Thursday, February 21, 2013

Catholic Hospital Argues Fetuses are Not Persons

Originally posted at AbortionGang.

On January 25, 2013, anti-choicers from across the country gathered to march on Washington DC, in a show of their support for fetal life. This year, I’d almost forgotten about the March for Life- mostly because the event is a ton of high schoolers who are bused in to increase numbers. It’s a way for teenagers to travel, have time off from school, and hang with their friends- and sometimes they even get a little extra credit for going. So I’m not really worried about hundreds of kids taking a vacation (although you should listen to @ClinicEscorttalk to a train full of them about her abortion experience here).
What reminded me that the March of Life was happening soon, was an article posted on January 23 on a Colorado news website titled “In malpractice case, Catholic hospital argues fetuses aren’t people.
Here’s a summary of what happened: in 2006, a woman who was 7 months pregnant with twins arrived at the hospital short of breath and vomiting. She passed out, and had a massive heart attack because of a clog in her artery. The doctor on call never showed up that night, the woman died less than an hour after entering the hospital, and the twins died in the womb. A terribly heartbreaking situation. The  husband is filing a wrongful-death lawsuit for the twins–he realized that his wife was beyond saving, but argues that the doctor should have arrived to perform a cesarean and saved the twins.
The Catholic hospital’s lawyers countered that fetuses aren’t people, and therefore the husband cannot file a wrongful-death suit for them.
If you ever want to know if someone REALLY believes what they are saying, pin it against money, apparently. The hospital has twice–before a court, and an appeals court–argued that persons are born, and therefore the viable, 7 month gestation fetuses are not persons. Once again: the lawyers for a Catholic hospital which has a mission stating, “Catholic health care ministry witnesses to the sanctity of life ‘from the moment of conception until death,’” have said,
…the court “should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as is used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses.”
Now, there is a very important point here I’d like to make- if the Catholic lawyers had argued the other way, things could have been very different. If they had agreed that the twin fetuses could have a wrongful-death lawsuit filed for them, and that the Catholic hospitals recognized their personhood, they could have had the beginnings of legal precedent for recognizing fetuses as persons. Of course, many hospitals and laws already recognize the value of a viable fetus to a family, and this case couldn’t have banned abortion overnight. But they didn’t choose to do that- for this Catholic hospital, it seems that money is more important than fetal life.
I probably sound like I’m repeating myself a lot, but this is a big deal. If a Catholic hospital will argue in a court of law that fetuses aren’t persons, then perhaps we shouldn’t respect their argument when it’s based upon the concept that fetuses are persons (which is quite often). If they really, truly believed and supported their position, they wouldn’t argue against it. If even Catholic hospitals following the rules of the US Catholic Bishops (some of the biggest fighters against abortion) don’t believe their ideas, why should we consider laws they try to pass? Or let them have ways to opt out of the birth control mandate?
I don’t think we should. Of course, these types of things aren’t decisions I get to make personally. But I can remember these facts about antichoicers while I am having discussions with them: that anti-choice people get abortions too; that more people are calling themselves pro-life, but support for legal abortion has not decreased; that Catholic hospitals don’t always follow the idea that life begins at conception. Some people are incredibly sure of themselves, until they face a trial of their beliefs. My goal is not to change minds overnight, or push people further into their beliefs, but to open their mind to the vast possibilities around them. Sharing this story about a Catholic hospital denying the personhood of fetuses is one way to show the world is not completely black and white for anyone, but a huge ball of gray.

Do not let anti-choice youth conference fool you. Young people are Prochoice.

Originally posted at AbortionGang. Dates mentioned in this article will be incorrect.

This weekend, the International Prolife Youth Conference will be happening in California. Their theme is “Abolitionist Rising,” an attempt to compare the abhorrent practice of slavery to legal abortion. Hosted by Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust & Priests for Life, the conference’s goal is to equip youth to fight against abortion and change their perspective of the anti-choice movement.
While many anti-choice supporters, websites and blogs are mourning the election results, the IPYC facebook (which we will not link to) has stayed upbeat. I wondered if perhaps they thought they found the cure to the dying GOP platform: getting youth involved. While it sounds like a good idea, the anti-choice movement gravely misunderstands today’s youth.
The Presidential election just a few days ago tells us a lot about millennials. Sixty percent of those 18-29 years old voted for President Obama, compared to 44% of those 65 and older. There is a clear trend towards younger people being more progressive. The Center for American Progress found that of 21 core values and beliefs held by America’s youth, only four of them could be deemed conservative. They also found that 84% of today’s youth believe that “we should do everything we can to make sure that people who want to use prescription birth control have affordable access to it and that cost is not an obstacle.” Remember that anti-choicers are strongly against birth control, including financial coverage of it and the use of it by women of all ages.
Advocates for Youth researched what today’s young people think about abortion. 68% of Millennials believe abortion should be available in their community, compared to 60% of the Boomer generation (interesting to note the high majority of both; this is one explanation for why the majority of anti-choice leaders are older people). Today’s youth are more multicultural; there are more people of color among today’s youth than among previous generations. This diversity is another point against conservative, anti-choice groups who have a difficult time reaching out to people of color (their “black genocide” movement seems to incite more anger than anything).
Perhaps the IPYC leaders are excited because they believe they can mold young people’s minds into becoming anti-choice? Their facebook description states the conference will “change your perspective of the pro-life movement across the nation.” They might have a point there–until these young people decide to educate themselves on the issues instead of just listening to speakers. Take the example of Libby Anne. Upon doing her own research, Libby Anne realized that the anti-choice movement actually does more to cause abortions than stop them. She realized that the policies of the pro-choice movement reduces unplanned pregnancies and helps women around the world. Youth attending the IPYC will likely listen to speakers this weekend claim they want to “help women,” but many will soon see that the anti-choice movement is causing a lot more harm than good.
So this weekend, when you see anti-choice activists tweeting about the IPYC, remember that just because the election is over, it doesn’t mean the anti-choice movement is going to give up or go home. They didn’t four years ago, and they definitely won’t now. We can’t stop caring either! Sign the Bill of Reproductive Rights, tell the American Association of University Women what you think Obama and Congress should do on Day One,  join the fight to repeal the Hyde Amendment–let’s set our own priorities!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Abortion, Religion, & the VP Debate

Originally posted at AbortionGang.

Last night, women across the country sat and watched the Vice Presidential Debates, and waited for the two men on stage to mention their existence. Seventy-three minutes into the 90 minute debate, we finally got to hear the candidates talk about abortion.
As a pro-choice Christian, I was both very excited and very disappointed in the question asked of the candidates. I was very excited because a question about faith and reproductive rights gave Biden a chance to show that no, not every religious person lets their personal beliefs dictate policy. Biden said,
“But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews and — I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman.
I — I do not believe that — that we have a right to tell other people that women, they — they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor, in my view.”
This is really powerful. Biden is acknowledging what our Constitution tells us: we cannot let our religious beliefs be the basis for law. There are thousands of religious Americans who have personal beliefs about abortion that do NOT cause them to want to restrict reproductive rights. Even more religious people have beliefs that are actually in favor of reproductive rights. To take one person’s religious beliefs as law would be immoral and wrong.
I was also disappointed in the question. A specific question about abortion and Catholicism limited the discussion greatly. Congressman Ryan has come out against funding for birth control under Obamacare, and wants to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides contraceptives, STI screenings, and cancer screenings in addition to abortion care. By talking only about abortion in relation to religious beliefs, the public didn’t get to hear all of Ryan’s extreme anti-woman views. Limiting the conversation to religion and abortion also made it impossible to bring up the issues faced by women of color, inmates facing pregnancy, or poor people who need to use abortion funds to pay for a legal medical procedure.
The conversation was restricted to such a small part of reproductive justice, but Congressman Ryan’s stance was still terrifying. We all know that Romney doesn’t really have a position on abortion; he flip flops whichever way will get him more votes. But Ryan is very clear that he has a strong stance, which is guided by his personal beliefs. He said,
“I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do.”
Ryan’s private faith tells him that abortion should be illegal in every situations.  So when he goes on to say that, “the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortion with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother,” I don’t believe him for one second. Ryan’s personal beliefs guide him in how he handles public, government policy. With Romney’s lack of a strong stance on abortion, Ryan would clearly lead a Romney/Ryan administration on pushing for a complete ban on abortion. Ryan said this in no uncertain terms: “All I’m saying is if you believe that life begins at conception, that therefore doesn’t change the definition of life. That’s a principle.”  He doesn’t believe in exceptions to abortion bans, and was barely able to fall in line with Romney’s campaign.
It would be extremely dangerous for all of us to have Paul Ryan as the Vice President of the United States.  Those who support reproductive rights must step up to the plate. Talk to your neighbors and friends; donate to a campaign; sign the Bill of Reproductive Rights; ensure you are registered to vote. We need everyone to stand up.

Draw the Line

Originally posted at AbortionGang.

The Center for Reproductive Rights this week announced a new campaign they are running called Draw the Line. The campaign shows us a number of headlines (including “Woman Arrested for Using Birth Control,” “The Last Abortion Clinic,” and “Roe v Wade Overturned”) that could soon become reality if the current trend in anti-choice legislation continues. In the end, it asks readers to sign the Bill of Reproductive Rights, which has three main components:
1)      The right to make our own decisions about our reproductive health and future, free from intrusion or coercion by any government, group or individual.
2)      The right to a full range of safe, affordable, and readily accessible reproductive healthcare, including pregnancy care, preventive services, contraception, abortion, and fertility treatment, and accurate information about all of the above.
3)      The right to be free from discrimination in access to reproductive healthcare or on the basis of our reproductive decisions.
These are extremely fundamental and important rights. In deciding to create this campaign, Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, told Mother Jones, ”We knew it was time to not only continue defending in the courts, but to begin a very aggressive campaign with a clear articulation of what it is that we are seeking to establish.” In other words, this is not to replace the hard work being done across the states to stop current anti-choice legislation, but it is a way for people across the movement to come together and take a stand for the future.
After signing the Bill of Reproductive Rights, I decided to take a stand of my own, and draw a line in my conversations on Twitter. In the past, I’ve tried to inform antichoicers why abortion would still be legal even if a fetus was considered a person. Our rights do not allow us to use the body of another human being without their consent–if a woman didn’t want to be pregnant, she could still end the pregnancy. However, I’ve found that the most common response I get is for the anti-choicer to start questioning my humanity, by calling me cruel and claiming I have no heart. Since this tactic is obviously getting me nowhere, I’ve decided to draw a line and stop letting anti-choicers control the conversation. I will no longer let their assumption about fetal personhood into the conversation. This is one way I can work towards a world where language is led by reproductive justice advocates.
So how will you take a stand? Will you sign the Bill of Reproductive Rights? Will you call your local legislator and tell them to support abortion rights? Will you make a donation to a local Abortion Fund? Will you do all these things and more? Let us know in the comments if you’ve learned of other ways we can Draw the Line and take a stand against anti-choice attacks!

Teens are Having Sex. Get Over It!

Originally posted at AbortionGang.

A new study came out this week saying that 2 in 5 women don’t use birth control. The two most common reasons listed for not using birth control were not being sexual active, and believing they were unable to become pregnant. The study also mentioned that many women underestimate their ability to become pregnant. I believe our current lack of comprehensive sexual education is partially responsible for this situation. I also believe that sex education is not the only change needed. We need to stop being afraid of young adults having sex, and we need to stop thinking of it as a horrible tragedy when young adults have sex. We need to stop believing that it’s wrong to talk about sex with anyone, at any age. We need to start seeing our body’s sexual organs, cycles and activities as part of us.
Young adults, yes,  teenagers, are having sex. Our culture’s refusal to acknowledge that has led to the situation we’re in now. Any sort of talk about teenage sex is deemed as “encouraging” or “promoting” teenage sex, and thus seen as a horrible thing. While parents and teachers and administrators and policy makers squawk back and forth at each other over how they shouldn’t talk about sex because we don’t want teens having sex, teens are having sex. They are having sex and not paying attention to the discussion others are having about whether their sexual activities are right or wrong. And it’s not just teenagers who are in this situation, but also unmarried adults. Even married adults sometimes falter when trying to talk about sexual activities- after being taught for so long that sex is bad, it’s hard to make a 180 turn and say sex is okay.
Our refusal to educate the public about sexual activity has put them at risk, and it’s time for us to stop worrying about whether we are encouraging sex or not, and start teaching teens (and everyone!) about how our bodies and reproduction work.
One result from the above study should be easily resolved with education. As previously stated, one of the most common reasons for not using birth control was a woman believing that she couldn’t get pregnant. This is surely due in part to our fear mongering over pregnancy. Many people believe they have an equal chance of getting pregnant every time they have sex. In reality, one’s chances of becoming pregnant are higher and lower at different parts of the ovulation cycle. If a person has sex when they are not near ovulation, and thus does not become pregnant, this can lead to a false belief that they are unable to become pregnant. While I do not support NFP for teenagers as a way to prevent pregnancy, I highly suggest we begin educating teenagers (male and female) about the ovulation cycle, and encourage young women to track their cycles. Tracking your cycle as a young adult can lead to better understanding of your body, and help you figure out when to have your chances of becoming pregnant when trying to avoid pregnancy or when trying to create a pregnancy. Tracking your cycle can also help you notice something out of the ordinary that requires a doctor’s attention.
The other man reason for not using birth control was a lack of sexual activity. While I see nothing wrong with this, I do believe that even people who are sexually inactive should be educated on condoms and hormonal contraceptives. Anyone who is currently sexually inactive could change their mind and become sexually active, and they should be prepared for that if/when it happens. Hormonal contraception is not easy to get quickly- one usually needs a doctor’s appointment, then to actually purchase the birth control at a pharmacy, and then wait for it to take effect. While we hope sexual activity is well thought out and planned for, often it actually happens in the heat of the moment. No one should have to be risk pregnancy or STIs because they weren’t educated on effective contraception since they weren’t yet sexually active. Education should always come before activity.
A person facing an unplanned pregnancy should not be judged for their situation or lack of education. We should not be asking the individual, “why didn’t you know better?” or “why didn’t you use birth control?” We should be asking the establishment, “why didn’t you provide proper education?” and “why did you limit access to contraceptives for this individual?” Our cultural fear and shame around sex has led to a situation where people rely on rumors whispered among friends, websites that aren’t always accurate, and even lies taught in schools practicing abstinence-only education. We need to stop hiding sexuality under the rug, and start talking about it openly and honestly.

Empowered Birth Awareness Week

Originally posted at AbortionGang.

Did you know that this week (September 3 – 10) is Empowered Birth Awareness Week? This is actually an educational week that happens every year, starting the first Monday of each September.
Empowered Birth Awareness Week (EBAW) is all about educating the general public about birth options, birth interventions, and the risks and rewards of different types of birth. Those participating in EBAW want ALL people to be educated about birth, so that we can have the best outcomes for both mothers and babies.
The United States is not at the top of the list for safe births. In fact, we have the highest maternal mortality rate ofany industrialized nation; women here have a higher risk of dying of pregnancy related complication than 49 other countries, including Kuwait, South Korea and Bulgaria. All this is true, even though we spend more money on maternal healthcare than any other country.
Why is birth in America so dangerous? Perhaps it’s because it takes so long for evidence to change public policy. According to the EBAW page, it takes 20 years for proven research to be implemented in practice. We spend money on birth, but are we spending it in the right places, on the right practices? The World Health Organization recommends that c-section rates be at 15%, yet the USA c-section rate is 34%, and higher in some individual hospitals, even getting so high as 61.8% of births in 2010 at South Miami Hospital. C-sections are more expensive than vaginal deliveries, and actually have twice the risk for the mother and baby when the infant is positioned correctly.
Routine c-sections aren’t the only problem EBAW sees in our maternal healthcare. EBAW seeks to empower pregnant people, doctors, hospitals and the general public to fight back against routine procedures and ask, is this procedure necessary? Is this good for the woman and her baby? Will this cause more harm than good? Each birth situation is unique, and therefore should be treated uniquely, not as part of a factory assembly line. Many people assume that birth is routine and safe, and they fail to research the different procedures and risks. EBAW hopes to encourage families to take ownership of their pregnancy and birth by doing all the research, finding the best birth place, method, and provider for them, and thus getting the best outcome possible.
For many people, the meaning of EBAW is to educate the general population. But for some women, EBAW can have a bigger meaning: whether or not they will give birth in chains.
The United States has a large female inmate population. Being in prison does not stop or prevent pregnancy. Women who become pregnant in prison or who enter prison while pregnant end up facing extremely dangerous situations where their rights are ignored and their bodies are harmed.  Sometimes, the medical needs of pregnant women are ignored, leading to miscarriages and stillbirths. Other women are moved to a medical facility to give birth, only to be chained to a bed by both hands and both feet. Only 16 of our 50 states have any regulation against women giving birth in shackles and chains. And even some of those states still practice shackling women even though it’s illegal. The American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are both against this practice, but there is little publicity about it, and thus, it is very hard to make any progress to stop it.  Luckily, there are organizations like the Prison Birth Project, which is working to help these women.
EBAW started on Monday with rallies across the United States called Improving Birth National Rally. Mothers, fathers, children and their advocates joined together in front of hospitals (who often welcomed them and provided refreshments and bathrooms) to educate the public. It continues with supporters sharing information through facebook, twitter, blogs and in person communication. The more people who share data, the more lives we can reach- and perhaps, save. If you want to get involved, visit Improving Birth and Birth Power.

We Need Abortion Information to be Safe, Legal & Accessible.

Originally posted at AbortionGang.

In the past, anti-choice activists were clear with their message: abortion is murder and must be made illegal, full stop. When this method proved to be a failure, they started coming up with new methods that they are using to ban abortion piece by piece.
One such method is to claim that abortion is dangerous to a woman physically or mentally, and therefore there need to be regulations put on it. These regulations include waiting periods, forced ultrasounds, wider clinic hallways, forcing doctors to have privileges at a nearby hospital (even if they’re completely trained and capable of doing their job without said privileges) and more. Anti-choicers push these regulations forward in the name of women’s health and safety.
But the truth is, these regulations make abortion MORE dangerous. These regulations hurt women because they push women towards do-it-yourself abortions, online pills and over the border pharmacists. A recent New York Times piece stated that women are leaving the United States to buy pills in Mexico that can cause abortions (usually within the first 9 weeks of pregnancy). These pills are sold by unlicensed, untrained pharmacy workers who cannot provide the proper instructions on how to take the pills. As the article says,
“Like many Progreso pharmacy workers, Mr. Acosta does not hold a pharmacy degree or a license but is allowed under Mexican law to dispense Cytotec [a pill that can induce an abortion]. Asked about the proper dosage, he reluctantly suggested that patients take one pill every two hours — 18 tablets in all.
According to the World Health Organization, the recommended dosage of misoprostol, if used alone for an abortion, should be four tablets (800 micrograms) every three hours for a total of three doses, or 12 tablets.”
This lack of information about how to use the pills can lead to dangerous situations (indeed, ANY drug taken in a way that isn’t recommended can lead to adverse effects, not just abortion-related drugs). Some women take too few, and fail to abort the pregnancy. Some women take too many pills, which leads to excessive bleeding and trips to the emergency room. Either way, it’s not a good situation for the women involved. But they choose it. Why? One woman in the article stated she chose to self-administer the pills because she was trying to avoid the invasive and expensive regulations anti-choicers put on to abortion in the USA.
Now, we must clarify one thing. It is not the abortion pill that is dangerous; the pill, if used correctly, is completely safe. The danger and risk is associated with having a pharmacist unable to instruct women in how to take these pills properly. Anti-choicers hope that if no one knows how to perform an abortion, or how many pills to take, women will stop aborting. But this is not true–women continue to obtain abortions even in countries where it is illegal or access is restricted.
There are some pro-choice organizations that are out there working to combat the lack of information on the abortion pill. One such group is Women on Waves, which travels to countries where abortion is illegal and provides information and access to safe abortion methods. Women on Waves believes that women are capable of self-administering their own abortion using misoprostal and mifepristone, when they are educated in the proper usage. Any woman with internet access can actually go to the Women on Waves website and learn the proper method to take the pills.
When faced with the idea that women will seek “back-alley” or “DIY” abortions when legal abortion is too difficult to access, anti-choicers have two common responses: they either refuse to believe this will happen, or they believe it and do not care. While I have little hope for militant antis who blame women for injuries related to self-induced abortions, I am hopeful that hearing that women resort to DIY abortions might change the views of the antis who refused to believe this would happen. Perhaps when faced with this reality, they will see that women need abortion, and information about abortion, to be legal, safe, and accessible.