Archive | May, 2011

Remembering Dr. Tiller

31 May

I’m a woman-educated physician. I don’t know how many abortions he did, but the women in my father’s practice for whom he did abortions educated me and taught me that abortion is not about babies, it’s not about families. Abortion is about women’s hopes, dreams, potential, the rest of their lives. Abortion is a matter of survival for women.

– Dr. George Tiller, murdered on May 31, 2009

Watch videos of Dr. Tiller talking about the importance of compassion in his work.

Read stories from abortion providers about why they do the work they do.

Honor Dr. Tiller’s legacy by donating to the National Network of Abortion Funds in his memory.

Show your support for all clinicians who provide abortion by signing the Abortion Provider’s Declaration of Rights.

What are you doing to honor his memory? Please feel free to leave suggestions and thoughts in the comments.


Memorial Day Round-Up: Service Women and Abortion Access

30 May

“My patient Carol was excited to give birth to her first child. Her husband was a Marine serving in Afghanistan. Sadly, in her second trimester, Carol learned that her baby had a lethal anomaly. She and her husband made the difficult decision to have an abortion.

That’s when they learned that the military health insurance they relied on wouldn’t cover the abortion unless Carol’s life was in danger.

Her husband was outraged. He had just flown back from Afghanistan to be with her, and he angrily asked me, ‘I’m over there defending my country, and they won’t even take care of my family?'”—Nancy Stanwood, MD, MPH, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health

More information:

Ralph Lang, Attempted Anti-Choice Terrorist

28 May

Thank God, or Lady Luck, or whomever you like: yesterday reports went out of a man arrested BEFORE he murdered a law-abiding doctor, instead of after.

The quick details: Ralph Lang, 63, drove up to Madison with a gun with the clear intention of murdering at least one abortion-providing doctor, and possibly other nurses and employees. His handgun discharged while he was at a motel, and the police were called. Upon hearing his plans, he was taken into custody.

I’m so thankful that Lang’s gun went off in his motel room. I’m also thankful he wasn’t “100 percent in sync with God” when he was in Madison last week and didn’t kill anyone. I’m thankful that he didn’t get to go to the clinic, “line [the employees] up all in a row, get a machine gun, and mow them all down” as he said he wished he could.

The other information you should know: Ralph Lang is not a “lone wolf” or a “fringe member” of the antichoice “pro-life” community. He is a sidewalk counselor (read: harasser) and was arrested previously in 2007 outside of a Planned Parenthood. He was part of a Catholic prayer vigil (read: more sidewalk harassment) in 2006, at which time he said, “it’s nice to be a part of a movement like this.” I’m sure as we learn more details we will see more connections between Ralph Lang and well known anti-choice groups.

Of course, Lang’s language is gleamed from common anti-choice propaganda. He planned “to lay out abortionists because they are killing babies”- words used by many so-called peaceful anti-choicers. These ‘peaceful’ antis claim they don’t actually want anyone hurt, yet continue to repeat these phrases until they’ve convinced someone- like Ralph Lang, or Scott Roeder- to do the dirty work for them. When they call doctors murderers over and over and over again, they set the kindling and strike the match for others to take those words and follow through with them.

It’s long past time for antichoicers to stop their violent rhetoric. It was long past time two years ago, when Dr. George Tiller was murdered in his church. It was long past time in 1998 when Dr. Slepian and a security guard were killed, in 1994 when two clinic receptionists, Dr Britton and an escort were killed, in 1993 when Dr. Gunn was murdered. It’s been nearly 20 years of murders- when will anti-choicers actually take a prolife stance and stop the violence?

Where to Stand on Late Term Abortion?

27 May

A guest post by ninersgal.

My friend recently had a baby. Her pregnancy was difficult. She had gestational diabetes as well as preeclampsia. Her baby was delivered at 30 weeks because there were problems with the placenta. Despite all of those challenges, my friend’s baby went home from the hospital yesterday. Unlike many of her neighbors in the NICU, my goddaughter has had no complications. Her lungs have developed and she can breathe on her own. Her brain is developing normally. And although she was only 2 pounds when she was born, this little fighter is up to 5 pounds now. I see lots of courage and fist pumping in this girl’s future.

My friend got very lucky and had a successful delivery at 30 weeks. However, there were many moments during the last two weeks of her pregnancy where I wondered what would happen. If the doctor had told my friend that the health risks of continuing her pregnancy were too great (either for her, or for the baby) and abortion was her only option, I would have held her hand and supported her. That’s exactly what I did throughout her pregnancy. And if this were the path she needed to take, I would have helped her along the way.

All that being said, spending time in the NICU looking at all premature and struggling babies has given me a lot to think about in terms of late term abortion. Let me preface that statement by saying I support a woman’s right to obtain an abortion no matter what stage of pregnancy she is in, and no matter what her reason is. However, watching the babies in the NICU has helped me see things from the point of view of those who oppose “late term abortion.”

The general medical definition of “late term abortion” refers to abortions that occur after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Most abortions (88% to be exact) occur within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Late term abortion only accounts for 1.5% of abortion cases in the United States. So we need to remember that when the anti-choice crowd starts to focus on so-called “partial-birth abortions,” they’re intentionally trying to muddle the facts by harping on the least common denominator.

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Poverty, Abortion Access, and Heartbreak

26 May

Volunteering with an abortion fund enables me to pride myself  on helping women access the abortions they need. Whether it’s helping with $50 or $450, funds do everything we can to fill in the gap between how much an abortion costs and how much a woman can afford to pay. But what happens when the gap is too big? When you know that no matter how much national fundraising you do, the woman you’re trying to help just won’t be able to have an abortion?

Getting an abortion is not just a matter of covering the cost. There is an entire system of inequity at play here–not enough clinics that provide later abortion services, no federal funding for most abortion procedures, lack of sex education that keeps women from knowing signs of pregnancy or the best birth control options, a complex web of anti-abortion laws designed to complicate, restrict and ultimately deter women from having abortions. The list goes on and on. Abortion funds are supposed to help women navigate this system, and when we can’t help someone access the care she desperately needs, well, it feels pretty shitty.

Angela (name changed) was one such a case. She called our hotline when she was well over the legal limit for an abortion–over 24 weeks. She had been trying to have an abortion for two months, but because of various medical conditions and never having enough money, she was turned away from many local providers.  She’s in a conundrum. She needs to have an abortion. The only provider that will see her is 5000 miles away, and that abortion is $9000, not to mention travel and lodging. Angela couldn’t afford to feed her children last week. Where will she come up with $9000?

There is no easy solution here. I wish I had a big bag of abortion money and could grant Angela the abortion of her dreams. Unfortunately, Angela couldn’t get that abortion. I wish I could’ve called Congress and put her on speaker phone. I wish I could call Henry Hyde and have him listen to her cry. My heart aches for her and for all women in her situation. Until politicians hear the voices and experiences of women like her, restrictions on this legal medical procedure will continue to roll out of Capitol Hill and states across the nation. Until the broader pro-choice movement embraces later abortion access as a matter of justice and equality, Angela and all women in her situation will continue to suffer, lacking the ability to get the care they need.

Animals and Abortion Part 1: How PETA gets it wrong

25 May

Crossposted at The Abortioneers.

Today, I am pleased to announce that we are beginning a new series called Animals and Abortion. I got together with Vegan Vagina from The Abortioneers and, with us both being passionate pro-choicers and passionate vegans, we have decided to do a series of collaboration posts regarding our pro-choice veganism. It may not seem so at first glance, but veganism and reproductive justice do have quite a few similarities. I was thrilled to come across another pro-choice vegan activist, and I am excited to explore the ties that veganism and reproductive justice have with one another along with Vegan Vagina.

Vegan Vagina is passionate about veganism, abortion, and running marathons. During the day she does public health research and at night she is a volunteer host for women who travel to her city for abortions. In other words, she is one amazing activist and I am thrilled to have her as a co-blogger on the Abortion Gang.

I am sure some of you might be wondering what kind of connections and intersections exist between animal welfare and reproductive rights movements? I think because I am so deeply involved in both of these issues the parallels are very apparent. One of the biggest examples that comes to mind is PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and they will be the focus of our first blog in this series.

PETA is an animal welfare organization which has caused a stir in the feminist community more than once. They have been accused of everything from racism, to sexism, to fatphobia, to transphobia. It goes without saying that PETA is controversial. Today, we are going to address some of these issues in the form of a Q and A.

Q. PETA has been known forusing women’s nude or near-nude bodies to get their message across about the evils of fur. Do you ever feel like they are justified in their tactics? Is this a case of the ends justifying the means?

PCG: In PETA’s fight to get people thinking about animal welfare issues, one of their main “weapons” that they have used has been sex. Sadly, I think they’re missing the point. In many of their advertising campaigns, they have reduced women down to things as opposed to living, sentient being who deserve respect. PETA seems to forget that humans are animals, too. When you ignore human rights and human welfare, you are inevitably ignoring aspects of animal rights and welfare, as well. In short, no, I don’t believe that PETA is justified in doing this.

VV: No, I do not think they are ever justified in their tactics. Essentially, PETA uses sensationalism and a shock factor to get attention. They exploit women and reduce them to “meat”, which seems a bit hypocritical. I love animals and live a very intentional life in order to protect as many as I can, but there have to be more creative ways to bring attention to animal welfare than exploiting women and their bodies. The ad campaign using naked women’s bodies renders these women silent and voiceless, which puts them in the same situation as voiceless animals who are also exploited to turn a profit.

Q. PETA has a brief section on their website where they address abortion. Here is what they write:

PETA does not have a position on the abortion issue, because our focus as an organization is the alleviation of the suffering inflicted on nonhuman animals. There are people on both sides of the abortion issue in the animal rights movement, just as there are people on both sides of animal rights issues in the pro-life movement. And just as the pro-life movement has no official position on animal rights, neither does the animal rights movement have an official position on abortion.

What do you think about this statement?

PCG: I understand why PETA wouldn’t want to take a direct stance on abortion; it would alienate a good portion of their supporters. However, I do believe that it is important for vegans to recognize that, again, human rights are essential to animal rights and animal welfare. A huge part of veganism is about respecting sentient beings and their bodily autonomy. Vegans should respect that for all animals, and that means being pro-choice. Still, I do understand why PETA would not take an official stance on abortion.

VV: I find it interesting that this even comes up on their website. I am curious what prompted them to make an official stance on this, and I suspect it may be that anti- abortion groups tried to align themselves with PETA to show their support for all forms of life and then PETA needed to respond that they are neutral. Ok, so first off, PETA’s statement is annoying because they use the term “pro-life”. I also strongly agree with PCG that PETA claims to respect bodily autonomy of all sentient beings, yet they do not show this respect for women. I think their neutral stance is one more example of them trying to please as many as possible in order to achieve their end goal, yet in the process they have alienated many feminists.

Q. In response to Dr. George Tiller’s assassination, PETA proposed these ads in Wichita, KS. What are your thoughts on this campaign?

PCG: The ads themselves are not so bad, in my opinion. The fact that they were a response to Dr. Tiller’s assassination, however, absolutely disgusts me. I feel as if they exploited such a tragic event in order to further their own cause. It was, at best, inappropriate and at worst, downright hateful.

VV: As a Jew I was thoroughly disgusted when they previously exploited the Holocaust in their ads. Well, just in case I thought PETA couldn’t piss me off any more, they did with their ads in response to Dr. George Tiller’s assassination. I want to know who thought up these ads and why they ever thought these would be appropriate. I keep stressing how they think their ends justify their means, but this was insensitive on so many levels. These sorts of radical ad campaigns give vegans and animal welfare organizations a bad name.

Q. Considering all of this, do you believe that feminist vegans (or just vegans in general) should withdraw support for PETA?

PCG: I do believe that we should withdraw support for PETA. PETA has, time and time again, promoted all kinds of bigotry without apology. I believe that we should show them that, if they’re okay with promoting bigotry, then we are okay with ditching them and supporting vegan organizations which do not do so.

VV: I am mixed on this. I know I was pretty negative about PETA in my answers, but there are some parts of their organization I respect and support. Personally, it was a PETA pamphlet that got me to switch from vegetarian to vegan almost two years ago. Unfortunately, they are one of the best-funded vegan organizations so they can dictate and control what gets out in the media about the movement. They also make the news a lot! In fact, they often create ads they know will not make it into actual media just so they can get news attention about an ad that was too radical/racy/offensive to be on TV.

For me, I don’t give them any donations and I don’t direct people to them if they are thinking of going vegan. I would love for them to exist but in a much more feminist and non-sensationalizing way, but maybe I’m just too much of an idealist.

Thanks for reading and please let us know your thoughts about our first co-blog! You can look forward to future posts from Vegan Vagina and ProChoiceGal on topics such as factory farm footage Vs. fetus posters, vegan birth control methods, and vegan sex toys! We would also love to hear your ideas for future posts.


Dangerous Trends: Using Pregnancy Hormones to Lose Weight

24 May

These days, I weigh 130 pounds, stand 5’2″ tall and wear a size 4.  That probably makes me medium sized, but since I once weighed over 200 pounds, I alternate between thinking of myself as a “former fat girl” and just being flat out shocked by the thin person who stares back at me in the mirror.  For me, weight loss came when I got off the decade long diet merry-go-round, threw out the tasteless containers of fat-free yogurt, not to mention the remnants of attempting Weight Watchers three or four times, and began living again.

Very few people take control of their eating habits the way that I did though, which is why it is unsurprising that in addition to being vaunted as a special time in the spotlight, pregnancy is also seen as a nine month all-you-can-eat buffet.   Of course, as women who have given birth can attest, it is not a buffet that is without consequences;  it is the rare woman who is able to return her body to its pre-pregnancy form. What if you could get the guilt-free pass on eating reasonable portions without having to, you know, actually get knocked up?

The latest in a long line of increasingly creepy diet trends is a twist on pregnancy’s guilt free smorgasbord, using hCG, (human chorionic gonadotropin), a fertility treatment to suppress women’s appetites.  One recent article quoted women claiming that they were able to get by on as few as 500 calories a day.  The Food & Drug Administration has consistently denied any weight loss effects, but that has not stopped thousands of women from spending gross amounts of money on injections that will allow them to starve themselves in the name of beauty.

Meanwhile, many actual pregnant women glory in using the excuse that they are “eating for two” to finally set aside years of disciplined diet and exercise in favor of giving in to cravings during their pregnancy.  Although the different potential downsides of maternal obesity during pregnancy have been well documented, ranging from gestational diabetes to Graves’ disease, this does not seem to stop many women from embracing their pregnancy as an opportunity to eat as much as they please. For the first time since they hit puberty, they can eat without fear of judgment.

The mainstream media lauds pregnant women as sexy, beautiful or otherwise praise worthy.  One result of this inability to criticize anything pregnant women do is that  women who become pregnant while at a “normal” weight are likely to gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy, while a woman who is already overweight will gain just 15 to 25 pounds.  Statistics like that reinforce the stereotype that overweight women are already shoving everything in sight into their mouths, and perhaps they are.  Or, maybe, like me, they would rather have a healthy relationship with food than be super thin while injecting themselves with expensive and potentially dangerous hormones like hCG.