Tag Archives: art

Where do I come from?

10 Jul

I have been thinking about where I come from, who has come before me, and how that has impacted who I am. When I went to write the piece, it wasn’t working. The ideas flowed from me in images, so I stopped writing and started with those instead, and this is what I came up with. An aviatrix is a recurring theme in my work because I am fascinated by the idea of flying over barriers, which many of those women literally did, and I like twisting an image that was once so iconic and making it more modern so that the viewer isn’t sure exactly what it means or where it comes from. The piece is more of a collection of ideas than a full narrative, but I hope it resonates with some of you.



Having One-Minus-One Choices

15 Aug

A guest post from Gretchen Sisson.

Last week’s New York Times Magazine featured an article “The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy” about the reduction of multiples pregnancies – that is, the selective abortion of one or more fetuses to reduce twins to singletons. Given the risks associated with higher order multiples births (triplets or more), it’s a fairly accepted procedure to reduce to twins. However, the focus of this article was reducing to one, even when the chance of having healthy twins is high.

As a medical procedure, selective reduction is different than abortion; it does not involve the evacuation of the uterus. However, the discussion around reduction has interesting overlaps with the discussion around abortion given that a) they both involve the death of a fetus and b) they both place a burden on the woman seeking the procedure to justify why she is doing it.

The article describes two doctors whose positions on reduction have shifted. The first, Dr. Evans first opposed twin reductions:

Two years later, as demand for twin reductions climbed, Evans published another journal article, arguing that reduction to singletons “crosses the line between doing a procedure for a medical indication versus one for a social indication.” He urged his colleagues to resist becoming “technicians to our patients’ desires.”

While the article goes on to say that Dr. Evans now endorses the practice of twin reductions, other providers remain adamantly opposed. One sonographer says:

“I told him [the doctor] I just wasn’t comfortable doing a termination of a healthy baby for social reasons, and that if we were going to do a lot of these elective reductions, I thought he should bring in someone else who was more comfortable. From the beginning, I had wrestled with the whole idea of doing reductions, because I was raised in the church. And after a lot of soul searching, I had decided there were truly good medical reasons to reducing higher-order multiples to twins. But I had a hard time reconciling doing reductions two to one. So I said to Dr. Wapner, ‘Is this really the business we want to be in?’ ”

I struggle with these doctors’ perspectives on reduction for several reasons. The first is that, while the article claims that at Dr. Wapner’s medical office “every one of them — the sonographer, the genetic counselors, the schedulers — supported abortion rights” their stance places the burden on the women to have “good” reasons, here defined as medical reasons, for wanting a reduction. “Social” reasons (finances, only wanting to have one child at this time, etc.) are, in their opinion, not good enough.

And, I’m sorry, but that’s not good enough for me. That’s not trusting women to make their own choices about the number and timing of their children. Many of the women in the article who choose to reduce twins are desperate to have only one baby: they consider aborting the entire pregnancy because they can’t obtain or can’t afford a safe reduction, and, as desired as these pregnancies are, they would rather have no children than two. Another woman carrying triplets says she “felt like the pregnancy was a monster” and eventually paid $6,500 for a reduction. She describes leaving the doctor’s office:

“I went out on that street with my mother and jumped up and down saying: ‘I’m pregnant! I’m pregnant!’ And then I went and bought baby clothes for the first time.”

Forcing a woman to carry twins when she is not emotionally, financially, or physically prepared to raise two children is no better than forcing a woman to carry a singleton pregnancy when she wants no children. It is a simple matter of choice.

The second reason I struggle with providers’ reluctance to do twin reductions is that they are often part of the reason women are pregnant with twins in the first place.

For part of my doctoral dissertation, I interviewed couples that were struggling with infertility. They visited doctors who could not explain why they were not getting pregnant, and could then not explain why their treatments were failing. Medicine offers few concrete answers to infertility, and in vitro fertilization will sometimes not work at all, or can work too well and end with a multiple pregnancy. (I spoke with one couple who had no healthy fertilizations one month, and 29 fertilizations the next – but no successful transfers from test tube to uterus. The doctor could not explain to them why this happened. Stories like this are common.) So much of fertility treatment remains, in the words of the women I interviewed, an “art rather than a science,” “a matter of luck”, or “just like rolling a dice.”

Furthermore, because of the high cost of fertility treatments, some couples will make decisions that seem counterintuitive: desperate for one baby, they’ll transfer two or three embryos in the hopes that at least one will implant, simply because they can’t afford another IVF cycle. Then they end up with triplets and find they aren’t prepared for multiples, and can’t find a doctor that will help them reduce to the one child for whom they are desperate.

Pregnancy reduction is only one of the more obvious areas where infertility treatment intersects with traditional, abortion-focused considerations of reproductive rights. The pursuit of pregnancy when faced with biological challenges (and the consequent financial and logistical barriers) should be as much as part of a broader “choice” framework as the avoidance of pregnancy. I’d like to challenge pro-choicers to include considerations infertility and access to safe, affordable, and respectful assisted reproductive technologies in their paradigm for reproductive justice.

Gretchen Sisson recently completed her doctorate in sociology, writing her dissertation on the “right” to parenthood: who has it, why some don’t, and how society enforces its ideal of an acceptable pursuit of parenthood. To examine these questions, she spoke with couples pursuing infertility treatments, teen parents and teen pregnancy prevention advocates, and birthparents who have placed infants for adoption.

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!