Marcus Lee is a a third-year sociology major at Morehouse College and one of RH Reality Check’s youth voices.
Some of the most dangerous anti-woman work is done at the hands of so-called men’s rights activists (MRAs). Initially organizing themselves in the ’70s as a response to what they claimed was the rise of “misandry,” MRAs push for a more patriarchal society—one that’s organized by “natural” gender roles and supposedly gender-blind but actually male-dominated state governance. For example, A Voice for Men, an online men’s rights organization founded in 2009, has as the first goal of its mission statement the exposure of “misandry and gender-centrism on all levels in our culture.” Here, the group immediately associates gendered analyses of society with the hatred of men, hence promoting disregard for and ignorance of the suppression of women.
Central to the political agenda of MRAs is floating the idea that men somehow have a “right” to an abortion, or more accurately a right to interfere with a woman’s right to an abortion. MRAs argue that women’s autonomy is directly oppressive to men because men are disallowed input as to whether or not women should give birth. Thus, they argue that the state should intervene by forcing women to consult men before they can legally abort a pregnancy or that women or doctors should be held legally accountable to men after an abortion has taken place, usurping their right to self-determine.
Unfortunately, this hazardous ideology has been taken seriously and supported by a few lawmakers. For example, in 2009 Ohio state Rep. John Adams (R-Sidney) sponsored HB 252, which would have assigned men direct control over women’s bodies by requiring doctors to receive written consent from the father of the fetus before a woman could have an abortion. Similarly, under an anti-racist, anti-sexist guise, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) sponsored HR 447 in this current session of Congress to “prohibit discrimination against the unborn on the basis of sex or race, and for other purposes.” Here, Franks attempts, ironically, to imagine a reputable justification for control over women’s bodies by questioning their motivations for an abortion and by situating himself, doctors, and men in general as social justice deputies.
Given that these efforts are seeping into multiple state and federal legislatures, the rhetoric and strategies employed by MRAs must be taken seriously. They are deeply problematic and counterproductive to women’s liberation and gender equity. However, they also pose problems to racial equity and sexual freedom. Through a specific examination of MRAs pushing for their own set of “abortion rights,” it is possible to highlight the intersecting bigotries embedded in the men’s rights movement.
Acknowledging how oppressions rely on one another helps to deconstruct them. Looking through this intersectional lens reveals that the argument for an alleged men’s right to an abortion relies on racist conceptions of bodies as property, and heterosexist, traditionalist ideas about female eroticism. It is important to note that the men’s rights push for abortion rights is representative, not exemplary—that is, “men’s abortion rights” initiatives should be understood simply as puzzle pieces within the larger, problematic universe of the men’s rights movement.
First and foremost, men’s “right to an abortion” is predicated on the idea that children—and fetuses—are pieces of property jointly owned by men and women; their arguments insinuate that if children are property, then it follows that it is unfair for a woman to have complete control over whether or not a potential piece of property over which she shares ownership with a man materializes. This conception of children is evident in MRA-influenced legislation. For example, Franks’ HR 447, the “Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act” (PRENDA), would authorize civil actions for verifiable money damages for injuries and punitive damages by fathers and maternal grandmothers. In this way of thinking, children, unborn fetuses, and women’s uteruses become properties that can be assigned a dollar amount by men who moreover exert ownership. Because the fetus and the uterus are inextricable, women are necessarily implicated by the conception of children and the fetus as property.
Additionally, conceiving of children as property is a direct strike against the fight for racial equity as it comes out of an anti-Black ethos. The abolition of slavery should have been accompanied by the total deracination of each constituent part of its ethos. In other words, if we think of slavery as a poisonous cake, we shouldn’t have just thrown out the cake; we should have thrown out each ingredient that led to the creation of the cake with the understanding that each intentionally added to the poison. Any time any of these ingredients are used in another recipe, the end product is dangerous. One of the main ingredients of slavery is the idea of people as property—Black bodies were things to be bought and sold among people who believed that they had ownership over them. In order to avoid reproducing any facet of the catastrophe that was slavery, the idea that people are property must be wholly eradicated for any and everybody.
Meanwhile, MRAs reproduce the ideology of slavery with their conception of children as property; consequently, working to reproduce an environment that is conducive to Black marginality and suffering. Thus, MRAs push for the right to an abortion is a significant obstruction to the struggle for gender and racial equity.
Furthermore, men’s “right” to an abortion is predicated on an assumed traditional, male-centered sexuality where sex is defined by vaginal penetration, consent is simplified to yes or no, and women are subjected to expectations of compulsory availability and heterosexuality. Under this view, MRAs suggest that men are powerless with regard to impregnating women, and therefore need state intervention in order to remedy power imbalances.
In reality, understandings of sexuality should be complicated through a queer paradigm in order to make for an environment that is conducive to greater sexual freedom for women and men. Vaginal penetration is not the only form of sexuality to be performed.
Consent cannot be simplified to a yes or no—it is an ongoing negotiation of sexual practices, likes and dislikes, and desires and distastes. Sex may include the desire or the lack thereof to have a child, and the necessary precautions should be taken to make both parties comfortable with the encounter and its potential outcomes, including but not limited to condoms, spermicide, and non-penetrative sex. When consent is simplified to a yes or no, the vulnerability and comfort level of the passive partner during the encounter are disregarded.
Lastly, women cannot and should not be understood through a lens of compulsory availability and heterosexuality—women are indeed diverse people with different sexual desires, different life goals, and different attractions. They cannot be reduced to targets of male (hetero)sexual desire. When they are, queer people are unfairly placed on the periphery and non-queer people are the targets of uncomfortable encounters.
As they are used by MRAs in arguing for men’s “right” to abortion and beyond, these assumptions together absolve men of all responsibility from necessary negotiation regarding sexual practices. This not only works to disenfranchise women, but also obstructs sexual freedom for women and men.
Finally, the logic of MRAs simply fails. They seem to employ a biological deterministic logic, arguing that if both men and women contribute to the biology of the fetus, then both should help determine what will happen to it. However, suddenly this biological deterministic logic is abandoned when examining female biology: Using the same lens, if the choice to have or not to have a child significantly affects the biology of a woman, then she should be able to make that decision for herself. MRAs conveniently adopt biological determinism, and then disregard it when it no longer works for them, consequently undermining their own argument.
In the end, the logic behind sexism always falls apart.
MRAs depend on sexism, racism, and heterosexism to work toward men’s “right” to abortion and beyond. Relying on ideas of human bodies as property and female sexuality as necessarily traditional, heterosexual, and available, they create a severely dangerous logic aimed toward men exerting even greater control over women’s bodies. If this analysis isn’t convincing enough, one would need to only look toward the blog posts on the A Voice for Men website—one of which romanticizes racial terror by arguing that “misogynist” is the “new n-word.” Highlighting these intersections is important, because doing so heightens the potential for intra-community coalition building within social justice movements.
Image: Man stop via Shutterstock
The post Sorry, Men’s Rights Activists, You Don’t Have Abortion ‘Rights’ appeared first on RH Reality Check.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments later this month in the Hobby Lobby case, the legal challenge to the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act that is premised on the legal theory that secular, for-profit corporations are “people” and thus have religious exercise rights. It will be months before the Roberts Court issues a ruling in the case, but in the meantime state legislatures have stepped into the fray as well—most visibly Arizona with the high-profile debate and ultimate defeat of an expansion of the state’s “religious freedom” law that would have allowed individuals to refuse to comply with civil rights laws based on religious objections.
New York, however, is taking a different approach. The state’s “boss bill,” sponsored by state Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) and Assembly member Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) would prohibit an employer from discriminating against an employee on the basis of the employee’s (or a dependent’s) reproductive health decisions, including a decision to use or access a particular drug, device, or medical service.
The bill also prohibits discrimination based on an employer’s personal beliefs about such services, and would help protect women’s privacy rights at work.
“The fact that I take a job with somebody who may not share my views about family planning and reproductive health doesn’t mean they get to tell me I can’t use a certain kind of contraception, I can’t access certain kinds of health care or they will fire me. That’s completely unacceptable but currently protected under New York state Labor Law,” Sen. Krueger said in a statement.
According to reports, the legislation was drafted in response to the flood of for-profit businesses looking to evade the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act. “This is a very important piece of legislation, something we never thought we would have to move forward to implement,” Jaffee said in a statement.
Advocates in the New York State Assembly also passed the Women’s Equality Act, a ten-point agenda that would among other things codify abortion rights and attempt to reduce gender-based pay discrimination. That bill is currently stalled in the Senate Labor Committee.
“State legislators, extremists in Congress, they’re colluding to strip away our reproductive rights, one piece at a time,” said Andrea Miller, president of NARAL Pro-Choice New York in a statement. “At the same time they have joined in a nationwide effort to make it possible, in fact, make it part of the law to allow discrimination in the context of employers being able to essentially undermine, if not eliminate, a woman’s ability to make reproductive health decisions and act against her because she makes her own reproductive health decisions.”
Erin McKelle is a student studying at Ohio University and one of RH Reality Check‘s youth voices.
Voting is one of our constitutional rights—right? But in 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act and more than half of the states in the nation introduced legislation to restrict voting access. People of color, women, and young people are disproportionately affected by these restrictions. At the same time, state legislatures continue attacking reproductive rights. Taken together, these attacks make voting that much more important for young people.
We are cycling into midterm elections, and this is no time for young people like me to stay home (or in the dorm). Deciding not to vote in an off-year or not bothering to get an absentee ballot has very real consequences—every vote does count. Young people ages 18 to 29 make up 21 percent of the eligible voting population, and when younger people participate in elections, it makes it more likely that others in their households will vote. Young people have the power to help decide elections; they were critical to the reelection of President Obama in 2012.
In response, some politicians have crafted laws that are designed, in part, to depress the progressive youth vote. One example of this is a variety of voter identification laws that now exist in 34 states, although some are not currently being enforced.
Although requirements vary from state to state, voter ID laws generally mean that you cannot vote without a driver’s license or other state-issued ID. You cannot use other types of photo IDs, even if they are verified in similar ways to a state ID, as college IDs can be. If you don’t have an approved form of ID, you may need to spend not only the time it takes to get one, but also upwards of $20. This seems like a poll tax, right? For instance, in Ohio, where I live, I am not allowed to use my student ID to vote, and it would cost me $8.50 to get an Ohio ID. Of course, it’s not just students who can face these issues: 11 percent of citizens of voting age lack proper photo ID.
Further, college students can face residency disputes. Although federal courts have ruled that students are allowed to vote using their address of residency at their universities, state and local laws can be more stringent. This intersects with voter ID laws, as a conflict of the address on your ID and of the residence you are using to vote could result in your being turned away from the polls. Prior to the 2008 elections, 11 of 50 states had been found to make voting on campus difficult for students. One is Virginia; college students at Virginia Tech faced voting difficulties because of the commonwealth’s failure to recognize students’ college addresses.
This is significant because the right to vote has not always been guaranteed for people of color, women, and young people—really anyone who isn’t a white male property owner. It wasn’t until 1869 that Black men were granted suffrage, and not until 1920 for women. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 tackled discrimination in voting at the local level, and before it was enacted many people of color, men and women, were prevented from exercising their right to vote. The voting age was 21 until it lowered to 18 in 1971. Surely all of these increases in voter eligibility have had an impact on elections. Seeing these rights being threatened once again is not something we should take lightly. These restrictions are designed to prevent people from voting.
Voting is a hard-fought right that should be used, and the consequences of not voting are dire in the realm of reproductive rights, especially for young people. Abortion and birth control restrictions are acutely felt by young people who often have fewer financial resources. Further, if you’re under 18, you have to get your parents’ permission to get an abortion in 21 states, which doesn’t even address the problems of cost and accessibility. If you have to take two or more days off of school and/or work to get through mandatory waiting periods, get to a clinic that may not be close to you, and pay for all of your medical treatments and incidentals, it’s going to be difficult. And the laws keep getting worse. Changing the tide on reproductive rights is going to require more voting for pro-choice politicians.
All of this probably makes the political climate and our ability to change it seem discouraging, if not impossible. But, every vote does matter, and it counts more than ever because of how high the stakes are. Even if you live in a divided state like Ohio or a very red state like Texas, making your voice heard is critical to the protection of our liberties. Voter turnout rates in 2012 were very low—only 57 percent of the eligible population went to the polls. Think about how different our political landscape could be if the other 43 percent of voters had actually voted. Perhaps we could have put a higher federal minimum wage in place or secured immigration reform.
We do decide who’s going to represent us. A large amount of money is spent on expensive TV ads and the nature of the system is elitist, that doesn’t mean we have to buy into it. We can’t create change if we aren’t willing to put in the work to do it.
The fact is we have to start caring right now. Even though the midterms seem like they are a lifetime away, they are actually right around the corner and politicians have already started gearing up for them. Waiting until October to organize and back the politicians who are fighting for our rights is too late, as the two major candidates have already been chosen. As they say, the early bird gets the worm.
Making a conscious effort to vote is important because it has very real consequences for our lives. It affects access to health care, the distribution of wealth, the social and political climate of our country, and even civil rights. Not voting means that you aren’t getting a say in the people who are governing and representing us. It is making it easier for politicians who don’t represent our points of view to make decisions for us. If we ever want equal representation for women, racial minorities, and young people, we have to elect them into office. Social justice is not going to happen any sooner when the majority of our leaders remain old, white men.
So this year, make an effort to do your research. Find out what the laws in your state are before you head to the polls. If you know you’ll be out of town or swamped with work on election day, request an absentee ballot, carpool with friends to the polls, and talk to your friends and family about how important voting is. Remember how important it is to vote, and commit to being a part of creating change.
Image: Vote via Shutterstock
The post The Very Real Consequences of Young People Not Voting appeared first on RH Reality Check.
It's March, which means it's Women's History Month!
Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis became a household name overnight when she took an epic stand against extreme anti-choice politicians in her state. There are so many pro-choice champions that few are ever recognized for their hard work and dedication to protecting women's reproductive freedom. That's why this year, we're recognizing some amazing heroines of the pro-choice movement that stood up to anti-choice attacks in their states, and work tirelessly to protect and expand women's access to reproductive-health care, birth control, and abortion services.
In New Mexico, we recognize Dolores Huerta, a worker's and women's right activist who was a key figure in battling the first city-wide abortion ban proposed in Albuquerque. In an ad produced by NARAL Pro-Choice America, Advocates for Youth, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and Young Women United, Dolores said:
"I am Dolores Huerta, New Mexican, and Catholic mother of eleven. Women are the only ones who should make decisions about their bodies. We cannot allow others to interfere in our lives. Decisions about abortion belong with a woman, her family, and her doctor. I have fought for working people all of my life. Join me and defend the rights, dignity and the respect of all women and families."
Huerta has been fighting for civil rights for more than six decades. She recently received our Champion of Choice Award. Check out this video of her acceptance speech:
In Massachusetts, we recognize Attorney General Martha Coakley, whose office defended the state's pro-choice buffer zone law at the Supreme Court, which NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts supported strongly. This law protects patients and medical professionals from being harassed and intimidated by anti-choice protestors who mob reproductive-health clinics.
Attorney General Coakley released a statement after the buffer zone oral arguments and said:
"I am proud that Massachusetts passed the buffer zone law to help people access reproductive health care free from harassment... I thought the justices asked insightful questions about the constitutional balance that this law must, and we believe does, strike. I am hopeful that they will conclude that the buffer zone statute appropriately protects speech, health care access, and public safety, and should remain law."
In Oklahoma, we're like to recognize Rep. Constance Johnson who led the charge against recent legislative attacks in her state.
When politicians in the Oklahoma state legislature pushed for extreme anti-choice "personhood" legislation that would ban abortion care with no exception for survivors of rape or incest and could also ban in-vitro fertilization, Sen. Johnson fought back.
"As a woman and a 31-year veteran of the legislative process in Oklahoma, I am increasingly offended by state law trends that solely focus on the female's role in the reproductive process. With Oklahoma's new, never-before-experienced Republican majority, we are seeing enactment of more and more measures that adversely affect women and their rights to access safe medical procedures when making reproductive-health care decisions."
In New Hampshire, we recognize former NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire board member and co-chair of the New Hampshire Reproductive Rights legislative caucus, state Rep. Candace White Bouchard.
Year after year, Rep. Bouchard stands up to legislative attacks on choice and received NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire's Champion of Choice award in 2012. Rep. Bouchard co-sponsored the New Hampshire buffer zone bill and was lauded by her pro-choice peers when she bravely refused to allow an anti-choice colleague to speak against abortion to the full House on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Over in Michigan, we must recognize Michigan Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer who took a stand and bravely shared her own personal story of sexual assault to fight the anti-choice "rape insurance" bill in Michigan. She spoke out against her extreme anti-choice colleagues, saying:
"As a legislator, a lawyer, a woman and the mother of two girls, I think the fact that rape insurance is even being discussed by this body is repulsive, let alone the way it has been orchestrated and now shoved through the legislature."Those of you on the other side of the aisle are all too happy to be puppets in this offensive game impacting women's lives... This is by far one of the most misogynistic proposals I've ever seen in the Michigan legislature."
You can watch state Sen. Whitmer's testimony below:
In California, we recognize state Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, who authored a law in 2013 that expands access to safe abortion care in the Golden State.
This new law, which NARAL Pro-Choice California organized around to help pass, will increase the number of medical professionals, including midwives and nurses, who can provide early abortion care.
We honored Asm. Atkins in our 23rd edition of Who Decides? The Status of Reproductive Choice in the States for her amazing work protecting and expanding women's reproductive rights in California.
We know that the brave work of these pro-choice heroines would have been possible without contributions from pioneers and advocates of women's reproductive rights. That's why we'd like to recognize former Missouri state Sen. Harriet Woods for being a trailblazer in politics. Sen. Woods' political career spanned more than three decades. She served in the Missouri legislature with just a handful of women in the 1980s and went on to become the first, and so far the only, female Lieutenant Governor of Missouri.
Sen. Woods' loss in a tight race for U.S. Senate against incumbent John Danforth led to the creation of the pro-choice democratic non-profit EMILY's List. From 1991-1995, Sen. Woods served as the president of the Women's Political Caucus and continued her work fighting for women alongside NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri until she passed away in 2007.
As we recognize pro-choice heroines of the past we also look to the future and to up-and-coming pro-choice leaders who are just getting started on their paths to protecting women's freedom and privacy. New pro-choice supporters and activists pop up every day across the country. They're the ones who will lead the charge and make sure women continue to have access to comprehensive reproductive-health care and abortion access.
Fluke garnered national attention when she was denied the right to testify at the now-infamous all-male panel on birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Fluke has since dedicated her career to social justice and public advocacy. She recently attended NARAL Pro-Choice America's San Francisco Power of Choice Luncheon as a special guest and panelist.
We're so thankful to have pro-choice champions defending women's reproductive freedom in every state. These elected officials, along with countless others, work every day to make sure women have safe, legal, access to all of their reproductive options.
In honor of Women's History Month, we recognize and thank these elected officials for their service and for not backing down to anti-choice legislative attacks across the country.
Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus has long been a target of anti-choice activists for her work assisting the late Dr. George Tiller, providing him second opinions on some pregnancy terminations as required under Kansas law. Because of her work with Tiller, in 2006 Operation Rescue activists filed a complaint against Neuhaus with the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts, the medical licensing board that eventually revoked Neuhaus’ medical license. Just this week, a Kansas judge overturned that revocation in a decision that illustrates the deeply political campaign waged against medical professionals in states with anti-choice activists appointed to medical review boards.
As reported by the Associated Press, Shawnee County District Judge Franklin Theis ruled specifically that the State Board of Healing Arts had failed to show that mental health exams provided by Neuhaus in 2003 were inadequate. Operation Rescue had challenged Neuhaus’ records of exams provided to 11 patients, ages 10 to 18, who needed abortion care. The complaint before the board claimed Neuhaus’ sparse records proved that she had failed to meet the standard of care in diagnosing each of the 11 patients with a serious mental health issue and that abortion was advisable.
Neuhaus defended her care and argued that she kept many details of those patients and exams out of record for concerns over patient privacy. Judge Theis ultimately agreed with Neuhaus and ruled that while her record keeping was deficient, the conclusion reached by the hearing officer of the state’s medical board that Nehaus’ care was inadequate came “solely on an inference” from problems with those records. “In this Court’s view, such an inference is too slim, too frail, and too conjectural to support any of his conclusions reached beyond a breach of adequate record keeping,” the court wrote.
The Kansas State Board of Healing Arts can appeal the decision to the state court of appeals or it can vote to start over and take up Neuhaus’ case again. Should Neuhaus want to practice medicine in the state again, even after this order, she will have to file paperwork with the board to be licensed again.
The post Judge Rules Kansas Medical Board Wrongly Revoked Dr. Neuhaus’ Medical License appeared first on RH Reality Check.
In the four months since the Roberts Court refused to block a U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision to allow the admitting privileges portion of HB 2, the massive Texas anti-abortion omnibus bill, to take effect while its legal challenge proceeded, at least 19 abortion clinics in the state have closed, including the last abortion clinic between Houston, Texas, and the Louisiana border, as well as the last abortion clinic in the economically depressed Rio Grande Valley, leaving a 400-mile stretch in the state where the poorest Texans have no access to reproductive health care.
The very real human rights crisis unfolding in Texas sets the scene for legal arguments around the latest wave of anti-abortion restrictions that are at once both critically important and patently absurd. At the core of those arguments is a question, deceptively simple, that could permanently shift the direction of abortion rights jurisprudence: Does having to travel hundreds of miles away to access reproductive health care create an undue burden on abortion rights?
Objectively it’s impossible to answer that question, but in any other context, the idea that a patient must travel hundreds of miles, sometimes out of state, simply to access a doctor is by its very nature unduly burdensome. Then again, we’re talking about accessing abortion, and more specifically accessing abortion in Texas under the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is anything but objective when it comes to abortion rights. After all, in January, when the Fifth Circuit heard arguments to reinstate the lower court order blocking a provision of HB 2 while the legal challenge went forward, Judge Edith Jones quipped whether the “peculiarly flat and not congested highway” that connects the Rio Grande Valley to San Antonio helped or hurt the argument that a law that intentionally created hundreds of miles between abortion clinics unduly burdened abortion rights. On the one hand, Jones and the other judges speculated, the flat open highways were conducive to fast driving, so the distance might not be so bad. On the other hand, cutting off abortion access to enormous portions of the state would affect the state’s most impoverished and at-risk populations—an undue burden on those women’s rights, sure, but that alone isn’t enough to strike a law as unconstitutional.
How have we gotten to this point—where the question of whether 400 miles between providers or closing a state’s only abortion clinic is considered a serious legal question, and not simply absurd? How can it be that anti-choice activists loudly and proudly announce their legislative intention to re-criminalize abortion and courts continue to turn a blind eye to this overtly political agenda that brazenly defies the Constitution? In a recent article in the Harvard Law Review, professor Caitlin Borgmann rightly argues that this depressing state of abortion rights law is thanks in large part to a double standard developed and nurtured by the federal courts in evaluating abortion restrictions that demands challengers put forward often impossible evidentiary proof that a restriction will cause immediate harm, while giving lawmakers a free pass in supporting the supposed government interest in severely regulating a fundamental constitutional right. More critically, Borgmann argues, until the federal courts are willing to actually question lawmakers on their evidence and their intentions, there’s no reason to think the state of abortion rights jurisprudence will improve anytime soon.
As Borgmann explains, the problem is two-fold. First, under the undue burden standard, courts must first decide whether a law has the purpose of placing a substantial obstacle before women seeking abortions. The second prong of the undue burden test has courts decide whether the restrictions have the effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking abortions. According to Borgmann, the courts’ conclusions are then by their nature subjective. “[T]hat question inevitably depends on variables including the number and distribution of providers in a given state, and individual judge’s views of what constitutes a ‘substantial obstacle,’” she writes. Contrast that with the ridiculously easy burden placed on state legislators to prove their restrictions have merit—the lowest possible rationale basis test that simply requires lawmakers be able to show they had a “rational basis to act“—and the court will presume an abortion restriction is valid.
But if anti-choice activists are clear their goal is to place substantial obstacles in the place of women seeking abortions, why do the federal courts ignore this evidence and essentially skip over this line of inquiry? One reason is because, as Borgmann argues, it’s become practically impossible for anyone challenging abortion restrictions to meet this “substantial obstacle.” For proof, Borgmann points to Mazurek v. Armstrong, a Supreme Court decision that upheld a law permitting only physicians to perform abortions. In that case, the Supreme Court rejected, as insufficient proof of a purpose to place a substantial obstacle in the way of abortion access, the fact that an anti-abortion rights group drafted the law and that no evidence supported its patient safety rationale.
If anti-choice advocates’ admissions that their restrictions are designed to substantially deter, if not eliminate altogether, abortion access, and legislators are not required to defend their bills with actual evidence, then whose interests are the federal courts serving?
One of the enduring criticisms of the Roe v. Wade decision is that it over-medicalized abortion, empowering doctors rather than women, by grounding much of the rationale for the opinion in a paternalism that remains a permanent fixture in the abortion debate today. For example, look at the successes by the same-sex marriage campaign in the conservative federal courts that also are upholding abortion restrictions. The successes in the marriage equality campaign came about in large part because advocates took head on the claims and phony evidence that same-sex marriages harms children and families. And, more importantly, the federal courts believed them.
Thanks to the federal courts’ unwillingness to require lawmakers to put forward defensible evidence in support of abortion restrictions, the post-Roe landscape of abortion access looks eerily like the pre-Roe landscape, with a checkerboard of access increasingly concentrated in urban and coastal areas, and overlapping restrictions adding additional time and costs to access care. Thanks to the success of anti-choice activists in pushing the limit of the undue burden standard, anti-choice activists have largely succeeded in making safe, legal abortion access practically impossible for most women in this country.
Borgmann argues that the battle over admitting privileges laws and clinic closures may mark the turning point in the push to render abortion rights meaningless by perpetuating a thousand individual “undue burdens”—there’s evidence even the federal judiciary may have reached a limit in just how much leniency it is willing to grant anti-choice lawmakers. Borgmann may be right, and we may be witnessing the beginning of the end of the federal courts’ enabling of the historic assault on women’s rights. But for too many in this country, it’s a hollow victory of too little, too late.
The post For Too Many, Accessing Abortion Is Already an ‘Undue Burden’ appeared first on RH Reality Check.
In 2011, legislators in Mississippi passed a law (HB 999) requiring all schools to choose between a strict abstinence-only policy or one, called abstinence-plus, that includes all aspects of the abstinence-only approach but also teaches young people about contraception and disease-prevention. A new report published by Mississippi First, the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi, and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), found that of the 151 school districts and four special schools in Mississippi, 81 chose abstinence-only, 71 chose abstinence-plus, and three chose a combined approach.
While it is good news that some students in Mississippi, a state that ranks at the bottom of all sexual health indicators, may be taught something other than “just say no until marriage,” the report also notes an oddity in how the law has been interpreted and implemented, which means that some curricula have ended up (without alterations) on the “approved” list for schools with both abstinence-only and abstinence-plus policies. Having spent much of my career reviewing abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula and material, I can promise that just adding a lesson about contraception cannot turn a fear- and shame-based program into anything better.
The Choosing the Best series, which includes curricula for grades six through 12, can be used by schools that pick either policy. In fact, this series is overwhelmingly popular in Mississippi as it is being used by 74 percent of schools that chose an abstinence-only policy and 39 percent that chose the supposedly more expansive abstinence-plus approach. The point of schools adopting the abstinence-plus policy is to be allowed to discuss, in the words of the law, “other topics such as contraceptive options and the cause and effect of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS.” Unfortunately, Choosing the Best does not do that. (Note: The examples below are from the SIECUS review of the 2006 editions of this series. Schools in Mississippi may be using a newer edition, though in my experience few things change between editions.)
The discussions of contraception and STDs within the Choosing the Best series are very limited and based more on fear than fact. For example, in the program designed for sixth graders, the teacher is told to hold up cauliflower and explain that this is like a genital wart, one of the many STDs young people are likely to get if they are sexually active. (Something green and oozy is used to represent chlamydia.) Though this representation might seem clever to program planners who have seen pictures of genital warts left untreated for many years, which do in fact resemble cauliflower, most cases of warts are tiny dots that are not visible to the naked eye. Young people should know this so they know what to look out for and do not just assume they are fine unless they see something as large and obviously problematic as what their teacher is holding up during this presentation.
The program for older kids includes this story in lieu of education about chlamydia:
The first time I had sex with anybody, I got Chlamydia. So one week I was a virgin, and two weeks later, I had an STD….I became violently ill. I had a 105 fever, severe abdominal cramps, and throwing up. The conclusion was yes, that I was infertile. My tubes had been damaged beyond repair.
While it is entirely possible to get chlamydia from one’s first sexual experience, it would be nice if the curriculum clarified that a condom could have prevented this outcome. More importantly, though, the infection would not progress to irreversible tube damage in just a couple of weeks (which despite the clever use of ellipses is how the story reads). Chlamydia, which often has no symptoms, is easily curable with antibiotics. If not treated it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is what would cause someone to have fever, cramps, and vomiting. PID can also be cured with antibiotics. It is when PID is left untreated that scar tissue builds up. This would not happen rapidly, and given the symptoms this character experienced, there would have been plenty of opportunity for her to seek help and get treatment long before permanent damage was done. In actuality, the danger with chlamydia and the reason why it leads to infertility is that there are usually no symptoms, and without testing a person doesn’t even know she has had it until damage has been done. Implausible stories like this do little to educate students.
My favorite story from Choosing the Best has always been this one in which a new bride tells of how she’s suffered because of her husband’s infidelity:
I was rushed to the hospital with intense abdominal pain. Emergency surgery revealed such an extensive infection that my uterus, tubes and ovaries all had to be removed. My husband of six months had infected me with gonorrhea, which he had contracted from a ‘one-night stand’ prior to our engagement. Our dreams of biological children will never be realized.
Throughout the lessons plans, the authors make it clear that the only way to protect yourself from STDs is to stay abstinent until marriage. This point is underscored so often that it almost seems like wedding rings themselves have some kind of magic protective properties. And yet, the author’s own story proves this wrong. The speaker here could very well have taken the program’s advice and stayed abstinent until her wedding night but she got gonorrhea anyhow. Clearly, she and her new husband would have been better off had they been given real information about how STDs are transmitted, prevented, and treated.If they had, perhaps her husband would have known to us a condom during his one night stand and get tested for STDs before he had unprotected sex with his wife.
Information on condoms and contraception is quite sparse and laser-focused on failure rates in Choosing the Best. The program tells students, for example, that the failure rate for condoms is 15 percent in preventing pregnancy which is more or less accurate though fails to note that this rate includes couples who used a condom incorrectly or didn’t use a condom at all when they became pregnant. When used consistently and correctly condoms are 98 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. The curricula then says: “Could you live with a 15% annual failure rate on: A roller coaster ride? “An airline flight? Skydiving?” Again, because the 15 percent includes non-use, to be accurate, the skydiving analogy would have to include all of those people who jumped out of an airplane without their parachute.
Of course, even if the curriculum provided decent information about condoms or contraception, this would be instantly undermined by the messages of shame that suggest young people who have sex lack character and values. Take the exercise “Mint for Marriage” in which the teacher passes around an unwrapped peppermint patty and asks each student to hold it for a second. When it is returned to the front of the room she says: “Why is this patty no longer appealing?” The answer: “No one wants food that has been passed around and neither would you want your future husband or wife to have been passed around.” A similar exercise called “A Rose with No Petals” ends with the explanation “Each time a sexually active person gives that most personal part of himself or herself away, that person can lose a sense of personal value and worth. It all comes down to self-respect.”
Almost 60 percent of high school students in Mississippi have had sex. It’s hard to see how learning that they lack personal value, worth, and self-respect will be a good motivator for making sure they protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy when they have sex in the future.
Jamie Bardwell, of the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi, one of the groups that authored the new report, told RH Reality Check, “It is incredibly confusing that the law allows a sex education curriculum to be labeled as both abstinence-plus and abstinence-only. True abstinence-only-until-marriage programs like Choosing the Best, should not be labeled ‘abstinence-plus’ simply because they mention the word contraception.”
Bardwell added: “Programs like these that shame LGBT young people and include wedding ceremonies, inaccurate information, and gender stereotypes. They should not be taught in any Mississippi classrooms and certainly not in schools that want an abstinence-plus programs. Young people need and want good, medically accurate information to make healthy decisions.”
Advocates in Mississippi are trying to get the law changed so that better curricula are required, at least in schools that chose an abstinence-plus approach. In the meantime, a clear majority of students in the Magnolia State will be told by Choosing the Best that sexually active teenagers are like a pitcher of spit—dirty, gross, and not wanted.
The post Mississippi Sex Ed Law Leads to Reshuffled, But Not Improved, Curricula appeared first on RH Reality Check.
11.03.14 - (Comunicado de Prensa) El gobierno brasilero acordó pagar reparaciones de acuerdo con la primera decisión de las Naciones Unidas en reconocer la mortalidad materna como una violación de derechos humanos.
Casi tres años después de que el Comité para la Eliminación de la Discriminación contra la Mujer de las Naciones Unidas (Comité de la CEDAW) declarara responsable a Brasil de la muerte de una mujer Afro-Brasilera, y recomendara al Estado proveer acceso a servicios de salud materna de calidad sin discriminación, el gobierno Brasilero pagará reparaciones a la madre de Alyne da Silva Pimentel.
De acuerdo con Nancy Northup, presidenta y CEO del Centro de Derechos Reproductivos:
“Todas las mujeres tienen derecho a servicios de salud materna cuando los necesiten, sin importar dónde viven, su ingreso, ni su raza.
“A Alyne se le negó repetidamente la atención médica que requería, lo que desencadenó en su muerte.
“El gobierno brasilero ha tomado un primer paso fundamental para cumplir con la decisión de Naciones Unidas, pero debe hacer más para mejorar los servicios de salud materna y eliminar la discriminación contra mujeres vulnerables que requieren tratamiento médico.”
Alyne, una mujer Afro-brasilera de 28 años que se encontraba en el sexto mes de embarazo de su segundo hijo, fue admitida a un centro de salud privado en Belford Roxo con síntomas de náuseas, en Noviembre de 2002. Pese a que presentaba signos de un embarazo de alto riesgo, fue enviada a su casa sin recibir ningún tratamiento médico. Dos días después regresó a la clínica privada en peor estado. Los doctores descubrieron que el feto había muerto y lo extrajeron, pero la salud de Alyne se siguió deteriorando. Fue trasladada al Hospital Geral de Nova Iguaçu tras esperar ocho horas una ambulancia que la trasladara. Alyne no recibió ningún tipo de atención médica por más de 21 horas. Luego cayó en estado de coma y murió el 16 de Noviembre del 2002, cinco días después de haber solicitado atención médica por primera vez.
El Centro de Derechos Reproductivos y Advocacia Cidadã Pelos Direitos Humanos interpusieron una petición en representación de la familia de Alyne ante al Comité de la CEDAW en Noviembre del 2007 -el primer caso de mortalidad materna interpuesto ante un órgano de derechos humanos. El Comité declaró a Brasil responsable de la violación de los derechos humanos de Alyne y ordenó al Estado a proveer reparaciones individuales a su familia e implementar medidas generales para prevenir las muertes maternas.
Desde la decisión del Comité de la CEDAW en el 2011, el gobierno brasilero ha tomado algunas medidas para implementar la decisión de las Naciones Unidas, pero aún queda un largo camino por recorrer. El Grupo de Trabajo Interministerial para la implementación de las recomendaciones generales del Comité de la CEDAW fue creado para desarrollar el plan de trabajo y los indicadores de cumplimiento. Su término venció en Octubre de 2013 sin que hubiera cumplido con su tarea.
El 28 de Febrero de 2014, el Comité de la CEDAW aprobó un acuerdo entre el Gobierno Brasilero y el Centro de Derechos Reproductivos, como representante de la familia de Alyne, respecto de la compensación económica que sería pagada a la madre de Alyne. Las reparaciones individuales para la hija de Alyne todavía se encuentran pendientes. El Comité de la CEDAW también determinó que el seguimiento del cumplimiento de las demás recomendaciones continuará, especialmente respecto de las reparaciones de la hija de Alyne.
“El Gobierno Brasilero está dando un paso importante al reconocer que el sistema de salud le falló a Alyne y a otras mujeres brasileras vulnerables”, dijo Mónica Arango, directora regional para América Latina y el Caribe del Centro de Derecho Reproductivos. “Aún queda un camino por recorrer para que se provean reparaciones económicas a la hija de Alyne y para que se creen políticas públicas que mejoren los servicios de salud materna para todas las mujeres sin discriminación.”
De acuerdo con la Organización Mundial de la Salud, aproximadamente 800 mujeres mueren diariamente en el mundo por complicaciones asociadas con el embarazo. Un cuarto de todas las muertes maternas en América Latina ocurren en Brasil, y noventa por ciento de ellas podrían ser evitadas mediante atención prenatal. Pese a que Brasil ha reducido su tasa de mortalidad materna en la última década, la mortalidad materna persiste como la mayor causa de muerte entre mujeres en edad reproductiva, afectando de manera desproporcionada a mujeres de escasos recursos, Afro-brasileras, indígenas, y aquellas que habitan áreas rurales en el Norte y el Nordeste Brasilero.
03.11.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) The Brazilian government has agreed to pay reparations as part of the first United Nations ruling on human rights violations in a maternal death case.
Almost three years after the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) declared Brazil responsible for the death of an Afro-Brazilian woman—calling on the state to provide access to quality maternal health care without discrimination—the Brazilian government will provide the mother of Alyne da Silva Pimentel reparations.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“All women are entitled to maternal health care when they need it—regardless of where they live, their income, or their race.
“Alyne was repeatedly denied the medical attention she needed and it led to her death.
“The Brazilian government has taken an important first step to abide by the United Nations’ decision, but must do more to improve maternal health care and put an end to discrimination against marginalized women seeking medical treatment.”
Alyne, a 28-year-old Afro-Brazilian woman, six-months pregnant with her second child, was admitted to the private Health Centre Belford Roxo complaining of nausea in November 2002. Although she presented signs of a high-risk pregnancy, she was discharged without any medical treatment. Two days later, she returned to the private clinic in even worse condition. Doctors discovered that the fetus had died and removed it, but Alyne’s health continued deteriorating. It took more than eight hours to get an ambulance to take her to Hospital Geral de Nova Iguaçu—where Alyne then suffered through a delay of more than 21 hours before she was finally given medical treatment. She later slipped into a coma and died on November 16, 2002—five days after she initially asked for medical attention.
The Center for Reproductive Rights and Advocacia Cidadã Pelos Direitos Humanos submitted a petition on behalf of Alyne’s family before CEDAW in November 2007—the first maternal mortality case brought to the human rights body. The committee declared Brazil responsible for violating Alyne’s human rights and ordered the state to provide individual reparations to her family and implement general measures to prevent maternal deaths.
Since the 2011 CEDAW ruling, the Brazilian government has taken some steps to implement the U.N. decision. While an interministerial working group for the implementation of CEDAW’s general recommendations was created to develop a work plan and indicators of compliance, the group’s term expired in October 2013 and its assignment was not completed.
On February 28, 2014, the CEDAW Committee backed an agreement between the Brazilian government and the Center for Reproductive Rights, representing Alyne’s family, on the monetary compensation that will be given to Maria Lourdes da Silva Pimentel in April. The individual reparations for Alyne’s daughter are still pending. The CEDAW Committee also underscored that the follow up dialogue would continue regarding the other recommendations, particularly the reparations for Alyne´s daughter.
“The Brazilian government is taking an important step in acknowledging that the health care system in the country failed Alyne and other marginalized Brazilian women,” said Mónica Arango, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Now it must act swiftly to provide financial reparations to Alyne’s daughter and create public policies to improve maternal health care for all women once and for all.”
According to the World Health Organization, approximately 800 women die every day worldwide from pregnancy complications. Brazil accounts for a quarter of all maternal deaths in Latin America and 90 percent of them could be prevented with prenatal care. Although Brazil has reduced its maternal mortality rate in the last decade, maternal mortality remains the leading cause of death among women of childbearing age, disproportionately affecting low-income, Afro-Brazilian, indigenous women, and those living in rural areas and the Brazilian North and Northeast.Brazilian Lawmakers Hear Testimony Regarding Discrimination Against Women Seeking Maternal Health Care Cases: Alyne da Silva Pimentel v. Brazil (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women)
At this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), reporter Jamelle Bouie witnessed (and live-tweeted) a painfully awkward attempt at young conservative romance:
Young woman: “Why did you ask me if I’ve been ‘hit on’ here.” Dude: “I don’t like the term ‘hit on.’ It sounds sexual and disrespectful…”
— Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) March 6, 2014
Dude continues: “But I asked because you are beautiful and it seems like a lot of guys would want to talk to you.” Young woman: “Um…”
— Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) March 6, 2014
Conversation has moved on to why he’s so terrible with women, and why she seems so stand-offish. I think I have an answer for him.
— Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) March 6, 2014
The young woman casually mentions “sleeping with someone.” Guy recoils, “I don’t like physical contact early in a relationship.”
— Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) March 6, 2014
The mind-boggling combination of prudery, frustrated sexual entitlement, and slut-shaming got me thinking: Does this kind of thing happen to a lot of young women at CPAC? What’s the sexual culture like at this heady three-day event, where busloads of college students enjoy subsidized registration prices, the company of gaggles of like-minded peers, and a constant tension between socially conservative and libertarian values?
When I asked University of Virginia students Amy McMahon and Abigail Welborn whether they’d been hit on at CPAC, the first response was giggles of recognition; of course they had been.
“At night, going out, there’s a lot of characters,” McMahon said.
“Our party has more men than women, by far, so the ratio’s kind of skewed a little bit,” Welborn said.
McMahon recalled a conversation with a “random guy” who wasn’t hitting on her, but who said, “’Oh yeah, I’m gonna hook up with five women.’ And I was like, whoa. That’s not what I thought of when I came to CPAC. I thought, politics, opportunity!”
A group of young women from Westchester, Pennsylvania, who asked to remain anonymous said that the guys in their group had been “talking about girls non-stop,” as one put it. “They’ll be like, ‘did you see that one there?’ and point one out.” Another young woman in that group said she had gotten a lot of creepy comments from older men about her curly, bright red hair.
Patrick Moran of the University of Albany said that there is definitely “a culture of a bunch of creepy guys” at CPAC—young guys, he clarified. “Everybody knows that guy who swings by and puts his arm around the girl who wants nothing to do with him.”
“I’ve seen guys open up with their credentials as though it’s a job interview,” Moran said. “Hi, how you doing, I’m president of this club and that club, and I’m at Yale!”
Some said that the flirting or hook-up scenes weren’t that much different from back home—except that connections were almost guaranteed to be short-term (“you either get their number or you don’t,” Moran said), and you meet more like-minded people in one place than you’re used to.
“Coming from a liberal state like New York, there’s not a lot of conservative women,” Moran said. “And when you come here and see a bunch of well-dressed people who believe what you believe and look very good—I mean, you get excited!”
Is waiting to have sex until marriage still an ideal among young conservatives?
“It’s definitely kind of an ideal, but I think we’re realistic enough to see that it doesn’t always happen, and there’s nothing really wrong with that,” Welborn said.
Is there hypocrisy along those lines? “I’ve seen a lot more not really practicing what they preach,” said University of Albany student Robert Warshauer. “I feel like religion plays a big part of it.”
Most young people I spoke to hedged with an “everybody has their own view” kind of answer when asked whether they, personally, wanted to wait until marriage. Not so, however, with two young women from Virginia who didn’t want to give their names or the name of their school. One wore an engagement ring and said she’s waiting until her wedding day, and the other said she also believes in waiting until marriage and doesn’t agree with the “casual” attitude toward sex that pervades events like these.
Some didn’t identify with the hook-up scene for other reasons. “I already feel really old here,” said Heather Linville, from Minnesota. “I had to check the 26-40 box today. It’s just been a very rough morning,” she said, laughing, referring to the demographic information in the CPAC straw poll. “I’ve heard stories, you know it’s going on, I’ve just never been a part of it.”
Linville, who wore a “Stand with Rand” button, was still concerned about the tension between social conservatives and libertarians. “Sometimes when I’m around libertarians I feel more Republican, and when I’m around Republicans I feel more libertarian,” she said. “We have to figure out a way to get over ourselves and start being an inclusive party again. We’re just going to start driving people away.” She cited the exclusion of the gay Republican group GOProud as an example.
The right-wing Catholic group Tradition, Family, and Property, which passed out leaflets painting GOProud as “beavers” chomping away at the social conservative “leg” of conservative politics, presumably has strong opinions of its own about the morality of CPAC hook-ups.
I experienced a few CPAC come-ons myself while reporting this piece at a Friday happy hour. One guy looked at my badge to see where I worked and asked what “RH” stood for. I told him it was “reproductive health.”
“What’s that code for?” he asked.
Another said, as an opening salvo: “You look like you need saving.” He probably meant “from boredom,” though, not sin.
Image: SenatorRandPaul / YouTube
The post CPAC Come-Ons: Sexual Culture at the Nation’s Largest Conservative Conference appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Any woman who experiences an unintended pregnancy and chooses abortion deserves the same care and compassion as any other medical patient. That's why the role of abortion providers is essential to women's reproductive-health care.
Abortion providers across the country risk their lives to ensure women can access abortion care with compassion. Not only do they put their safety on the line, some also travel thousands of miles to make sure they can provide care in areas where there is no abortion provider on staff. That's why we work every day to protect women's reproductive freedom and abortion providers across the country.
We hear every day from women who are grateful for their provider's compassionate care and assistance when choosing the best reproductive-health option:
I never thought I would have an abortion. Last summer I made the heart-wrenching decision to terminate a very much wanted pregnancy. At our 12 week scan we discovered that our baby boy had an 11 mm cystic hygroma and further genetic tests confirmed that he had trisomy 18. Trisomy 18 is not compatible with life. Our baby had a less than 5% chance of even making it to term and if he did he would have died shortly after birth. We couldn't bear the emotional distress of knowing that each day could have been the day our baby would die in the womb and if we made it to birth it would only be to bury him shortly after. I still cry every day for our baby we lost but I know we made the right decision for us and I'm so thankful that we had the option to make that decision. I am also so thankful for the compassionate doctors and genetic counselors we met along the way.
KC, 30, Massachusetts:
At 35 weeks in a very wanted pregnancy, my baby was diagnosed with serious brain malformations. Her prognosis was grim. It was not known how long she would live, but it was certain that she would suffer for all of her brief life. My husband and I were devastated.
It was so late in my pregnancy that there was only one clinic in the entire country that could legally take us. We knew what our choice was and didn't need more time to think about it. We knew this was right. We scrambled for the money and hopped a plane the next business day to take us to our procedure. Our care was incredible. Everyone was so compassionate and very serious about keeping me safe. I miss my baby terribly, but I know that I did for her what I would want my parents to do for me. We saved her, and there is great peace in that.
I am so thankful to our clinic and caregivers for helping me and my baby, but at the same time I am angry that, had we found out only one day later, all doors would have been closed. I'm hurt that we had to leave our home and support network to get our care. I'm enraged that this option rested on fast access to $30,000 for trip and care. It is incredibly unjust that a family without contacts to such resources would have no choice at all. I am deeply saddened that being open about my loss might risk harassment or even violence against my family and clinic. I despair that something so close and personal and poignant be subjected to a raging war over women's rights. I am scared that other loving families in my place will run out of safe and humane options that they can live with.
Eve, 37, Alaska:
We were using birth control and it failed. I found out I was pregnant after I missed my period (at five weeks). I live in one of the larger cities in Alaska, but because the clinic does not have an abortion provider, they fly one in at regular intervals. I waited four weeks for a provider. The clinic was wonderful, caring and understanding (to the point of letting me make a backup appointment just in case the doctor was weathered out and could not fly in). I am lucky because I do not live off the road system and have a supportive family. I can only imagine what the wait might be like for someone with little support out in a village somewhere off the road system, especially with all the scary self-help advice out there on the internet. I am grateful for action groups working to keep access to abortion open and the procedure itself safe and legal. Finally, I cannot thank the clinic and the providers enough for their time and caring when I needed it.
Halina, 21, North Dakota:
While switching from different birth controls I became pregnant. I was not mentally or physically ready for a child. I chose to have an abortion. My husband and I are very grateful we had a choice in this decision. The clinic we went to was the only one available in North Dakota, they were very nice, very helpful, they made sure I was fully educated with my choice and I am very thankful for that. Banning abortion gives NO choice for women and to me, that's just wrong.
Erica, 32, Texas:
I thought I was doing everything right....
While I was certain that I was using the pill correctly, I did manage to get pregnant. I called him and we decided that we were far too young and not financially able to have a child together. I was working two jobs and I was a full time student. I was paying my way and helping pay bills for my parents.
In the end, the abortion was performed with a lot of guidance from the clinic. They made sure I was absolutely informed of my choices and I made the right one for myself and my body. Looking back, I never regret my decision for one second - other than getting pregnant in the first place. Now, I'm successful and married to a wonderful man and we are trying to have our first child. The panic I felt when I found out I was pregnant really made me understand the women who retreated to back alley abortions - I would have done ANYTHING to have my abortion and I am so thankful that I didn't have to make that kind of a decision.
Evie, 30, Texas :
My boyfriend knew before I did, and it was just a side comment from him about how beautiful I looked that made me even think to buy a pregnancy test. When I told him, he was his usual supportive and gentle self, and apologized. Then promised to support me however I wanted to proceed.
He did all the research, found me the best abortion clinic in the state...The doctors were a husband and wife team, a loving pair of caregivers who were so obviously in this practice for all of the kindest reasons.
The doctor who performed my exam apologized, seemingly humiliated, before using the vaginal ultrasound probe to show me the pea-sized [pregnancy].
About 48 hours later, my seemingly constant "morning" sickness was over and I was no longer pregnant. It was painless. I felt supported. I had an excellent team of medical professionals to support me and answer my questions.
Even though abortion care is a critical part of reproductive-health services and lets women's control their destinies - one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime - anti-choice forces work hard every day to close down clinics and force abortion providers out of business.
Anti-choice groups do whatever it takes, from passing laws like the one in Texas to close clinics, to using harassment, intimidation and even violence. As recently as last week, an anti-choice activist vandalized and forced a reproductive-health clinic in Montana to close in order to intimidate patients and providers. In 2009, abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was murdered in his church by an anti-choice extremist.
We're honored to recognize some of our current and former NARAL Pro-Choice America board members who are also abortion providers, Dr. Sara Imershein, who provides care to women on the East Coast, and Dr. Susan Wicklund, a retired provider and author of "This Common Secret" about her experience as a provider in an extremely conservative part of the country.
We thank abortion providers across the country who risk their lives and safety to ensure that women have access to essential reproductive-health services and abortion care.
Happy National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day from NARAL Pro-Choice America.