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Where do 2012 presidential candidates stand on reproductive rights?

6 Sep

With the 2012 elections fast approaching (less than 430 days until we cast our ballots) the perspective presidential field is becoming clearer.  With potential nominees like Donald Trump, Tim Pawlenty, and Mike Huckabee having already decided against running, the nomination is wide open.  Currently there are 4 or so people who seem to be the “front runners” in the race, and their views on reproductive rights are nothing short of alarming.

Ron Paul

Before entering politics in the 1970’s, Paul worked as an OB/GYN.  During his time in the medical field, he delivered more than 4,000 babies.  He says that this experience has led him to his view that life starts at conception.  Paul says that he is “an unshakable foe of abortion” and claims that he has never dealt with a pregnant woman who medically needed an abortion.  He was the prime sponsor of HR300, a bill that would overturn Roe v. Wade and put the power to regulate the legality of abortion in the state’s hands.  While Paul’s 2012 campaign has received more support than his 2008 campaign, it still seems unlikely that he will be able to secure the nomination.

Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachmann is the only woman being considered for the nomination, yet is one of the most anti-choice.  During her congressional campaigns she was endorsed by the Susan B. Anthony List, an organization that promotes women in politics who oppose the right to choose.  She also signed the “2012 Pro-life Presidential Leadership Pledge” which states that if elected president she will only nominate “pro-life” appointees to the Supreme Court and certain Cabinet and Executive Branch positions.  By signing the pledge she also promises to defund Planned Parenthood and advance anti-abortion legislation, if elected president.  At a recent debate she was asked if abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest, and in response she told the crowd that she was 100% pro-life.

Before getting involved in national politics, Bachmann and her husband volunteered as “sidewalk counselor” and frequently prayed outside abortion clinics.  She has spoken in support of other sidewalk counselors and worked to stop tax dollars going to hospitals that perform abortions.  Like Paul, Bachmann’s chances of getting the nomination are unlikely.

Mitt Romney

After an unsuccessful 2008 run, Mitt Romney is back to try for 2012 and seems to be the most likely nominee.  Romney has the experience, political support, and money to orchestrate a successful run– he is also the most moderate, but tends to flip-flop on important issues.

Until 2005 he identified as pro-choice and even made donations with his wife to Planned Parenthood.  While Romney stated that he personally opposed abortion, he strongly supported the right to access abortion services.  In 2005 though he did a complete flip-flop and vetoed a bill that would expand access to emergency contraception.  While not directly affecting abortion access, this signaled a change in his position on the matter.  It is still unclear what his specific views on abortion are.  He opted not to sign the Pro-Life Leadership Pledge that Michele Bachmann and other candidates signed, so this could be signaling another change in Romney’s personal views.  Even so, it seems unlikely that he would be able to gain the support he needs from the Conservative Republican leadership if he came out as pro-choice.  

Rick Perry

Aside from Romney, Rick Perry is probably the most likely candidate.  He has the power and connection to do it, and being Governor of Texas (as George W. Bush was before he was elected) doesn’t hurt either.  Perry also happens to be the most outwardly anti-choice of any of the candidates.  He too signed the Pro-Life Leadership Pledge, but that was almost unnecessary given the laws he’s been putting in place in Texas.  Earlier this year Perry labeled a new abortion regulation law as an “emergency”, pushing it into debate ahead of truly pressing issues like Texas’s unemployment and healthcare problems.  Recently key portions of that same law— which would have forced women wanting to have an abortion to see the fetus on a sonogram, listen to a heartbeat, hear a scripted anti-abortion speech read by their doctor, and wait another 24 hours before being allowed to have the procedure done— were struck down by a judge.  Perry has also worked to nearly eliminate all family planning funds and keep Texas schools teaching abstinence only education (even though it doesn’t work).

What about President Obama?

While we may not always be happy with how President Obama is representing the pro-choice movement, I think we can all agree that he is better than any of these people.  He may not always listen to our ideas, or react the way we would like him to, but there’s no way that any possible Republican nominee would be better.  It is important that we not blindly follow him, but it is also important that we look at the competition and realize how much worse it could be; and that is why I will be voting for Barak Obama in the 2012 elections.

When reproductive rights are intertwined with state rights

27 Jul

When someone says the term “battleground state,” Mississippi is not one that comes to mind. But in 2012, that’s exactly what Mississippi will be.  The Republican-dominated state is the focus of Personhood USA’s next attack, and this time it’s about more than abortion.

Personhood USA has become well known over the last several years in the reproductive rights world for their work on attempting to pass “personhood” legislation to get embryos, zygotes, and fetsues recognized as full, social security card-carrying people.  In most cases they put this personhood legislation to a vote in a normal election by adding an amendment or initiative to the ballot (which are called ballot measures).  Just like we vote into office our elected officials, these amendments and initiatives are put to a vote.

A “normal” personhood ballot measure’s goals are to do a couple of key things:  First, it defines life as starting at conception, and second, it ensures that every single “person” or living thing– and remember life now starts at conception—has the same rights.  This means that miscarriages can become the subject of murder investigations and most forms of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and stem cells research become illegal. Of course, this also makes abortion illegal.  If a majority of voters approves this type of personhood ballot measure, it becomes law—it’s important to note that this has not happened yet.

Every state has different laws regarding how initiatives and amendments can get on the ballot.  Each state requires a different number of signatures from voters showing support for the measure.  Some states don’t even allow types of ballot measures, and Mississippi is one of those states.

Ballot measures in Mississippi may not be used to alter the state constitution’s Bill of Rights, but Personhood USA’s ballot initiative (officially named Initiative 26) would do exactly that.  If approved it would alter the Bill of Rights and re-define the term person to include “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.”

The ACLU filed a lawsuit to have it struck from the ballot, but it was overturned by a local judge, Malcolm Harrison, in a political ruling.  He was up for re-election and the measure had been receiving support in his district, so he overturned the lawsuit.  Ironically, he lost the election, but the damage had already been done.  The ACLU and Planned Parenthood have appealed to the Mississippi State Supreme Court to rule on this issue and are currently waiting for a verdict, but here’s where it really gets tricky. Mississippi’s Republican-run Supreme Court’s verdict could mean a lot.  Not only will their verdict set a precedent, but it will also affect another ballot measure.

Mississippi Eminent Domain Amendment (or Initiative 31) is a ballot measure that would restrict the government’s ability to take private property and transfer it to a separate person or private business.  If passed, it would amend the Mississippi Bill of Rights, the same docment that the Personhood ballot measure would impact.  Initiative 31 is also the subject of a legal battle.  This means that if the Republican-dominated court strikes down the Eminent Domain Amendment (which they are against) they will also be forced to strike down the Personhood Amendment (which they support).

This legal conundrum goes well beyond any issue of reproductive rights.  If the measure is kept on the ballot, it will make a legal precedent that ballot measures may be used to alter the State Bill of Rights.  This could have unheard of long term consequences with future ballot measures.  Hopefully the court is able to look past their anti-abortion views and see that taking both initiatives off of the Mississippi ballot is the right thing to do for their state.

What Voting and Fetal Pain Laws Have in Common

25 Apr

The right to vote is guaranteed to every single United States citizen over the age of 18, that’s common knowledge.  What if one state, say Iowa, was trying to change that?  Maybe they decided that in their state people had to wait until they were 20 to vote.  In their mind, they’re not breaking the law; just refining it.

A few months go by and Iowa decides to add some more measurements to their voting law.  You can still vote when you’re 20, but you just have to wait a little while.  Instead of being able to vote as soon as you turn in your voting registration papers, you have to wait 72 hours; to make sure voting is something you really want to do.

Still a few more months go by and the local government isn’t seeing the decline in voting that they wanted to, so they decide to institute new regulations.  Now when you go to vote, the person running the voting both must tell you that voting causes cancer.  Even though there is absolutely no crediable proof that voting does cause cancer, you must be told that before you are allowed to vote.

Sounds crazy, right?  Well laws such as these are currently being put in place in an effort to regulate abortion.  So maybe abortion is a little more controversial than voting, but the same principal is in each.  Roe v. Wade protects a women’s right to abort her fetus into the second trimester, the same way that the 26th amendment protect a US citizen’s right to vote at age of 18.  Several states, including Iowa, have been trying to challenge that and pass laws that make abortions illegal after 20 weeks.  They’re still keeping abortion legal, but adding restrictions on how late into pregnancy abortions can be preformed.

The list of absurd laws goes on: South Dakota has a new law that forces women to wait 3 days before having an abortion and Indiana even has a bill working its way up to the governor that would force doctors to tell women in writing that abortion causes cancer (yet there is medical no link between the two).  Abortions cause cancer the same way voting causes cancer: it doesn’t.

These attacks are not only immoral, some should be considered illegal under Roe.  For more information about your states laws and restrictions on abortion, the Guttmacher Institute breaks it down state-by-state in an easy to read chart here.


Planned Parenthood Truth Tour

9 Mar

Over the last month, Planned Parenthood has become the target of anti-choice groups like never before. First, heavily edited Live Action films were released that claimed Planned Parenthood employees operated unprofessionally– they actually did everything they were supposed to, but those parts got edited out.  Then the House voted on a bill to bar Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funds, for anything it does.  Now Lila Rose, whose life mission is to shut down Planned Parenthood, is launching a bus tour to spread her lies.  She is trying to convince the Senate to vote “yes” on HR3 and the Pence Amendment (both of which would make it harder for women to receive the medical care they need).  Essentially Rose and other “pro-life” politicians are trying to force an organization, that more than 20% of American women will visit at some point in their lifetime, to close its doors.

To counter act these attacks, Planned Parenthood has launched its own tour.  Staff and volunteers will be traveling the North East over the next week spreading the truth about Planned Parenthood in an awesome pink bus.   You can keep up with their progress and hear reports from the road on their new blog here.  To see if the bus will be stopping in your town click here, or see the list below.  We hope to see you out wearing pink and showing support for Planned Parenthood!

TUESDAY, March 8

Tuesday, March 8 8:00am–9:00am EST
Outside Rep. Marcy Kaptur’s Office
One Maritime
Toledo, OH 43604

Tuesday, March 8 3:45pm–4:45pm EST
Outside Rep. Jason Altmire’s Office
2110 McLean St.
Aliquippa, PA 15001


Wednesday, March 9 9:00am–10:00am EST
1717 Newtown Langhorne Rd.
Langhorne, PA 19047

Wednesday, March 9 3:15pm–4:15pm EST
Clinton Square
Syracuse, NY

THURSDAY, March 10

Thursday, March 10 9:30am–10:00am EST
Planned Parenthood Health Center
111 Point St.
Providence, RI 02903

Thursday, March 10 12:00pm–1:00pm EST
NEAR Rep. Frank Guinta’s Office (parking lot)
33 Lowell St.
Manchester, NH 03101


Connect and Breathe : Someone to Listen on the East Coast

19 Jan

One in three women will have an abortion by the time she is 45. This is a basic fact of life, whether anti-choice activists like it or not. It has also been shown that the statistics change very minimally whether abortion is illegal or not, about one in three women will have an abortion either way. One in three will walk into a clinic, sometimes past protesters, to get an abortion. Most women don’t want to have an abortion, but it’s a necessity to them for whatever reason.

Our reproductive health care community has made it fairly easy for a women to get the treatment she needs, but there is a flaw in the system; there is only minimal support for women after abortions. Many clinics do require follow up appointments with counseling sessions within the days or weeks after an abortion, but what about months or even years later? This is where not for profit organizations like Exhale and Connect & Breathe come in. They are both non-judgmental after abortion talk lines. These talk lines are places where women are able to freely discuss, with trained operators, their experiences with abortion. Exhale has been in existence for awhile providing helpful care and support over the phone to women on the West Coast, while Connect & Breathe is fairly new.

Connect & Breathe was created to fill the gap for a talk line, similar to Exhale, but on the East Coast. Their vision at Connect & Breath is to create “a world where women are listened to and trusted, where the stigma of abortion is lifted, and women serve as their own moral agents regarding their reproductive health.” Their phone lines officially become operational on January 20th, at 5pm EST. From then on there will be trained operators on the phones, waiting to help, every Tuesday and Thursday from 6pm-9pm and Saturdays from 10am-2pm.

If you are having any emotional difficulties after you have had an abortion, whether it be one that you had yesterday or years ago, I encourage you to seek out support from Exhale if you are on the West Coast, or Connect & Breathe on the East. These are both fabulous organizations, waiting to help women everywhere.

Election Detox

3 Nov

I for one, started out with very minimal hopes for the Democrats.  Looking at polls from Gallup and almost every other polling company, I was gearing up for a very bad night.  Nate Silver at FiveThrityEight even developed a worse case scenario prediction that Republicans could take almost 80 House seats from the Democrats (they only took an estimated 65).  Though it’s unlikely that we will know exactly what happened on November 2nd for several weeks, due to several very close races that we probably end up being decided in a legal battle, we do know the result of most seats.

Overall the results aren’t terrible, but they’re pretty bad.  Some anti-choice politicians like NY governor hopeful Carl Paladino (R) were not elected.  Paladino was defeated by about 25 points by pro-choice Democratic candidate Andrew Cuomo.  Pro-choice Barbra Boxer (D) also won California’s Senate, defeating Carly Fiorina (R), the former CEO of Hewlett Packard.  This will be Boxer’s fourth term, and with a new governor of California, it will definitely be an important term.  Boxer has stood up for women’s rights year after year, and if Fiorina had taken her seat, we would have lost a key ally in the United States Senate.  In Connecticut, Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal (D) was able to win against WWE entrepreneur Linda McMahon (R).  Finally, in Delaware, Senate candidate Chris Coons (D) defeated Christine O’Donnell (R) by a wide margin.

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What Are You Doing Nov. 2?

1 Nov

Today I found out something terrible is about to happen, this will devastate to United States of America along with the entire world.  The result of this catastrophe will be felt by our children, and our children’s children, and for many generations onward.  There is some good news though; we can stop it from happening.  If we are going to be able to stop it though, I need your help.  Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to help defeat anti-choice candidates in this upcoming election.  I’ve outlined several key missions below.  Hopefully I have reached you in time, and we are not too late to stop it from happening.

Location: Delaware

Race: Senate

Candidates: Christine O’Donnell (R) vs Chris Coons (D)

Mission Details: This is probably one of the oddest races of the election.  Republican, candidate Christine O’Donnell is an anti-choice female who is just, well, something else.  She’s almost as, dare I say it, George Bush when it comes to that whole talking thing.  O’Donnell has so many quotes that make absolutely no sense, or are just plain false, that the Huffington Post decided to make a list here.  Some of my favorites include:

  • “It is not enough to be abstinent with other people, you also have to be abstinent alone. The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery, so you can’t masturbate without lust.” – Masturbation = adultery, right?
  • “I dabbled into witchcraft.  I never joined a coven.” – Good to know!  I think…
  • “The definition of a socialist economy is when 50% or more your economy is dependent on the federal government.” – Umm no.

Besides all of that, she owes over $10,000 in back taxes and she is under investigation for misuse of campaign funds.  Looking past her own legal troubles (no matter how hard that is) she is against abortion even in cases of rape or incest and if the mother’s life is endanger, she would let the family decide which life to save, though I’m not 100% sure how that’d work…

Final Note: Chris Coons for Delaware Senate!

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Scarleteen Blogathon: Sex-Ed and Bleach

26 Oct

Sex-ed.  We hear that word a lot, but who really knows what sex-ed is? It’s short for “sexual education,” but what’s that?  According to my handy dandy dictionary, sex education is: “education about human sexual anatomy, reproduction, and intercourse and other human sexual behavior.”  Lots of words, but it’s pretty much learning about the human body and its reproduction.  Pretty much straight forward, right?  Wrong.

I know how un-straightforward sex-ed is, probably more than any other blogger you read.  That’s because I attended health class, every day, for 20 weeks less than a year ago.  Every single morning at 7:40am I was in Mr. Hanson’s (he requested I not use his real name) class for 46 minutes.  Monday-Friday from December all the way to February, I had to sit in this class.  This was a chance for New York State and Pittsford Central School District (the place where I go to school) to tell me everything they think I should know, or more importantly, not tell me what they think I shouldn’t know.  We covered everything from eating habits, to drugs, to sex.  Overall I can’t complain too much about it.  When it came to the sex-ed part, Mr. Hanson made sure I knew “the consequences of engaging in sexual activity and the benefits of choosing abstinence.”  Though it mostly focused on abstinence, our curriculum included the word condom, but pretty much nothing on birth control, even Plan B.  Either way, I think Mr. Hanson did a pretty good job teaching what he was supposed to, and luckily what he was supposed to teach us was generally true.  Sadly that isn’t the case in many of today’s sex-ed classroom.

Over the past several months I’ve talked to hundreds of youth, adults, and educators from around the country about their sex-ed experiences.  From this I learned that I had a pretty good sex-ed class, even though Mr. Hanson’s curriculum didn’t acknowledge the existence of non-heterosexual sex, or that condoms are almost 100% reliable if people use them correctly.  Even though during those 20 weeks I never heard the words dental dam, or received instructions on how to correctly put a condom on, I still had a “great” curriculum compared to most.

One of the worst stories about a sex-ed class came from a teen living in Utah.  I met Emma this summer and she told me about a video she had to watch in her middle school sex-ed class.  The video was about two people getting married.  Not too bad, marriage is pretty normal and all.  Sadly this video was anything from normal.  It started with a man and woman about to get married, but before they did, they exchanged tennis shoes.  The man’s shoes were nice and clean, while the woman’s were scuffed up and dirty.  The man says to the woman “it looks like you let the whole football team run in these” and she responds by saying “but I made them all wear socks.”  Right as the video ended, the man decided to break off the marriage with the girl.

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The Irony of Abortion

8 Oct

Over the last several months, since I really got into writing and working in the pro-choice movement, Twitter has become a staple of my life. Though I don’t Tweet too frequently, I used my account (@MaxKaminCross) to follow other pro-choice bloggers. Twitter has become a vital tool for activists; it lets me see what’s going on with multiple campaigns and political races around the country, all in one place. That being said, Twitter has also become a place for others to spread their anti-choice agenda.

I recently received a Tweet that stated “@MaxKaminCross you background is disgustingly ironic.” As a rule I choose not to respond to comments like that via Twitter because of the 140 character limit, but this did get me thinking about what he meant by that. When I first made my Twitter I looked online for a while, trying to find the perfect picture that encompassed my thoughts on abortion and settled on this one. It states “Abortion is a personal decision, not a legal debate.” I really liked it because it demonstrates that abortion is a decision that a woman has to make for herself, and the government should not be stopping her. Woman’s choices are not something that should be limited by laws enforced by the government. Overall I thought it was a pretty good picture to use, so I couldn’t understand what this person was talking about.

To try and figure it out, I looked up what “irony” means just to be sure we were both thinking about the same definition. Irony (root word of ironic): Noun- the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning. So what’s ironic about the image I use for my background? Could it maybe be the fact that abortion is a personal decision? That doesn’t make sense though… I don’t think anything be more personal than a decision of what to do with your body. So if it’s not that, the ironic part must be the fact that abortion isn’t a legal debate. Though this has come true over the past few years, I still don’t see the irony.

Overall I’m confused about what anti-choice people see as ironic about a picture promoting a woman’s right to choose, one that no one should be allowed to take away. Sadly it seems more and more politicians running for office are seeing abortion through this misguided light too; people such as Carly Fiorina (R-CA) run on anti-choice platforms. If these politicians are elected on November 2, I fear that this sense of a woman’s right to choose being “disgustingly ironic” will spread. With only days left most states to register to vote, please do so here so that these vital human rights stay intact.

Comprehensive Sex Ed: Teaching the Teachers

17 Sep

Originally posted on RH Reality Check

On September 15th, the CDC released a new report on the share of teens in the United States that were taught about birth control.  This report shows that one-third of teens were never taught about birth control in their health classes.  This is crazy; some schools are still not teaching about birth control, though the public overwhelmingly agrees that it needs to be taught.  One poll even showed that 85 percent of parents believe that teens need to be taught about birth control.  The other two-third of teens, which are taught about birth control, may not know enough about how to use it.  Birth control methods seem to be the most taboo topic in the sex-ed world.

To try and figure out why this is, and learn more about teachers opinions on sex-ed, I sat down with my old health teacher, just hours after this study was released.  After our conversation I began thinking, and I realized it’s not that educators are against birth control, it’s that they’re afraid of it.

I attended Mr. Hanson’s (not his real name) class every day first period for twenty weeks last year.  Mr. Hanson describes the curriculum he teaches as “fairly comprehensive,” though from my own personal experience I know the main focus is on abstinence.  When I asked him about this, Hanson explains that he tries to “inform students that sex can be great, at the right time, with the right person” and that he can’t decide when the right time is for his students to have sex.  He also tries to instill in his student’s minds that “if sex is to occur, a condom must be worn.”  As a result, he does talk about birth control, though usually in the context that the Pill does not prevent sexually transmitted infections or disease.   Even so, his students are already part of that two-third that learned about birth control.  Just because students know what birth control is–that it exists–doesn’t mean that they know how to properly use it or how to get it.  Many girls won’t talk to a parent about getting birth control because they think that their parents will be displeased that they are having sex.  Students are sometimes afraid to buy condoms because of fear someone may see them, among other concerns.  Though these are not reasons why someone should ever have unprotected sex, these taboos are a reality in today’s society.  Hanson believes that may not be a bad thing.  He says that students that do have sex need to be responsible, and if they are unable or unwilling to secure birth control for themselves or their partner, they may not be ready to have sex.  If only that was the situation, life would be simpler.  Sadly many teens don’t see it that way.  Teens are still having unprotected sex, even with knowledge of birth control options.  And what does that mean for that one-third of teens that aren’t educated about birth control…?

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