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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I'm a Pro-choice Christian who wants to reduce the need for elective abortions through comprehensive sex education, reformed adoption and better support for pregnant women!
Have a question? Ask me here: http://www.formspring.me/KushielsMoon