Jo Ann Dale of KRCRC Talks Faith and a Pro-Choice Attitude

Feminist Conversations is a regular series here at Feminists For Choice. Today we are talking to Jo Ann Dale, board member of the Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (KRCRC) about the organization, faith, and a pro-choice attitude.

Tell our readers a little bit about Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (KRCRC).

KRCRC, in existence for three decades, is an affiliate of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). The backbone of RCRC was a network of religious leaders who had been quietly helping women locate abortion services in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They formed RCRC following decriminalization (Roe v. Wade) because they believed it would take several years for the right to become firmly established. As time went on, RCRC broadened from a specific focus on the legal right to abortion to address larger matters of reproductive justice, including contraception and structural impediments to women’s access to reproductive rights.

KRCRC carries on this work in Kentucky. Our primary focus is on abortion, contraception, and sexuality education. We maintain contacts with faith leaders from many traditions, and we provide speakers and materials for community and congregational programs. We attempt to reassure and educate those women who have been confused by the misleading or outright inaccurate statements of so-called “crisis pregnancy clinics,” whose goals are actually to eliminate abortion from the options facing a pregnant woman. We provide spiritual and emotional support for escorts and abortion provider staff, who are faced with scorn and ridicule from the protestors who gather at the clinic. We partner with other groups, such as Planned Parenthood of Kentucky and the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, to further shared goals. We maintain a list of pastoral counselors who can provide true “all options” counseling to the woman who is confused or conflicted about an unwelcome pregnancy or about perinatal loss. We monitor activity in the state legislature, and we talk with legislators to make it clear that the religious voice does not speak only from the far right, but from the middle and the left as well.

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Three Years Later

Abortion Gang and the Provider Project are honoring Dr. Tiller by collecting blog posts from around the internetSubmit yours.

Rep. Trent Franks recently made news for his crusade to ban abortion after 20 weeks in the District of Columbia. While Franks’ action is particularly brazen because the Arizona Congressman was not elected to represent the women of D.C., he was really just jumping on a growing anti-choice trend of restricting when women can legally terminate their pregnancies. Franks’ home state currently has the most draconian law in effect, decreeing that any abortion after 20 weeks gestation – which the state is defining as the 18th week of pregnancy – is illegal in Arizona.

When Dr. George Tiller was assassinated in his church three years ago, many people, both in the pro-choice movement and the country at large, feared for the safety of abortion providers. There was so much talk about how providers – and their families, and their patients, and their clinic staffs – deserve to be able to live their lives without concern that a violent extremist will decide that it somehow makes sense to kill in the name of the “pro-life” cause. There was also a lot of talk about the role of late-term providers in general: how vital their work is, and to what extent Dr. Tiller’s murder might prevent other doctors from providing this service. But I don’t think anyone was seriously talking about the possibility that late-term abortions themselves might just be legislated out of existence. That seemed too brazen an assault against Roe v. Wade to even consider, too direct a strike against women’s rights and privacy and autonomy.

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Head of NARAL Pro-Choice America Stepping Down

Yesterday Nancy Keenan, the head of NARAL Pro-Choice America, announced that she is leaving her position at the end of this year. Keenan, who has been the president of NARAL since 2004, cited a concern for the future of the pro-choice movement as a factor in her decision: “If the pro-choice movement is to successfully defend abortion rights, Keenan contends, it needs more young people in leadership roles, including hers.”

It’s no secret that the abortion rights have come under increased attack over the past couple of years. A record number of anti-choice laws were enacted in 2011; earlier this year, controversial mandatory ultrasound laws passed in Virginia and Texas, and Arizona recently approved two incredibly restrictive anti-choice laws.

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“October Baby,” and the Insidious Propaganda Which Forgets the Quiet Awe of God

Image courtesy of

The anti-choice film “October Baby” was inspired by the true story of a young woman who, in late adolescence, discovers that her health issues are related to a late and failed abortion. (The woman whose story is credited with inspiring the film,  Gianna Jessen, is now an anti-choice activist.) And like all individual true stories, this represents a slice of reality.

One can be moved by the tears of the heroine who fights against health problems and does not know where she is in her own life. When the heroine says “life is a lie,” that could affect anyone. Of course, this story can also touch people because anyone going through difficult times, whatever they may be, in life may enter into an identification process with the heroine. This could even be a catharsis for some. But pay very close attention to the intentions of the filmmakers.

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A Day in the Life of a Clinic Escort

Editors’ Note: Today’s guest post comes to us from Miranda Pennington, a clinic escort from New York City who is in her first year of a Creative Nonfiction MFA at Columbia University. You can follow Miranda on Twitter, and check out her blog.

Saturday Morning, 26 Bleecker Street

What could they have said to her?

What could convince a young, pregnant Latina woman walking up to the doors of Planned Parenthood for a scheduled abortion to change her mind, to walk away with two bikers and the novice nun they pulled away from the rosary procession hailing Mary around the corner?

Was it a persuasive promise of affordable counseling, prenatal care, parenting classes, postpartum checkups, and birth control?

No, wait, that’s what Planned Parenthood offers. [Read more...]

Texas Continues War on Women

Brace yourself for more crappy news out of Texas. As both Sarah and I have previously written (see here and here), Texas is moving closer and closer to a restrictive abortion law, which will require doctors to perform an ultrasound on women seeking abortions 24 hours prior to the procedure. More specifically, doctors must make the sonogram visible, the heartbeat audible, and describe fetal development. In other words, Texas doctors will be legally required to treat women like unintelligent children incapable of making their own decisions.

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) has been challenging this law from the get-go, but has been met with obstacles every step of the way. Last month, a panel of judges from the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a preliminary injunction blocking key provisions of the law. Now, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks has decided he can not grant the CRR’s request to permanently halt enforcement. However, it appears that he is as disgruntled with the decision as we are:

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Do Pro-choicers Need to Chill Out?

Today’s guest post comes to us via Abigail Collazo from Fem2pt0. Abigail serves as the Editor for Fem2pt0. Abigail has worked on women’s issues in both the nonprofit and government sector for over 10 years, with a particular focus on global women’s rights.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post thinks the debate surrounding abortion, or what he refers to as “Roe Week,” is absurd.

In his latest column, Milbank criticizes abortion provider Merle Hoffman for raising a ‘false alarm’ about the threat to reproductive rights in this country.  He then goes on the cite the numerous marches and events that will take place on both sides of the debate over the next week as the country celebrates – or laments – the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal in this country.

All of this attention troubles Dana Milbank.  He writes, “if these groups cared as much about the issue as they claim, and didn’t have such strong financial incentives to avoid consensus and compromise, they’d cancel the carnivals and get to work on the one thing everybody agrees would be worthwhile — reducing unwanted pregnancies.”

He chastises the choice movement by telling us that “not every compromise means a slippery slope to the back alley.”  He tells us to stop with the “sky is falling” argument and to acknowledge that the majority of Americans have legitimate concerns. [Read more...]

What Do You Do When Your Family’s Anti-Choice?

Inspired by Merle Hoffman’s new book Intimate Wars, we’re sharing some of our own most memorable pro-choice/social justice personal actions this month. If you’d like to contribute, let us know!

My family members are anti-choice. This usually hasn’t been an area of conflict for us, because we typically keep our opinions about abortion to ourselves. There are two notable exceptions to that, though. I don’t know that my response in either of these conversations was ideal, but I did the best I could to defend my pro-choice beliefs.

The Older Brother
My older brother and I couldn’t be bigger opposites. He’s staunchly Mormon. I’m a heathen Wiccan. One of the last phone calls we had with each other pretty much sealed the wedge between us. I was telling my brother about how excited I was to meet Gloria Feldt and Gloria Steinem at an event I had helped organized. This was a big deal for me. My brother changed the subject and started talking about cat poop in the litter box. I swear I’m not making this one up, ya’ll. I decided that I wasn’t going to let it go this time. [Read more...]

Discussing Abortion During Polite Dinner Conversation

Inspired by Merle Hoffman’s new book Intimate Wars, we’re sharing some of our own most memorable pro-choice/social justice personal actions this month. If you’d like to contribute, let us know!

It had been a lovely wedding, and now the reception was packed. We sat down to dinner; at my table was my husband and three of our friends, along with three of the groom’s friends from grad school. Introductions were made and small talk ensued, and as our salad courses were cleared away one of the men I’d just met struck up a conversation about abortion with one of my friends.

My husband nudged me and one of my other friends grinned as I inclined myself towards the conversation, trying to discern the tone and content of the discussion – or was it debate? After a few minutes, the man noticed me listening and asked my opinion, and I offered it up, along with the caveat that I was writing a book about that very subject and had worked in the field for years. [Read more...]

Would You Choose Abortion if Your Baby Had Down Syndrome?

I recently had an interesting discussion with someone on Twitter about whether women should choose abortion if an amniocentesis revealed that the baby had Down Syndrome. Understandably, many women do chose an abortion at this point in their pregnancy because they feel that they are not ready to accept the challenges of raising a child with special needs. However, I do not think that I would choose an abortion in this situation, primarily because I have multiple family members with developmental delays.

ABC news reported a few years ago that 92% of women who find out that their baby has Down Syndrome choose abortion. I’m not sure how reliable that statistic is, because the doctor the article quotes doesn’t explain how those results were garnered. But I don’t doubt that the number of women who choose abortion in the case of a Down Syndrome diagnosis is high. Raising a child with special needs of any kind, be it Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, or physical challenges, can be difficult. Every family is different in terms of their ability to handle those challenges. It is not my place to say what decision is right or wrong. [Read more...]