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How One Far-Right Piece of Legislation Passes in Twenty States

21 Aug

You may have noticed over the last few years that anti-abortion legislation is passing at an alarming rate, down at the state level, where legislation is not considered super-sexy and sometimes people don’t even notice – especially when it’s not their state going for anti-choice gold.

Rep. Todd Akin has experienced an enormous amount of backlash for his claim that women’s uteri magically reject a pregnancy that is the product of rape. He’s running for a national senate seat. State legislators say equally atrocious things almost every day, and while they draw some attention, they aren’t the subjects of this kind of media storm. Remember when a Representative from Oklahoma said being gay was worse than being a terrorist? There was a some noise about – the story was even featured onEllen – but eventually the dust settled and it was business as usual. Rep. Todd Akin is now a pariah to the national Republican party. I guarantee you, his career will never recover, even if he’s elected.

Same principle applies to completely nutters anti-choice and anti-abortion legislation at the state level as opposed to the federal level. Introduce a “personhood” bill at the federal level, House or Senate, and you will have a media circus and angry constituents, phone calls from states you don’t even represent, and national party spokespeople trying to explain that you need the Independent vote to try and win in November. So far-right anti-choice groups did what the progressive movement doesn’t seem to know how to do. They got down on the ground in the states, where frankly, it’s pretty boring, and they did a lot of long, hard, involved leg-work over almost a decade. Now we’re all reaping what they sowed: regulations on our bodies and our sex lives like nothing we’ve seen since Roe, and a good chance they could bring that very case before the Supreme Court to try and overturn it. Then again, they may not bother. They’ve made abortion so inaccessible at the state level that Roe can remain technically the law of the land while millions of desperate people go without badly needed, still-legal health and reproductive care.

So how does one far-right piece of legislation – personhood, Crisis Pregnancy Center lies, transvaginal ultrasounds, waiting periods, just to name a few one pieces of legislation introduced in dozens of states – manage to get introduced, and passed, at the state level across the country? Isn’t legislation complicated? No, actually, it isn’t, and that is both to our benefit and detriment as citizens. Passing legislation is an uphill battle. Writing legislation is a piece of cake.

I worked as a an assistant to registered lobbyists at a non-profit in Washington, D.C. Lobbyists get a bad rep, but you could be a lobbyist. Go talk to your representative – and you should – and you’re a lobbyist. Now, if you’re a group of parents whose children have severe autism, and you live far from Washington, D.C., and you want someone to speak to members of Congress on your behalf, that person you hire to do that – someone who ispaid to lobby – is a registered lobbyist. For better or worse, almost everything you value has a lobbyist (like the environment? LOBBYISTS. like funds that help unwed teen mothers get day-care so they can finish high school? LOBBYISTS. like marriage equality? YOU’RE WELCOME.), as does almost everything you despise (I’m looking at you, Big Oil).

People think lobbyists go ask representatives to vote a certain way, or to earmark money a certain way, and they do. But you know what takes up a lot of time for lobbyists? You know why so many lobbyists are lawyers (trufax)? Lobbyists write legislation. They write it, they give it to a sympathetic representative’s office, the Representative or Senator in question introduces it on the floor, and then the office and the lobbyists go around and try to whip up votes.

Getting legislation passed is really hard. Introducing legislation is super easy.

Legislation doesn’t have to be constitutional to be introduced. It doesn’t have to be constitutional to pass and become law. Legislation, like citizens, is innocent until proven guilty; someone or some group has to drag that ish to court and a judge has to declare it Conduct Unbecoming before it can be overturned. It’s easier to introduce and pass bad, unconstitutional legislation than it is to get it off the books once it’s there. A lot of the crap anti-choice bills passed lately at the state level actually are unconstitutional, but the current condition of our Supreme Court has the pro-choice mainstream movement – the people who can afford to challenge bad laws (Abortion Gangsters, want to raise a few million for a court case or six?) – spinning its wheels, scared that if we challenge the constitutionality of these laws, the SC will turn around and say, “Actually, it’s Roe that has been unconstitutional all along.” Roe isn’t much good to us now, what with not stopping terrible laws from going into effect in half the states, but the mainstream is still clinging to it like it’s a life raft that is mostly saving the First Class passengers from drowning. Sorry, steerage.

So this is what happened: a bunch of smart anti-choicers thought, you know what, if ladies go slutting around and getting pregnant and then want to kill an innocent baby, they should have to suffer for it. What’s a good punishment for having things up inside you? Things up inside you you don’t want there! That will teach you. So they concocted this trans-vaginal ultrasound nonsense, and then they, or a lawyer friend, or a lobbyist, wrote it up and passed it to state reps who agreed with them, state reps they worked tirelessly for years to insure would have control of the state legislatures and a fetus-friendly governor who wouldn’t veto, and the state reps introduced it, it passed, and it was signed into law. They did this over and over and over again, with every weird notion or draconian punishment for being biologically female they could dream up in their wildest imaginations. Once the groundwork was laid – and they’ve been at this for a good long while – this was the easy part. This is fun. Even in the rare case that the national media notices, like the first time the trans-vaginal ultrasound law was introduced in Virginia, or a governor changes their mind and won’t back your play, it doesn’t matter. You’ve got 20 – 50 more buns in the oven. And this is working.

I feel like School House Rocks should probably review this. This is how you change a nation: from the bottom up.

South Dakota: Where We Don’t Practice Science

27 Jul

In 2005, South Dakota passed a law which at the time was the pinnacle of crazy anti-abortion laws.  It contained a wide range of provisions which ended up going back and forth in the courts for the past several years.  Ultimately, the biological disclosure and “all known medical risks” disclosure stayed on the books, but the decision on a suicide advisory remained divided in the courts.  It became its own spin-off case, and only this week did a decision come down.

Though you may have already read how the 8th circuit ruled , 7-4, with the majority in favor of keeping the suicide advisory, i.e. doctors must tell women seeking abortions that they have an increased risk of suicide if they seek an abortion, on the grounds that is not misleading and irrelevant.

Some things you should know about the case before we dive into this:

  1. The parties are two crisis pregnancy centers versus Planned Parenthood.
  2.  The “friends of the court” of the crisis pregnancy centers include: Christian Medical & Dental Associations; American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians & Gynecologists; Catholic Medical Association; Physicians for Life; National Association of Pro-Life Nurses; Family Research Council; Care Net; Heartbeat International, Incorporated; National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, Incorporated; Eagle Forum Education and Legal Defense Fund; and the American College of Pediatricians.  Yes, you read that last one right.  Who knew?
  3.  The author most cited in the majority opinion for the “evidence” of an increased risk of suicide and suicidal ideation among women who had an abortion might have her major paper on the topic retracted because it is not scientifically sound.  Said author, Coleman, is referenced 14 times by name in the majority opinion.

But what stood out to me was the bizarre argument throughout the majority opinion about relative risk, increased risk, and causation.  Anyone who has taken epidemiology 101 can parrot that correlation is not causation.  Essentially, science is all about theories and making your way as close to the “truth” as possible.  But will we ever know an absolute truth?  No, we wouldn’t.  This is 7th grade science people.  Stay with me.

The majority opinion states how the suicide disclosure cannot be misleading or irrelevant only if there is “medical and scientific uncertainty,” then goes on to say “in order to render the suicide advisory unconstitutionally misleading or irrelevant, Planned Parenthood would have to show that abortion has been ruled out, to a degree of scientifically accepted certainty, as a statistically significance causal factor in post-abortion suicides.”

So for example let’s say I have a theory that doughnuts cure cancer and I go out there and find some evidence of this and get published, but someone retorts saying this is blatantly false.  We now have medical and scientific uncertainty.  Fine.  But then according to the 8thcircuit the only reason I can’t force pediatricians to tell children to eat doughnuts is if I can show that doughnuts don’t cure cancer.   Doughnuts for everyone?

Now let’s return to 7th grade.   You can’t prove something is not a causal factor.  You can no less prove it is a causal factor.  You can be very sure one thing leads to another, e.g. smoking and cancer.  But proving that the doughnuts do not cure cancer is impossible, so it would be impossible to fulfill this alleged requirement.  Then what does the evidence tell us?

What we do know is that most scientists agree that risk of suicide does not increase with abortion.  There is some shaky evidence of a possible association between abortion and suicide due outside underlying factors, i.e. if you have poor mental health you are more likely to seek an abortion and more likely to be suicidal.   But it is a spurious relationship, it is the outside factor that connects them, the connection between the two is completely unfounded.

What is most upsetting is that the four dissenting justices even say how the majority recognizes that there is no proof in the literature that abortion causes suicide and that telling women that abortion causes an increased risk of suicide is untruthful.  They know this, they recognize it, and yet here we are.  Women across South Dakota will now be forced to listen to these lies before obtaining an abortion.   How is that not misleading and irrelevant?

The real problem with girls and gendercide

6 Jun

There has been a lot of talk about sex-selection and abortion in the news lately. Anti-choicers have created misleading videos to lie about Planned Parenthood’s stance on sex-selective abortions, PRENDA (a bill that would outlaw sex-selective abortions) was facing a vote, and some twitter users have begun using the term “gendercide.”

But the real issue here isn’t sex-selection. The real issue is that anti-choicers don’t believe that women and girls are capable of taking care of their own lives.

While this extreme level of obsession with female fetuses is new, anti-choicers have long used the female fetus as a symbol for “someone in need.” Their own version of a “damsel in distress,” if you will. The thinking goes like this: people want to take care of those whom they believe are helpless. For a long time, women and girls were thought to be weaker than men and boys, incapable of taking care of themselves. That’s why women in decades past were not allowed to own property, or were themselves property of their fathers and husbands. If anti-choicers can convince you that women are still incapable of taking care of themselves, they might be able to convince you to step in and “help.”

We’ve come a long way since women were property in America. We now know that women and girls are just as capable as men and boys. Anything men can do, women can do. We can own property, vote, and even run for President if we like (whether we can win is another story).

But anti-choicers haven’t caught up with us, and they’re hoping they can bank on that historical sense of “need to help the helpless” people might still feel. And because they believe girls are weak and helpless, they use that to their supposed advantage. This is why sidewalk harassers tell women that their “baby girl” needs them to choose life, or why every anti-choice fetus is a “she” with “her” this and that. It’s even why those creepy stories written to be seen from the point of view of a fetus to their “mommy” is a written by a female fetus.

It’s also why many anti-choicers say that the women who choose abortion shouldn’t be punished, because they were mislead and ignorant and didn’t know what they were doing.

Anti-choicers aren’t worried about sex-selection because they value women and girls; on the contrary, they are worried about sex-selection because they think it will help them take away more rights from women. I find it hard to believe that any anti-choicer would actually care if girls are aborted for their gender, with how little respect they often show for women. Instead, I see this as another slap in the face. Anti-choicers are pretending to care about my gender so that they can hurt my gender more.

This type of behavior must be recognized, called out, and stopped. We must show that we value, respect and trust women and girls to make the correct, moral choices for their lives. Only by valuing women as capable moral agents can we teach others that women are of value.

The Abortion ‘Debate’ and Refusing to Engage

28 May

Anti-choice Canadians are likely feeling pretty heady right now with Stephen Woodworth’s Motion-312, which seeks to examine when a fetus becomes a human being within the meaning of the Criminal Code. Despite being absolutely trounced in the House of Commons during the first hour of debate, the antis may be down but they are certainly not out. Round 2 is Thursday June 7, and the vote is June 13. We cannot let our guard down yet.

Woodworth asks pro-choicers what are we “afraid of,” why are we afraid of the “truth” since all he proposes is that we “look at the evidence.” As NDP MP Boivin pointed out, this would be the first time that the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) would be interested in evidence and science. Well I am here to tell Mr. Woodworth that I am not afraid of the evidence, I am not afraid of the ‘debate’, and I would be happy to ‘debate’ him, if only he would agree to stay away from logical fallacies, references to religion/god, and actually look at the evidence.

Antis have taken to quoting Madame Justice Bertha Wilson, who wrote the decision for the majority in the R. v. Morgentaler in 1988, the case that declared Canada’s abortion restriction unconstitutional. Despite finding that the criminalization of abortion was unconstitutional, she left the door open for Parliament to legislation when she wrote,

I think s. 1 of the Charter authorizes reasonable limits to be put upon the woman’s right having regard to the fact of the developing foetus within her body. The question is: at what point in the pregnancy does the protection of the foetus become such a pressing and substantial concern as to outweigh the fundamental right of the woman to decide whether or not to carry the foetus to term?

Antis have jumped on this as “support” from feminist ally Justice Wilson to restrict later term abortions, or at least have a ‘debate’ about them. Andrew Coyne of the National Post, in criticizing pro-choicer’s staunch “defence of the status quo” wrote,

…it is dishonest to pretend [R. v. Morgentaler] means the matter has been settled, now and forever, or that dissenters from the status quo are, by definition, extremists.

He has unfortunately missed a glaring fact: when Justice Wilson wrote that decision she could not have anticipated that almost 25 years later Canada would still have no abortion law and that statistics would show that 90% of abortions occur between 0 and 12 weeks, 9% between 12 and 20 weeks, and only 0.4% after 20 weeks. When she wrote that she could foresee limitations on later term abortions, she could not have known that women could be trusted to make the correct moral decision relating to termination. I can only speculate as to whether Justice Wilson would have made that statement had she known that abortions after 20 weeks are incredibly rare but I can certainly criticize those who, knowing those facts, still continue to quote her when suggesting that not having the ‘debate’ is ‘anti-democratic,’ as Mr. Coyne does.

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White House Tours and Fetuses

9 May

The White House wants you to register your fetus as a person when you take a tour.

Or do they?

Anti-choicers have been lighting Twitter up with tweets and links to post talking about how the White House wants you to register your “unborn child” if you’re going on a tour. The antichoicers have been talking about this as mixed messaging, acknowledgement of a fetus as a person, and other silly hoopla.

However, what they’re not tweeting is the full story. Luckily, Politifact  was nice enough to post about this topic. Here’s the part the anti-choicers probably won’t tell you:

“Schafer’s email was an explanation of how to fill out information for pregnant women who will bring their new baby on future White House tours. ” said Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan.

In other words, if you are going on a tour of the White House on June 1st, they want to you include every person who will be on the tour on June 1st,  including your newborn infant… even if today is May 1st and you’re still pregnant with this to-be newborn infant.

“I know people are construing it as an unborn child, but the visit isn’t occurring (now). If a pregnant woman shows up at the White House, we don’t count two people. It’s sort of a way of expediting (the process) so no one gets hung up at the gate,” he said.

In other words, the White House doesn’t need you to register your fetus if you’re going on a tour while still pregnant. However, if you are going to give birth in between the time you register for a tour and the time you take a tour, it would be very helpful if you would include your to-be child in your list of people.There is no disconnect at the White House between recognizing fetuses for security and for rights. Because this isn’t about fetuses; it’s about infants.  This recognition of an infant before it is born is the same thing most women do when they have a baby shower before they give birth. It’s part of living in a world with a linear timeline. Anti-choicers should stop acting like this is some sort of meaningful sign in the abortion debate, and start seeing it for what it is: a matter of convenience for families visiting the White House.

Mississippi Does Not Really Care about Patient Safety

19 Apr

Mississippi’s governor has just signed a TRAP law that may well shut down the state’s only abortion clinic. Like many TRAP laws, on its face the regulation looks reasonable and aimed at patient safety. Abortion providers in the state will have to be board-certified in obstetrics & gynecology, and will have to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. However, dig a little deeper and it becomes clear that this is yet another of many laws that have nothing to do with safety and everything to do with restricting women’s access to a legal medical procedure.

First of all, although the majority of physicians who provide abortions are obstetrician/gynecologists, any doctor with the appropriate training can provide abortions. Although national numbers are hard to come by, in 2010 in Minnesota, family physicians performed over 1/3 of abortions (compiled by @wentrogue). Surgical abortion is considered an advanced skill for family medicine residents by the American Academy of Family Physicians (Dr. George Tiller was a family physician). Medical abortion (using medications to induce abortion) requires less training than surgical abortion and fits well within the scope of practice of general family medicine. Multiple studies have shown that abortion care performed by family physician is as safe and effective as abortion care by obstetrician/gynecologists. (Some pediatricians, emergency medicine doctors, internists, and surgeons have completed extra training to be able to provide medical and surgical abortions, although the numbers are low). There is no medical reason to restrict the practice of abortion to doctors certified in obstetrics & gynecology; this move is clearly political and aimed at preventing women from getting the medical care they need.

Secondly, although on its face the requirement that a physician performing abortions have “admitting privileges” at a nearby hospital appears to be important for patient care, such a requirement is unnecessary and again only serves to decrease access to abortion care. Admitting privileges, or the right for a doctor to take care of his or her own patients in the hospital, are granted by hospitals based on multiple criteria. Doctors who do not have their own local practice or cannot be available to take “call” (to be on-site or nearby to admit patients who have no physician) may be denied such privileges. Also, because such privileges are granted at the discretion of the hospital, they may be denied for purely political reasons (for example, the fact that the doctor applying provides abortions).

Abortion is a very safe procedure; complications are rare. Complications serious enough to require hospitalization are even more rare, occurring after less than 0.1% of first trimester cases. In those rare cases that require hospitalization, a transfer agreement with a nearby hospital is more than sufficient to ensure that patients requiring a higher level of care have appropriate continuity of care. Doctors around the country perform other comparable surgical procedures (such as incision & drainage of wounds and suturing of injuries) without the additional burden of a requirement of admitting privileges to a nearby hospital. Only abortion providers are being singled out, and safety is clearly not the motivating factor.

This becomes even more clear on close reading of the law. Abortion is defined as:

“The use or prescription of any instrument, medicine, drug or any other substances or device to terminate the pregnancy of a woman known to be pregnant with an intention other than to increase the probability of a live birth, to preserve the life or health of the child after live birth or to remove a dead fetus.” (Emphasis mine)

The procedure used to “remove a dead fetus” is the same as the procedure used to perform an elective abortion. Exact same procedure, exact same risks, fewer unnecessary regulations.

Does anyone still want to argue this is about safety?

New Abortion Provider Reporting Statutes in Texas

6 Apr

Yesterday the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) of Texas held a stakeholders meeting for abortion providers in Texas to discuss new reporting requirements being issued this year. I attended the meeting and not too shockingly, DHHS had disappointing news to share.  At the beginning of the meeting there was general confusion over why a meeting was being held since, to the knowledge of the providers in the room, reporting requirements were not being updated as part of the new legislation. However, the handout given at the door, listed eight new reporting requirements that all abortion providers (clinics, private physicians, and hospital providers) will have to follow once passed.

The new requirements are additions to “Statute 139.4 Annual Reporting Requirements for All Abortions Performed,” which outlines all the specialized reporting requirements for abortion providers. The following seven provisions will be required to be on all abortion patients’ charts and reported to DHHS for each patient:

“(10) the patient’s highest level of education;

(11) whether the patient viewed the printed material provided under Health and Safetly Code Chapter 171;

(12) whether the sonogram image, verbal explanation of the image, and the audio of the heat sounds were made available to the patient;

(13)  whether the patient completed the abortion sonogram election form;

(14) method used to dispose of fetal tissue and remains

(15) if patient is younger than 18, was consent obtained; and

(16) method of pregnancy verification.”

Stakeholders commented that these requirements were redundant—if a sonogram is performed (as required in item 12), why would you need to confirm the method of pregnancy verification (as required in item 16). Concerns about why this information must be on the chart of the patient were also raised, specifically in regards to the form of disposal of the fetal remains. Another provider’s concern was that the language in 11 puts too much responsibility on the provider to confirm the patient has read all of the materials, something which they can not necessarily know enough to sign off on.

The above requirements are joined by an addition to a sub-statute of Statute 139.4 (above), “Statute 139.5 Additional Reporting Requirements for Physicians.” The addition in this portion of the statutes calls for additional reporting on the abortion complications (in addition to the reports the clinics must already file for abortion complications); the language of this requirement reads as follows:

“Reporting requirements for abortion complications: (A) Within 20 calander days after the date the complication is discovered, a physician shall submit an abortion complications report on a form provided by the department; and via certified mail marked as confidential to the Department of State Health Services; vital statistics…”

The language then expands on what must be included in the report specifically. Providers questioned what constituted a complication, what they would be accountable for in terms of reporting complications, and what this information would be used for in addition to the reports they already sent to the Medical Boards on complications. The DHHS personnel responded that the requirements would be an extra check on foul play by providers, and admitted they know it is an extra check on providers that would not be welcomed.

So, what does this mean for providers? Simply put the restrictions mean increased time and monetary investment in reporting on their patients and practice, and bigger picture, it intimidates small and midlevel clinics and hospitals from providing abortion care. This also enables the state to punish abortion providers.  A provider from a hospital commented, “I am concerned by these statutes because all they seem to be doing is diverting resources I could spend on patient care to reporting.” Another provider commented that the state is setting up more hoops to jump through and more opportunities for providers to be breaking the law, which would lead to more fines, investigations, and financial drains on providers. These reporting requirements are physician-specific, not clinic=specific, meaning that these hoops serve to intimidate doctors and facilities from providing abortion care; the more burdensome it is to become a provider and the more risk involved in providing care from a legal perspective, the less likely doctors and facilities (who may not be designated abortion clinics) will be to provide abortions.

The main question at the meeting was why are these requirements being handed down at this time? A question that the DHHS staff hosting the meeting could not answer in satisfactory terms: the legislator asked them to review the reporting requirements for abortion providers, and although they are not required by any statute to address legislative requests, DHHS decided to address this appeal and instituted new requirements. As one DHHS staff member said, “[The requirements] did not come down statutorily, but [the DHHS] has the statutory authority to do so [pass regulations]”

Basically, this is not part of any statute passed down, but is being pursued because the DHHS can, and the legislator said “please.” My biased translation: TEXAS LEGISLATORS OPPOSE ABORTION AND WANT TO INTIMIDATE AND PUNISH ABORTION PROVIDERS AND DHHS IS PLAYING ALONG TO APPEASE THOSE IN CHARGE. Comments flew about how this was undue and unfairly targeted punishment for abortion providers; DHHS personal’s response there was that all groups feel like they are targeted, abortion care providers are not special in that regard. The DHHS staff also commented that these were the first round of requirements, so hold on to the edges of your seats, pro-choice Texans, we’re in for a statute-full ride.

The statutes are still in the draft stage, which means all providers and stakeholders can propose revisions. From my understanding from the meeting and the DHHS website, the drafted provisions should be up soon, and they are open to comments until June 12, the day before a committee hearing on whether or not to pass the requirements. I did not fully understand where to send suggestions, but Amy S. Harper, Regulatory Licensing Unit Manager, Division of Regulatory Services, gave her contact information out at the meeting: or 512-834-6730.

My heartfelt thanks goes out to all the providers, their administration and managers in Texas as they implement some version of these new reporting laws this summer. Abortion providers deserve our support and thanks for expanding reproductive freedom and justice. What they don’t deserve: state-mandated punishment.

Support a young Canadian activist being targeted by anti-abortion folks

23 Feb

One thing the anti-choice movement seems to do pretty well at is recruiting young people. This is not really surprising, as the anti-choice perspective on abortion can be (and often is) packaged and sold as relatively simplistic: they like babies, and don’t want them to die. It can be very difficult to be a young person, and easy to latch on to a cause that presents the world in easily discernable categories of right and wrong.

Engaging youth in the protection of their reproductive rights has been an ongoing challenge for our movement. Outside of the “second wave vs. third wave” nonsense that is continually dragged out to cause discord, there is a real issue here: the pro-choice view of the world is messier and more complex, and therefore a harder sell, than the nicely packaged anti-choice “I heart babies” view.

One thing the anti-choice movement really sucks at, though, is actually supporting these youth. They love getting them on board in order to trot them out at rallies and use them to score easy political points, but if they cared at all about the actual concerns and needs of youth, well, they wouldn’t be anti-choice. So it was with little surprise that I read about the latest way the anti-choice movement here in Canada is throwing at least two young people under the bus in order to gain a cheap victory.

The Atlantic Council for International Cooperation is running its third annual Active-8 campaign this month. This is a great campaign that encourages youth to present their best idea of how to make a positive change in the world. Allies pledge to act in a way that supports that idea, and the participant with the most pledges at the end of the campaign wins $1000. It’s a great way to support youth living in an oft-overlooked part of Canada, and to encourage them to value their ideas – and learn the skills necessary to turn those ideas into funding.

I have written before about the dismal state of reproductive rights and abortion access on Prince Edward Island. Well, one enterprising young person there, Kandace Hagan, entered the Active-8 campaign to bring attention to the problem, and hopefully to make a difference in the lives of many folks on the Island. Pretty great, right? And pretty bold, too – PEI has the kind of small-town mentality that, while it can be quite positive in some respects, generally discourages this kind of rocking the boat.

This is where the anti-choicers come in. Kandace was doing pretty well and had moved into second place, when suddenly the first place candidate, a young woman named Tara Brinston whose work centres on intellectual disabilities, jumped 100 pledges ahead overnight. Huh. This would have stayed in the realm of vague suspicion until Anne Marie Tomlins (of the PEI Right to Life Association) was found to be the source of an email urging folks to vote for Tara in order to shut Kandace down. Apparently this email was just supposed to go to a few people, but it was “leaked,” and now the antis can smell blood in the water.

So let’s take stock of the situation. Anti-choice folks are pledging their support to a campaign they didn’t give a shit about a week ago, just to make sure a young pro-choice activist doesn’t get $1000. Not only are they essentially sabotaging Kandace’s campaign, they are making a mockery out of Tara’s. Imagine how she will feel if she wins, not knowing if it was because people actually support her work in disability advocacy, or because a bunch of douche-canoes used her to claim a petty victory over reproductive rights. That sucks.

My hope in situations like this is that I’ll be able to take the high road, but really there’s no other way to go here. Anyone who pledges for Kandace – even in reaction to this latest development – is doing so presumably because they genuinely support her cause and want to make the world a better place in that regard. There’s no sabotage (counter-sabotage?) route for pro-choicers to take here, even if we wanted to. We have a candidate. The anti-choicers, if they cared at all about supporting youth endeavours, should have put up a candidate whose campaign was to continue squashing reproductive rights on PEI (what an inspiring dream! Please, take my $1000!). But they didn’t. Instead they crashed the entire campaign and sabotaged two inspiring young women, and for what?

Because that’s the best part: the anti-choicers gain nothing here. Even if Tara wins, her work is in disability advocacy – it doesn’t help their movement at all. The only benefit for them is Kandace losing, and if the anti-choice crowd celebrates every time a pro-choice activist doesn’t get $1000, they must get raging boners every time they look at my bank account. Really, all they’ve succeeded in doing is drawing media attention to three things: 1. the excellent Active-8 campaign; 2. the abysmal reproductive health situation in PEI (which doesn’t get half the media attention it deserves) and the brave activists fighting for change there, and 3. that they (the anti-choicers) are assholes who don’t care about idealistic young people unless they are propping up an exploded fetus sign.

I have already pledged for Kandace (and you can, too!), but I will make this additional pledge: if she does not win this contest, I will figure out a way to personally fundraise $1000 for her and the PEI Reproductive Rights Organization. I hope you’ll help.

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!

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.