Archive | February, 2013

Supporting more trans stories: reflections on our healthcare system and the media

28 Feb

A guest post by Lauren Herold and Tobias Rodriguez.

Earlier this week, an Indiegogo campaign went viral: Emerson College’s Phi Alpha Tau fraternity raised money for their frat brother, Donnie Collins, a trans man who needs top surgery. Donnie initially tried to pay for the surgery through Emerson’s insurance, Aetna, since Aetna offers coverage for trans*-related surgeries and hormone replacement therapy; Donnie’s request was denied, however, because Emerson College did not opt in to those services. After  featured an article about Phi Alpha Tau’s Indiegogo campaign, the brothers raised more than twice the $8,000 Donnie needs for the surgery.

Donnie’s frat brothers spoke in their Indiegogo video about wanting this fundraiser to start a conversation. There are (at least) two important conversations we’d like to address.

First, not every insurance company covers trans-related services. Colleges are typically hesitant to add these services for financial reasons. When colleges opt in to services for insurance plans they offer to students, they want to ensure they are getting their money’s worth. If a college doesn’t have any trans students, they can claim that these additional services will be paid for by all but enjoyed by few. Their most obvious incentive to add the services is to attract a more diverse student population, but the chances of the college attracting even dozens of trans students who need these services is slim.

It’s good that insurance companies like Aetna are beginning to cover these services, and many colleges are beginning to follow suit by opting into these services. But “many” is not enough. People like Donnie oftentimes don’t have time to wait for their insurance plan to decide to cover necessary services. Raising funds for an individual’s surgery may be successful in the short term, but we shouldn’t have to settle for hoping that the kindness of strangers will make up for the shortcomings of insurance companies and their clients. We need to push for institutional change so that all policies include these services. There are trans people around the country with similar medical needs who spend years saving or raising funds for these procedures and sometimes do not succeed. What about them?

We also need to talk about media coverage around the Indiegogo campaign. Most reporters have focused on a hook: that fraternity members defied the frat bro archetype by launching a campaign in support of a trans member. Donnie’s frat brothers deserve a lot of credit for demonstrating what it means to be a trans ally. But when media coverage focuses on the actions of cisgender individuals, it moves focus away from the fact that lack of proper medical care for trans people is a systemic issue and shifts our gaze to the stories of cis allies. The frat brothers are the conversation piece: they both created the conversation and are the subject of it, while Donnie’s experiences are discussed only briefly. Who gets to talk about trans people’s bodies and experiences? Cis people create the storyline and drive the narrative, and articles about the Indiegogo campaign reaffirm this trope.

This pattern perpetuates the assumption that cis people can talk about trans people’s bodies and experiences without their consent and without repercussions. In this case, Donnie welcomed the Indiegogo campaign as another platform he can use to share his experiences with the world, and has already made a variety of YouTube videos documenting his transition. However, for many trans people, their transition is a private journey. Stories like these make invisible the trans people who don’t medically transition as well as those who don’t want their transition to be public knowledge.

These stories also reify a singular trans narrative: that every trans person comes out, is supported, and begins a medical transition that includes hormone replacement therapy and at least one surgery. This is the story most people are comfortable hearing, but it does not reflect all trans people’s experiences and it alienates trans people whose experiences differ. It leaves out trans people who do not medically transition (whether because of personal preference or lack of access), who do not have a support system, and/or who are not vocal about their trans status.

We applaud the efforts of Donnie’s brothers–their campaign has helped change his life, and will continue to benefit trans people: they have pledged to donate the extra money they raised to the Jim Collins Foundation. Yet these efforts are not enough. We have to work toward systemic change in our healthcare system so trans people are not constantly fighting individual battles. And when we tell trans stories, we need to do so with a media that captures the full complexity of trans experiences.

*We use the asterisk here to suggest that the term “trans” can refer to a lot of identities under the trans umbrella. Here’s a great explanation of why. Our choice to use the asterisk in our first use of trans* and not thereafter was for readability.


MAKERS and Beyond: The History and Future of Feminism

27 Feb

Last night, PBS aired MAKERS: How Women Made America, a three-hour look at the history and evolution of the women’s movement in the United States. If you missed it, the whole thing can be viewed online.

It’s difficult to distill 50 years of diverse, rapidly evolving, and (necessarily and often productively) contradictory feminist history, work and ideas into a documentary format at all, even if given an almost unprecedented amount of airtime to do it in. It’s important to note, right off the bat, that MAKERS relied heavily on stories told by and about the women whose identities and concerns — white, cisgender, documented, and able-bodied — have and continue to be privileged by mainstream feminism. While the film featured noted women of color and queer identified activists, their role was mostly presented as “challengers” to racism and homophobia within the mainstream feminist movement, rather than as an integral part of building that movement, now and then, to serve more people better. And it is outright shameful that MAKERS eliminated trans* folks from the history of feminism, especially since the movement and some its leaders both borrowed from trans* women’s organizing in their tactics while at the same time tearing down those women and their organizing.

But here is why I am grateful that MAKERS exists, not as the definitive version of feminist history but as a first step toward reappearing women into mainstream history: the film was, without a doubt, a more comprehensive and thoughtful look at the history of the women’s liberation movement than most US students ever learn in school — and now it exists as a resource to be used by educators who’ve either been unable to use existing resources (“too radical” or “not approved”) or simply did not know about them. There is a tremendous opportunity for the film to be paired with additional resources in classroom settings at all levels that expands upon the content in the film and introduces some of the work and leaders who were not featured on the screen.

I’m also pleased with how MAKERS contextualized the work of the women’s movement specifically as organizing. One of the most annoying forms of backlash is the myth that the feminist movement consisted of a bunch of women getting ragey and their collective rage just magically changed the world. Yes, women got ragey en masse, but many of those enraged women were organizers, coming out of the labor, civil rights, trans and queer liberation movements and there was (lots of) strategy that led to the changes, alongside raw emotion. It’s important for younger feminists to see that we are part of a long line of strategists who were also figuring out when to act, when to hold your fire, how to deal with the media narrative, and how to most effectively message the work.

The most disappointing part of MAKERS, to me, was, well…me. The final hour focused on the younger waves of feminism and its tone was epitomized by anti-labor leader Michelle Rhee speaking about her desire to cook and do laundry as an example of how younger women don’t believe they need feminism anymore. I was the sole “young feminist” — as in, under 35 — featured in the broadcast and my one line was about not caring if young people call themselves “feminists” or “turtles” as long as they are doing pro-equality work, which we are. The segment also featured Letty Pogrebin providing the tired “if they lose their rights, then they will wake up” warning about and to younger women.

First, I’m not the face of young feminism. Not that there can be one, or that one representative of a movement is ever an effective strategy, but literally, I — a white, cisgender, middle class, documented, able-bodied, educated woman living in New York — am not representative of the wonderful, broad, diverse and complicated movement of my generation that I call the Forth Wave. The younger feminist movement that I know and love is being led by radical women of color, indigenous, queer, and trans* folks of all genders, in all parts of the world and we must insist that these leaders, not those that look like me and have my privilege set, are centered in conversations about the current state of and future of feminism.

Secondly, my praise of the film’s coverage focus on the organizing of the 2nd Wave is what was missing from its look at young feminism. As Jill Filipovic points out at The Guardian, there is an entire generation, ours, that’s been radicalized, working, and movement building online. Blogs and social media are our consciousness raising groups and the spaces in which we are hashing out the diverse ideologies and strategies we use to win gender justice. But to focus solely on the online aspect of young feminism misses the other radical work that’s being done, like abortion funds run by young feminists literally fulfilling Roe’s promise of the right to abortion with access to it, and young people using their bodies to shield patients from anti-abortion protesters as clinic escorts.

Yet, for all its flaws, I liked MAKERS because for the first time I was watching a historical film in a mainstream space and thinking, “THIS. This is my history. This is my legacy, my work, and my responsibility.” It was an “I’m not alone!” moment comparable to when I discovered feminism and that’s the reaction of a women’s history nerd who honestly didn’t learn much new history — I can only imagine what it meant and might mean to people who don’t know most of that history at all.

I’m also comfortable supporting MAKERS because it’s not the end, but the beginning. The press, viewership and online conversation around the premiere demonstrated a hunger for more explorations of women’s history and a mainstream audience for them. In light of this, we should and must push for more historical women’s programming that centers the stories marginalized, minimized, and erased in this one.

We must also, as young feminists, start intentionally recording the history of our own work as history. It took 50 years to get this one made and a lot of what influenced this movie is who is still around to tell the story and who has enough power and privilege to decide what matters and how much time it gets. I’d like to see my generation not make that mistake. As a start, Steph Herold and I co-founded the Feminists of Generation Now pinterest board to highlight the broad scope of organizing being done by young feminists. I’ve already seen and taken part in conversations since the film aired last night about films, books, and shows focused on and led by the Forth Wave and I can’t wait to see where those projects go.

If the measure of a successful television is viewers asking, at the end, “what’s next?’ then MAKERS was a success. And it’s the young feminists who are here, angry, and organizing that are living out the answer.

Dealing with the Tragedy and Trauma of Loss in a Reproductive Justice Context

25 Feb

When the first rumors began to spread about a woman who had died following an abortion performed by Dr. Leroy Carhart, one of the last doctors in the country willing to perform third trimester abortions, the Gang gathered around our proverbial fireplace to talk it out.

Our first reactions were, as always, a enormous outpouring of empathy for the woman and her family – not just for the loss of her life, but for the invasion of their privacy and lack of space to grieve that would now be inevitable. This was accompanied by a sinking feeling of dread at all that we knew would now happen. There would be the aforementioned invasion of privacy by anti-choicers. There would be loud insistence that they had been right all along, that abortion is inherently unsafe, even though the exact opposite is true – women are 14 times more likely to die from complications of childbirth than from abortion.* Anti-choicers would use this to attack pro-choice work, insisting that we don’t care about women and babies, and we’re all essentially murderers. Meanwhile, we’re grieving for the loss of one of our own, and worrying about the future of one of the few doctors left in the country who unequivocally supports the right to choose at the cost of his own privacy and safety. We also discussed the fact that for at least a week or two, all information would be a rumor, the loudest and sometimes the only voices would be anti-choice, and we would need to wait for real information, out of respect for the woman and her family, before we could talk about the case.

It went down just like we thought it would.

Anti-choicers, with no information about what had actually happened to the woman who had been Dr. Carhart’s patient, immediately began harassing out pro-choice advocates online, including, among a bunch of other crap, this early tweet to our editor. We advised everyone to use the “block” function liberally. Then the Washington Post reported that anti-choicers had illegally invaded the woman and her family’s privacy by first obtaining (ILLEGAL) and then publicly broadcasting (FUCKING ILLEGAL) her medical records from the hospital. And throughout this, of course, there were a million articles and blog posts on anti-choice newsfeeds and websites nearly rejoicing in this woman’s death, since they were sure it meant a huge political win. That kind of thing is really hard to take, although it lead to some good conversations about how tragedy and death are politicized in all social movements, and in what ways that is effective and respectful or disrespectful depending on the circumstances.

It has now become clear that the woman died of rare complications that can occur after vaginal birth, c-section, or abortion. There is no way to tell if a woman will experience these complications.One source in the article describes it as the obstetric equivalent of being hit by lightning. All appearances, including a gift registry, suggest that this was a wanted child and that health complications for either the mother or the fetus required the third-trimester procedure.

It’s disheartening that we knew exactly the way this story would unfold, but it demonstrated to me that we have solid, responsible coping mechanisms in place. Here are what we can offer as some best practices for dealing with a tragedy like this:

1) Don’t believe the hype. Don’t believe anything you’ve heard until reputable, mainstream news sources are releasing reliably sourced information. In the beginning, while we do our job of hanging back respectfully and waiting, anti-choicers will be gearing up a political campaign of epic proportions. They love this shit. At this moment, they’re like dogs after the juiciest bone of their lives. They are not going to wait to discern what’s true. While it’s painful, let them do their thing. Don’t respond on social media, don’t make a statement. Remember that while we as out pro-choice activists are targeted by these people and hear their messages all the time, most of the world is totally unaware that they exist. Practice self-care and respect for the human lives involved by not engaging until you have more information.

2) Allow yourself to grieve in complicated ways. You are allowed to grieve for the loss of a community member while also feeling fear for the medical professionals involved. You are allowed to acknowledge the reality that anti-choicers will attempt to exploit a woman’s death for political gain, and you are allowed to feel dread. It is extremely unfortunate we couldn’t mourn in a straightforward manner, but knowing that the consequences of the tragedy will be complicated and political and not looking forward to that at all does not make you less compassionate or less aware that a real human life has been lost and that is awful.

3) Do not engage. Do not engage. Do not engage. You’re not dealing with rational people, and yes, as an out pro-choice activist, they do want to hurt you. You’re not required to get involved, and as much as you want to yell, you don’t have all the information yet, and you need to remember that they don’t either – see #1.

4) Seriously engage with the real issues. Once you know what the real issues involved in the case are, consider them. In this case, the real issue is that a woman experienced an extremely rare complication; it has nothing to do with abortion one way or another. But it’s also the case that a woman who wanted to keep her pregnancy found out very late that it wasn’t viable and required a third-trimester abortion, which is illegal in almost every state. She was lucky to find a doctor who would perform the procedure, and that doctor is under constant attack, a fact which this incident only serves to highlight. There may come a time in the next few years where someone with an unviable pregnancy has literally no options. Let’s talk about that.


*This should be a sign that our maternal care is fucking abysmal and in a comprehensive reproductive justice framework we should really try to do something about that. However, that being said, pregnancy itself is a project that takes a significant toll on the body and, even under optimal circumstances (which the US does not offer, especially for poor people and people of color), poses inevitable risk. Being pregnant is and will always be riskier for someone’s health than an abortion. So bless all of you willingly and happily bringing bright and beautiful children into this world, cause it is no easy thing.

Pregnant and I do not want to be

12 Feb

A guest post by a writer who wishes to remain anonymous

When the plus sign came up I just stared, not surprised, not not surprised, just that groggy7:48 am feeling of “oh.” I threw the test away. Then I picked it up out of the trash and behind my mirror in the cabinet. Looked at myself dead in the face and walked to kiss my Father Good Morning (I live at home).

Is it a Good Morning? He got ready and I lifted my shirt up in the mirror to see my belly. Touch it. I’m pregnant. Really dark blue plus sign pregnant. Which, you know, I suppose I was expecting (no pun intended) because I went so far as to piss on a pregnancy test.

Yesterday, I reached for a jar in a friend’s kitchen and when I brought down my arm I almost screamed in pain. My upper arm lightly pressed the outside of my breast and, bam, agony. Fuck, I thought, I’m pregnant. And then went on cooking because I’ve heard its best to piss on the stick in the morning. Really, that’s how my mind works: You’re pregnant, for sure, you’re pissing on a stick in the morning, could you please pass the salt.

I don’t know who created this mass of cells with me. I’ll know between 3:40 and 4:40 pm this afternoon when an ultrasound tells the gestation. I had sex twice in January, with two different people, and for the first (and second) time in over six months.

I am getting an abortion. There’s no two ways to Sunday on that one. I have an appointment today to confirm that I am eligible for a medical abortion. I will know the father and the day I am extracting it from my body. Father? Am I a mother now?

I don’t know. I also don’t know who to tell. If it’s the second man, I will tell him. I don’t know how to contact the first. And other than potentially one persona, I don’t have anyone. My family and my best friends, mentors, and former coworkers, would probably all know what to say, but I don’t want to hear any one close to me’s opinions or point of views. I don’t want to be able to hear any one else’s voice in my mind other than my own right now. At least until I know more.

Can We Get Some #RealTalk on Pregnancy?

6 Feb

We don’t just consume media every minute of every day, we are force-fed media. Media is unavoidable. It’s on the computer, where many of us do a lot of work. It’s on the TV, where we sometimes go to relax. Here in NYC, it’s on every single street. You can’t leave your apartment without being assaulted by socializing images and ideas. So until I was 23 and my best friend had a baby, almost everything I knew about pregnancy came from media – television shows, movies, and magazines. I could hardly remember my mother’s two pregnancies after my birth, so I didn’t have much, as it were, up-close-and-personal experience.

But even if I did, it wouldn’t have mattered, because here’s the thing about pregnancy: everyone lies about it.

Lies! So many lies. And so much lying by omission; so much just not-telling about the truth of pregnancy. Media has a nicely packaged version of pregnancy that is meant to make it look difficult, but funny, and ultimately completely worthwhile. This is understandable, since most media is run by people who can never, ever actually get pregnant. I have a theory about the lying and lying-by-omission done by people who have understand pregnancy on more intimate terms, too. I think that people who know the truth about pregnancy lie about it because if we knew the truth about pregnancy, almost no one would ever consent to being pregnant.

I always thought there was a secret mommy-club I wasn’t part of, where women (in the time and place where I grew up, pregnancy, parenting, and everything else were highly gendered) sat around in little sewing-type circles, drinking tea and lightly sharing what I viewed as some of the most mysterious secrets of the universe. And I was right. There is a secret mommy club. When my first close friend got pregnant, I was inducted as an honorary member and given a special pass, which I still keep on a lanyard for when I need it. The mommy club pulled back the curtain for me, and what I saw behind it scared the ever-loving shit out of me.

I have been exposed to more images of fake baby-bumps that I have been exposed to actual people’s real, pregnant bodies. As a result, I thought pregnant bodies had sort of big, round, firm bellies, like a safe case for the baby – like a guitar in a guitar case. THIS IS NOT TRUE. A pregnant belly is a lot more like a sac that an alien is growing in, and it’s freaky. Babies move in-utero and sit on your spine, on your vital organs – one friend, while in-utero, sent her mother to bed for several months because she just loved to lie on a major artery and she CUT OFF HER MOTHER’S BLOOD SUPPLY. Once, my friend’s baby reached it’s little hand out, from the womb, to high-five me. I could see a hand trying to reach through my friend’s stomach, from the inside. Guys, pregnancy is horror-movie-level WEIRD, and that is no joke.

Morning sickness? That ain’t some cute shit you see in the movies where you throw up once or twice and then the truth slowly dawns all over your face and then you run to the drug store, pick up a test, and flash-cut to you sitting on a toilet holding a stick with a plus sign and then it fades away so you can hurry up to the setting-up-the-crib montage. Morning sickness often doesn’t fade away. Morning sickness is crippling. For some pregnant people, morning sickness is code for “7 months of constantly having the flu, running a slight fever, vomiting several times a day.” You should read the whole post I just linked to. It’s by a young woman who’s pregnant and it mostly details sitting on or near the toilet literally all day, every day.

My friend is breastfeeding. Her hair is falling out. Her dentist told her she’s losing so much calcium to the adorable, beloved parasite (this is the cutest parasite in history, you have no idea) that she may need dental surgery.

Mood swings? Hollywood loves to make mood swings the funny center of a relationship up-and-down that starts with yelling and ends with The Woman sitting on the couch, crying, admitting that she feels fat and powerless, and The Man sitting down, the weight of everything she’s doing for him suddenly settling upon him, vowing to do better, Exeunt Stage Right, Consumed By Bliss. Except that mood swings for several of my friends more closely resembled crippling depression. They were unable to get out of bed. They felt powerless because pregnancy had actually rendered them powerless; they couldn’t go to work, or go to the grocery store, or do really fucking basic things for themselves, and it felt awful. And their partners felt despair, because they too were powerless, because they could go to the grocery store and pick up flowers and say nice things but they couldn’t make it better.

There came a time in my life where people started being honest about pregnancy and I started listening, but many people I know got pregnant before anyone had explained to them seriously what being pregnant might mean. When I describe immobility, helplessness, depression, severe physical discomfort, daily vomiting, and hair loss, I am not describing pregnancy worst-case-scenarios: I am describing common side effects of pregnancy.

And that’s just pregnancy. That’s not even getting in to childbirth itself. Do you know what a vaginal tear is? If you think you may ever give birth, it’s a fairly common phenomenon you may want to familiarize yourself with.

I may get pregnant someday; I may decide to have kids someday. But in the meantime, I interrogate pregnant friends and family members, in their most vulnerable, defenseless, pregnant state, like it’s my job. If I am ever going to do this thing, I want to know, as much as I possibly ever can, exactly what I have gone and gotten myself into. And I want my partner to know as well. I want both of us to be aware of what carrying a child will mean for my body, and what those changes, and frankly, that damage, will mean for our life together. I want a shared honesty about what could essentially be termed a temporary insanity brought on pregnancy and what that would mean for our home.

I see The Truth About Pregnancy being shared more and more, but still mostly in female-dominated spaces, like “mommy blogs” and Pinterest. I’d love to see young people move towards a complete honesty of what this experience means to them, or meant for them, and what elements of that experience seem unique or commonly shared.

In other words, “Sit down, honey. We need to talk about vaginal tears.”

What do polls about abortion really tell us?

5 Feb

Wall Street Journal: 7 in 10 Americans support Roe v. Wade.
Gallup: Americans favor legal abortion, they don’t overwhelming support abortion after the first trimester.
Pew: Most millennials don’t know that Roe is about abortion, but favor the decision once they’re told what it’s about.

How do we make sense of this data? What do these polls actually mean for the pro-choice and reproductive justice movements?

Interpreting polls is not easy. We can dissect each and every poll, hoping it will get to the truth of our nation’s beliefs about abortion, but in reality, these polls are brief snapshots–they tell us part of the story, but not the whole story. The many barriers to abortion access that we fight on a daily basis–from waiting periods to forced ultrasounds to the Hyde Amendment–are the result of coordinated, well-funded anti-abortion campaigns at the national and state level. If we think about social change as happening only in legislatures, then I can see why so many people are so pessimistic  about the future of abortion rights and access in the United States. While it may look bleak from a purely legislative standpoint, I think there’s actually much to be hopeful about.

Instead of looking at our movement as scrambling to catch up to the anti-abortion movement, I would like to see us shift gears and see how abundant our resources are, and figure out how to use them to our greatest potential. We have at least a dozen well-established, well-funded national organization that a majority of the American public supports. Many of these organizations have affiliates with local activists in every state. There are dozens and dozens of smaller organizations such as COLORNational Advocates for Pregnant WomenSpark Reproductive Justice NOW,  and the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, working to fight for the reproductive rights of all people, not the privileged few, and encouraging our legacy pro-choice organizations to consider the reproductive justice framework. There is a growing and vocal movement of activists, many under 40, who work outside the traditional pro-choice movement power structure and are also urging our legacy organizations to be bolder in their visions. It is limiting and shortsighted to look only at our problems; it’s also not a very good recruitment strategy. Who wants to be a part of a movement that appears to be in constant crisis?

In addition of naming all the struggles we are facing (and there are many), what if we also thought about our potential? Fighting anti-abortion bills in state and national legislatures is not enough. Are we a political movement only? Or are we also a movement for social and cultural change?

Some people are inspired by phrases like “the war on women”—it galvanizes them to participate in the struggle. Others find that kind of language exhausting and exclusive. How many times can you read the headline, “this is the WORST attack we’ve seen” without getting compassion fatigue?  In addition to taking stock of what’s going wrong, what if we also provided support and opportunities for people to re-engage with activism on their own terms? I’m thinking specifically of a new initiative called CoreAlign, which is providing people with a space to discuss the tough questions faced by the pro-choice and reproductive justice movements: Do we want the government in or out? How do we talk about gender in our movement? What kind of abortion stories do we tell to advance our goals? Evaluating where our movement’s been and where it’s going can only make us stronger. And we’ll need a strong movement to fight the legislative hurdles we’re facing.

Engaging in these exploratory, movement-focused questions is often seen as  competing with our legislative work. We can’t function on this binary. We must set gears in motion for both political and cultural change and engage everyone in the process–grassroots activists, abortion fund volunteers, people with mixed feelings about abortion, people who have and haven’t had abortions, political organizers of all stripes. Leadership requires us to go beyond public opinion polls and lead people to where we want them to be. The anti-abortion movement has been doing this for decades. It’s time we stepped up to the plate.

Catholic Hospital Argues Fetuses Are Not Persons

4 Feb

On January 25, 2013, anti-choicers from across the country gathered to march on Washington DC, in a show of their support for fetal life. This year, I’d almost forgotten about the March for Life- mostly because the event is a ton of high schoolers who are bused in to increase numbers. It’s a way for teenagers to travel, have time off from school, and hang with their friends- and sometimes they even get a little extra credit for going. So I’m not really worried about hundreds of kids taking a vacation (although you should listen to @ClinicEscort talk to a train full of them about her abortion experience here).

What reminded me that the March of Life was happening soon, was an article posted on January 23 on a Colorado news website titled “In malpractice case, Catholic hospital argues fetuses aren’t people.


Here’s a summary of what happened: in 2006, a woman who was 7 months pregnant with twins arrived at the hospital short of breath and vomiting. She passed out, and had a massive heart attack because of a clog in her artery. The doctor on call never showed up that night, the woman died less than an hour after entering the hospital, and the twins died in the womb. A terribly heartbreaking situation. The  husband is filing a wrongful-death lawsuit for the twins–he realized that his wife was beyond saving, but argues that the doctor should have arrived to perform a cesarean and saved the twins.

The Catholic hospital’s lawyers countered that fetuses aren’t people, and therefore the husband cannot file a wrongful-death suit for them.


If you ever want to know if someone REALLY believes what they are saying, pin it against money, apparently. The hospital has twice–before a court, and an appeals court–argued that persons are born, and therefore the viable, 7 month gestation fetuses are not persons. Once again: the lawyers for a Catholic hospital which has a mission stating, “Catholic health care ministry witnesses to the sanctity of life ‘from the moment of conception until death,’” have said,

…the court “should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as is used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses.”

Now, there is a very important point here I’d like to make- if the Catholic lawyers had argued the other way, things could have been very different. If they had agreed that the twin fetuses could have a wrongful-death lawsuit filed for them, and that the Catholic hospitals recognized their personhood, they could have had the beginnings of legal precedent for recognizing fetuses as persons. Of course, many hospitals and laws already recognize the value of a viable fetus to a family, and this case couldn’t have banned abortion overnight. But they didn’t choose to do that- for this Catholic hospital, it seems that money is more important than fetal life.

I probably sound like I’m repeating myself a lot, but this is a big deal. If a Catholic hospital will argue in a court of law that fetuses aren’t persons, then perhaps we shouldn’t respect their argument when it’s based upon the concept that fetuses are persons (which is quite often). If they really, truly believed and supported their position, they wouldn’t argue against it. If even Catholic hospitals following the rules of the US Catholic Bishops (some of the biggest fighters against abortion) don’t believe their ideas, why should we consider laws they try to pass? Or let them have ways to opt out of the birth control mandate?

I don’t think we should. Of course, these types of things aren’t decisions I get to make personally. But I can remember these facts about antichoicers while I am having discussions with them: that anti-choice people get abortions too; that more people are calling themselves pro-life, but support for legal abortion has not decreased; that Catholic hospitals don’t always follow the idea that life begins at conception. Some people are incredibly sure of themselves, until they face a trial of their beliefs. My goal is not to change minds overnight, or push people further into their beliefs, but to open their mind to the vast possibilities around them. Sharing this story about a Catholic hospital denying the personhood of fetuses is one way to show the world is not completely black and white for anyone, but a huge ball of gray.