Archive | November, 2010

The Anti-Choice Obsession with Abortion and Black Genocide

18 Nov

Over the summer, while interning at a well-know, pro-choice feminist organization, I visited a crisis pregnancy center (CPC).  Upon visiting, having created a scenario about being a possibly pregnant, woman of colour, I was bombarded with myths about abortion being used to sterilize black women and wipe out the black race. Namely, Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was highlighted for her part in the Eugenics movement. I wondered, why is the pro-life movement so obsessed with this false connection between abortion and Black genocide?

According to “Fighting the Black Anti-Abortion Campaign: Trusting Black Women” by Loretta J. Ross, sixty-five billboards were erected in mainly Black neighborhoods in Atlanta, Georgia in February 2010.  Two organizations—Georgia Right to Life and the Radiance Foundation—spent approximately $20,000 to publicly claim that “Black Children are an Endangered Species.” Apparently, these billboards were in the wake of legislation that sought to criminalize abortions provided to women of colour because of the “race or sex” of the fetus.

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Tweeting About Abortion is Not Oversharing

17 Nov

If you have a Twitter account, or if you’ve been keeping your eye on the news for the past few weeks, then there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the #IHadAnAbortion trend. #IHadAnAbortion, started by @IAmDrTiller (aka Steph), is a hashtag in which women who have had abortions can come out and share their abortion stories. It’s a way for women who have had abortions to say “Antis, your shaming tactics will not work on us. We will not back down and shut up.”

Some people claim that #IHadAnAbortion is “oversharing”. It makes me wonder, is tweeting about pregnancy oversharing? Is tweeting about birth oversharing? If not, then what makes tweeting about abortion oversharing? Having an abortion is a personal decision, true. Going through a pregnancy is also a very personal decision. Neither decision is a bad one, and in neither situation should a woman be shamed into silence. With abortion being as common as it is, there is no reason that someone simply speaking about it should be shamed into silence.

Those participating in #IHadAnAbortion (save for the misogynists who try to hijack the hashtag) are helping women overcome silence. They’re sending out the message that those who abort are not evil, they’re not uncommon, they don’t all feel the same way, and most of all, that they are not alone. I feel that #IHadAnAbortion has accomplished this and more. #IHadAnAbortion has inspired so many people to come out with their stories and to help end the silence. Of course, our work is not done. It’s not like the #IHadAnAbortion hashtag will make all misogyny and abortion-shaming go away, but it does help. Abortion-shamers will continue to try to put women back in their place by screaming over their voices, but pro-choicers can not let them succeed, because, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

What Scares You?

16 Nov

Unplanned pregnancy scares me – which is why for me, morning after emergency contraception ranks right up there with penicillin for most-amazing-scientific-discovery.  Why?  Because it prevents pregnancy.  It’s not an abortion, because pregnancy doesn’t even occur.  It’s peace of mind, and best of all, it’s available Over The Counter.  Of course, OTC should mean that you can walk into your local CVS and pick it up off the shelf.  It should mean that any woman who needs it should be able to get it well within the five day period after unprotected sex, when it is effective.  Of course, the sooner you take it, the better, so ideally (and legally) you should realize that you may be at risk for an unwanted pregnancy, make a quick stop at the pharmacy, pop a pill, and get on with the rest of your life.  It really shouldn’t be any bigger a deal than taking an aspirin – and there are no medical reasons for it to be restricted based on age.

In fact, there are no reasons for it to be restricted based on anything.  There is not a single medical condition that precludes a woman from taking it.  Plan B has never been causally linked to a single death, or even to any serious complications.  Meanwhile, other over-the-counter drugs like aspirin and acetaminophen (Tylenol) have been linked to hundreds of deaths each year, and thousands of serious side effects.
Because Plan B is so safe, the FDA has been court-ordered to allow its over-the-counter sale to everyone.  However, it continues to require pharmacies to keep Plan B behind the counter, selling it only to those men and women ages 17 and over.  They even require a government ID to prove age.  And why?

The (Real) Truth About Medical Abortion

15 Nov

Thanks to a recent column by Nicholas Kristof, the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, and a creative use of teleconferencing to bring abortion care to women living in rural Iowa, medical abortion is in the news.  As a provider who is, above everything, pro-choice, I am of course thrilled that women have had another choice for ten years.  I also welcome the media coverage of medical abortion; we need to talk more about abortion, and women deserve to know all the options available to them.

I am, however, less than pleased about how this issue has been covered in the media, particularly on the Internet.  The information I’ve seen isn’t wrong; it’s just incomplete.  I hope this post can clear up some of the confusion.

Medical abortion basics:

Medical abortion is a safe alternative to surgical abortion.  It is used in the US for pregnancies up to 9 weeks after the first day of the last menstrual period.  In some countries it is used up to 13 weeks after the first day of the last menstrual period, although there are some differences in the timing and dosages of the 2 medications used.  (Of note, the US packaging states one of the medications used, mifepristone, can be used up to 7 weeks after the last period; however, it is labeled for up to 9 weeks in Europe and we have ample evidence that it is safe and effective even later than this).

In the US, medical abortion is usually done using two different medications.  The first medication is called mifepristone.  It is also called Mifeprex (its brand name) or RU-486 (its experimental name).  Mifepristone causes the lining of the uterus that is necessary to maintain the pregnancy to start to recede, softens the cervix, and starts to cause uterine contractions.

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The Monkey and the Fetus Jar: A Fable

12 Nov

Well, I dreamt that come 2008, I would never need to hear from him again.  The monkey would retire to his Texas ranch to hang his head in shame, but unfortunately this is not the case.  George II, alternately known as the monkey, has reached a new level of likeness to his namesake.  Throwing shit to get someone, anyone, to pay attention to his new book, Decision Points. The most bizarre piece flung thus far is a story of how his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, by carrying her own miscarried fetus in a jar, turned him into an anti-choice advocate for life  (pun intended).

Now, how does this relate to a book defending declaration of war in a historically impossible to conquer region and the wrong country…?

More puzzling, how did Ms. Bush get ahold of said fetus?  Was it suspended in formaldehyde?   Dangling at the bottom?  How disturbing are we talking?  Is that not a biohazard?

Also peculiar, why would a vocal pro-choice person like Barbara scar her children like this?  Really, why would anyone?  It’s complicated enough explaining where babies come from in the first place.

The evidence is extremely bare, and as a woman of science, I refuse to make unfounded assumptions.  But I leave you with my research questions and a hypothesis: The monkey is flinging shit again.

The Right’s Fetus Obsession

11 Nov

Over the course of the past year there has been a lot of media coverage that has highlighted the fetus. For those of you who are unclear, the definition of fetus is “The unborn offspring from the end of the 8th week after conception (when the major structures have formed) until birth. Up until the eighth week, the developing offspring is called an embryo.”

Former President George W. Bush recently shared information regarding an incident where his mother, First Lady Barbara Bush, showed him a miscarried fetus in a jar.  At the beginning of the year, it came to light that the state of Florida and a family obstetrician had confined a local mother to the hospital, on “bed rest,” to protect the life of the fetus she was carrying. Unfortunately, this did not do what it intended, because this woman still miscarried. And, finally, someone dug up this case from antiquity (and Canada) to argue against legal, safe access to abortion.

The case, for those of you who are not inclined to click the link (it’s long, I know), the story goes something like this: 1996: Brenda Drummond, a 29 year-old mother of two, decided, for whatever reasons, that she did not want to carry her fetus to term. She proceeded to put a pellet gun into her vagina and shoot it. One can only assume that she did this to either terminate her pregnancy or to kill herself. Regardless, the baby was born healthy two days later, though he needed to have emergency surgery to remove the pellet from his brain. The baby recovered fully and continued to do well. Brenda was arrested, charged with an obscure Canadian law and held in a psychiatric unit while her case went to trial. Long story short, Brenda was acquitted of all charges because Canadian law does not permit “personhood” to the unborn.

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Abstinence Made Me Pro-Choice

10 Nov

In so many ways, it seems like I should be the poster child for the anti-choice proponents.  I’m living, breathing, normal productive contributing member of society proof that yes, you can graduate from high school without having sex first. I’ve never been pregnant, never decided to have sex without protection. For me, for my life, it really has been that simple.  Sure, when I was in high school I was petrified that I would find myself pregnant – which would have been a failure in my own eyes – at which time I would have had an abortion.  I circumvented that risk by not having sex.  Problem solved.  Frankly, it wasn’t that big of a deal for me.

It would be so easy now, as an adult, to sniff derisively at those who say that it isn’t realistic for teenagers to simply not have sex – after all if I did it, so can they, right?  And yes, part of me does think that.  But the rest of me knows that what worked for me, may not work for someone else.  The rest of me sees the absurdity in holding up my own experience as a reason to condemn someone who does make a mistake, who acts foolishly.  I don’t understand how someone could be sixteen or seventeen, or older, and not know about condoms, about the birth control pills or Plan B – but I do understand that those people are out there.  Those who don’t know that two condoms are not, in fact, better than one.  Those who won’t look at expiration dates or any of the millions of reasons why unplanned pregnancies occur.  Hopefully sex education in schools will advance to the point that no one gets pregnant because she doesn’t know that it can happen the first time, but the margin for error for an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy will always exist.  It exists every time a man and a woman have sex.

Still, as an adult, able to support myself comfortably, and even a child if I were to become pregnant unexpectedly, many people ask why I am so adamantly, vehemently, pro-choice.  Why waste my time, energy, and money fighting for something that I will never need?  The truth is, I don’t know – nor does anyone else – whether I will have an abortion in my lifetime.  What if I were to have an ectopic pregnancy?  Or through genetic testing learn that the fetus had irreparable damage?  Tay-Sachs perhaps, wherein the child dies before age three after a total mental degeneration, or another degenerative disease that offers little or no quality of life?  What if I’m in my forties and already have children that are half-grown?  What if my body simply can’t handle another pregnancy?  The possible reasons to have an abortion don’t decrease as we get older, they only multiply.

Many of us will never need to have abortions – but we all need to have the choice.