Guaranteeing Access, One Dollar at a Time

When Serena proposed the idea of focusing on gratitude this month by honoring pro-choice advocates, I immediately knew who I’d choose: the people that make sure that women who need abortions have the money to do so.

Working in either local funds or the funding arms of major organizations is not an easy job. The need is overwhelming, and there’s never enough money to go around. The hours can be long – in the case of a lot of local funds, the work is literally 24/7 – and the stories can rip your heart out.

But this is such essential work, particularly in our current economic climate. Helping a woman raise $200 or $100 or even $50 doesn’t just mean that she can get an abortion. It means that no matter her situation, she can access the same services as any other woman. It means, as a case manager for the D.C. Abortion Fund told me years ago, that a woman’s rights shouldn’t depend on her wallet.  [Read more...]

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!

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Ohio Republicans Seek To Outlaw Abortion After Six Weeks

Between LiveAction’s crusade against Planned Parenthood and the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, it’s been a pretty tough couple of weeks for abortion rights. And now a group of Ohio politicians are supporting a bill that would ban abortions at heartbeat. Because, as Representative Mike Henne puts it, “Heartbeat? Life? It just makes sense.”

A heartbeat can be detected anywhere from 18 days to six weeks, so the so-called “heartbeat bill” would outlaw abortions at a much earlier point than accepted law – most notably Roe v. Wade – requires. Not surprisingly, this bill is considered a direct attack on Roe, and its sponsor has said that he hopes the bill will help lead to a Supreme Court decision restricting abortions. As of now, the “heartbeat bill” has a strong chance of passing in the Ohio legislature; and, according to one of its supporters, similar legislation is being considered in Texas, Oklahoma, and Georgia and discussed in Kansas and Arizona.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2006, 88% of all abortions were performed in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. That’s twelve weeks – almost twice as long as the Ohio bill would allow. For many women, those extra weeks mean more time to raise the money to pay for an abortion, to arrange childcare and/or time off work, and, if they live in a state with a mandatory waiting period, to schedule two different appointments with the clinic. That extra time is essential not just for all those reasons, but also because a lot of women don’t realize they’re pregnant until well into the first trimester. But apparently Ohio legislators believe that every woman automatically knows the minute she becomes pregnant, and has the cash on hand for an abortion and a flexible schedule at her disposal. [Read more...]

In an Act of Blatant Homophobia, Tim Pawlenty Vetoed the Gay & Lesbian Death Rights Bill on Saturday

I reported some fantastic news last week that the Minnesota house approved death rights for gay and lesbian couples. Unfortunately, homophobic Minnesota Governor, Tim Pawlenty, vetoed the bill on Saturday. His justification: to protect “traditional” marriage. According to Pawlenty, gay and lesbian couples shouldn’t have the same rights as married spouses.

Under Minnesota law, only married surviving spouses can decide what to do with the remains of a loved one. The bill would have extended such rights to domestic partners. It would have also allowed a partner the right to sue to recover funeral and hospital costs in the event of a wrongful death.

In vetoing the bill, Pawlenty, a Republican, said the bill “addresses a nonexistent problem” because gay and lesbian couples have the option of drawing up a living will. [Read more...]

Gayness & the Limits of Political Representation: Houston Elects Openly Gay Mayor

Annise-ParkerI was stoked to hear the news this weekend that Houston elected an openly gay woman as their mayor. Saturday’s election of Annise Parker marks a historic moment for the gay and lesbian community, particularly in such a conservative state like Texas. Increased representation of gay and lesbian identity within the political sphere obviously carries with it a tremendous amount of benefits. Nevertheless, I found it pretty darn interesting that one of the largest cities in the country, with a not-so-excellent voting record on the legal rights of gay and lesbian couples, voted to elect a lesbian woman as the mayor of Houston. Don’t get me wrong; I’d like to think that her sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity played no role in the minds of Houston voters, but I think we all know better.

A Houston Chronicle poll found that 77 percent of respondents didn’t care about Parker’s sexual orientation. This seems slightly inconsistent with previous sentiments about gay marriage. In fact, Houston voters stood vehemently against extending benefits to same-sex couples in the past. Mark Sappenfield, staff writer at the Christian Science Monitor, claims that this conflicted stance on gay and lesbian rights is indicative of Americans’ position on the gay and lesbian community. He writes, [Read more...]

Repealing ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ as a National Priority

Don't Ask Don't Tell silences voicesYes, I said it. A national priority. For far too long we have had to sit back, waiting around for the president to get the courage to act righteously, while his administration works to acquiesce the LGBT community with tokenist attempts to include a “gay” agenda. Since 1993, when Clinton’s good intention manifested itself into a destructive policy known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ roughly 13,500 U.S. citizens serving in the armed forces have been discharged. Professional, courageous, committed, intelligent, service members with merit and passion are being turned away because of who they choose to love and who they choose to sleep with. Nearly $363 million dollars have been waisted within the span of 16 years, to enforce a policy that tells people they are less then human if they are gay, lesbian, trans, or bisexual.

According to a 2008 Washington Post-ABC news poll, 75 percent of Americans believe openly gay people should be allowed to serve. Right now there are roughly 65,000 homosexuals serving in the U.S. military, along with one million gay veterans. This is not a debate about a couple LGBT identified soldiers wanting access to the armed forces, and even if it were, it doesn’t change the truth about how net-detrimental DADT is to every person in our country. [Read more...]

Book Shelf: The War on Choice

400000000000000076829_s4I just finished reading Gloria Feldt’s The War on Choice and discussing it with my feminist study group. This is an absolute must read for pro-choice activists. For those who don’t know, Gloria Feldt is the former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. In The War on Choice Feldt documents the ways in which reproductive rights have been restricted over the past twenty years. The book is divided into several sections, including legislative issues, sex education, international relations, and activism. The central argument of the book is that reproductive rights are the bedrock upon which all other rights are founded – if women don’t control their reproductive lives, they have no control over their destiny. Consequently, Feldt urges readers to become active and take at least one action every day to further the pro-choice movement.

The War on Choice is such an important book that I will be breaking up my review into several posts. Today I want to talk about “The State of the Uterus,” Feldt’s chapter about personhood statutes. Anti-choice attempts to define a fetus as a person did not begin with Colorado’s proposed constitutional amendment last year. The stage for personhood statutes was actually set in 1992 with the Supreme Court decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The Casey decision stated that restrictions on abortion are constitutional so long as the restrictions do not constitute an “undue burden” on women. However, the Court never defined what it meant by the “undue burden” standard. Consequently, anti-choice activists keep pushing the envelope further and further to restrict access to abortion. [Read more...]

Time to Implement the AU’s Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa

The heads of state of the African Union met in Libya for the 13th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union. Agriculture and its relation to economic growth and security was at center stage for the conference. Prior to the conference, a group of women’s rights advocates met to discuss the status of women in Africa.

Tumuslime discussed aspects of the history of women’s status in Africa and stressed the necessity of the AU to effectively address these issues, especially regarding agricultural production and food security. In many African countries women are responsible for the production of 80 percent or more of the food supply, yet women’s decision-making authority falls far short of their overall economic contribution to society.
“The women have always been there and they starve in order to feed their husbands. They starve in order to feed their children, and they starve in order to look after the sick, to look out for the HIV people in the hospitals. Without women, I don’t think, we would be anywhere,” Tumuslime stated in her address. (VOA, June 18)

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George Tiller: A Man at the Frontlines

_45849383_007418789-1The pro-choice movement took a devastating blow this morning with news that George Tiller, a passionate advocate for abortion rights and reproductive health care, was murdered. Feminists all over the country are identifying this as an act of terrorism, and in my honest opinion, rightfully so. It is a politically motivated act of violence against both an individual and in a broader sense, the pro-choice movement.

As a little background, George Tiller was a physician in Wichita Kansas that worked tirelessly as the medical director of Women’s Health Care Services, an abortion clinic that specialized in late-term procedures. George lived a life of activism through his medical assistance to women in Kansas and his services are very few and far between, particularly in the midwest.

He was shot at 10am this morning as he was entering the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita. Although police have someone in custody, they have yet to reveal his name.

The entire situation just angers me. It brings light to the fact that pro-life advocates, such as Operation Rescue, will stop at nothing to achieve their political agenda. Although the perpetrator has yet to be revealed, it is extremist groups like this that fuel egregious acts of violence. In fact, Randal Terry, founder of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, said in a statement that “George Tiller was a mass-murderer. We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God.”

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