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Life Begins At Conception. That’s Not the Point.

12:57 pm 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.

Life begins at conception.

A human embryo.

This is perhaps the favorite phrase of anti-choicers seeking to eliminate women’s basic right to control over their own bodies. It is, for example, the premise of policies pushed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and fundamentalist evangelicals. It is the cornerstone of the so-called personhood laws defeated by large margins in ballot initiatives undertaken in both Colorado and Mississippi. And it is the basis for the “Sanctity of Life” bill co-sponsored by Congressmen Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Todd Akin (R-MO) in the House of Representatives. The end game in all of these efforts is a radical shift in women’s lives, including a total ban on abortion without exception, and bans on many forms of contraception, in vitro fertilization, and health care for women who are or who may be pregnant.

“Life begins at conception,” is repeated incessantly by politicians such as Richard Mourdock, as though this were a revelation, something not previously known, that should inform our thinking on whether women are people with the same fundamental rights as men, or if they are essentially incubators whose ability to participate in society and the economy, and, quite literally, whose ability to live is dependent on whether they are, might be, or might become pregnant.

But the phrase is highly — and purposefully — misleading because it confuses simple biological cell division both with actual pregnancy and with actual, legal personhood, which are all very different things.

During the October 11, 2012 vice presidential debate, for example, moderator Martha Raddatz asked Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) to discuss “the role religion has played” in their personal views on abortion.

Ryan responded by saying:

Now, you want to ask basically why I’m pro-life? It’s not simply because of my Catholic faith. That’s a factor, of course. But it’s also because of reason and science.

You know, I think about 10 1/2 years ago, my wife Janna and I went to Mercy Hospital in Janesville where I was born, for our seven week ultrasound for our firstborn child, and we saw that heartbeat. A little baby was in the shape of a bean. And to this day, we have nicknamed our firstborn child Liza, “Bean.”

Now I believe that life begins at conception.

Here is a startling revelation: I am a mother of two and a woman who earlier in her life had an abortion. I am unapologetically pro-choice. And I know life *begins* at conception (which itself is the product of a complex process), because I kinda already knew that having a child required, as a first step, the successful integration of a sperm and an egg, or fertilization.

In other words, “life” begins at conception, if by “life,” we mean the essential starting place of a potential human being. Neither my 16-year-old daughter nor my 13-year-old son would be here if they were not first conceived, if the fertilized eggs had not gone through the process of cell division, successfully implanted in my uterus and developed into healthy embryos, and subsequently gone successfully through the many other phases of development leading to their births.

The fact that life begins at conception is why women and men use birth control to prevent it from happening and why they have been trying to prevent it from happening since time immemorial. While they may not have had high-resolution microscopes and photography to reveal biological-level activity, women do not and did not need modern “reason and science” (to which anti-choicers now love to refer) to tell them they get pregnant from sex; as Homo Sapiens they have been conceiving, carrying, and bearing babies for at least some 160,000 years, and they’ve been trying to prevent pregnancy and induce abortions for just as long.

Evidence of condom use has been found in cave drawings in France dated between 12,000 and 15,000 years old and in 3,000 year-old illustrations in Egypt. Throughout history, people have variously practiced “outer course” (encouraged even by Christian clergy at some points in history!), and used pessaries, herbs, and other objects to create barriers to fertilization when having sex, not to mention trying many other more dangerous and less effective means, such as drinking lead and mercury or wearing blood-soaked amulets in the hopes of preventing fertilization, a subsequent pregnancy, and later, the birth of a child. I understand that seeing the sonogram of a wanted child is a powerful thing and a connection to the potential person whose birth is much awaited. But if it took Paul Ryan to see a sonogram of his daughter in utero to get him to believe his wife was pregnant and that his daughter’s “life” began with conception, the state of GOP knowledge on sex and biology is even worse than I thought.

The question is not when life begins. That just obfuscates the real issues.

The fundamental issues are:

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Three Lessons on Religious Freedom from North Dakota

11:40 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

The sun sets over a Catholic chapel.

St. Mary's Catholic Church in North Dakota (Photo: Michael Arrighi / Flickr)

June 12th, in North Dakota, voters rejected a constitutional amendment (Measure 3) that, in the name of religious freedom, would in reality have empowered institutional discrimination. The voters affirmed constitutional protections for the free exercise of religious belief and against the establishment of state-protected discrimination by religious institutions and religious affiliates.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) supported Measure Three and there are three strong reasons voters rejected it. The same reasoning applies to the current USCCB campaign against a federal requirement of insurance to cover contraceptives:

  • Institutions which accept tax-exemptions and/or public funds must abide by the fundamental individual protections of our constitution including those against racial discrimination. Sex-discrimination should have equal prohibitions.
  • Accepting public funds and/or tax exemption requires compliance with public standards imposed upon all of us. In the case of Catholic clinics and hospitals, for example, a majority of Catholics agree with conscience protections for individuals, for example in direct provision of abortion services, but public institutions may not refuse to provide needed medical services.
  • Although a citizen may be exempted from acting in a way contrary to religious beliefs (for example fight in a war, participate in the pledge of allegiance, eat particular foods, or take birth control), that is very different from not paying taxes that are required of everyone.

With the rejection of the “Personhood Amendment” in Mississippi and the rejection of Measure 3 in North Dakota, we see proof that Americans have a profound respect for religious freedom as the founders intended it.

Measure 3 as it appeared on the ballot:

This initiated constitutional measure would add a new section to Article I of the North Dakota Constitution stating, “Government may not burden a person’s or religious organization’s religious liberty. The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief may not be burdened unless the government proves it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest. A burden includes indirect burdens such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, or an exclusion from programs or access to facilities.”

YES – meant voter approved the measure as stated.

NO – meant voter rejected the measure as stated.

“I Can’t Believe I Still Have to Protest This:” Abortion Rights in Canada

12:40 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Tanya Castle 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 April 26th Canada’s Parliament debated M-312, a motion that calls for the formation of a special committee of Parliament to review whether the definition of a “human being” as described in the Canadian criminal code can be extended to unborn fetuses.

Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Photo by Vlad Litvinov.

Stephan Woodworth, a Member of Parliament with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party, proposed the motion, after an extensive media campaign that began in December 2011. The campaign propagated his view that the definition of a “human being” in Section 223(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada is 400 years old (Canada became a country in 1867) and should be revisited in order “to reflect twenty-first century medical evidence.”

Basically, Woodworth’s motion seeks to give legal personhood to fetuses. If passed, it would allow the prosecution of women for murder if they have an abortion.  It would even allow the prosecution of women for accidentally harming their fetus. Above all, it would allow the prioritization of fetuses “rights” over the enshrined constitutional rights of a pregnant woman!

Although Woodworth stated that his motion was merely to allow for “intellectual inquiry,” it is undoubtedly aimed at reopening the abortion debate in Canada. This became blatantly apparent when Woodworth stated on radio that the motion “certainly allows us to have an honest discussion about the abortion question.”

Woodworth seemingly fails to remember that the abortion question was answered more than 25 years ago. In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Canada’s abortion law was unconstitutional. When ruling on the Regina v. Morgentaler case, a Justice said: “The objective of protecting the fetus would not justify the severity of the breach of pregnant women’s right to security of the person.” Another added, the state cannot let others decide “whether her [a woman’s] body is to be used to nurture a new life.” In short, as Niki Ashton, a Member of Parliament and Critic on the Status of Women with the New Democratic Party, Canada’s main opposition party, said best, the Justices found that the abortion law, “violated Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, because it infringed on a woman’s right to life, liberty and security of person.”

Read the rest of this entry →

How James Bopp Is Using Citizens United and Campaign Finance Law to Promote the Anti-Choice Agenda

12:59 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

(image: ee382, photobucket)

James Bopp, Jr. (photo: ee382/photobucket)

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

By now it should come as no surprise that anti-choice activists are engaged in a targeted and specific legal strategy to roll-back abortion rights. After all, it has proven to be more successful to slowly and steadily chip away at access to abortion care via judicial opinion than through any attempts at outright bans in state legislatures.

But what might come as more of a surprise is the fact that a key part of that legal strategy involves attacking campaign finance law. In fact the pro-corporate personhood movement and the anti-woman, anti-choice movement share the same attorney: conservative campaign-finance crusader and abortion-rights foe James Bopp Jr.

Bopp is most famous as the legal architect behind the Citizens United decision but his ties to the anti-choice world run deep. Bopp’s clients include the National Organization for Marriage, National Right to Life Committee, Susan B. Anthony List, and Focus on the Family, just to name a few. And it’s worth remembering that the Citizens United crusade started as an anti-Hilary Clinton smear campaign dressed up as a free speech movement. Bopp is, by all accounts, the principle litigator for conservative causes.

Since his victory in Citizens United Bopp has traveled the country looking to challenge statewide campaign finance disclosure laws. He does this through actions filed on behalf of anti-choice and anti-marriage equality activist groups. The goal is two-fold: take any victories in decisions that turn back corporate spending disclosure requirements and create conflicting precedents in competing jurisdictions to facilitate Supreme Court review to tie down any lose ends left by the Citizens United decision.

That’s exactly what Bopp has done in Washington where he led the challenge to that state’s disclosure law. In Human Life of Washington v. Brumsickle, Bopp argued that the state’s requirement that advocacy groups like Human Life of Washington register with the state and report its financial activities had a chilling effect on groups’ First Amendment speech rights and was therefore unconstitutional. The Ninth Circuit disagreed and last month the Supreme Court denied review of the decision which means the Ninth Circuit decision stands. And since the Supreme Court refused to review this decision, Bopp needs a conflicting decision from a conflicting jurisdiction to force the issue before the Court. Read the rest of this entry →

New Front in the War on Women: Regulatory Accountability Act Could Effectively Eliminate Reproductive Health Coverage

2:12 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Six weeks ago when advocates realized that Initiative 26 was going to be on the ballot in Mississippi there was no doubt what was at stake and as a result, an impressive array people and organizers lined up to defeat it.

But some threats are not so clear.

Here is one worth tracking.  The “Regulatory Accountability Act” of 2011 (H.R. 3010, S. 1606) may do more to undermine access to birth control and other reproductive health technologies (not to mention a host of other services we rely on our government to provide) than any head on attack we have seen.  The legislation drastically overhauls something called the Administrative Procedure Act and would greatly expand the kinds of ‘new rules’ or policies that must undergo a formal, highly bureaucratic rulemaking process.  This procedure can take a decade or longer to complete.

You know the conservatives’ mantra “limited government?”  Well, this legislation is just the opposite.  It is over-regulation at its most outrageous.  In fact, it is purposeful overregulation so that no regulation can get through.

Remember when FDA’s Assistant Commissioner Susan Wood quit in protest over the way the agency was handling an application to make Plan B available without a prescription? She did so in response to an announcement by the FDA Commissioner that the Plan B review would have to be submitted to “rulemaking.”  Dr Wood knew this was a way of “slow-walking” if not outright killing a decision to make Plan B available over-the-counter. Read the rest of this entry →

Defeating Personhood: A Critical But Incomplete Victory for Reproductive Justice

2:19 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Lady Justice (Photo: vaxzine, flickr)

Lady Justice (Photo: vaxzine, flickr)

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

See all our coverage of the Mississippi Egg-As-Person Defeat here, our coverage of Mississippi Initiative (Prop) 26 here, and our coverage of egg-as-person initiatives here.

The headlines all say it – “Personhood defeated in Mississippi!” This was a tremendous victory for the pro-choice movement that started campaigning on the ground only September 8, years after proponents of the “Yes on 26” ballot initiative flooded the state with a superbly orchestrated campaign that included well-financed organizing and petition drives. As of this writing, 55 percent of the voters rejected this dangerous, precedent-setting initiative that would have declared a fertilized egg a “person” and outlawed most contraception, in vitro fertilization, and would have criminalized abortion – even in cases of rape and incest. These dangerous, unintended consequences even persuaded conservative voters to defeat the initiative, splitting the traditionally unified anti-abortion base.

Mississippi was a peoples’ victory, a triumph in which people of all backgrounds, races, professions and religions came together. Congratulations are definitely in order for the tireless activists in the state, and for those professional campaigners who came from out-of-state to direct the No on 26 campaign, led by Mississippians for Healthy Families. The grassroots efforts of many courageous Mississippi activists demonstrated that over-reaching zealots who do not care about women’s lives could be rebuffed even in the reddest, most religious, conservative state in the South. The professional campaign strategists were right – targeting their efforts at conservatives and independents by magnifying the anti-government sentiments in the state that are a holdover from the Civil Rights movement and the more recent stoking by the Tea Party. Read the rest of this entry →

Mississippi Egg-As-Person Amendment Defeated 57 to 43 Percent; Voter ID Law Appears to Have Passed

2:13 pm 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.

See all our coverage of the Mississippi Egg-As-Person Defeat here, our coverage of Mississippi Initiative (Prop) 26 here, and our coverage of egg-as-person initiatives here.

In a decisive and resounding victory in one of the most conservative states in the country, Mississippi voters defeated–by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent as of this writing–the dangerous Initiative 26, which would have defined a fertilized egg as a person with full human rights.  Had it passed, Initiative 26 would have outlawed all forms of abortion and many forms of birth control. The law would have made illegal many forms of fertility treatment and would potentially have criminalized miscarriage.  It would also have endangered pregnant women by making their rights to health, to health care and to bodily integrity subservient to blastocysts, embryos, and fetuses no matter how dire the woman’s condition might be or what her situation. 

See all our coverage of this issue here.

At the same time, however, the outcome of 26 is bittersweet, given that as of this writing Mississippi voters also appear to have passed Initiative 27, a voter ID law that will disenfranchise many of the minority voters who already suffer discrimination in a state with a history of denying African Americans their right to vote.

The Personhood Ballot in Mississippi: “Sluts,” “Good Girls,” and the Increasingly Blurry Line Dividing Them

11:52 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

MS State Capitol - what will the law be after the vote today? (Photo: Ken Lund, flickr)

MS State Capitol - what will the law be after the vote today? (Photo: Ken Lund, 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.

See all our coverage of Mississippi Initiative (Prop) 26 here.

The personhood amendment being voted on in Mississippi this week is important for two major reasons. The first has received lots of coverage here at RH Reality Check and some liberal news sources: because it’s about criminalizing all women of reproductive age, and could do things like ban birth control and open criminal investigations on miscarriages.

The other reason that we should all be paying attention to Mississippi is the results of the election will be an excellent measure of how far right the Christian right has gone when it comes to sex.

The right has always approached the question of reproductive rights as an elaborate game of “Who’s the Slut?” Sure, they like to blather on about “life” and “personal responsibility,” but that’s because coming straight out and saying that they’d like to craft a law where good girls have rights but bad girls don’t isn’t politically popular. Too obvious: you have to wrap that agenda in sentimental talk about the sanctity of life, and hope no one notices that you have no regard for the sanctity of life if people are dying in wars or from lack of health insurance. But if you look past their rhetoric to the actual rules they try to make regarding who gets to have rights under what circumstances, it’s clear they’re trying to sort women into “sluts” and “non-slut” categories. The traditional exception for rape victims under abortion restrictions is the most commonly cited example, of course. I’d add that most conservatives—outside of those who make anti-choice activism their main priority—tend to support the use of contraception. In their minds, contraception is something that could be used by good girls. Married women with children use contraception, after all. But when it comes to abortion, most people imagine a young woman having sex outside of marriage with a man who isn’t going to marry her, which puts her in the “slut” category and means she should lose her reproductive rights. Read the rest of this entry →

Did I Kill My Baby Boy? And If I Had Been in MIssissippi, Would I Be Facing Prison?

12:51 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

See all our coverage on Mississippi Initiative 26 here.

In 1996, I suffered a second-trimester spontaneous abortion, (miscarriage). It ranks as one of the worst experiences of my life, losing a fetus that was hoped for, longed for, and for whom a future had been imagined.

Next week, Mississippi votes on a “personhood” amendment that would define personhood as occurring when the egg is fertilized (not implanted, prior to this, fertilization).

If I had been experiencing the pains and bleeding that I knew signaled the end of my pregnancy, would I have gone to that hospital emergency room? If I hadn’t gone, and had passed that fetus alone, would I have known that I had not entirely expelled the contents of my uterus and was now vulnerable to a deadly infection? Would I have died from fear of being prosecuted for losing my baby?

Friday morning. June 7, 1996, I was attending a conference at a university. I ate some breakfast, and went downstairs. I was having pain in my back and in my groin. I felt the familiar tingle of fear go up my backbone. My hands began to shake. I went into the bathroom, and I felt something pass out of me. I looked at it in the toilet. An unrecognizable blob of something that looked like something an old man would hock out of his lungs floated in the water.  But there was no blood. Still, I knew something was wrong.

I approached the student union information booth. A bored, young woman stood behind the desk, and calmly, I told her I thought I might be having a miscarriage and I thought I needed some help. Her compassion shown through immediately: She called 911. And she escorted me over to a couch, made me lie down.

First, the firefighters arrived. They seemed weighed down in their heavy rubber boots, their fireproof pants with the suspenders that crossed over navy blue shirts. One of them asked me how I felt. When I told him what had happened, that something I thought “the size of a golf ball” had come out of me, he said, “A golf ball?” And then he said, “I don’t think that’s a miscarriage. I think, given how far along you are, it would have been bigger.” I suddenly felt embarrassed, like I had brought everyone out for nothing. I was relieved, yes, because maybe it meant that this thing wasn’t happening to me, but the casual dismissal of my experience left me as flustered as someone caught in a lie.

Two EMTs showed up. I explained to them that I thought I might be having a miscarriage. Explained what I was feeling. I was scared, and I’m sure my fear showed in everything about me. They loaded me onto a gurney, put me in the back of an ambulance, and drove me to the university hospital. I chatted with the EMT who rode in the back of the ambulance. He monitored my blood pressure, my heart rate. He and I talked about why I was in Chapel Hill. It could have been a conversation in a grocery store line, the kind of chat provoked by the need to kill time while you wait for the cashier to get a price check on frozen pizza.

I was examined by a nurse, and then the ER doctor. He checked me for bleeding, and there was none. But, in the time it took for the OB-GYN resident to come to the ER, there was bleeding. Crimson spots. Crimson, like death. I called the nurse back into the room, convinced that all was at an end. “It’s not too much blood, honey,” she said, and she tut-tutted over me as if I was one of her grandchildren who had come to her with a skinned knee.

The doctor came back into the room. He passed the ultrasound wand over my stomach. My baby was in there. “See?” He pointed him out. “Everything looks fine. It’s just a little spotting.”

But the baby’s heartbeat was almost 190. And some voice inside me told me that wasn’t right. But the doctor was reassuring. “I think you’re going to be just fine,” he said. “I think you have about a 90 percent chance of carrying this baby to term. I’m going to release you. Go back to the dorm room. Put your feet up. You’ll be fine.”

I left the hospital. The conference staff had sent a car over to get me, and I happily reassured the worried staffer that I was fine. False alarm. Sorry to have gotten everybody so concerned.

He dropped me at the entrance to the central conference area. I remember I was wearing a pale pink dress. It was loose, and I had purchased it just the week before to serve as a maternity dress that I could wear for the conference. At one pm, an acquaintance of mine was giving a paper in a panel. The room was crowded, and I managed to nab a chair right near the door.

The room filled. There were people sitting on the floor. It was crowded, and I looked around, was thrilled to recognize another rockstar professor whose books had changed my whole way of looking at things. I was thinking about some way that I might be able to talk to her after the session, but I brought my mind back to the panel, which was just about to be introduced. I settled onto the hard wooden chair and then something happened. Something let go inside of me, and I felt a flood into my underpants.

I just jumped up, said, “Oh my God,” and ran from the room. I heard someone sigh behind me, as if I had greatly inconvenienced them, and once again, I felt embarrassed. The women’s restroom was next door. I went in there. It was empty, the tile white, the mirrors everywhere. I went into a stall. I pulled down my underpants and sat down. I hurt. My back hurt. My pelvis hurt. And something passed through me. Something big, like a softball. I heard the plop as it hit the water in the bowl.

I didn’t want to look. I couldn’t look. If I looked, my life was going to end. I stopped thinking. I flushed the toilet without looking behind me. I pulled up my pants. Calm overtook me; Eirene, or perhaps it was Morpheus, laid their hands on me, and I became a sleepwalker. But I was a sleepwalker in the midst of a troubling dream; still, the blank was winning.

I washed my hands. I could feel fluid pouring down onto my legs. I didn’t want to look. I knew that my dress was going to be covered soon. I didn’t want to look. I grabbed my briefcase and walked down a long staircase, into the conference organizers’ room. I walked up to the first person I saw behind a table. “Excuse me,” I said. “I seem to be hemorrhaging. I think I need some help.”

I had to repeat myself. I don’t think she believed me the first time. Someone helped me over to a couch. I lay down. I began to cry. Now that I was not alone, I could allow myself a moment to fall apart. Even still, they were not the great wails of the banshee; my sobs were quiet, reserved, controlled. Tears dripped into my hair, as my uterus emptied out onto my legs. Someone stroked my hair, shushed me. I told them I thought I was bleeding all over the couch. “Do you want me to look?” she said. I nodded. She looked. “It doesn’t look like blood,” she said.

The EMTs arrived. It was the same EMTs from the morning. “Oh God,” I cried to the young one. “I think I lost my baby.”

“Where were you?” he asked.

“In the bathroom. Oh God, I think I flushed my baby down the toilet.” I began to sob. How could someone flush her baby down a toilet? My stomach scrambled; it reminded me of the clatter of a dog’s paws on a wooden floor when the dog is panicked. Panic fought with the need for distance, and the wave of anxiety passed.

He started an IV. I was out of it, alone in a world of pain where my pelvis ached and my brain was actively closing off anything that looked like knowledge of loss. His partner came over, whispered something in his ear.

Again, they loaded me on the gurney. This time, the lights were flashing. I was in shock. I needed attention. We arrived at the ER. The same nurse. She came to me, and I remember saying to her “The baby’s gone.” And she stroked my hair, gave me a hug. I looked up, and the same ER doctor from just a few hours ago was there, too.

Someone from the conference, I never knew her name, had ridden with me in the ambulance. She kept holding my hand. I needed someone to call my husband. He was at work in Syracuse. He needed to know what I had done. I had killed my baby. I knew that. Even as I was transferred from the gurney to an ER cot, that thought imprinted itself on my brain. I had killed my baby. And now I had to pay a price.  Someone in the ER called him. They told me that he had said he would be on the next flight he could get out on. I held onto the hand of a woman I didn’t know.

No one had confirmed that I had lost the baby at this point. I was being treated, but no one had yet told me that the baby was gone. I had somehow convinced myself in the ambulance that the baby was still there, inside of me. At the same time that I was beating myself up for killing my baby, I still thought that perhaps, as it had been earlier in the day, this was simply a false alarm. A second heartbeat still throbbed within me.

The ER doctor came in. “We have the fetus.” he said.

“I don’t understand,” I said. It turned out that the second EMT had retrieved the fetus from the toilet. I had not flushed it down. Even now, my mind cannot go where this image leads.

I remember when I was a child, our dog had puppies. When the first puppy came, the dog was so startled that she ran away from what had dropped out of her body. I had had the same reaction. Pure instinct. To move away from it. To not see it.

The ER doctor told me I was going to be okay. “My wife lost our baby six weeks ago,” he said. “I know this is hard, but you’ll get through this. I promise.”

A second OB-GYN resident came in. The first one, the one who had promised me my baby would live, obviously didn’t want to face me. It was okay. I forgave him. He had tried to make me feel better. It was a lesson in being a doctor. Don’t promise the things you have no control over. I even said that to the new doctor who was examining me. “Tell him this wasn’t his fault,” I said, or something similar. I absolved him of blame. I knew who had really killed her baby.

“I need to do an ultrasound,” he said. “I’m going to turn the machine away from you, so you don’t see the screen. I know you saw a baby there this morning. I don’t want you to see the empty uterus.”

I was so grateful. Such a kindness. I don’t think I could have borne looking where just a few hours ago, a fetus had lived. As it turned out, there was a mess in there. I needed an emergency D&C. I was given an anesthetic, and something to calm me. But as the doctor placed the speculum inside of me, I began to shake, grow cold. “I’m scared,” I said. The nurse squeezed my hand, and more medicine was added to the drip. I zoned out. I was there but not there. I felt the instruments. I knew what was happening. But I was somewhere else. Something inside of me shut off. Completely.

Without the follow-up care I received at the hospital, I would have died of a massive infection. If I thought that what I had done might be perceived as a crime, would I have gone to the hospital when the pain began? When the fever started? Or would I die, as so many millions of women have died, for lack of concern about women in this world.

Jesus. I want to weep.

Race, Class, and Rights in Mississippi: How A Reproductive Justice Campaign Can Save the Pill and Save the Vote

9:40 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Photobucket

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

The 2011 Mississippi ballot Initiative 26 on Personhood and Initiative 27 on Voter ID exclusions may be one of the most important opportunities on the ground for the Pro-Choice and Reproductive Justice Movements to work together. In Mississippi, we are witnessing the intersection of race and gender politics in a campaign in which African American voters are probably the most critical constituents when they go to the polls on November 8. It’s a case study on Roe v. Wade intersecting with the Voting Rights Act and the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote.

For the Reproductive Justice movement, this is an example of theory meeting practice in which we have an opportunity to link our human rights struggles in a statewide campaign. The best spokespeople are readily talking about both ballot initiatives consistently by bringing together women, families, race, and poverty. By co-joining race (Voter ID-27) with gender (Personhood-26), we have an excellent opportunity to experience an example of intersectionality in practice in an electoral campaign in which black women may be the very voters we need to move the needle against our opponents’ long-term manipulation of the African American electorate.

We have to strengthen the common ground between the Reproductive Justice and Pro-Choice movements based on linking human rights issues together. Reproductive Justice is our best opportunity to join middle-class women with poor women so that we can win for all women. Read the rest of this entry →