Advice from a Seasoned Activist on How to Avoid Burn Out

Feminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists for Choice, where we talk to difference feminists about what activism looks like for them. Today we’re talking to my good friend, Emily Herrell. Emily is the former Advocacy Coordinator for Planned Parenthood Arizona. (That’s Emily is the hat on the left.) Emily has been an incredible mentor to me as I have volunteered with Planned Parenthood over the last three years. In addition to being a huge zombie fanatic, Emily is also a runner and a bicycling enthusiast. Emily recently left her position at Planned Parenthood Arizona and transitioned over to Habitat for Humanity Tucson.

Find out what Emily has to say about being a pro-choice activist, and read her advice for sticking it out in the movement.

How did you get involved in the pro-choice movement?
I have always been pro-choice, but when I got hired at Planned Parenthood, that was my first official role in the pro-choice movement.

When I was in high school and I decided to start having sex, I put $300 into a savings account so that if I ever needed an abortion, I had my own funding to pay for it. I had that savings account all through college, and I always told my partners up front about it. [Read more...]

Feminist Conversations: Katha Pollitt

Editor’s Note: Feminist Conversations is a regular column, where we talk to pro-choice activists from across the interwebs to find out what folks are up to in their neck of the woods.

Today we’re talking to the award-winning author Katha Pollitt. Katha writes a bimonthly column for The Nation and is the author of  six books, among them the essay collection “Learning to Drive” and two volumes of poetry, “The Mind-Body Problem” and “Antarctic Traveller: Poems.” Katha has received the Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s “Maggie” award and the American Book Award’s Lifetime Achievement Award, among many other honors.

When did you first call yourself a feminist, and what influenced that decision?
I think I’ve always thought of myself as a feminist, before I even knew the word.  Even a six-year-old can see that men get a better deal, it’s just a question of whether you think that’s the way it has to be.  I think in my case I sensed that my mother had been thwarted in her ambitions, as happened to so many women in the 1950s.  She had wanted to be a journalist, and had a few early intern-like jobs.  But marriage, baby, money problems – she always worked, but not at anything she loved.  She poured her hope into me: she took my writing very seriously, and never told me the things supposedly typical of mothers at that time: play dumb to please boys, major in something easy, and never forget that marriage and babies are the point of female existence.

What does feminism mean to you?
I like the classic definition: Feminism is the struggle for the social, political, economic and cultural equality of women and men.   [Read more...]

Pro-Choice News Roundup

It’s been a busy week as far as pro-choice news is concerned.  Here’s a roundup in case you missed anything.

Idaho woman challenges the state’s late-term abortion ban – Houston Chronicle
UK is debating mandatory counseling for abortion patients – The Guardian
RU-486 may become available in Australia – The Australian
Kansas told they have to fund Planned Parenthood – Businessweek
What new legal obstacles mean for women in Ohio – RH Reality Check

How to be Pro-Choice in 8 (and a half) Simple Steps

I recently read an interesting discussion on Jezebel about how individuals could support the pro-choice movement. There were some great ideas, but as several commentors mentioned, they wished they could think of more things.  So – with apologies to Fellini – here are 8 ½ ideas:

1. Ask your gynecologist if she or he performs abortions.  As one awesome provider put it, “How would men react if they found out that their primary care doctors didn’t do prostate exams … and you gotta go and have somebody shove their finger up your ass who they’ve never met before? You think men would go along with it?”

 2. Look beyond Planned Parenthood.  This isn’t a knock on the incredible work that Planned Parenthood clinics do.  It’s just a reminder that while they’re often the best-funded game in town, they’re not the only one. Independent clinics can use volunteers and clinic escorts, too!

[Read more...]

Why Budget Cuts are a Feminist Issue

This post comes to us from guest blogger Talia bat Pessi bat Feige bat Ita bat Gittel. Talia regularly blogs over at Star of Davida.

I had the amazing opportunity to participate in a NOW webinar narrated by Terry O’Neill, the president of NOW, titled “The Budget Deal is a Feminist Issue.” The webinar discussed how Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) 2012 budget deal would cut several social services, which women depend disproportionately on.

O’Neill cited several statistics about women’s dependence compared to men’s on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Over half of Medicare beneficiaries are women, and women are more likely to report having three or more chronic conditions, which shows that they utilize Medicare more than men do. 70% of Medicaid dollars support nursing homes and families with disabled members; 80% of nursing home residents are women, and nursing home employees are also mostly women. Social Security provides more than 60% of the total income for women 65 and older, and 57% of beneficiaries are women.

Ryan’s budget also cuts family planning clinics, Pell grants, job training, Head Start, childcare programs, and WIC nutrition programs, which clearly serve women predominantly. Many more women work in the public sector, and they are disproportionately losing jobs because governments at all levels are cutting workers. This comes against the backdrop of women having fewer fallback resources in the first place because of the persistent gender-based wage gap, which costs women between $400,000 and $2,000,000 over a lifetime.  [Read more...]

New Hampshire Joins the Trend of States Defunding Planned Parenthood

Image courtesy of

Another week, another state pulling the plug on Planned Parenthood. Yesterday the New Hampshire Executive Council, composed entirely of Republicans, voted 3-2 to cancel the state’s contract with the besieged healthcare provider. In addition to losing $1.8 million in state money, Planned Parenthood has lost its ability to provide contraceptives and antibiotics to women that don’t have health insurance. According to TPM, women had been able to fill prescriptions at PP for an average of $5. This decision is expected to affect approximately 120 women each day.

So what’s the rationale that politicians in the “Live Free or Die” state have used for curtailing women’s healthcare choices? [Read more...]

A (Partial) Victory in Indiana

A few days ago, I wrote about how Planned Parenthood clinics in Indiana were barred from receiving Medicaid funds for non-abortion services. But now comes good news from the Hoosier State: a U.S. District Judge has ruled in favor of PP, and granted an injunction against the defunding law. Judge Tanya Pratt also put a hold on a fetal-pain provision in the law, which would have required that doctors tell women seeking abortions that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks or less gestation. (Republican Rep. Sue Ellspermann, who wrote the original draft of the fetal-pain language, has admitted that she did not consult any doctors, studies, or scientists while preparing the legislation – though she does say that she has seen video of a fetus “shying away” from a needle.)

As the Indianapolis Star reports, Judge Pratt “ruled that the defunding law violates federal Medicaid rules and “will exact a devastating financial toll on PPIN and hinder its ability to continue serving patients’ general health needs.” ” Neither the defunding measure nor the fetal pain provision can be enforced while Planned Parenthood’s legal challenge is being heard; however, a provision that requires physicians to inform patients that life begins at fertilization was upheld.

There have also been “unintended consequences” as a result of the court case. According to the Fond Du Lac Reporter, doctors at two state hospitals stopped offering patients the choice of terminating their pregnancies several weeks ago, including cases where the fetus had no chance of survival and where the woman’s health was at serious risk.

Hopefully, the injunction means that not only will Planned Parenthood clinics remain open, but that women can get the full range of options and care that they deserve.


Lizz Winstead is Standing Up for Planned Parenthood

If you’re not watching The Daily Show, we just can’t be friends. Jon Stewart provides some of the smartest political commentary on television, and he’s  funny as hell.

If you do watch, you’re definitely aware of Lizz Winstead. Lizz is a blogger, stand-up comic, writer, and all-around feminist badass. Lizz is currently touring the U.S. to raise funds for Planned Parenthood affiliates. As you know, jerks across the country are threatening reproductive freedom by defunding Planned Parenthood, making sonograms mandatory, and even reducing access to birth control! (And they say they want to reduce abortions.)

Because Lizz had been touring the US selling out comedy venues, she decided to bring crowds in to raise money for the organization that had impacted her life so profoundly. If you’ve ever volunteered with your local affiliate, you know that they’re not exactly swimming with cash. In fact, most of them are having to reduce services and close additional days in order to pay the bills. (If you haven’t gone and volunteered…hey, go do that!)

I wanted to know why Lizz had chosen Planned Parenthood, and what she hoped to accomplish. I spoke with her about Planned Parenthood, anti-choicers, and how you can help. Follow me after the jump to find out what Lizz has to say! [Read more...]

More States Defunding Planned Parenthood

Now that Planned Parenthood clinics are closing or suspending services in Indiana and Minnesota, the trumpets have blared, the angels have descended, and Jesus Christ himself has come down to say that even though the Bible says nothing about abortion, he’s pretty darn happy.

Oh, wait, that’s not it. Nope, now that clinics have closed, women and men won’t be able to access preventative health services, including cancer screenings. Way to protect lives, anti-choicers!

The Minnesota clinics, which didn’t provide abortions, were closed due to cuts in Title X funding. However, it’s not exactly a secret that anti-choice politicians opposed this funding, even though it cannot be used for abortions: according to Michele Bachmann’s office, “Taxpayer funds should not be directed to this heinous organization, especially at a time when our nation’s debt exceeds $14 trillion.” [Read more...]

Weekly Pro-choice Roundup

Everyone Wants to Have More Sex – Feministing
Who Will Replace Weiner? – Seattle Times
Do You Know the Symptoms of Chlamydia? – Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona
New Poll Shows Most Dangerous Countries for Women – Planned Parenthood Illinois Action