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:






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.

Weekend Reads

22 08 2009

Dana Goldstein on the need for a public health insurance plan to provide reproductive health coverage.  Over at The Nation, Sharon Lerner has more on why women need health care reform.

An interesting photo essay that questions and explores what it means to be masculine.  It’s accompanied with an interview with the photographer, Chad States.  The subjects of some of the photos include trans men.

The children’s books industry is a very much white run industry and often children’s books are embedded, subtly and not-so-subtly, with racist undertones.  Read this post on Racism Review about children’s books are very much white-framed and whitewashed.

Here are some thoughts on 18-year old South African runner Caster Semenya whose female-ness was being questioned because she doesn’t conform to traditional western standards of femininity.  Bird of Paradox has more.

Michelle Obama should be allowed to wear shorts without coming under such scrutiny by the media and the public, especially while vacationing at the Grand Canyon.

Being careful with language is very important, especially since language is used to normalize.  There has been much discussion online about language and privilege.  Deeply Problematic takes on being blinded by privilege in these two posts: “Blinded by Privilege”: ableist language in critical discourse and For the Uninformed: Privilege, Perspective and The Little Things That Jab.  Hoyden About Town also has a post on unexamined privileges and unconscious behaviors.

Here is a long but interesting article that contextualizes the use of rape as a weapon of war.  Author Crystal Feimster, a historian at the University of North Carolina, claims that rape was used as a weapon of war way back in the Civil War, which is a new contention.

This one’s more of an uplifting story about a woman in a small West Virginian town, Maria Gunnoe, who took on the coal industry and was victorious.  She was a great community organizer who took action against the coal tycoons and despite threats, harassment and violence, she is not giving up the fight.

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.

Quick Hit: Healthy Teen Initiative amendment passed

25 07 2009

On Wednesday July 22nd, the US House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the Healthy Teen Initiative amendment to the proposed health care reform bill, Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009.  It passed 33 to 23.  Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA) introduced the Healthy Teen Initiative amendment, which supports comprehensive sex education by allocating $50 million dollars in state grant funding for “evidence-based education programs…to reduce teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.”  The grants are to be available to both public and private nonprofit programs, including ones presented in schools, community-based, and faith-based organizations.

President and CEO, Joseph DiNorcia, Jr. of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) said:

It is far past time that we start addressing the challenges to health and well being of young people with programs that comprehensively address sexual health and behavior instead of with programs that are ideologically based or narrowly focused. Thanks to the leadership of the Energy and Commerce Committee, we are one step closer to achieving this goal.

For Your Saturday

18 07 2009

Here are some good posts in the feminist blogosphere to check out:

Lessons from the Rape Culture and a piece inspired by that post.

The Obamas and the Door of No Return.

Hillary’s Challenge – Would putting women first make for better foreign policy?

The Latest Marriage Dust-Up.

Reproductive Rights Matter At Every Age.

Shave and get drunk, because you’re already brilliant.

“Disabled Girls” Video Game.

The Supreme Court and Redefining Racism.

Friday Linky Love

17 07 2009

The Progressive Case Against Sotomayor:

Sonia Sotomayor’s all-but-certain confirmation will be a notable victory for Democrats, and for the cause of diversity on the nation’s highest court. Whether it will be a victory for criminal justice is another question—one that seems to matter little to most of her liberal supporters.

The Rights of Men:

I’ve been half-listening to the Sotomayor hearings all this week, and have been fairly bored—how many times can you listen to a woman answer the same question? But every once in a while someone throws out a real gem, like Senator John Coryn (R-Texas) quoting Martin Luther King Jr. to make an anti-affirmative action point (because that’s exactly what MLK meant when he said he dreamed of a day when his children would “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”)

PFAW on the litany of right wing fringe lies about hate crimes legislation:

People for the American Way has released a document about the tired, hoary, untethered-from-reality pack of lies that the professional anti-gay set keeps spewing about hate crimes legislation, “As Senate Prepares to Take Up Hate Crimes Bill, Far Right’s Inflammatory Claims Should Not Be Taken Seriously.”

Lateisha Green’s Killer Dwight DeLee Convicted of Manslaughter as a Hate Crime:

There is a verdict in the trial of Dwight DeLee for the death of Lateisha Green.  Green was a trans woman who died from gunshot wounds in November; DeLee was originally charged with murder in the second degree as a hate crime.

Just minutes ago, the verdict came back and was announced on Twitter (the AP also has a blurb).  A jury convicted Dwight DeLee of manslaughter in the first degree as a hate crime.

Real Bras? They’re not for trans women:

On a slightly less surreal, but possibly more absurd note than the trainwreck that is VWHC’s trans exclusionary policy comes this report in the Vancouver (where else?) section of Xtra West (link here).

See, us trans women, we’re so speshul™ that we even get our own speshul™ underwear now.

“Affirmative Action Increases Diversity by Discriminating Against White Men”:

Only some crazy fringe politician that no one ever listens to or pays attention would say something like that right? I guess only Pat Buchanan on MSNBC. See video below if you can stomach it.

The Brazil Files: Bela or Bust Part 1 – On Gender:

I recognize that to say that the preoccupation with being beautiful for women in Brazil boils down to three separate entities is oversimplifying. Gender, class, and race obviously intersect constantly and are difficult to consider beyond their Venn diagram-like existence. Yet for the sake of clarity and hopefully accessibility, I have decided to discuss this topic in three parts: 1) gender, 2) class, and 3) race.

Ratification of Important Women’s Rights Document Sparks Controversy in Cameroun:

Let’s start off with some good news- Cameroun joined 27 other African countries in promoting the health and rights of women when it ratified the Maputo Protocol on May 28th, 2009.  The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, better known as the Maputo Protocol, guarantees the human rights of women throughout the continent.   Adopted by the African Union in 1993, the Protocol calls for the adoption and implementation of national measures that uphold women’s sexual and reproductive rights, political and social equality, and the right to live free from violence and coercion, while providing a comprehensive legal framework for holding African governments accountable for violations.

Eyelid Gluing for a “Western” Look:

I’ve posted in the past about surgical procedures used to give “Asian” eyes a more “Caucasian” or “Western” look. As Alexia R. showed us, though, there are temporary means of getting a similar effect, particularly gluing a fold into eyelids. WonderHowTo posted a video showing the technique:

Is Amitjo Kajla Too Pretty to be a Prison Guard?:

Former prison guard Amitjo revealed to the industrial tribunal in Birmingham that she believes that she was forced out of her job because of her appearance.  She is claiming constructive unfair dismissal. The chief complaints sited against her were the amount of make up that she wore and the alteration of her work uniform.  The work uniform was deemed to be to revealing, while Kajla claims that it was only reduced to be size appropriate.

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

Action Alert from Planned Parenthood

12 07 2009

Via an email I received from Planned Parenthood:

We’ve been deeply concerned that women would be the first targets in health care reform and now it’s happened. Yesterday, anti-choice Senator Orrin Hatch launched an attack on Planned Parenthood and the U.S. senators who were trying to help women.

Earlier this week, Senator Mikulski of Maryland, joined by four other senators, offered an amendment to make sure that preventive care for women — like birth control and cancer screenings — is included in health care legislation. The amendment also made sure women and their families can still see the doctors and nurses they trust.

The amendment passed, and it was a strong victory for women’s health. And now the other side is trying their best to take it away.

Within hours, Senator Hatch and his allies started spreading lies. Their aim: to cut millions of women — and Planned Parenthood — out of health care reform. Their method: to mislead the media and Americans about what the amendment actually does. Instead of telling the truth, he claimed that it mandates abortion coverage in an attempt to drum up opposition. This is an outright lie — and we need your help to fight back.

Senator Hatch and his allies have made themselves clear. They believe that providing trusted and essential health care to millions of Americans is less important than pushing their anti-choice ideology.

They are wrong. Women’s health matters — it matters to me and I know it matters to you. Let’s show him just how wrong he is — take a moment right now to sign a petition to Senator Hatch.

It is truly outrageous. Senator Hatch and his anti-women’s health allies are willing to sacrifice the health care of so many women, men, and families for one reason — to undermine women’s ability to get preventive and primary reproductive health care.

The fact is that without genuine access to care, women’s health is in jeopardy. You and I know that, and that’s why we won’t accept health care reform that cuts out reproductive health care and women’s health providers like Planned Parenthood. Please, sign your name and make sure Senator Hatch gets the message.

This isn’t the first attack on women’s health and Planned Parenthood since the health care reform debate began — and you can bet it won’t be the last. Thank you for standing strong with us today, and please bear with us as we communicate with you frequently on this critical struggle.

Take action now and sign the petition demanding that Senator Hatch stop misleading the public, stop undermining women’s reproductive health and in turn the general health of women and their families.

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.

Keep comprehensive women’s health care in reform bill!

2 07 2009

Women deserve and need access to comprehensive health care.  And when it comes to health care reform, it’s important that women and their health, including reproductive health, do not get discounted or sidelined as less of a priority.  But currently the Republican leadership on the Senate Finance Committee is pushing for a provision that will strip away crucial women’s reproductive health services.  Instead of creating a policy that would expand coverage, the language the Committee uses shows that coverage is shrinking.  What can you do?  Sign Planned Parenthood’s petition.  Tell the Senate Finance Committee that this is not acceptable.  We cannot further limit women’s access to comprehensive health care.  We won’t stand for this.

Monday Blogaround

30 06 2009

There’s a lot we’ve missed lately… so here are some good reads to catch up with:

As Pride Month comes to an end, and as we reflect on Stonewall: Obama Commemorates Stonewall, Inequality in the Marriage Equality Movement and The Real Stonewall Legacy.

Eve Ensler’s op-ed in The Washington Post: A Broken UN Promise in Congo.

Gender is a social construction, so two feminist parents in Sweden are raising their child gender non-specific.

Triggering and heartbreaking – Violence against the trans community is still very persistent and pervasive: Transgender Woman Brutally Beaten in Queens Bias Attack – TLDEF Demands Full Investigation Into Hate Crime.

Recession Depression: Having a good work/life balance is ideal, but how realistically achievable is it especially in economic hard times?

This caught my eye because even though I am not a big Chipotle fan, many of my friends rave about it: Chipotle Injustice – Chipotle is the nation’s most rapidly growing fast food chain, but how socially responsible is it?

Prison rape is a widespread phenomenon and the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission just released a new report with suggestions and guidelines on how to end prison rape.

Reflections on Privilege, Guilt and Identity.

Some body to love – you are more than just your body.

Racist Thinking at the Supreme Court – Again.

The connection between reproductive rights and sexual violence – “He Thought a Baby Would Keep Me Forever”: When Partner Abuse Isn’t a Bruise but a Pregnant Belly.

Society is obsessed with parenting and children – Vanessa Richmond at Alternet explores this further.

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.

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.