An Open Letter to Congress

Dear Congress-people responsible for the ridiculously-named  Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act:

Have you heard about the 2006 study* on pre-term births that revealed racism as a very real risk-factor in early labor?

African-American women at every socioeconomic level have higher rates of preterm birth and infant mortality. Incredibly, these rates exceed those of white women who have not even finished high school and those of black women who emigrated to the U.S. from other countries. For example, infant mortality in white women with a college degree or higher is 4 per 1000, while for similarly educated African-American women, the rate is 12 per 1000 births. [Source]

If that is not compelling enough check out the transcript for Unnatural Causes: When the Bough Breaks, one part of an (awesome) documentary series about health disparity in America (that I was lucky enough to be introduced to at a recent YWCA Cultural Competency training!)

I agree – racism is a serious issue – but how about we deal with the racism faced by fully-gestated people first? There are a plethora of reasons why you should care about the racism that fully-gestated people face every day (basic human decency and a sense of justice, for starters) but if none of those reasons compel you, then do so for the fetuses that you care so very much about. Fetuses who are being born pre-term because their mothers bodies are so worn down by the constant stress of racism that they cannot carry their baby to full-term, despite making every effort to do so.

Or, you know, you can keep writing bills that exploit the very real problem of racism in an attempt to screw over women of color even more. Your choice.

– A concerned voter.

*Institute of Medicine Committee on Understanding Premature Birth and Assuring Healthy Outcomes, Board on Health Sciences Policy, Behrman, R.E., and Butler, A.S. (eds.). (2006). Preterm Birth: Causes, Consequences, and Prevention. Washington, DC, The National Academies Press.

Dear Planned Parenthood,

Crossposted at Persephone!

So  you probably already heard that late Friday afternoon, the House of Representatives voted to cut all funding from Planned Parenthood. On a practical level, this isn’t so very terrifying because we can feel relatively safe in the fact the Senate will most likely shoot this bill down and, even if they don’t, Obama will most likely veto it before damage can really be done.

Still, it is times like these that drive home how crucial it is that we speak up for Reproductive Justice.

Reproductive health access and rights in the United States are far from perfect, but we’re doing much better right now than ever before. Abortion is legal (for now) and most states have at least one provider, if not more.

Even though the Hyde Amendment ensures that no federal funding can go to abortion (which also means that many insurance providers won’t cover it and many lower-income women cannot afford to pay for an abortion or the travel costs when there is only one clinic in their state), we have it much better than women who lived before Roe v. Wade. Because of this, it can be pretty easy to get complacent.

If we stop using our voices to fight for more funding for reproductive health-care (including abortions), if we stop reminding people of the awesome services that Planned Parenthood offers (HIV and other STI testing, gynecological exams, education programs, options counseling, birth control, abortion, cancer screening … the list goes on and on), if we stop pushing for more funding and more freedom and more acceptance … then, we’re in trouble because when we stop fighting, we start to lose ground.

Planned Parenthood is probably safe, for now, but if we don’t cry out as loud as we can this time, then the next time they come after our reproductive rights (and they will), the ground that we stand on will be just a little bit shakier … keep that up long enough and we could end up losing a lot of the hard-fought battles that currently rest behind us.

So take a few minutes and throw your voice in to help protect Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights in general for you and for the generations of women yet to come.

  • Officially stand with Planned Parenthood by signing the petition.
  • Post to Dear Planned Parenthood, the tumblr that my awesome friend Zaneta and I started for people to share their stories (anonymously or not) about Planned Parenthood to help paint a real, holistic picture of all the good that this wonderful organization does.
  • Blog or Tweet about Reproductive Justice, Planned Parenthood, etc.
  • Attend a Rally for Planned Parenthood (or organize one if there isn’t one near you!)
  • Donate to Planned Parenthood if you have any cash to spare!
  • Organize a Planned Parenthood Fundraiser in your community! (We’re in the midst of planning one at Ramapo – once we’ve made more progress I can share some ideas here!)

Have any more ideas? What have you done? Share your projects in the comments!

SAY NO to the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”

I haven’t written about this yet because I am just so f*cking angry that I see red every time I try to even think, let alone write or speak, about the GOP’s attempt to redefine rape.

I am speaking of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. A bill that, “seeks to revamp the current allowances for victims of rape or incest to use government funds to pay for abortions. Instead, the bill aims to limit the rape exemption to cases of “forcible rape.” Also, the bill would make it so that federal funds would only cover abortions in cases of incest if the woman is younger than 18-years-old.”

This act is terrifying because it leaves out women who are coerced into drinking too much and losing control, or blackmailed into having sex, or tricked, or are just too paralyzed by fear to even speak let alone put up a fight… but it is also terrifying because many times even rape achieved through plain old brute force does not qualify as forcible rape in our legal system. Sometimes, even if a woman says no and the rapist acknowledges on the stand that he heard her say no… well, that’s still not rape because she didn’t fight back hard enough (maybe because she was afraid of being beaten on top of being raped, or because she is paralyzed by fear? Just sayin.) The Republican party would have us believe that this woman hadn’t been raped, even though she was forced to have sex that she didn’t want to have and had to go through the same emotional responses and struggle that any other rape survivor has to deal with… how is this okay? Its not. It wasn’t when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court levied this decision in 1994, and its no more okay today in 2011.

There’s only one thing to say: we can’t let them do this.

When I think about this bill I don’t think about it in the abstract. When I think about this bill I think about the multitudes of wonderful, strong women who I have connected with through the Rape Crisis Center, both on the phone and in person. Women who have been violated by people with no respect for them, their independence, or their autonomy. When I think about this bill I see a reflection of that same disrespect that rapists have for their targets,  because it is a bill that seeks to take bodily autonomy away from the women who need it the most.

When I speak to someone who has been sexually assaulted in any way my main goal is simply facilitating them in taking back control over their lives. Part of that control for a rape survivor could very easily mean aborting a fetus that was produced as a result of their assault. To pass legislation that would make it even harder for a rape victim to regain that control, when she is already struggling with so much uncertainty and pain inside of herself, is absolutely reprehensible.

Please, please join me in writing and calling your representative to beg them not to do this. Say what’s in your heart but please, do what you can to make it personal because if we can just get them to understand that these are lives that they are dealing with, lives of people who deserve a break not to be broken down even further… if they realize these are lives that they are playing with, there is no way this bill can pass.

Some information to help us all fight back…

Democratic Representatives Who Support the Bill:

Dan Boren [D-OK2]
Jerry Costello [D-IL12]
Mark Critz [D-PA12]
Joe Donnelly [D-IN2]
Daniel Lipinski [D-IL3]
Collin Peterson [D-MN7]
Nick Rahall [D-WV3]
Mike Ross [D-AR4]
Heath Shuler [D-NC11]

A sample letter written by a blogger, use it to help you write one of your own! If you live in a district represented by one of the Senators listed above, or if you are represented by a  Republican (who is most likely supporting this bill out of party loyalty, if not personal investment) then please, please take the time to call or e-mail them to share your story and let them know that your support for them is riding on them voting against this terrible bill.

Sign the petition!

Join in the #DearJohn twitter campaign directed at Speaker Bahner.

Make your voice heard however you can because we cannot let injustice like this pass.

Blogging for Choice

Today is National Blog for Choice Day and, although I don’t have a lot of time today, I really want to contribute! So, this is going to be short and sweet.

Just hanging out with Sarah Weddington, the woman who (along with Linda Coffee) defended "Jane Roe" in the landmark Roe v. Wade case!

I am pro-choice because I believe that everyone should be able to live life based on their own beliefs provided, of course, that they are not infringing upon another person’s ability to do the same. To put it simply: I believe that your right to choose [whatever] extends all the way to the point where it encroaches on someone else’s right to those same opportunities and choices.

For example: I don’t agree that anyone has the right to choose to assault someone else, because your decision to do so causes unwanted harm to that other person.  On the other hand, I don’t have an issue with consenting adults taking part in BDSM, which can sometimes hurt and cause lasting injury, because in this context their actions are something that both parties mutually desire and, thus, no one is effected in a way that they did not want or having their free-will infringed upon.

Abortion works the same way, at least in my opinion. A woman’s choice to abort, parent, or adopt does not directly effect anyone but HER. If your moral code tells you abortion is wrong then you can follow that code by not getting an abortion if you become pregnant. Someone else’s moral code may not have a problem with abortion, and no harm will come to you if they get that abortion. Thus, you shouldn’t have a say in that situation.

Before any anti-choicers jump in I just want to say that I personally do not believe that this principle applies to the fertilized egg present at the very beginning of a pregnancy, or the zygote, or the fetus because at the time that most abortions take place the fetus cannot live independently of the pregnant woman. It cannot make decisions. Most of the time it doesn’t even have a heartbeat yet, nor can it feel pain. I understand that we do not see eye-to-eye on this point, and I doubt we ever will… but that’s the point that I am trying to make here. Thanks to the choice provided by Roe v. Wade the law in the United States currently allows us BOTH to exercise our opinions [with the exception of people who don’t have the means to afford an abortion or the prenatal care recommended for carrying a pregnancy to term].

I truly appreciate the work of the many people responsible for fighting for reproductive justice (and social justice in general)  every day. Thank you all for making the world a happier, freer place!

Time for this Pro-Choice Woman to “Go Wild”

See the first post here. Since writing that one I have started to pay more attention to the prominent anti-choice blogs than I used to. I read these sometimes to get a grasp on what people “on the other side” are saying; I do this partially because I hate the idea of “sides” and so its fun to see the things we do agree on and try to find common ground. I do this to test my beliefs by reading opposing viewpoints and seeing if they sway me. I do this because it is summer and I have free time… so why not? I feel a little bad for singling out one particular post to structure this post about, but I feel like this has to be said.

*************

This post , titled Abortionist’s wife gone wild – with lawnmower, from Jill Stanek’s popular anti-choice blog really pissed me off. I wasn’t annoyed so much by the content of the post itself (which was bad, but unsurprising and not worth its own post) but rather by the content of several comments.These comments – as you will see shortly – characterized the worst of a movement that already makes me anxious.

First, a quick summary of what the post said:

Members of an IN pro-life activist group called Intercessors for Life spend theirs picketing the Noblesville, IN, home of abortionist Michael S. King, who slices and dices at 3 Planned Parenthood mills in Indianapolis. […]

Word to the wise: a lawnmaker can function as a postborn abortion machine.

In this video, taken two days ago on Memorial Day, King’s wife Shelley gave pro-lifers the finger before trying to shoo them off with her mean blades. But Shelley quickly remembered pro-aborts can’t pick on people their own size and walked off in a tiff.

Just so that we all understand here: protesters gathered outside of a doctor’s home, one walked right up to the edge of the lawn that his wife  was outside mowing. She is being criticized for responding to the people who came to her home to harass and intimidate her family over her husband’s profession in a less than cheery manner. All she did was flip them off, push the mower by the house, and walk away… that is what this anti-choicer considers “going wild.”

More wild, in my opinion, is the audacity to stand outside someone’s home with picket signs and harass them while they go about their daily life; its way more threatening than standing outside of their place of work (which, although I obviously disagree with, I will not criticize) because this sends the message we know where you live and we do not plan to leave you alone until you give in to our will. This is harassment, plain and simple.

In the post itself we see the phrase “postborn abortion machine” which, in this case, is serving to imply that Shelley King was considering using her lawnmower to murder the protesters. Not only did that threat never fucking happen but calling a murder an abortion (the most egregious example of this are the people who called Dr. Tiller’s murder an “incredibly late term abortion.” No, just no.) I’m sorry but there is a difference between an already born person, fully capable of surviving without the support of another human being’s body, and a fetus. Using this phrase not only distorts what abortion actually is, but it is incredibly disrespectful to the human beings, like Dr. Tiller, who are murdered over this debate.

If we’re arguing about the sanctity of life here (a phrase anti-choice love to toss around) then shouldn’t we treat the loss of life that comes with murder with more respect?

In the comments though, that’s where things really went to hell.

Continue reading

The True Face of “Pro-Life”

People who fight to make abortion illegal again are anti-choice, plain and simple. From this day on I refuse to pander to this group by calling them pro-life or even anti-abortion; not because I want to piss them off, no, because I want to be accurate.

Pro-life doesn’t work because, really, who isn’t pro-life? I’m pro-life: I believe that all living people deserve the freedom to go on living… most (if not all, I’m pretty sure all) people feel this way – except for those who are anti-choice. People who will hide behind the excuse that the “ends never justify the means” while they deny a woman her bodily autonomy, and many times end up killing both the woman and the fetus in the process of “fighting for life.” Even if you believe a bundle of cells with no brain activity is alive (funny how when born people are brain dead, we consider them dead… but a fetus without a brain is very much a full and sentient human being) how can you believe that two deaths are better than one? How can you call yourself pro-life and deny women life-saving procedures?

I also refuse to call these people anti-abortion. I know people who are against abortion personally and are still pro-choice. People who recognize that their own personal morality and religious code of ethics do not have to be pushed onto everyone around them through the law. These people recognize that every woman has different goals, life circumstances, support systems, and so on… some women might be perfectly happy to have an unplanned pregnancy and raise the child, or put her/him up for adoption, other women would be completely destroyed by going through a pregnancy. Some woman have wanted pregnancies that end in abortion for a variety of reasons. Everyone woman’s pregnancy is different because we are all unique and different people. Living in a world where abortion is not an option for anyone only works if you think of women merely as fetus-incubators; the second we become real and varied people choices become necessary.

People who truly value life are pro-choice because they recognize the value in each unique life, and would never try to pass a law that ruins countless women’s lives by forcing them to carry unwanted pregnancies against their will… pregnancies that can cause depression, irreversible health issues, even death all to preserve the autonomy of a life that does not even exist yet.

If you are in favor of making abortion, once again, illegal then you are not pro-life, you are not anti-abortion… if you fight to restrict women’s options then you are anti-choice, plain and simple. Call me what you want, but I refuse to call you anything else.

ETA: Apparently I wrote nearly this exact post in January… and promptly forgot about it. What’s worse? I may like the January version of this better. Oh well, I never promised not to be repetitive!