***my photos of the march***

09 August
wearing your choice
link : thoughts (6) : track it (0) : in abortion

There was a big discussion about this shirt (it just says "I had an abortion" in blue letters on a brown shirt if you don't care to follow the link) on the LJ feminist community maybe two weeks ago.

This week, Alison brings the same question to the WHB crew. I have to love these folks for not saying some of the things the LJ feminists said (many were of the "EGADS! That's shameful! Hide your abortion, you slut!" persuasion, sadly). Read the WHB comments - those who wouldn't wear the shirt cite safety and privacy concerns, which I think are completely valid. Having an abortion shouldn't be any more shameful than having your tubes tied or a kidney removed, in my opinion, but it also shouldn't have to be any more public.

Do you see anyone wearing a "I had a hysterectomy" t-shirt? No. But then, no one's afraid that vicious pro-lifers will start hurling words like "slut" and "whore" at them as the pro-life contingent did at the March if they admit to having such a procedure done. It's not politicized the way abortion is, yet it's still something people might not want to publicize about themselves.

While I respect that many women would choose not to wear this shirt in any context, I think there are times when making the fact that so many of the women's lives around you are made possible by their ability to legally choose abortion. I think these shirts are useful in letting other women know they're not alone, that abortion is normal and shame-free. As with any political message worn on your person, you need to be aware of how it could be received and be ready to have that conversation (I have a t-shirt that just says "eat", for instance, that sometimes gets me into conversations where I have to explain the whole history and position of size acceptance); when the subject is as contentious as abortion - and the opponents are as given to radicalism and evangelism - you need to know that you can handle the debate that will come your way.

That said, I don't believe I should choose my clothing based on fear (this is way too close to the idea that women who aren't "modest" invite sexual assualt - WRONG). And the idea that wearing one's abortion on one's sleeve should subject a woman to attack by anti-abortion folk just makes me want to go out and buy the shirt [Or make one that applies more directly - maybe "I would have an abortion."]. Political discourse should be more polite than that. Political discourse shouldn't be fucking dangerous.

I'd be curious to hear if women who've worn these shirts have been subjected to attacks outside of an expected confrontation (i.e. to a feminist meeting or the mall vs. during clinic defense or at a protest). I wonder if we're reacting to real encounters in our fear of confrontation, or if we're underestimating our opponents.

Ultimately, I hope the shirt is a positive step towards more open discussion of abortion, and helps people to see that abortion is not solely the province of women who are "bad" by some standard (though all of those standards are, in my mind, ridiculous). I hope it's useful.


27 April
i can't read anymore.
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Puzzled by the mix of attack-dog tactics (people with - I hope - fake fetuses in jars shoving them towards us, people calling us "wicked" and congratulating murderers of abortion doctors) and stoic silence (the "I'm sorry" crew, the "women deserve better" crew), I tried reading some of the accounts from pro-lifers who were at the March.

I can't.

I occasionally read the posts on After Abortion. I think we, as the pro-choice majority, need to recognize that individual women's stories aren't all about not being sorry. Some women are sorry, either when they do it or after. We alienate them when we act as if abortion is a simple issue for everyone. Most of those women don't, typically, argue that abortion and other reproductive choice resources shouldn't be legal, safe and available on demand. They just want to have their pain recognized. When we don't do that, they just feel anti-us. That makes them anti-choice, polarizes them when they didn't need to be polarized.

Is a man made to feel guilty for his vasectomy? Is he pushed to celebrate it? If he feels sad, is the only place he can turn to a pro-life community that calls him a reformed baby-killer? FUCK FUCKING NO. And yet hasn't he removed potential children from the world? This is an issue for all women, that we need to be able to recognize abortion as both a safe, legal outpatient surgery and a complex issue.

As supporters of choice, supporters of the rights of all women, I feel we need to stand by these women who regret abortions, need to respect that this is their feeling. Not because abortions are bad or wrong or need to be outlawed, but because their individual experience was bad. And if the pro-choice community can't see that, we drive more people to the pro-life camp. A camp whose followers bullhorned at me, called me names, called me a whore and shouted biblical verses at me (I guess they thought I was also a subscriber to their bible, which was perhaps a mistake). That camp shouldn't be the only welcoming audience for a woman who regrets or hesitates choosing to abort.

I personally don't give a rat's ass what choice any individual woman may make where abortion and birth control are concerned. I just want all these choices to be available. And I don't understand how someone, particularly a woman, could see otherwise (for instance, believing both sex education and abortion are wrong - how the heck does that work?).

So I read the March-related posts on After Abortion and on Diotima and the LJ abortion debate community.

Or, I started to read them.

And then I saw this pattern of generally moderate pro-life folk making comments about how we aren't really feminists, how all pro-choice folk at the March were mean (dude, did they actually encounter all of the million of us? I'm imfuckingpressed). It left me shaking with rage.

And I wonder if we can really have a civilized debate about this.

For now, I think, I'm just not reading any more of the pro-life side of the March coverage. I'll wait until they've cooled down a bit. I'll wait until the memories of some of the things that came out of those anti-us bullhorns are a bit softer.

But, like the women who regret their abortions, I feel polarized by this debate. I feel like I can't even speak or listen to someone who is strongly pro-life anymore.

And I'm thankful that we're the majority. Because if it has to be a contest instead of a compromise, I'd like to win.

To make us all feel better, here's one link about finding common ground between "choice" and "life": Naomi Wolf and Frederica Mathewes-Green in Sojourner, via a pro-life source


12 April
march with my posse!
link : thoughts (3) : track it (0) : in abortion

I'm going to the March (in less than 2 weeks now, woo hoo!). But, partly because I'm a slacker and partly because I Hate Buses, I'm not going with the local coalition. I'm staying with my DC peeps and we're going to be among the hordes of random cute disorganized marchers who don't have matching t-shirts.

I think, also, the night before me and my DC peeps are available to hook up with other exciting peeps for compelling pre-marching funs.

So, who wants to march in our itty posse? Or join us for funs?


16 March
another dangerous precedent
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Body & Soul digs into the Utah woman's story and finds a bit more there than the AP told us.

It's disturbing how much the press has made this story iconic - turning her into someone who chooses a sort of last-minute abortion rather than deal with a c-section scar. Yet clearly this actual story, like most actual stories is much more complex. It's a lot easier to have an impassioned debate over whether a pregnant woman who opts out of a c-section is a murderer when you reduce her motives to whimsical vanity. When you look at the details of this case, this life, it sucks so royally it's hard to see any need for debate.

My initial response when I first heard the reductive news reports was still - vanity or not, one of the key aspects of a free society is the ability to refuse someone else who tries to impose their will on your body. A doctor's advice is only that, advice. And I think pregnant women are particularly vulnerable. Everyone I know who has kids talks about feeling alien, worried, and just generally fragile. Given the variance in advice from doctors, how terrifying is it that one could be prosecuted for not following Dr. X's advice? It's not hard to imagine this precedent being stretched to apply to women who choose midwives over standard hospital births, for instance. That scares me.

When the right celebrates these sorts of things as victories and pursues issues like the UVVA, it serves to polarize people and oversimplify the abortion debate.

The right tends to assert that a fetus is a person, and the pro-choice camp tends to argue along with them on the when a person is a person and when a person is a bit of tissue question. I do not always have a problem with seeing an unborn child as a person. I have a problem with seeing that child as more of a person than its mother, which is what we get into here, with UVVA, and with the laws against late-term abortion.

Someone cited an excellent hypothetical example in the comments on B&S:

A young man's in a terrible accident which destroys both his kidneys and makes dialysis impossible. His only chance of survival is a kidney transplant, and the only available donor is his father. The doctors contact the father who refuses to cooperate becuase the timing of the surgery conflicts with his golf game, so the son dies. Unsympathetic though he may be, there's no way this man could be charged with murder.

If the Rowland case is taken as a precedent, though, that insensitive father could well be charged with murder, too. Even if he refused the surgery because, say, he himself was mentally ill. Rowland's motive doesn't matter here. What matters is that we're setting a dangerous precedent of holding one person accountable for another's life in a way that trumps the person's own life.

And that should scare you.


25 February
who's going to the march?
link : thoughts (0) : track it (0) : in abortion

I've been remiss in getting to the local meetups around the March for Choice/Women's Lives/whatever, but I think locals from Virginia are mostly taking big tourish buses up to DC for the March on 4/25.

I'm curious what other bloggers are doing, though. Are you joining up with a local delegation? Going it alone? With some friends?

I have a small group of local friends all planning to go, and maybe to stay over on Saturday, get a big hotel room or something. I'd like to meet up with others, but I'm not really about the tour bus. [Bad experiences. Smells.]


18 February
kick his ass, that's what.
link : thoughts (0) : track it (0) : in abortion

Morgaine writes the kickassyist subject lines for her WHB topics; i.e. What's a sister to do about Big Brother? (about the Bush administration's erosion of reproductive freedom, that is).

I think the NARAL, Planned Parenthood and NOW generally have news and action lists that you can join, and then use to stay informed and take slacker action (i.e. send emails and faxes that you don't even have to WRITE). Slacker action networks are a big deal.

Getting more choice-friendly politicians into minor offices would also help. The president, however visible, is hardly the only person making decisions that impact choice, health care, privacy rights, etc. It's equally important that your legislators, state and federal, be protective of abortion and other rights. So, if you have time or money, you damn well ought to be looking out for these local/state elections every year. I'm entertaining the idea of getting involved, or at least giving to, campaigns for liberal folk in other states - ultimately, even if Virginia sucks ass, my right to choose will be protected if other senators & representatives vote in my favor. If you're interested in doing the same, check out Emily's List and get busy. People on the "other team" are historically very, very good at supporting right-leaning candidates across the board.

And every conversation you have about choice or related subjects with a semi-sympathetic person is an opportunity to shift that person's perspective a bit. My dad and I, for instance, regularly tease each other about his willingness to vote Republican despite his general disagreement with both Bushes. I'm holding out for the day when this eventually shifts him towards my side. It'll happen.

What about when the candidates are there, though - when they aren't running? I don't think we've even scratched the surface of the civil disobedience possibilities around this issue. Certainly, women exploiting their health insurance to give friends the morning after pill is a start. But there is a lot more we could do. We could be more present at clinics, countering the anti-choice folk who sometimes congregate there. We could leaflet around anti-abortion "pregnancy crisis centers". We could stage imaginative protests of company health insurance that doesn't cover contraception by bringing dolls to the doctor or the office. There are so many possibilities.

And honestly, I know I haven't done enough here. I could do a lot more.


22 January
roe v. wade anniversary
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Today's the 31st anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I'm pretty sure everyone reading this is already aware of that fact, but if you're not and you'd like to do some about it, check out some of the resources Kerri posted on the LJ progressive community:

I'm Not Sorry
March for Choice
Bloggers for Choice
Feminist Majority
Planned Parenthood


18 December
my gripe about the march for choice name change
link : thoughts (1) : track it (0) : in abortion

The March for Choice folk put out a press release that they're changing the name to March for Women's Lives.

I don't like it. And I'm curious what the real reasons are behind the change.

I liked that the original name set it up as about choice rights. To me, a March for Choice title carries more weight - it becomes all about defending something already established as a logical, legal right. I think any citizen should consider that a responsibility.

Choice is an emotional issue for a lot of things, but I've always felt that the pro-choice camp was on the side of justice, that our job was to see past the emotional conflicts that might erupt around any one woman's decision about her own pregnancy, and to ensure that all women had the right to make those decisions. And, while "choice" is for many people a euphemism for support of abortion rights, it also carries the implication of all the varied ways a woman should be able to make choices about pregnancy - including birth control, abortion, and many other healthcare questions. That appeals to me.

There are probably a number of different reasons for the change in name - as the press release says:

The name change reflects the urgency of the issue and the huge diversity of the groups co-sponsoring the march.

" The March for Women's Lives" addresses the assaults on women's rights and lives, both nationally and globally, that restrict women's access to reproductive health services and limit women's ability to have a child or to end a pregnancy.

So, the former implies that some of the newer supporting groups took issue with "choice", perhaps because they don't want to be seen as about choice. Maybe those of us planning to attend the March haven't been sending NARAL, Planned Parenthood, etc. enough money this year, and they ended up toning down the message of choice in order to get more support. In which case, shame on us.

The latter rather implies that the March organizers have decided to market the whole thing in the emotional style that characterizes conservative anti-abortion tactics. It sets women's lives against what anti-abortion folk think of as babies lives. Which, I guess, does put us on more even footing in a way - but it also takes the question of choice out of law and logic and into emotion; it was wrong of anti-abortion rhetoric to go there, and it's wrong for us to follow.

I realize that the March name change is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but it touches on a hot button for me: I think we're entirely too apologetic in our defense of abortion rights, probably because we're afraid of being seen as cavalier about the complexity of the choice issue. It is, however, a simple issue - women have the legal and moral right to control their own bodies.


05 December
virginia choice victory
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It's pretty sad that I end up hearing about state abortion news from NARAL and such (rather than the local news media, for instance), but at least the latest news was good.

The week before Thanksgiving, the Virginia "partial birth infanticide" provision was ruled unconstitutional in federal court. While there's little doubt the state will appeal, it's good to know that someone, even if it's someone outside the state, will step in to defend a woman's right to choose against the raving anti-choice folk who keep getting elected to the state legislature uncontested. We need pro-choice people to run for office, clearly.

I am extremely thankful for the existence of the Richmond Medical Center for Women, which is one of only 40-some providers of abortion in the state, one of a handful that perform medical abortions (the pill, that is), and the clinic that initiated the case against the "infanticide" ban.


26 November
email from dan the anti-abortion guy
link : thoughts (2) : track it (0) : in abortion

I received an email this morning from Dan. I don't know who Dan is, but he took the trouble to scan my site and send me his attempt to convert me to an anti-abortionist.

What is he thinking? Clearly Dan didn't read but so much of my site - that, or he is in fact an automated script that combs sites looking for the word "abortion". We'll presume he's actually a person.

So, he sent me the text of this anti-abortion argument from this ministry group, and being me, I couldn't just delete it.

Hi there,
I took a look at your site. Thought you might want to know the truth. :-)

You can read this all at http://www.epm.org/abortarg.html

I pray you will open your eyes, and your heart...

Listen, Dan - my eyes and heart are already open, metaphorically speaking. And nothing angers me as much as someone who treats a matter of opinion, of personal belief, as truth.

As for those arguments? An insult to the intelligence of any pro-abortion person who encounters them. Perhaps people respond to these anti-abortion arguments with stunned silence because they're so confounded by the circles they talk? And what the hell is being "pro-choice about rape"? Huh?

My reply:

I assume you didn't read much of my site. I'm not pro-choice about abortion while anti-abortion myself. Far from it. I do believe, very strongly, that a woman has a right to end the "life" of a fetus as long as it can't survive outside her body. Period.

It may be a difficult choice for some women to end a potential life, and I respect that it's hard for them. It's a difficult choice for some people to have hysterectomies and vasectomies - again, because of the potential that's sacrificed. But all of these choices amount to legal medical procedures that not only need to remain legal but readily available to people who choose to have them for whatever reason.

I also feel a need to refute the generalizations about hesitant pro-choice folk. People who support the legal right to abortion but don't think they could decide to abort a child themselves aren't necessarily thinking "Gosh, well I believe it's killing a person who has a right to live, but I guess it's legal, so...." - For the most part, those people are troubled on the subject of whether potential life is something they feel needs to be protected or not, whether abortion amounts to killing at a certain point, when if ever a fetus is a child, etc. They're the ones who struggle with the question of when life is life, and when it's just potential. You and I, on the other hand, clearly already have our minds made up about life vs. potential. They're the ones you and I have to convince, and I think you're selling them short.

In short, I read your arguments, and - while I appreciate your efforts - there is nothing that could make me agree with you. Your arguments are not "the truth" as you call them, but simply what you believe.

If you'd like to contact Dan, I'm sure he'd be happy to hear from you.


13 November
your weekly abortion update
link : thoughts (3) : track it (0) : in abortion

You've all probably heard by now about the cases that enabled a handful of doctors to continue the "partial birth abortion" procedures, and have been watching Bush's conservative judicial appointments. But if you haven't, you should read up.

Meanwhile, Cinnamon has created a "purse for choice". It's lovely, beneficial to the cause, and shocking. And true - even if not true in the way most people will think (alluding to the ever-creepy Back Alley Abortion). The majority of women who died of illegal abortions were not ones who sought the "back alley" abortionist, but ones who attempted their own abortions through various (sometimes horrid) means; the coat hanger was apparently one of many approaches.

Ick. It scares me to think how fragile abortion rights are. Everyone is so damned apologetic about this medical procedure.

And Tennessee is doing a nice job of maintaining its reputation for conservative hickdom with its new "choose life" license plate. Yes, we're all backward hicks here in the South. Sigh. For a change, my state's better (ironically, Virginia had a similar debate awhile ago, which resulted in both the possible pro-choice and pro-life plates being nixed)

Also, when I came across this dismissive article on Feminists for Life, I had to go check them out. They're pretty much the affront to my intelligence that they were advertised to be.

I don't think this has to be true. I don't think pro-lifers are inherently gooey and stupid. I don't agree with pro-life people in general, but I also don't consider it to be impossible to be a pro-life feminist. I'm just not sure what that viewpoint would mean, exactly. In any case, the only way this site could have convinced me, even at my most choice-ambivalent, that I wanted to join this group of people and sent them money, is if I had an instantaneous frontal lobotomy.

And I'd been hoping for an explanation of this perplexing point of view, feminists who think abortion is forced and anti-choice.

[A side note. Why is it that so many pro-life sites take this breezy, women's magazine approach to writing and design? The very site design denies the seriousness of the issue at hand, denies the seriousness of the visitor. Am I the only one who finds that offensive? Admittedly, the March for Choice site isn't a lot better - though it's still better than the FFL one. I am not pastels (er, and I'm in the middle of redesigning the WHB site).]

There's also a March for Choice meetup next week. As Kerri pointed out, meetup's the new trend in liberalism. Also, whether you're meeting up with real live people to plan your marching activities or not, if you're a blogger thinking about marching, check out Roni's Bloggers for Choice site.


06 November
your weekly abortion update
link : thoughts (3) : track it (0) : in abortion

I started to collect a series of useful links to update you, gentle reader, on the current state of the partial birth abortion ban and what it means to you.

But you know, sometimes other people have already done a good job of saying what you mean and you don't have much to add to it.


Some level-headed information and a nice ass-fire-lighting rant from Roni. Please read. Thanks.

Who's meeting me at the March for Choice next April?


23 October
i'm angry. and depressed.
link : thoughts (1) : track it (0) : in feministy stuff

Things are making me angry today.

Some of the response to Tish's average-sized privilege list is very frustrating. Notably the conversation at Ampersand. It reminds me of something that happened on the DTMWSIB list awhile back. One of the members was upset that Queen Latifah's new Wal-Mart plus size undies line was donating a portion of proceeds to a fund to help black kids pay for college (I think; I don't recall what it was exactly). The rationale being - if you make something for fat people, the proceeds should go to a charitable organization that supports fat people. I disagree completely; if you have money to spend, you always have the option of not buying something if your money will go places you don't want it. And if you sell something, it's pretty much up to you what you do with the proceeds.

[Well, in theory. If your budget or town is such that Wal-Mart is really your only shopping option, and Queen Latifah's undies are the only ones that will fit you, then I guess your choice is to support her charity or go without panties - but it's still a choice.]

Anyhow - it's amazing how quickly this group of fat folk (who are well acquainted with the ways in which discrimination can happen) became rather divided over the question of whether black people were really discriminated against or not, since sometimes individual black people get advantages over individual white people. It is a privilege to be ignorant of the way you are privileged. It is a privilege to be able to think of yourself as an individual and not as part of the groups, to carry the weight of the normative prejudices against that group. And yet even people who recognize prejudice against themselves on one front can't see how that happens to someone else. This is so often the reaction of fairly liberal people to the assertion that fat people face prejudice and that's wrong. How can this be?

Everyone gets defensive when confronted with the idea that they might be receiving some privilege. I can understand that; being confronted by privilege makes it feel like you haven't earned what you have. But a reasonable person doesn't react to it by saying "see, look at those really fat people - they ARE unhealthy and they could be better" or "see, black men really do commit more crimes, and they could just stop living like that"; a reasonable person doesn't try to blow smoke around the real issue by bringing up some special case where, okay, maybe the things said about a particular group might be true.

And then the "partial birth" abortion ban gets passed. I don't even know what to say; I'm just so depressed by this.

It frustrates me, too, that groups like NARAL choose to talk about the procedure (which, let's face it, sounds more painful and generally icky than most abortions) in terms of rights, like it's an abstract. It reinforces this image of wild abortionists with no connection to reality and a need to hid our nasty procedures when you can't find a good explanation of what a D&E or D&X abortion even is on Planned Parenthood's website; only the NRLC will tell you in any detail, and they'll load their description with such bile you'll start wondering if you can dilate and evacuate their damned website.

See. It doesn't matter if the D&X reminds you of a baby being born. What matters is that that "baby" doesn't have a life unless the woman continues to bear it. And it is unconstitutional, has been found unconstitutional again and again, to deny a woman the right to a medical procedure that could protect her life (medically or otherwise).

We need to be angry about this.

Little George W. has now virtually guaranteed my vote, and the votes of all my formerly slacker non-voting friends (who mobilized so charmingly for Nader four years ago), for ANY democrat who makes it through the primaries. Screw the Greens! My vote is for anyone who could take Bush out of office! I hope we can count on the Court, but I want a president who reflects the true liberalism of America that Michael Moore keeps telling me about.

[Edited to add after the fact to point out Ampersand's explanation of the abortion issue over several posts. Because you can't expect me to cite a lot of research or facts, but you can trust Ampersand to do so.]


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