Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Right to Decide

5 10 2009

Today was a lovely day for Mass NOW’s Counter-Protest to Mass Citizens for Life – the rain held off, it was fairly warm out, and an enthusiastic, energetic crowd showed up in solidarity to participate in the counter-protest.  Here are some images from the Boston Commons:






Join Mass. NOW in Counter-Protesting Citizens for Life March!

19 09 2009

Got this in an email from Boston Now.  I know I will be there.  Will you?

“It’s time to once again gather our pro-choice posters, t-shirts, and rally cries to show that they’re not the only voice and that women must have a CHOICE – and we need YOU there!

Every year, Massachusetts Citizens for Life holds an anti-choice march.

Every year, Boston NOW organizes a counter-protest to represent a pro-choice voice and message to the public.

Please join us in showing your pro-choice pride. It is very important that all pro-choice people and organizations are out voicing their opposition to this march – especially now – as it becomes clear that reproductive freedom is being used as a bargaining chip in the national health care debate. We encourage you to invite colleagues, friends, and members, and to place this event on your organization’s calendar!

Date: Sunday, October 4, 2009

Time: 1:30 pm

Where: Meet on the corner of Charles St. and Beacon St.

(in front of Starbucks, across from Boston Common)

walk to the meeting spot from public transportation the Red line (Park St./Charles/MGH), Green line (Park St.), or Orange line (Downtown Crossing)

Who: Boston NOW, pro-choice supporters, and YOU!

Please email Boston NOW at info@bostonnow.org to RSVP or for more information.”

Coalition for Choice Lobby Day 2009

16 09 2009

Got this info from NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts and from Planned Parenthood.

On October 6, the Mass Coalition for Choice is having a lobby day in support of the Comprehensive Health Education Bill and the Repeal Bill.  Come out and demonstrate your support for real health ed. and repeal of archaic public health laws!

You can help out by urging legislators to support:

1.  An Act Relative to Providing Health Education in Schools (Senate Bill 218/House Bill 3434)–  requires that schools provide age appropriate health ed grades K-12.

2)  An Act Relative to Updating the Public Health Laws (Senate Bill 1610/ House Bill 1745)–  would repeal archaic, unconstitutional abortion and contraceptive restrictions still on the books in Mass.

The lobby day is Oct 6th from 9 am to noon, starting in the Great Hall at the State House in Boston.

NARAL is also offering a lobby day training, which they are willing to come to the classroom and conduct.  Contact organizing@prochoicemass.org to sign up for lobby day or training.  You can also contact Planned Parenthood to sign up at amooers@pplm.org.

*Also, Planned Parenthood’s Plan is having an open house Saturday, Oct. 3rd, 11AM-4PM in front of Plan in Davis Square-  260 Elm St.  There will be games, raffle, prizes, info, giveaways, and a 3 for $30 birth control promotion.  The rain date is Oct. 7th.

A tribute to the late Dr. George Tiller

27 07 2009

Here is a beautiful piece from the NY Times written in memory of Dr. George Tiller, a true vagina warrior who devoted his life to providing women with a crucial health service despite hindrances, threats, harassment and violence.  It’s a reminder of how tragic Dr. Tiller’s murder was and what a great loss it was for the feminist/womanist community.  Here’s taste of the article:

It did not take long for anti-abortion leaders to realize that George R. Tiller was more formidable than other doctors they had tried to shut down.

Shrewd and resourceful, Dr. Tiller made himself the nation’s pre-eminent abortion practitioner, advertising widely and drawing women to Wichita from all over with his willingness to perform late-term abortions, hundreds each year. As anti-abortion activists discovered, he gave as good as he got, wearing their contempt as a badge of honor. A “warrior,” they called him with grudging respect.

And so for more than 30 years the anti-abortion movement threw everything into driving Dr. Tiller out of business, certain that his defeat would deal a devastating blow to the “abortion industry” that has terminated roughly 50 million pregnancies since Roe v. Wade in 1973.

They blockaded his clinic; campaigned to have him prosecuted; boycotted his suppliers; tailed him with hidden cameras; branded him “Tiller the baby killer”; hit him with lawsuits, legislation and regulatory complaints; and protested relentlessly, even at his church. Some sent flowers pleading for him to quit. Some sent death threats. One bombed his clinic. Another tried to kill him in 1993, firing five shots, wounding both arms.

In short, they made George Tiller’s clinic the nation’s most visible abortion battleground, a magnet for activists from all corners of the country.

Dr. Tiller would not budge.

Continue reading the rest.

Law Protecting 35-foot protest buffer zone around Massachusetts abortion clinics upheld

14 07 2009

On Friday, the US 1st Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a law requiring a 35-foot protest buffer zone outside abortion clinics.  In other words, this law bars anyone from entering a 35-foot zone around the clinics unless they are employed by the clinic, are entering or leaving the clinic, are public safety or municipal officials, or are simply passing through .  The 2007 law was created in an attempt to protect patients and staff from harassment.

Five anti-choice protesters filed the lawsuit originally because they claimed that the law violated their freedom of speech.  The judge, Judge Joseph Tauro, rejected their suit in 2008 and their most recent appeal was rejected on Friday.

It was ruled Friday that the law is “content neutral” (applies to all protesters no matter their viewpoints) and does not violate principles of free speech.

Some view this law as a direct attack on anti-choice protesters, creating a “censorship zone” specifically aimed at suppressing their rights of free speech.  Tim Chandler – legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, which represented the plaintiffs, said:

The government cannot single them out for punishment simply because they want to share their message with people entering the clinic.  The government simply cannot create censorship zones where the First Amendment does not apply in order to silence a particular viewpoint.

But a patient or staff member should be able to walk into a clinic without being verbally attacked or fearing for their safety.  Since the law does not prohibit people from expressing their views, but rather redefines the space in which they may protest, many view this law as necessary for the protection of clinic patients and staff.

Mass. Attorney General Martha Coakley said that she is “pleased that the First Circuit has upheld this important law, which enhances public safety and access to medical facilities, while preserving the right to engage in expressive activity on public ways and sidewalks near clinics.’’

h/t The Boston Globe and Feminist Daily News

Palin may be gone but her anti-choice legacy remains

7 07 2009

Via Clara Jeffrey at Mother Jones, one of the last things that Sarah Palin did in office was to further a proposal that would mandate girls under the age of 18 seeking abortions to get parental consent first.  This proposal was certified last Thursday, July 2nd and now, backers just need to obtain 32,734 signatures from Alaskans for it to go on a statewide ballot to be voted on next year.

This proposal would require parental notification and consent except in the following situations: 1) the young woman submits a notarized statement saying that she is a victim of abuse by a parent or guardian, 2) the young woman manages to persuade a court to allow her to bypass notification, or 3) a doctor declares a medical emergency.

This proposal is ageist and anti-choice bullshit masking as paternalistic “protection”.   Not only is Palin shaming young women for having sex (OMG!!!  Gasp!!  The thought of teenage girls having sex?!!!  Completely unheard of!!) but she is also crafting an anti-choice legacy to remain in her absence.  It is a fundamental right for women to have complete autonomy of their own bodies.  If we can’t even make our own choices about our own own bodies, what can we do?

Vice President of Alaska’s Planned Parenthood Clover Simon said, “We believe there are several legal problems with this initiative, including the setting of court rules, and our lawyers are now taking a close look at our options.”  Planned Parenthood is preparing to counter this initiative because in reality, laws like these further jeopardize young women.

Before Palin’s resignation, two of Alaska’s public health experts, Beverly Wooley and Jay Butler, were canned for intervening in Palin’s anti-choice initiatives.  Writes Jeffrey, “Both made the critical mistake of wanting to present scientific evidence on the impact of parental consent laws to the state Senate.  They never got the chance; the Senate ‘ran out of time'”.  This is outrageous – firing competent staff members for presenting sound scientific evidence!

Wooley meant to cite research from states that had already passed similar legislation.  Some of the research demonstrated that with parents involved, young women tend to get abortions later on in their pregnancy which is not only more of a health risk but also more expensive.  Meanwhile other findings showed that with parental involvement fewer young women get abortions.  The latter result is what an anti-choice crusader like Palin would iterate and reiterate.

Sigh.  So while Palin may have resigned, her anti-choice legacy remains behind.

Wednesday Blogaround

24 06 2009

Keeping up with blogging during the summer isn’t an easy task. Here are some great reads on things we’ve missed:

Transgender federal employees will soon be protected from discrimination in the work place.

A piece from The New Yorker about the incompatibility of medicine and the “free market”.

The economic recession affects everyone, so “Don’t call it a ‘he-cession’“.

We can affirm the value of fathers but still support government structures that support diverse family arrangements of all kinds.

The latest on Chris Brown and Rihanna.

Trigger warning – physical assault and violence in the name of casting out the so-called homosexual demons.

Facebook and how it upholds and perpetuates the gender binary.

A very long overdue apology – Senate Apologizes for Slavery.

Check out the first part of a MoJo special on the Hidden Defense Budget.

If you ask the NYTimes, sex selection is culturally Asian.

WTF?!  No!!!  Harvard’s Office of Sexual Assault is closing for July.

Can we ever say a woman can’t choose?

Pregnancy is scary when you’re not “fit” to mother

16 06 2009

Via I Blame the Patriarchy, here is a misogynist billboard that Jill saw:


As Jill writes, pregnancy is scary if you are a vulnerable woman in a patriarchal society that hates women, especially pregnant women who get pregnant under the “wrong” circumstances.  What are some of these “wrong” circumstances?  They include situations where the pregnant woman is a teenager (OMG! Teenagers having sex?!!!!), single and not planning on getting married anytime soon (But the baby needs a father! / Well now you’re doomed to be a poor single mom forever), of color, low income, low income and unmarried and already with children (oh god, just another one of those welfare queens), a prostitute, and a drug abuser or addict.

Meanwhile, pregnancy is not scary when you fit the acceptable mold of motherhood.  Like if you are an upper class heterosexual white woman who is married.  This billboard reminds me of ads I used to see on the NYC subways which would show a glum and depressed looking young woman and the text would say something like “Abortion Alternatives”.  Of course they weren’t abortion alternatives.  They were anti-choice ads targeting vulnerable women, like teen moms or low income women of color.

This is the organization’s website.  If you are considering abortion, the website immediately warns you:

Abortion is not just a simple medical procedure. For many women, it is a life changing event with significant physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences. Most women who struggle with past abortions say that they wish they had been told all of the facts about abortion and its risks.

Later on the site goes on to warn you of the risk of abortions, like how abortion is associated with premature delivery if a woman chooses to have a baby in the future:

Women who undergo one or more induced abortions carry a significantly increased risk of delivering prematurely in the future. Premature delivery is associated with higher rates of cerebral palsy, as well as other complications of prematurity (brain, respiratory, bowel, and eye problems).

Another problem that abortion can cause is that it may potentially lead to breast cancer (an unfounded claim),  or it may deteriorate your emotional and psychological health:

There is evidence that abortion is associated with a decrease in both emotional and physical health.  For some women these negative emotions may be very strong, and can appear within days or after many years.  This psychological response is a form of post-traumatic stress disorder.

And of course, if you get an abortion there are spiritual consequences you must deal with:

People have different understandings of God. Whatever your present beliefs may be, there is a spiritual side to abortion that deserves to be considered. Having an abortion may affect more than just your body and your mind — it may have an impact on your relationship with God. What is God’s desire for you in this situation? How does God see your unborn child? These are important questions to consider.

I wish I had something more eloquent to say right now, but my only response to this, especially the “How does God see your unborn child?” part, is a big LOL.  The page ends with:

…real empowerment comes when you find the resources and inner strength necessary to make your best choice.  Here are some other options.

The other options include parenting, adoption, or going to a local pregnancy center for counseling.  Right…because women who choose to get abortions have absolutely no clue that they could’ve just had the baby or given it up for adoption.  By closing with these suggestions and the whole “real empowerment” schpeal, the site is obviously trying to dissuade women from getting abortions and trying to insinuate that women who are truly empowered don’t get abortions because they know of their “other options”.

I’m sick of billboards like this and ads and organizations who produce those ads who mask as helping pregnant women when what they’re doing is anti-choice work of using fear tactics to scare women out of getting abortions, even if that may be their best option and the choice they want to make.

Thank you, Dr. LeRoy Carhart!

11 06 2009

Two days ago, I wrote a post about how the late Dr. Tiller’s clinic was going to be closed permanently.  One of the reasons this is a heavy loss is because Dr. Tiller’s clinic was one of the only places where women could get late abortions.

But good news!  Dr. LeRoy Carhart, a Nebraska doctor has stepped up and said that he would perform third-term abortions in Kansas.  It is unclear whether he will be performing these abortions at a new facility or if he’d perform them at existing clinics.  In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Dr. Carhart said, “there will be a place in Kansas for the later second- and the medically indicated third-trimester patients very soon.”

Since 1985, Dr. Carhart has run his own clinic in Bellvue, Nebraska.  He’s performed late term abortions at Dr. Tiller’s clinic previously due to Nebraska’s restrictive abortion laws.  Subsequent to the initial closing of Dr. Tiller’s clinic after his murder, Dr. Carhart has experienced an increase in patients in his Bellvue clinic.  The two were old friends and colleagues.

Thank you, Dr. Carhart for stepping up and in to uphold a crucial service for women.  Thank you, Dr. Carhart for your courage and determination to continue providing a critical medical procedure for women in spite of the anti-choice  harassment and violence that has occurred and will continue to occur.  Thank you, Dr. Carhart for your dedication to defending women’s reproductive health and rights.

Pastor Drake Prays for Obama’s Death on Fox News

11 06 2009

via Womanist Musings:

Alan Colmes: Well you say you are praying for the death of somebody using imprecatory prayers, I then asked for whom else are you praying you then said President Obama.  Are you praying for his death?

Drake: yes

Alan Colmes: So you are praying for the death of the president of the United States

Drake: Yes

Alan Colmes: Are you concerned by saying that you might find yourself on a secret service call or on some kind of FBI wanted list? Do you think it is appropriate to say something like that, or even pray for something like that?

Drake: I think it is appropriate to pray the word of God.  I’m not saying anything. What I am doing is repeating what God is saying and if that puts me on somebody’s list then I’ll just have to be on their list.

Alan Colmes: You would like the president of the United States to die?

Drake: If he does not turn to God and does not turn his life around, I am asking God to enforce imprecatory prayers that are through out the scripture, that would cause him death that is correct.

Regarding Dr. Tiller’s murder, Drake basically says that even though Tiller’s death was an answer to his prayers, he did not explicitly pray for Tiller to be murdered and therefore has no fault.  He argues that the murder was an inconvenient setback to the anti-choice (“pro-life”) movement and claims that Tiller’s killer was not in fact a “pro-life” Christian, but instead that “somebody in the Obama camp had this guy killed.”

He also says that Tiller went to Hell when he died but that he himself, on the other hand is guaranteed admittance to heaven.  Drake calmly states that he talks to God all the time and that God wanted Tiller dead and now wants President Obama to die.

Drake says he is using “imprecatory prayer,” a type of prayer in which words of judgements in the Psalms are prayed back to God.  He therefore argues that if anyone has problems with what he is saying, they should take it up with God because he is only echoing God’s word.

Although this guy is obviously a nutjob, it is infuriating that he can get away with openly promoting death for both Dr. Tiller and the President of the United States.  It is disgusting that he is using religion to condone violence and murder.  Drake seems to think that his opinion of God’s wishes is the only correct opinion, and he blatantly ignores all aspects of his religion that advocate peace and love.  Disguising his own hate and bigotry as religion is appalling and insulting.

Of course, it is Fox where we once again find this idiocy being broadcast.  Why is it that Fox News continues to give these people a platform to spread hate?

Wishing for someone’s death and preaching this hate to others IS a form of violence. Drake’s words fuel the fires of hate in this country and help give his fellow wackos a disguise for their actions behind religion and patriotism.  Absolutely infuriating.  And the fact that Drake was given a platform at Fox to spread this hate is not unexpected, but is infuriating as well.

This is a tragedy

9 06 2009

Dr. George Tiller’s murder was a truly sad and devastating loss for many of us.  This is even more tragic.

According to Dr. Tiller’s family, Women’s Health Care Services, Inc., the place where Dr. Tiller performed abortions prior to his murder last Sunday, will be closing permanently.  Not only have we lost one of our most dedicated and compassionate abortion providers, but now we have also lost one of our only clinics that offered and performed life-saving late abortions.  (Though many abortion clinics provide late term abortions, Dr. Tiller’s clinics is one of the only clinics that performed abortions as late as they did.)

Of course this is the work of violent anti-choicers who have consistently harassed, assaulted and terrorized Dr. Tiller and his clinic.  Dr. Tiller courageously persevered despite physical and verbal harassment, threats, intimidation, bombings, vandalism, and shooting.   What it finally took was to murder Dr. Tiller and just get him out of the way.

Randall Terry, the founder of the original Operation Rescue group, responded to this news with “Good riddance” and said that “history would remember Tiller’s clinic as it remembers Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps.”  (What an accurate comparison, eh?  An abortion clinic and Nazi concentration camps?  Pshht.  Those anti-choicers.)

Now that the clinic will be shut down for good, women in need have even fewer resources than they once had.  Many more women will have to pay more for and work harder to find necessary care.  As a result, many women may face more barriers or may even be unable to receive the care they need.

Weekend Reads

6 06 2009

It’s the first weekend of June…my, does time fly!  Here are good posts to check out this weekend:

The mainstream media has covered the opting out debate a whole lot.  But what’s missing from this coverage is that opting out, leaving one’s professional career to raise a family, is something that only women with privilege can truly do.  Ann Friedman has a piece out called  When Opting Out Isn’t an Option that discusses the need to shift the conversation about women and work.  She includes women who don’t have the luxury to opt out, the majority of women in this country, in the picture and discusses how the recession can be an opportunity to reframe the opting out debate.

There’s a great op-ed in the New York Times today about Ann Lohman, an English midwife who emigrated to New York and committed suicide in 1878 after years and years of anti-choice harassment.  She called herself Madame Restell, sold herbs and pills designed to end pregnancies, performed abortions if the herbs and pills did not work which she charged on a sliding scale depending on her patient’s ability to pay, taught sex education classes, provided shelter for pregnant women, delivered babies and set up an adoption service.  The op-ed examines Lohman’s legacy as a a champion for reproductive rights and illustrates how anti-choice violence continues to threaten those who do dedicate their lives to defending reproductive rights.

One of the reasons why people reject feminism is because it historically, and continues to, exclude certain marginalized bodies like the LGBTQ community and people of color.  Racism Review tackles this issue in Gloria Steinem, Where Are You Now? During Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign feminist activist Gloria Steinem wrote a piece in the NYTimes condemning the mainstream media’s sexist treatment of Clinton.  However, Sonia Sotomayor has been the target of countless racist and sexist attacks ever since her nomination but prominent white feminists who have publicly condemned sexism before, like Steinem, have been silent.  Why have none of them spoken up for Sotomayor?

Transphobia and violence against the trans community remains persistent throughout the world.  There have been many recent violent hate crimes against trans people in various countries: the U.S., Honduras, the Dominican Republic, India, Turkey, Canada, Serbia, Peru and Venezuela.  Bird of paradox reports that this year alone in Venezuela, there have been more than 20 trans people murdered so far.  This is deeply saddening and upsetting – launching violent assaults and murdering people are not appropriate or acceptable ways to treat the trans community.

Privilege is something that we continually think and write about.  But what exactly is privilege?  One way that people think of privilege is “You haven’t thought of these issues in the same way that I have because they don’t affect you in the same way.”  Another way to think about privilege is “You don’t have to think of these issues because they don’t affect you.”  Echidne of the Snakes has a post titled Thoughts on privilege (by Suzie) in which she discusses privilege and how it plays into our lives.

There’s a post on Womanist Musings about how an eight year old girl from Winnipeg showed up at school with her arms covered with white supremacist markings like swatstikas (which were “sun wheels that represented peace and love”) and “H.H.” for “Heil Hitler”.  Her parents taught her that Hitler was a “good man ‘for killing lots of people that didn’t belong there'”.  When a detective asked her for her parents’ thoughts on ethnic minorities, she responded that they felt that ethnic minorities “‘should be killed or go back to their country'”.  She also said “Some people from Pakistan carry AIDS and they could kill you”.  Remember that these insidious words are coming from the mouth of an eight year old.  Her parents clearly are not setting a good example in perpetuating their bigotry.

Kudos to the New York Times

2 06 2009

An editorial appeared today in the New York Times that appropriately and accurately described the murder of Dr. Tiller as “a reprehensible act of domestic terrorism directed toward the dwindling cadre of physicians who risk their safety to perform legal medical procedures.”

It also addresses the sustained harassment and violence that abortion clinics and abortion providers routinely experienced and still experience today and says (Bold emphasis mine):

Attorney General Eric Holder says the United States Marshal Service will begin protecting certain abortion clinics and doctors. Mr. Holder should consider taking the additional step of revitalizing the National Task Force on Violence against Health Care Providers that former Attorney General Janet Reno established during the Clinton years. There must be a sustained focus by federal and state officials to prevent further acts of violence and intimidation. If it turns out that additional laws are needed, Congress should take action.

The editorial also uses the label “anti-choice” instead of “pro-life”.  Again, kudos to the NY Times for featuring this!

In Memory of Dr. George Tiller

1 06 2009

I am a bit late on blogging about this so by this point, most of you probably already heard about the sad and unfortunate assassination of Dr. George Tiller this past Sunday, May 31st. Dr. Tiller was an abortion provider in Wichita, Kansas, and was one of the only doctors in the country who performed late term abortions. He was shot and murdered in the foyer of his church on Sunday morning while he was distributing the weekly bulletin. He has endured and survived a lot of anti-choice violence in the past, including physical assaults, attacks on his clinic, and threats. Scott Roeder is the main suspect responsible for Dr. Tiller’s murder and is being held in a Wichita jail.

The National Organization for Women declared today as a Day of Mourning for Dr. Tiller. He is a true vagina warrior, one who has steadfastly committed himself and his life to women’s health care and providing such an essential and necessary service to many women in need. He will certainly be missed in the feminist community.

Here are some links where you can get more coverage on Dr. Tiller’s murder:

Patients Remember Dr. Tiller

The life of a brave man

That’s Quite the Glass House You’ve Got There

George Tiller: Casualty of the Culture Wars?

Why Clinic Violence is Obama’s Problem

Will Media Report Dr. George Tiller’s Murder as an Act of Terrorism?

Community Blog Roundup and a Cartoon: In Honor of Dr. Tiller

Economic downturn affects abortion seekers and abortion providers

20 05 2009

planned parenthood

According to an article in today’s LA Times, the Planned Parenthood in Los Angeles County has 15% more patient cases now than they had at this time last year.  And ACCESS in Oakland, CA, an organization that helps low income women with reproductive health care, 72% of calls received are from women contemplating abortions which is up from 60% last year.

Executive director Destiny Lopez says that most of the women calling already have families but feel like they don’t have the financial capacity to have another child, contrary to popular stereotypes of childless women getting abortions.

The article points out the unsurprising fact that women are factoring in the economy and their current financial circumstances when deciding whether or not to have children.  Women are realizing that they cannot afford to raise a child (or in many instances, another child) during these economic times, whereas under better economic circumstances they would’ve just had continued their pregnancies and had children.

However, the economic downturn has also made it difficult for women seeking abortions to get those abortions.  For low income women who are already struggling, paying for an abortion can be very difficult.  The cost of an abortion  ranges from around $450 for a first-trimester abortion to $1,200 for a second trimester abortion.  Not all insurance companies are willing to cover the cost of an abortion and enrolling in Medi-Cal, California’s health care system for the poor, can often be a slow and tedious process.  In some  cases, women who wanted to have first-trimester abortions and scrambled to put enough money together found out that by the time their insurance came through, it was too late for a first-trimester abortion and they were uncomfortable with having a second-trimester abortion (nor did they have enough money to cover one).

Abortion clinics are also suffering due to the economic recession.  Some clinics have had to shut down.  For example, the Women’s Choice Clinic, one of Oakland’s oldest feminist abortion clinics, closed not too long ago because it couldn’t pay all of its bills.  This increases the burden of abortion clinics, like Planned Parenthood, that are still open and have more women seeking abortions.

A more optimistic point of the article is the fact that more women today are conscientious of using birth control than they were a year ago:

A recent Gallup Organization survey conducted for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reported that nearly one in 10 married woman indicated that the economy was a factor in their decision to postpone a planned pregnancy. That same survey found that one in five women is more concerned about having an unintended pregnancy than a year ago and about one in five women is more conscientious about using birth control.