Archive | January, 2012

What?!: Komen Cancer Fund Halts Donations to Planned Parenthood

31 Jan

Breaking news: one of the most well known and far-reaching cancer funds , Susan G. Komen for the Cure, has decided to halt all grants to the cancer-treatment-and-provention-place Planned Parenthood during the “abortion debate.” They are willing to sacrifice medical care for some of the most vulnerable Americans in order to please the anti-choice, anti-women’s health crowd.

When a patient goes to Planned Parenthood, she (or he) is often struggling financially. More often than not, she doesn’t have health insurance and uses Planned Parenthood as one of her only means to access health care. Patients go to Planned Parenthood when they need an annual exam, an STI test, or they are ill and need advice. Planned Parenthood is so incredibly vital because it offers cancer screenings, abortion care, STI/HIV testing and treatment, and many other services to people that would not be able to access those services without Planned Parenthood.

Anyone that knows health insurance knows that without access to preventive care, or a place to treat the common STI or cold, people go to the place that can help them (hopefully) get well and is not legally allowed to turn them away if they are unable to pay up front: the hospital emergency room. In a complicated and drawn out process, those visits to the ER end up costing the tax payer and insurance policy holders, so the common American’s premiums go up.

Now, I’m not blaming the people that go to the ER, I’m blaming our culture that puts them in the position to have to go to the ER when they should be able to go to, say, Planned Parenthood to treat an STI or to get a pregnancy test and maternity care. Because when a woman goes to Planned Parenthood for an PAP smear, finds she has abnormal cells on her cervix (HPV), and is able to obtain appropriate treatment to avoid cancer, she’s not only helping herself. She’s also avoiding a potentially life-threatening disease and costing our healthcare system far less than a trip to the ER or cancer treatment.

You fucked up, Susan G. Komen Foundation. The Foundation’s cowardly retreat during a highly charged political atmosphere is no doubt motivated by the threat of dwindling donations if they don’t stop helping Planned Parenthood keep women healthy. They are ultimately more worried about being able to please corporate sponsors than you know, actually helping people that might have cancer.

And there is no “abortion debate.” There is a group of white men in political and social leadership roles that have no way to stay in office and places of power without pandering to the we-want-to-control-women vote, who must pander to their religious sponsors who also want to control women. Access is being threatened because Planned Parenthood, an organization whose services comprise cancer screening/prenatal care/STI and HIV testing and treatment in addition to safe abortion care , is under attack and losing grants.

Is this the country we want ? Write to Susan G. Komen for the Cure and let them know that grants to Planned Parenthood are grants to prevent cancer!


Twitter as a tool for sharing abortion stories

31 Jan

This tweet-stream is from a friend of mine @KnittingRad (named by permission). She posted it on Sunday 1/22/2012, the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, where she shared publicly for the first time that she’s had an abortion. I asked her permission to share it via the Abortion Gang, and she enthusiastically agreed

I feel strongly that more women’s stories of having abortions need to be told, need to be heard. We need to encourage each other as women to come out of the shadows, out of the shame, and out of the imposed stigma. It’s only by the sharing of our stories and asserting the rightness of those choices (especially when they include abortion) that we begin to dismantle the stigma of abortion.

I’m proud to know @KnittingRad; for this and many other reasons she’s a brave, fierce woman.


Is Abortion A Dating Dealbreaker?

30 Jan

Job interviews and dating have a lot in common. They both involve a great deal of verbal and physical posturing, specific outfits and, at least one party wondering how truthful the other was… and if it was a one time encounter. Of course, a job interview is typically focused entirely on trying to land a position, while dating is a series of lengthy dinners and various recreational activities with the rather ambiguous goal of “getting to know each other.”

First dates, at least in my experience, typically cover the basics. Profession, state or town of origin, and a lengthy list of the most interesting hobbies that each participant can rattle off. A recent first date of mine resembled a geography bee as my date angled to impress me with the various places to which he had traveled.

No one wants to appear to be unattractive, either physically or otherwise, while on a date. So, hewing to advice long ingrained in us by our parents and teachers we stay away from topics like religion, doctors and politics. I may know whether the man sitting across from me is the “nice Jewish boy” of my (and my mother’s) dreams based upon stories of a childhood at Camp Ramah or be able to guess based upon a last name ending in “stein” or “witz,” but unless I ask, how will I know how he feels about abortion?

Straddling religion and politics, the A-word, as I privately call it, is at once both intensely personal and wildly inflammatory given the current political environment. There is no easy way to slip it into conversation on a first date. On a second or third date, when we have moved on to feigning enthusiasm for activities like bowling, salsa dancing and traipsing through numerous local tourist attractions, it seems even harder to ask the question. After all, the goal while dating is to show off the most fun, worldly yet not crazy version of ourselves, and while abortion is implicitly linked to sex, there is nothing sexy about it.

Still, I cannot imagine ever hopping into bed with someone without knowing now he feels about abortion and the current laws restricting it.

I’m curious, am I the only one who struggles with how to best ferret out is nugget of information? Would you stop dating an otherwise seemingly normal person if you found out that they were anti-choice?

Why is Self-Care so Difficult?

26 Jan

A friend of mine recently celebrated her 30th birthday. She asked her party guests to give her their words of wisdom for making the most of her 30’s. I recommended that she schedule frequent hot dates with herself, and I gave her some bubble bath and cheap wine to get her started in the right direction. After I gave her this gift, I had to ask myself why I’m not following my own advice.

I think this is a quandry that many of us can relate to. As activists, we’re so busy taking care of other people that it’s often hard to find time to take care of ourselves.

One of my mentors gave me some good advice when I graduated from college. “Take care of yourself,” she said, “or you will burn out and you won’t be able to take care of anyone else.” I followed her advice by treating myself to expensive haircuts, cheap pedicures, and frequent sushi dinners. My budget ain’t what it used to be – so these days my version of treating myself involves a six-pack of cheap beer and a Netflix marathon.

I know I’m not the only one who struggles with self care. If you work at a clinic or an abortion fund, how do you decompress at the end of a shift? Do you have a hard time disconnecting from other people’s emotional baggage like I do, or have you developed a successful strategy for being compassionate and still taking care of your own emotional well being?

On the same note, for those of us with anti-choice family members, how do you handle family gatherings? I have typically tried to avoid discussing health care or politics. But that strategy crapped out on me over the holidays when my mom started asking me why I don’t support adoption over abortion. I walked away from a fight and took a shower to calm down. However, I can’t do that with every confrontation. I’d love to find a few strategies for dealing with anti-choice family confrontations.

How you practice self-care?

Hey Assholes: Stop Using the Holocaust As A Metaphor For Abortion

23 Jan

Anti-choice activists absolutely love to use metaphors about what abortion is like. Abortion is like the holocaust! Abortion is like genocide! Abortion is like slavery!

I recently came across this quote to that effect. The author is talking about a new facility in Ohio where women would be able to both receive abortion care and talk to and/or engage an adoption specialist:

The Choice Network is a horrible idea.  It’s sort of like a gas chamber-passport facility for Jews.  In one convenient location, we can allow the Nazi-occupied countries of 1942 Europe choose to send their Jews to the gas chambers or give them passports to countries where they will be treated as free and equal citizens.  Both options are given equal validity.  Neither option is recommended or preferred by those who run the facility.  The founders of the facility don’t care if a Jew is sentenced to death or given a new chance at life.  No matter.  Both choices are treated the same.  Though one leads to murder and one to life, the facility takes no position.

No. Abortion is not like the Jews and the Nazis, and it’s not like genocide, and it’s not like slavery. Abortion is not like any of those things. This should be obvious to anyone with half a brain, but apparently, it’s not. Here are some very basic, seemingly obvious reasons why abortion is not like the Holocaust, genocide, or slavery:

1) Whether you think the fetus is a person with a soul or a collection of tissues, the vast majority of abortions occur at a time when the fetus could not  survive outside the womb. In the case of the holocaust and genocide, those being killed were human beings surviving without physical dependence on another person’s body.

2) Those killed in the Holocaust, and in various world-wide genocides, were fully developed human beings with histories, families, and relationships. Abortion does not end relationships in this way, it prevents them from occurring.

3) Slavery! Abortion is not like slavery. Slavery is the ownership and exploitation of a person’s life. Abortion is preventing a life that does not yet exist from becoming one that does.

Whatever you think of abortion, it is not like anything else. It is unique. It is a medical procedure that does not end, but prevents, life. It is a medical procedure that we have, as a society, entangled in deeply suspect moral values, and objections to it generally rely on values and morals that, despite their claims to universality, are actually in the minority, and belong to a small, select group of people – people who, for example, would compare abortion to the Holocaust, or would judge black women for having abortions because abortion is like slavery.

I wonder sometimes if the people who write these hateful things do so because they feel so unjustly entitled to their incredible amount of privilege. Yes, there are anti-choice activists of color, and there are, I’m sure, Jewish anti-choice activists. But I find that the majority of anti-choice activists are white. The piece I quoted above was most certainly written by a white girl – there’s a picture – who has clearly never questioned her own comfortable privilege, or what it would mean to live as part of a group of people with the collective memory of holocaust, genocide or slavery, and what it would mean to have that experience re-appropriated by some asshole who never thought through what that experience of collective memory might actually mean for the people who live with it every single day.

I lived for a period of time in Rwanda, a country that, in the very recent past, actually experienced a genocide – or, probably more accurately, an intense civil war that resulted in deep, indescribable scars. This is a country where, as a result of the estimated one million deaths that occurred, fully 50% of the population is under the age of 18. These numbers are unheard of. It’s a country where, despite its actually liberal and forward-thinking ways (they had universal health care long before we even began debating it), men take more than one wife because there are, quite simply, not enough men, and women have decided it’s better to share a husband than simply not to have one.

A startling number of those children under 18 are the product of mass rapes that occurred during the genocide. The point wasn’t, usually, to get the women pregnant; the objective was generally to give them HIV/AIDS, and kill them slowly. Many of the women who bore children after the genocide did so because they had no access to abortion in the chaos and aftermath. In the United States, that happens occasionally. In Rwanda, it is, like the Holocaust among Jews, a collective memory of repeated trauma; the trauma of genocide, the trauma of rape, the trauma of childbirth and the knowledge that it would be necessary to raise an unwanted child who was the product of all of those previous traumas. It is startling to see. You do not forget it. You would not compare it to abortion.

As for the relationships between these women and their children who are the product of rape, I can say anecdotally that those relationships vary, like other relationships between parents and children. We knew women or heard about women who made the best of it; we knew children who had never known love because of it. We knew children who had been wanted until their parents re-married, and then they found themselves pariahs. It is worth noting, however, that abortion is legal in Rwanda under three circumstances, and one of those circumstances is rape.

Life is a crapshoot. An abortion means someone never plays. Birth control and miscarriages also means someone never plays. The opportunity to live is a much greater crapshoot than life itself.

I say to all the people tempted to make abortion about anything but abortion: don’t. It isn’t like anything else. If you must fight it, if you must insist that you know better than the women and the many, many mothers who make the decision that abortion is best for them, right now, that’s a point I’m too tired to argue. But if you must fight it, don’t be lazy, and don’t be an asshole. Do your research. Think carefully about what you say. Because every time you tell me abortion is like the Holocaust, or genocide, or slavery, I know you’re too dumb to be worth the breath it would take to argue.

Roe at 39: Why care about choice?

22 Jan

A guest post by Gwen Emmons.

One of the most common questions reproductive justice activists get is why we focus on choice in a time where so many other pressing issues – jobs, poverty, healthcare reform – have yet to be solved.

My answer is simple: they’re all connected. And on the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I think it’s more crucial than ever to reflect on how reproductive autonomy fits in to the bigger question of realizing the American dream.

The ability to determine the timing and spacing of one’s pregnancies (or whether to be pregnant at all) contributes to your ability to enjoy economic security. Unplanned pregnancies can, unfortunately, be costly (particularly if you are un- or under-insured) and can impact your ability to work in some cases. Having the ability to control your reproduction is crucial to controlling your economic destiny.

Access to safe abortion care, contraception, Plan B, medically accurate sex ed, and affordable gynecological screenings and childcare services are at the base of the pyramid that makes up that American dream. Lose Roe – or any of these other pieces – and we risk toppling that pyramid. Unfortunately, for too many women and men, that’s already happening. And it’s shameful.

The flip side of this is that instead of fixing things like poverty, the economy, or our healthcare system, legislators in Pennsylvania and across the country have focused their efforts on chipping away at choice. Spoiler alert: restricting access to Plan B doesn’t create jobs. Draconian restrictions on abortion services won’t fix our economy.

So as we celebrate 39 years of access to safe, legal abortion, let’s reaffirm our commitment to ensuring that reproductive rights – and the American dream – remain attainable to everyone.

Lying vs. Spying: Anti-Choice Tactics and the Pro-Choice Movement

20 Jan

Abortion is controversial. There can be no denying it. Even here in Canada, which might seem like a bastion of rationality because of our lack of abortion law, things are not peachy for women seeking abortions. Along with the various legal restrictions (covered from time to time in this space), there exist many (if not all) of the same social stigmas and regional and economic barriers for women seeking abortion here as in the States.

There are two alarming American trends that have been picking up steam here in recent years: the video sting (a la Lila Rose, or James O’Keefe) and crisis pregnancy centres, those supposed havens for troubled pregnant folks, which more often than not provide false information about abortion and use scare tactics (sometimes toeing the line of legality) to discourage women from seeking one out. These are things that most people working in abortion provision are being prepped to deal with. Legal abortion is so fragile, even here in this supposed socialist paradise; you get used to being constantly on the defensive, even when you are doing nothing wrong.

I was a bit uneasy when I saw this piece about a CPC in Surrey, BC that was recently the target of the same kind of undercover video sting operation so frequently used against the pro-choice movement. A CTV reporter went into the Surrey Pregnancy Options Centre posing as a pregnant woman, with a hidden camera. She asked about abortion, and the volunteers at the CPC told her a bunch of ridiculous lies, exaggerated the risks, and refused to refer her to an abortion clinic. They even gave her an envelope of information that had “For a proud Mom-to-be” written on it.

To be honest, it’s not the worst I’ve heard. I worked at a clinic that had a CPC next door, and we heard stories from patients about their experiences there that would shock you. But the fact remains that while Surrey Pregnancy Options Centre is not the worst offender, they are blatantly lying to people and spreading misinformation about legal health care.

My question is, how good do we feel about being behind the camera? I met a woman at a NAF meeting who worked at one of the Planned Parenthood clinics that was targeted by the “racist donor” phone calls. They were fighting against backlash they simply could not afford. Speaking as someone who has now worked for a few organizations that struggle to keep unearned backlash and negative rumours out of the news, I can say that it’s not easy to continue doing good work when every move is scrutinized by the right wing and the media. Sustainability without putting staff and patients at direct physical risk is always a concern for abortion clinics; it gets worse when they are targeted by these undercover operations. If you want change, go through the courts or the government, is what we say to the James O’Keefes and the Lila Roses. If your cause is so valid and moral, why be so sneaky? Stay on the level, and meet us where we’re at.

…So is it ok that we are now turning around and using the same tactics they used on us? Is it ok for the pro-choice movement to start Lila Rose-ing all over the place? Why don’t the same arguments apply to us? Maybe because we are being stalled in legal channels; there have been small victories with regards to how CPCs can and cannot advertise their services, but for the most part there seem to be no repercussions for giving false medical information to anyone who walks through the door. There are a lot of factors at play when it comes to social justice and the complicated relationship we, as activists, have with the justice system. But maybe that doesn’t excuse being giant hypocrites.

From a strictly personal standpoint, I don’t think I can forgive James O’Keefe for his part in creating the media storm that brought down ACORN in the US, or Lila Rose for setting back worthwhile organizations trying to provide health care to low income folks. Because of that, I cannot condone the use of the same tactics within our movement. But I also can’t help feeling that I’m indulging in a false equivalency here. The CTV reporter only went in and recorded what happened. There was – as far as we know – no suggestive editing, and no particularly leading questions. Does that make it ok?

I honestly cannot answer that question.