Tag Archive for abortion

For Women’s Equality Day, let’s defend women’s health

pp POSTER

Today marks the 95th anniversary of woman suffrage. That’s a big deal to me. My grandmother was the last generation of women who were denied the most basic right of a citizen — the right to vote.

But that didn’t mark the end of the Women’s Movement. Today we still make just 77 cents on the dollar as compared to men.

We still are less likely to get promoted into higher management and more likely to lose our jobs because we take time off to tend to sick children. And understand that we are the ones expected to stay home with sick children.

Men still think they can tell us whether and when we can have children. Remember the Congressional hearings about contraception in 2012? All of the panelists and all of the witnesses were men. When Sandra Fluke made noise about the injustice of that, Rush Limbaugh called her a slut.

Conservatives in state legislatures and in Congress — nearly all men — keep trying to take our right to contraception away from us.

When I was getting married in 1971, I had to sign a paper stating that my wedding was less than 90 days away before my doctor was allowed to prescribe the Pill for me. It was illegal for a doctor to prescribe any kind of birth control for a woman, and the law was so paternalistic that it was the doctor who would be punished, not the woman.

Now there’s a new push to close women’s clinics, especially Planned Parenthood.

No matter where you stand on the morality of abortion (I say it’s only the business of the woman and her doctor), Planned Parenthood prevents far more abortions than it performs.

Low-income women get their health care from Planned Parenthood clinics. That’s where I got my care when my kids were young and I was a single mother struggling to make ends meet. I had my annual checkups and cancer screenings there, and I got my contraception there. When I had bronchitis, I got antibiotics there. The clinic likely saved my life.

I was at a counter-protest last week and the people who wanted to close down Planned Parenthood were among the rudest, meanest, nastiest anti-life people I have ever encountered. Their behavior shook me to the core. Apparently, fetuses matter more than their mothers because these people didn’t care that women die when they lose access to health care. In fact, some said the women who get care there deserve to die.

Well, I have news for these creeps. I can be as loud as you are. I can make as many signs and I can fight just as hard for women’s lives as you fight against them.

I’m not good at the violence they so love to promote and perpetrate, but I can love better than any one of them, and I will fight for women’s access to health care with every ounce of strength I have.

We have to draw the line now. We can’t let them take away any more women’s health clinics, whether or not the clinics perform abortions — which, by the way are still perfectly legal.

Women’s lives matter.

 

 

Don’t you dare tell me about “God’s plan”

pp rallyI helped organize a counter-protest this morning to an anti-abortion protest in front of Planned Parenthood, and while I was able to keep my cool for the most part, the level of misinformation and the lack of critical thinking skills left me shaking my head in dismay (and muttering the F-bomb under my breath).

We set up across the street from Planned Parenthood and they began to trickle over to stand in front of us to hide our signs. I stood my ground in front of one man as he tried to push his way past me and threatened to call the police because I was standing my ground. He pushed me again.

“Sir, what you just did is classified as assault. If you don’t move away from me right now, I will call the police and I will press charges.”

He pushed again.

“I’m trying to save babies,” he said.

I stood firm. “I’m trying to save women. Now, move away or I will call the police and I will have you arrested for assault.”

I stared him down and he moved on.

I stood in front of another woman and she started yelling at me.

“I’m 73!” she said.

“I’m 63,” I answered. “What does that have to do with anything?”

I asked her if she’s for universal access to health care. Naturally, she said something about the poor babies.

“What about the poor women?” I asked.

“I’m a Christian,” she said.

“So am I. What about the already-born?”

I told her I chose not to have an abortion when I was advised to, and then my son was killed by a health care system that wouldn’t take care of him because he couldn’t get health insurance.”

God took your son,” she said. “God has a plan.”

I lost it. Fortunately, my rabbi friend, Wolff was standing there and folded his arms around me.

“What took her son,” he said to the woman, “had nothing to do with God. Her son was killed by greed, not God.”

Meanwhile, I was sobbing and mumbling, “fuck off,” into his chest so she wouldn’t be able to hear me.

“I used to be an agnostic,” she said. “I tried every religion there is before I was born again.”

Wolff tightened his arms around me and glared at her silently.

The woman backed off, and the next time she tried to talk to me about how God took my son, I excused myself, turned around and walked away. I don’t need to talk to someone with the critical thinking skills of a rock.

“I wonder why it’s God’s will when greed kills your son, but not when a woman chooses to terminate a pregnancy,” Wolff said.

Great question.

Another man carrying a Christian flag tried the God thing again. He had overheard me speaking about my son.

“Bless you for choosing life,” he said. “God will bless you because God has a plan.”

I glared at him and said, “God didn’t kill my son. A greedy doctor did by choosing to let him die rather than save his life. Please just leave me alone.”

Then another woman asked why I seemed so angry because she, after all, was so loving with her anti-abortion sign.

I told her I’m angry because my son died and she and her friends didn’t seem to care about that at all.

“Oh, you’re angry because you couldn’t kill your baby,” she said.

I couldn’t even imagine where that had come from, so I explained that I had chosen not to have an abortion, but that our broken health care system had killed my child.

“So, you wish you had been the one to kill him?” she asked.

“Fuck off,” I said and walked away. That was when I had to leave. I can’t stand having someone think it’s OK that people are dying every day from lack of access to health care, that if you close women’s clinics, women die, and then turn around and call themselves “pro-life” or “Christian” because they want to limit women’s choices.

A few of the people I spoke to  wanted to see alternatives to Planned Parenthood open up, wanted to see everyone have access to health care, were anti-death penalty and anti-war. I really liked talking to them, even though we disagreed on abortion.

But the vast majority of people I encountered were ready to hate me without knowing anything about me. All it was about was their view of God and trying to force it on me. The Romanian man I met said it beautifully.

“God is there to love us and help us through the worst of things. We honor that by loving each other, even if we don’t agree.”

As we were speaking a teenage girl said to me, “God has a plan.”

“Please don’t tell me about God and plans,” I said. “If you ever lose a child, perhaps you’ll understand where I’m coming from here. God had nothing to do with my son’s death; it was a greedy corrupt system where he couldn’t get insurance and he couldn’t get care. Planned Parenthood took care of me when I was uninsured and they gave me contraceptives. When I got sick, they treated me and probably saved me life. They helped me prevent an unplanned pregnancy, so you could say they helped me prevent having to have an abortion.”

A young man stepped forward and tried to tell me something about pregnancy, speaking over me as I spoke to the young woman.

“First of all,” I said, “Never talk over me. That’s just rude, and it won’t save the lives of any pre-born children, OK? And since you’ve never been pregnant and never will be, you have no place lecturing me on pregnancy.”

Let me just say it one more time for emphasis.

God did not take my son from me. God had nothing to do with it. My son died from greed. He died from a broken health care system. He died from negligent homicide.

If we take women’s clinics away, women will die, and while they may not matter to you, they matter to me and to all the people who love them.

The anti-life brigade

anti-lifers

I went to a rally last night in support of women’s health, reproductive and otherwise.

Let’s just remember first of all, that abortion is legal, and it needs to remain so.

When I was advised to have an abortion, I chose not to, with the operative word here being chose. But then his heart was stopped by a system that refused to give him the medical care he needed. When we fix that, we can start to talk about abortion.

After promising he wouldn’t sign any new restrictions on women’s right to choose, Gov. McCrory signed new restrictions into law, and now more restrictions are about to hit his desk. We’ll see if he breaks his promise again.

Of course, as soon as the anti-abortion folks heard about the demonstration, they showed up with their signs and intimidation tactics (they stood nearby, taking photos of us, I guess for their web sites). We responded by taking photos of them.

I decided to engage. I asked whether they supported the right of every human being to have access to health care. At first they didn’t want to talk because a television reporter was interviewing one of them.

I repeated my question.

“Well, that’s a matter of opinion,” one of them said.

“So’s your cause,” I said. “What’s your opinion?”

“But it’s about babies’ lives,” another man said.

“My son was a baby once,” I said. “He died at 33 because he couldn’t get care. He did nothing wrong. What about his life? What about the lives of the five to seven people who die in North Carolina every day because we won’t expand Medicaid?”

“It’s about the babies,” the man said.

Mothers’ lives don’t matter. The already-born can drop dead for all they care.

“Then stop calling yourself pro-life,” I said. “Life continues after birth, and if you don’t support it, you’re not pro-life.”

This isn’t just about babies. It’s about the lives of mothers and about the lives of grinding poverty many of these babies face after they’re born because their parents can’t find decent jobs.

These anti-lifers want nothing more than to force women to pump out babies. Many of them are also against contraception and support allowing a boss to fire an employee for using it. Some of them want to force women to carry non-viable fetuses to term; some also want to criminalize miscarriage.They say rape is wrong, but many support a rapist’s parental rights after they have forced a woman to have his child, keeping him — and the trauma of the crime he committed — in her life forever.

These are not reasonable people, but their out-of-the-mainstream views are becoming law in states across the country.

Many media people are trying to make them sound reasonable. In fact, last night the media paid more attention to them than to the demonstration.

When women’s clinics close, they’re labeled “abortion clinics,” even when abortion is only about 10 percent of what they do. I write a letter to the editor every time I see that, but the letters are’t always published, and I’m sure they’re not read in numbers as great as the original story.

Planned Parenthood was my health care provider for several years when I didn’t have health insurance. I don’t know what I would have done without that clinic. I had to walk through some screaming meanies to get to my checkups and cancer screenings because the media perpetuate the myth that everyone walking into a women’s health clinic is there for an abortion. Planned Parenthood helped me avoid an unwanted pregnancy.

I know some who oppose abortion also support helping poor families cope, feeding children, paying their parents a living wage, are anti-war and against the death penalty. Those people are in the minority of a movement that wants to subjugate women more than it wants to protect babies.

Unless you are willing to support life after it emerges from the birth canal, you are not pro-life and I will call you out.

It’s part of my mission to educate people.

 

 

 

Let’s talk about women’s health and “balanced” reporting

femcareAs a reporter, I was always careful to tell both sides of a story, unless the “other side” was a lie — i.e. tobacco is safe, the world is flat or the free market can handle health care without any regulation whatsoever.

It was particularly important when dealing with controversial issues like abortion. I bent over backwards to be fair because although I am pro-choice, I chose not to have an abortion when I was advised to have one. There might have been a circumstance under which I would have chosen to end a pregnancy, but I didn’t encounter it.

I will not, however, condemn any woman who chooses an abortion because I am not in her shoes. According to the law of the land, she has a right to make that choice, with choice being the operative word here.

This week, the only clinic in the state that was eligible to perform safe, legal abortions was shut down by the state, just after the governor signed a law that will close the other 15 clinics.

The thing is, this isn’t just about abortion. These clinics aren’t abortion factories; they provide affordable care to women who are uninsured. I know because I got my primary care at an “abortion clinic” for several years when I didn’t have insurance and I never had an abortion. I’m not the only person who realizes how important these women’s clinics are for women’s overall health.

Women’s clinics also do well-women care such as cancer screenings. Many also have obstetricians who offer affordable care through pregnancy and childbirth. When you close down women’s clinics, you close down women’s access to health care. A lot of people are aware of this, and I would expect newspaper reporters to be among them.

However, when I opened my newspaper this morning, I might have thought I was the only one who knows about the diversity of services offered at women’s clinics and the importance of having them in the community. The front-page headline stated that the “abortion clinic closure” was “praised.”

Perhaps the closure was praised by people who oppose abortion under any circumstance, but the issue here is also access to affordable care, cancer screenings, contraception and other medications.

The problem here is that there is precious little help for women now. A woman of childbearing age (which I no longer am) has a right to decide when and if she will have a child. That’s pretty simple if she has effective contraception, but now that Femcare is closed, that makes affordable contraception more difficult to get. And the very people who deny women access to abortion also want to deny them access to contraception. Then, when the inevitable happens and a baby is born, these same people complain that poor women keep “pumping out” babies.

No matter what, they want to lay the blame on women — not on the men who impregnate them, not on a society that punishes people for being poor, but on women, often because we’re seen as sinful. Eve committed the first sin, after all. That’s what I was taught growing up.

So now, a group of old white men in Raleigh has decided that women can’t have access to abortion and the newspaper reporter can’t find a single person to say it’s not a good thing? No one is available to say women need the services this clinic provided?

I find that hard to believe.

 

No, we won’t go back!

This is what the extreme right wing wants for women.

On the last day of the legislative session, the Missouri legislature passed a bill allowing employers and health plan providers to opt out of covering contraception or abortion in health plans if such health services violate their religious convictions. The bill also gives the state Attorney General the authority to sue any government official or agency that overrules the state law. The legislation,  modeled after the failed Blunt Amendment in the US Senate, passed the state Senate 28-6 and the House 105-33.

There’s no word yet on whether the governor will sign the bill into law, but things are getting worse and worse for women as state legislatures pass increasingly insane bills to limit women’s access to birth control, abortion — even basic health care services like annual exams.

What they want, apparently is to re-enslave women. No birth control, no abortions — they’ll just keep us so busy with pregnancy and child-rearing that we won’t have time or energy to challenge their authority. And we’ll be worn out before we’re 40 and dead before we’re 50 because they want to keep cutting our access to health care too.

There’s this in Missouri, the closing of women’s health clinics in Texas, the attempts at “personhood” laws, the bill in Tennessee that would make women prove their miscarriages weren’t abortions.

Next up? Employers will be able to ask you whether you’re using birth control and fire you for it.

These decisions are intensely personal and I don’t think anyone but the person who might get pregnant and the potential father of her child should have a say in them. My employer has no business in that decision, nor does my pastor or any state or federal lawmaker.

In a nation that is supposed to offer me freedom from your religious edicts, this is just nuts.

But here’s the thing. I grew up in a church that held many of these beliefs. Women were not equal to men, we were not allowed to teach men, meaning we couldn’t hold any position of authority in the church, we were to submit to the authority of men in all things.

We were supposed to welcome as many children as God would bless us with and vote the way we were told by our husbands. We went from our fathers’ authority to our husbands’ and then if we outlived our husbands, our sons or sons-in-law could take over telling us what to do.

This didn’t appeal to me, so I left that church. But now, state legislators are trying to impose those same religious views on women across the country.

The Establishment Clause in the Bill of Rights exists to keep this from happening. We aren’t supposed to be governed by the religious views of anyone, least of all a bunch of creepy old white men who want to re-enslave us.

We can fight this. All we have to do is get out and vote against these clowns. It’s time for them to go because their time is long gone.

We no longer live in Victorian times, we don’t need to be put on a pedestal. We need to be treated as equals, capable of making our own decisions about our own bodies. We, alone, own ourselves. Anything less is enslavement.

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