Tag Archives: abortion rights

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

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New Year, New Legislation Supporting Abortion Rights

17 Jan

It’s easy to feel disheartened by the number of anti-choice laws, ballot initiatives, and court cases sweeping the country.  In 2013, 22 states enacted 70 abortion restrictions and everyday it feels like there is another major news story on how our reproductive rights are being restricted. With the start of a new year, there have been a flurry of articles arguing that 2014 could be a make or break it year for reproductive rights. In a lot of ways, 2014 already feels reminiscent to the restrictions we saw in 2013. This week the Judiciary Committee in the House of Representatives passed HR 7,  to prohibit taxpayer funded abortions, and the Supreme Court is hearing cases on the contraception mandate and the buffer zone surrounding abortion clinics. But in exciting news, we are also seeing new state legislation that would actually protect abortion rights! Here are some important bills for you to keep an eye on:

Washington’s Reproductive Parity Act

Currently abortion coverage varies greatly by insurance carriers and by state, and since the ACA requires that no federal funds can be used to cover abortion services, coverage is even harder to come by in the health exchanges. In a direct response to this ACA requirement, the Washington state legislature introduced a bill that would require all insurance policies that cover maternity care to also cover abortion services. This bill would not only increase access to covered abortion services but also make sure that abortion coverage would not be affected even by the ACA abortion provisions.

New York’s Women’s Equality Act

This 10 point plan was first introduced last year but failed to pass during the legislative session. Governor Cuomo recently re-announced his support for The Women’s Equality Act which addresses a number of important equality issues including equal pay, sexual harassment, and trafficking. In terms of abortion policy, this bill would codify Roe v. Wade into state law and ensure abortion access up to 24 weeks or when necessary to protect the life or health of a pregnant person (currently it only includes exceptions when a pregnant persons’ life is in danger).

New Hampshire’s Abortion Clinic Buffer Zone Bill

Similar to the Massachusetts’s law currently being debated in the Supreme Court, SB319 would establish a buffer zone around abortion clinics. By establishing a 25 foot buffer zone, this bill hopes to help protect patients from harassment and intimidation from protestors.

Vermont’s Bill to Decriminalize Abortion

Bill S315 was introduced last week to decriminalize abortion in the state. While abortion is legal in Vermont, there are old laws that criminalize performing and advertising abortion services. As a result, this would law would officially recognize a persons’ right to have an abortion in the state of Vermont.

The Women’s Health Protection Act 

While this isn’t an example of state legislation, it is an exciting development in Congress. In 2013, the Senate introduced the Women’s Health Protection Act that would prohibit states from passing TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws. This law would make it illegal for states to pass laws impeding access to abortion services including building standards for abortion clinics, and mandatory ultrasound laws.

All of this legislation is still in the beginning of stages, but it is nonetheless an exciting step in the right direction. But why does this matter when Vermont, New Hampshire, Washington and New York already protect a person’s right to choose and there are so many other states that are restricting abortion services? Because it’s about the message it’s sending. Of course, ideally we want to be seeing this type of legislation introduced in states where people face significant barriers to accessing abortion services. But seeing efforts to protect abortion access is a huge deal and what I believe is an important part of changing the conversation about abortion policy. Since 2010, we have been bombarded with abortion restrictions and examples of our reproductive rights being threatened. While there have been victories in defeating ballot initiatives and court cases, and important community organizing and activism, at the legislative level we have mostly been on the defensive. It’s shocking to think that the last time Congress passed proactive abortion legislation was in 1994 with the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act! Seeing legislation introduced that protects the right to choose allows us to be on the offensive, gives us time to talk about why these issues matter and engage with communities and lawmakers. But most importantly, this type of legislation shows that no matter the number of anti-choice laws introduced, we are not done fighting.

So thank you Vermont, Washington, New Hampshire, New York and to all those supporting the Women’s Health Protection Act for bringing us some much needed positive news. Here’s to hoping 2014 is a year filled with a lot more of it.

Art for Abortion Rights: An Interview with Megan Smith

12 Aug

Megan Smith, a long-time abortion fund volunteer, activist, and friend of mine, is starting an awesome new community art project. I tracked her down and asked her about it.

Your most recent art project focuses on spreading awareness about the Hyde amendment. Tell me about that amendment. How does it impact women’s everyday lives?

The Hyde Amendment is a violation of human rights. It denies low-income people and others under federally-sponsored insurance plans the right to bodily autonomy and creates extreme barriers to healthcare access. When a woman cannot afford an abortion, it can impact every aspect of her day-to-day life. She is constantly thinking of what she can do to raise the money: can she skip this meal, what belongings can she sell, can she afford to put of her electricity bill another month? One woman I spoke with, after trying unsuccessfully to borrow money from friends and family, had to sell back her son’s school uniform to pay for her abortion.

Abortions range in cost from several hundred to several thousand dollars – which can be an inconceivable amount to low-income people living in poverty.

Of course, constantly worrying about coming up with money is an unfortunate reality for all people living in poverty. The concern is just magnified when an already struggling woman is faced with an unwanted pregnancy.

How do you think this art installation can help raise awareness of the Hyde amendment? 

My voice is small, but our collective voices are strong. I wanted to show that we, together, have the ability to mobilize and inspire change.

Another goal that I have for the project is to involve reproductive justice advocates, activists, and communities across the country. I want it to be OUR project, not MY project. And in doing so, I wanted people to spread the word to their friends and family so that more and more people realize what the Hyde Amendment is and that we need to stop it.

What was your inspiration for this art project? Why birds? Why a hanging installation? 

I wanted to create something beautiful and hopeful from something ugly. I liked the imagery of our messages travelling. A flock of birds seems untouchable, almost invincible. I also love that the individual birds will represent each contributor’s story while the flock will inspire collective mobilization.

What are your goals for this project? What would you consider a success?

If it’s gotten people thinking, it’s already a success.

Any other social justice abortion art projects down the line? Any that you’ve done before?

I working on my play The Waiting Roomwhich will have its third performance in Reading, PA this February, and which has been performed twice in the Philadelphia area. I’m also working with an amazing group of radical feminist artists in the Boston area to shake some shit up – more from us to come.

To get in touch with Megan, email her or find her on twitter!

Animals and Abortion: Similar Movements?

20 Jul

Hello readers of Abortioneers and Abortion Gang! Welcome to the second installment of our Abortion and Animals series, hosted by Vegan Vagina and ProChoiceGal. You may remember our last post which dealt with how PETA gets things wrong. Today we are blogging about intersections, similarities, and differences between the animal rights movement and anti-abortion movement. We received some good comments in response to our first blog that started to address the tactics used by both movements and we wanted to delve deeper into the issues, so here we go…

Q. Can you give a brief overview of some of the perceived similarities between the animal rights movement and anti abortion movement?

VV: First off, I do want to acknowledge that there exists much diversity within each movement and not everyone uses the same tactics or even has similar philosophies about how to impact change around their issues. However, in regards to the “extreme” members of both movements, in terms of similar tactics I immediately think of the gory images that both groups use. Anti abortion trucks will parade near shopping malls and community events (especially where kids congregate) with alleged fetuses that were aborted plastered across the exterior of their vehicles. These fetuses will be positioned next to dimes for size comparison and they are often portrayed sucking their thumbs or curled up. Animal rights groups often show animals that are mistreated in factory farms and this past year a well-known group, Mercy For Animals, launched a Farm to Ridge Tour where they went city to city showcasing the horrors of factory farming.

Another similarity that I see is coercion; anti abortion groups will convince pregnant women to keep their babies with the alluring promise of baby clothes, financial support, jobs, or housing. Mercy for Animals was offering money for people to watch their footage of factory farms and often does “feed-ins” where they provide vegan food samples.

A final similarity is violence. Many members of both movements feel violence is justified in order to take down leaders at the top. While those who advocate violence are in the minority, their extreme actions can have a huge impact. Abortion clinic workers are murdered, stalked, injured, harassed, etc, or threatened with these things constantly. CEOs who run animal testing facilities and labs are also stalked and threatened, and a common tactic of arson has done millions of dollars of damage to facilities that partake in animal cruelty. A common tactic used by both movements is picketing outside of homes and distributing fliers to neighbors in order to shame those who support abortion or animal cruelty. Members of both movements are tracked on FBI lists and are often labeled as domestic terrorists. I am currently reading a great new book by Will Potter that outlines the history of “eco terrorists” and there are many mentions to the anti abortion movement and how the government tracks crimes against abortion providers differently than eco crimes (I really recommend this book!).

Q. Do you think that gory images are an effective way or converting people, either to veganism or to anti-choice?

PCG: In general, no. There are exceptions, but I believe that gory images and videos, especially when they’re forced upon the public, generally turn people away from both veganism and from the anti-choice movement. Whenever I hear people react to anti-choicers flaunting alleged aborted fetus photos in public, their reactions are always, without exception, angry, annoyed, and all around negative. This holds true for veganism, as well. I believe that one of the worst things that a movement can do for itself is forcing people to look at these kinds of pictures. People just do not react well to it in my experience.

Q. Did gory images or videos influence your decision to become vegan?

PCG: Somewhat. Gory photos and videos would not have given me enough of a push by themselves to convert me to veganism. They were, however, a small part of the big picture. I almost definitely would still be vegan even if I had never seen gory slaughterhouse videos and pictures. The thing is, I didn’t need those pictures and videos to know that animals are sentient beings who are very capable of feeling pain. What I needed to push me to choose veganism were facts. For example, for the longest time, I had no idea that there was so much cruelty involved in the dairy industry. I did not know that it was so closely linked to the veal industry. It was facts like that that got me from saying “I could NEVER give up cheese!” to being the vegan I am today.

VV: I went vegetarian without ever seeing a gory picture, but I will admit that a PETA brochure is what pushed me over the edge to become vegan. The images still gross me out when I see them and I choose to look away, but it’s ok for me to look away because I don’t need convincing. I fear that everyone else looks away and just chooses not to think about the processes involved in where their food comes from, so ultimately the animal rights movement could spend their money in better places that won’t be ignored.

Q. Vegan organizations and anti-choice organizations have both been known for using coercive tactics to convert people to their movement, such as putting up fliers in the neighborhoods of people who oppose them, paying people to watch gory videos, etc. How do you feel about this?

PCG: I disagree with coercive tactics being used to convert people. I consider them not only morally wrong, but also highly ineffective. Putting up fliers in the neighborhoods of “higher ups” in order to shame them is a tactic that both groups have used in the past. I find this behavior awful. To me, it’s stalking behavior. Anti-choicers have been doing this for ages, in order to shame, stalk, and draw attention to abortion providers and their families, and the pro-choice community knows very well that it incites violence. As for paying people to watch gory videos, while I think this is wrong, I actually don’t think this is as bad as just flaunting huge gory pictures outside in public, so that anyone who walks by has no choice but to look. I also don’t see it as an effective way of converting people. Again, gory videos and pictures which are not backed up with facts hardly ever do any good.

VV: I disagree with any group or movement using coercive tactics, specifically money to win people over to their point of view. I also feel it is not a sustainable way to change behavior, because the money will eventually go away and people will go back to their usual ways.

Q. Do you think it’s fair to compare the tactics of animal rights groups to the tactics of anti-choice groups?

PCG: I believe that vegans and anti-choicers are coming from two vastly different belief systems. As far as the message behind the movements, I see absolutely no comparison. Vegans fight for the bodily autonomy of sentient beings while anti-choicers do just the opposite. However, vegans and anti-choicers have both resorted to some of the same tactics. As a vegan, I think that it’s intensely important to recognize the problems that reside within veganism and to take action to fix them. Still, despite these similarities, I don’t think that the problems within vegan activism are nearly as prominent as those in the anti-choice movement. For example, when vegans resort to problematic bullying tactics, it’s targeted towards the “higher ups” in animal abuse. When anti-choicers resort to bullying and stalking tactics, it’s targeted towards absolutely anyone who opposes them. Veganism does have its problems which we need to recognize. I just don’t think that these problems are as extreme as the hatred that goes on within the anti-choice movement.

VV: Obviously since I am vegan my natural tendency is to support most tactics used to convince the entire world to GO VEGAN. Although, I realize it is something people need to come to on their own, without coercion or bribes. However, people often need education on this issue since we are really told nothing about where our food comes from, and sometimes a picture of the reality of what animals goes through does hit home. I do not think this is the same as what anti abortion people do; I think their images are falsified and manipulative and taken out of context.

Thank you for reading the second installment of our series Animals and Abortion! You can look forward to more posts soon, including posts on topics such as vegan birth control, vegan sex toys, and more. Also, your feedback and ideas for future posts are more than welcome! We hope that you enjoyed this installment of Animals and Abortion!

Throwing Youth Potential under the Abortion Bus, Not a Good Call

18 Jul

2011 is proving to be a record year in laws proposed to restrict abortion providers’ services and abortion patients’ access to those services. The laws that have passed are atrocious enough alone, but add in the laws “only” proposed, like Sen. John Boozman’s (R-AR) federal law that would Nationalize parental consent laws to prohibit teens from crossing state lines to obtain abortion services; the mid-June Kansas Department of Health regulations threatening to make Kansas the first State without a single abortion provider; and the defunding of Planned Parenthoods around the country, and it ain’t hard to tell why this era is being dubbed as a War On Women.

As a young American, who had vaginal heterosexual sex (hellooo pregnancy risk) throughout my teens and relied on Planned Parenthood for free contraception, I can’t stop focusing on what messages these restrictions and proposals are sending to the current teens in America. Defunding contraceptive services, mandatory sonogram requirements, insurance and Medicaid restrictions, waiting periods, and other restrictive abortion care laws are offensive to all women; they undermine our rationality, independence, and our right to not bear children. But these restrictions also create systematic inequalities in birth control (including abortion) access for specific groups of women. Particularly, the young and the resource (money, car, support) poor, which, in many instances, overlap. While feminist and the prochoice community widely discuss how restricting control over reproduction is ideologically harmful and disrespectful to women,  the same big-ideological-picture on the laws’ impact on youth as a population group is less addressed.

In July we came very close to having our first ever no-provider state. Hypothetically, if the pending Boozman proposal became law at the same time there were no abortion clinics in Kansas, and teen females in KS would come have absolutely no legal, independent access to abortion. This law, along with the others proposed this year, sends a message about how we value youth’s potential and agency that has widespread and harmful implications for male and female teens, parents of these teens, schools and society alike.

We spend infinite social and financial resources on protecting young persons’ potential contribution to society. Our fascination with the American dream, innovation, individualism each stem from our deep appreciation of human potential. We value youth so much that our legal system and social structures operate on many levels to protect against the “wasting” of youth potential (in car accidents, by drinking, by skipping school, going to war, by suffering parental neglect etc.). Age-based laws which mitigate harmful outcomes are symbols of us positively valuing youth; when the measures are protective they point out that we respect youths’ potential and life force. Conversely, age-based laws which are controlling, but not protective, are degrading: They iterate that we both do not value youths potential (as we are willing to put blatantly put it in harm’s way) and that we do not trust youth to take on the responsibility of their potential.

By disallowing abortion as a choice for youth we are saying we want adults to define youths’ potential for them, and sends a very dangerous message: That youth has no control over their own potential. Why is this dangerous? Because we rely on the value of potential to motivate youth to invest in themselves—if adults (law makers etc.) degrade and define the value of youth’s potential, we in turn encourage youth to forgo ownership over their future. Why would youth want to invest in themselves and their dreams if they can not define what that their dreams are and if those dreams can be easily taken away? If we say that women (and men) are not able to choose alternative life paths to early parenthood, we are taking away our faith in their potential and, at the same time, our desire for them to be interested in planning and managing their life options.

I am not saying that becoming a teen or young parent inherently means one’s potential will be lost; not at all. I am, however, saying that when we ask teens to respect their potential by investing in it (staying in school etc) in one hand, and on the other hand say they do not trust them to manage and preserve their own potential, we end up with a byproduct that encourages a de-investment in self. Doing so for our young men and women will not result in an improved society despite claims of the opposite by Boozman and the like.

Though many of the anti-abortion access laws proposed are not realities yet, the increased proposal of the laws are signally we are at the verge of losing faith in rational autonomy and human dignity of women and youth. And, in turn, we are telling youth nationwide to lose faith in themselves. In limiting abortion service access in this manner, state legislatures like that in Kansas and federal politicians like Boozman are telling youth that they are not able to define and work towards their own definitions of “fulfilling potential”. These messages are degrading and harmful to our current and future society. If we value youth for what they will and do contribute to society, we must allow and trust them to define their potential and choose what their contribution will be.

Animals and Abortion Part 1: How PETA gets it wrong

25 May

Crossposted at The Abortioneers.


Today, I am pleased to announce that we are beginning a new series called Animals and Abortion. I got together with Vegan Vagina from The Abortioneers and, with us both being passionate pro-choicers and passionate vegans, we have decided to do a series of collaboration posts regarding our pro-choice veganism. It may not seem so at first glance, but veganism and reproductive justice do have quite a few similarities. I was thrilled to come across another pro-choice vegan activist, and I am excited to explore the ties that veganism and reproductive justice have with one another along with Vegan Vagina.

Vegan Vagina is passionate about veganism, abortion, and running marathons. During the day she does public health research and at night she is a volunteer host for women who travel to her city for abortions. In other words, she is one amazing activist and I am thrilled to have her as a co-blogger on the Abortion Gang.

I am sure some of you might be wondering what kind of connections and intersections exist between animal welfare and reproductive rights movements? I think because I am so deeply involved in both of these issues the parallels are very apparent. One of the biggest examples that comes to mind is PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and they will be the focus of our first blog in this series.

PETA is an animal welfare organization which has caused a stir in the feminist community more than once. They have been accused of everything from racism, to sexism, to fatphobia, to transphobia. It goes without saying that PETA is controversial. Today, we are going to address some of these issues in the form of a Q and A.


Q. PETA has been known forusing women’s nude or near-nude bodies to get their message across about the evils of fur. Do you ever feel like they are justified in their tactics? Is this a case of the ends justifying the means?

PCG: In PETA’s fight to get people thinking about animal welfare issues, one of their main “weapons” that they have used has been sex. Sadly, I think they’re missing the point. In many of their advertising campaigns, they have reduced women down to things as opposed to living, sentient being who deserve respect. PETA seems to forget that humans are animals, too. When you ignore human rights and human welfare, you are inevitably ignoring aspects of animal rights and welfare, as well. In short, no, I don’t believe that PETA is justified in doing this.

VV: No, I do not think they are ever justified in their tactics. Essentially, PETA uses sensationalism and a shock factor to get attention. They exploit women and reduce them to “meat”, which seems a bit hypocritical. I love animals and live a very intentional life in order to protect as many as I can, but there have to be more creative ways to bring attention to animal welfare than exploiting women and their bodies. The ad campaign using naked women’s bodies renders these women silent and voiceless, which puts them in the same situation as voiceless animals who are also exploited to turn a profit.

Q. PETA has a brief section on their website where they address abortion. Here is what they write:

PETA does not have a position on the abortion issue, because our focus as an organization is the alleviation of the suffering inflicted on nonhuman animals. There are people on both sides of the abortion issue in the animal rights movement, just as there are people on both sides of animal rights issues in the pro-life movement. And just as the pro-life movement has no official position on animal rights, neither does the animal rights movement have an official position on abortion.

What do you think about this statement?

PCG: I understand why PETA wouldn’t want to take a direct stance on abortion; it would alienate a good portion of their supporters. However, I do believe that it is important for vegans to recognize that, again, human rights are essential to animal rights and animal welfare. A huge part of veganism is about respecting sentient beings and their bodily autonomy. Vegans should respect that for all animals, and that means being pro-choice. Still, I do understand why PETA would not take an official stance on abortion.

VV: I find it interesting that this even comes up on their website. I am curious what prompted them to make an official stance on this, and I suspect it may be that anti- abortion groups tried to align themselves with PETA to show their support for all forms of life and then PETA needed to respond that they are neutral. Ok, so first off, PETA’s statement is annoying because they use the term “pro-life”. I also strongly agree with PCG that PETA claims to respect bodily autonomy of all sentient beings, yet they do not show this respect for women. I think their neutral stance is one more example of them trying to please as many as possible in order to achieve their end goal, yet in the process they have alienated many feminists.

Q. In response to Dr. George Tiller’s assassination, PETA proposed these ads in Wichita, KS. What are your thoughts on this campaign?

PCG: The ads themselves are not so bad, in my opinion. The fact that they were a response to Dr. Tiller’s assassination, however, absolutely disgusts me. I feel as if they exploited such a tragic event in order to further their own cause. It was, at best, inappropriate and at worst, downright hateful.

VV: As a Jew I was thoroughly disgusted when they previously exploited the Holocaust in their ads. Well, just in case I thought PETA couldn’t piss me off any more, they did with their ads in response to Dr. George Tiller’s assassination. I want to know who thought up these ads and why they ever thought these would be appropriate. I keep stressing how they think their ends justify their means, but this was insensitive on so many levels. These sorts of radical ad campaigns give vegans and animal welfare organizations a bad name.

Q. Considering all of this, do you believe that feminist vegans (or just vegans in general) should withdraw support for PETA?

PCG: I do believe that we should withdraw support for PETA. PETA has, time and time again, promoted all kinds of bigotry without apology. I believe that we should show them that, if they’re okay with promoting bigotry, then we are okay with ditching them and supporting vegan organizations which do not do so.

VV: I am mixed on this. I know I was pretty negative about PETA in my answers, but there are some parts of their organization I respect and support. Personally, it was a PETA pamphlet that got me to switch from vegetarian to vegan almost two years ago. Unfortunately, they are one of the best-funded vegan organizations so they can dictate and control what gets out in the media about the movement. They also make the news a lot! In fact, they often create ads they know will not make it into actual media just so they can get news attention about an ad that was too radical/racy/offensive to be on TV.

For me, I don’t give them any donations and I don’t direct people to them if they are thinking of going vegan. I would love for them to exist but in a much more feminist and non-sensationalizing way, but maybe I’m just too much of an idealist.

Thanks for reading and please let us know your thoughts about our first co-blog! You can look forward to future posts from Vegan Vagina and ProChoiceGal on topics such as factory farm footage Vs. fetus posters, vegan birth control methods, and vegan sex toys! We would also love to hear your ideas for future posts.