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Making Sense of Herman Cain and Abortion

8:48 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amanda Marcotte for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

On this week’s episode of Reality Cast, I have a segment about the situation with Herman Cain’s incoherent and inconsistent approach to abortion rights. Cain has been on at least two TV shows where he said in the same breath both that he doesn’t think abortion should be legal and that the government shouldn’t make that decision for you, without acknowledging in the slightest that these two positions inherently contradict each other. There’s been multiple attempts to understand why Cain is so daft about this. Some folks believe he’s trying to have it both ways, but hasn’t figured out any political trickery to allow himself to speak out of both sides of his mouth without getting caught. I theorized at XX Factor that Cain’s incoherent position reflects the incoherent position of roughly half the people who claim to be “pro-life”, but also want abortion to be legal in some or all cases.

But now we have a little bit more of a clarification from Cain on his position.

“I do not think abortion should be legal in this country,” Cain said on Fox today. “Abortion should not be legal. That is clear. But if a family made the decision to break the law, that’s that family’s decision.”

Of course, this contradicts his previous statements about how the government should stay out of it. Now he thinks the government should ban abortion, and he seems to have not considered in the slightest that breaking the law isn’t just a matter of “choice”, but that it can have very real consequences if you’re caught. Read the rest of this entry →

International Family Planning Saves Lives. So Why Is the GOP Cutting It?

7:57 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Rep. Nita Lowey for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

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Cross-posted with permission from Impact, a magazine produced by Population Services International.

Few examples of U.S. foreign assistance provide benefits as tangible, cost-effective, life-saving and critical for both the United States and aid recipients as do international family planning and reproductive health services. Women and families across the developing world are healthier and stronger – and societies are more stable – as a result of access to basic health services.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, for every $10 million invested in international family planning and reproductive health:

➤ 610,000 women and couples receive contraceptive services and supplies;

➤ 190,000 fewer unintended pregnancies occur;

➤ 83,000 abortions are avoided;

➤ 500 maternal deaths are averted; and

➤ 2,300 fewer children lose their mothers.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, studies indicate that meeting the unmet need for family planning could reduce maternal deaths by approximately 35 percent, reduce abortion in developing countries by 70 percent and reduce infant mortality by 10 to 20 percent. Read the rest of this entry →

Stop Entrapping Providers: What I Told the Kansas Department of Health and Environment

7:03 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Kari Ann Rinker for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

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As Jodi Jacobson reported earlier today, public hearings were held in Kansas today for the abortion regulations created by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.  I presented the following testimony on behalf of Kansas NOW.

I’m the State Coordinator for Kansas NOW, which means that I stand before you today as a grassroots women’s rights activist and equality advocate.   I stand before you today, as a voice for a whole lot of Kansas women who cannot be here to tell you how they feel about these regulations.  These women want me to express what they think about the possibility of losing their access to existing abortion clinics within their state.  These are good women who have either used these clinics personally, or simply take comfort in knowing that these facilities exist should they need them.

While I may not be a public health professional, my understanding as a graduate student of Public Administration is that government enacts regulations when a public need for protection presents itself, in the case of Kansas Department of Health and Environment, when some public health concern or externality needs to be addressed.  As employees of an agency that is supported by public tax dollars, deliberative, non-ideological processes are to be expected, especially with regard to the health and well being of the citizens they work for.  I do not believe that this regulatory process met those deliberative, non-ideological tenets. Read the rest of this entry →

Conservative Columnist Supports Family Planning as “Pro-Life”

11:08 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

It’s not often that I agree with Michael Gerson, the conservative former speech writer for President George H.W. Bush, advocate for abstinence-only policies in U.S. global AIDS programs, and columnist for the Washington Post. 

Today, however, I am in near-full agreement with him on a piece he published in today’s Post.

Gerson just returned from a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo sponsored by CARE during which he and others saw firsthand the struggles of women who live in societies in which they have little control of whether, when and whom they marry, and whether, when and how many children they bear.  In these settings, women bear more children than they want and can afford to raise, infant and child mortality rates are high, and complications of both pregnancy and unsafe abortion are the leading cause of deaths among women ages 15 to 49.  Medical care is largely inaccessible.

Reproductive and sexual health and rights advocates have always argued that ensuring that women have unfettered access to family planning information and counseling and consistent contraceptive supplies is a “pro-life” strategy, because voluntary family planning dramatically improves the quality of life and survival rates of both children and their mothers, and by extension, families and societies.

But the anti-choice movement in the United has moved from opposing abortion per se to opposing all forms of birth control, an agenda it was always suspected to have in the first place.  As such, this movement, led largely by male religious leaders, Congressmen or virulently anti-choice male activists opposes support for family planning services and birth control methods both at home and abroad.

Having a “card-carrying” conservative evangelical columnist support family planning as a “pro-life” intervention not only speaks to reality, it is what I hope to be a welcome first step in pushing back against anti-choice positions that cost far more lives–those of women and children–than they ever “save.”

Visiting the village of Bweremana, Gerson writes:

[T]he correlation between the number of children and the absence of some of their mothers becomes clear. Kanyere Sabasaba, 35, has had 10 children, eight of whom have survived. Her last delivery did not go well. “I delivered the baby without any problem, but I was bleeding much,” she told me. The case was too complex for the local health center, so Kanyere had to pay for her transport to another medical facility. After the surgery, the doctor performed a tubal ligation. “If I give birth again, I could die,” she said. “The last child is the one who could really kill me.”

As Gerson rightly notes, for women in this part of Congo, the complications of childbirth are as dangerous as the militias in the countryside.

One woman I met had given birth to 13 children, only six of whom survived. Women sometimes deliver in the fields while working. Medical help can be a few days’ journey away. Each birth raises the odds of a hemorrhage, infection or rupture. Those odds increase dramatically when births come early in life, or late in life, or in rapid succession. In Congo, almost one in five deaths of women during childbearing years is due to maternal causes.

And, he notes, “While both the pill and condoms are generally available in larger cities such as Goma, access is limited in rural districts. Determining the pace of reproduction is often a male prerogative instead of a shared decision. Sexual violence can be as close for a woman as gathering fuel in the woods.”

These are all absolutely true and I appreciate and admire Gerson for acknowledging these realities.

The women of Bweremana, continues Gerson “are attempting to diffuse and minimize their risk. In a program organized by Heal Africa, about 6,000 contribute the equivalent of 20 cents each Sunday to a common fund. When it is their time to give birth, the fund becomes a loan to pay transportation and hospital fees. The women tend a common vegetable garden to help with income and nutrition. And the group encourages family planning.”

But even this is not enough.  It is estimated that 215 million women worldwide want and need access to basic family planning and supplies but do not currently have it.  These women bear more children than they want or can support.  As a result, they also watch more infants and children die, suffer poor health themselves, and are far less likely to achieve their own educational and economic goals.  That is why investments by nations in their own health care systems, including basic reproductive and sexual health care, and international donors in those same systems, are so critical.

But, as Gerson notes:

The very words “family planning” light up the limbic centers of American politics. From a distance, it seems like a culture war showdown. Close up, in places such as Bweremana, family planning is undeniably pro-life. When births are spaced more than 24 months apart, both mothers and children are dramatically more likely to survive. Family planning results not only in fewer births, but in fewer at-risk births, including those early and late in a woman’s fertility. When contraceptive prevalence is low, about 70 percent of all births involve serious risk. When prevalence is high, the figure is 35 percent.

The United States was once the global leader in funding family planning worldwide.  But U.S. funding of international family planning programs has remained essentially flat for the last 10 years, and is hamstrung by an increasing number of medically-unnecessary and ideologically-driven restrictions that end up reducing, rather than expanding access to this urgently-needed health intervention.

Gerson argues that support for family planning and contraceptive supplies shouldn’t be the ideological lightening rod it has become because:

“[e]ven in the most stringent Catholic teaching, the prevention of conception is not the moral equivalent of ending a life. And conservative Protestants have little standing to object to contraception, given the fact that they make liberal use of it. According to a 2009 Gallup poll, more than 90 percent of American evangelicals believe that hormonal and barrier methods of contraception are morally acceptable for adults. Children are gifts from God, but this does not require the collection of as many gifts as biologically possible.

In fact, more than 80 percent of the U.S. public writ large strongly supports women’s rights to determine the number and spacing of children they have.

So far we strongly agree: It’s a strategy that saves lives, it makes economic sense, and because this is about public health, it should be free from ideology.  If you don’t like contraception, don’t use it. But don’t use religion or ideology to deny it to others, especially when the overwhelming majority of women of all religious persuasions in fact use birth control.

Where I diverge with from Gerson in regard to these issues is on abortion. 

Gerson points to “[s]ome liberal advocates” who think these are intrinsically related.  In regard to self-determination, human rights, and public health, the linkage between a woman’s ability to prevent pregnancy and her ability to safely and legally terminate an unintended and untenable pregnancy are intrinsically linked and women know this. It only becomes ideological when religion and politics intervenes in these basic rights and tries to undermine them.

It is true, as he notes, that “support for contraception does not imply or require support for abortion.”  You can, personally, be a supporter of contraception but decide you would not choose abortion were you to become pregnant, which obviously men can’t.  Where we’ve become lost, however is in politicizing abortion care in much the same way as family planning services and ignoring, for ideological convenience, the same public health and medical evidence on safe abortion services that supports access to family planning.  Safe abortion care makes sense because it saves women’s lives, and ultimately the lives of their current and future children borne through wanted pregnancies.

Notwithstanding religious and ideological beliefs, access to safe abortion is also a well-recognized critical public health intervention.  Moreover, without it, ultimately women can not truly be in charge of their reproductive destinies–and hence can not truly exercise self-determination. Access to safe abortion services is a necessary back up to any unintended and untenable pregnancy, from any cause, including contraceptive failure, interrupted access to contraceptives, and pregnancies resulting from intimate partner violence and rape, rape as a tool of war, stranger rape, or incest.  Access to contraception can dramatically reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and hence the need for abortion, but it can never completely eliminate abortion. So the need for access to safe abortion care is a fact-based medical and public health position, not an ideological one. And by suggesting it is an ideological position, we continue to miss the point.

What Gerson doesn’t clarify is that for the purpose of U.S. policy, contraception and abortion are already kept separate.  U.S. international family planning assistance goes solely to family planning information and supplies; it does not support access to safe abortion care.  Under the Helms Amendment, funding for abortion care is only allowable in cases of rape, incest or the health and life of the mother.  In reality, because of politics, U.S. funding is rarely if ever used even for these “allowable” conditions.  The issue of abortion would come into play if we were talking about repealing the Helms Amendment, an effort I wholeheartedly support, but which has nothing to do with current discussions around the scope of U.S. international funding for family planning, unless you are a Congressperson trying to deflect attention from the fact that you don’t want to support family planning and want to ignore the evidence that it saves the lives of women and their children.

So when we talk about ideological fights around family planning, it really comes down to a majority male GOP Congressional leadership that vociferously opposes access to basic services that would enable women to choose the number and spacing of children they want by using basic family planning services.  Abortion is a red herring here, because it is not in the equation.  Gerson himself would have been more forceful if he had clarified that, and he also would have been more honest if in this piece he had reversed his own earlier position supporting the prohibition of integration of family planning into U.S. global AIDS programs, a position adopted by the Bush Administration and, unfortunately, continued by the Obama Administration that dramatically diminishes access to contraceptive supplies to HIV-positive women who desire not to have any more children.

So I agree with Gerson that family planning is pro-life, as all people who are pro-choice and by definition therefore “pro-life” understand those concepts.  I also agree with Gerson that “women in Congo have enough home-grown problems without importing irrelevant, Western controversies.”  And finally, I completely agree that access to contraceptives do not solve every problem and that women in Bweremana want access to voluntary family planning for the same reasons as women elsewhere: to avoid high-risk pregnancies, to deliver healthy children and to better care for the children they have.”  They want the same happy, healthy families we all strive to have.

This is the best understanding of why the pro-choice movement, based as it is on public health and medical evidence is indeed “pro-life,” and why U.S. support for voluntary international family planning services is one of the single most effective investments we can make.  Let’s keep the funding politics separate from abortion right now, while recognizing that on the ground, in the hut, for the woman, these two things are rarely in neat little boxes.

What New Legal Obstacles to Safe Medication Abortion in Ohio Mean for Women

10:55 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Toni K. Thayer for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

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The legal landscape for abortion is changing rapidly in Ohio, as it is in many states. Our governor recently signed into law a measure requiring as-yet-unspecified “viability testing” on women seeking abortions past 20 weeks.  At least half a dozen other restrictive measures were recently passed or are on the horizon, including the “Heartbeat Bill,” which seeks to outlaw abortions as early as 6 weeks (before many women know they are pregnant). It’s unclear what this will all mean for clinics and for women.  At my clinic, Preterm, the largest independent abortion provider in the state, women are calling us daily asking if abortion is still legal.

At the same time, Ohio clinics and our patients are now dealing with the effects of a restrictive law passed several years ago. Caught up in court challenges until last spring, this law dictates the way medication abortions—induced by a combination of mifepristone (mife), also known as RU-486, and misoprostol (miso)—must be performed in Ohio. It requires doctors to use an outdated FDA regimen, established during trials in the 1990s, instead of a lower-dose evidence-based regimen that has been used safely and effectively all over the U.S. for more than a decade.

Essentially, the FDA regimen shortens the time a medication abortion can be used from 63 days to 48 (or from 9 weeks of pregnancy to just under 7), triples the amount of mife used (and at $90 a pill that adds up!), and increases the required number of clinic visits from three to four, so that a doctor can watch the patient swallow the miso at the clinic rather than allowing her to dissolve it inside her cheek at home.

Our First Case

The first medication abortion patient we saw at Preterm after the new regulations went into effect was exactly one day over the new legal limit for taking the combo of pills that is used to end an early pregnancy without surgical intervention.   Read the rest of this entry →

Va. Governor McDonnell Expected to Issue “Emergency” TRAP Regulations Today

11:49 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Using a highly unusual “emergency” process, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is expected on Friday, August 26th to issue guidelines under what is known as a Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) law that will treat clinics providing first trimester abortions as a form of hospital. There are no medical or public health indications for such regulations.

In March, McDonnell, a virulently anti-choice Republican, signed SB 924, a law that requires clinics performing first trimester abortions to be regulated as hospitals. The bill gave the state’s Board of Health 280 days to create and to enact the new regulations. Because McDonnell has invoked “emergency” status for the process, it is expected that temporary regulations–which will first be issued tomorrow and voted on by the Board of Health in September–will be put in place for a period of up to 18 months while permanent rules are developed through a more established process.

The catch is this: the McDonnell Administration is bypassing virtually all democratic processes in place for the creation of such regulations. Under the emergency designation, the normal process for public review and comment on regulations, which usually involves several opportunities for expert testimony and public comment and an economic impact assessment among other considerations, has been completely thrown out. Instead, draft regulations will be released tomorrow, and then voted on at a meeting of the Board of Health on September 15th. Instead of any public hearings or comment periods, the Board meeting will be the only time for the public to speak out.  After the board votes on these temporary regulations, they will go to the governor for final approval. Moreover, the McDonnell administration has claimed it has the authority to rewrite without any further notice or input any temporary regulations presented to it for signature.

I’d say that is as close to government by fiat as it gets.

Analysts suggest that the temporary regulations will have an insidious effect of creating uncertainty among clinics as to what to do. Normally, such regulations would include a period of time–two years–during which clinics can make accommodations for any changes that might be necessary to comply with law, such as changes in physical structure, which can be expensive.  But by issuing temporary regulations, the McDonnell Administration puts existing clinics on an uncertain path: Do they take on the expense of adapting to regulations that might be thrown out or replaced in 18 to 24 months when more “permanent” regulations are published? Or do they take the risk of being found in violation of medically-unnecessary regulations that are costly and impede their ability to provide services to women in need?

Virginia has a lot of company in creating medically unnecessary TRAP laws and regulations seeking to diminish access to abortion care. “Nearly 30 states have some sort of TRAP law,” notes Elizabeth Nash, Senior Public Policy Associate at the Guttmacher Institute. “Regulations in some states essentially require clinics providing abortions to become miniature hospitals by mandating they meet ambulatory surgical standards.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) notes that TRAP laws generally fall into one of three categories: health facility licensing schemes, ambulatory surgical center requirements, and hospitalization requirements.

Health facility licensing schemes vary widely in their breadth and scope, but generally require that abortion facilities (but no other comparable offices or clinics) become licensed by the state and meet a range of regulations governing such matters as physical construction, staffing, and procedures.

Ambulatory surgical center (“ASC”) requirements mandate that abortion providers – including, in at least one state, those that provide only first-trimester medical or surgical abortions – be licensed as ASCs, which are sophisticated facilities designed for the performance of a range of out-patient surgeries. “These requirements go far beyond the recommendations of the national health organizations in the field of abortion care, and converting a physician’s office or outpatient clinic into an ASC can be too expensive for many providers.” notes a CRR report.

Hospitalization requirements mandate that abortions beyond a certain gestational age (generally at some point in the second trimester) be performed in a hospital. Although many states have some type of hospitalization requirement on the books, the vast majority of those laws are unenforceable because they been declared unconstitutional by a court ruling or state official, or have been superseded by another law.

In the case of Virginia, the TRAP laws specifically target first trimester abortion, one of the safest medical procedures performed in the United States. As I wrote in July:

More than 90 percent of abortions occur in the first trimester of pregnancy.  Legal, early surgical termination of pregnancy performed by a trained provider is among the safest possible surgical procedures of any kind, anywhere.  Early medical abortion (using medications to end a pregnancy) has a similar safety profile. Less than 3 percent of women who undergo early termination of pregnancy report any complications whatsoever; the vast majority of those “complications” are issues so minor they can be handled in a medical office or clinic.  Fewer than 0.5 percent of women have serious complications from early termination that require hospitalization or surgery.

Does the “emergency push” by the McDonnell administration for abortion regulations come after a rash of problems found at clinics providing abortion care? No. There is no precipitating event other than the desire by Governor McDonnell and his Attorney General Bob Cuccinelli to turn back the clock on women’s health and rights.

Advocates are unable to say at this time what will be included in the temporary regulations expected out tomorrow, but suspect they may in some form reflect those adopted in states such as South Carolina or in Kansas.

In many states with anti-choice legislatures and governors, such as Kansas, TRAP laws can literally become a farce.  In July, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and the Kansas Department of Health put in place regulations targeting abortion clinics that proscribed the size of the janitor’s closets, the temperature at which rooms should be kept, and the size of staff and patient lockers. They further required that clinics be prepared to deal with a “live birth,” a completely superfluous and misleading regulation given that there is no such thing as a “live birth” in the first trimester of any pregnancy. In South Carolina, regulations mandate similarly irrelevant aspects of a clinic’s physical plant, down to the types of faucets to be installed in sinks. The Kansas TRAP regulations were temporarily enjoined by a federal court in a suit brought by CRR and the American Civil Liberties Union.

These actions are separate from and go far beyond the normal regulation of health clinics–licensing of physical plant and providers, standards for cleanliness, operational standards for equipment used–under which abortion clinics and other clinics performing procedures with similarly low levels of risk must already comply.

While TRAP laws are ostensibly put in place to “protect women” or “protect patient safety,” these terms are simply the Orwellian equivalent of a bait and switch. Guttmacher Institute’s Nash notes that there is no credible research on the impact of these types of TRAP regulations on patient health or outcomes, and therefore no evidence that these improve either health or outcomes in any way. It is clear the vast majority of these laws are enacted simply to make create medically-unnecessary obstacles that anti-choice lawmakers hope will be prove too great for providers to overcome, and in turn make it more difficult for women to obtain early abortions by making clinics providing them more scarce.  It is a nakedly obvious strategy to reduce access through harassment using the excuse of protecting health. In fact, the risks to women’s health are far higher if they are forced by lack of access to seek abortions later in their pregnancies.

Contrast Virginia with the states of Delaware and Maryland, which in fact have or are considering laws regulating abortion clinics truly focused on patient safety, according to Nash. In these states, for example, laws actually do focus on protecting patient health and providing a safe and clean environment by writing regulations to ensure that the physical plant of a clinic is safe, functional, and sanitary without focusing on things like the size of patient lockers or the outcomes of operations not ever performed. In this way, Nash notes, states can focus on safety by allowing for each clinic to be configured differently as long as they meet basic standards.

Though legal organizations working to protect the rights and health of women can’t predict what the regulations will contain and therefore are unable to comment on any legal strategy, women’s groups from across Virginia have sprung into action to protest efforts by the McDonnell administration to strip women of their rights. The Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health formed in 2011 as a response to the attack on women’s health and safety prompted by Senate Bill 924. The goal of the coalition is to “protect and ensure access for all women in all regions of Virginia to safe first-trimester abortion and comprehensive reproductive health care services,” and to oppose “excessive, burdensome or unneeded regulations that undermine patient access to medical care for political or ideological purposes.”  The Coalition is expecting to collect at least 10,000 signatures to deliver to the Board of Health before the September hearing, and is requesting support from women in the state in this effort.

 

Women’s Reproductive Rights Under Threat in Colombia

10:32 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Hanna Hindstrom for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Cross-posted with permission from The Women’s News Network (WNN).

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At 11 years of age, Nina was raped by her stepfather. Traumatized and pregnant, she sought an abortion. But every doctor she met claimed conscientious objection and refused. She was forced to travel 35 miles to another city, where she eventually tracked down an obstetrician willing to help.

She was one of the lucky ones.

Despite a landmark ruling five years ago – when Colombia’s Constitutional Court decriminalized abortion in cases of rape, fetal abnormality or to save the mother’s life – less than 0.5 percent of procedures are carried out legally each year. Many doctors simply turn girls like Nina away.

There is endemic confusion about the status of the law, especially the rules for conscientious objection, coupled with a widespread reluctance to obey it. Unsafe abortion remains the third leading cause of maternal deaths in a country where, according to government figures, over 300,000 take place each year.

Upon its inception the law has been the target of an aggressive anti-choice campaign, led by conservative political forces and supported by the Catholic Church. These forces are now threatening to unravel the little progress made.

Since coming into office in 2009, the Procurador-General, Alejandro Ordonez – the official appointed to protect the constitution and promote human rights – has led a vociferous campaign to dismantle the legislation. Read the rest of this entry →

I Am the Population Problem

9:17 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Lisa Hymas for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

This fall, world population will reach 7 billion people at a time of accelerated environmental disruption. This article part of a series commissioned by RH Reality Check and with Laurie Mazur as guest editor, to examine the causes and consequences of population and environmental change from various perspectives and the policies and actions needed to both avoid and mitigate the inevitable impacts of these changes.

Here, Lisa Hymas explains how for population and personal reasons she has decided not to have kids. All of the articles in this series can be found here.

Both local and broad scale environmental problems often are linked to population growth, which in turn tends to get blamed on other people: folks in Africa and Asia who have “more kids than they can feed,” immigrants in our own country with their “excessively large families,” even single mothers in the “inner city.”

But actually the population problem is all about me: white, middle-class, American me.

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Steer that blame right over here. Read the rest of this entry →

Ignore That Self-Affixed Halo: Anti-Choicers Know Just What They Are Doing to Incite Violence

11:46 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Immediately after the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in the vestibule of his church in Wichita, Kansas just over two years ago, anti-choice leaders who had long used stridently violent language to describe Dr. Tiller specifically and abortion care generally, fell all over themselves proclaiming innocence of any connection to the murder.  Among these was Troy Newman, current president of Operation Rescue, who stated:

“We are shocked at this morning’s disturbing news that Mr. Tiller was gunned down… Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice. We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning.”

But the fact is that Newman and his cohorts regularly used imagery and language that depicted Dr. Tiller himself as a monster and in many ways indirectly if not directly suggested him as a target for someone willing to commit a violent act. That someone turned out to be Scott Roeder, who had, it turns out, several links to Operation Rescue.

And, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Any doubt of Newman’s own gruesome feelings of glee about Dr. Tiller’s murder can be summed up in a photo showing Newman standing at the site of Dr. Tiller’s assassination giving a thumbs up.

Operation Rescue and other anti-choicers have now turned their sights on Dr. LeRoy Carhart, who is providing late abortion care to women in need several times a month in Germantown, Maryland.  During the several hours I spent on three days in Germantown, to help with clinic defense, I saw suggestions of violent action everywhere, courtesy of the anti-choicers marshaled by Operation Rescue and its colleague organizations.

First, for example, there was the truck plastered with photos of what the anti-choicers claim are mangled fetuses.  These photos, whether real or not, are obviously distasteful, and meant to be so. But they are also misleading if not outright fake.  If, for example, a woman is carrying a fetus that has died in utero, and it is removed for her own mental and physical health, it may well look grisly. So would, for example, heart surgery. But the implication without context is that someone is killing near-born babies without reason. Using photos-and science for that matter–that is either created entirely for shock value or so grossly misrepresents reality as to have no relation is a primary strategy of the anti-choice movement.

But also plastered across this truck, amidst the “dead baby” photos were photos of Dr. Tiller and those of Dr. Carhart. Those of Dr. Tiller pronounced him “dead,” and tho

se of Dr. Carhart had large yellow arrows fixed around the perimeter with the word “Abortionist” in large black block letters, pointing to Dr. Carhart.  The message, if not explicit, is nonetheless clear: “One of these men is dead, the other is still working. Whaddya gonna do about it?”

Then there were the sidewalk chalk drawings, pictured here.

These drawings, which were one version of other drawings that appeared on a different day as well, were drawn out by teenagers “called in” by OR to help out with th protest.

Among these on Sunday were the sayings:

  • Would it bother us more if they used guns?
  • What would Jesus do? (with a gun)
  • Would it bother us if they used guns?

A drawing of an exploding gun as at the bottom of this row of chalk drawings.

Again, these images have two purposes. One is to suggest violence is an answer to something that anti-choicers don’t like, namely, women exercising self-determination in their lives by determining whether and when to have children, taking control over their own reproduction and sexual health, and safeguarding their own and their family’s health when a wanted pregnancy goes horribly awry.

The other is to intimidate those who are protecting women seeking care, and doctors who serve them. What would come to your mind if you walked the street toward your doctor’s office and there were exploding guns sketched on the sidewalk leading up to the office door?

Operation Rescue and other anti-choice groups such as those in Germantown use religion and piety to advance a patriarchal agenda cloaked in religious fervor.

But it is violence by any other name.

The Anti-Choice Class War

9:19 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

"Class War"

"Class War" by London Permaculture on flickr

Written by Amanda Marcotte for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Whilst whiling away my time in a manner greatly pleasing to myself—reading the Tumblr STFU Conservatives—I was genuinely startled to see that the blogger had curated this amazing bit of anti-choice propaganda from Live Action.

See image here.

I couldn’t have created a better distillation of how anti-choicers actually view women who are facing unintended pregnancies. I can just imagine how this particular ad came to be. One of the folks working at Live Action was flipping through stock photos of pregnant women—concentrating on very pregnant women in order to mislead people about the flat-tummied realities of abortion—and they were drawn to this one because it’s such a vicious stereotype. The woman pictured is clearly supposed to be young, adolescent even, and poor. You can tell she’s likely a teenager because she’s wearing trendy clothes like you get at Forever 21. And the clothes don’t fit well and are clearly supposed to be clothes from before she got pregnant, the implication being that she’s too poor to afford maternity clothes. This image characterizes young, poor women as stupid sluts who can’t manage basic responsibilities. And our youthful right wing propagandist saw this picture and thought, Perfect! This is exactly how I imagine life is like for the kind of women who get pregnant on accident.

The text indicates that whoever wrote this ad thinks that the intended audience—presumably young and likely poor women—is really stupid, and that the only reason a person might conclude that aborting a pregnancy isn’t the same thing as killing a baby is that they’ve been brainwashed by the condom-pushers at Planned Parenthood. In reality, people draw the conclusion that embryos aren’t babies so much as potential babies because they look at the obvious evidence on hand. They notice that people don’t have funerals for miscarriages, that we start counting someone’s age from their birth date and not their conception date, and that unlike babies, embryos can’t experience emotions or sensations, due to the lack of a functioning brain.

This particular ad further reinforces my sense that the anti-choice movement is increasingly moving away from the strategy they embraced for the past decade of feigning concern for pregnant women, and instead they’re moving back to old school hysterics about women’s sexual freedoms mixed in with overt classism and racism. The most obvious example of this turn has been the right wing reaction to the HHS ruling that will require insurers to cover contraception without a co-pay. All feigned concern for women flew out the window the second the possibility of free contraception was even raised, and so far the theme of the criticisms of the HHS has been, “Dirty, stupid, irresponsible sluts don’t deserve squat.” Read the rest of this entry →