Category Archives: Abortion

On Kermit Gosnell and Access to Abortions

Last night the House of Representatives passed an unconstitutional 20-week abortion ban. It has no health exception and a rape exception only if a woman has reported her attack to the police. It’s called the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” and it relies on junk science that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks in order to limit abortions.  It also has no chance of passing at the federal level (it has and will pass at the state level). You can read up on all of its ickiness here.

In addition to the normal anti-choice points, the author, Trent Franks, is framing his argument and his bill around the Kermit Gosnell case. I’d like to tell you why I find that surreal.

You’re most likely a human, so ask yourself: would you go to a doctor like that? Would you spend two minutes in that clinic for a checkup, let alone an invasive procedure? Gosnell is a butcher who hired unlicensed staff, including a high school student, to administer anesthesia and perform surgical duties. His clinic was covered in blood and filled with filthy, rusted over instruments. He was storing fetal remains in milk jugs and cat food containers. The smell of his clinic was described by investigators as “unbearable.” If you are interesting in being horrified even further, read this (no joke though, not for the weak stomached).

His is a story about murder, not abortion. It is a story of the absolute failure of a health department to enforce even the most basic of health regulations. It is a story about a community of women, mostly of color, who were so desperate and hopeless that they walked into the set of a horror movie and decided to stay. And the Republicans’ answer to this problem is to ban more abortions? To restrict access further?

Late-term abortions are by far the grossest to describe (you know, like any surgery would be), and bans on them are the easiest to sell. But those bans are also the cruelest for the women they hurt.

They target women who want to be mothers. They hit the woman whose late-term tests show her baby will die minutes after it is born. They force her to carry around a doomed fetus that she wanted, knowing it will never live to be a child.  And perhaps, saddest and most ironic, that family loses the ability to choose to protect their child from a painful slow death waiting for them outside the womb.*

Food Not RequiredThey target women who are sick. The difference between saving a mother’s health and a mother’s life isn’t always clear. Without a health exception, a woman could be forced to forgo chemotherapy. These bans target the mother who will birth a baby without a brain or kidneys and who will then lose the ability to try another child.

They target the poorest of the poor, women without resources. These women have to save money or travel, sometimes hundreds of miles, and then book hotel rooms for punitive waiting periods.

Study after study tells us the same thing: abortion restrictions do not stop abortions. In fact, worldwide abortion rates are down most in countries where there are the fewest restrictions on abortions and family planning resources.

Restrictions do, however, increase one number: the rates of injury and death from illegal procedures. The more barriers we put up to safe, legal abortions, the more women will be forced to turn to dangerous, frightening alternatives.

And if you don’t think that’s possible in America, just ask the patients of Kermit Gosnell.

 

*I want to be clear that I am not trying to imply that ending this type of pregnancy is better or worse than carrying it to term. I know two incredible, brilliant women who had to make this horrific decision and they each chose what they thought was right for their family. My only point is that there are some families who feel ending the pregnancy is an act of love for their child and they ought to be able to make that decision for their family.

Things You Probably Already Know

Someone the other day asked me if I thought all these Republican shenanigans with birth control and ultrasound raping and single mom shaming, etc, etc, was shocking. My answer? Fuck no. This is Republicanism at its finest. For years and years they have been hiding behind this “compassionate conservative” bullshit. See, people used to think Republicans were mean heartless assholes (because they were) so they had to pretend that their incredibly heartless asshole policies were really just a way to help poor (stupid, lazy, black, female, immigrant) people. But they’ve been spewing that bullshit for so long, that people have forgotten and they are free to come out of their awful troll shells and say what they really think, such as:

And a billion gillion other horrific things. This is a dumb list because you already know all of it. No matter how much you pay attention to the news, you can probably name like 12 quotes from this month alone about how women should embrace forced sterilization and set aside their kidneys for potential mandatory fetal transplants. They are a parody of themselves. If Republicans had their way, women would exercise their voting rights by encouraging their husbands to vote. This should not be a surprise to you. If you have a uterus, Republicans would like you to sit down, shut up, have babies, and make them dinner. Republican women would like you to do all those things and join a book club where you can read the Bible and Atlas Shrugged and talk about how sad sluts who don’t do those things are. This is not a new war on women, this is an open war on women. Better start pressing your handmaid uniforms!

With all that said, are you worried? Can these schmucks possibly win this game? Obama is 20 points ahead of Mittens and 26 ahead of Santorum in lady votes.  I think all this lady-hating, or lating, is confusing them; maybe they think if they talk about silencing women enough, women will just be silent. We’re a majority. And for the last couple decades, we vote more. My point is… I like it. Every time a Republican talks about whores, a baby feminist gets her wings…I mean… wordpress.

Dear Republicans,

Thank you.

No, really, I mean it. Oh, you didn’t think you’d find any gratitude from me?  I can see why. I can’t say I like you, or that I don’t think you’re pure evil. I mean you do support everything greedy, and shortsighted, and destructive in the world while simultaneously being against nearly everything good.  Sure, you prefer cutting off food and education and safety programs for poor children so you can give millionaires a tax break.  Sure, you claim to be moral while espousing that the poor and unfortunate should just die or go bankrupt  so you don’t have to contribute portions of a cent to their healthcare.  Yes, you’ve been mercilessly choking the life out of the middle class since Reagan.  But I’m going to let that all go for a minute to pay credit where credit is due.

Why?  Let me explain. You’ve been engaged in a cold war against women for years.  You’ve been banning rare, health and life saving procedures; putting up road blocks left and right to abortions; withholding funding for them; and fighting anything that might make our lives easier.  It’s been terrible, but subtle.  They’ve been attacks on the under represented: the poor, the young, the old; little attacks that chip but don’t break a system that women rely on.  It’s allowed a whole lot of people to go on believing that they are safe from you.  It allows people to ask activists like myself, why do you care so much… abortion is still legal.  Quietly, you’ve been taking advantage of people too burdened with unemployment or rising costs of living to notice all the damage you’re doing.

But in January you opened fire.  Redefine rape?  Legalizing abortion-doctor-murder? Let women die in hospitals? De-funding Planned Parenthood, the organization low and middle-income women across the nation rely on for cancer screenings and birth control?!  I would be scared if I thought there was any chance in hell that it would pass the Senate, or Obama’s veto, but I don’t think it can.  Because it’s crazy. Stupid crazy.  It’s grandstanding and it’s wasting our time and money.

And I say bring it on.  Wear your crazy on your sleeve.  Give women like Jackie Speier a chance to talk about her necessary “partial birth abortion.”  Take those seats you won because of jobs and use them to make yourselves look like the monsters you are.  What’s next? What wacky woman-hating legislation can you conjure up? Mandatory fetus naming laws?  Scarlet letters? Public stonings? Public broadcasts of miscarriages?

You don’t scare me.  But I think, and I hope, that women are about to scare you. They aren’t going to sit there and get shit on anymore.  Our lives and our health are just as important as your own.

So thank you.  Thank you for finally being honest about your true feelings.  Thank you for finally taking off this mask of “concern.” Thank you for finally opening fire.  I can’t wait to see the retaliation.

P.S. Do something! Donate. Sign. Call.

No. No You Can’t.

In an attempt to fix this problem, I’ve begun working at a campaign office for the Democrats.  Not working as in getting paid, but working as in spending all of my free time organizing volunteers and not seeing that guy I’m married to or any of my other friends for zero monies.  That said, it’s super fun and I get to hang out with high schoolers and 70 year-olds who all think I’m 20.

Despite being a Democratic office, a lot of the girls have told me that they are Republican, or at least anti-choice.  They are bright, but also young and their parents are incredibly influential right now.  It’s not really surprising when they explain their distorted, second-hand versions of history (quote from one 17-year-old: “Bush was just cleaning up Clinton’s mess”).  Hey, when I was in high school I identified as a Republican.  It took some education and some exposure to the world and a variety of different types of people before I started to understand the ideas that would eventually lead me to the left.

If I were 17, I might look at the number of women the Republicans are pushing in front of the camera and think, hey, maybe that party is lookin’ out for me.  The so-called “pro-life” stance is one that is easy to understand when the world can still be simply boxed and explained in black and white.  End life=murder. Murder=bad. I can see how a young woman might not see choice as essential to women’s rights.

But I assure you it is.

For those who enjoy facts, this Guttmacher/World Health Organization study showed that abortion rates are lowest in countries that have the least restrictions on abortions (along with the least restrictions on family planning resources), while 97% of deaths and injuries from illegal abortions happen in countries where abortion is illegal and that those deaths and injuries are on the rise.  In other words, you don’t stop abortions by banning them, you push them outside of the law and women die. I think we can all agree that women dying is bad for women.

Of course I can show you studies and give you numbers, I can tell you about my grandmother’s friends who died of illegal abortions, but to most of us that’s not reality.  We’ve always lived in a post-Roe world.  We’re not worried about bloody hangers, or the more likely chemical cocktail that some desperate woman is going to drink.  We’re worried about those mythical monsters: the callous welfare queen on her fifth abortion because she’s too lazy to get on birth control; the teen who wanders in to a clinic, 8 months pregnant and on her cell phone, asking for an abortion so she can hit up the Justin Beiber concert with her latest bf.  The honest conversation about sad, but sometimes necessary abortions fades and gives way to hysteria.  If we don’t tell kids about sex they won’t have it.  If we put up obstacle after obstacle or outright ban abortions, women will just get over it.  Like it’s some kind of recreational drug.

That kind of thinking is wrong and easily disprovable, but because of it I’m going to add this: choice isn’t just about death or injury.  That’s obviously the most dire reason we need to keep it safe, legal (and rare), but it’s not the only reason.

It’s not a coincidence that the second wave of women’s liberation coincided with the invention of the Pill and Roe V. Wade.  The progress we’ve made is a direct consequence of being able to choose what we do with our bodies, to choose when and where and with whom we have children. Being pregnant isn’t just wearing a backpack with a kid inside for 9 months.  It can be life threatening.  It can keep you bed-ridden.  It’s emotionally, physically, and financially taxing.  The lions share of child rearing still falls on women and the lifetime of emotional and psychological damages of relinquishing a child for adoption are arguably far worse than those abortion.  Being pregnant and/or caring for unplanned children is potentially a significant road block or dead-end to finding, keeping, or excelling at jobs; procuring political offices and fighting for pro-women laws; leaving abusive relationships or finding healthy ones; financial and emotional stability; getting an education; or rising above the poverty level.

If men and women are going to be equal, we need the same opportunities.  Without intervention our own bodies are an impediment to those opportunities.  It isn’t enough to say don’t have sex.  Women are human and healthy adult humans require sex.  It’s not enough to have adequate prevention.  As good as it is, sometimes prevention fails, and sometimes people fail at prevention.  Having access to the education and means to prevent pregnancies, the support to keep them when wanted (something we truly don’t talk about enough), and the freedom to safely terminate them when women have no other choice is essential to our equality.

So, no Sara, Carly, Christine, and every other woman running for office who likes to pretend to be looking out for me.  You cannot be feminist and not be pro-choice.  You cannot care about the health and safety of women and not be pro-choice.  You cannot say you support equality and not be pro-choice.  Attacking my right to choose is attacking my right to be a full participant in society.

And to those girls, those bright, lovely girls, who will hopefully grow up and learn about nuance, who will eventually learn about impossible choices and inequality, don’t be fooled by bumper sticker logic.  You don’t have to like abortions.  You don’t have to support abortions.  But any person, man or woman, parent or politician, who tells you that they’d like to take away your ability to make decisions for your body is not, not, NOT looking out for you.