Tag Archives: abortion access

Reclaiming a Crisis: Backline is Working to Open the First All Options Pregnancy Center

20 Jun

By: Catrina Otonoga

If you dare utter the initials CPC in a room full of pro-choicers in a positive light, you better be prepared for some backlash. Talking about crisis pregnancy centers as a positive institution among reproductive justice, reproductive rights, and reproductive health advocates elicits a room full of negative reactions.

CPCs manipulate women at a vulnerable time in their lives.

CPCs don’t educate people about all their options.

CPCs hurt women.

So imagine my surprise when I was talking to Parker Dockray, Executive Director of Backline, about how she wants to emulate the crisis pregnancy center model.

“The model that CPCs have developed is valuable,” said Dockray, “but pregnancy  centers should not be deceptive.”

Dockray and the board and staff at Backline have decided to embark on an unparalleled mission, to create the first all options crisis pregnancy center. Crisis pregnancy centers are some of the most available institutions out there for women who are unsure about their pregnancy. Indiana has over 80, and they are one of 34 states that funnel money directly to crisis pregnancy centers. But they are full of misinformation and missing information.

However, as Dockray told me, CPCs often appear to meet the needs of women, even when they clearly don’t. Backline wants to reclaim the CPC model and create a brick and mortar place for the people of Indiana to turn to for support and community.

For the last 10 years, Backline has been answering the phone and offering support to people looking for options and judgment free counseling surrounding pregnancy. The Backline Talkline answers hundreds of questions each month about pregnancy options, parenting, abortion, adoption, pregnancy loss, miscarriage and other reproductive health topics. While the phone offers confidentiality, a new model could provide women with tangible support.

“The prochoice movement is not always great about visibly supporting parents,” said Dockray. Dockray hopes Backline’s new initiative will become a tangible place to demonstrate support for women across all options. Backline wants to create a place for women and their partners to receive counseling on abortion, adoption, and carrying their pregnancy to term as well as carrying diapers and other items for people to support their partners.

Opening the center in Indiana strikes a cord in a new way. The center will find its home in the middle of a red state, in a college town, surrounded by fields and conservative ideals. Reproductive rights, health and justice organizations are too siloed from each other, with each sticking to their own areas without much overlap or conversation. Backline’s All Options Pregnancy Center would bring these together under one roof, without agenda or pretense. Instead of being siloed, they are setting up shop amidst the silos in America’s Midwest heartland.

Bloomington is a town divided, one side of town is home to Hannah House Crisis Pregnancy Center, and the other is home to Planned Parenthood of Bloomington. Backline would create a middle ground, a place for women and their partners to go for real information. At a time when the middle ground seems like an impossibility in American politics, the Backline All Options Pregnancy Center will be an oasis. An oasis of information, moderatism, and choice, at a time and in a place where that hasn’t existed in a long time.

Welcome to the Midwest, Backline. If you want to help Backline build some walls, knock down some silos, and give people a place do go; click here if you’d like to donate, and click here if you live in Indiana and would like to join in.

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An Open Letter of NARAL Pro-Choice America and NARAL Pro-Choice MD: Do Better

20 May

Our movement is small. You can count USA’s national organizations whose mission is to advance reproductive rights and access on one hand. NARAL is among them; NARAL is a leader in our movement.

As a leader in our movement, I am disappointed that you’ve turned your back on one of our own in the fight for access to abortion in the US.

I am referring to the news that NARAL MD has decided to endorse County Council President Craig Rice over his opponent, the fierce, well known, and unabashedly pro-choice activist, Neda Bolourian.

Neda is a vocal feminist and abortion advocate. She is a clinic defender, a natural leader, and a passionate activist and fundraiser for keeping, protecting, and expanding the full range of reproductive health options. She co-organized the grassroots movement Summer of Trust, welcoming Dr. Carhart into Montgomery County in 2011, and has not for one moment shied away from her strong belief in access to legal, safe abortion whilst on the campaign trail.

Candidates like Neda Bolourian are the future of our movement. We need actively prochoice politicians to move our movement forward so we can stop playing defense.

If NARAL MD researched the candidates for Montgomery County Council, there would be no ignoring Neda’s commitment to vocal pro-choice activism, which is clearly identifiable hereherehere, and here (to site a few of many exhibitions). Especially disturbing is that NARAL MD has a facebook album of a weeklong pro-choice Summer of Trust event Neda co-organized in Montgomery County in 2011. The album has pictures of Neda’s sisters including Lily Bolourian, her campaign manager.

NARAL MD needs to do better. NARAL MD needs to do better, more diligent research before endorsing candidates, and/or needs to do better at actively supporting upcoming pro-choice politicians. When NARAL, a pro-choice movement leader, supports the established order over a pro-choice activist, they join the patriarchal forces of oppressing feminist, pro-choice voices, rather than fight them. Furthermore, NARAL’s endorsement of Neda’s opponent sends a deeply troubling message to future pro-choice women candidates: That pro-choice leaders are more willing to support the establishment than feminist activist.

As someone who cares deeply about the future of our movement, I request that NARAL MD switch their endorsement to support Neda Bolourian and reflect core values of NARAL, and the pro-choice movement. Please join me in asking NARAL to do the same here at change.orgNARAL MD, Endorse Neda Bolourian.

Ohio: Home of the Poisonous Nut

31 Mar

By: Catrina Otonoga

Ohio has been fighting a quiet battle for our lives. Across the state, clinics struggle to find partnerships with private hospitals in order to remain open, the Board of Health is in disarray after the resignation of the Director amid rumors he was not closing clinics quickly enough, and Ohio Right to Life is in the ears and offices of our highest state officials.

It’s not an uncommon refrain these days in America. Michigan is fighting back against a ban on including abortion in insurance policies. And, who hasn’t heard about Texas – with Wonder Woman Wendy at the helm of, perhaps, the greatest reproductive rights uprising in United States history?

But, in the Buckeye state we are under attack, and we haven’t had much of a rallying cry.

Here in Ohio, the heart of it all, we have another heartbeat bill on the table. A bill that contains no exceptions for rape or incest, and would make performing an abortion after a heartbeat is detected a felony. That’s as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Clinics are closing across the state. Women in the Toledo area are traveling to Michigan because their rights are being chipped away in their own backyard. Abortion is legal in Ohio, but restrictions are becoming so onerous that clinics can no longer operate, and women cannot access services without crossing the state or state lines.

And, at the helm of it all is Governor John Kasich. Behind the seemingly moderate exterior that got him elected, is a politician who has enacted some of the harshest abortion restrictions in the United States. Do a search for “Kasich, Abortion” and the articles that pop up are from the last time Ohio wasn’t under a blanket of snow – last summer, when he signed the budget into law, and with it, a host of laws that have led to massive consequences for women’s health in Ohio. Aside from a few quotes put out by advocates for abortion rights in the state, Kasich has remained clean of a lot of the backlash.

The upcoming Gubernatorial race in Ohio promises to focus on abortion issues, but many political experts agree that people who make abortion a priority during an election have already sorted themselves onto the Democratic side.

Like Virginia in their Gubernatorial, it’s time for Ohio to rally, to take ourselves off the defensive, and to stop letting extremists run our state and control our bodies under the guise of moderate politics.

To take action and check out these great organizations in Ohio: OhioNow, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio , Women Have Options

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Amazing & inspiring art courtesy of the Repeal Hyde Art Project

The River Runs Yellow: The Elk River Spill The Intersection of Environmental and Reproductive Justice

29 Jan

Water from the faucets is flowing a deep and toxic shade of yellow. Parents cannot bathe their babies in a warm tub without burning their skin with chemicals, pour a glass of water in the middle of the night without stomach pains following, or cook a basic meal with water from the tap. A drive to the closest store for bottled water can take an hour or more down winding roads that are difficult to navigate in the snow. The water is poisoned with two chemicals whose long and short term effects and side effects are unknown, and it is seeping into the ground, affecting backyard gardens and farms, wells, septic tanks, and running water.

This is not happening across the ocean, in some land far away – although it may feel like it. It is happening 359 miles from Washington, DC, 228 miles from Pittsburgh and 162 miles from Columbus. It is happening in homes, hospitals, restaurants, and schools. It is happening in Charleston, West Virginia and in and along the Ohio River, where early this month MCMH and PPH were spilled into the Elk River by Freedom Industries. There are parts of Appalachia where the sticky sweet smell of licorice permeates the air — you can almost feel the chemicals land on your skin. Perhaps the most shocking part about the spill is that someone noticed. This beautiful land and the generations of families who live there are fighting on many fronts. But, maybe the greatest threat to justice in Appalachia is environmental. Coal has left an indelible mark on the land and has deeply effected the choices people can and do make when choosing whether to parent and how to raise their children.

While the state is working to increase regulations on the two women’s health clinics in the state, state agencies responsible for the investigation and cleanup of the spill had their budget cut 7.5% for the second consecutive year the day before the spill. Women, their families, and their supporters are marching throughout West Virginia for the ability to access abortion and holistic reproductive care, meanwhile they are drinking water that may be eliminating their ability to make choices about their bodies in the first place. Crude MCHM, the chemical foam used to wash coal and the first of the chemicals to be leaked into the water supply for over 300,000 residents has barely been tested or studied. Does it cause reproductive failure? Cancer? Miscarriage? Fetal Anomalies? Death? No one is sure. And it may be years before we ever know…. If ever.

In a few weeks I will be walking down frozen dirt roads, taking Instagram pictures of icicles on soft pine trees with my dog following close behind on a road in Appalachia, not far from this spill. When we get back to the house we will unbundle, I will get us each some water, and I will take a bath. I have no idea what this water will do to me, if it has been touched by this spill or some other, if it will effect me or my someday children. And, I will be outraged that Governor Earl Ray Tomblin thinks that protecting citizens means letting them wonder whether their water is safe.

Environmental justice is not an issue for environmental and green advocates alone. The ability for parents to raise their children in environments free from unregulated poison – to be able to send their children to school where they can wash their hands safely, to come home and eat a meal, and wash up before bed without fear is essential. Environmental justice is reproductive justice.

Over-the-counter abortion? Why not?

21 Sep

Access to abortion services is becoming more and more difficult around the country, and remains problematic worldwide. One potential way to improve access for the majority of women who need abortion services in the first 9 weeks of pregnancy would be to make the medications that induce abortion available over-the-counter at pharmacies nationwide.

Medical abortion (see below for a detailed definition, but for our purposes, an abortion that is completed at home, with just pills rather than a procedure in a clinic) is an extremely safe and effective way to end unintended pregnancies. The most effective regimen, a combination of misoprostol and mifepristone, works up to 98% of the time. In other words, 98% of women who take these two drugs correctly to induce an abortion at up to 9 weeks after their last menstrual period will expel their pregnancy completely, with no medical intervention whatsoever. So why not take the providers out of the equation?  It would certainly make abortion far more accessible and affordable for many women.

Additionally, such an approach might present a missed opportunity for providing contraceptive care. If women aren’t seeing a medical provider for their abortion, they may lose out on the opportunity to start a contraceptive method immediately after their abortion. In fact, offering contraceptive counseling and providing a method if desired is a key component of quality abortion care. It’s true that in a perfect world, women would be able to start their chosen contraceptive method immediately after their abortion in all cases (and in fact it would be much easier for many women to do so if more contraceptive methods were available over-the-counter as well!). However, it is never appropriate to make availability of one health service contingent on provision or acceptance of another. (Unfortunately, this is common practice; many medical providers still require patients to come in for their preventive care visits before they will renew prescriptions for contraceptives. Just because it’s common doesn’t make it right).

Finally, some may worry that women who are past the recommended 9 weeks since their last period will use the method even though the instructions say not to. First of all, as I mentioned above, many people do not follow the directions for the use of over-the-counter products. It doesn’t mean those products should not be available. Second, although misuse of over-the-counter products such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) are frequent causes of death and disability in the United States, there are no restrictions on their sale. Third, these medications are still safe to use after 9 weeks of pregnancy; however, their efficacy decreases. In other words, women who use the medications in these doses after 9 weeks of pregnancy are less likely to have a complete abortion, although much of the time the regimen will still work correctly. The worst case scenarios, therefore, are an incomplete abortion or an ongoing pregnancy if women do not use the product as recommended. Such situations would require medical attention, but if a good referral service is available women would be able to access appropriate follow-up care.

What would my dream over-the-counter abortion kit include?

1) Clear, easy-to-understand instructions and a 24-hour phone number to call with questions.  Information is key.  The instructions should help women determine if a medical abortion is the right choice for them, based on their gestational age and medical history, as well as provide information on where she can go if a medical abortion at home isn’t the best option for her.  Additionally, women need to have someone they can call at any time if they have questions before, during, or after the process.  The instructions should also point
women to websites and hotlines they can call for information and referrals for contraception after their abortion.

2) Mifepristone and misoprostol.  The mifepristone-misoprostol regimen is the most effective for inducing abortion.  If the method is going to be used by women on their own, it needs to be a method that is extremely reliable.

3)  Several doses of ibuprofen.  The most difficult part of a medical abortion for some women is the cramping; pain control is a key component of abortion care.

4) A low-sensitivity urine pregnancy test.  Women could take this test themselves at home 2 weeks after their abortion.  Although medical abortion is extremely effective, and most women are able to determine from their symptoms alone that their abortion is complete, this test will catch the very rare cases of continuing pregnancy.

Although this may seem to be a radical proposition, the fact is that we have the evidence to support that it would be safe and effective. I would like to see research that it is, additionally, acceptable to women, but it’s hard to believe women wouldn’t be happy about having more choices and more control.  What do you think?

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Medical abortion: Medical methods of abortion, or medical abortion, is defined by the World Health Organization as follows: The “use of pharmacological drugs to terminate pregnancy. Sometimes the terms “non-surgical abortion” or “medication abortion” are also used.” Medical abortion in the United States is most commonly performed using a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol (this is the recommended protocol as it is the most effective), although sometimes methotrexate is used in combination with misoprostol. In countries where mifepristone and/or methotrexate are not available, misoprostol alone can be used, although it is less effective, that is, less likely to end in a complete abortion.

Low sensitivity urine pregnancy tests: Similar to regular urine pregnancy tests, except they only are positive at higher pregnancy hormone levels. Although it can take several weeks for pregnancy hormone (ß-HCG) levels to become completely undetectable after an abortion, these tests will only turn positive if hormone levels are still high.