Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rural teens taking veterinary drugs to induce abortions?

The following is a cross-post with Choice Words, the blog of ChoiceUSA.

Factual horror or alarmist hype?

According to Anna Anderson, a staff member at a Wisconsin CPC, "at least 10" young women aged 14-18 admit to taking prostaglandins, a drug used by cow breeders to regulate the animals' heat cycles, to self-abort. The American Animal Hospital Association has issued an advisory to breeders who use prostaglandins, although no case of a woman actually using the drug to induce abortion.

The reports are being investigated by the Wisconsin Vetrinary Medical Association, as well as the Wisconsin Department of Public Health, who are both skeptical that women actually used the drug for terminations. The Wisconsin Department of Public Health issued a statement saying the "extent of [prostaglandin-induced abortions] is e-mails and Web sites ... There's no proof that this occurring."Staff at Monroe High School (the school where Anderson's alleged clients attended school) have looked into the matter and cannot find any evidence of any student using this method.

If the rumors are true, this is a dangerous new trend in growing instances of "do it yourself" abortions. The risks would be similar to that of RU-486, or "the abortion pill," a drug sometimes used to induce a miscarriage early in pregnancy: excessive bleeding, incomplete abortion, and infection. However, these risks would be far more severe since the drug would be administered without medical supervision. Where RU-486 is administered in a controlled dose, prostaglandins would be consumed in an uncontrolled amount, possibly leading to overdose or excessive hemorrhaging. Where a woman experiencing excessive bleeding would be advised to contact their abortion care provider, a young woman self-aborting would not have that backup help, and the lack of a follow-up visit to ensure the abortion was complete could easily lead to serious infection that could go untreated and do permanent damage or even lead to death.

For all the press this CareNet staffer has received in this possible reproductive horror story, only one statement from Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin (also looking into the rumor) can be found: "It's disturbing if it's true." And disturbing it is. Unfortunately, most of the attention from the rumor has been focused around how "sad" it is that these girls are getting pregnant and self-aborting. Anna Anderson and CareNet Pregnancy Center of Green County, where these rumors first surfaced, are enjoying massive amounts of local press and thank-yous for alerting local parents to this phenomenon. Real clinics like Planned Parenthood are facing subtle accusations for even introducing abortion into the community's vocabulary in the first place.

Never mind the fact that CareNet is one of the strongest forces in the antichoice camp's plight to restrict abortion access (which would surely increase instances of these dangerous do-it-yourself abortions). They're also staunch supporters of abstinence-only sex education and parental consent requirements, which teens in Wisconsin are, like most teens in the U.S., required to receive before abortion. Wisconsin is also one of many states with an insurance prohibition on abortion. Surely young women would not have to resort to such drastic and dangerous measures if these restrictions were not in place...?

Of course there's one thing Anderson and I can agree on: if teens are in fact using prostaglandin to induce abortion, they are risking their own lives. But what we disagree on is monumental. Do it yourself abortions are a measure of last resort (or a measure of securing one's confidentiality, as the case may be), highlighting the drastic need for major reforms in all realms of reproductive health: education, prevention, and access.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New product: CHOOSE LIES stickers!

And this is how I spent my evening. Our lovely news writer Dawn suggested I make my design protesting NC H168 (still hanging out in committee) into stickers! So first I obviously needed to make the whole thing from scratch, removing all potentially copyrighted elements so we don't get sued (considering the child-like design, however, this was easy enough with Microsoft Paint). And away we went!

Similar to the real tags offered by many state governments (but legally distinct, according to our legal counsel), these babies can be purchased at our CafePress store. We're trying to go after states that specifically donate tag sales to CPCs, or those that specifically prohibit funds going towards organizations that do abortions or abortion referrals. (Ironically enough, many of these *real* clinics also provide quality low-cost pre-natal referrals and assistance, making "life" possible... CPCs have been known to actually advise away from low-cost pre-natal because "those places" often give abortion referals and {gasp!} comprehensive reproductive information!!)

If your state is not listed, and you've seen local antis cruising around with "Choose Life" tags, maybe your state doesn't donate these funds specifically to CPCs. Or we just haven't gotten to it yet... ;) North Carolina is there because the state legislature is considering offering them... let's hope we don't have to make one for Virginia!

Regardless, the new stickers are sure to make a powerful statement, and possibly inspire folks to research exactly what a "CPC" is. Unfortunately CafePress doesn't have the lowest base prices so we've kept the markups low (about $0.50 per sticker sold). Exposure is key... we're not out to make a fortune!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

show us some love!

Just a happy friendly reminder that we have a CafePress shop with stickers, buttons, tees, gifts, and lots more.

Come check us out!

New Designs:

Available as a bumper sticker.

Available on nearly everything.

Available on bumper sticker.

And don't forget the ever-popular

Available on stickers, buttons, apparel, and gifts.

Each purchase from our CafePress store gives us a little bit of funding and a lot of exposure. Our logo and/or web address is listed on each item.

Show us some love!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Clinic Escorts

I've been thinking of becoming a clinic escort lately. They're in high demand these days, as clinics are bracing for more protesters and possible violence.

I can remember being in elementary school during the violent actions led by Operation Rescue, a rabid anti-choice organization with much blood on its hands. Though OR denies having anything to do with the fatal shooting of Dr. Barnett Slepian in his home, OR had targeted Slepian, and a number of providers, by publishing his name and address. Protest and harassment was encouraged. (This was one of two events that inspired Ani Difranco's Hello Birmingham, a heart-wrenching anthem for those affected by clinic violence.) My mother was a choice activist in the 70s, and these events prompted her to become a clinic escort. I remember being eleven years old and seeing my mother putting on her bulletproof vest and orange escort garb, pouring my brother and I some more orange juice and leaving for her weekly tour on the frontlines.

Of course there was little clinic violence in Portland back then, but no lack of protesters who would daily knock clinic escorts to the ground and even try to pose as escorts themselves, according to Mom. While the "Army of God" took credit for the Alabama bombing as well as the fatal shooting of Slepian and antrax letters sent to clinics, these radical actions paved the way for "mainstream" anti-choice grouups like Operation Rescue to take their actions a step further, and even aid the Army of God in their quest to find the addresses of providers.

Telling my mom I wanted to be an escort concerned her, naturally. I remember feeling very afraid every Saturday morning when I saw my mother leave for her tour of duty, afraid she'd never come back. A naive 11 year old's preception of this dangerous job is no match for an experienced mother watching her own daughter go to the frontlines as well. I'd had second thoughts myself, but I know I'm needed out there.

I found a blog recently called Every Saturday Morning, a memoir by a clinic escort who works every Saturday in Louiville, KY giving women a bit of comfort as she makes the long walk from car to clinic through the vast sea of protesters. I encourage you all to have a look... we need more brave activists like her.

Peace and Love,

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Intl Women's Day 2009: Repro Rights for Incarcerated Women

"Do crime, do time," I remember him saying. He was a Cobb County police officer who came to our school to talk to our 1st grade class on career day. Before breaking down a day in the life of a law enforcer, we received that spiel given to youngsters all over the nation: obey the law, stay out of trouble, and no harm will come to you. We were given the run-down of what happens in jail, complete with images of anonymous inmates sitting lethargically in their cells. I remember the talk being specifically targeted towards the boys, and all the images showed not only male law enforcement, but male inmates as well. I honestly wasn't aware that women even go to prison until a couple of years later when I caught a story on the local news about a female correctional facility where women reported being raped.

Even at that young age, I remember wondering what happened to a woman who became pregnant while incarcerated (the notion that a woman would arrive to her sentence pregnant did not dawn on me for some time). What would happen to the woman? The baby? What sort of healthcare do incarcerated women even get?

These questions still circle my brain relatively unanswered, not for lack of researching, but because the amount of reproductive healthcare an incarcerated woman can access varies so much by state. What's more, a woman who does not realize her rights while incarcerated might not be able to take advantage of her full range of options. New York State, for example, entitles women to a full range of reproductive options while incarcerated, but county systems themselves often deny these options with little to no enforcement by the state government.

The Women's Prison Association suggests between 5000-10000 women enter prison pregnant each year. Many others become pregnant while incarcerated: for female inmates, rape and sexual assault is often a way of life. Female inmates do in fact become pregnant from rape by prison guards, and are often forced to carry to term due to a lack of comprehensive reproductive health services. These women are further punished not for "doing crime," but for a crime done unto them while they're simply "doing time."

Groups like the ACLU have made huge strides in ensuring abortion rights for incarcerated women in states like New York and Missouri (a U.S. Supreme Court case originating in Missouri upheld inmate abortion rights just last October). But the right to an abortion hardly encompasses the full range of options needed to ensure every woman, even those who have broken the law, access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare. A New York Times article from 2006 reported that twenty-three states as well as the federal Bureau of Prisons allow an incarcerated woman to be shackled during labor.

While prisoner advocacy groups certainly work diligently to expand reproductive rights for U.S. citizens, incarcerated or not, it is immigrant women who face the most challenges to their 8th amendment right to medical care and their 14th amendment right to an elective abortion. Not being U.S. citizens, opponents argue, these amendments simply do not apply, even though the women are in U.S. custody. I recently read a report from the Texas Observer about immigrant women detained by ICE while crossing the border. The article tells the story of Maria, a woman from Honduras who made the treacherous journey to the U.S. so she could send money to her eight year old daughter back home. According to a spokesperson from the ICE, nearly 10% of immigrants arrive at the border pregnant, often from sexual assault during their journey to the border. Unable to obtain an abortion at the detention facility, Maria was deported back to Honduras and had to endure an illegal abortion. Her family disowned her for it.

On this International Woman's Day, I am thankful of how far we have come but soberly aware of how far we still have to go. In a world where borders and chain-link fences are barriers to basic human rights, we cannot afford to celebrate without keeping perspective on our mission. IWD is a day to remember those who have made advances not just for American women, not just for free women, but for all women regardless of status.