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.

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.

Sarah Palin’s “Feminist Card”

This post is my blogging equivalent of “thinking out loud” so take everything said here with a grain of salt… this discussion is hard!

I don’t like Sarah Palin, lets make that clear. In fact, I don’t like her so much that at first I was very happily and vocally joining in with the “Sarah Palin is not a feminist” crowd. However, since my initial gut reaction, I’ve had a bit of an (unpopular) change of heart. In fact, I think Sarah Palin, could actually be a feminist.

Hear me out, let’s start by defining feminism for a quick second.

Feminism “refers to political, cultural, and economic movements aimed at establishing greater rights and legal protections for women.” (Hooray for Wikipedia!)

My feminism goes beyond this and focuses a lot on challenging gender norms, racism, and homophobia as well [intersectional feminism, as I defined it earlier] but I suppose I can’t be so conceited to believe that my feminism works for all feminists.

I think the feminist blogger who writes Angry Feminist Doc says it best:

First, no one is such a Good Feminist as to be able to take away someone else’s right to call themselves such. I believe “feminist” is an identity marker that people choose to apply to themselves. Some people who advocate (who may strongly advocate) causes we may traditionally associate with the feminist movement do not choose to adopt the “feminist” label. We do not force it upon them. And we don’t have the right to be snatching it back from someone (including Sarah Palin) who has chosen to adopt it.

Palin is a woman in politics, in a decidedly anti-woman party. She’s a feminine woman in politics, who fairly consistently calls out the pundits who feel the need to criticize her based upon her body and her femininity; though I may not agree with her politics, I do agree that her intelligence has nothing to do with her looks. She’s a mother who has chosen to devote her time to politics, while her husband  takes on the role of primary-caregiver – and she’s willing to defend that choice publicly. All of these actions are, in my opinion, very feminist ones and I must give credit where credit is due.

However, if Sarah Palin is a feminist, I am going to hold her to the same standards that I hold all feminist leadersand if I am holding her to those standards, well, then she has a lot of apologizing to do. Continue reading

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

Respecting Women’s Choices: Why I Am Pro-Choice & Proud!

This was from about five months ago; I’m not sure about the exact date because I updated the file before taking it down. All I had down was an outline and a few sentences!

*******

I call them anti-choice advocates because that is what they are. Some people claim this is the same as them calling me anti-life, but its not. Its not because I am pro-life, who isn’t? I think senseless killing is wrong; which is why I am a pacifist, I care about animal rights, about anti-violence initiatives,  and about gun-control. You know what I’m not about, though? Controlling other women’s bodies and lives.

If faced with a pregnancy I’m honestly not sure if I would adopt or carry to term, my own feelings about conception, life, and adoption are far too complex for me to ever know how I would react to this situation (only being in the situation, honestly, would let me know.) However, regardless of the choices I would make, I respect other women far too much to try and force my own choices, my own views, onto them.

That’s why I’m pro-choice. I don’t like the idea of abortion but, even more than that, I don’t like the idea of a world where a pregnant woman is not in control of her own body and not allowed to make decisions about whats forming inside of her body.

abortioncartoon2This political cartoon, a piece of cultural crap as far as I’m concerned, exemplifies the perception problems we have in America concerning Pro-Choice. Honestly? I have never met a single person – female or male, pro-choice or anti-choice – who enjoyed the idea of abortions. No one wants to get into a position where an abortion is necessary – and yet all too often people who believe in choice and the right for a woman to be in control of what is growing inside f her own body are depicted as blood-hungry, rabid lunatics who lie, pressure, etc. to convince women to get abortions. Obviously this is not the truth.

Pro -choice does not just mean defending a woman’s right to choose abortion, however. For many people, myself included, being pro-choice means being tireless advocates for the many programs and infrastructure projects that allow all women to have a choice about reproduction, including comprehensive sexual education, easily available contraception, resources for expectant mothers, reasonable maternity and paternity leave, affordable childcare, and reproductive counselors who provide women with all of the unbiased information that they need to make a decisions about their own lives (that is to say, I’m against “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” and other places that have motives to steer women towards a particular decision.)

Continue reading

It All Comes Down to Trust

Crossposted @ Amplify

2527823509_bcd5c660afRecently I was struck by the decision of a Wyoming school to offer two sex education courses, one abstinence only and one comprehensive, in order to allow parents to choose which education their children will be receiving. On the surface this may seem like a slight step forward, progress in the sense that at least all of the information is now being offered. This is what I originally thought, and yet, there was a nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach that wouldn’t go away, a feeling that told the truth: nothing has changed.

The thing is, the whole sex-education debate boils down to trust in the end. Do we (society, parents, school administrators, etc.) trust teenagers enough to make wise decisions, once armed with all of the information? What this decision (and others) show us is that, obviously, we do not (at least not in this school district and others like it.)

While I find the idea of two separate classes completely ridiculous (teenagers who choose abstinence for now will still, most likely, need to know about contraceptives and safe sex later in life. Why not get them the education now?) I do think that this program could have seemed like progress to me – if it empowered the teens. If the school district were to allowed the students to decide which class they would like to attend then I could appreciate this program more because it would symbolize the school district, and the parents, trusting their teens enough to take license over their own sex education and, by extension, their own bodies.
Continue reading

Rest in Peace Dr. Tiller

“It is my fundamental philosophy that patients are emotionally, mentally, morally, spiritually and physically competent to struggle with complex health issues and come to decisions that are appropriate for them.”

– Dr. Tiller, via Hugo Schwyzer via Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health

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

This is late, mostly because its been difficult for me to even acknowledge that this much hate exists in the world, but I would like to take a few lines to pay my respects to Dr. Tiller. As most of you probably already know Dr. Tiller, one of the few providers of late-term abortions in the United States, was murdered yesterday as he was walking into his Sunday morning church services.

Feministe reported on his murder and on the harassment he received leading up to it. Dr. Tiller lived through so much, “he had previously been shot, his clinic burnt down, harassed by ideological anti-abortion attorney generals, and threatened with death countless times,” yet he never gave up, never stopped providing desperate women* with the respect and care that they deserved. (Someone on my facebook news-feed wrote that he used to wear a button that said, “Trust Women.” I would not be surprised at all if this were true – Dr. Tiller obviously had respect, dedication, and and compassion for his patients.)

Regardless of how you personally feel about abortion, this event goes beyond an ideological battle. Dr. Tiller’s murder, and previous harassment, should have never occurred and it truly saddens me that we live in a world where people often cannot seem to disagree without violence.

I would simply like to take today to reflect on respect for life, and for one’s fellow man – we need to learn from this experience and honor Dr. Tiller’s death by respecting even those that we disagree with. I’m not saying we shouldn’t make our opinions heard, all I am saying is that we should do so in a respectful way, a way that avoids violence and personal attacks, just as Dr. Tiller did through his life – bravely and respectfully living out his values, even in the face of violent opposition.

Feministe has a few pieces up that speak of his murder if you want more information. Hugo Schwyzer wrote an amazing piece about Dr. Tiller’s life, faith, and the events that lead him to perform abortions and regard abortion in the way that he did. Also, this article elucidates some of the hate speak that existed surrounding Dr. Tiller prior to his murder – hate speak that could have easily played a role in motivating his killer to act.

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

* Not to say that all women seeking abortions are desperate but, givin the lack of funding and availability in this country in almost all cases women seeking late-term abortions are desperate because they have been denied by red-tape put in place to make abortions difficult to obtain (lack of funding, locations, need for parental consent, and so on) and have reached the point where they are truly desperate for someone who will carry out their wishes and return their bodily integrity.

In my opinion it makes more sense for those who oppose late-term abortions so strongly to work to make abortion and contraception more accessible – thus avoiding many unwanted pregnancies, and making the remaining abortions more likely to occur early in the pregnancy.