Compassion In Perspective

Rather than stigmatize women, society should respect a woman’s sense of autonomy and self-preservation…Before you judge, stop and feel the hate. It flows from both directions.

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I woke up today as on so many other days. Face washed. Teeth brushed. Cats fed. Rain forecast. Sun still hidden. Winter wear secured. House left behind in a haze of hot exhaust mixed with the crisp morning air. I drove past the exit for my office; and headed downtown toward the abortion clinic. I am a clinic escort.

As a clinic escort, I absorb the evangelical vitriol of anti-choice harassment so that women who have made the difficult decision to abort are not obliged to absorb that for which they have no more capacity to harbor. It is my purpose for waking before the sun,  the reason I am built of inert bone and catalytic flesh – to transform hate into compassion. I am rarely surprised by the fountain of hate that flows so freely from the mouths of those who purport to worship a god who asks nothing but love.

Misogynistic exhortation is the status quo for the clinic escort. But when the misogyny flows even more freely from the people I aim to shield, I am readily turned about. He told me he didn’t “give a shit about that bitch.” I first thought he spoke of the skulking protester. He didn’t care if she died. He didn’t care if she and that baby died either. He would do it himself.

I could not walk with him.

To feel the hatred flow from the escorted, as I did today, is a stark reminder of why the fight for safe, legal, accessible abortion can never waiver, must not fail. Rather than stigmatize women, society should respect a woman’s sense of autonomy and self-preservation. Women deserve safety, opportunity, love, and respect – not violence, subservience, hatred, and contempt.

Open your eyes. Before you judge, stop and feel the hate. It flows from both directions.

Without Roe v. Wade

I am thankful that, because of Roe v. Wade, no woman in the U.S. has to endure illegal abortion – especially not my sisters.

Today, reproductive freedom is a right that every woman in the United States possesses, but few women truly appreciate. A woman can attend university, buy her own house or car, and thanks to Griswold v. Connecticut is able to enjoy sex with the person of her choice without the fear of becoming pregnant. Today, a woman has a choice whether and when to have children, and how many she will bear. And in the event of a pregnancy – whether wanted or unwanted, expected or unexpected – a woman has the choice whether to complete that pregnancy or to terminate it.

Many of my married friends don’t realize that we women were once considered non-entities. They don’t realize that not long ago, they could not have received a bank loan in their name without a male relative’s approval. Many of my friends don’t know that, though it was illegal in this country for 150 years, abortion was a common, private family matter for thousands of years before it was first made illegal  in the U.S. in Connecticut in 1821. And sadly, many of my friends don’t realize how badly women and their families suffered as a result of criminalization of abortion.

On this 39th anniversary of the transformative Roe v. Wade ruling, I am thankful that piles of dead women have stopped showing up in morgues because of botched and unsafe backstreet abortions. I am thankful that doctors no longer refuse to treat miscarrying women for fear of facing criminal charges for aiding an abortion. I am thankful that women who are victims of rape are no longer forced by the state to carry their rapist’s baby to term and then share parental rights with the rapist.

When abortion was illegal, women had to navigate dangerous, murky channels to find an abortion provider. Often, women paid exorbitant prices and endured sexual abuse from amateur backstreet abortionists. Illegal abortions were performed in unsanitary conditions by ill-qualified persons. Abortion complications were rampant. And hospitals would not treat women with abortion complications until death was knocking – too late too often. I am thankful that, because of Roe v. Wade, no woman in the U.S. has to endure illegal abortion.

But what I am most thankful for, is that my sister was able to have a legal, safe abortion when she found herself pregnant at the hands of her physically abusive boyfriend. If abortion were illegal , she would have been connected to her abuser forever. She might have feared leaving her abuser. She might have feared his abuse turning on her children. She might been trapped in a relationship with an abusive man. She might have died at his abusive hands, or at the hands of an exploitative, swindling amateur abortionist.

Because abortion is legal, my sister no longer has to endure physical and mental abuse. She is not trapped in an abusive relationship. She doesn’t have to fear the abuse will turn on her children. She doesn’t fear her children will normalize abuse or become abusers themselves. She isn’t afraid of leaving her abuser. And best of all, she is alive and safe. And she hasn’t regretted it for even one second.

On this 39th anniversary of Roe, I am glad that my sister was able to take her future into her own hands. Because of women like her, we are all empowered.

Regulating Abortion in PA after Gosnell

I agree with the grand jury, inspecting a medical facility only once in ten years is grossly negligent oversight, and endangers patient safety. We need to do better.

In a transparent attempt to usurp the personal power endowed upon us by Roe v. Wade, the Pennsylvania Assembly is considering legislation that would make it impossible for the currently-operating, well-regulated abortion providers in Pennsylvania to continue to provide health care services. While abortion clinics in Pennsylvania are currently regulated in accordance with 28 Pa. Code Ch. 29, Subchapter D – Ambulatory Gynecological Surgery in Hospitals and Clinic, Senate Bill 732 [PDF] would apply Ambulatory Surgical Facility (ASF) regulations to abortion clinics, even for simple, early first trimester procedures. ASF regulations would mandate larger operating room size, fire extinguishing provisions and ventilation capacities that current non-hospital based facilities cannot meet.
This bill was proposed in response to the discovery of the clandestine Gosnell horror clinic in Philadelphia. In the grand jury report [PDF], Pennsylvania Department of Health and Pennsylvania Department of State officials were called out by name for their extremely negligent oversight of this clinic. And now, legislators are attempting to cover their tracks. But anti-choice politicians have seized the opportunity to eliminate any choice for women of abortion care altogether by closing abortion facilities for structural details as minor as an improperly sized closet. If passed, a compliant clinic would be given inadequate time (180 days to widen hallways, increase procedure room size, install new ventilation, and etc. is inadequate time) to make the structural changes necessary to comply with structural requirements for ambulatory facilities.
But imposing new regulations does not mean that the new regulations will be enforced. Instead of new, stricter regulations, we need better oversight and stricter enforcement of the current regulations for abortion clinics. Or if new regulation is the only viable solution, phased-in enforcement of ASF regulations not related to reporting, inspection, enforcement or licensure should be agreed. I agree with the grand jury, inspecting a medical facility only once in ten years is grossly negligent oversight, and endangers patient safety. We need to do better.
What follows is the letter I wrote to my state Senator expressing my opposition to Senate Bill 732, as amended. If you live in PA, please take the time to contact your state Senator about Senate Bill 732.
Dear Senator _________,
I write to you to express my genuine concern for the consequences a piece of legislation currently being considered by the Pennsylvania Senate, Senate Bill 732 (SB 732). As amended, SB 732, if passed, would create a dangerous health care situation. As you know, SB 732 adopts facility standards for all abortion clinics that most western PA abortion providers cannot currently meet, and would face grave structural and financial burdens to meet if such standards were enacted. The effective date of the legislation is such that no structural changes could be rendered to such facilities before their enforcement, and these clinics would be forced to close.
This legislation was proposed under the supposedly well-intentioned premise that patients need to be protected from illegal, unsafe surgical abortion facilities like the one uncovered in Philadelphia. Upon examination, this is an obvious lie. This legislation does nothing to protect women from dubious ‘doctors’ who care nothing for their health and well-being. It is my personal view that this legislation will have the opposite effect. This legislation would close most of the clinics in Pennsylvania due to structural nonconformances unrelated to ensuring medical health or patient safety.
Closing the currently well-regulated, compliant abortion facilities will make abortion inaccessible to most Pennsylvania women. In addition, many women will be unable to afford a legal abortion due to the increase in cost to providers due to increased regulation. Consequently, utterly desperate women will seek clandestine services from unregulated, illegal providers. Women may seek abortion care out of state. Or, sadly, women may attempt extremely dangerous self-abortion. The indirect effects of this legislation are innumerable.
If the genuine concern of the Pennsylvania Assembly is the health and safety of women, the assembly should readdress this bill and pass laws that do not manufacture health crises. Or, if new regulation is the only viable solution, phased-in enforcement of ambulatory surgical facility regulations not related to reporting, inspection, enforcement or licensure should be agreed. If the real concern of the Pennsylvania Assembly is usurping Roe v. Wade by eliminating safe abortion access in Pennsylvania, then this bill is unconstitutional.
I agree with the grand jury, inspecting a medical facility only once in ten years is grossly negligent oversight, and endangers patient safety. We need to do better. But as evidenced by the Gosnell indictment, enacting regulations does not mean the regulations will be enforced. In addition, this legislation does nothing to actually protect patients. Your yes vote on this bill will create a public health crisis, fuel a clandestine abortion industry, and endanger women’s lives. I urge you to vote no on SB 732.
Sincerely yours,
Nuclear Grrl

Embattled Birth Control?

Personally, “unrestricted, unlimited sex, anytime, anywhere” sounds pretty damned fun to me.

On August 1st, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced historic new requirements for insurers on services for women that should be covered by new insurance plans at no cost (i.e. – without a copay). To determine what medical care would be covered, the Institute of Medicine was charged with reporting to the DHHS what services and screenings for women are needed to fill gaps in recommended preventative care. In the IOM report, “Clinical Preventative Services for Women, Closing the Gap“, the committee defines preventative services as,

measures—including medications, procedures, devices, tests, education and counseling—shown to improve well-being, and/or decrease the likelihood or delay the onset of a targeted disease or condition.

The services recommended by the IOM include common sense stuff:

  • well-woman visits;
  • screening for gestational diabetes;
  • human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing for women 30 years and older;
  • sexually-transmitted infection counseling;
  • human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening and counseling;
  • FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling;
  • breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling; and
  • domestic violence screening and counseling.
Well, unless you live under a rock or are completely unconcerned with women’s reproductive issues, the fall out from the release of these new HHS guidelines has been epic. Both for it’s greatness, and for it’s sheer moronic misogyny. As expected, the National Women’s Law Center, Feminist Majority Foundation, National Organization for Women, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America (P2) have all come out in support of the new guidelines. Representatives from many organizations are commending the HHS for actually listening to and implementing the recommendations of real medical experts and scientists. Some of the reaction has been beyond epic, such as this Bollywood-inspired song and dance routine made for Planned Parenthood:
Any feminist woman knows the depths of Bill O’Reilly’s misogyny. But he feels he continually needs to remind the world how low his opinion of women. On his awful, bias-as-hell show back in July, O’Reilly spoke to a fake liberal woman and a conservative woman about the HHS’s mandate for insurers to cover birth control. (Any liberal who was asked the question as he stated it would have pointed out that O’Reilly’s description of the regulations was inaccurate.) The conversation was completely biased, as O’Reilly asks “liberal” contributor Leslie Marshall if the government should pay for “everybody’s birth control…in the world”. Even leaving out the fact that O’Reilly misrepresents the DHHS requirements (that private insurers pay for birth control for private policy holders, not the government!), he goes on to insult every female birth control user by saying they are “to blasted out of their minds to use it anyway”. Since O’Reilly doesn’t care to actually engage women in a substantive manner, he obviously doesn’t know that the 56 million women who use highly-effective birth control don’t take it when they are “blasted out of their minds”. In addition, he attacks the “health care deal for the ladies” talking to Lou Dobbs, saying we ‘all’ will have to pay for this. Someone should call him up and explain how, we are all ALREADY paying for it!
Although the regulation includes an exception for religious institutions, the Family Research Council argues that the regulation “undermines the conscience rights of many Americans.” Um, yeah, he must mean the less than 1% who don’t use any contraceptive method whatsoever. (I argue that women working for religious institutions should not be subject to their beliefs if not shared, and should have an alternative option for contraceptive coverage.) A spokesman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, says “pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible.” Someone should let him know that no one said pregnancy was a disease. But there are,however, many conditions and diseases associated with pregnancy, many of them fatal for the pregnant woman. Oh, but wait, the Catholic church doesn’t care about the pregnant woman. I forgot.
The arguments against prohibiting cost sharing for preventative services only gets more ridiculous. Stephen Colbert can state it much more hilariously than I. And Jon Stewart breaks it down on the Daily Show. The arguments of opponents to this mandate are not rooted in science or medicine. They are solely rooted in religion. The catholics say the rules are “messing with God”. Other conservatives say giving away free birth control will result in rampant promiscuity. And conspiracy theorists argue that free birth control is just the first step in the government’s assertion of complete control over the reproductive lives of the citizenry for population control purposes. Um, communist China anyone?
These arguments become especially irreverent when you consider that of women of reproductive age who do not want to become pregnant, 99% use a contraceptive method other than natural family planning, and two-thirds of us take a highly-effective method (i.e. – sterilization, the pill, IUD, etc.) regardless of our religious beliefs. And these conservative, anti-choice pundits seem to forget about the fact that not all women using contraceptives are unmarried young people, contraceptive use helps breastfeeding women breastfeed longer by helping them space their pregnancies and increases the socio-economic status of women who are consequently able to delay pregnancy, preventing unplanned pregnancy reduces the need for abortion, couples are less likely to separate after a planned pregnancy than an unplanned pregnancy, contraceptives help prevent the spread of sexually-transmitted infections and HIV, and some women are prescribed contraceptives for reasons other than pregnancy prevention (such as endometriosis). I could go on, but I think I made my point.
The DHHS will be taking public comments on the new regulations through the end of September. Personally, “unrestricted, unlimited sex, anytime, anywhere” sounds pretty damned fun to me. (I hope my husband is up to the challenge!) Plus, I am TOTALLY DOWN with becoming a 4-star General in Obama’s Army of Flesh Thirsty Young Sluts! And, seriously, who would compare domestic violence counseling and breastfeeding advice to getting a pedicure? Oh, wait…