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.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The real problem with girls and gendercide.

Originally posted at AbortionGang.

There has been a lot of talk about sex-selection and abortion in the news lately. Anti-choicers have created misleading videos to lie about Planned Parenthood’s stance on sex-selective abortions, PRENDA (a bill that would outlaw sex-selective abortions) was facing a vote, and some twitter users have begun using the term “gendercide.”
But the real issue here isn’t sex-selection. The real issue is that anti-choicers don’t believe that women and girls are capable of taking care of their own lives.
While this extreme level of obsession with female fetuses is new, anti-choicers have long used the female fetus as a symbol for “someone in need.” Their own version of a “damsel in distress,” if you will. The thinking goes like this: people want to take care of those whom they believe are helpless. For a long time, women and girls were thought to be weaker than men and boys, incapable of taking care of themselves. That’s why women in decades past were not allowed to own property, or were themselves property of their fathers and husbands. If anti-choicers can convince you that women are still incapable of taking care of themselves, they might be able to convince you to step in and “help.”
We’ve come a long way since women were property in America. We now know that women and girls are just as capable as men and boys. Anything men can do, women can do. We can own property, vote, and even run for President if we like (whether we can win is another story).
But anti-choicers haven’t caught up with us, and they’re hoping they can bank on that historical sense of “need to help the helpless” people might still feel. And because they believe girls are weak and helpless, they use that to their supposed advantage. This is why sidewalk harassers tell women that their “baby girl” needs them to choose life, or why every anti-choice fetus is a “she” with “her” this and that. It’s even why those creepy stories written to be seen from the point of view of a fetus to their “mommy” is a written by a female fetus.
It’s also why many anti-choicers say that the women who choose abortion shouldn’t be punished, because they were mislead and ignorant and didn’t know what they were doing.
Anti-choicers aren’t worried about sex-selection because they value women and girls; on the contrary, they are worried about sex-selection because they think it will help them take away more rights from women. I find it hard to believe that any anti-choicer would actually care if girls are aborted for their gender, with how little respect they often show for women. Instead, I see this as another slap in the face. Anti-choicers are pretending to care about my gender so that they can hurt my gender more.
This type of behavior must be recognized, called out, and stopped. We must show that we value, respect and trust women and girls to make the correct, moral choices for their lives. Only by valuing women as capable moral agents can we teach others that women are of value.

What does the Gallup poll on abortion really mean?

Originally posted at AbortionGang

It’s that time of year again–Gallup Poll season! Which means it’s also the season of “anti-choicers claiming and celebrating their majority.”
We’ve talked about before how antichoicers are only interested in how they look, not what good they actually do (See Mississippi Representative Lester “Bubba” Carpenter admitting he doesn’t care if women die as long as abortion is illegal). The Gallup poll rejoicing is another one of those situations. This year’spoll shows that 50% of those polled identify as “pro-life,” and 41% identify as “pro-choice.” This is a change from last year’s 49% prochoice and 45% prolife.
Now, this might sound like a serious problem to some pro-choice advocates. However, one needs to look further into the polling to see the real situation.
52% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal under some circumstances. An additional 25% believe it should be legal under any circumstances.  Together, that means a whole 77% of Americans support abortion being legal.  In contrast, only 20% believe abortion should always be illegal (and that’s down 2% from last year!).
Obviously, this is a case of people not understanding what “pro-choice” and “pro-life” really mean.
Now, are some of the people who think abortion should be legal “sometimes” perhaps prolife? Yes. But we asked antis last year if they would really accept people who found abortion to be okay sometimes (if you truly believe abortion is murder, would you be okay with people saying ‘sure, murder is acceptable sometimes?’). My feeling is that no, the leaders of the anti-choice movement do not want those on the fence people. So really, they’re celebrating a hollow victory.
Pro-choicers, on the other hand, do have something to celebrate. Even with all the numerous attacks across state lines against abortion, birth control and freedom, support for abortion hasn’t declined. The number of people who think abortion should be legal in all circumstances hasn’t fallen below 23% in at least 10 years. The number of people who think it should be legal in some circumstances has steadily hung out in the 50-58%. As Gallup says, “it is notable that while Americans’ labeling of their position has changed, their fundamental views on the issue have not..”
Perhaps people are more worried about calling themselves “pro-choice” in an environment of constant anti-choice attacks.Or, perhaps we are taking back the pro-life label–because we are pro-life when we are pro-choice. We are saving, supporting, and creating lives. And that is something we should always celebrate.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

White House Tours and Fetuses

Originally posted on AbortionGang blog.
The White House wants you to register your fetus as a person when you take a tour.

 Or do they?

 Anti-choicers have been lighting Twitter up with tweets and links to post talking about how the White House wants you to register your “unborn child” if you’re going on a tour. The antichoicers have been talking about this as mixed messaging, acknowledgement of a fetus as a person, and other silly hoopla. However, what they’re not tweeting is the full story.

Luckily, Politifact was nice enough to post about this topic. Here’s the part the anti-choicers probably won’t tell you:
“Schafer’s email was an explanation of how to fill out information for pregnant women who will bring their new baby on future White House tours. ” said Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan.

In other words, if you are going on a tour of the White House on June 1st, they want to you include every person who will be on the tour on June 1st, including your newborn infant… even if today is May 1st and you’re still pregnant with this to-be newborn infant.

“I know people are construing it as an unborn child, but the visit isn’t occurring (now). If a pregnant woman shows up at the White House, we don’t count two people. It’s sort of a way of expediting (the process) so no one gets hung up at the gate,” he said.

So the White House doesn’t need you to register your fetus if you’re going on a tour while still pregnant. However, if you are going to give birth in between the time you register for a tour and the time you take a tour, it would be very helpful if you would include your to-be child in your list of people.There is no disconnect at the White House between recognizing fetuses for security and for rights. Because this isn’t about fetuses; it’s about infants. This recognition of an infant before it is born is the same thing most women do when they have a baby shower before they give birth. It’s part of living in a world with a linear timeline. Anti-choicers should stop acting like this is some sort of meaningful sign in the abortion debate, and start seeing it for what it is: a matter of convenience for families visiting the White House.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Christians Can Support 10 for Tebow Too

Crossposted from AbortionGang.

Hi. I’m a writer here at AbortionGang. I’m also a Christian. Nice to meet you!

It seems that a lot of press around our recent #10forTebow campaign is suggesting that we hate God, or Christians, or Jesus, or faith. This is simply not true.

If you take a second look at Sophia’s original post, you’ll see she never says a single bad thing about Christianity. She may laugh at Tebow’s excessive focus on his faith, but that is entirely about Tebow’s actions, not the religion he follows.

Some people may believe that being antichoice and Christian go hand in hand- to attack one is to attack the other. This also is untrue. Taking a stand against being antichoice is not taking a stand against Christianity.

Christianity has been separated into many different organized religions, and some Christians choose to create their own faith, outside of organized religion. I am not here to say which group or type is a/the True Christian, but I do want to point out that this diversity means there is a diversity of beliefs among Christians related to abortion.

One of the first abortion funds ever established was created by ministers, who were counseling women with problem pregnancies, and seeing the horrible effects of back-alley abortions. These ministers worked together to direct women to medically-safe abortion locations, and eventually they raised the money to fund an abortion clinic in their area. In this way, Christians were some of the first supporters of abortion funding, and keeping women safe.

Christians today continue to support a woman’s right to choose. There are many Christian organizations and denominations that have spoken up for women and their families: Catholics for Choice, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, The United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, and more.

Christians have a long history of supporting choice, and we will continue to support choice in the future. Being prochoice does not mean one hates God, or is against faith. Donating to an abortion fund as part of the #10forTebow campaign is one more way that Christians can do good in their community and help their fellow human, as God has asked us to. This campaign is for everyone who disagrees with Tebow’s antichoice position, not just atheists or agnostics who disagree with him.

What does HHS really think of young people?

Crossposted from AbortionGang.

Yesterday, the US Department of Health and Human Services announced that they are blocking Plan B from being sold on pharmacy shelves to whoever needs it. This goes against FDA recommendations to remove all restrictions to accessing Plan B, including lifting age restrictions and requiring Plan B to be sold on pharmacy shelves instead of behind-the-counter.

Plan B One-Step is a brand of morning after pill, which works the same way as birth control pills to prevent pregnancy. It’s more effective the earlier it’s taken, but can be taken up to 72 hours after sex. Plan B cannot terminate a pregnancy- -it is not an abortion pill. Plan B is currently available over the counter to people 17 years old and older. Anyone under 17 must go to the doctor and get a prescription before they can get Plan B.

Plan B is extremely safe, and as the FDA’s approval has shown, there is no reason for it to be locked away. A report released this month makes this clear, stating that “no deaths or serious complications have been causally links to emergency contraceptive. According to the U.S. Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use, there are no situations in which the risks of using [emergency contraceptive pills] outweigh the benefits.” Compare that to the 450 deaths from liver failure in 2004 due to an overdose of acetaminophen,the drug found in Tylenol. And yet walk into any pharmacy and you’ll find Tylenol available over the counter.

Although it’s clear that Plan B is safe for women and girls of all ages, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA’s medically-based, scientifically accurate decision. In her very brief memorandum, Secretary Sebelius claims to worry about the 10% of girls who begin ovulating by 11.1 years old. Yet she doesn’t seem to suggest a problem of health, but instead “significant cognitive and behavioral differences between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age.” It seems that she is suggesting that young teens would not understand how to use Plan B, or that they would not act in a mature enough manner for Plan B.

This attitude is extremely condescending. No one fears that teenagers, even young teenagers, will not know how to use or will misuse Tylenol or Benadryl or Aleve, and thus should not have access to them. Even more damning is that condoms ARE available on the shelves. If we can trust people of any age to buy condoms, why can’t we trust them to buy Plan B? I am willing to bet that anyone 12, 13, or 14 years old who is going into a drugstore to buy Plan B is buying it because they need it. Young teens can’t drive and often don’t have large disposable incomes, so many would be purchasing Plan B with the help of their parents, older sibling, or friend. And if you don’t live in a city with easy public transportation, it takes a lot of effort for someone under the legal driving age to get to a drugstore without their parent’s knowledge; this is not something you’d do on a dare.

Young teenagers know about sex. They see it in our media, they hear about it in school (despite abstinence-only efforts) and they learn about it from their parents or friends. Plan B is a time sensitive medicine that is used after something has gone wrong. Whether that something is rape, a broken condom, or drunken, unprotected sex is important, but not so important as to block access to Plan B. If we’re worried about the “cognitive and behavioral differences” of young teens, we need to work on putting comprehensive sex education into schools, not taking away access to a safe medication.

It’s hard to understand how the Secretary thought there was good reason to contradict the FDA, especially when many clinicians, members of Congress, reproductive rights advocates and healthcare professionals saw no evidence to prevent Plan B from being over-the-counter. In fact, the effort to make emergency contraception available to all people of reproductive age started six years ago. In 2005, Susan Wood resigned from the FDA because of delays in approving Plan B over the counter. Today, she’s quoted in the Washington Post, saying:

“There is no rationale that can justify HHS reaching in and overturning the FDA on the decision about this safe and effective contraception. I never thought I’d see this happen again.”

Abortion, Disability, and Coercion

Crossposted from AbortionGang.

I recently read an article on the DailyMail website which has me infuriated.
Six years ago, a woman in the UK learned she was pregnant and the fetus had Down syndrome. While the woman and her husband were confused and nervous about coping with a child with special needs (on top of caring for their other six children), they never considered having an abortion. They wanted to continue the pregnancy and give birth.

And yet the woman had an abortion.

According to the article (and we have to take the Daily Mail with a grain of salt), she and her husband were bullied by their doctors and nurses. When they went in to discuss how “to be prepared for the fact we might have a disabled child,” the nurse only counseled her on a termination. The nurse continuously pushed abortion even after the couple told her they wanted to continue the pregnancy. Eventually, with a nurse and a consultant bombarding her to terminate, the woman was in a state of shock, and began the abortion.

This is infuriating. This is disgusting. This is anti-choice.

There are actually two problems going on here. First, there is discrimination against people with special needs. As a pro-choice advocate, I support a woman’s right to choose. Without taking away that support, I also question why so many people are afraid to have a child with special needs. In recent studies, researchers have found that 79% of the responding parents “felt their outlook on life was more positive” because of having a child with Down syndrome. In fact, “only 4% said they felt sad about their life.” While more challenging at times, life with a child with special needs is not the horror story many people imagine.

The difference between the viewpoints of families with children who have Down syndrome, and the women who are considering termination because of Down syndrome is huge. It leads me to question if the pregnant women are fully informed about their decisions, or if they’re just basing their ideas on popular cultural views (I am not trying to imply that women are choosing termination lightly or ignorantly–just that people in positions of power are not giving them the full picture, and they have no way of knowing this).

The way to fix this is clear: stop discriminating against people with special needs. Instead, value those with special needs within our society. Do not just try to make them fit in, but let them excel, stand out and be leaders. In this way, we
can make having a special needs child less terrifying than it seems to be today.
If the above seems like a daunting task, we can always start smaller. Host educational seminars for OB/GYNs about how to support a family that’s going to have a special needs child. Form resource networks between doctors and Down syndrome support groups, so an pregnant woman has someone she can talk to about what to expect. These are simple steps to ensuring that women are fully informed, so they can decide the absolute best choice for their family.

The second issue at hand is the violation of this woman’s right to choose. Forcing or coercing a woman into abortion Is. Not. Pro. Choice. This is an anti-choice behavior. Any pro-choice person who sees someone trying to coerce a woman into a specific decision should immediately speak up against this action. Every pro-choice person should be just as quick to stand up for a woman’s right to continue to term as (s)he is for a woman’s right to terminate.

Anti-choicers are quick to pick up an article like this and claim it proves abortion is absolute evil. Yet it is clear that our world is not that black and white. What the article proves is wrong is coercive practices. For some women, abortion is the wrong choice, while for other women birth is the wrong choice. Neither event- abortion nor birth- is bad in and of itself. But both can be bad when forced upon the woman. This is why antipchoicers are wrong when they call us “pro-abortion” and mean that we only want women to abort. I most certainly do not want every woman to abort. I want every woman to make whichever choice is best for themselves and their families, and to have the support and access to complete that choice.

Trying Not to Erase Grief: Miscarriage and Abortion

Crossposted from AbortionGang.

Over here at the AbortionGang we recently came across a tumblr post about the “baby vs. fetus” debate that ends with the following:

So while we are wont to scream so loudly that a fetus is not a baby and therefore it is not murder for the person carrying them to decide for themselves if they wish to continue to do so or not – and I agree with this – could we take a moment to realize that saying they are not babies also erases the experience of people who miscarry and are grieving over their loss(es)?

I think this is extremely important and something all feminists and pro-choicers should consider.

As the anti-choicers continue to propose and pass antichoice legislation, post racist, anti-choice billboards and try to send women to jail for having abortions, I believe the political pro-choice stance and the personal abortion stories are becoming more and more distant. Listening and considering the real lives of women who have abortions and women who deal with fetal loss will help us stay grounded against the insanity of the anti-choice position.

Legally, fetuses are not infants, are not considered persons, and thus, having an abortion is not murder. But we must remember, the personal is different from the legal. Pregnancy is different for every single woman- and one woman may experience multiple pregnancies in very different ways. A woman may consider her fetus to be ababy, or already a person, because she plans to carry to term. Another woman may consider her fetus to be a baby even though she is planning to have an abortion. Those feelings and beliefs are normal, valid, and should be perfectly acceptable.

Using the term “baby” doesn’t hurt the pro-choice position at all. If a woman believes that abortion is the best option for her baby, then we should support her in her choice.** It does us no good to get into a battle over the word (the same applies if she wants to carry her fetus to term).

On the other end of the spectrum are women who have lost pregnancies, both wanted and unwanted, planned and unplanned, through miscarriage. Just as with abortion, some women may feel relieved and think of the fetus as just a fetus. Other women may feel they lost a member of their family. None of these feelings hurt the pro-choice position, and all should be taken into consideration when we’re writing, blogging, speaking and protesting.

I always try to make an effort to let the woman in question decide what type of language will be used, and allow her feelings to control the situation instead of mine. For her, my opinion on the baby vs. fetus debate isn’t relevant. Making sure she feels loved and supported is most important.

**This does not only apply to women terminating wanted pregnancies due to fetal abnormalities.

Choosing Birth after Rape

Crossposted from the AbortionGang.

I would like to give an often ignored perspective of rape, pregnancy and abortion (this is your trigger warning, though I don’t plan to be graphic).

I often see tweets, blog posts and comments from women and men (and people who identify as neither of the above) sharing their horror at the thought of carrying a pregnancy conceived in rape to term. They proudly and strongly say they support abortion, because it’s horrific, gruesome, disgusting, and cruel to force a woman to carry to term after she was raped (or, “give birth to her rapist’s child”). Now maybe I’m not paying attention, but it seems that all of the feminist discussion around rape and pregnancy decisions is focused around how awful it is for women to give birth after rape. Yet one study in 1996 (old, but the only reliable one I could find) said 32.2% of raped women chose to birth and keep the child (50% had abortions, 5.9% participated in adoption and 11.8% had miscarriages). 32% is a substantial portion of women that it seems many feminist forget about.

I 100% agree that it’s wrong to force a woman to carry to term when she wants to abort.

But I have to wonder: how does this type of language (horrific, disgusting, cruel) affect women who choose to carry to term after rape?

I wonder how a single mother of a beautiful two year old who happened to be conceived from rape feels when she reads that it’s “barbaric” to “force a woman to give birth to the child of her rapist.” Does she feel like she was supported in her choice? Doubtful.

We always need to be considerate of who we talk about and who we talk to. While it may seem clear that the barbaric part is the force of rape, denying the woman her access to decide to have sex, if we only talk about how wrong it is to force birth instead of how wrong it is to force abortion, or force any unwanted choice, then others may start reading it as the birth of a child as disgusting. And I certainly hope no one actually thinks choosing to give birth is disgusting.

I know a lot of this language choice is based upon our hatred of rape, and it would make sense to have a second discussion about rape here, but I’m not going to do that. All I ask is that we default to the individual woman’s opinion before we share our own feelings when dealing with issues of pregnancy, abortion and rape, because everyone should feel supported in their decisions.