Thursday, June 30, 2011

Put on a Happy Face

I’m not an optimist by nature. I pretend to be, and I make a conscious effort to come to work in a good mood and look on the bright side and make the best of whatever drama happens and to enjoy my day at the clinic. If I didn’t force myself to be the cheeriest possible version of Desembarazarme, I don’t think I could do my job quite as well. I often carry off that rosy façade so well that my co-workers get annoyed with me.

All of my co-workers are passionate, client-driven super (s)heroes, but honestly, they’re not always Pollyannas about everything. They don’t have to be, of course. I understand what it’s like to inhabit a head that tells you that what can go wrong will and that the grass IS greener in some other clinic and to get wrapped up in thoughts like, “Why won’t that client just make eye contact with me for once?”, “Would it kill [redacted co-worker’s name] to pitch in a little more?!”, or, “I would love to hit those protesters with my car.”

However, what I’ve noticed as I work more on the management side of things at the clinic, is that Dr. Tiller was right once again: “Attitude is everything.” Clients aren’t dumb; they will pick up on a morose mood, and they supply enough of that on their own. Clinic staff is usually there because they love the work, not because of the paychecks, and if we focus on anything other than the reason that we come into the clinic every morning, it really serves no one but maybe the antis, and that’s no good.

I can only speak for my clinic, of course. This is the only clinic I’ve ever worked at, but I have a feeling it’s one of the more all-round woman-centered, nurturing ones. The missions statement practically says, “We will love and support each other and clients and do it with a smile.” Other clinics might be a little bit less “Free to be You and Me,” more “We’re here to do abortions. Mission statement done!” But regardless, I can’t see the dynamics of a clinic truly working out if the staff isn’t, on some level, friends, family, and co-workers all at once; if clients weren’t treated as one of us; or if a job description didn’t include “fostering a sense of community.”

Readers, what kind of relationship dynamics have been at play in clinics or support organizations where you’ve worked? Am I wrong? …Can there be a completely functional, feminist clinic without an emphasis on positivity? And how do YOU stay positive even when you don’t want to? (I work out a lot. A LOT.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What's the matter with Kansas?

Recently, a new law was signed by Kansas governor Sam Brownback that significantly altered standards by which all (three) abortion clinics in the state must operate by. These regulations are onerous are best. New regulations include:

  • Procedure rooms be at least 150 square feet in size

  • Storage areas for “janitorial supplies and equipment” be at least 50 square feet per procedure room

  • Recovery area must be at least 80 square feet per patient

  • Temperature must be between 68 and 73 degrees in operating rooms

  • Temperature must be between 70 and 75 degrees in recovery rooms

  • Feature separate dressing rooms for staff and patients

  • These dressing rooms must be equipped with a toilet, a sink and a place to store clothes

  • Have 13 different types of drugs on hand

  • A patient is now required to stay in the recovery room for at least two hours after her procedure, even if the procedure requires no anesthesia

  • Clinics must also have a licensed nurse in the clinic when abortions are done


These regulations were sent to providers on June 17th. The deadline by which clinics had to comply to these new requirements by is....

Wait for it...

July 1.

Yup. You have 14 days to completely redesign your clinic. You know, just draw up some blueprints. Meet with some construction people, figure out the pricing. Order the materials. Complete the construction. In two weeks. NBD.

Obviously, many are up in arms stating that these new requirements are ridiculous and exist solely to shut clinics down. Republicans and anti-choicers counter saying they are just looking out for women’s health. “Without any oversight, women really are in danger,” Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, said Tuesday, as she took a sip out of her piping hot cup of bullshit.

The Planned Parenthood believes they will be in full compliance with the regulations by the deadline, but the Center for Women’s Health in Overland Park is likely to be denied a license due to these new regulations. They are challenging the law in court saying they were not given enough time to comply to the new law. Aid for Women, a clinic in Kansas City, is closed, at least temporarily due to the new restrictions. It is worth noting they were not even inspected, but were simply denied a license based on information included in their application.

What is interesting about this is that there are places, in the state of Kansas, that do not have these type of guidelines. Specific room size, temperature, patient recovery time, etc are not regulated in this way. Those places?



Friday, June 24, 2011


So there's been a lot of talk in the pro-choice world about Washington, DC and the ban on abortion funding through Medicaid, which DC residents had long enjoyed. It's becoming a spectacle even; apparently the mayor was arrested for protesting it! You go, Vince Gray!

So I've been following the DC Abortion Fund's website, curious to see how the ban would affect the tiny fund's ability to help women in need (my guess: negatively). Here's a post by Maggie R., a DCAF volunteer about what the real situation is for women on Medicaid in DC: Truth!

Other facts about people in DC:

1. They have no representation in congress.
2. They pay federal taxes anyway.
3. Money used to pay for Medicaid and other public services is local.
4. DCers often get screwed with their money, like during the government shutdown fiasco. PS, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton also told Congress to go straight to Hell during that time.

Anyway. Who else thinks this is lame? Did DC talk smack about someone's mom? Pick on someone your own size, government!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Happy Birthday to ME!!!

I’ve been working on this post since the day I was born. I turned 30 years old this week and I am finally ready to confidently say what I am going to say. I have spent 30 years on a journey of finding out who I am and getting to be comfortable with all the things I am. This might seem simple or obvious, but most of the things that define me are things that are not popular or simple or easy or even likable. Maybe you can relate, I mean, aren’t all abortioneers a bit unpopular at times/places?

I’m done apologizing for who I am. I don’t owe explanations to anyone and I don’t need to censor or tone things down. If I had a penny for every time a friend or family member or co-worker has asked me to tone it down, well then I’d actually be one of those rich abortioneers the antis always reference!

I’m an Abortioneer. I love abortion and all the good it does in this world. I have seen a 26 week abortion and handed the physician the instruments and did not think twice or have any feelings of sadness or disgust or ambivalence.

I am an ethical vegan. I am proud of the fact that I am intentional about every single food or drink that enters my body. I aim to respect animals in every way possible and that starts with what is on my plate and how I engage with food. I am healthier and happier not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually, and I know this is because I am vegan.

I am a feminist. I always have been. I don’t know any other way to be. And yes, I fit lots of the stereotypes. I hate wearing bras. I don’t wear makeup. I generally do not enjoy the company of most men. I like tye dye. I have been called a radical feminist, angry feminist, feminazi--yet I am just a simple.

I am gender agnostic. I reject gendered labels and I hate choosing a box. I dressed up as a “half boy half girl” in fourth grade.

I am a Jew. I will not feel bad about this or try to hide this part of me in situations where it is less-than-popular.

I am against marriage regardless of the gender combinations seeking it. I am undecided about having children.

My family friend called me “assertive” when I was in elementary school. I have also been called loud, tactless, obnoxious, and callous. That last one was in regards to my views on abortion (duh).

I am sex positive. I talk about sex openly and freely and don’t feel the need to discuss sexscapades in hushed tones or code words.

I have a DSM-IV diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder. I know how to manage this and I am not afraid to advocate for myself. I am no longer afraid to disclose this to people. I exercise a lot. Some people think I have an addiction to running and going to the gym. For me though, exercise is my medication and my treatment for anxiety. Exercise centers me. Running is better for me than popping pills.

I am filled with contradictions. I love reading celebrity gossip. I love Garth Brooks. I can be selfish. I don’t usually like sharing food.

What are you done apologizing for?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Art and Abortion

I love the arts and I love abortion work. As I was trying to find some obviously pro-choice artists and artwork, I came across the following. If you're an art lover - and an abortioneer - hopefully you'll appreciate these!

Pro-Choice Resources in Minnesota had a silent art auction in 2008. Some of the pieces were quite wonderful, as you can see...

Eye Candy, I know! I also came across a very interesting Irish installation artist, Cathy Wilkes. In 2008, she had a piece called "We Are Pro-Choice."


Monday, June 20, 2011

Something from Fox News that isn't blasphemy!

Check out this article about the health benefits of masturbating. Sexual health encompasses so much. Unwanted pregnancies, STDs, contraception, and safety are all really important aspects of sexual well being. As a sex educator I know that sexual health is also about learning to enjoy sex in a safe manner. Its about unlearning that sex is dirty, nasty, shameful, and dangerous. I believe one the most important parts of a healthy sexuality is being able to enjoy your own body.

At work I am a sexual educator. The other day a patient said to me, "I don't know how I get pregnant, he never cum inside of me." I responded by explaining that sometimes there are sperm that come out before the man ejaculates and maybe she should consider condoms or hormonal birth control. Each day I am dispelling myths and teaching women about how sex functions. But masturbation is never a topic of conversation with patients. I wish there were a space for people to get accurate information about masturbation -- the safest form of sex!

People are taught from a very young age that self-pleasure is shameful. Based on my own experience, I believe women are taught to feel like masturbation is an act of desperation. When in actuality a healthy sexuality begins with understanding your own body and sexual responses. Self-pleasure is related to power and liberation. When a woman can please herself and knows that it's healthy to do so, I believe we as women also begin to stop looking to external sources for validation.

Blegging for a good cause

Hi everyone. I just have a quick request today. Please help me honor the life and work of one of our own.

Ryan Goskie's death earlier this month was a blow to many of us who worked in this field, and I for one am still trying to get my head around the idea that someone with so much energy and heart is just gone and won't be coming back.

His partner let us know that donations are being raised to build a small memorial in Ryan's favorite park. It's no substitute for the man himself, but it will be a nice way to mark his existence in the world. I donated last week and am happy to see the fund has nearly reached its goal, so I hope our readers can be the ones to help push it over the top. Please contribute whatever little bit you can!

You can also donate toward abortion care for a woman who can't afford the whole cost on her own. Consider giving in Ryan's honor to the local fund for Missouri, the state where Ryan worked as a volunteer patient escort, an administrator, and a clinical assistant.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Who is the man?

When I told my dad I was going to be an Abortioneer, he did not bounce off the walls. I was nervous to tell him at first, because he is a man of few words when it comes to serious issues. He will talk your ear off about a diesel engine, or about Beethoven's 9th. But when it comes to things that are controversial or painful, he responds generically in a monotone that would lead you to believe he couldn't care less, even when in fact the issue hits very close to home.

Instead, he told me that it was great. His words were along the lines of "I'm glad that you will be working in a capacity to help the less-fortunate." Bland, true to form. But I detected in his voice a quiet pride in his daughter's compassion towards others, the same that she inherited from her parents and grandparents. Still, I can only hope to be as much of a freedom fighter as my dad, who once took two bullets defending a revolutionary political figure during an assassination attempt. The attempt was successful, but my dad survived.

I can't say if I'll ever take a bullet for the next Dr. Tiller, but I'll know that if I ever do it's because I picked up a little of my dad's courage, fearlessness, and sense of urgency in doing what's right. I'm the bad mutha shut-yo-mouth I am today because of him. Stubborn, but only because I know the deal.

Love you daddy, and I thank you for all.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tell it slant

Emily Dickinson advised, "Tell all the truth, but tell it slant." Tim O'Brien wrote an entire book that might be part fact, part fiction, part ambiguity, but none of it a lie. In my recent quest to speak my truth and speak it from my heart, I realized I was speaking my truth with hyperbole, sarcasm, and humor, but not with my heart.

When I write here, I employ humor to make things easier to me to say and for you to read. I meld my real life with a fake life so that you will know what I am without knowing who I am. I am unequivocally a pro-choice crusader, but my favorite color may or may not be purple.

When I tell client stories, I am well aware that they are not my stories to tell. HIPAA binds me to change details and nuances, and my own ethos binds me to relay the gist without relaying the experience that I may or may not interpret properly anyway.

The stories that clients tell us, anyway, are half truths. I may find out about the abusive boyfriend, and my co-worker may find out about the childhood molestation, and neither of us find out about the past abortion. "I'm fine" can mean both yes and no and maybe. "I'm killing my baby" can be internalized rhetoric or personal conviction or uncertainty about both or neither.

And when I tell clients that they will be OK, I can't guarantee that; I can only hope. When I call them from the waiting room Price is Right-style ("Jane McAbortionpants, come on doooown!"), the silliness covers my annoyance with a long day and my discomfort with clients' discomfort. And then I go home and say that my day was "good" because sometimes that's easier than reliving heartache and frustrations.

Thank you, readers, for hearing our abortion reality, however embellished, or minimized or raw. This is my heart.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Las evidencias hablan por sí solas!

I attended a health conference yesterday and stopped by one of my favorite orgs, Ipas, to score some swag and some abortion news. I saw a small booklet entitled "Ten Facts About Abortion." Hooray! Now, I already knew those facts, could predict exactly what they would say and how they would be described, so I decided to challenge myself. I put it down and picked up "Diez Datos Sobre Aborto." Same info, but in Spanish! So I thought I'd share it with The Abortioneers, and also with our Spanish-speaking audience. It hadn't occurred to me just how much misinformation is out there to confuse and horrify non-English speakers that we simply aren't catching. So I present to any Spanish-speakers out there who are looking for information and not finding it:

Mito: El aborto ocasiona el “síndrome postaborto”.
Dato: El síndrome postaborto no es un diagnóstico psiquiátrico válido.

Mito: El aborto causa cáncer de mama.
Dato: No existe ninguna relación causal entre el aborto (ya sea espontáneo o inducido) y un aumento en el riesgo de que la mujer desarrolle cáncer de mama.

Mito: La anticoncepción de emergencia causa aborto.
Dato: La anticoncepción de emergencia evita el embarazo. Si la mujer ya está embarazada,
la anticoncepción de emergencia no tendrá ningún efecto en el embarazo y no causará un aborto.

Mito: El embarazo es más seguro que el aborto.

Dato: Los procedimientos

de aborto
efectuados por profesionales de la
salud capacitados, en condiciones
higiénicas, son mucho más seguros
que el embarazo y el parto.

Mito: La legalización del aborto no lo hace seguro.
Dato: Cuando las mujeres tienen acceso a servicios de aborto seguro, legal y a precios asequibles, se reducen drásticamente las tasas de muertes y lesiones maternas atribuibles al aborto inseguro.

Mito: Restringir el acceso a los servicios de aborto es la mejor manera de disminuir el índice
de abortos.
Dato: La mejor manera de disminuir el índice de abortos es reducir el número de embarazos no intencionales por medio de educación sexual integral, prevención de la violencia basada en género y acceso a métodos anticonceptivos eficaces centrados en la mujer.

Mito: El aborto con medicamentos es peligroso y puede causar la muerte de las mujeres.

Dato: El aborto con medicamentos

es una opción segura y eficaz para
la interrupción del embarazo en el
primer trimestre.

Mito: Si el aborto es legal, las mujeres lo utilizarán para el control de la natalidad.
Dato: Las mujeres que no tienen información y acceso a métodos anticonceptivos confiables se enfrentan con tasas más altas de embarazo no planeado y posiblemente recurran al aborto para interrumpir el embarazo, sin importar la legalidad del aborto.

Mito: El aborto es exportado por el Occidente imperialista a los países en desarrollo.
Dato: Desde el inicio de la historia documentada, las mujeres en todo el mundo han interrumpido embarazos no deseados. Esta práctica está bien documentada.

Mito: El aborto nunca es necesario para salvar la vida de una mujer.
Dato: El aborto para salvar la vida de una mujer o una niña es médicamente necesario en ciertas circunstancias y es muy aceptado por profesionales e instituciones como la Organización Mundial de la Salud.

The best thing about this resource is that it actually provides SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE (DING DING DING!) to support these FACTS ABOUT ABORTION. Great empowerment for non-English speakers who may feel disenfranchised and under-informed in this country. Clinic workers/counselors/direct service Abortioneers, I encourage you to share this and other Ipas materials. Check their website!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Limiting Abortion Care One Uninformed Law at a Time

I was looking through the news today for inspiration on my post, and I saw articles about states that are currently passing new limits on abortion. Iowa could approve the tightest restrictions in the country at 18 weeks. Alabama just passed a fetal pain bill that puts a limit at 20 weeks.

I'm amazed by those who make medical claims to gain support for these bills, as if they had actual medical training. They irresponsibly pass their opinions off as fact.

In the article I linked to by the Iowa Independent, they quoted the Executive Director of the Iowa Right to Life Committee as saying, "We’re not talking about abortion, we’re talking about infanticide. We’re talking about viable children who can live outside the womb." At 18 weeks?! There's a lot of debate over viability, but the likelihood of viability at 18 weeks (like of it even being biologically possible) isn't high. I am honestly surprised someone will go on record claiming that it is.

Then there's this gem from an Alabama state senator, Scott Beason: "It's clear that a baby at 20 weeks experiences pain. There's no doubt about that." It's clear, is it? Where is your data to back up the claim that a fetus experiences pain at 20 weeks? How is this man even qualified to make such a statement? Oh right, he isn't; he has a degree in Geology.

I'm tired of having to hear antis make these claims. They offer no proof to back any of it up. They don't have medical training, yet they get away with it because the uninformed will go along with it. When will our laws start being passed with facts to back them up?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday Douchebaggery Interlude

Take a gander at this shit:
"The billboard depicts an Alamogordo businessman, [Greg] Fultz, 35, holding what appears to the outline of a baby in his arms as he is looking down at it. Next to the picture, in large print, is the statement, 'This Would Have Been A Picture Of My 2-month Old Baby If The Mother Had Decided To Not KILL Our Child!'"

Last week the woman targeted by this billboard brought suit against Mister Douchebag, on the grounds that he's violating her privacy and causing emotional distress. The judge ruled in her favor, ordering the billboard to be removed and granting the plaintiff an order of protection. Thank goodness.

Further gross details and aspects:

A) As Greg "Douchebag" Fultz admits in the rest of his letter, he is "not sure" that his ex actually had an abortion! He doesn't have proof so is guessing. The plaintiff says she miscarried.

B) Of course, whether or not she had an abortion remains HER business alone, anyhow! We don't need to explore her medical history to determine whether she did or did not "deserve" this.

C) Aside from the violation of privacy, to me this also sounded like a violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which prohibits intimidation to prevent people from receiving or providing reproductive health services. Unfortunately, it's not that straightforward; it turns out the language of the law forbids the use of "force, threat of force or physical obstruction" -- so, although I'd argue that this could constitute intimidation with a chilling effect on care-seeking ("If I have an abortion my manipulative douche of an ex may put up a billboard about me, like what happened to that woman in New Mexico"), a judge might not agree. But I still wonder about all the things that happen when women have good reason to fear stigma and public excoriation; one woman who survived the dangerous care at Kermit Gosnell's illegal practice (but not without lasting injury) said that she initially headed to Planned Parenthood but turned around when she saw the protesters.

D) Bonus grossness! Mr. Douchebag is 35; the plaintiff is 20. Twenty. Twenty years old! Jesus Christ, that adds a whole OTHER layer of slimy sleazy selfishness to this guy's actions. As though they didn't already sound enough like intimidation and punishment for not doing what he wanted, on top of that he's nearly twice her age and she's still at practically the beginning of her life, and HE's the one who feels robbed? Because he didn't have the right to decide how the rest of her young life was going to go?

Indeed he does feel robbed. In statements to newspapers and to the New Mexico legislature, he says:

"Women have all the power when it comes to pregnancy. The men get no say when a woman wants to go and have an abortion without the say of the father. I believe that is wrong because men are 50 percent of the result of the pregnancy."


"I'd like to get a bill created in honor of my baby (Baby Fultz) for all fathers. My idea is to get a bill introduced that gives biological fathers equal rights as to the welfare and decisions being made of the unborn child with exceptions to those of rape and incest and other means of illegal fatherhood."

Of course, the fact that a spermatozoon and an ovum contribute equal numbers of chromosomes doesn't really mean that "men are 50 percent of the result of the pregnancy." That's not how it works; I've never seen a male partner carrying and feeding a fetus for 4.5 months. Simpleton's math aside, I do honestly want to know, exactly what would he consider "equal rights" to a decision about abortion? If one partner (or ex-partner) decides in favor of ending the pregnancy and the other doesn't, what should happen? How do you make that a 50/50 decision?

EDIT: Further information highlights just how much this abortion-billboard stunt is part and parcel of Mr. Douchebag's manipulative, abusive strategy. The billboard reads "Created for N.A.N.I. (National Association of Needed Information"; turns out Nani is his target's first name. He abused his then-wife and has harassed and stalked her and other exes; he created a website named after his ex where he publicized her contact information; he published gross comments and "jokes" about extreme violence toward women and toward his ex in particular; he may or may not have been lying about always wanting a child, as there are allegedly court documents concerning his child-support deadbeatery. Can't say I'm shocked, as divulging private and socially-stigmatized information is a common weapon in the abuser's arsenal; but I sure as hell remain grossed out.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Guest post: Ryan, we miss you already

A few days ago, we all lost a friend and fellow abortioneer. He wasn't "famous" like some of those we've lost recently to violence or to illness, but his commitment and his great heart merit acknowledgement all the same. Today we're joined by a guest writer we'll just call Shiny Specula, someone who knew him personally and wants to speak in his memory. 


This week marked another huge loss in the choice community. Ryan Christopher Goskie died Tuesday after being admitted to the hospital with a sudden illness. He was only 25.

Those of you who met or had even heard of Ryan probably knew that he was something of an abortion rock star. Growing up in Granite City, Illinois, he responded to the awful spectacle of the protestors outside the Hope Clinic there by becoming a clinic escort when he was just a high school student. That is where I met Ryan, and I remember being so impressed by his sense of social justice, his energy, and how much fun he was to hang out with at 6:30 on a Saturday morning.

Ryan became a nurse and worked in two different abortion facilities. He went to conferences and rallies and wrote. He made fabulous friends and fell in love. He gave time and energy to organizations that he cared about, and he withstood the attention he received from all the antis who targeted him because he was the proud man who kept coming back to the clinic despite their hate. Ryan did what we do, only he took it to the next level.

I kind of feel like, if you took all the activist energy in me and then multiplied it with all the passion of another abortioneer, you still wouldn’t equal anything the size of Ryan’s contribution to abortion care and choice efforts.

I hadn’t seen Ryan in years, but I always felt like the future of abortion in the U.S. wasn’t in that much peril, not when Ryan was out there. I am so sad that he is gone. It is just impossible to understand.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Six Degrees of Kevin-abortion-bacon

You know that game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? Well I think that can also apply to abortion, although I would say it is probably more like one or two degrees. Everything I do in my day-to-day life and every interaction I have can somehow be related back to abortion. I see abortion everywhere and I can find a way to bring it into every conversation (either for humor or seriousness or somewhere in between). Friends of mine joke about how much I talk about abortion. A classmate and I had a running joke about bringing abortion into every classroom discussion and we would beam with pride when professors dared to include it. Just as my women’s studies classes in undergrad made me see the world through a feminist lens, my time working at an abortion clinic got me seeing the world through an abortion lens.

I see a pregnant person and I wonder if she tried to get or wanted to get an abortion.

I bought a car years ago and before I decided on a Mazda I Googled “abortion and Mazda”. I was overjoyed to find anti-abortion sites complaining about how Mazda had a hospital located at their factory and abortions were performed there. That sealed the deal!

I ride the subway with crisis pregnancy ads plastered along the inside of the cars. The pictures are always of very sad looking women (I like to think they are sad b/c they ended up at the crisis pregnancy center).

I asked the HR person at my new job what the insurance coverage was for abortion services (yup, first time meeting him, pretty sure I’ll be one to remember!).

I see a clothes hanger and think of abortion.

When I hear about friends/family using In Vitro Fertilization my first question is “Will you use selective termination if you end up with multiple embryos implanted?”

I remember legs of road trips not by the fast food joints and highway rest stops, but by the anti-abortion billboards peppering our country’s landscape.

Any time I see a health center that advertises “women’s services” or “gyn care” I get nervous that it is a crisis pregnancy center.

I get daily emails in my inbox and facebook posts with subjects like “this is about abortion and I know you will love it.”

I dream of one day organizing a marathon that gives 100% of the profits to abortion funding.

I relate costs of high-end items to abortion. Example: “Wow you spent $375 on 3 new pairs of shoes? That could have paid for an abortion.”

…Or even low-end items. Example: “You spent $40 on shoes? That is like 1/7 the cost of an abortion.”

I think about domesticated dogs getting abortions, I dream about abortions in my sleep, I wish there was an iphone app to tell me the location of the closest abortion clinic, and I am so comfortable with all of this.

And apparently Rick Santorum and I have this (and only this) in common

p.s. Of course I chose the Kevin Bacon Footloose photo…he was all about sex-positivity!

What do you connect to abortion? What are the random things that make you think of abortion? I know I'm not the only one here...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tuesday Tunes: the Verve Pipe

All right, call me silly, but I've got a question for you. Do you remember "The Freshmen"? Cast your mind back to middle school -- no, farther back than Linkin Park. If you hit Alanis or the Spice Girls you've probably gone too far. I'm talking about the Verve Pipe: those soulful modern rockers with just the right dose of world-weary angst to them. Maybe you knew some high school freshmen who thought their hit single "The Freshmen" would make an excellent theme song for the end-of-year class slideshow.

No? OK, maybe just me.

Anyway. I remember we sat around not just once but several times trying to decide what it could mean, that song, with its cryptic words about baby's breath and a shoe-ful of rice and Valium and sleeping. Well, obviously (says I), it was about a girl who committed suicide after the loss of an intense relationship expected to lead to marriage. There were plenty of other theories, too, some based on misheard lyrics and others not.

Turns out it was (of course!) a song about abortion. Years later the lead singer said he wrote it about a friend who had an abortion in their youth, and he took the creative liberty of having the fictional version of the woman commit suicide in her grief (in real life she didn't). So tell me: is it really that obvious?

I still think the lyrics were vague enough that I could be forgiven for missing the abortiony implications. But on the other hand, thinking back, there's probably a ton of abortion allusions in pop culture that went right over my head when I was a kid. Because it's just not something you have clear information about when you're young. Which is maybe why it's easy to get to your teenage years or beyond with all sorts of confused/confusing the young pregnant caller who asked one of us, "How do they put the baby back in you afterward? Do they have to do that part?"

Monday, June 6, 2011

"What Can the White Man Say to the Black Woman?"

O RLY? How about, "Every __ minutes, our next possible leader is incarcerated, gunned down, flunked, raped, given a black eye, impregnated, refused a job, denied benefits, evicted, exposed to industrial waste from next door, and otherwise cut down by the society that presumes to tell her, or tell his/her mother, what to do"? 

It seems we have not yet finished with the ludicrous gaggle of racist billboards, springing up from coast to coast, which chastise black women for "endangering" their own race (well, they use the creepy word "species") or for depriving the world of "our next possible leader" (weirdly, they say this although Obama's mother was white). Since this gaggle refuses to fade from our visual diet just yet, I wanted to at least offer you the following as a sort of curricular complement to it* (with thanks to NNAF who pointed it out to us).

One last thing: notice the date this speech was given. Yes, 1989. "Black women endanger their unborn children" is not a new insult, and the fact that black women's challenges to it have been consistent over time and remain unsatisfied to this day speaks volumes about the intentions of those who would tell them what to do about their pregnancies.

What Can the White Man Say to the Black Woman?
By Alice Walker, address in support of the National March for Women’s Equality and Women’s Lives in Washington D.C., 22 May 1989

What is of use in these words I offer in memory of our common mother. And to my daughter.

What can the white man say to the black woman?

For four hundred years he ruled over the black woman’s womb.

Let us be clear. In the barracoons and along the slave shipping coasts of Africa, for more than twenty generations, it was he who dashed our babies brains out against the rocks.

What can the white man say to the black woman?

For four hundred years he determined which black woman’s children would live or die.

Let it be remembered. It was he who placed our children on the auction block in cities all across the eastern half of what is now the United States, and listened to and watched them beg for their mothers’ arms, before being sold to the highest bidder and dragged away.

What can the white man say to the black woman?

We remember that Fannie Lou Hamer, a poor sharecropper on a Mississippi plantation, was one of twenty-one children; and that on plantations across the South black women often had twelve, fifteen, twenty children. Like their enslaved mothers and grandmothers before them, these black women were sacrificed to the profit the white man could make from harnessing their bodies and their children’s bodies to the cotton gin.

What can the white man say to the black woman?

We see him lined up on Saturday nights, century after century, to make the black mother, who must sell her body to feed her children, go down on her knees to him.

Let us take note:

He has not cared for a single one of the dark children in his midst, over hundreds of years.

Where are the children of the Cherokee, my great grandmother’s people?


Where are the children of the Blackfoot?


Where are the children of the Lakota?


Of the Cheyenne?

Of the Chippewa?

Of the Iroquois?

Of the Sioux?

Of the Mandinka?

Of the Ibo?

Of the Ashanti?

Where are the children of the Slave Coast and Wounded Knee?

We do not forget the forced sterilizations and forced starvations on the reservations, here as in South Africa. Nor do we forget the smallpox-infested blankets Indian children were given by the Great White Fathers of the United States government.

What has the white man to say to the black woman?

When we have children you do everything in your power to make them feel unwanted from the moment they are born. You send them to fight and kill other dark mothers’ children around the world. You shove them onto public highways in the path of oncoming cars. You shove their heads through plate glass windows. You string them up and you string them out.

What has the white man to say to the black woman?

From the beginning, you have treated all dark children with absolute hatred.

Thirty million African children died on the way to the Americas, where nothing awaited them but endless toil and the crack of a bullwhip. They died of a lack of food, of lack of movement in the holds of ships. Of lack of friends and relatives. They died of depression, bewilderment and fear.

What has the white man to say to the black woman?

Let us look around us: Let us look at the world the white man has made for the black woman and her children.

It is a world in which the black woman is still forced to provide cheap labor, in the form of children, for the factories and on the assembly lines of the white man.

It is a world into which the white man dumps every foul, person-annulling drug he smuggles into creation.

It is a world where many of our babies die at birth, or later of malnutrition, and where many more grow up to live lives of such misery they are forced to choose death by their own hands.

What has the white man to say to the black woman, and to all women and children everywhere?

Let us consider the depletion of the ozone; let us consider homelessness and the nuclear peril; let us consider the destruction of the rain forests_in the name of the almighty hamburger. Let us consider the poisoned apples and the poisoned water and the poisoned air and the poisoned earth.

And that all of our children, because of the white man’s assault on the planet, have a possibility of death by cancer in their almost immediate future.

What has the white, male lawgiver to say to any of us? To those of us who love life too much to willingly bring more children into a world saturated with death?

Abortion, for many women, is more than an experience of suffering beyond anything most men will ever know; it is an act of mercy, and an act of self-defense.

To make abortion illegal again is to sentence millions of women and children to miserable lives and even more miserable deaths.

Given his history, in relation to us, I think the white man should be ashamed to attempt to speak for the unborn children of the black woman. To force us to have children for him to ridicule, drug and turn into killers and homeless wanderers is a testament to his hypocrisy.

What can the white man say to the black woman?

Only one thing that the black woman might hear.

Yes, indeed, the white man can say, Your children have the right to life. Therefore I will call back from the dead those 30 million who were tossed overboard during the centuries of the slave trade. And the other millions who died in my cotton fields and hanging from trees.

I will recall all those who died of broken hearts and broken spirits, under the insult of segregation.

I will raise up all the mothers who died exhausted after birthing twenty-one children to work sunup to sundown on my plantation. I will restore to full health all those who perished for lack of food, shelter, sunlight, and love; and from my inability to see them as human beings.

But I will go even further:

I will tell you, black woman, that I wish to be forgiven the sins I commit daily against you and your children. For I know that until I treat your chil dren with love, I can never be trusted by my own. Nor can I respect myself.

And I will free your children from insultingly high infant mortality rates, short life spans, horrible housing, lack of food, rampant ill health. I will liberate them from the ghetto. I will open wide the doors of all the schools and hospitals and businesses of society to your children. I will look at your children and see not a threat but a joy.

I will remove myself as an obstacle in the path that your children, against all odds, are making toward the light. I will not assassinate them for dreaming dreams and offering new visions of how to live. I will cease trying to lead your children, for I can see I have never understood where I was going. I will agree to sit quietly for a century or so, and meditate on this.

This is what the white man can say to the black woman.

We are listening.

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

For now, there is no in-between

To declare that The Wichita Divide evoked emotions I did not know I had would be making an understatement.

Rather, one evening after a long day of providing comprehensive, reproductive health care, I opened this newly released, 350+-page, hardbound account of the murder of Dr. George Tiller and the battle over abortion, then proceeded to carry it with me everywhere for seven lunches and seven bedtimes.

Some excerpts inspired web searches, journal entries, and visions of perfect health care in a perfectly open-hearted world, while chapters leading to the climax conjured sobs from my throat I’ve never heard before.

Do I recommend you read the truly terrifying
Wichita Divide? Absolutely, but not because it’s painful. Because it is necessary. A master hate-crime writer, Stephen Singular will cushion your grief with big-picture facts.

You knew so much about Dr. Tiller, and if you didn’t know, you found out once he was murdered: his commitment to helping women in the face of humiliating and dangerous opposition, in and out of the court room, arranging adoptions to pro-choice parents, providing free services to nine-year-olds, loving husband, father, and grandfather, abiding spirit gifted to lead and to sooth those in their deepest hour of need, the day to day regimen of a terrorized abortioneer.

Singular presents Dr. Tiller sheer as he was. Yet, unlike abortioneers who’ve returned to clinics with resolved *attitude is everything* to continue to provide and expand compassionate health care, Singular has been connecting with the murderer’s wife, Lindsey Roeder—a brave woman liberated by her ex-husband’s sentence to imprisonment for the rest of his life. He also presents a picture of rising American hate and seedy blending of church and state. He wraps a variety of stories into a compelling narrative with a neutral yet urgent tone.

I cannot recommend this book enough. We know what it is we provide. We know it is always crucial and often good. Do mild-manner, one-track-mind, pro-life activists know what they snowball? Is the violence inevitable, fact-of-life statistical in light of mental illness, greed, narcissism, capitalism?

The question remains: who will stand to care...

Reading this book will either shake you like a 2-year-anniversary/every-day-the-dumb-and-dangerous-stigma-you-face monster, or it will sadly dash right over your head as you kneel in the gutter before the abortion clinic and shoot bullets in the backcountry soil.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

On chives and choice

I was happy when my friend's son learned to talk. Not because he was able to communicate, "I am hungry and I would like to see my mama now please" (or something to that effect) instead of screeeeeeeaming, although that certainly was a perk. But because I was able to say, "Thomas*, can I pick you up?" and he could say, "No!"

One of the many, many reasons I'm not a fan of babies is because to me, it's weird that you would walk up to this tiny human and grab its fingers and pinch its cheeks. I would no sooner do that to my cousin than I would to my landlord. And if I did, for some strange reason, have the inclination to do that to my landlord, I could say, "Rupert*, may I pinch your cheeks?" (And I'm positive he would say, "No. Also, evicted!")

What I'm saying is that choice comes naturally to me. We talk about the rhetoric of choice versus life and justice versus choice, (and I don't disagree that the "life" argument is bullshit and that reproductive justice > simple choice) but at my own core, I'm pro-choice even when abortion isn't involved.

I teach a fitness class on the side (sometimes, I sneak in abortion humor. You can take the instructor out of the clinic, but you can't take the clinic out of the instructor!), and I intellectually know that my job is to direct and correct. But it takes effort to do that because my inclination is to say, "Huh. That's an interesting take on the exercise, but if it doesn't hurt your hip and if you're not knocking out your neighbor, then go ahead with those roundhouse kicks as the rest of us stretch."

For that matter, when my cat steps in my dinner plate (I live alone), I do remove her, but I have to explain to her why I'm lifting her from my potatoes and how I do respect her right to dip her toes in the chives. She made the choice to encroach, I made the choice to overrule her, but I still need to explain and offer informed consent.

And mashed potatoes or unwanted pregnancies, I am so very much all about choice.

* Of course, all names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Be my little baby

There are a handful of movies that I'll watch anytime they come on TV, no matter how many times I've seen them before or how far in the movie is. I'll drop everything for the following (in no particular order):

Any Brat Pack teen flick
Jurassic Park
Dirty Dancing

Especially that last one. Since I was first introduced to the magical coupling that is Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, I have been a faithful fan of this silly film. I like watching it again and again, because I always discover something new.

At age 12 I discovered that Johnny was checking Baby out in the rear view when she was changing in the backseat.
At age 17 I discovered that Boyz II Men did a delightful cover of "In the Still of the Night", which was playing in the background the morning after their epic lovemaking.
At age 21 I discovered that this movie is about abortion.

It took me so long to catch on not because I'm an idiot, but because I obsess over movies about dancing and I spent most of the time wishing I were one of the background dirty dancers. So I kind of bleeped out the subplots about lies and betrayal and CLANDESTINE ABORTION.

Penny gets pregnant after sleeping with some twerp who works at the resort. He wants nothing to do with it, prompting Baby to borrow the money from her father for some secret yet noble purpose. As I recall it's something like $500. This is 1960-something! That's a lot of scratch! Of course Penny gets a raging infection, almost dies, and Baby's disappointed father has to save her life with his black medical bag of tricks (that he carries around on vacation, apparently). Baby teaches her dad that even dance instructors deserve a fair shake in life, and he becomes so liberated that he allows her to canoodle on the dance floor with a man twice her age.

I think it's pretty easy to gloss over all the adult material there, because the movie ends so happily and is so seductive for nerdy, frizzy-haired girls like myself. But there's a lot of macabre stuff going on. Struggling runaway trying to start a new life. A shithead "man involved" who has tons of money but won't spare a cent for an abortion (legality aside). A traveling quack who nearly kills a young woman with a rusty spoon in her cervix. It ain't pretty. And in fact, Dirty Dancing only gives a PG-13 account. What if Penny had died? What if Baby didn't find the money? What if her father refused to treat Penny's infection? Things could get even yuckier, and I'm glad they didn't because I still want to be able to enjoy my guilty pleasure movies.

At the end of the day, I am grateful for the courage of the screenwriters and directors to portray abortion in a reasonably fair light. I understand why the issue wasn't more prominent (this is a love story!), but for 1987 I think they made some seriously progressive choices.

Yay abortion in movies! What are your favorite movies about abortion?