Would-Be Doctor Killer Goes to Court

Anti-choice extremist Ralph Lang

A Wisconsin man who planned to murder abortion providers had his (first) day in court on June 7. Ralph Lang was arrested almost two weeks ago at a Motel 6 in Madison, after the 63-year-old man accidentally fired a shot through the door of his room. When asked why he had the gun, Lang told police that it was “to lay out abortionists because they are killing babies.” He also said that he was going to go to a nearby Planned Parenthood clinic and shoot the doctor in the head; when asked if he just planned on shooting the doctor or would harm the nurses as well, Lang said that he wished he “could line them all up in a row, get a machine gun, and mow them all down.”

Lang has been charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and in yesterday’s preliminary hearing he was told that he had too many assets to qualify for a public defender. Lang also faces a federal misdemeanor charge of “threatening to injure or interfere with persons providing reproductive health services.” Federal prosecutors are also considering seeking a felony indictment against Lang, and plan to have made that decision before a grand jury convenes in early July. Lang is currently in jail; if he is released on bond, he will not be allowed within 1,000 feet of a reproductive health clinic.

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Guess What–Women Have Brains

A whole bunch of politicians in this country–not to mention their supporters–seem utterly convinced that a vagina and a brain can not exist in the same body. What other explanation can there be for the latest round of utterly insulting and paternalistic anti-choice bills flooding state legislatures?

Let’s look at the Texas sonogram bill, just for kicks. The bill, which is expected to be signed by Governor Rick Perry, requires that a doctor perform a sonogram at least 24 hours before a woman can have an abortion. The woman must have the option to see the results and hear the fetal heartbeat; even if she chooses not to do this, the doctor still must describe to her what the sonogram shows, including any limbs and internal organs.

Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana wasn’t just content to cut off funding for the Planned Parenthood clinics in his state. Nope, he also made it illegal for any abortions to be performed after 20 weeks. And–the icing on this cake of wrong–doctors are now required to tell women that life begins at conception and that a fetus can feel pain at around 20 weeks.

Excuse me while I check out the immigration requirements for Canada, and remind myself to never, ever, ever move to Indiana. Or Texas. Or any of the number of states considering aping these and other restrictive laws, including my home state of Alabama.

I really want to know exactly what anti-choicers think goes on inside an abortion clinic. Do they imagine some sort of Snidely Whiplash character, twirling his mustache and menacingly waving around a speculum? Do they think clinic employees haunt malls and grocery stores and libraries, sidling up to pregnant women and enticing them in the manner of drug dealers, muttering out of the corner of their mouth that the first pregnancy test is free? (Oh wait, no, it’s the crisis pregnancy clinics that use free pregnancy tests to lure women in their doors. My mistake.) [Read more...]

IUDs are Making a Comeback, Baby!

The ParaGard IUD

It’s hard to think of any form of birth control that’s had a more checkered history than the IUD. By the late 1970s, the intrauterine device was used by almost 10 percent of American women, but thirty years later, that number had fallen to less than 2 percent. Even as ads for Mirena pop up all over television and magazines, some doctors remain reluctant to prescribe either Mirena or its non-hormonal counterpart, ParaGard, to women that have not had children.

These lingering fears can be traced back to the Dalkon Shield, an IUD that was popular in the ’70s. The Shield had a significant design flaw: a multifilament string that allowed bacteria to “swim up” into the uterus, causing injury, sepsis, miscarriage and even death. The Shield and other IUDs of that era were also linked to pelvic inflammatory disease, and thanks to the resulting lawsuits and bad press, pharmaceutical companies halted research and manufacture of IUDs. Later studies challenged the validity of the link between IUDs and pelvic inflammatory disease, and also helped determine that properly designed IUDs were safe for use. Modern IUDs use a monofilament string, which does not allow for bacteria to enter the uterus.  [Read more...]

Pro-choice News Roundup

Exploring the Intersections of Faith and Reproductive Rights – Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona
Five Myths About Planned Parenthood – Washington Post
Why Anti-Abortion Activists Leave Birth Control Out of the Debate – TIME
The War Behind the Abortion War – New York Times
Re-Visiting the Murder of Dr. Tiller – Salon

An Exceedingly Civil Conversation About An Incredibly Divisive Topic

Earlier today, I did something that I’d been thinking about doing for months: I paused on the sidewalk outside of my local Planned Parenthood clinic and struck up a conversation with the protestor that stood just inside the gated entrance.

I have to admit, I was a little bit nervous. I’ve had plenty of conversations with anti-choice folks before – after spending two years researching and writing a book about abortion rights, it was impossible not to – but never with someone that was standing silently outside a clinic, head bowed, clutching a rosary. And even though I’d been thinking about just such an encounter for months, I still wasn’t sure where to begin after I actually had her attention.

The protestor was a neatly dressed woman, with a gentle accent that was hard to place. She was soft-spoken and I automatically matched my tone and demeanor to hers as I wondered aloud just what she was looking to accomplish by standing there.

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Apparently Women in D.C. Have Really Pricey Abortions

I don’t know about you, but I breathed a huge sigh of relief on Saturday morning. The government shutdown was averted, without sacrificing Planned Parenthood! Yay, bullet dodged!

… and then I learned that that bullet was actually headed straight for pregnant, low-income women in the District of Columbia. Because not only did House Speaker John Boehner want to limit government funding for Planned Parenthood and other nonprofits that provide abortion services, he also wanted to restrict funding on abortions in D.C. So a compromise was worked out: D.C. funding was cut, but the funds to nonprofits were safe.

Look, I get that an argument can be made for this outcome. Planned Parenthood and other nonprofits serve a huge number of men and women, and can now continue to do this very necessary work. And to take even more of a “greater good” perspective – if the government actually had shut down last weekend, hundreds of thousands of people would have been affected, and D.C. would have essentially come to a halt. As a proud resident of the District of Columbia, I’m really glad that we’ll continue to have things like trash pick-up and parking enforcement, and that the businesses in my neighborhood that depend on the income of government workers won’t suffer.

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Standing Up for Women’s Health

Earlier today, thousands of pro-choice activists from around the country gathered to show their support for reproductive rights at the “Stand Up For Women’s Health” rally on the National Mall. Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards kicked off the event, which was both preceded and followed by lobbying activities on the Hill.

The lineup of speakers was pretty impressive – besides Richards, attendees heard from, among others, Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America; Senators Barbara Boxer, Charles Schumer, and Patty Murray; Representatives Frank Lautenberg, Rosa DeLauro, Louise Slaughter, and Diana DeGette; and the actors Amy Madigan (a member of NARAL’s board of directors), Ed Harris, Connie Britton, and David Eigenberg (who gave a particularly rousing and impassioned speech).

While the speeches touched on various aspects of women’s health, from the bad old days of back-alley abortions to how it’s just plain common sense to support a service that provides low-cost health services, one message was clear: that Planned Parenthood must not lose its funding. This was an even more timely message than the organizers may have intended, as this morning brought the news that two issues are holding up a budget resolution: the environment and abortion. (House Speaker John Boehner also insists that there are disputes over how to slash spending, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that “[T] he numbers are basically there”.)

For Planned Parenthood to lose its funding would mean that millions of women and men would lose access to affordable and vital health care. Several speakers at the rally touched on the critical work that these clinics do in screening for cervical cancer, among other preventative measures; and one of the most emotional speeches of the day was given by Carolyn Smithers, a mother of two daughters. When she was 19, a checkup at Planned Parenthood revealed that Smithers had cancer; that checkup, Smithers said, saved her life.

Planned Parenthood isn’t safe yet, but the energy, passion, and dedication shown by both the speakers and the crowd at today’s rally were an important reminder that it’s not going down without a fight.


Another Anti-Choice Bill is Headed to Jan Brewer’s Desk

Some days living in Arizona makes feel like I’m stranded up shit creek without a paddle.  Last week, two pieces of anti-choice legislation were signed by Governor Jan Brewer, including HB 2443, which outlaws sex and race selective abortions, and HB 2416, which defines taking the abortion pill as surgery.  But the onslaught against women’s health is far from being over.

As if the attacks on Title X funding at the federal level weren’t enough, Arizona’s legislators really want to give the middle finger to Planned Parenthood and low income women.  HB 2384, which was approved by the state senate on Tuesday, would limit organizational eligibility for the Arizona Working Poor Tax Credit on the basis of providing, referring to, promoting, paying for, or providing coverage for abortions. This bill specifically targets Planned Parenthood, because Planned Parenthood is the only abortion provider that is a qualifying organization.

The elimination of the Working Poor Tax Credit doesn’t just impact women’s access to abortion, it also impacts women’s access to birth control and preventative care, like pelvic and breast exams. Planned Parenthood provides all of these services. In fact, abortion only accounts for approximately 10% of the health care services provided at Planned Parenthood. But losing their status as a qualifying organization for the tax credit means that donors who support all of Planned Parenthood’s services may decide to withhold funding because they can’t write it off on their taxes anymore.

Another big thumbs down, Arizona. Not sure when HB 2384 is going to land on Jan Brewer’s desk – but it’s pretty much a guarantee that she’ll approve it. Six more pieces of anti-choice legislation to go, folks.

Happy Abortion Provider Appreciation Day

In addition to being the 100th International Women’s Day, today is also National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day.  In honor of that, I want to give a shout out to Planned Parenthood for all they have given me over the past eleven years.

I have relied on Planned Parenthood to provide basic, affordable health care for over a decade now.  I get my annual pap smear and breast exam from them because I can afford their services.  I am self-employed, and I don’t have health insurance.  It’s nice to know that I can rely on Planned Parenthood to provide the one doctor’s visit a year that I can afford.

I have served as a clinic escort at Planned Parenthood Arizona, and now I help maintain their blog and social media accounts.  I volunteer as a way of giving back for all that Planned Parenthood has given me over the years.  I will continue to stand with Planned Parenthood, no matter how hostile the political climate gets, because I know that Planned Parenthood will continue to stand with me.

Please show Planned Parenthood, and ALL abortion/women’s health care providers, a little love today.  Send a thank you note and express a word of gratitude.  If you don’t have a mailing or an e-mail address, consider leaving a message over at Pro-Choice Thank Yous.

Happy International Women’s Day, ya’ll!

Tell John Boehner How Much You Love Planned Parenthood

Do you love Planned Parenthood? Do you think John Boehner can kiss your ass? Well, you can tell John Boehner just how much you love Planned Parenthood by donating to Planned Parenthood in his honor.