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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?

If Abortion Really Was A Baby Killing Business, Then Could Women Get Some Consumer Protection?

18 Nov

On November 16, 2011, First Resort, a San Francisco organization that describes itself as existing “solely to provide free medical care and counseling services to assist women in making fully informed decisions about unplanned pregnancies,” filed a lawsuit against the City of San Francisco, alleging that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ ban on crisis pregnancy centers’ engagement in “false or misleading advertising practices,” interfered with their First Amendment rights.

First Resort is one of many so-called crisis pregnancy centers (also called CPCs) across the country which claim to provide accurate medical information to women considering abortions, but instead engage in practices that range from spouting total falsehoods to bullying.  Reports surfaced in North Carolina recently that a Jewish woman visiting a number of CPCs was told not only to not have an abortion, but that she would go to hell.  At one, she was even told to become a born again virgin.

The Huffington Post has reported that at First Resort in San Francisco, these baby hungry anti-choice mavens are not satisfied with walk in traffic to the clinic style offices, whose awning reads “A Woman’s Choice Resource Center.”  Instead, according to San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, First Resort actively recruits women unsure of their options by purchasing Google ads for the term “abortion San Francisco,” so that they could ensure that their website would be at the top of results for anyone searching for abortion services in the area.

Unfortunately, laws protecting women from organizations whose singular focus on babies and controlling women’s bodies leads them to lie do not have a great track record for survival in our legal system.  Earlier this year, a Federal judge struck down a similar law in New York, on the grounds that the First Amendment should somehow be extrapolated and perverted to mean that it is okay to lie to women when they are at their most vulnerable.

SF Appeal reported that Bayview Supervisor Malia Cohen put a great deal of effort into writing the law in such a way that it “both protects free speech as well as any women at risk of being misled.”  She clarified to reporters this week that, “this legislation does not limit or prescribe what views groups or individuals may express.  Rather it prevents groups from knowingly engaging in false or misleading advertising about the pregnancy related services they offer.”

Which, I suppose means that any San Francisco abortion clinics cannot, unfortunately, tell potential clients that having an abortion will make them thinner or blonder without incurring the city’s new $500-per-infraction fine.  If there is a San Francisco Planned Parenthood location, then they better not promise a free cruise or day at Disneyland following each procedure without following through.

Except that, as far as I know, there are no abortion clinics offering designer shoes as gifts-with-purchase-of-abortion or failing to provide full medical information to their patients.  So, if First Resort, or other CPCs feel like they are being singled out for providing misinformation, then maybe they should start asking themselves why they need to lie, instead of sucking up the courts’ time and money by suing.

Who is the 2012 Most Misogynistic Candidate? Rick Perry

9 Sep

Every election, whether it is for a local school board spot, a state governor or the White House, there are some candidates who can only be described as “out there.”  The guy running on a platform of legalizing marijuana – for medicinal and recreational use, Ralph Nader and his Green Party, and dozens of others.  What makes these candidates so “out there” is that, no matter how much money they raise or how many elections they run in, their views are wildly disparate from those that the rest of us hold.  Which means that no matter how bizarre their speeches or strange their platforms, most Americans can rest easy knowing that their chances of being elected are slim to none.

But what do you call a candidate who believes that Ohio’s so-called “Heartbeat Bill,” which will outlaw abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks of gestation, is something that should be rolled out to the rest of the country?

What do you call a candidate for President who signs a law in his home state which, were it not for the intervention of a federal judge, would force women seeking abortions to have (and pay for) sonograms and listen to the fetal heartbeat at least 24 hours prior to having their abortions?

Or  a man who wants to lead our country while forcing women who were the victims of sexual assault or incest to attest to that in writing before obtaining abortions?

This week, I have to call him Rick Perry, a man who the latest polls by ABC News and the Washington Post is in the lead to become the Republican contender in next year’s Presidential election.  Which either means that there is a lack of would be Republican candidates who care about woman or that there are more than just a few Republican voters who agree with Mr. Perry, who has been criticized for preferring to hew to an antiquated “Just Say No” style abstinence education plan in Texas, where he is Governor, rather than combat that state’s teen pregnancy rates, which have skyrocketed to become one of the highest in the country with more than 60 out of every 1,000 teenage Texan girls becoming pregnant.

What do you call Rick Perry, when he says that his abstinence only program “works” after being faced with those statistics?  Or the flock of pundits, politicians and voters who seem set on promoting his bizarre set of misogynistic values?

I’m calling it scary – what about you?

“One Life To Live” Shows That Pro-Choice is Pro-Life

10 Aug

I’ve already admitted on this blog that I occasionally read romance novels, so longtime Abortion Gang readers might not be surprised to find out that my other secret “unwind time” activity is watching soap operas.  After a day spent in a high pressure environment, crunching numbers and doing other tax accountant activities, I find it relaxing to watch the day’s episode of “One Life To Live” which I record each day on my DVR.  For forty-five minutes every evening I get to enjoy a little escapism from my life.  The storylines, ranging from switched babies to outlandish revenge plots, are wildly imaginative to put it mildly, which, to me, is part of what makes it so entertaining.

I was worried that I might have to give up my vice, though, when one of the teenage girl characters on the show, Destiny, began to show the tell tale entertainment signs of teenage pregnancy.  You know, the ignorance of any and all birth control options, remarks about such things being her boyfriend’s responsibility and the inevitable weight gain and perennial nausea, that could not, alas, be explained away by a fondness for burritos.  I started watching afterwards, though, so it was with no small amount of trepidation that I began watching the last few episodes on my DVR.  Destiny finally saw a doctor who who confirmed what she had been busy denying: a teen pregnancy.  The good doctor laid out her options to her as her brother blustered his way into the exam room filled with guilt and intent on protecting his baby sister.

Despite that, teenage Destiny still took the decision of whether to become a parent, to have a baby and give it up for adoption or to have an abortion into her own hands.  Though the decision making dialog between Destiny and her best friend, Dani, was painful as Destiny made remarks like “It would be easier to have a baby than to go through the trouble of an abortion or adoption,” the show writers effectively pointed out the very obvious flaws of pursuing the fantasy of motherhood as a teenager.  Issues like being able to go to college or supporting herself and her potential child.

After a much needed reality check, Destiny, to both my surprise, announced that she wanted to have an abortion.  Because the show takes place in Pennsylvania, though, the OB/GYN tells her that she must wait 24 hours.  Then, she throws up another state sponsored hurdle: Destiny is under 18, and in this anti-choice state, that means that if you do not have a parent’s permission to have an abortion, you must get permission from a judge.   According to the Guttmacher Institute, even if Destiny were over 18, she would still have to endure what they describe as “state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage her from having an abortion and then wait 24 hours before the procedure is provided.”

I don’t know where the show is going to go with this storyline, but I am impressed that ABC, a major network, and “One Life To Live,” chose to ruthlessly tear apart both the delusional myths of teenage motherhood, perpetuated by the likes of Bristol Palin, MTV’s unreality tripe “Teen Mom,” and ABC’s “Secret Life Of The American Teenager,” and the laws in states like Pennsylvania which only serve to hurt the citizens whose welfare they are supposed to be protecting.

Legally Allowed To Lie To You: CPCs Exempt From Consumer Protection Laws Thanks To Federal Judge

17 Jul

Here in America, you have a shot at winning a lawsuit alleging that the organic lettuce you bought at the local grocery store was, gasp, actually coated in a thick layer of pesticides and artificial colorants.  Consumer protection laws have been used liberally to protect Americans from the greed of corporations who would substitute inferior ingredients to cut costs and raise profit margins, require firearms manufacturers to install safety features on guns to keep children and the unaware from shooting themselves and to require service providers from teachers to accountants to home improvement contractors to maintain certain minimal levels of continuing education – not to mention basic levels of training – in order to hold onto those credentials.

Just a few months ago, in the beginning of March, I lauded the New York City Coucil for approving legislation to require crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to disclose whether or not they actually offer abortion services.  Like a loan shark claiming that he will consolidate your debts, these organizations prey on women considering whether to carry pregnancies to term by advertising abortion services to lure their clients in.

The very image of anti-choice, however, CPCs then wage a campaign against choosing abortion through falsified medical brochures and untrained personnel.  Many of these organizations do not even have a trained doctor on staff, just a volunteer wielding an ultrasound wand in the hopes of eking out a baby-like image on the screen to induce vulnerable women into feeling guilty about taking control of their bodies.

Knowing all this – how virulently Americans at all levels of government and the law have fought to protect consumers from false information and how vicious the falsified information from CPCs can be – it is, then, unfathomable that in a 22 page long ruling U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III ruled that the law was unconstitutional.

Apparently, it is more important that we protect the first amendment rights of anti-abortion proponents who are specifically seeking the right to lie to women than it is to protect the women that are deceived by them.

Yes, I realize that consumer protection laws arose from the government’s right to regulate commerce.  Although there are those who are certain that there is a monetary component to abortion, my understanding is that CPCs are not driven by a desire to scam women out of their hard earned money but instead to scam them into giving birth to a baby that they will hand over.  That that baby has a very real financial value to baby brokers and childless couples desperate to adopt is true, but let’s get to the heart of the problem here:

Somewhere along the way, we became more concerned with protecting money than with protecting people’s safety, health and dignity.  Somehow it became more “offensive,” to use Judge Pauley’s preferred term, to require someone to tell the truth than to ask why they would lie in the first place.

Billboard Madness

9 Jun

Today, while driving on the freeway in New Jersey, I saw a billboard that says “Abortion Stops A Beating Heart,” with the symbol for heart substituted for the word.  Let’s leave aside the blatant falsehoods in the statement itself.  After all, by now you probably know that at the point of conception, there is no beating heart.  In fact, during the first few stages of fetal development there is no heart at all.

So, what’s with the billboard?

Billboards, by their very nature, are intended to distract drivers and their passengers from the roadway.  Several years ago, I suffered a car accident when a driver’s attention lapsed due to a billboard for a furniture store.  I’m sure that many others have experienced similar events.  It is absurd to realize that every day, millions of Americans’ lives are put at risk by companies seeking to make money from advertising, but it is even more sickening to realize that every person who zips by the anti-abortion billboard on the freeway, flying by at the speed limit of 65 miles per hour, is distracted by a sign put up by a group that claims to be concerned with saving lives.

Do the groups that put up anti-abortion billboards along fast highways and lonely rural roads realize that every person who sees them is more likely to die as a result?  How can they not be?  Their holier-than-thou message is hardly less distracting than an advertisement for fast food or self storage locations, even if you do not find it as enraging as I do.

The hypocrisy of the billboards is undeniable.  What makes the purported life of an as yet unborn fetus worth more than that of an autonomous human being and his or her passengers?  Worth more than a mother driving home from the office or a father and his children on their way to the dentist?  Of course, these billboards are only a small fraction of the many that line America’s roadways, but they are the only ones that do so with the sole rationale of claiming that “all life is valuable,” while really making a bizarre judgment call about who is worth being put at risk and why.

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.

Fetus Photos

2 May

When is it time to tell the world that you are pregnant?  When does it make sense to start snapping ultrasound pics of your uterus and sending out grainy black and white shots of what appears to be a slightly anemic sea monkey to your friends and family?  A cousin of mine has been taking full advantage of her profession as an ultrasound technician to send out what feels like an almost constant stream of snapshots of her fetus since conception in February.  She is barely three months pregnant, but it feels like her baby (which I’m told will be a boy) should be here already.

And yet, she is barely at the point in her pregnancy where she can even begin to find out whether or not her pregnancy is truly one that will mature into a fully formed human being, independent and capable of surviving outside of her body.  What will she, or any one of the millions of other women who behave in the same way, announcing their children’s existence even before they attend their first prenatal doctor’s visit, if they find out that their pregnancy is not viable?  That their potential children would have no quality of life?  Can she still have an abortion if she has already so publicly and firmly turned her pregnancy, which is a medical condition that she herself has, into a separate human being in her own mind the mind of her friends and family members?

I doubt it.  That is the line that the anti-choice and the pro-choice dance around and use to wound one another.  My body but someone else’s life?  That hardly seems possible.  And yet, the baby-centric culture that we have created, wherein it is somehow bitter or radical for me, a single woman, to defend my right to my own body by belonging to the Abortion Gang, but normal for a pregnant woman to spam her entire e-mail address book with a flood of fetus photos.  Sure, her job as an ultrasound tech means that my cousin is able to scan herself more often than a hairdresser changes her hair color, but she is hardly alone in transforming from a multifaceted woman into an obsessed baby bakery.

I’m not sure whether I find the barrage of baby news and photos so obnoxious because it began upon conception or because of its sheer volume.  It could be because, despite the fact that it is remarkably easy to conceive a child, her behavior indicates that it is somehow a daring or difficult choice.  Yet, I believe, that it is so much more challenging and admirable to make the decision to not have a baby.  To dare to put quality of life above “life,” to make the hard decisions that, unfortunately, no one will be sending you cute little pastel care packages for.  It is so much more difficult to decide to have an abortion, to decide that you cannot have a child now, because, unlike the decision to have a child, there is no one there to pat you on the back, let alone legions of family, friends and acquaintances.  As Mother’s Day approaches, though, if you are one of these courageous women, then please pat yourself on the back.  Whether you have children now or not, know that you decision mattered, and that you deserve to be praised every bit as much as and more than those who decided to carry pregnancies to term.

Why is Planned Parenthood the bad guy?

3 Mar

It is almost unbelievable that the New York City Council had to approve legislation yesterday that requires crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to disclose whether they offer abortion services.  These organizations are notorious in the reproductive health community for posing as abortion clinics but being staffed with uneducated anti abortion proponents who spout medically inaccurate information.  They advertise abortion services and counseling, and instead harass, abuse, and lie to the women who are in need of accurate information.

Yesterday, the New York City council voted 39-9 with one abstention to pass the bill.  Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a potential 2013 Democrat mayoral candidate, said that the focus of the bill is on “truth in advertising,” and that its basis is in “consumer protection.”

Is there any other business or organization that makes spewing lies about something as fundamental as a woman’s health its sole purpose?  When Quinn says, “I quite frankly don’t understand why people are afraid of disclosure.  If you hide what you do, one is only left to believe that you are embarrassed or for some reason you believe the only way you can reach people is through deception,” I can only nod my head and applaud her concise summation of the problem with CPCs.

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It is Her Choice

25 Feb

What’s your story?

What makes you pro-choice?  Why is it so vital to you that you can make your own choices about your body?

Here on the Abortion Gang blog we have spent nearly a year discussing why we are pro choice, why anti abortion legislation hurts women, and how you can support women’s right to access a safe and legal abortion.

But we are one small group of activists, and based on last week’s House vote to strip Planned Parenthood of funding for necessary medical procedures like Pap smears (which have nothing to do with abortion), we need to be louder.

We need your voices.

Please join us on the new Facebook page, It’s Her Choice, to speak out on why the decision to have an abortion or to have a baby is something that is up to each and every individual woman.  Share your abortion stories, why you are pro choice, and how we can all combat the seemingly tireless wave of anti choice legislation at the state and federal levels.

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