Thursday, January 29, 2009

Honeymoon's Over?

It’s dreadfully na├»ve to think President Obama is the reproductive justice knight in shining armor, and yet us choice activists have been, well, vacationing a bit since his inauguration last week. And why wouldn’t we? A co-sponsor of the Freedom of Choice Act S. 1173) and supporter of the Prevention First Act (H.R. 819), Obama struck down the global gag rule within three days of his inauguration. He was becoming, in our minds, a lot like the nice guy you meet at the bar when you’re out with your girlfriends to celebrate your recent breakup.

The problem with the nice guy you meet at the bar is that any minor difference between him and your ex make the two seem night and day from one another. You end up rebounding with this guy, and it only takes a matter of days to realize that, while certainly a better “pick” than your abusive ex, he’s still far from perfect.

Things seemed to be going all too well between reproductive justice advocates and our new president Barack Obama. Until about a week after his inauguration. The courtship was full of romantic rhetoric about what a choice-friendly executive branch could do for us, the honeymoon a week of actions supporting these ideas, but then there was this:

Medicaid Expansion Dropped

In “seeking common ground” with the other side of the aisle, President Obama seems to be caving to the GOP’s pressure to cut corners wherever possible, even if that means cutting parts of a stimulus bill that are quite possibly most needed to help pull this country out of recession. It’s like this: women are a part of this economy, and their healthcare is threatened when times are tough. Even when women are able to keep their employment, a Kaiser Family Foundation study reports, they are more likely than men to lose healthcare benefits in the face of a struggling economy. And with more families choosing to delay having kids until times are better, well, there’s just no question this stimulus bill is incomplete without provisions on increased access to reproductive health, contraception and pre-natal alike. And without provisions to make access to comprehensive family planning more affordable, it’s likely we’ll see more unplanned pregnancies and more women visiting crisis pregnancy centers for their “free” services.It is dangerous, and completely short-sighted, for any administration that calls itself “choice-friendly” to leave such provisions out in the cold.

Reproductive justice advocates need to do the exact thing women getting out of bad relationships need to do: take some time for yourself, enjoy the company of your allies and the occasional date with a non-abusive man (or woman), but don’t commit to anything new until you’ve found your own way to shed the trauma of the past. I call on all reproductive justice advocates, choice activists, and feminists alike to take a quick breath, mend damages from the past through positive alliances with each other, and while we may share a drink with that nice guy at the bar, I think it’s best we don’t go to bed with him just yet.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Roe Reflections: 36 Years Later

Thirty-six years since Roe, our reproductive lives remain a battleground of controversial argument. Yesterday, choice advocates all over the country reflected on what Roe means to them, the limitations of simple "right to privacy," and the changing political climate under a more choice-friendly administration.

Here are selections from the pro-choice blogosphere.

Roe at 36

Roe v. Wade at 36: Reproductive Justice Advocates Reflect on What Roe Does, and Doesn't Do

Beyond the Global Gag Rule: "The World Has Changed and We Must Change With It"

New Political Landscape for Pro-Choice Advocates; March for Life in DC

Roe at Thirty-Six: the Accountability of Judicial Review, and Dispelling Gary Bauer’s Myths

A Resurgence of Clinic Violence?

Clinic violence on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade

More can be found at NARAL's Blog for Choice '09 participants.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Supporting Single Moms

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

I think a common misconception about the Choice movement is that we are only focused on abortion and pregnancy prevention, and to a point I believe we sometimes deserve that misconception. Many are blind to the plethora of injustices that foster a lack of choice on the other side. Forced or coerced sterilization and mandatory adoption have shaped the reproductive lives of working class women, non-white women, and young women alike, and this trend is far from ancient history. For all the energy we choice activists put into abortion rights and access to contraception, something does occasionally get lost in our agenda: while we are certainly committed to the right not to parent, we are equally committed to ensuring every woman the right to parent.

I was recently contacted by a Mari Gallion, author of The Single Woman's Guide to a Happy Pregnancy and founder of, an online resource for women who have chosen to continue an unsupported pregnancy. Gallion described herself as what might seem like an "unlikely" supporter of CPC Watch but assured me was anything but another anti-choice resource that pushed an agenda. Her organization, she told me, has been fighting the backwards agendas of crisis pregnancy centers as well. "They are adoption rings, plain and simple," she told me in her email. This, I believe, is an important thing to note about agencies that consistantly characterize organizations like Planned Parenthood as "abortion profiteers."

Gallion's email continued: "Although they like to mask their agenda in an ostensible commitment to 'life,' their 'mission' is not to (in their words) 'save' babies, it is to sell babies ... to convince women that they are inadequate and incapable so that they can make money off of procurement legal fees and protract the cultural tenet of traditional families."

I myself have received testimonials that further prove this point. A woman named Gina from Atlanta contacted me recently about her experience at a CPC. When she found herself pregnant at nineteen, she decided she did not want an abortion, but needed some help. And so she went to a CPC. After being welcomed warmly by a staff of volunteers that were thrilled at her decision not to have an abortion, she was told, "You cannot have a baby out of wedlock. The child's life will be ruined. If you truly love him, you will make the right decision for you both." In other words, no help would come from them unless she agreed to put her future baby up for adoption.

It just further displays the fragility of a woman's choice. Even when she's making the decision that fits a certain moral agenda, there are still a thousand ways she can "do wrong", such as choose to become a single mom. I've heard tales of women who gave birth at sixteen and had their baby whisked away from them before they could even get a look. I've heard from a woman who had given birth as a teenager who later could not get pregnant again, only to find over a decade later that they had removed her uterus during the "emergency surgery" to get the baby out. I know of older women who to this day have Norplant in their arms because, while it was inexpensive to get implanted, they could not afford to have it removed. For every woman who wants to parent, who does not want to parent, or wants to possibly parent later, the Choice movement should stand behind them all.

Friday, January 2, 2009

S.C. bill would require women seeking abortions to receive list of nearby CPCs

This entry is cross-posted with Choice Words, the blog of ChoiceUSA.

A prefiled bill in the South Carolina House would require women seeking an abortion to first be given a "list of clinics and other facilities that provide free ultrasounds," most of which are anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers.

According to an article from The State, S.C. state Representative Gary Simrill and six others are proposing this bill to expand on this past year's law requiring women to be offered an ultrasound before being legally allowed to terminate a pregnancy, adding yet another delay tactic to the already difficult process of obtaining an abortion in the state. Supporters say they want women to "explore all options" before seeking an abortion.

Never mind the overly paternalistic nature of this bill, and the fact that a woman seeking an abortion has probably already explored "all options." This bill could pose an even greater threat to choice than simply creating one more legal blockade to access. In a time where women struggle to obtain decent health insurance, more women will opt for an agency that offers free ultrasounds to fulfill this requirement. The majority of places that are financially able to offer free ultrasounds are in fact CPCs, and a woman opting for a more affordable option is likely to end up inside an anti-choice center that will do everything in its power to dissuade her from making an informed choice.

CPCs utilize emotional manipulation, medically false or deceptive information, and intimidation to sway women away from having an abortion. They promise assistance throughout the pregnancy and after birth, but in truth very few give any real assistance to women who have been persuaded to carry to term. This bill in South Carolina, if passed, would further block women from making informed choices in what is already one of the hardest states to obtain comprehensive reproductive healthcare in the country.