Life Choices: A 20th Century Book in a 21st Century World

November 19, 2011 § 1 Comment

by ELENA

Are you a white, cisgender, educated, New Agey, feminist woman? If so, then Linda Weber’s book Life Choices: The Teachings of Abortion (published by Sentient Publications) is an excellent book for you. If you are not, then Linda Weber has very little to offer. Weber, a prominent feminist and counselor wrote Life Choices using her experience as an abortion counselor at a women’s clinic in Boulder, Colorado. While Weber’s intentions were good, the execution is far from it.

Like many “second wave” feminist leaders who rose to prominence in the 1970s (I’m looking at you, Gloria Steinem), Weber follows a cissexist, binarist point of view throughout the book when she repeatedly writes about women’s unique/magical/etc ability to bear children. Could someone please inform Ms. Weber that not all women can get pregnant? And that some men can? And that sex and gender is not nearly as cut-and-dried as she makes it out to be?  Weber missed a great opportunity to write about special issues and concerns of nonbinary individuals seeking advice about abortion — an issue that is not mentioned enough in our current reproductive rights dialogue.

Weber does make some good points: a crisis pregnancy and/or abortion can be an opportunity for personal growth and development, and this perspective is refreshing. In writing about the history of the pro-choice movement, she makes a very important point about the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision: Roe  had more to do with establishing physicians’ rights than it did with protecting the health, well-being, and bodily autonomy of people seeking safe abortions.  Unfortunately, these passages get lost among her New Age navel-gazing. I have no issues with those who enjoy meditation and/or worshiping The Divine Feminine, but if your spiritual habits are not of the “woo-woo” variety, you’re not going to enjoy this book. Weber’s message alienates both Christians (surprise: some Christians are feminist!) and skeptics alike. Some of her advice is simply not practical: while I can’t deny the possibility of abortion  via soul-to-soul communication between a fetus and its carrier, I do not think that this a realistic or practical method to recommend to anyone.

Legislators in Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia, and Michigan have introduced anti-choice legislation, from increased restrictions to abortion access and funding to even more disturbing proposed “personhood amendments” that would also outlaw most forms of birth control.

Rick Snyder, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, et al want to restrict our bodily autonomy, and bring us back into a world where, like a teenaged Weber, we would have pretend to be married so we could receive an abortion via IUD implantation, and risk an infection. They are not interested in going on a vision quest. They don’t care if we meditate. They are not going to listen politely to us. The personal stories in Lie Choices are touching, but out of place in an increasingly hostile political and social environment.

Now is not the time to get in touch with our inner goddess. Now is the time to hurl bricks.

This review is part of a blog tour hosted by Linda Weber’s publisher, Sentient Publications, who provided me with a review copy. The next blog on the tour is at The Abortion Gang on November 20 and the previous blog on the tour was at The Abortion Monologues. Linda Weber will be doing an actual physical tour of the west coast in February. Please consult her website for more details closer to that date.

PPNYC’s Fall Training Institute

October 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

by MIRANDA

Planned Parenthood of New York City will soon host its annual Fall Training Institute, a series of free and low-cost training sessions “for health professionals and anyone who wants to learn and remain knowledgeable on sexual and reproductive health issues.” Selected topic titles include Public Insurance & Reproductive Health Care; Empowering and Supporting Our Transgender Youth – Taking Lessons from the Film Gun Hill Road; Don’t Forget the Pleasure in Sex Education; and Talking About Abortion With Confidence.

For more information and to sign up for a training, visit the website here.

Kansas Should Serve as a Warning to Virginia Women

August 29, 2011 § 2 Comments

This is a guest post by Dr. Jim Kenley, the former Commissioner of Health in Virginia from 1976 — 1986. Thanks to Dr. Kenley and also to Katherine Greenier, Director of the Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU of Virginia.

A few weeks ago, a disturbing situation arose in Kansas that brought the state perilously close to banning abortion within its borders. The legislature, with the governor’s support, enacted a new licensing and regulatory law that resulted in the creation of “emergency” regulations giving abortion providers just a few days to comply with impossible and medically unnecessary requirements.

These regulations, which demanded precise sizes for janitorial closets, no-variance room temperatures, and other ridiculous requirements, were purportedly established to protect the health and safety of women, but in truth had one and only one purpose: to shut down the three existing abortion facilities in the state.

Fortunately, a federal judge temporarily enjoined the new regulations, and all three clinics in Kansas are still able to provide services, at least for now.

The situation in Kansas should serve as a warning to Virginians. Our General Assembly passed its own regulatory law this spring motivated by the same anti-choice agenda that spurred the foolishness in Kansas. And now Governor Robert McDonnell is forcing the Board of Health to adopt new regulations in an unprovoked “emergency” process that bypasses the normal public notice and comment periods for changes in state regulations, and reduces opportunities for input from the trained professionals at the state agencies who know the most about the issues at hand.

As a retired doctor and former health commissioner for the Commonwealth of Virginia, I am deeply concerned about these developments, because I fear that we, like Kansas, are attempting to turn back the clock on women’s health in a way that could have devastating effects.

Although I never performed an abortion, when I was a young physician in Cincinnati and Atlanta in the 1950s, I helped women who needed emergency medical care following either self-performed or “back alley” abortions. Later, in practice, one memorable case was a mature, educated mother of two whose spouse had recently survived a brain hemorrhage. Pregnant some 20 years before the Supreme Court legalized abortions and with nowhere to turn, she desperately tried to self-abort with a hat pin.

In the middle of the night, I was called to her house where I found her in excruciating pain suffering from severe chills and a fever of 105 degrees. After telling me what she had done, I rushed her to the hospital where she received emergency medical treatment that thankfully saved her life.

In September, the Virginia Board of Health will propose emergency regulations to require abortion clinics to meet hospital-like standards of care, even though abortion is one of the safest medical procedures available in this country and is already heavily controlled by state and federal regulations.

To be certain, supporters of these new regulations will claim that elevating abortion providers to mini-hospitals by forcing them to make costly architectural upgrades will somehow protect women’s health and safety. Women definitely deserve the highest standard of medical care especially when it comes to reproductive healthcare. But women in Virginia are already receiving abortion care at the highest standard, and medically inappropriate and unnecessary regulations will only serve to restrict access to the full range of reproductive health care services and further marginalize young, low-income, uninsured and minority women by decreasing their health care options.

Early abortion care is already difficult to access in the Commonwealth, with 86% of Virginia’s counties lacking any abortion providers at all. The new regulations could make abortions both harder to get and more expensive, possibly taking us back to something akin to that time I recall with such great dismay, when every abortion was a health risk.

That’s why I hope my fellow medical professionals with the Board of Health will not bow to political pressure or rhetoric from special interest groups. Women in Virginia are already receiving outstanding abortion care, so there is no need for medically inappropriate and unnecessary regulations that will not only reduce access to abortion for all women, but especially for existing marginalized women.

There are additional consequences of fewer providers and more expensive abortion services as a result of overregulation. Virginia abortion providers also offer an array of reproductive healthcare services to women as well as men, including life-saving cancer screenings, birth control, STI testing and treatment and pre and post-natal care. These critical health services could be reduced or eliminated altogether.

As the former Commissioner of Health under four governors, I urge the members of the Virginia Department of Health and the Board of Health to adhere to their charge — to protect the public health and safety of the people of the Commonwealth by adopting only those regulations that are medically appropriate, and based in science.

If they do, they will show us that on important matters involving constitutional rights and health care, Virginia can rise above politics. We can be better than Kansas.

Reproductive Rights Cartoon Caption Contest

August 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

by MIRANDA

The Center for Reproductive Rights has launched an awesome cartoon caption contest. They might be short on responses since ladies are inherently unfunny, but luckily there are at least a few men who support reproductive rights? Or so I’ve heard?

  1. Submit your caption(s) between now and August 23, 2011. There is no limit on how many captions you can submit.
  2. Three finalists will be selected for each cartoon by the Center for Reproductive Rights and announced in the August 25th issue of our ReproWrites eNewsletter.
  3. Public voting on the finalists will begin on August 25th and end at midnight on August 29th.
  4. The two grand prize winners will be announced on August 30th. They will each receive a printed version of the cartoon with the winning caption and a gift bag.

Take a look at the cartoons and submit your captions! I’m still working on mine…

The Latest Anti-Choice Bill from Indiana

May 11, 2011 § 2 Comments

This is a guest post by Danielle, who is a 25 year-old resident of Indianapolis and a firm believer in a woman’s right to choose.

Abortion always has been a subject of intense debate … a debate that’s so emotionally charged that it’s totally unrealistic to think there ever will be a solution, an understanding, or even an agreement to disagree. As a resident of Indiana, I can’t watch TV or listen to the radio without hearing about the recent House-approved bill that, if signed by Governor Mitch Daniels, will cut $3 million in federal funds that the state distributes to Planned Parenthood every year. Associated Press says that move could make Indiana the first state to cut off all funding for Planned Parenthood

From my understanding, the logic behind the bill is that social conservatives, who view abortions as wrong, want to somehow regulate them by taking away funds from organizations that perform abortions. Apparently, they think that will make abortions stop happening.

But their plan is faulty at best. Taking away funding for Planned Parenthood also will withdraw money from the agency’s budgets for cervical cancer screenings, Axess Ultrasound tests, breast exams, and STD testing.

Personal beliefs aside, the simple fact remains that abortions are going to happen whether there is a proper facility to administer them or not. Passing this bill would not only increase the likelihood of unsafe abortions from incompetent sources, but also decrease the availability of basic female healthcare services to those who need it the most.

NPR recently noted that Indiana’s governor is between the proverbial rock and hard place with a looming presidential candidacy announcement in the near future. On one hand, if Daniels vetoes the bill, he risks losing $4 million in federal grants for Indiana’s family planning services. But, on the other hand, signing the bill will strengthen social conservatives’ confidence in his support of their agenda.

As Daniels sits down at his desk to consider this bill, I only hope that my state’s governor will be able to detach himself from political motives and religious beliefs to put on his “Common Sense” hat. Abortion and the need to prevent it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when you take away money from the very establishments that work so diligently to educate the public on the topics of family planning and safe sex.

Why Insurance Coverage For Abortion Matters

April 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

This is a guest post by Katherine A. Greenier, Director of the Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU of Virginia. Read her previous post here.

Late Tuesday night, on March 29, 2011, Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA) handed down an amendment to Delegate Terry’s Kilgore’s HB 2434 bill, which directed the Commonwealth to establish a health exchange in accordance with the federal health care legislation. The Governor’s amendment will restrict Virginia’s health insurance exchange from covering abortion services, except in the cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother.

Abortion is part of basic health care for women. For some that may seem like an odd thing to say. Abortion has become such a hotly contested issue in this country that we’ve lost sight of the role abortion plays in women’s lives. But if you stop and think about it, every woman’s situation is different and many things can go wrong in a pregnancy. Every woman deserves the opportunity to make the best decision for her circumstances, whether her decision is raising a child, adoption or abortion. No woman plans to have an abortion, but if she needs one, insurance should cover the procedure just as it covers all other pregnancy related care.

Unfortunately, some politicians have introduced legislation that would make it harder for women to access the health care they need. These measures have been proposed throughout the country, including here in Virginia, to prevent insurance companies from covering abortion care. By introducing the amendment to HB 2434, the Governor reopens the debate on an issue that has already been addressed in the General Assembly. HB 2147 and SB 1202, bills to ban abortion coverage in health insurance plans, were introduced at the start of session and received hearings. Both bills were defeated in the Senate Education and Health committee. These measures would have taken, and the amendment to HB 2434 could take away insurance coverage that millions of women currently have and make it difficult if not impossible for many women to take care of themselves and their families.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Back Up Your Birth Control!

March 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

by MIRANDA

It’s the 10th anniversary of the Back Up Your Birth Control day of action. Today is an opportunity to learn about emergency contraception (EC), how it works, when you can take it, and why access to it is threatened — and a reminder to back yourself up!

This day is a project of the National Institute for Reproductive Health. They have an awesome website where you can find answers to some common questions, as well as ideas for EC-related activism:

Sign the petition calling on the FDA to end restrictions on EC. Tell the FDA to stop stalling and expand over-the-counter access to EC to women of all ages.

Sign the petition to say that contraception is prevention. Speak out to help ensure that comprehensive contraceptive care, including EC, is covered free of charge under the preventive care provision of health care reform.

Sign ‘em! And back it up, ladies. It’s so much easier to buy over-the-counter emergency contraception now so you have it on hand; if the need arises, you can skip the anxious rush to the drugstore when you or your friend is in a bind.

Legislators Take Risks with Women’s Health and Reproductive Rights

March 25, 2011 § 1 Comment

This is a guest post by Katherine A. Greenier, Director of the Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU of Virginia.

Legislative maneuverings are nothing new, but the Virginia General Assembly, with some last minute shenanigans during this past session, may have just maneuvered itself into reproductive rights morass with very real legal implications.

On February 24, 2011, the House of Delegates passed SB 924, a bill that requires the Board of Health to issue regulations related to infection prevention and disaster preparedness for hospitals, nursing homes and certified nursing facilities. As approved by the Senate, SB 924 had nothing to do with abortions, but House members added a last minute amendment that classifies “facilities in which 5 or more first trimester abortions per month are performed” as a category of hospitals.

Lt. Governor Bill Bolling broke a 20-20 tie in the Senate when he voted in favor of the bill as amended in the House, sending it to Governor Bob McDonnell, who will almost certainly sign it.

The effect of SB 924? That will depend on the regulations produced by the Board of Health, but clinics in the state that currently provide safe and legal first-trimester abortions will have to meet at least some of the facilities requirements now imposed on the various types of hospitals classified under state law, possibly the requirements now mandated for outpatient surgical centers. Even doctor’s offices that provide medication abortions in the very beginning stages of pregnancy could be affected.

« Read the rest of this entry »

PPNYC’s Roe on the Rocks!

March 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

by MIRANDA

Hey, New Yorkers who will be in town on April 4 — I’m jealous of you! Because you can go to Planned Parenthood’s annual ROE ON THE ROCKS BENEFIT CONCERT featuring Sara Benincasa, Thao with the Get Down Stay Down, Ana Egge, and The Bloodsugars.

The Roe on the Rocks concert is held every year to recognize the anniversary of Roe v Wade, the historic Supreme Court Case which 38 years ago confirmed women’s right to privacy and thus access to abortion services. The show couldn’t come at a more important time – following three months of the worst attack on not just reproductive rights but the right to basic health care, that our country has ever seen.

What: 4th Annual Roe on the Rocks Benefit Concert for Planned Parenthood of New York City

Who: Sara Benincasa / Thao with The Get Down Stay Down / Anna Egge / The Bloodsugars / Other Special Guests to come

Where: Bowery Ballroom, NYC

When: April 4th, 2011 at 7:00pm

Tickets (18+): General Admission $25 / VIP $75

Remember, all proceeds from the event will go to Planned Parenthood of New York City and support their amazing, crucial work. Tickets are available now!

KZSU Radio Interview

March 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

by MIRANDA

I was recently interviewed by my friend Molly (of men’s rights commentary fame) on her KZSU radio show. I speak about feminism, blogs, and the recent onslaught of conservative lady hate. Good times.

Click here to listen in and admire my smooth radio voice!

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