Pro-Choice News Roundup

What a week!

Can you really raise a child without gender? Jezebel.

Why Should Feminists Stay in the Lone Star State? To Mess with Texas. RH Reality Check.

Abortion rates decline overall, increasing among poor. USA Today.

Anti Abortion Chapel to Open in Fargo. Valley News Live.

No License to Drive for Saudi Women. Human Rights Watch.


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...]

Women’s History Month: Barbara Jordan

Being from Texas, there aren’t a lot of strong, progressive women in positions of power. Barbara Jordan is the key exception to that rule – she. was. awesome. As the first African American woman elected to the Texas State Senate, she joined the US House as the first female and black representative from a southern state.

A lawyer, state Senator, and Congresswoman, Jordan championed equal rights, availability of abortion services, social security benefits for homemakers, and just generally kicked ass – including Richard Nixon’s. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, she fought for his impeachment following the Watergate scandal. She was a constitutional scholar, educator, and eloquent speaker. Her keynote addresses at the 1976 and 1992 Democratic Conventions are a must-watch.

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Women in History: Lee Krasner

Jackson Pollock has long been my favorite artist, but it was not until I saw the 2000 film Pollock that I realized his wife, Lee Krasner, was just as accomplished an artist as Pollock. My experience was not that uncommon, unfortunately; as Krasner herself pointed out in a 1973 interview, “I happen to be Mrs. Jackson Pollock, and that’s a mouthful. The only thing I haven’t had against me was being black. I was a woman, Jewish, a widow, a damn good painter, thank you, and a little too independent.”

Born in New York in 1908, Krasner grew up with her Russian immigrant parents and siblings in Brooklyn. She trained at several art schools in New York, and graduated from the National Academy of Design in 1932. Two years later, she was employed by the Public Works of Art Project (one of the New Deal projects), working primarily for the Federal Arts Project until 1943. While Krasner and Pollock’s paths crossed during these years – they were both working for the Federal Arts Project – it was not until both were invited to participate in an exhibit that they began their relationship.

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Abortion on TV: Friday Night Lights

To quote Gloria Feldt, “Media portrayals, real or fictional, don’t merely inform us — they form us.” In this series, I will be examining five films – classic, mainstream, independent, foreign, and pre-Roe – and five television shows – daytime soap, pre-Roe, drama, critically lauded, and teen-oriented – that address unexpected pregnancy, to examine how past portrayals can influence and reflect society’s view of abortion.

The NBC drama “Friday Night Lights” has been drawing critical acclaim ever since it premiered in 2006, but it has struggled to find the wide audience that this show deserves. Set in a small West Texas town where life revolves around high school football, “FNL” follows the lives of a high school coach, his family, and several of the players on the team. The first season alone dealt with infidelity, teenage sex, steroid use, and bipolar disorder – so really, the only surprise around the most recent season’s abortion storyline is that the show hadn’t explored the issue before.

The storyline played out over a number of episodes, and realistically portrayed 16-year-old Becky’s struggle.  Pregnant by a classmate that she liked but hardly knew, and keenly aware of the difficulties her own mother, who had Becky when she was a teenager, had gone through in her own life, Becky had a number of conversations with her mother, the boy involved, a close friend, and her school principal before deciding that having an abortion was the best decision.  Delicately written and extremely well-acted, the storyline served as an important corrective to the glossy, simplified way that teenage pregnancy has long been represented not just in film and television, but in the larger media as well.

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Abby Johnson’s Story Doesn’t Hold Water

Remember when we told you about the Planned Parenthood clinic director in Texas who quit her job to join the 40 Days for Life wingnuts? Well, Abby Johnson is back in the news – this time because her story of experiencing a radical change of heart just isn’t holding up to scrutiny. According to Texas Monthly, portions of Abby Johnson’s story may have been fabricated to cover up the real reason for her departure from Planned Parenthood – slipping job performance.

The rollout of Abby Johnson as a culture-war celebrity got off to a rocky start. In early November, the online magazine Salon reported that on September 27, the day after Johnson says she witnessed the ultrasound-guided abortion and had her epiphany, she appeared as a guest on the Bryan public radio program Fair and Feminist to discuss her work at the clinic. In the hour-long interview, Johnson gives an enthusiastic defense of the clinic and ridicules the 40 Days for Life protest. She doesn’t sound like someone who’d had a life-changing experience the previous day or who had soured on her employer’s mission . . .

Johnson’s departure from Planned Parenthood turned out to be a more complex story than it first appeared. At a court hearing for an injunction sought by Planned Parenthood to prevent Johnson from divulging confidential information to her new allies, two of Johnson’s former co-workers testified that she told them in the days before she resigned that she was afraid she was about to be fired. At one time, Johnson, who was named the regional Planned Parenthood affiliate’s employee of the year in 2008, seemed to have a promising future with the organization. By mid-2009, however, her relationship with her employer had begun to deteriorate. Salon reported that on October 2, Johnson was summoned to Houston to meet with her supervisors to discuss problems with her job performance. She was placed on what Planned Parenthood calls a “performance improvement plan.” It was just three days later, on Monday, that Johnson made her tearful appearance at the Coalition for Life. The following day she faxed Planned Parenthood a resignation letter, which mentioned nothing about a crisis of conscience . . . [Read more...]

Apparently the Government Doesn’t Proofread in Texas

banning strait marriageSome like to call it an amendment goof. I prefer to call it irony at its best. Thanks to the investigative work of Democratic attorney general candidate Barbara Ann Radnofsky, we can all see exactly how a constitutional disenfranchisement of gay and lesbian couples can backfire. The irony is just far too delicious to resist. According to David Montgomery,

Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a Houston lawyer and Democratic candidate for attorney general, says that a 22-word clause in a 2005 constitutional amendment designed to ban gay marriages erroneously endangers the legal status of all marriages in the state.

The amendment, approved by the Legislature and overwhelmingly ratified by voters, declares that “marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.” But the troublemaking phrase, as Radnofsky sees it, is Subsection B, which declares:

“This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.”

Architects of the amendment included the clause to ban same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships. But Radnofsky, who was a member of the powerhouse Vinson & Elkins law firm in Houston for 27 years until retiring in 2006, says the wording of Subsection B effectively “eliminates marriage in Texas,” including common-law marriages.

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Monday News Roundup

The Joy of Casual Sex – Bitch
The Problem is That Women’s Choices All Suck – Feminist Law Professors
Women Hard Hit By Economic Downturn – Womenstake
Texas Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down – Gay Agenda
Will You Loose Your Insurance Coverage for Abortion? – Broadsheet @
How Much Does it Cost to be a Same-Sex Couple? – Mombian

There’s a cute video after the jump. [Read more...]