March 18, 2011, you can view free of charge "Silent Choices", a documentary elucidating the struggles of black women and the black community in talking about abortion.

This is a very important topic to me, because a) it's largely ignored by the media, even when abortion itself is a topic, and b) I've witnessed the phenomena of the silent abortion and the coerced motherhood in my own community. It's increasingly relevant, too, as black communities are coming under attack by anti-choice groups (remember Sparky's post?), but community members themselves are unheard thanks to internalized disenfranchisement promulgated by evangelicals and holier-than-thous.

No more! I've only watched 10 minutes of this so far, but I am glued to the screen. All women should watch this, and learn to appreciate the sociocultural barriers that black women face when dealing with reproductive health issues. It will help you become better case managers, better clinic directors, better doctors, better counselors, better people!

"Silent Choices" normally costs $4.99, but today only you can view it for free. Please do!

"I understand the sentiment behind it, the idea that abortion has been a central focus of white women's organizing for reproductive freedom, and black women and other women of color have fought for a broader understanding of reproductive freedom. But abortion is part of a broad complex of issues and needs and services that are required for all women to have complete control over their reproductive decision-making and for there to be complete reproductive justice in this country." - Dorothy Roberts, Northwestern University School of Law.

(Special thanks to Vegan Vagina, for bringing this to the Abortioneers' attention!)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Awesome Guttmacher Video

Recently, Guttmacher put out a pretty great video that is a general overview of abortion in the United States. It addresses a lot of key points (most women seeking abortion already have kids, are religious, etc) that most people seem to miss in the abortion debate.

It's a great piece to share with friends, pro-choice and anti-choice alike, and it is also very aesthetically pleasing as well.

Hope you enjoy!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Bomb Threat: Do You Tell Your Kids?

Dear Parents/Parents-to-Be/People Involved in Little People’s Lives, etc:

Remember when you could go wherever you wanted on a whim? Go out with whoever you wanted, whenever you wanted? Remember when you got a bomb threat at work and felt the only person you had to protect was yourself? Yeah…me, too!

Bomb threats and other security issues make things a little more complicated at work when you’re a sassy daddy or yummy mummy. It used to be that you just had to consider whether to tell your BFF, your partner, or your family. Now you have to wonder if you should tell your kids or not. Or maybe the neighbors or your kids’ teachers. Yeah, it’s complicated. And I often think about Dr. Tiller and others and wonder how they talked about it as a family (or did) and if they had to make contingency plans and how they handled it and how their kids felt.

Our doctor is pregnant. It’s her first child and we recently had a series of bomb threats at work. Fun, I know. So, obviously, a lot of us have been on edge. Our doctor has definitely kept her cool, but since I’m a parent too, I just couldn’t help but be curious about what’s been going on in her head. We had a nice chat during lunch yesterday and she admitted that it’s been sobering to put her now ill-fitting bullet proof jacket on while looking at her growing tummy. We’re not best friends, so I was expecting her to tell me her deepest thoughts or anything, but I was grateful for her frankness and though regular staff don’t have to wear bullet proof jackets, some of us have been more reluctant to drop off our kids at school in the morning…

I haven’t told my kids anything and I haven’t figured out yet when or if I will. I don’t know what the line is for me (but I know I need to figure it out). Some of my co-workers have told their children and most of those kids seem concerned. Some are begging their parents not to go to work. Though I think it’s a very personal decision when and who to tell, I think the severity of the threat might help warrant when to tell your kids. If it’s on the news or you’ve got police/Federal Marshal protection going on, then it’s probably smart to tell your family. At the same time, hopefully parents have devised a plan on how to support their kids, answer their questions, and allow some kind of outlet for them to talk (maybe agree on your kid being able to talk to at least one other person outside the family). It’s already stressful for us abortioneers and knowing others’ feelings about it – though important – can make it more stressful. Especially if there is pressure to quit. One of my co-workers did just do that. She’s a new mom and just was simply not willing to risk her safety or that of her family. I’d be lying if the thought hasn’t crossed my mind, either.

All I know is that we need to be better at supporting abortioneers duing security threats. They’re fucking scary and they can scare the shit out of families. I feel like I have to be strong and not act scared or worried (at work AND at home) and that’s not easy. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like I can’t show any vulnerability or else it will look like I’m not a big enough abortioneer…that I’m not ‘down with the cause’ enough …and that if I voiced my worries, I’d look like a traitor. Or, I’d look like someone who is “just a worried mom” and “overreacting.” Maybe if we parents could talk more freely about how it is scary to get bomb threats, we’d help break some kind of stigma about what it takes to be a “good” abortioneer. Or maybe I’m just being a sensitive mom….

...What do you think?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Medical Tourism

I have hosted women from small towns within my own state, women from nearby states, and even a woman from Canada. They come to my large metropolitan city because they are past the legal limit in their state, or there just simply is not a provider trained or willing to perform abortions in the second trimester where they live. For example, the woman from Canada was within the legal limits, but there was not a provider, so her public health insurance PAID for the entire cost of her procedure in OUR country!

I always ask the women if they have been to New York City before. Some of them live only a few hours away and I sort of assumed they had been to NYC on a field trip, family trip, or getaway. However, as far as I can remember, every woman I have hosted said she had never been to NYC until the present trip.

We usually leave the clinic in a cab, which for many of them is the first time in a cab. The cab drivers here are fast and tend to weave a bit, which is not the best environment for an often-queasy woman going through a 2-day abortion. One woman was mesmerized by the TV screen built into the cab that had a map displaying showed our location. The women all stare out the window and ask every block what landmarks we are passing and if we will see famous buildings or people…usually people they know from reality TV or celebrity gossip magazines.

I have had a few women assume they will feel fine the afternoon after their procedure and they tell me they will go shopping, eat at a famous restaurant, or try to get cheap tickets to a Broadway show. I try not to break their hearts, but I am honest that they probably will want to stay off their feet and get some rest. They insist they will be fine and I usually keep my mouth shut.

I think about my first time visiting NYC when I was a small child. We ascended the Statue of Liberty, ate in Chinatown, climbed rocks in Central Park, and saw “Cats” the musical. My memories are so positive, and filled with love from my immediate and extended family. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have my first NYC memories consist of hours in a waiting room, sleeping at a stranger’s apartment, and lying in stirrups with unfamiliar medical staff. It pains me to think about how these women experience NYC for the first (and possibly only) time. I don’t think this is how they ever imagined a trip to the Big Apple.

I hope they find their way back to NYC again, in a different circumstance, at a different time. I would love for them to see this city on their own terms and not in a post-anesthesia haze. NYC is symbolic to so many people for so many reasons, and I like to think that the city plays a role in shaping women’s lives. They come here to take charge of their lives and they return home to Rochester, Albany, or even Ontario, as new people (or renewed people).

Alicia Keys sings it best:

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of,
There's nothing you can’t do,
Now you're in New York!!!
These streets will make you feel brand new,
the lights will inspire you,
Let's hear it for New York, New York, New York

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Smith Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives passed another bill to ensure tax payer's dollars will not cover the cost of abortion under health care reform. The hyde amendment already prohibits any federal dollars from paying for abortions. This bill takes it a step farther, click here to read a summary of the bill. The Smith Bill would deny tax credits to small business who offer private health insurance that covers abortion. This bill would also stop the annual renewal of the hyde amendment. Finally the bill would permanently deny the District of Columbia from using local dollars to pay for abortion. According to an article in Ms. Magazine the bill also prohibits women in the military from obtaining abortion in military hospitals overseas even if they use their own money to pay for it. The bill also includes a life endangerment and rape exception.

A New York Times editorial stated the presidential administration will veto the bill thus is will not become law. RHrealitycheck.org offers a pretty comprehensive break down of the bill here. The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) put out a toolkit including a sample letter to send to state representatives, urging them to oppose this bill, and explaining how this bill specifically affects access to health care in Latino communities.

I am not much of a policy buff. I spend most of my time in direct service. My job is affected by both state and federal policies on a day-to-day basis. However, I spend little time trying to comprehend the dozens of laws that are considered concerning abortion. I know that most of them are not good and when I think about what bills like the Smith bill mean about access to basic health care I get really angry. It awesome that there are organizations focused on policy such as NLIRH that are creating toolkits like the one mentioned above.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day.

Mother's Day is the day we celebrate women who brought us into their families, cared for us, and have supported us through our ups and downs.

This is also a great day to celebrate choice. I celebrate the people who chose to be moms, but I also celebrate the people who didn't choose to be moms or become a mom again. I celebrate the women who took on the challenge and those that knew they could not. As About A Girl has said, parenthood is hard work even when it was deeply desired -- imagine how much harder when it wasn't -- and deserves to happen with all the readiness and support it can. Motherhood should be voluntary, freely and happily chosen, not forced.

At the time of their appointment, 61% of abortion patients have one or more children; so the majority are mothers, and the vast majority of the others will also become mothers at some later time in their lives. And many of the people who care for them or advocate for them (at clinics and local funds, and at policy organizations) are also moms. When you know this, it's hard to think that abortion is about "hating children," either for patients or for abortioneers; abortion is just one possible part of making a responsible choice about being a mom.

Being a mom is one of the most amazing, and I think sacred, things a woman can do, and she shouldn't take it lightly or be forced to do it. Society, too, shouldn't take motherhood lightly by implying that it is the obvious choice for all women who find themselves pregnant. I celebrate all of the moms out there and their ability to CHOOSE to be moms -- may you be celebrated all year 'round -- and may we work to make it a truly free choice for all.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


One chilly Spring morning, our clinic was visited by a new anti. Amidst the old men in ill-fitting trousers and dowdy women in scrunchies and Keds was a peppy young lady with bleached hair, heavy makeup, tight jeans and trendy flats, and a perky bust. She was the proverbial Sexy Anti.

The Sexy Anti is one of my favorite antis, mostly because her youth and radiance belies the antiquated philosophy on which she bases her life's mission. Quite the conundrum. But on top of that, she is forced to defend her sexiness on some obscure/invented religious principle, lest some stranger consider her a run-of-the-mill, dime-a-dozen, sex-having-pregnant-getting-abortion-service-procuring-baby-mama-drama ho.

Sexy Anti (SA) spoke to a woman whose daughter was in the clinic having her procedure. The woman became exasperated, because her daughter's baby was gravely ill and wouldn't survive to gestation. She had to terminate or deliver a stillborn, and the mother was furious that SA would judge them; she had no idea why people were at the clinic that day, and had no right to judge. Especially since, as the mother put it:

"You can't tell me that you don't have a man!"

"I don't, actually."

"Well I know you're not a virgin."

"I am, actually."

"Listen, nobody wears eyeliner at 9am on a Saturday to protest at an abortion clinic so I know you're lookin good for somebody."

More words were exchanged about the merits of looking hot for no reason. SA was adamant that she neither had a man, nor had sex with them, nor wanted to impress them with her looks, when the mother came back with:

"You're Jezebel!"

Jezebel, that scintillating sinner. She was known for much more important things, like generally being a strong woman, but in recent times has become a household name to represent the sluts of the world. SA was not pleased.

"Now you're judging me!"


Now, I generally don't use biblical references to offend people (atheist here), but this one tickled me. A) I was kind of wondering why SA got all gussied up for protesting, and B) it really begs the question: what's up with the Sexy Anti? Does she not deserve to be judged for being all sexified if she's going to judge women for seeking abortion care?

Jezebel is not the first SA at our clinic. There were actually two more that day who came out in pencil skirts and high heels, side-swept bangs and all, standing next to the dowdy protesters but kind of keeping a distance. A former anti used to harass our fat and fugly escorts by telling us that she used to be fat and fugly too but then she found Jesus and he made her hot in five days and it's now her god-given duty to stay hot for men and we could be hot too if only we prayed and we should even walk up and down the sidewalk with her to the beat of "JE-SUS, JE-SUS" so we can burn some calories and if you move your arms with your legs it burns even more. And ours is not the only clinic with SAs. I've talked to lots of other escorts who deal with them too.

So, what's the deal? Is it simply a matter of better marketing of the anti cause, such that younger and hipper people are joining? Or does Christianity really mandate that women be sexy? I thought vanity was a sin but who am I. I suspect it's partly the former; SA was also very vocal about her work with Ron Paul, who managed to get a surprising amount of support from the young people I know. I really hope this is the case. I just love to hate the Sexy Anti.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Repeat Abortion Patient

In talking about abortion with my friends, colleagues, and others, I frequently get asked, "Is it true women have like ten abortions?" First of all, no. However, about half of abortion patients report having a previous abortion.

The patients who have had more than three abortions are few and far between. But, the fact of the matter is there are women who will present in a clinic five, six, seven times for a procedure.

This makes a lot of people, myself included, uncomfortable on some level.

In this situation, we have a couple of options. We can get weirded out and/or judge the woman, or we can delve a little bit deeper into her history. Figure out the why. Because there is so much built into why that woman is getting pregnant over and over again -- lack of education, lack of access to health care, lack of resources, lack of transportation to get to the doctor, lack of time to get to the doctor's office when it's open, lack of funds to pay for the birth control, lack of a partner who is respectful of her request to use a condom, etc. I could go on forever. There are so many reasons why a woman may get pregnant several times.

What this really shows, to me at least, is how broken the reproductive health care system is in this country. The United States has an extremely high unintended pregnancy rate. Not coincidentally, the abortion rate is pretty high here. Western Europe has a very high contraceptive use rate and the lowest abortion rate in the world. It really frustrates me that anti-choicers get all worked up about women who have abortions, but don't want or care if that woman has access to birth control. Those two go hand in hand!

And no woman wants to have six abortions.

Do repeat abortion patients make you feel uncomfortable at all? Why? Are there other thoughts you have the topic? Are there patient situations you feel uncomfortable? Please comment!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Election Season is Nigh

We're entering the start of the presidential election season. With that comes talk of a whole host of issues, including everyone's favorite political topic - abortion! It's always interesting to read the opinions of candidates. They are trying to be conservative but not too conservative or progressive but not too progressive. This has to make you have to wonder how these candidates really feel about the issues they are taking a stand on.

Let's take abortion as an example. It's unusual for a Democrat to be anti-abortion, but I think it's even more unusual for a Republican to be pro-choice. Generally for a Republican or Democrat to even win their primaries, they need to have their respective anti-choice, pro-choice views. There are of course some exceptions, but the norm is the norm for a reason. These candidates need to reflect the views of their constituents, so it makes me wonder how many of them actually have these views or are just saying this to gain support.

As I was doing some googling tonight, trying to figure out what I wanted to write about, I kept finding articles about Donald Trump's views on abortion. If you weren't aware, Donald Trump is in fact an unofficial candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. I found an article on Life Site News (no I won't link to it) that stated Donald Trump had written a book in 2000 proclaiming he was pro-choice, although he was still uncomfortable with the procedure. Now he's coming out as anti-choice saying that he changed his views a few years ago. He cites a story about a friend's wife who was contemplating an abortion, ultimately kept the pregnancy, and now this child fills this man with unrelenting joy (he fails to note if the woman in this scenario is equally happy). In another interview he was asked about whether we have a right to privacy under the Constitution - he said yes. But then had no idea how that connected to his views on abortion (right to privacy was the basis for the Roe v. Wade decision) - maybe he hasn't thought this one through very well. I wonder if Trump believes what he saying now, if he believed what he said back then, or will just say anything to get people to like him and give him attention.

Not sure how I got on a Donald Trump tangent, but my point is that candidates will say anything to get us to vote for them. We have to think critically and try to figure out if they are saying what they believe or just what we want to hear. We have to make sure they are challenged and asked difficult questions that cause them to really think about what they are saying. Don't allow them to speak in sound bites but make sure they have thought through what they are saying, otherwise how do you know they are telling you the truth?