Friday, December 19, 2008
In my years of grassroots organizing, I remember many conversations with people who are fed up with petition signing. "I've signed a thousand anti-war petitions," I recall one person saying, "and yet we're still at war." Conversations about attacks on reproductive rights have gone a similar way.
In this election year, I've seen a lot of grassroots activism fade into the background in the face of big ideas like "hope" and "change". The future Obama staff has promised big things, and while I will of course hope every day for the changes promised, I know there is no substitute for down and dirty grassroots organization.
I encourage everyone to sign Planned Parenthood's petition, to do everything they can to hold Obama accountable for his words. The HHS regulation needs to be reversed immediately, and it will take an effort unheard of in the realm of bipartisan politics to achieve. I take some comfort in the excitement the Obama campaign generated, the do-it-yourself political activities it has inspired, and the energy I feel amongst people in my generation to get things done, and get them done right.
But the fact of the matter is, great change comes from a collective idea that grows from the ground, and while much of Obama's popularity came from everyday folks, Obama will become president next month. He will have to answer not only to us, but to Congress, to both sides of "the aisle", and to our allies around the world. Sitting back and hoping for change is no more effective than sitting at home on election day and hoping Obama will be elected without your vote. All major change throughout American history has grown from big ideas from small people, not vice versa. Support grassroots efforts, those of us who are struggling day in and day out to scrape together enough change to print fliers for our next big event, those of us who stand out in the cold to gather contacts and build networks, those of us who have bigger dreams than the concessions our politicians offer. We are the ones we've been waiting for, and we have the power to change the world.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The way this particular CPC operated was like so: she took a pregnancy test and while awaiting the results was led into a room where a volunteer berated her with lectures about the immorality of sex before marriage and the mortal sin she would be committing if she had an abortion. A woman finally entered and told her she wasn't pregnant. After a month or so, Terri began gaining weight and continued to not have a period. A visit to a local ob/gyn informed her that she was, in fact, pregnant and that she was about 15 weeks along. She was able to obtain a safe abortion, but the procedure was far more costly and invasive due to the time wasted by the CPC's lies.
While this is one common method CPCs use to derail a woman's decision making, it's not the only one. In adding Terri's story to our website, I began re-reading the other stories. The third or forth read, it turns out, is no less gut-wrenching than the first, and it's always the same trend that emerges in each and every woman's account of what truly goes on inside a CPC. Agencies that claim to want to help women through a difficult time become the most imposing, most deceptive, and most dangerous threat to a woman's well-being.
And apparently we're the ones waging a "war" on them?? Well then I guess the war is on. It's certainly one that needs to be fought, a noble cause, except in this case I'm going to have to ask who fired the first shot...
Sunday, December 14, 2008
The other thing is, with more women uninsured and unemployed, more women will be unable to access reliable contraception, and therefore more women will be facing unplanned pregnancies. That will lead more women towards "free" services, such as those heavily advertised by well-funded CPCs and anti-choice agencies. More women are being forced to make decisions based on their finances. More women will be coerced by CPCs to choose adoption, where they might be elegable for prenatal assistance and delivery cost, or might be promised free baby supplies should they choose to parent.
On the other side, the past few years of political agendas set forth by the Bush administration have put comprehensive family planning agencies in a bind, magnified tenfold by the recession that has significantly lowered the amount of money brought in through corporate and private donations. Family planning clinics simply aren't able to sling around funds the way CPCs do. For one, clinics like Planned Parenthood have to pay for doctor's services, medication costs, medical equipment, cleaning supplies, lab fees, etc. CPCs, funded largely by wealthy evangelical churches as well as state and federal government grants, are run mostly by volunteers and have significantly fewer costs. The facility does not have to be up to code with sanitation the way medical clinics do, and any doctor or nurse a CPC brings in is usually a volunteer and does not actually perform any medical services. And so clinics are working hard just to maintain a medical facility while CPCs remain relatively unharmed by recession. In fact, according to CareNet, they're seeing more clients than ever!
Even under a more pro-choice president, combatting the anti-choice camp at large is a tall order in today's economy. Even if you can only spare a few bucks, consider a donation to CPC Watch, or a number of other choice advocacy organizations. If you have nothing monetary to contribute, consider volunteering for us. More minds on the job = more we can do together to ensure women are empowered to make educated choices about their reproductive destinies! Contact us at cpcwatch@gmail to discuss ways to help out, or donate today using the button below.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
We're in a never-ending fundraising campaign here at CPC Watch. And when we send out those annoying mass-emails to new newsletter subscribers, the question we're mostly faced with is, "I want to help, but what will my money go towards?"
Have no worries. All CPC Watch volunteers are just that: volunteers. We all hold paying jobs and support ourselves in our own ways... no donation will ever go towards paying our rent or that $15 phone bill we got for sending too many text messages last month. And thanks to the programming rockstars at Paypal, you can rest assured your donation will go through securely and without ever having to give your credit card information to some poor college student with text book bills out the wazoo.
But of course we don't want to leave you in the dark. Here is a list of current projects that need funding:
- Web hosting and bandwidth for the website, the project’s main proponent.
- Pamphlets and fliers to educate people about CPCs and respond to their misinformation, as well as reproductive health resources.
- Sign making materials for CPC demonstrations.
- Targeted ad campaigns on Google, Facebook, and other search sites. Targeted ad campaigns are the ads you see on the right side of the page when you do a Google search. We decided to take on this campaign when we realized typing "abortion information" into a search engine brought up ads from organizations with "information" about abortion, but are mostly CPC organizations. These campaigns run between $50-$200 a month, depending on the number of impressions we are able to purchase at the time, so be generous! We are currently running a campaign with Google Adwords, but not Yahoo anymore (they decided our website contained "unacceptable content").
New projects are being hammered out all the time. You can keep up to date with our goings on by reading this blog regularly and by signing up for our monthly newsletter.
Donate $25 or more and get a free bumper sticker of your choice! We also have a store at CafePress with a variety of pro-choice products that generates a small amount of funds and a lot of exposure (the web address is listed on almost all products).
So make our day this holiday season and help give the gift of reproductive autonomy to thousands of women!
Monday, December 8, 2008
Anti-abortion preacher petitions to get Tiller's shooter pardoned
Now I'm hardly convinced that Bush would pardon Shannon, unless of course he really doesn't care what sort of legacy he leaves behind (which wouldn't be too surprising all things considered) and would actually pardon a convicted murderer.
I'm more thinking of the consequences of a pardon. If Bush were to pardon Shannon today, it would open the doors for other clinic bombers/murderers to be pardoned over the next month. Plus, it would probably create more clinic violence under future anti-choice presidents.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Although yet another faith-based agency regularly featured as guest sex-educators in public schools, CPC of Greater Phoenix boasts their 100% non-government funded status. A quick scan of the agency's website shows that funds do, in fact, seem to come from individual donations. (We must ask, however, how "non-government" an agency that's regularly allowed to push propaganda and advertisements in government-funded schools can truly be.)
Benefactors hand over large checks to CPCs for their outwardly stated mission: helping women face unplanned pregnancy, well who could argue with that?! (Of course those who have taken the time to research CPCs tend to know that a donation to a CPC is a donation for deception and anti-choice propaganda.)
However, it seems medically inaccurate information isn't all CPC benefactors are funding. According to the Arizona Advocacy Network, CPC of Greater Phoenix donated a whopping $100,000 to support Arizona Proposition 102 (the gay marriage ban) in this month's election.
Now maybe I'm missing something, but I just don't get how opposing same-sex marriage fits into CPC of Greater Phoenix's stated mission of "serving the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of women and families who are in crisis because of an unplanned pregnancy." I mean I'm no biologist, but I'm pretty sure you'd be hard pressed to find a same-sex couple who's facing an unplanned pregnancy because of their sexual activity.
Of course I'm not missing anything at all. I'm just seeing further into the agenda behind the CPC phenomenon: not only anti-choice and anti-woman, but heteronormal and patriarchal as well. Downright hegemonic. That's nothing your money should be going towards, at least not if you were looking for a place to help women in need.
Just to put it into perspective, consider this:
- CPC of Greater Phoenix, which boasts its support of women in financial and emotional need during an unplanned pregnancy, donated $100,000 to a totally unrelated issue.
-The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates women on Medicaid pay an average of $2,100 out of pocket for full prenatal care, a privilege less than half of American women on Medicaid are able to pay for. $100,000 could provide 41 women in the Greater Phoenix area with full prenatal care for her entire 9-month term, and could have assisted in prenatal costs for hundreds.
- The Kaiser Foundation also estimates delivery to be $5,000 on average. CPC of Greater Phoenix could have fully paid for the deliveries of 20 babies with the amount they donated to support a state ban on same-sex marriage, and could have assisted in delivery costs for hundreds.
- $100,000 would buy diapers for 55 new moms for one year.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
The current HHS secretary is Michale Leavitt, and he was all game for the proposal. Tens of thousands of pro-choice groups and individuals nationwide (including CPC Watch) voiced their opposition to the proposed regulations during its official response period. However, as the events of this year's presidential election guided our vision outward, our sighs of relief may have turned out to be preemptive.
According to CNN, Presidential-Elect Barack Obama has chosen former South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle to replace Leavitt this January. As "Health Czar," Daschle will be in charge of orchestrating Obama's healthcare plan.
He will also be able to regulate things like reproductive health, family planning, and of course, restrictions on abortion. Though commonly praised for his visions on healthcare reform, Daschle is hardly a champion of reproductive justice. Daschel voted yes on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act that gives human rights to fetuses and the medically-unsound "Partial Birth Abortion" ban. He holds a 50% rating from NARAL. DNS Chairman Howard Dean, doctor and healthcare reformer, was also on the short-list for HHS secretary and holds a proud 100% NARAL rating.
It's difficult to say these things without being accused of being "too picky." After all, coming from eight painful years under Bush and his anti-choice, anti-woman cabinet, Daschle might seem a fine replacement to some. He's certainly no Leavittt, and is a supporter of Roe. But in these times of economic disparity, massive unemployment, bunk sex education, and patriarchal control, we must ask clearly, is Roe enough? Is simply accepting abortion rights within the first trimester with absolutely no guarantee to access and affordability all we're going to ask of those who have sworn to represent us and protect our rights?
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Misdiagnosis: Reproductive Health and Our Environment
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Easy enough to demonize this woman without blinking an eye, isn't it? After all, she's a prostitute, a drug user, and has continued her sex work for two years knowing she was HIV-positive. And it wouldn't have gotten any news attention at all had she just been charged with prostitution. However, criminal HIV transmission charges add a decidedly more colorful, more newsworthy element to this sex-worker's plight.
The way Fox chose to write the story is interesting in and of itself. What "sex act" was she offering to do? Was it even something that was likely to transmit HIV, and if so, should we just round up all sex workers, test them for HIV, and then watch for them to share a needle or get it on without a condom? Conveniently, the story is written like a police report, an inarguable description of an act that cannot be defended, one that paves the way for further repression and even more expensive criminalization of women who obviously need help, not prison.
Did young Griffin dream of someday becoming a prostitute? Did she hope to some day be a crack user, on the streets infected with a deadly virus? Hers is not the typical lifestyle one aspires to belong to but more one so many women find themselves literally trapped in. There's really no way for readers to know what happened in Griffin's life that led her down the path to prostitution and drug-use. Yes, you could argue she "chose" to take that first hit of cocaine and "chose" to have sex for money. You could even make the case that she "chose" to contract HIV by her "choice" to engage in risky behavior.
Of course, this explanation rests highly on the assumption that we live on a level playing field, that everyone is born with the inherent possibility to do great things and achieve wonders. We're raised thinking that good lives result from good deeds, and vice-versa. From this, we can of course only blame Griffin for her situation, just as we seamlessly blame all sex-workers, drug addicts, and HIV-infected persons of having "choices" and making "bad ones."
But obviously we don't live in that world. Regardless, we still give an automatic pass to those who create and maintain situations that will inevitably consume the lives of millions. Sometimes the creator is a system, one that puts many down and then punishes those who can't pull themselves out. Other times, it's a physical enabler, such as a pimp (who might in turn also be in his situation in response to an otherwise impossible situation). And yet pimps are rarely targeted by police repression, just as how the commander in chief isn't the one getting his legs blown off in Iraq. It's common knowledge amongst sex worker advocates that most anti-prostitution efforts simply don't target pimps, much less the situation that forces a woman into prostitution in the first place. Prostitutes are merely locked up (and many report rape by law enforcement), then bailed out if someone cares enough to come pay up. No reform, and the situation inevitably repeats itself time after time. With that lifestyle, I'd be tempted to turn to hard drugs as well.
And what of this "criminal HIV transmission" charge? There is absolutely no proof that whatever sex act Griffin offered would have definitely (or likely) resulted in a transmission of HIV had it been carried out, nor is there evidence that she had transmitted HIV to anyone prior to her arrest. Her job (and yes, it is a job) made her far more susceptible to HIV infection to begin with, and Tampa Bay police have obviously adopted that possibility to further charge her, to raise her bail, and create even more of a monster out of her life. There are thousands upon thousands of people well aware of their HIV status, but that doesn't stop them from finding ways to (safely) become sexually-fulfilled individuals. Not yet at least. With societal repression of those more likely to contract HIV (as conservative radio host Jim Quinn so candidly pointed out last week), I wouldn't be at all surprised if HIV-positive individuals were suddenly be susceptible to criminal action.
This whole debate further strengthens my support for 100% total and unyielding reproductive justice. In a world where reproductive justice was attained, women would not be forced onto the streets selling their bodies unless they truly desired it. In those situations they would be educated to protect themselves, and criminal action against an individual for drug use and unlawful forms of prostitution would emphasize reform and rehabilitation. Pimps would be targeted as the main source of illegal prostitution, and rehab centers/shelters would be available to anyone who needed its services. As defined by Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, I'm talking about "the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, economic, and social well-being of women and girls, and will be achieved when women and girls have the economic, social and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, sexuality and reproduction for ourselves, our families and our communities in all areas of our lives."
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Take a breath. Now another. Welcome to November, 2008! It’s been a long road, fraught with small victories, large-scale uncertainty, and oh yes, plenty of anti-woman rhetoric. (Hey, remember when John McCain air-quoted “women’s health”?)
Anyone routinely typing words like “abortion” and “reproductive rights” into a Google News search saw the huge mess of a political battle that was being waged right on top of our bodies (well, some of us needed only peer into the window of a pharmacy or attempt to enter a family planning clinic to see that). From Bristol Palin’s teenage pregnancy to Jill Stanek’s sketchy story to support the Illinois Born Alive legislation, heart strings were snapping left and right for women’s tales of reproductive woe. The powers that be used women’s bodies for every political trick in the book, and yet they forgot one thing: they still don’t own them, we do. Even today as I write you peering two and a half months ahead to the day change will apparently come to America, or four years from now when Roe v. Wade will apparently still be in tact, I know my body is no less of a battleground than it was eight years ago.
Pro-choice activists are calling this one a “bittersweet victory,” and rightly so. While Obama holds a 100% rating from NARAL, was endorsed by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and has many times proclaimed his commitment to upholding Roe, anti-choice groups have picked up more steam than we’ve seen in a long time. Three major anti-choice initiatives appeared on state ballots this past Tuesday.
A summary of major anti-choice ballot initiatives:
South Dakota’s Measure 11
In 2006, anti-abortion extremists attempted to ban abortion in all cases. The 2006 measure was defeated by voters. The extreme Measure 11 was again introduced for this election cycle as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. The measure sought to effectively banned all abortions in the state, giving only a few exceptions that were so vaguely defined that most doctors stated they wouldn’t have agreed to perform any abortions at all for fear of criminal charges. South Dakota is estimated to be the most difficult state in which to obtain an elective abortion. With only one functioning clinic in the entire state, and the providers in that clinic flown in from Minneapolis, the word “choice” already has very little meaning for South Dakota women.
Status: Defeated (55% no, 45% yes)
Colorado’s Amendment 48
Twenty-one year old law student Kristine Burton and the Colorado for Equal Rights campaign gathered enough signatures this year to put a disturbing ballot initiative onto Colorado’s ballot: Amendment 48, or the “Personhood Amendment.” This amendment would give personhood not only to a fetus, but to a fertilized egg. This amendment takes anti-choice legislation to the extreme and poses a clear challenge to the commonly-held medical belief that pregnancy does not even begin until a zygote has implanted on the wall of the uterus (which can take up to three days after fertilization occurs). The amendment would outlaw not only abortion, but many forms of contraception as well, such as the IUD, the birth control pill, and emergency contraception. It would also ban some potentially life-saving medical treatments on women who have had sex in the past 72 hours because of possible damage to a fertilized (but unimplanted and therefore undetectable) egg. Women who could potentially become pregnant as result of recent sexual activity could be denied treatments for up to 72 hours out of a doctors’ legal fears that the treatment could damage a fertilized egg. Dr. Andrew Ross, OB/GYN, criticized the amendment as being “bad medicine.” Even Colorado’s Catholic, anti-abortion governor Bill Ritter said the amendment “goes too far” and severely “threatens medical care.”
Status: Defeated (73% no, 27% yes)
California’s Proposition 4
In California, Proposition 4 was a measure that would have amended the state constitution to require abortion clinics to notify parents 48 hours in advance of performing an abortion on a minor. This proposition was named "Sarah's Law" by supporters. "Sarah" was a young woman (15 years old) who got an abortion in 1994 without telling anybody. She experienced a torn cervix, a relatively harmless complication if reported early. However, "Sarah" did not tell anybody about the excessive bleeding for four days and the cervix became infected. By the time she went to the hospital, the infection had spread and Sarah died.
Opponents of Prop 4 argued that better education and expanded care for minors such as "Sarah" would protect the young women who experience abortion complications. They also argued that parental notification 48 hours before the procedure could put teens at risk of physical abuse, disownment, and further delays in receiving a time-sensitive procedure. Medical groups stepped up against Prop 4 saying it puts the patient-doctor relationship at risk because young women would not feel as comfortable being completely honest with their medical caregivers about things like rape, drug use, and abuse.
Status: Defeated (52% no, 48% yes)
While it’s certainly a victory that all three initiatives were defeated, many questions remain: will new government-elects uphold and improve on the steps we’ve taken thus far? Where does mere support for Roe v. Wade fall short of ensuring reproductive justice for all? How realistic is Obama’s view on late-term abortions? Does his proposed “prevention program” target deceptive crisis pregnancy centers and increase access to education and affordable healthcare?
Regardless of what happens, we remain committed to being there for the struggle, to seeing it through 100%.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
I also find her description of how she felt in the voting booth to be extremely powerful and moving. While most don't get that powerless feeling until the one they voted for are in power and not living up to their promises, I have to admit feeling less-than-empowered last week when I exited the polling station as well.
hold me down
i am floating away
into the overcast skies
over my home town
on election day
what is it about birmingham?
what is it about buffalo?
did the hate filled wanna build bunkers
in your beautiful red earth
they want to build them
in our shiny white snow
now i've drawn closed the curtain
in this little booth where the truth has no place
and i am feeling oh so powerless
in this stupid booth with this useless
little lever in my hand
and outside my city is bracing
for the next killing thing
standing by the bridge and praying
for the next doctor
it was just one shot
through the kitchen window
it was just two miles from here
if you fly like a crow
a bullet came to visit a doctor
in his one safe place
a bullet ensuring the right to life
whizzed past his kid and his wife
and knocked his glasses
right off of his face
and the blood poured off the pulpit
yeah the blood poured down the picket lines
yeah, the hatred was immediate
and the vengence was divine
so they went and stuffed god
down the barrel of a gun
and after him
they stuffed his only son
i heard you had some trouble
down there again
and i'm just calling to let to know
that someone understands
i was once escorted
through the doors of a clinic
by a man in a bulletproof vest
and no bombs went off that day
so i am still here to say
i'm wishing you all of my best
i'm wishing you all of my best
i'm wishing you all of my best
on this election day
Monday, November 3, 2008
South Dakota’s Measure 11
In 2006, anti-abortion extremists attempted to ban abortion in all cases. The 2006 measure was defeated by voters. The extreme Measure 11 was again introduced for this election cycle as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. The measure seeks to effectively ban all abortions in the state, giving only a few exceptions that are so vaguely defined that most doctors say they wouldn’t agree to perform any abortions at all for fear of criminal charges. South Dakota is estimated to be the most difficult state in which to obtain an elective abortion. With only one functioning clinic in the entire state, and the providers in that clinic flown in from Minneapolis, the word “choice” already has very little meaning for South Dakota women.
For more information, see the website of the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families.
Colorado’s Amendment 48
Twenty-one year old law student Kristine Burton and the Colorado for Equal Rights campaign gathered enough signatures this year to put a disturbing ballot initiative onto Colorado’s ballot: Amendment 48, or the “Personhood Amendment.” The passage of this amendment would give personhood not only to a fetus, but to a fertilized egg. This amendment takes anti-choice legislation to the extreme and poses a clear challenge to the commonly-held medical belief that pregnancy does not even begin until a zygote has implanted on the wall of the uterus (which can take up to three days after fertilization occurs). The amendment would outlaw not only abortion, but many forms of contraception as well, such as the IUD, the birth control pill, and emergency contraception. It would also ban some potentially life-saving medical treatments on women who have had sex in the past 72 hours because of possible damage to a fertilized (but unimplanted and therefore undetectable) egg. Women who could potentially become pregnant as result of recent sexual activity could be denied treatments for up to 72 hours out of a doctors’ legal fears that the treatment could damage a fertilized egg. Dr. Andrew Ross, OB/GYN, criticized the amendment as being “bad medicine.” Even Colorado’s Catholic, anti-abortion governor Bill Ritter said the amendment “goes too far” and severely “threatens medical care.”
For more information on this dangerous amendment, see Protect Families, Protect Choices.
California’s Proposition 4
In California, Proposition 4 is a measure that would amend the state constitution to require abortion clinics to notify the parents 48 hours in advance of performing an abortion on a minor. This proposition has been named "Sarah's Law" by supporters. "Sarah" was a young woman (15 years old) who got an abortion in 1994 without telling anybody. She experienced a torn cervix, a relatively harmless complication if reported early. However, "Sarah" did not tell anybody about the excessive bleeding for four days and the cervix became infected. By the time she went to the hospital, the infection had spread and Sarah died.
Opponents of Prop 4 argue that better education and expanded care for minors such as "Sarah" would protect the young women who experience abortion complications. They also argue that parental notification 48 hours before the procedure could put teens at risk of physical abuse, disownment, and further delays in receiving a time-sensitive procedure. Medical groups have stepped up against Prop 4 saying it puts the patient-doctor relationship at risk because young women will not feel as comfortable being completely honest with their medical caregivers about things like rape, drug use, and abuse.
For more information on Prop 4, see the Campaign for Teen Safety.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Those who know my politics know they hardly fit in the mold of the mainstream electoral system. To those, the fact that I am so adamant about women, immigrants, and people of color exercising that right is puzzling, and often garners some intense criticism and debate. I'm accused of playing into "petty identity politics." Well okay. Not to bring more "petty" identity politics into it, but everyone who has ever criticized me for voting have been white males. That is, people who would have had the right to vote (whether they chose to exercise that right or not) at any given time in U.S. history. Identity politics be damned, those of us with a different historical identity tend to see things a bit more uniquely. Women have had the right to vote for less than 90 years now. African American males have had the right for 138 years, but literacy requirements and the use of poll taxes effectively blocked most from voting until the Voting Rights Act that was only passed a mere 44 years ago. Immigrants continue to face many challenges in gaining citizenship, one of which is the right to be able to choose their representatives.
And we continue to struggle on these fronts. Our version of democracy holds very little variation; any candidate who has a snowman's chance in hell is guaranteed to hold the interests of the "bosses" at the forefront of their policy, lest they get literally "bought out" by another candidate's funds. But taking the time to actually go to the polls, regardless of which party we support for or whether or not we write in "Mickey Mouse" if we just couldn't care less, continues to be an act of every day resistance to tens of thousands of Americans who have not always had that right. And given the hours and dollars and sleepless nights I've spent on grassroots efforts, to criticize me for taking 45 minutes out of my day, minutes I probably would have spent picking my nose or cleaning my kitchen, to do something I perceive to be of relative historical significance is just offensive, if not completely ludicrous. Unless of course you're going to argue that me picking my nose or (heaven forbid) cleaning the kitchen is going to instigate the goddamn revolution.
Especially when you consider the sacrifices people have made to even be allowed to hold a legitimate political opinion, to show the government and board of elections that you are retaining that right can be a powerful homage to those who gave their lives for this cause. That's why all women should vote. Not just for the "leaders" (Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony), but for all our grandmothers and great grandmothers who sacrificed more than some of us can even begin to comprehend. For Lucy Burns, who was arrested at a 1917 suffragist protest outside the White House, beaten to a pulp, and left hanging by chains around her wrists. For Dora Lewis, who, the very same night, was thrown into a jail cell so hard her head was smashed against an iron bed frame, and she was knocked unconscious. For all the women arrested that night, thrown into Virginia's Occoquan Workhouse and fed food infested with worms. For Alice Paul, who went on a hunger strike and was subsequently force-fed through a tube until she vomited, then was tortured for weeks for acting on one very basic belief: the belief that women and men are equal.
And conversely, for Grace Saxon Mill, anti-suffragist extraordinaire, who wrote this piece of garbage to argue against women's suffrage in the UK during the early 1910s:
Arguments Against Women's Suffrage
Because women already have the municipal vote, and are eligible for membership of most local authorities. These bodies deal with questions of housing, education, care of children, workhouses and so forth, all of which are peculiarly within a woman's sphere. Parliament, however, has to deal mainly with the administration of a vast Empire, the maintenance of the Army and Navy, and with questions of peace and war, which lie outside the legitimate sphere of woman's influence.
Because all government rests ultimately on force, to which women, owing to physical, moral and social reasons, are not capable of contributing.
Because women are not capable of full citizenship, for the simple reason that they are not available for purposes of national and Imperial defence. All government rests ultimately on force, to which women,
owing to physical, moral and social reasons, are not capable of contributing.
Because there is little doubt that the vast majority of women have no desire for the vote.
Because the acquirement of the Parliamentary vote would logically involve admission to Parliament itself, and to all Government offices. It is scarcely possible to imagine a woman being Minister for War, and yet the principles of the Suffragettes involve that and many similar absurdities.
Because the United Kingdom is not an isolated state, but the administrative and governing centre of a system of colonies and also of dependencies. The effect of introducing a large female element into the Imperial electorate would undoubtedly be to weaken the centre of power in the eyes of these dependent millions.
Because past legislation in Parliament shows that the interests of women are perfectly safe in the hands of men.
Because Woman Suffrage is based on the idea of the equality of the sexes, and tends to establish those competitive relations which will destroy chivalrous consideration.
Because women have at present a vast indirect influence through their menfolk on the politics of this country.
Because the physical nature of women unfits them for direct competition with men.
So for any woman who refuses to allow her "best interests" be entrusted in the hands of men, for any woman who refuses to be represented only by her husband, for any woman who refuses to let society think you lack the capacity to think politically, to any woman who knows she is not unequal on the basis of her sex, and the women who know they are more than fit to compete with their male counterparts, I say to you today, GO VOTE!
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Crisis Pregnancy Centers seek to blur line between clinic and counseling
by Beth Goers
Originally printed onConnectSavannah.com
Reprinted here with permission
A CRISIS PREGNANCY Center — CPC for short — hopes to be the first place a woman turns when facing an unplanned pregnancy. But pro-choice groups assert that Crisis Pregnancy Centers use deception, intimidation and harassment to dissuade women from having abortions.
Though not actually pregnant, to investigate these charges I recently visited some local clinics to see how I’d be treated.
The Savannah Care Center on East 34th Street advertises free pregnancy tests on the sign in the yard. I knock on the front door but no one answers. Finally, a woman comes out with a baby on her hip and says they’re closed.
I’ll have to try back later.
Across the street a young man waits on the cement stairs of the Savannah Medical Clinic. Also listed in the phonebook as “Abortion Clinic of Savannah,” the Savannah Medical Clinic is virtually the area’s only abortion provider.
But search “Savannah, GA abortion providers” on Google and the Coastal Pregnancy Center is one of the first names to pop up. Indeed, CPCs often set up shop in close proximity to abortion providers and choose similar-sounding names.
Another local CPC, the Coastal Pregnancy Center, is a small one-story building on the corner of Skidaway and DeRenne. When I walk in, I’m bombarded with babies.
Business cards with photos of embryos are displayed on the front check-in counter. Framed on the wall of the lobby is a huge drawing of oversized hands holding a baby. Below, it says, “God’s handiwork.”
A woman in jean shorts welcomes me.
“Do you need a pregnancy test?” she asks.
“No, I just wanted to talk with someone,” I say.
“She just wants counseling,” she hollers down the hall.
Another woman emerges from the rear. She has shoulder-length blondish hair and wears pink medical scrubs.
“Have you had the pregnancy confirmed by a doctor?” she asks.
“No. But I’ve taken some home pregnancy tests and they were positive,” I say.
“Are you going to get Medicare or health insurance involved?
Because we need to confirm the pregnancy if you’re going to get Medicare involved.”
“I’m on my parents’ health insurance. I’m not sure I want to get them involved.”
I can tell she’s displeased. “What we do here is confirm your pregnancy and then provide counseling,” Pink Scrubs says forcefully.
“Would you be willing to take a pregnancy test?” Jean Shorts asks.
Pink Scrubs hands me a bottle of water and a form asking where I heard about the Coastal Pregnancy Center.
Their ad in the Yellow Pages says ‘Pregnant? Worried?’ and offers free pregnancy tests and counseling. It’s listed under ‘Clinics,’ right after the All Women’s Health Center of Jacksonville, which offers abortions and free pregnancy tests. I can see how someone might get confused about which clinics provide legitimate medical services.
When I’m done filling out the form, Jean Shorts leads me to the bathroom in the back of the building. Pink Scrubs irons a onesie.
Many CPCs give material aid like diapers and baby clothes as gifts to clients who come in for pregnancy tests and counseling. There’s also a push to get more ultrasound equipment in pregnancy centers, presuming that once a woman sees images of her baby, she’ll decide to keep it.
I leave my urine sample on the top of the toilet and a third woman in her sixties ushers me down the hall. We wait for the results in a separate room with matching orange armchairs.
“Have you ever been pregnant before?” she begins her checklist.
“Have you ever had a miscarriage?”
“Ever had an abortion?”
“If this test comes back positive, is an abortion something you’re considering?” Her voice is motherly and I don’t want to disappoint her.
“Yeah, I want to explore all the options.”
She looks down at the intake form. “You wrote here that you’re Lutheran.”
“Do you go to church?”
“Not down here,” I say.
She leans closer.
“Have you been Saved?”
I don’t respond.
“Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross, was buried and rose from the dead?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, you’re not Saved unless you believe that.”
She pulls out a laminated leaflet and scoots closer so I can look. She reads a prayer off of the leaflet and says, “You can hold on to this if you want.”
“Thanks,” I say, unsure if I am now Saved.
She leaves the room to check on my results. When she comes back, she says, “it was negative,” and shows me the single pink line.
While the Coastal Pregnancy Center’s ad in the Yellow Pages makes no mention of religious affiliation, once inside, they don’t hide that they’re a faith-based, pro-life ministry and openly express their opinion that abortion is murder.
Their “What Does God Say About Abortion” pamphlet provides Bible scriptures to questions like, “Should a child conceived as a result of rape or incest be aborted?”
The answer is Deuteronomy 24:16. “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.”
The Pregnancy Center of Rincon is a one-story brick building nestled in among other medical buildings. Like many CPCs, it looks like a health care facility, with a waiting room and partitioned check-in desk. A bubbly pregnant woman greets me. She has short curly hair and wears a brown tee shirt that says “Care Net.”
Care Net, an umbrella group that provides resources to pregnancy centers, is the largest network of CPCs. About 1,900 pregnancy centers are affiliated with Care Net and Heartbeat International, a second national umbrella group that works closely with Care Net.
The pregnant woman hands me a clipboard with forms to fill out.
In the back room, we sit down. We talk about abortion first. She gives me a booklet called “Before You Decide: An Abortion Education Resource” published by Care Net.
It describes in great detail how each abortion procedure is performed and the risks involved. The main risks the anti-abortion camp focuses on are breast cancer and post-abortion stress syndrome. (The National Cancer Institute refutes any connection between abortion and breast cancer.)
The woman tells me she has a friend who had an abortion and now suffers from something called “anniversary guilt.” Every year on the anniversary of her abortion, she has flashbacks of the event and nightmares.
She says a lot of women get post-abortion stress syndrome, which she likened to post-traumatic stress disorder. (Research studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, American Psychologist and Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, have all concluded that post-abortion syndrome does not exist.)
She tells me about another friend who gave up her baby for adoption. Every year her friend gets pictures of her son playing softball and blowing out birthday candles.
“Doesn’t it make her sad?” I ask.
“She says getting the pictures is just a confirmation that she did the right thing,” the woman replies.
She hands me another pamphlet, “Adoption: A Loving Choice,” from a nearby shelf. I believe that adoption is a loving choice; I’m sure family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood agree.
She continually reminds me that I have plenty of time to make a decision.
“You’re a skinny little thing and you won’t show for awhile,” she says. I like her even more.
I get the sense that she thinks my best option is to marry the baby’s father and keep the baby. We talk at great lengths about the benefits of marriage and parenting, especially after she learns that my boyfriend lives with me.
“Well, he’s obviously really smart and you love him and it was going towards marriage anyways. It’s not like you guys have only been together for two months.”
“True,” I say, suddenly wondering why my boyfriend hasn’t proposed.
This push to get married directly conflicts with the center’s own pamphlet on adoption, which says, “Getting married because you are pregnant is now recognized to be a poor basis for building a loving family. Marriage failures are high for those who marry under such pressures.”
The woman tells me I have plenty to discuss with my boyfriend and says, “I’ll be praying for you this weekend. Call me or I’ll worry.”
From there, I get back on Highway 21 and drive back to the Savannah Care Center on East 34th. The renovated house looks like a daycare center. Toys litter the floor.
Their ad in the Yellow Pages says they offer free pregnancy tests, counseling and medical referrals, but no one could mistake this for a medical facility.
After standing awkwardly in the lobby for a minute or so, a woman approaches me. “Can I help you?” She’s dressed in a navy pantsuit.
“I’m pregnant and I’m not sure what I’m to do,” I say.
“Are you considering abortion?”
“Yes.” I try not to sound apologetic.
“Are you considering adoption?”
“Yeah, I’m considering all the options.”
She tells me they work with a great adoption agency and that I can change my mind about giving the baby up at any time, even when it’s born.
“We had this one girl who called me up the morning she gave birth and said ‘I can’t do it. I can’t give him up.’ So she kept him. She’s real young, but she’s a good mom.”
Young moms trading parties for pampers are a growing population. Last year the government announced that the nation’s teen birth rate had risen after a 14-year decline. Less than one-third of teen moms ever finish high school.
Navy Pantsuit leads me to the bathroom in the back of the house, where I’ve agreed to take a pregnancy test.
After I’ve done my business I walk back to Navy Pantsuit’s office. She instructs me to place my cup of urine on a small table by the door. She hands me a little eyedropper and tells me to squeeze out five drops onto the test area.
She and I hover above the test until it indicates that I am not pregnant. I act surprised and relieved.
Navy Pantsuit asks me about contraception and says, “Using condoms is like playing Russian roulette.” She says that condoms fail “something like 40 percent of the time.”
“That’s why we promote abstinence,” she says. “You know, abstaining from sex.”
She says ‘sex’ like it’s a dirty word.
I thank her and take my leave.
In the 1970s, McCorvey claimed she had beeen impregnated by a non-consentual sexual encounter (a claim she later refuted) and tried to access an abortion in Texas. While she ended up carrying to term, this struggle was adopted by lawyers Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee and eventually brought before the U.S. Supreme Court, with McCorvey's name becoming the generic "Jane Roe" for anonymity. State bans on abortion were overturned on the basis of the 14th Amendment's guarantee of the right to privacy.
In the 1980s, McCorvey wrote her autobiography, I Am Roe, where she officially came out as Roe. She also wrote of her struggles with homelessness and drug abuse, as well as her sexual identity. It was in 1994 that she met an anti-choice activist from the extremist group Operation Rescue. McCorvey was introduced to OR's (medically inaccurate) fetal development pamphlets and became convinced she had been wrong about abortion. She was baptized, renounced her lesbianism, and quickly became the voice of the anti-choice movement.
Ever since then, the mainstream pro-choice movement has struggled with McCorvey's story, carefully navigating the distinction between Roe the person and Roe the symbol. We rationalize her experience by simply writing her off as yet another victim of anti-chioce guilt and shame... and to a point, I believe we're right to do so.
And yet there's one thing I feel so many of us are unwilling or somehow just unable to say: that Norma McCorvey is, in fact, not Roe.
Not in the singular sense, anyway. You see, McCorvey's situation was not unique, and it was not just her situation that was used by Weddington and Coffee in the legendary Roe v. Wade case. McCorvey's situation was the situation of tens of thousands of women all over the country, and so it remains. The moment McCorvey became "Roe," so did all women with reproductive capability. Weddington and Coffee did not argue just to allow Norma McCorvey have an abortion, they fought for ALL women to be able to have abortions. The Supreme Court's decision to allow "Roe" to have legal abortions was not a decision to just let McCorvey have an abortion; it was the decision that stated that ALL women are guaranteed autonomy over their bodies by the U.S. Constitution. "Roe" became symbolic of all American women the very moment the case was heard by the Supreme Court.
The experience of Norma McCorvey is no more valid or important than the experiences of any other woman who finds herself facing an unplanned pregnancy, or a pregnancy that she finds she cannot continue for personal or medical reasons. And that goes for all women with reproductive capability, whether they be pro- or anti-choice. The use of Norma McCorvey as a symbol against abortion only threatens choice if we allow McCorvey to singularly define who Roe is and what is best for her. And if all women are Roe, each with their own unique situation, there can be no gains for using an emblematic "Roe" against complete reproductive justice.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Being involved with an anti-war or pro-peace organization has its advantages that way. These days, you can find support and camaraderie in many different communities; student unions, churches, community centers, and food banks all have their reasons to be anti-war, to oppose torture, and to support peace and diplomacy. Even when I worked with a secularist group that ran on an anti-war, anti-torture platform, we had no problem reaching out to churches and community centers for support. One such center that was a registered 501(c)(3) even agreed to handle our donations so that benefactors could receive tax deductions.
It's a hairier world for those of us crusading for reproductive justice (which includes abortion on demand) and against fake clinics that are usually funded by churches. While you might think church organizations that have supported anti-war efforts wouldn't be the same ones that fund CPCs, our experience has taught us otherwise.
One of our organizers sent an email to a faith-based organization that she knew to be progressive and supportive of women's rights for 501(c)(3) parthership. A practicing Christian herself, she highlighted how our mission in exposing fake clinics does, in fact, fit within the group's humanitarian mission in that we are out to support struggling women and fight deception. Here is the response she received:
Dear Ms. M,
Thank you for contacting (our organization) regarding your project. Unfortunately, we are unable to offer partnership to your group as its mission clearly conflicts with our religious beliefs.
Your arguments for support are well-articulated, and I cannot think of any reason why you should not be a part of this effort if it fits your moral convictions. However, for (our organization) to support you would create a conflict within our organization because we are already partnered with one of these "crisis pregnancy centers" you speak of and have seen no reason to believe they are all negative places. While we certainly support a woman's right to be educated about her sexual lifestyle, we simply cannot endorse a group that is pro-abortion as it conflicts with our beliefs about when life begins.
Thanks again for contacting us and we wish you and your group all the best.
This was an organization that had offered not only 501(c)(3) partnership but actual funding and use of space as well to local anti-war causes, as well as non-religious social justice groups. And yet mention of the "A word" was simply not kosher.
It's not that I was surprised; after all, progressive churches are generally anti-war because they are anti-killing, and their scripture views abortion as a form of killing. And at least they're (sometimes) consistent, preaching against the death penalty and poverty as well.
But I have noticed a clear change in dynamic from my years as an anti-war organizer. Even those who agree with you tend to tip-toe around notions of "choice," careful not to tip the scales into being seen as "pro-abortion" or, heaven forbid, "anti-life." For these supporters, wearing a pro-choice t-shirt or attending a CPC demonstration is simply out of the question.
It is for that reason that the reproductive justice movement tends to remain confined to the usual suspects: feminists, social justice activists, and reproductive healthcare advocates. And of course their time and support is always greatly appreciated and highly valued, but new ways to expand our numbers without pulling from the already-active would be a wonderful addition to our ranks. Unfortunately, abortion remains a cause that's dreadfully emotional and touchy, one that most people would "just rather not get involved with."
Friday, October 24, 2008
Williams asked the GOP presidential ticket for their opinion on whether or not abortion clinic bombers are "domestic terrorists" as they have repeatedely labeled William Ayers.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Amendment 48, also called the "Personhood Amendment," takes the insanity of anti-choice extremism to the next level. Even Colorado's devout Catholic, anti-choice governor Bill Ritter says that the proposed amendment "goes too far" and "threatens medical care." But somehow that hasn't stopped a right-wing fringe group headed by 21 year old law student Kristine Burton from getting the exorbitant amount of signatures needed to put this dangerous measure on the Colorado ballot this year, and the same spins they used to procure those signatures have been used to sway a frightening number of voters into supporting it as well. Decries from religious leaders throughout the state have decreased Ritter's influence amongst the anti-choice community, even among those who had been supporters of Ritter in the past.
Burton's project is the Colorado for Equal Rights campaign, another anti-choice faction that has appropriated of feminist and empowering language to soften the appearance of their anti-woman campaign.
This amendment would give legal personhood not only to a fetus, but to a fertilized egg. It poses a clear challenge to the American Board of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' definition of pregnancy; that is, that pregnancy does not even begin until a zygote has implanted on the wall of the uterus (which can take up to three days after fertilization occurs). The amendment would outlaw not only abortion in all its forms, but many forms of contraception as well, such as the IUD, the birth control pill, and emergency contraception. It would also ban some potentially life-saving medical treatments on women who have had sex in the past 72 hours because of possible damage to a potentially fertilized (but unimplanted and therefore undetectable) egg. Women who could have potentially become pregnant as result of recent sexual activity could be denied treatments for up to 72 hours out of a doctors’ legal fears that the treatment could damage a fertilized egg. Dr. Andrew Ross, OB/GYN, criticized the amendment as being based on “bad medicine.” That is, the passage of this amendment could threaten women's lives.
It's easy to write off Amendment 48 as a long-shot jab that won't amount to anything significant. However, support for 48 has grown astronomically as voters are sent pamphlets that contain false information, bunk research, and bad science. One such pamphlet claims that a fertilized egg has not only a heartbeat but brain waves as well, which is ridiculous considering a fertilized egg has neither organ that would make this even remotely possible (fetal tissue begins to grow only after a zygote has implanted).
On the whole this amendment is more proof that the issue is not about abortion, it's about control. In a world where a fertilized egg could supersede the rights of its harboring human, unable to be sacrificed even to give life-saving medical care to the person, the term "pro-life" just doesn't fit. In a world where a woman's body is defined as "pre-pregnant," where her body is made into a vessel that will be sacrificed at any cost in order to create yet another human being, the phrase "equal rights" is simply not applicable. In a world where political and moral beliefs trump medical care, preventative medicine, and scientific research, well... where does that leave us?