Tag Archives: pro-choice movement

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


Amazing & inspiring art courtesy of the Repeal Hyde Art Project


Small Town Activist

18 Aug

If you pay attention to pro-choice events, walks, rallies, fundraisers, and other activities, you’ll notice that almost all of them take place in big cities like New York City. This makes a lot of sense. I mean, duh! If your event is in a big city, you’ll attract more people and it will probably be a much more progressive area altogether.

Still, as a small town girl, this leaves me feeling a little bit lonely sometimes. I live in an area where I know only a small handful of pro-choicers and no other people who would call themselves activists. I go to whichever pro-choice events which are close by, but there are not many. Many activists, including myself, can’t afford to travel to participate in pro-choice events and can’t afford to take time off of school or work to be able to attend them. It’s not only the pro-choice movement, either. I am also passionate about my veganism. I know no vegans, or even vegetarians, outside of the internet, however, so vegan activism outside of the internet just seems out of the question. Also, abortion is not the only women’s rights issue which is neglected in my area. For example, the only time you hear the word “rape” mentioned in my area is in the context of a joke. Not surprisingly, this leads to me being burned out quite often. It leaves me thinking “Wow, am I fucking useless to this movement?”

Now, I don’t know if I’m alone in my feelings about this or if there are other small town activists out there who feel the same way, but if there are, then I’m writing this for you. It is discouraging to feel outnumbered by anti-choicers and to feel like a lone activist . Not being able to surround yourself with positivity in the wake of anti-choice bullshit totally sucks. I understand that. I refuse, however, to just sit down and call myself useless to the movement. Burn out occurs frequently, but there are things that small town activists can do to help prevent it. For example, you could:

1) Start something

I’m not going to lie, if you live in an uber-conservative area where it seems like you can count the number of pro-choicers on one hand (..as I do), this might not work out. But it’s still worth a shot. You can try to organize something in your town or on your campus which will unite the pro-choicers who are in that area. You can raise awareness and possibly help to uncover a new passion for reproductive justice in your area. You can organize a march or a group. If this works out for you, then you will have created a community, and that is absolutely priceless.

2) Just be vocal

Being vocal about your passion for reproductive justice is not always easy, especially in a very conservative area. It was not easy for me to “come out” as an adamant pro-choicer, but when I did, I had no regrets whatsoever. “Coming out” incited a lot of people to also share their opinions on abortion with me, and with that, I got to find out who the pro-choicers are. Yes, my area is so conservative I feel as if I have to take a bath after being in crowded areas, but I found out that there are more pro-choicers out there than I thought. Not only that, but being very vocal about my pro-choice beliefs ended up scaring away a lot of the anti-choicers in my life. So basically, there are more pro-choicers in my life and less antis. It’s a win-win situation.

3) If you can’t build a real-life community, find one online

Sometimes it’s just not easy to construct a positive, loving, pro-choice climate in an area which is very hostile to women and their rights. Even after trying to create one, you may still end up feeling excluded from the movement. This is where the internet comes in handy. The internet does a great job of uniting small town activists like me and big city activists like many of the writers for the Abortion Gang. It would be great to have more of a pro-choice community in real life, but I love the online pro-choice community with all my heart, and I know that I can be open and honest with them. I may be a small town girl, but that does not mean I can’t be apart of the pro-choice movement. I know I belong, and the rest of you small town activists do, too.

Everyone is Talking About What Kind of Girl, Nobody is Starting a Riot

11 Aug

Having taken the summer off from school and all of the required reading it entails, I am knee-deep in books for fun this summer. By far the most poignant and touching to me personally – and I can’t recommend it enough to everyone on, basically, the entire planet – is Sara Marcus’ Girls to the Front, her history of the Riot Grrrl revolution that shook punk and politics in the 90s. I promise, if you read this book, you will be shocked at how little has changed, how 20 years, two decades (and yes, friends in their 20’s and 30’s, that does make me feel old too) after the events took place, we are right back in the same position, with a far-right supreme court in place, a pervasive fear that Roe will be overturned, and women’s rights and very lives under attack. (If you think that’s an overstatement, I fucking beg you to remember Congresswoman Giffords. Every day, please. I do.)

This book makes me angry, and as a very practical girl who has been working in progressive politics in very practical capacities for a very long time, those who know me only from my writing, particularly on this blog, would be shocked at how rarely I get angry. My 18-year-old-self was furious, consumed, driven, with a passion I can barely recall. But that burns out, it eats you up from the inside – you either find a way to live with the anger and bury a lot of it, or, in my experience, you go a little crazy. The kind of anger and passion the Riot Grrrls story inspires within me is invigorating, and I have been thinking about how to incorporate that movement, its history and its meaning, into my work.

At the same time, here in the present, I work in a movement that has roots in both traditional and radical feminism, and I wonder where we will go, what we will do, what we will have the courage to demand, what we will fight for and what we will compromise. With that in mind, a quote from the book struck me particularly in relation to Abortion Gang:

“Riot Grrrl is about destroying boundaries, not creating them.” (198)

What I love about this blog is that I do not agree with everything everyone writes, nor does every writer on this blog always or necessarily even EVER agree with me. That doesn’t mean my posts don’t go up; that means I get edited into a place where my opinions are 1) clear and 2) mine and only mine. We speak from the “I” here at Abortion Gang. We do not, as individuals, speak for the whole movement or often for anyone but ourselves, yet our collection of experiences IS the movement.

Which brings me to the first thing my Riot Grrrl history has given me to move forward with in my work: consider how you speak and where you speak from. Writers on this blog share intensely personal experiences. Don’t judge. Not, “Hey, try not to judge!” or “Be accepting and open!” Fuck that. Don’t judge. Disagree. Share your experiences. Support. Argue from the “I.” But understand that everyone who writes here – everyone being commentors as well as bloggers, THNX – has a valid experience, a personal experience, that they are sharing. YOUR EXPERIENCE IS NOT THE ONLY EXPERIENCE. YOUR EXPERIENCE IS NOT THE RIGHT EXPERIENCE. The prochoice movement is the sum of its parts, and we are, all of us, those moving pieces of which this great and, I believe, extremely powerful thing is made.

For supporters and antis alike, remember that you are not here to persuade – and if you are, you’re in the wrong damn place. Adults write for and into this site, people with more varied and dynamic backgrounds than you can imagine. We are mothers, daughters, sons, husbands, wives, broke-ass kids, kinksters, prudes, trust-fund recipients, students, sexual deviants, queers, and allthecolors. Come here to tell us what you think, come here to argue your point, but don’t come here to proselytize – and if you don’t know the difference, come back and see us when you do. I think our fearless leader Steph summed it up best in a comment recently, and I want to make sure her extremely well-phrased words get their due, so allow me to include them here:

“I want to let you know that I’m the moderator of this blog, and the only reason I don’t approve comments is when they are disrespectful or hateful. If the comment seems borderline offensive, I ask the blogger if they want me to publish it.”

This is a place for civility, openness, and understanding. We want to engage with you, and we want you to engage with each other. In exchange for this space, we ask for your gracious understanding that we spill our guts out on this page, we tell you so many deep things that hurt and heal, and we can’t always go to bat for them relentlessly, day upon day, just because you like to argue or want to persuade. Come here with an open mind and heart and we will give you ours. It’s a good way to live. And I think it’s an amazing way to live a movement.

We Are Not Baby-Haters

13 Jul

A baby is going to be born today, and I couldn’t be more excited!

Remember my post about my work-bestie who is pregnant? Well, she’s in labor and I’m so excited for her! Her little girl is going to be born today, and I get to go see her this evening (if she’s up to it and there are no complications) or tomorrow (for sure). And I’d like to take this moment to dispel a myth. The myth that women who support abortion are “anti-baby” or worse, “pro-infanticide.”

The Casey Anthony trial is over, and some ridiculous claims are being made by Rush Limbaugh that liberals who support abortion shouldn’t care when a child (an already-born-living-breathing-child) is murdered. This is tantamount to claiming either of these two things (or both): 1) we’re cool with straight-up murder, and/or 2) we don’t like babies. I think it should go without saying that most people, regardless of politics, aren’t all “yeah, murder? that’s fine by me.” And second, Mr. Limbaugh, who the hell are you to tell me that I don’t like kids, much less adorable babies?I understand that there are conservatives out there that equate abortion with murder, and y’all know I wouldn’t be writing for the Abortion Gang if I thought that too, so before I get the inevitable “Abortion IS murder” comments, let’s just, for the sake of argument, agree to disagree on this one and move on. We have already tried to explain the difference here at AG, so if you’re still reading, I’m not reiterating for you. Just check out any number of our other posts here, here, or here.

Ultimately, my point is, I have had an abortion, and I DO like kids. I don’t see any incongruities there. We’ve quoted the stats a million times: most women who have abortions already have children; over 1/3 of the population in America will utilize abortion services in their lifetimes; etc. etc. etc. Why is this concept so difficult for conservatives to understand? I don’t have to hate children to want or need an abortion, and if I utilize abortion services I don’t have to dislike children. And I certainly don’t have to condone the murder of a toddler. Thanks for giving me “my” opinion, but no thanks.

Kids are awesome, when you’re ready for them. I feel like I will be a better mother because I will have children when I am ready to be a mom. I truly think that having had my abortion has made me a kinder, more understanding, less judgmental person. And I will be a better mom for it… eventually.Right now, I’m just psyched that my best friend is having a baby that I get to play with, cuddle and love, and then give back when she gets fussy. That’s one of the joys of not having kids yet, and waiting until you’re ready (no matter how you get there).

Why I Stay In The Movement

6 Jul

Herding activists closely resembles herding cats, or Members of Congress, except that activists are generally hungrier, more distracted, and less likely to be on drugs that help them maintain focus. As a result, our fearless leader and editor will frequently send us prompts for posts, with enthusiastic exclamation points and a spritely tone. We don’t always use them, but one has come up a few times and been gnawing at my edges lately: why do we stay in the movement?

The sidelines, where most Americans and many readers of this blog reside on the abortion issue, is both a perfectly fine and completely understandable place to be. Activists need and are grateful for your research, your thoughtfulness, your support and your engagement. For those of you who don’t know what it’s like to work actively in the prochoice and reproductive justice movements, let me tell you. It’s fucking exhausting.

On a personal level, we are frequently berated and disagreed with, politely and less politely. We receive hate mail. We get called terrible things and enthusiastically consigned to the depths of the belly of hell by sweet looking grandmothers. Even when people are polite, they frequently treat us as though we are simply misguided, and just looking to be saved. Many people stand in a middle-of-the-road place on the abortion issue – call it the safe-legal-rare place – and like to engage in what they think of as “interesting debate” and I have come to think of as “totally unnecessary haranguing by people with bare minimum information who think it is my damn job to educate them because they are too lazy to educate themselves and anyway they almost always want to bring God into it when the discussion doesn’t go their way.” The people who argue with us rarely feel the investment in their own cause that we feel in ours, and so are not worn out from endlessly repeating the same fucking arguments over. and over. again. The arguments are all new and fun to them; they think this is an interesting political game.

We don’t think this is a fucking game.

We are in this movement because we know – not believe, know, and have experienced firsthand – that people’s lives depend on it. Really, I can’t be any clearer: without access to abortion and comprehensive reproductive care, people die. People die from this lack every day, and we watch, and we can’t save them, and we hate ourselves, and then we turn back around and keep trying to save the ones we can. Lately, it’s been a losing battle. It sucks.

We are in this movement because we don’t need a weatherman to tell us which way the wind is blowing. Because many of our mainstream feminist forebearers thought that a little ground given was a compromise, a way to hang on to our basic rights, and we have seen that this is not the case. Every time we compromise we just draw a new line in the sand for governments and churches and antichoice crazy people to dance across, erase daintily behind them, and proceed on their merry way towards taking every single thing we have fought for. Five years ago it was absolutely inconceivable that abortion could be completely inaccessible in this great nation. Today that possibility is very real. And after abortion, they will come for birth control. And after birth control, well… “first, they came for abortion, and I said nothing, because I did not want an abortion…”

I stay in the movement because I believe the work I do every day makes it possible to get up in the morning. Because if I don’t, I failed.

I stay in the movement because if I don’t, one day I will wake up and I will need something – a pill, an abortion, a doctor who is adequately trained to provide comprehensive health care for women – and I will simply not be able to get it. I’m not rich and the work I do is never going to make me rich, and it is completely conceivable that if we fail, within the next decade, these things we think of as so basic will be available only to the very wealthy, the people the rules and regulations don’t apply to.

I stay in the movement because I believe, really believe, in freedom and independence and small government. These are things antichoicers think they have the market cornered on, but that’s just not true. They have the messaging down to a science, but much like squirrels are just rats with better PR, antichoice crap is just big government sitting in your damn medicine cabinet, walking you to your doctor’s office and telling you what you can and cannot do. And that is bullshit. My country, my body, my womb, bitch, and I will make what I believe are the best decisions for all three without your invasive surveillance, THANKS.

And then, probably most importantly, I stay in the movement for personal reasons. I stay in the movement because even when I don’t like the people I am working with, I respect them, and they almost always respect me. I stay in the movement because I am queer and loud and independent and frankly the religious right won’t have me. I stay in the movement because we drink and we laugh a lot and we create safe spaces that are also really a lot of fun, and they make me think that maybe people hate us because they’re just jealous that we’re so awesome.

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.