Saturday, June 16, 2012

The choice is hard but still ours to make

I am a social worker by profession but for the last four years, I have been a stay-at-home mom.

As a woman, a mother, a behavioral healthcare professional -- and very significantly to me, a daughter born to teenage parents -- age-appropriate sex education and reproductive rights such as access to contraception and the right to choose abortion are issues that have always been very important to me. 

Abortion is a tough subject.  Even those of us who are “for” it, are not for it.  No one wants an abortion.  The idea that women or couples who choose abortion do so blithely is counter to the reality of a heartbreaking experience. 

I respect and consider many anti-abortion points even as I disagree with the overall perspective.  In fact, I think you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who disagrees with a main argument of the anti-abortion movement -- that if a woman is truly unable to care for her child, she can give that child up for adoption.  But I remain pro-choice because I do not feel that adoption is the panacea to unintended pregnancy.  There are so many variables, including terminations of planned and wanted pregnancies due to devastating genetic issues.  As much as many of the reasons against abortion make sense to me, reasons for the right to abortion make even more.  

Most of the people I know who have changed their opinion regarding abortion are people who have been in the devastating position of having to respond to an unintended pregnancy of their own or who have witnessed someone close to them have to do so.  Although I am sure there are people who do regret having had an abortion, no one has ever expressed that to me. In both my personal and professional life, I have witnessed women grieve over the loss of what could have been and lament the circumstances that led to their decision to have an abortion.  But I have not heard regret over the decision to end those particular pregnancies.

I have witnessed, either directly or through their own reminiscence, women who had always been firmly anti-abortion choose abortion when faced with the realities of whatever their situation happened to be.  On the other hand, if they have the means to do so, many women who are pro-choice ultimately welcome and keep their own unintended pregnancies. 

Being pro-choice doesn’t mean loving abortions.  It has nothing to do with “baby-killing” and everything to do with sustaining women’s ability to care for themselves and their families.  It means respecting women’s rights.  It can be easy to forget that since Roe v. Wade, abortion is indeed a legal and constitutional right. 

I wish that the difficult subjects of the world had black-and-white answers.  It would be so much easier to know that whereas “X is always right, Y is always wrong.”  I think about this a lot because choice related to abortion is one of the subjects I have felt so passionately about since before I even fully understood what it could entail.   

I distinctly remember the circumstances that led to my awareness of what “abortion” is.  I was in elementary school and our church bulletin had a message from the priest asking everyone in our parish to boycott a particular company because they had donated money to Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides “abortions.”  I had heard of Planned Parenthood from a Judy Blume book and from her depiction of the agency, it didn’t seem a bad place at all.  I didn’t think we should boycott anyone for helping them and neither did my mom, which probably means more to me than she will ever know.  I had to ask her what abortion was. Even though I can’t recall exactly how she worded her answer to me, I remember my reaction, which was that I felt that a woman must really have a good reason to do such a thing. 

This is the bedrock of my belief in the right to choose and the reason why I will always be pro-choice.

--Jaime Miller

Monday, June 11, 2012

Logic anyone?

by Valerie B.

When I think of my three wonderful children, which is almost every second, from conception to birth, to every milestone of their lives, I marvel at the mystery of life, the wonder of birth and the love of being a mother. People who oppose abortion may envision a sweet cuddly infant, soft, clean, healthy and loved, the picture most portrayed and most enjoyed by those leaving a hospital with a beloved newborn.

However, the reality is far different for many. Many are born to crack addicted women, prostitutes, abusers, addicts of all kinds or parents who have absolutely no desire or ability to care for another human. These children can end up abused, neglected and in foster care. The majority who endure the foster care system will end up incarcerated at some time. Those born to addicts may have exorbitant medical expenses and limited potential. It’s a sad, sad thing and a huge burden to society, all because abortion wasn’t readily available and free.

For the young girl living in poverty, a pregnancy allowed to take it’s course will likely  guarantee a life of poverty for the mother and child. This becomes a huge burden to society in terms of health care, baby formula, food stamps, welfare, and all the other government programs that make this mother a slave on the government plantation. Government should pay for birth control and abortions on demand just like they pay for every pregnancies, delivery, formula, etc... For society as a whole, it’s cost efficient compared to paying for the prenatal care, delivery and hospitalization, baby formula, food stamps, welfare, housing and health care.

In an ideal world there would be no abortions just the same as there would be no child abuse, no poverty and no unwanted pregnancies. But, all these things are forever part of the human condition. And, people are going to have sex. Abstinence? Really? Just because two people have sex and an egg is fertilized in the process is no reason to create an unwanted child.

To those who oppose abortion based on religious belief, my answer is this: God is pro choice. Most abortions are natural, spontaneous, miscarriages. God believes in abortions, causes them, just the same as God allows science to create pregnancies through in vitro and artificial insemination. God can tell a woman to seek abortion just as some believe God tells them to try in vitro or artificial insemination. One other point worth mentioning is that we live in a country that allows religious freedom. I do not impose my religious beliefs on you and you have no right to impose yours on me.

Why are some people so interested in what others do with their bodies? Do they really want more children born to crack addicted mothers, prostitute and addicts of all types? Do they really want more children raised in the foster care system? Do they really want more adults who end up incarcerated as do so many from the foster care system? Do they really believe that at three months, a three inch long fetus is a human?

No, I don’t see abortion as murder or the killing of a baby or a child. I’m sure it’s an unbelievably difficult decision for the majority of women who choose it. But, leave that to the woman and her God. The notion that I can choose for you or you can choose for me when best to procreate is absurd.

Above all, know this. Someone you know and love has had an abortion. You will never know it. It may be your mother, sister, wife or daughter. She did this in secret, for reasons that were terribly difficult for her. You would trust them to bring a person into this world. Trust them to know when it isn’t the right time to do so.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Its about being Pro-Woman

It’s About Being Pro-Woman

by Liz K

When you see people shouting epithets at women in crisis, something has gone haywire in our democratic society.

But that’s abortion in America in 2012. Clinics are firebombed. Providers and their families are harassed, threatened and even murdered. Women who need health care are bullied and shamed, even as their access to birth control and abortion services is beaten back nationwide.

The movement that promotes this hate and violence? They call themselves “pro-life,” and society lets them get away with it.

That’s a Big Lie, and it’s time we put a stop to it.

How did we get here? I’ve watched this language evolve for decades. As a young woman, I saw New York and then the nation recognize that our Constitutional rights include self-determination, bodily integrity and reproductive freedom. I’ve been part of the fortunate generation freed from the choice between the danger and shame of back-alley abortions or the sometimes ruinous results of carrying unwanted pregnancies to term.

I’ve also watched as the seeds of today’s War on Women were sown. Outraged by Roe v. Wade, the Religious Right set out to confront supporters of reproductive rights, at debates, demonstrations and, increasingly, outside clinics. I saw the media fumble for neutral ways to report these tense events. No one wanted to use the term “abortion” – they were uncomfortable with the word, and ambivalent about the procedure – and so the euphemisms “pro-choice” and “pro-life” came into use. Maybe it even seemed equitable at the time; everyone got to be described as “pro” something.

But in that moment, the anti-choice movement was allowed to mischaracterize its motives and hide behind a lie, conveniently framed to incriminate the other side. If you’re not pro-life…are you pro-death?

They stole the language of caring, and I want it back.

Why does it matter? Because language shapes perception, and perception alters behavior. This distortion has given undeserved legitimacy to a movement that is really about denial of women’s rights and basic freedoms. It has convinced some otherwise decent people to gather outside clinics and pressure vulnerable women, because they’ve been told it’s about “Life.” And it has probably pushed the self-righteous over the line to violence and hate, under the false pretense of defending “Life.”

We all know the truth. The media know it. Politicians know it. There is nothing life-giving or positive about antisocial acts like these:

  • Violence, including arson, anthrax threats, murder.
  • Harassment, including publication of patients’ and providers’ personal information
  • Restrictions on who can get an abortion, when, and with what unnecessary costs, delays and humiliation.
  • Attacks on access to contraception itself.
  • Disinformation campaigns designed to frighten women and skew perception of abortion. (In fact, abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer or depression or future infertility. Legal abortion has fewer complications than childbirth.)

The anti-choice movement is the very definition of anti-life. They threaten our health, our safety, even our society.

We know that the answer is not to fight violence with violence. But our culture seems blinded by the opposition’s sanctimonious claims. If we don’t challenge these perceptions and defend our rights, real women will die in the name of “Life.”

How do we start on the road back to sanity? How do we defuse the violence? How do we turn these clinic protesters away from bullying and harassment, and toward respect for the Constitutional rights we all share?

I say we begin by changing the way we talk about abortion rights – specifically, the labels attached to this issue decades ago.  Let’s call on the media, our elected officials and our society to change the language. Let’s insist on truth in labeling.

Because the truth is that the anti-choice movement isn’t “pro-life.” It’s pro-repression, pro-maternal morbidity, pro-poverty. It’s anti-woman.

The pro-choice movement is pro-health, pro-planned families, pro-safety. We are profoundly pro-woman. That is, in the end, the only proper frame for abortion care, which is all about women’s lives.

So here is a modest call to action: When you read or hear the term “pro-life” used to describe violence, bullying and restriction of health care, call the question. Literally. Call the station or newspaper. Email the magazine. Harassment, shaming, attacks on clinics and health care – these are not pro-woman. If it’s not pro-woman, it isn’t “pro-life.”

Let’s go back to the beginning and reshape this debate. Language is power. Let’s take back the language and take back the truth.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Freedom means War?

by Jaqlyn Reedy

Around this time 2 years ago, I became pro-choice. I’m not going to bore you with my story, but I will let you know, in those 2 short years, I have had more discussions and arguments with random people, people I love, and people I know well than I had in the 20 years of my life before then.

Being actively pro-choice is a lot harder than being passively anti-choice. When I was “pro-life,” I went to exactly two Marches for Life on Washington, DC and one Rally for Life at a Catholic University in New Jersey. I may have prayed for a few souls. I stopped talking to one of my best friends for almost a year after I found out that she had an abortion. That was about as extreme as I got.

For the past two years of my “pro-choice” existence, I have fought, weekly, almost daily, for people with uteri. I constantly post pro-choice links and information on my various online hangouts: Facebook and Tumblr, even Twitter and Pintrest. I have interned with Planned Parenthood, clinic escorted for a small clinic in Los Angeles, and gotten into fierce online discussions that sometimes pitted three people against me, all while standing my ground. I have been told, as soon as I walked into a family party, “No politics.”

I have been fighting almost non-stop for two years, and I am going to tell you the truth: I am tired. I am tired of constantly having to support my position, to cite my sources, to argue my case, and to have complete knowledge about every little fact. I am tired of having to repeat the stories of people who have found themselves pregnant and without hope. I am tired of having to explain that my compassion is what leads me to do this work, and that no, I’m not for killing babies. I am tired of being attacked.

Maybe it is just me, but in the past four years, from both sides of the issue, I have seen people become more rabid about their stance. Mostly, though, I have seen it start on the anti-choice side. I have watched as they have spread misinformation and lies, trying to twist Congressional legislation to their “side.” I have watched as pro-choice people have had to push back, as we fear our lives and livelihoods are being threatened.

There would be no rhetoric about the “War on Women” if there was not actually a war on women currently going on. There is a Christian jihad going on against women. It is not for “babies” or families. It is not for anything, really. Time has shown that it is against women. This language may be strong, but it is true.

I could try to get you angry. I could attempt to make you hate the other side. I could make it so that we play into their fears… I could lay out the facts for you. I could recite court cases, the number of new bills that have been introduced since a certain party has taken power in certain places, I could show you statistics about women, birth, children, and abortion. I could do all of this, but I’m not going to. I just want to lay out some questions and thoughts.

If this was only a war on abortion, why are people so up-in-arms about contraception? If the Supreme Court already granted the right to an abortion, under a right to privacy, why are people challenging it, and winning? Why isn’t the mainstream media covering the clinic attacks that have happened in the past two weeks? Why are we still letting people who want to take away our rights dictate the rhetoric around abortion?

This is not only about abortion. This is not only about birth control. This is not only about women. This is about the health care of the people within our country, and the future of our country.

The first and best thing we could do right now is take back the rhetoric. Talk, shout, scream if you have to. Let people know your views. Get into arguments on your social media of choice. Allow yourself to explore the issues. Learn how to cite your facts or how to read a scientific report accurately. Volunteer; it doesn’t have to be as a clinic escort if you fear for your safety, but you could also volunteer for your local women’s right group. Just do something.

We currently have Freedom; work so we can remain Free.