Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Safe Abortion Project

The other day, Steph Herold (founder of IAmDrTiller.com) released the Safe Abortion Project, a response to the recent Kermit Gosnell case. The message is clear: women deserve better than Gosnell and there are not nearly as many Gosnells in abortion care as antis would like you to think.

Women went to Gosnell's clinic for a reason. Some went to him because he was less expensive. Others went to him because it allowed them to dodge restrictive abortion laws. Some simply did not know about the awful conditions at the clinic. One of the clinic workers in the video makes a great point; had this been any other kind of medical facility, people would know not to go there. Why? Because with (almost) any other type of surgery or treatment, people will freely speak about their experiences. If a person has a bad experience at a clinic, they will tell people. They will go to their friends, their family, and even the internet to get the message out that you should not go to this clinic. This is not true for abortion. Women are shamed into silence. Women do not feel welcome to tell their friends, family, and the internet about their positive or negative abortion experiences if they please. Abortion is one of the most common medical procedures, yet no one speaks of it.

I implore Herold and the other people who are working on this project. Not only will this project raise awareness that most providers are not like Gosnell, but it will also help women find safe clinics to receive abortion care so they do not end up in the same position that Gosnell's patients were. The six principles of the Safe Abortion Project really say it all:

1. Historically, women will do whatever it takes to end a pregnancy they feel they cannot carry to term, including risk their lives.
2. If full insurance coverage for abortion were available, poor women and girls would not have to settle for the least expensive medical care.
3. Until abortion services in the United States are fully accessible to poor women, women will be vulnerable to those who seek to exploit their poverty with unsafe practices.
4. In a nation where more than 1 in 3 women will have an abortion at some point in her life, the culture of silent shame that surrounds the decision to end a pregnancy allows those who would provide poor quality and sometimes dangerous care to thrive.
5. Until abortion services are affordable and accessible to all women who need care, women will continue to be vulnerable to exploitation and harm by those who offer substandard, dangerous care.
6. Strict laws limiting women and girls’ safe access to abortion care does nothing to protect women.

Thank you so much, Steph, for doing this!

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Easy Way Out

If you're an activist and at all like me, you probably get tired sometimes. Not tired of being an activist, but tired of how far behind the world seems to be at times. It can be painful to realize how much further we must go and how much work we have to do until all women are treated as persons. It is exhausting to hear people vehemently supporting hatred and violence against women. At times I am tormented by the thought of these people; how can anyone be like that? How can anyone do this? I'm going to be honest; it hurts me.

For much of my life I have been a musician first and foremost. I never thought I could be as or more passionate about anything else until I found pro-choice activism. When I found activism, I found my home. I found my place in this world. Activism, however, is not easy. Being an activist means being very closely involved in what is wrong in this world. Otherwise, we wouldn't change anything. Being involved in all that is nasty, unequal, wrong, screwed up, and depressing is not always fun. It can make you uneasy and, for some, it may be damaging. Still, even in all of this, activism is beautiful. In all of its imperfections, pain, and sometimes even hopelessness, there is something inside of me that is telling me that I am doing the right thing, that I can make a difference. Even though activism is not and never will be easy, I will not die without having done something in this world. I refuse to.

Activism requires a good deal of sacrifice. It means standing up for all people, instead of just your own. It means recognizing the fact that you have privilege and, instead of trampling over those who have less privilege, uplifting their voices. It means being a bit of a rebel and thinking of someone other than yourself. If it were all about me, I'd give up all of my human and animal rights activism right now. After all, if it's all about me, why expend so much energy on this? Why go through these phases of despondency and hopelessness? Why even bother? If it were all about me, I'd give up the pro-choice movement right this second and become an anti-choicer. That way, I wouldn't have to worry about anyone who I might be hurting. I wouldn't have to worry about inadvertently trampling over those who are less privileged than I. I wouldn't have to worry about human rights or animal rights or anyone's rights except for the all mighty white cis men's rights, and hey, that's easy because they already rule the whole damn world. All I would ever have to worry about was power and how to get more of it. That is exactly what I will do if I decide that the whole world is about me.

The thing is, I know it's not all about me. I am just one person among billions; if I died right now the world wouldn't even bat an eyelash. I refuse to make the time I have all about me, because then it would all be futile. This requires so much energy, but I pray that I might make some difference in the whole scheme of things. I think back to other activists: Martin Luther King Jr., for example. How easy was it for him? Not very, I would imagine. Hatred is easy and love can be hard. There is no love in the anti-choice movement. Being an anti-choice activist is easy, but I sure as hell am not going to take the easy way out.

Friday, January 21, 2011

What Choice Means To Me

(potential trigger warning)

Today is Blog For Choice Day. Anti-choicers have decided to get creative this year and have declared it "Ask Them What They Mean By Choice Day" (such a beautiful, eloquent title, is it not?) I know that they're not actually interested in an answer; if they were, they'd already have it. However, I am going to humor them. This is what I mean by choice:

To me, choice means having the freedom to enjoy your sexuality without ridicule and judgment. It means receiving quality sex education and not being left in the dark about something you live with every day: your own body. It means having access to birth control and having the knowledge to use it correctly. It means being trusted with knowing whether or not you want children. It means that, as long as everything is consensual, you are able to have no partners, one partner, two partners, or 6 partners without having your character judged solely on how you choose to lead your sex life. It means being able to embrace your sexuality, or lack thereof, without being told that you are wrong or sinful just for being human.

Choice means having your "no" taken seriously. It means aboloshing the "no means yes" culture, being able to live a day without being in fear of being assaulted, being able to go on a date without wondering if your date will rape you later. It means that, if you are raped, a person's first reaction will not be "what were you wearing?" but "how can I help?" It means being able to live your life without people trying to take ownership of your life and your body. In a world where our choices are respected, bodily autonomy will be sacred. We will rule our own bodies; they will no longer be ruled by those who are considered more valuable than us.

To me, choice means not having to worry about being devalued as soon as you get pregnant. It means having people treating you like a person instead of a pregnancy. It means not being bullied because you are not the perfect pregnant woman, the perfect mother, or the perfect spouse. It means having a full range of birthing options and being able to choose these without pressure. It means not being pressured or forced into having an unwanted c-section, and not being chastised for feeding your baby in public.

Choice means not ending up in a CPC and being pressured to not only go through the pregnancy, but to surrender your child for adoption. It means to not being treated like a breeding machine by the adoption industry. It means being given all of the facts about adoption so that your decision will be an informed one. It means reforming the adoption industry so that mothers have rights over their children. It means, simply: NO MORE COERCION.

Not surprisingly (and this is probably what you'd been waiting for), choice includes abortion rights. This means more than keeping abortion legal; it means making it accessible. It means destroying stigma so that women are free to speak out about their experiences. It means funding abortion, because poor women deserve liberty, too. It means recognizing that women are not selfish for wanting to follow their dreams (have you ever heard a man being called selfish for wanting this?) It means recognizing the fact that, no, women are not monsters if they get pregnant and choose abortion, even if the woman was not using contraception, and women still are not monsters if they have more than one abortion. It means accepting the fact that women are people, and that we are entitled to rule our own bodies.

And this is just a part of what choice means to me. This post is unfinished; it would be impossible for me to finish it. Choice is liberty, and anything less than this is, well, anti-choice.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Who Am I?

Let's play a little game. I'm going to pretend to be someone I'm not and you're going to try to guess who I am. Ready? Okay, let's go.


I disrespect women. I yell vulgar things at them to make them feel uncomfortable, and the only reason I do it is because they're living their lives the way they want to and I don't like that. Some people argue that I do this for women, but I'm really just against women. People will argue that my disgusting actions are justifiable because the woman was doing something or carrying herself in a manner that some people find unacceptable. My actions hurt women; They make them cry, feel uncomfortable, feel angry, etc. The sole reason for doing what I do is to intimidate women into living their lives in a way that suits my wants and needs. Who am I?

There are two answers. Ready to see if you got it right?

Answer 1:
A street harasser

Answer 2:
An abortion clinic protester

+100 if you got one, +200 if you got both :)

Safe, Legal, and Common

"Let's make abortion safe, legal, and rare!"

..how many times have you heard that?

This is a problematic saying. It portrays abortion as a problem, as a bad thing that must be rare. It diverts the attention from the unwanted pregnancy, which is a problem, to abortion, which should serve as a solution to a problem. Is chemotherapy bad? No, but cancer is. Is Advil bad? No, but headaches are. Is abortion bad? Not unless the abortion is unwanted/forced/coerced (in which case it'd be awful, just like forced pregnancy). It's the unwanted pregnancy that is the problem.

We will have as many abortions as we need at any given time. Right now we have about 1.2 million abortions a year in the US, and hey, what do you know? That's how many we need.. That's the 'right' number for right now. When we construct a society that supports pregnant women/girls and teaches kids real sex ed, the number of abortions we'll need will probably go down. Or maybe, one day, the number of abortions we'll need will go up for whatever reason. The important thing to remember is that the high number of abortions we have is not a tragedy, it's simply necessary. You could describe unwanted pregnancies as a tragedy. You could describe lack of sex education a tragedy. However, abortion itself is not the bad thing. Abortion is a blessing.

Again, when I say that, I'm certainly not talking about forced/coerced/unwanted abortions. Just like forced pregnancies, forced abortions are tragedies. However, that does not make abortion as a whole a tragedy. Rape happens, but no one ever describes sex as a tragedy. Forced pregnancy happens, but no one ever describes pregnancy itself as a tragedy. The coercion/force makes a huge difference. It's the same difference between sex and rape and between borrowing and stealing.

I'll go ahead and say it; I freaking love abortion. Abortion is amazing. It's beautiful. I thank God that I have this right, even though I never suspect that I'll have to use it (but hey.. who suspects an unwanted pregnancy anyway). Choice is empowering. An unexpected pregnancy does not scare me so much because I know I have the power to choose. I think, if I got pregnant, I'd choose to parent, and I thank God that abortion is legal because otherwise I would not have that choice. Parenting would simply be forced upon me. Even as a woman who would probably go through an unexpected pregnancy, I LOVE ABORTION. Yes, abortion is common. No, that is not some kind of tragedy. Unless you'd describe or portray the rate of chemotherapy as a tragedy, please don't describe abortion as one. Let's focus on the actual problems, and the problem is not abortion.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An Open Letter to Abortion

Dear Abortion:

I've never met you, and I've never had an abortion, but I love you. You're amazing. Even though I've never had any direct experiences with you, my life wouldn't be the same without you. You see, now I don't have to be terrified of becoming pregnant. It's not even that I'd necessarily choose you if I did become pregnant, it's just that I know if I do become pregnant, my freedom will still be there. I will have a choice. You see, to me, having a wanted pregnancy when abortion is illegal is sort of like having sex with a person who I knew would just rape me if I told him to stop. It'd be terrifying and violating. I wouldn't be able to enjoy the experience at all. You're so special.

Sometimes, people like to portray you as a horrible thing. I really do not like that sentiment. Unwanted pregnancy is a bad thing, lack of education is a bad thing, poverty is a bad thing. You are not a bad thing, abortion. You are amazing!

Sometimes people are forced/coerced into having you. That's awful, and if you were a person and capable of thought I'm sure you would want people to have you only when they want to have you. I'm sure you'd want to be there for women, not hurt them. Sadly, you have no choice, with you not being a sentient being and all that, so some women are forced into having you, anyway.

Some people want you to be dangerous for some reason. Not pro-choicers, though. We want you to be safe and legal, and we're fighting to keep you that way. After all, we know that you'll exist whether you're legal or illegal, because you're necessary in our society. We need you. It's that simple.

You're different than a lot of other surgeries. There are so many different emotions concerning you, some good, some bad. This is especially true when it comes to the women who have abortions. Some women treat their abortion very casually, and that's okay. Some women feel tremendous remorse after their abortion, and it's not a good thing that they're suffering, but their feelings are just as valid as any other woman's. Women who are in pain are allowed to be in pain because, hey, we're individuals with individual emotions. Some women feel thrilled about their abortions. That's okay, too! Not everyone loves you, abortion. That's fine. That doesn't make you any less amazing in my eyes.

With much love,

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Engaging: Is It Really Helpful?

I watched part of the "Open Hearts Open Minds" conference earlier. "Open Hearts Open Minds" is a conference featuring both pro-choicers and anti-choicers, and its goal is to find "common ground" and to "bridge the abortion divide" between the two movements. It got me thinking about different methods of activism, and whether or not engaging with antis is really even worth it.

They way I channel my passion for equal rights has changed drastically in the past few years. I used to spend my time arguing with people who believed that women shouldn't have the right to vote (yes, those people are still around). I eventually moved more towards fighting against gender roles, and after that I really focused on reproductive rights. Throughout all of these "phases", I'd engage with those on the other side. I used to spend a lot of energy doing that. I used to argue with antis pretty much non-stop. You see, I've found that arguing with antis, particularly anti-choice activists, is a lot like arguing with people who don't believe in a woman's right to vote. Their beliefs tend to be extreme and their minds tend to be absolutely dead set on staying the way they are. Their arguments tend to be very focused on sexist beliefs and insults. Whether I'm debating with the person who believes that women shouldn't have the right to vote or with the person who believes that women shouldn't have bodily autonomy, I've found that these discussions usually go absolutely nowhere.

There are exceptions, of course. There is always the possibility that you'll come across a fence sitter, or even an anti-choice activist who is willing to listen and whose heart may be changed. Now, of the anti-choice activists I've spoken with, I've found maybe two who were actually pleasant to speak to, so if I were ever to go back to the "engage with everyone" type of activism, I wouldn't get my hopes up on finding activist antis to engage with. However, I have the utmost respect for my fellow reproductive justice warriors who do have the time and energy to try to reach out to antis, even those who seem too far away to reach out to.

Attempting discussion with people who obviously do not want to discuss takes time and energy which is, to me, better spent trying to help women in more direct ways. I have found that channeling my energy more towards types of activism that don't involve engaging with antis directly gets more work done. However, this is not true for all pro-choice activists. Some of my activist friends choose to engage with seemingly hopeless antis. I say, all the more power to them. We need all types of activism in the pro-choice movement. Each activist has his or her strengths and weaknesses, and we should utilize these individual strengths to the best of our abilities. There are so many different types of activism, and I don't find it helpful to label some types "better" than other types. It's hard for someone like me to imagine, but hey, maybe engaging with antis really is useful, so why not use that to our advantage?