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.