Book Review: Perilous Times by Fran Moreland Johns

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Available on Amazon

YBK Publishers has released a new book entitled Perilous Times: An Inside Look at Abortion Before—and After—Roe v Wade, by Fran Moreland Johns. Johns shares the story of her own abortion and uses this narrative to connect with other women who have shared similar experiences. While I was reading Perilous Times, I was often reminded of the film Dirty Dancing, where one of the dancers is taken for a back alley abortion and almost dies. I was also reminded of the film Jane: An Abortion Service, where women in Chicago took it upon themselves to help women receive safe, albeit illegal, abortions before Roe v. Wade. Needless to say, I was very drawn into the book, and couldn’t put it down all weekend.

I was lucky enough to be able to interview Fran Moreland Johns. I hope you find her motivation to write the book as inspirational as I did.

1.  In the introduction you say that you never shared your story with anyone (except for your friend Trish) before you started writing Perilous Times. What prompted you to “come out of the closet,” so to speak?

Trish and I had talked often about how those of us who survived abortion in those grim pre-Roe days are dying off fast, and so many stories will never be told. Then I began to see abortion access being denied – particularly this is the case for women without money or resources – in state after state, and I thought this is all I can do to slow that backward movement: tell the stories of women today who are suffering just as much as we did before 1973.  [Read more...]

Days After Restrictive Abortion Law is Signed, North Carolina Clinic Has License Suspended

Remember how, when  Pat McCrory ran for governor of North Carolina last year, he promised not to pass any new abortion-related restrictions? Don’t worry, neither does he. And barely two days after McCrory signed an anti-choice bill into law, the FemCare clinic–also known as the only abortion provider in Western North Carolina–has had its licensed suspended.

Officials with the state’s Department of Health and Human Services say that the suspension is unrelated to the new law, and cited 23 violations. However, a statement released on behalf of the clinic alluded to the fact that those new regulations may have been a factor in the suspension: [Read more...]

Ross Douthat’s European Vacation

Earlier this week, the New York Times’s Ross Douthat wrote an op-ed about the “Texas abortion experiment.” While the conservative columnist acknowledged that Texas’s new law could make “first-trimester abortions harder to obtain,” he spent much of the piece downplaying the very real threats this law poses to women’s health and talking up similarly restrictive laws in Europe.

Douthat looks to the example of a number of European countries, including Ireland, for how the Texas law could play out. Yet he rejects comparisons between the United States and other certain countries that enact restrictive abortion laws. According to Douthat, concerns that “Women’s lives will be endangered, their health threatened, their economic opportunities substantially foreclosed” in America stem from similar outcomes in poorer and more conservative areas of the world and therefore are not appropriate sources to examine. He also adds that it is difficult to determine if “those bans actually hold back progress and development.”

Actually, it’s not that difficult. Studies have shown that when abortion is illegal, women still terminate their pregnancies—they just do so in unhygienic and dangerous conditions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank whose work Douthat also links to in his column:

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Ireland’s Push to Legalize Abortion Continues

As Texas and North Carolina move towards sharply restricting abortion access, a country infamous for its own restrictive abortion laws is inching towards liberalization. Last week, Irish lawmakers passed a bill that would allow abortions to be performed to save a woman’s life. This vote moves the government closer to following a 1992 Supreme Court decision, which found that abortion should be legal if doctors feel it is necessary to protect a woman’s health, including if she threatens to commit suicide; however, six previous governments refused to pass a law in support of this ruling.

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I Believe in Wendy

Texas governor Rick Perry may have called another special session to pass the anti-abortion legislation Senator Wendy Davis successfully blocked last week, Stand with Texas womenbut that’s no reason to stop celebrating the senator’s filibuster.  She didn’t just show us that one woman could make a difference from within, even when the insider rules are ridiculous. (No leaning? No brace-touching?) She showed us how one woman making a difference from within is always already much more than “just one woman” without conceding an ounce of her own authority.

It was a living, breathing performance of a decidedly feminist construction of power.

Senator Davis did all the speaking because that was what the law required.  But while she was up there, she read the words of women who had sent her their abortion stories to fulfill her procedural obligation to stay on topic. She filibustered for 11 hours, but when the lieutenant governor went ahead and called the vote anyway, women in the gallery started chanting, making it impossible for him to get the votes on record. In both cases, Davis became, almost literally, in a whole French theorist sense, a woman who was not one. She was many.

I can’t think of a better way to use a rule that was quite obviously designed to keep any but the strongest-bladdered, hardiest-lunged individuals from speaking.

I don’t think it was an accident that Governor Perry decided to talk about Senator Davis’ personal history at the National Right to Life convention the next day. Or rather, I do, at least in the sense that I don’t think it required much calculation on his part. There’s no need when the sexism is ingrained. Senator Wendy Davis, leader of the “angry mob” the lieutenant governor groused may be a nuisance, but she’s a nuisance who has to be reckoned with. Wendy Davis the poor single mother, daughter of single woman herself, is categorically deficient by virtue of having a vagina. Of course his remarks went over like gangbusters at the Right to Life conference. Women have served as object lessons for that lot since Eve gummed up the works in Eden.

The good news for the rest of us is that Wendy Davis is still speaking, and she understands what assumptions are dressed up in Perry’s seemingly complimentary narrative. Turns out Davis is long past being shamed by her femininity or hoodwinked into giving credence to antiquated notions of nice little ladyhood. In fact, Davis’ response to Perry’s comments uses his own macho swaggering ideal of personal freedom against him by casting it as a virtue that transcends gender.

“It demonstrated that they just don’t understand how very personal these issues are,” she explains. “My story, my personal story, is my story. I have the ability to make choices and I had opportunities that I was able to take advantage of in my life. Other women of course should be able to define their own destinies and this idea that the heavy hand of government should somehow come in and tell her how to do that is deeply resented in [a] state like Texas. It’s deeply resented everywhere, but if you know anything about Texas, we hold very strongly to our traditions and our values where personal liberties are concerned.”

I don’t doubt that Perry has a brilliant staffer who will come up with an effective rebuttal. I don’t even doubt that that staffer is a woman. But during this week where we celebrate our nation’s independence, I’m grooving on Senator Davis’ message. “Anti-choice isn’t just anti-American, America, it’s anti-Texan!”

 

Guttmacher: Abortion Worldwide

This week, thousands of women’s health and empowerment advocates are in Kuala Lumpur for the Women Deliver 2013 conference. The conference, hailed as the largest global event of its kind this decade, is bringing together policy makers, advocates and researchers alike who are committed to reducing maternal mortality and increasing access to reproductive health.  The Guttmacher Institute’s staff and research are among those featured throughout the conference, including a short video presenting key evidence on abortion worldwide:

This video packs a punch with some very compelling statistics: [Read more...]

Gosnell Found Guilty (Mostly)

Guest blogger Sarah Cohen lives in Philadelphia with her husband and their cat.

gosnellToday a Philadelphia jury found Kermit Gosnell guilty on three counts of first-degree murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter, and acquitted him on one count of first-degree murder.  This outcome is, in short, excellent news.  I want to distill the outrage and bluster over Gosnell’s practices and prosecution into a few simple talking points.  The most basic is that everyone, regardless of his or her stance on abortion, should be appalled by Kermit Gosnell.

A quick recap of the case: Women’s Medical Society [WMS] in West Philadelphia, run by Kermit Gosnell, was billed as a clinic that provided health care from geriatrics to OB/GYN, including abortion services.  It had a reputation for seeing patients who may have been turned away from other abortion providers due to lack of money, absence of parental consent, unwillingness to comply with Pennsylvania’s mandatory 24-hour waiting period, or the advanced stage of their pregnancy.  [Read more...]

Jane About Thisismyabortion.com

Feminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists For Choice. Today we are talking to Jane, founder of the website thisismyabortion.com. On the site, Jane shares pictures of her abortion and the website has received many comments from women all over the world.

1. How did the project come about?
This project came about after I had an abortion. The day I went in for my procedure, I was bombarded by anti-choice fanatics outside the clinic displaying bloody images of dead babies. It was horrific. I was determined to know what my abortion would look like. I decided to take pictures with my phone of the abortion after the procedure was over. It took some time for me to decide to publish these photos and make a project out of it.

2.What was your main goal when deciding to show pictures of your abortion? Was it mostly personal or also political?
The main goal for me was educational. I felt vastly manipulated by the anti-choice protesters outside that clinic that day. They took advantage of my fragile state in an unscrupulous calculated manner. It was, and is, blatant propaganda to fulfill an anti-choice agenda. [Read more...]

Mississippi’s Last Abortion Clinic Remains Open!

A federal judge has blocked part of a state law that could have closed Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only clinic in Mississippi. Last year, the state passed a law that would have required that physicians at abortion clinics have admitting privileges at local hospitals. While the physicians at JWHO tried to comply with that mandate, no area hospital would grant the privileges. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which has represents the clinic, “the physicians responsible for vast majority of the clinic’s patients were not granted privileges by any of the hospitals in the area-with several hospitals refusing to even process the physicians’ applications, citing hospital policies on abortion care.”

Today’s ruling by District Court Judge Daniel P. Jordan III blocks the remaining forms of enforcement of this requirement, and prevents the state Department of Health from revoking the clinic’s license for being unable to comply with the admitting regulation. In his opinion, Judge Jordan wrote that “Closing its doors would — as the state seems to concede in this argument — force Mississippi women to leave Mississippi to obtain a legal abortion.” The judge also stated that Mississippi’s position in the case “would result in a patchwork system where constitutional rights are available in some states but not others.”

Kansas Weighs New Anti-Choice Laws

The South Wind Women’s Clinic in Wichita may offer a place for women to receive abortion care, but anti-choice legislators in the state are hoping to impose new restrictions on the procedure. Both the state House and Senate have passed a bill that would define life as beginning at fertilization, and anti-choice Governor Sam Brownback is expected to sign it into law.

The bill does more than include language about when life begins. It would also mandate what information clinics must give women about abortion risks—including the medically inaccurate claim of a possible link between breast cancer and abortion—and fetal development; prohibit clinic employees from providing sex education in schools; ban terminations performed solely because of the sex of the fetus; and prohibit the use of tax credits, tax preferences, and public funds for abortion services, as well as prevent public health-care services provided by the state from being used in any way to carry out abortions.

[Read more...]