The New York Times Tackles Abortion Stigma

As reproductive rights activists in Texas gear up for another special session and Ohio governor John Kasich signs a budget that will make it much more difficult for women in that state to access reproductive health services, the New York Times‘ “Room for Debate” series is tackling abortion stigma. In specific, would increased openness around who has abortions, and why they make this choice, translate into increased public support for the procedure?

You can read each of the seven perspectives offered to get some answers, which encompass both pro- and anti-choice viewpoints. While I was especially inspired by Sonya Renee’s powerful entry, I also found myself nodding my head at points made by Aspen Baker and Kierra Johnson.

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Why I Am Pro-Choice

bfcd-2013This post was written for Blog for Choice Day.

Why am I pro-choice? Because I don’t want a complete stranger telling me to do with my body. Because I don’t want to tell a complete stranger what to do with hers. Because I know that the decision about whether to have a child is too precious and important to be made by anyone other than the woman that is pregnant. Because I don’t think that there is only one right way or right time to become a mother. Because every child should be a wanted one.

Why am I pro-choice? Because of my friends that were able to graduate college. Because of the thousands of women, voices on the other end of the phone, that were able to leave troubled relationships and take care of their sons and daughters and choose how to end much-wanted pregnancies in a way that gave their fatally ill unborn children a measure of dignity, and themselves a measure of peace.

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I’m Pro-Choice (And So Can You!)


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Today’s guest post, which was written for Blog for Choice Day, comes from Saira Khan. Saira currently works in publishing but dedicates her free time to social commentary on her personal blog. She will be Master of Science candidate at Columbia University in Fall 2013. Follow her on twitter @sairakh.

I was raised in Pakistan, where abortion is illegal. So as you can imagine, there’s a big market for illegal abortions there, and it’s horrific.

In 2012, Nele Obermueller reported for The Guardian:

“Shamin was not married when she got pregnant. Rather than face the shame of being a single mother in Pakistan, she secretly sought out an untrained birth attendant who gave Shamin anti-malaria pills to induce an abortion. ‘But part of the baby stayed inside – and my Shimi got an infection,’ says Jino, who works as a maid in the province Punjab. ‘That’s when she came to me and told me everything. I took her to a clinic but it was too late. She died that same day.’

“Shamin’s story is common in Pakistan, where, according to estimates by the Guttmacher Institute, 890,000 women have unsafe abortions annually. Eight hundred of these women will die and a further 197,000 will be hospitalised due to complications. ‘However even these figures are a gross underestimation, as so many cases go unreported,’ says Nighat Khan from the Guttmacher’s research team in Pakistan.”

As Obermueller indicates, Shamin is not alone in Pakistan. [Read more...]

Is Roe Taken for Granted?

January 22, 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. All month, we’ll be running posts examining various aspects of this landmark ruling. If you’d like to contribute, let us know!

Time’s recent cover story on the challenges faced by the pro-choice movement in the four decades after Roe, “What Choice,” couldn’t come at a better time. As the anniversary of Roe approaches at the end of this month, it seems appropriate not just to examine the current state of abortion rights and restrictions, but the other obstacles that the pro-choice movement is facing—in particular, the idea of a generational divide among activists. (Full disclosure: Kate Pickert, the author of “What Choice,” interviewed me for this article, but my quotes were not in the finished piece.)

By highlighting the work of the Red River Women’s Clinic—the only clinic in North Dakota that provides abortion services—readers were given an engaging picture of just how difficult it can be for women to access a legal medical service. The graphics accompanying the piece also made this point quite clearly.

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Ohio Anti-Choicers Resurrect Heartbeat Bill

Less than a week after Barack Obama won Ohio in the presidential election, state Republicans have decided that there’s no time like the present to resurrect a controversial, possibly unconstitutional, and already-rejected bill that would sharply restrict abortions.

The so-called “Heartbeat Bill,” would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat could be detected—which can be as early as 18 days in some pregnancies, or before a lot of women even know they’re pregnant. When the state’s House Health Action Committee first heard testimony on the proposed bill, two of the witnesses to “testify” were fetuses: that is, two pregnant women were given ultrasounds in the hearing room. [Read more...]

Welcome to New York, Sandy!

As New York hunkers down for Hurricane Sandy, I want to let her know how we treat women up here–even powerful, independent women who don’t cross their legs, redirect their gale force winds off-shore, or otherwise behave like the little ladies so popular with our male Republican candidates these days.

1) We respect a woman’s right to control her reproductive destiny: New York legalized abortion before Roe vs. Wade became the law of the land.

2) While many of the country’s legislators are dreaming up new ways to demean women, we have New York State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins introducing the Reproductive Health Act, with eighteen co-sponsors. Its purpose: to provide a fundamental right to choose contraception and the right of a female to determine the course of a pregnancy; to authorize abortion prior to viability; and to decriminalize abortion.  [Read more...]

Does Romney Have A(nother) New Stance on Abortion?

It should come as no surprise that Mitt Romney has once again changed his mind – and his stated position – on an election issue. Earlier this week, the formerly pro-choice, now anti-choice presidential candidate told the editorial board of the Des Moines Register that “[t]here’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.” Romney did say, in the same interview, that he would reinstate the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits U.S. foreign aid being used for abortions.

Romney’s latest statement marks a significant change from the Republican politician’s earlier stances on abortion. During his unsuccessful 1994 Senate run against Ted Kennedy, Romney said he supported abortion rights; likewise, in his successful 2002 campaign for governor of Massachusetts, Romney flat-out said that he “will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose.” Halfway through his term as governor, however, Romney flipped on the issue, and throughout this presidential campaign he has presented himself as strongly anti-choice, only supporting abortions in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the woman.

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Feminists for Choice Take Manhattan!

On Friday, September 7th, Feminists for Choice hosted a happy hour fundraiser with the New York Abortion Access Fund. Feminists from far and wide and each and every borough–even honorary ones like New Jersey!–came out to kick back, catch up, and support a great cause. Together we raised $895 to help women in need of abortion funding.

Equally important, if not more, we came together to stand up for women at a time when abortion opponents have managed to threaten the right to choose even in this most progressive of enclaves. Not only has a longtime abortion provider in Brooklyn stopped offering abortion services, a retired New Jersey doctor unafraid to identify himself as an abortion provider before the procedure was legal now concedes “It’s Harder to Be an Abortion Provider Now Than Before Roe V. Wade.”

But on Friday night, no one was dwelling on the bad when there was a post-convention high to ride. The room was buzzing about the good (Michelle Obama,  Nancy Keenan, President of NARAL, Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, Sandra Fluke), the bad (Clint Eastwood and his chair-o-logue) and the ugly (most everything else Republican–let’s just say no one was buying what Ann Romney was selling).

NYAAF Board Member Maureen Sturzman made sure folks knew how to put their good intentions to good use by explaining how to get more involved with NYAAF, and Feminists for Choice’s Janice Formicella did the same for us here at Feminists for Choice. (Look for some great guest posts soon!)

Thanks to Solas, happy hour specials stayed special for the entire event, and guests enjoyed goodies from two kickass feminist films–the tables were covered with rainbow-colored bracelets from Jodi Lieb’s Monday’s Child and ’how to lose your virginity’ V-Cards from Therese Schechter’s and Trixie Films’ How to Lose Your Virginity. To get your hands on some bracelets and V-cards of your own just click away … Three lucky raffle winners took home more merch from both films, a gourmet tea sampler from Shark Tank-winning Talbott Teas, a gift certificate from AuH20Thriftque, and some Luna Sueňo Tequila to wash it all down real smooth.

Many many thanks to our sponsors and to everyone who came out. Let’s do it again soon …

Tina Fakhrid-Deen Talks About LGBTQ Families

Feminist Conversations is a regular series here at Feminists For Choice. Today we are talking with author and activist Tina Fakhrid-Deen. Tina is the founder of the Chicago chapter of COLAGE (for people with a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer parent) and the author of Let’s Get This Straight: The Ultimate Handbook for Youth with LGBTQ Parents. You can read more about Tina on her blog

1. What was the motivation behind writing Let’s Get This Straight?

I was raised by a lesbian mother and heterosexual father, so the topic has personal relevance in my life. As an adult, I volunteered for a social justice organization, COLAGE, that provides community for youth and adults with at least one LGBTQ parent. This was the impetus for my writing Let’s Get This Straight with the support of COLAGE.

2. Your book really shines light on the fact that there are plenty of different family structures, especially so with LGBTQ families. Could you give our readers a few examples?

Some of the less recognized family structures are single parent households, transgender parented families, blended families, transracial families, families via donor insemination, families with multiple mothers and fathers (i.e. three dads), and families of divorce.

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A Discussion of Feminism and the Trans Community

Feminist Conversations is a regular series here at Feminists For Choice. We spotlight feminists from across the interwebs to find out what feminism means to them. Today we are talking with blogger and activist Helen. Helen writes and blogs for sites such as Bird of Paradox and the leading British feminist site The F-Word, where she is the Events Editor.

1. When did you first consider yourself a feminist, and what about the feminist movement appealed to you?

I’d been aware of the inequalities faced by women for a long time, probably since the 1970s, but didn’t really call myself a feminist until I began my transition. At that point, beginning to experience at first-hand the discrimination and prejudice and sexism that women face every day, it was more a question of, ‘how can women *not* call themselves feminists?’

It’s often been said that we only become politicised when we are directly affected by something happening to us, and so it was for me and feminism.

2. You have mentioned that discrimination against the trans community can be common within the feminist movement. What are some common forms of discrimination?

I’ve noticed many improvements, even in the 5/6 years since I began my transition, and many feminists now are well-informed about trans politics and are very good allies to trans people. The most obvious exceptions are those who call themselves ‘radical feminists’ but who cling to an ideology with its roots in the last century. These women seem to have the most hatred for trans women, even going so far as to demand that we be ‘morally mandated out of existence.’ Others will demand that we be refused access to essential medical care; that we be refused access to ‘their’ spaces, and so on. They will misgender us, publish our personal details on the internet, run blogs and forums that are nothing but transphobic hate speech, and so on. That branch of the women’s movement has no place in any contemporary feminism, I think. Thankfully, it seems to have little influence on a majority of feminists these days and I hope it will soon become no more than a footnote in academic textbooks.

3. You often discuss the violence that the trans community and especially transwomen face. How common is violence and how do you think we can minimize it?

Even though I blog very little any more, I do maintain a page called “A selection of published statistics of violence against trans people”, which lists links to various reports and websites where information about anti-trans violence is documented. I would especially recommend spending a little time at the TvT Project website; they have an update from March 2012 here.

These statistics are only the tip of the iceberg, for various reasons; this page talks about why.

Of course, we must not overlook the effects of the intersectionality of oppressions – I may suffer certain problems as a woman who is also transsexual, but I also benefit from such things as white privilege, class privilege, and so on. A trans woman of color who lives in poverty suffers many more oppressions and, statistically, is much more likely to be a victim of transphobic violence than me.

It has been said many times that ‘women are second-class citizens but trans women are second-class women’ and I think that is quite true. Really, only a change in attitudes amongst mainstream cis society is going to lead to full acceptance and equality. And although things are slowly improving, there is still a very long way to go – and I don’t honestly think I will see that day during my lifetime.

4. The language used to refer to LGBTQ concerns and different identities seems ever changing. What language/words are most important to know and be aware of?

I’m always concerned about the way trans people are pushed under the umbrella of ‘LGBTQ.’ I understand that it is important for oppressed minorities to form coalitions and alliances, to work together towards our common causes, but it seems that trans voices are often lost in the noise made by other larger and more powerful groups. So, although we may be preoccupied with equal marriage (and it is important to many trans people), other trans-specific issues (access to healthcare and employment, for example) are often sidelined.

The language is definitely in a state of flux; part of the problem is, I think, that trans people are (historically) defined by cis society’s perceptions of us, particularly by the medical profession. We are pathologised, stigmatised and demonised; objectified, fetishised, and generally treated as figures of fun. Moving away from the language of our oppressors is a good step forward towards being able to identify ourselves on our own terms. But it isn’t easy; there is much debate about what is and what isn’t acceptable language even withing trans communities (see the debates that go on around the use of the word ‘tranny,’ for example). And, of course, the power base held by our oppressors resents and fights our attempts at defining ourselves in our own right (see the hatred that some feminists have for being called ‘cis’, for example – even as they continue to call us ‘trans’ – are we not all ‘women’, when everything’s said and done?).

5. When discussing reproductive issues and rights, what rights do you wish to see for the trans community in the future?

The freedom to make informed choices, bodily autonomy, the removal of medical pathologisation without affecting our rights to access relevant healthcare… But all these things are, I think, preconditions of our being fully accepted by mainstream society for who we are (not who people think we are, or would like us to be).