My abortion story

I’ve been choosing abortion for 10 years, and that choice has shaped the course of my life.

Today I blogged about my abortion story on Role/Reboot:

If I got pregnant today, I would have an abortion

As a 16-year-old, I knew that if I got pregnant by accident I would have an abortion. Ten years later, I am in a completely different place—a place where I could, realistically, support and parent a child—and I would still choose abortion.

I believe in the power of telling stories. With the 80 new restrictions on abortion rights enacted by state legislatures in 2011 and more coming every day, I believe it’s especially important to tell stories about abortion and the role it plays in creating an egalitarian society that allows women, and men, to control their destinies. Until recently I felt like I didn’t have a story to tell because I haven’t had an abortion. I cannot speak to the experience of making that decision or undergoing the procedure. But I realized that I do have a story, a story that has grown with me as I matured from a 16- to 26-year-old adult who could, if I chose to, be a mom.

Continue reading at Role/Reboot.

The MBTA should not allow advertising from crisis pregnancy centers

The MBTA is where you’ll usually find ads for Jamba juice and Jansport backpacks, local research studies, and public health campaigns. Currently, though, much of this highly-coveted space is occupied by ads for Daybreakinc.org, an anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center. The ads don’t tell you that Daybreak has an anti-abortion agenda; they claim to offer “compassion,” “empowerment,” “hope,” and most inaccurately, “options.” This is in fact the major criticism of crisis pregnancy centers—that they misrepresent themselves as neutral parties. They are not, and they should not be allowed to advertise their heavily-biased and manipulative services on the MBTA.

The point of a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) is to keep pregnant women from having abortions, often by delaying them with offers of pregnancy tests and ultrasounds until it’s too late. What is truly sinister about CPCs is their use of untrue or misleading information to scare women away from choosing abortion, with false claims such as: abortion causes breast cancer, abortion is psychologically damaging, abortion can lead to sterility, and birth-control pills cause abortion. A 2006 Congressional investigation found that 87 percent of the centers surveyed provided false or misleading medical information.

Daybreak is guilty of this type of misinformation, although they are careful not to appear so on their website. It’s no wonder they are covering their behinds—legal action has been taken against CPCs in a number of states regarding their deceptive advertising in New York, California, Ohio, Missouri, and North Dakota.

According to their website, Daybreak claims to provide “accurate information about pregnancy, fetal development, lifestyle issues, and related concerns” as well as offer “accurate information about abortion procedures and risks.” They say “our advertising and communications are truthful and honest and accurately describe the services we offer.” But when you dig in deeper, you will find a sample if misleading and just plain untrue “facts” on their website:

  • Daybreak claims: “[Plan B] It may alter the uterine lining which prevents the fertilized egg from implanting, resulting in an early abortion.” (This is wrong—the dissolution of a fertilized egg is NOT “early abortion.”)
  • Daybreak claims: “Complications may happen in as many as 1 out of every 100 early abortions,” when according to the Guttmacher Institute, “the risk of abortion complications is minimal: Fewer than 0.3% of abortion patients experience a complication that requires hospitalization.”
  • Daybreak claims: “Women who have experienced abortion may develop the following symptoms: guilt, grief, anger, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, difficulty bonding with partner or children, eating disorder,” when the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion reported that “the best scientific evidence published indicates that among adult women who have an unplanned pregnancy the relative risk of mental health problems is no greater if they have a single elective first-trimester abortion than if they deliver that pregnancy.”
  • On the particularly appalling “For Men” section of the Daybreak website, they write: “Many women who have had abortions report that they were waiting for their boyfriends/husbands to stop them. Some even say that they sat on the table hoping the father of their baby would ‘rush through the door to rescue me and take me away somewhere safe.’” (Um, citation needed?)

I’m not trying to make the argument that free pregnancy counseling is a bad thing or that the people at Daybreak are “bad” people, but pregnancy counseling, or any counseling for that matter, should be unbiased and informative. No where on the Daybreak MBTA ads are women informed that the the “free pregnancy counseling” is actually anti-abortion counseling, and that is dishonest, manipulative, and ultimately wrong. Women facing unplanned pregnancies need to know all their options, without the implication that one is better than another, and they need real medical information, not the “facts” listed above.

The MBTA is currently under fire for proposed fare increases and service cuts. They may be desperate for funds, but that does not excuse this moral misstep. CPCs are a growing threat to women’s health and the MBTA is the last place Bostonians should be exposed to anti-abortion propaganda.

What Ron Paul meant when he said “honest rape”

CNN’s Piers Morgan challenged Ron Paul about his position on abortion in the case of rape, asking “You have two daughters. You have many granddaughters. If one of them was raped — and I accept it’s a very unlikely thing to happen — but if they were, would you honestly look at them in the eye and say they had to have that child if they were impregnated?” In his wavering response, Ron Paul used the phrase “honest rape,” implying that only some rapes are valid — or as Whoopi Goldberg would say, “rape rape.”

Ron Paul used “honest rape” as code for rapes that fit the prescribed, social narrative of rape: When an innocent, attractive, young woman is attacked by a criminal stranger in a dark alley. Of all the rape narratives that actually exist (incest, partner violence, date rape, acquaintance rape, etc.), this is the only one in which predators “look like” predators and victims “look like” victims. When our predators look like choir boys or world leaders or women, the Ron Pauls of the world are less likely to believe the rape was “honest.” When our victims are not pure and chaste, or young and beautiful, or women, they are less likely to believe the rape was “honest.”

Of course, this is bullshit.

All rape is “honest rape,” no matter who perpetrated it, no matter the victim is (or what she was wearing or drinking), no matter where or how it occurred. The idea that some rape is more valid than other rape is a device used to preserve the false notion that some victims are “asking for it.”

Ron Paul seems to believe that “honest rapes” are rapes that are reported right away. But anyone who knows anything about the reality of rape and sexual assault knows that the majority of rapes go unreported. Why? Because the very idea of “honest rape,” the very same that Ron Paul is propagating, deters victims from coming forward.

Victims worry that their rape might not be taken seriously because they knew their attacker or because they don’t have physical injuries. Sixteen percent of victims say that they fear reprisal, while about six percent don’t report because they believe that the police are “biased.” Biased by what?  The idea that only some rapes are “honest,” and therefore only some victims are credible.

One more thing.

Just as there is no such thing as an “honest rape,” there is no such thing as an “honest abortion.”  You don’t need to be raped–“honestly” or otherwise–in order to deserve the right to terminate a pregnancy. (#justsayin’)

It’s not like a sweater: Why you shouldn’t ask a pregnant woman for her baby

This week, something on Postsecret really bothered me. One secret told the story of a generous shopper who purchased over $300 worth of Christmas presents for a fellow shopper whose credit card was denied. A second secret was from a mom who, for the second year in a row, couldn’t afford to buy her children Christmas presents. In response, three people wrote in offering to donate so that her children could have presents to open Christmas morning. A third secret was written by a woman who was lying to her employers about taking time off for a funeral so that she could get an abortion (left). In response, a woman who could not have children wrote in asking for her baby.

—–Email—–

Hi Frank – My husband and I are not able to have children. Or at least I’m not. I had my 2nd ectopic pregnancy the day before Thanksgiving and they took my last fallopian tube. I would love to get my contact info to the poster of the abortion secret in case she changes her mind and considers adoption. We would make amazing parents!

This really bothers me. It’s as if the emailer is talking about a plate of food, asking, “Hey, are you going to eat that?”

I realize that my interpretation of this exchange is colored by context of the first two secrets about giving to families in need, but the juxtaposition is striking. Good samaritans donate money, food, clothing, toys, and shelter. They give scholarships, grants, even buildings. But a baby is not charity or something you can donate. A baby is not something you should ever ask of someone — especially of someone who has already made the difficult decision to terminate her pregnancy.

First of all, it is not the responsibility of pregnant women who don’t want to have a baby to provide babies for couples who can’t have their own. Adoption is not some sort of magical solution where pregnant women who don’t want babies can just give them to women who want babies but can’t get pregnant and everybody wins. In one episode of Sex and the City, Carrie’s boyfriend asks, “If Miranda doesn’t want the kid, can’t she just give it to Charlotte?” Carrie responds, “No, it’s not like a sweater.”

Adoption is a choice, yes, and it is the right choice for some, but it is not any easier or any less emotionally devastating of a choice than abortion for a pregnant woman. Let’s not forget that giving birth involves drawing out the emotional turmoil for nine whole months, not to mention the physical challenges, medical risks, and ya know, having to hand over a squishy infant that’s been a living part of you for nine months.

Nor is adoption a magic-happy-fun-time solution for couples who can’t conceive or carry out a pregnancy naturally. The adoption process is just as emotionally trying as struggling with IVF or surrogacy — just ask Alicia who recently shared a heartbreaking story of her adoption that fell through six days after she and her husband had begun taking care of the infant they thought was to be their daughter. I have a lot of respect for birth parents and adoptive parents, partly because this is not something everyone can do. And it’s certainly not something anyone should ever expect anyone else to be able, or willing, to do.

Clearly, the woman who responded to the secret is hurting and I can empathize with her. For those who want children, not being able to conceive, carry, and give birth to a child can be absolutely devastating. But just as she is suffering, so is the writer of the secret. Pro-life factions would like us to believe that Pro-choice women get abortions like they get their teeth cleaned, but the reality is that abortion is difficult and emotionally painful even when the woman is sure of her choice, and even when she doesn’t regret it afterwards. So, asking a woman who has already chosen abortion to reconsider because other women would give anything to be able to have a baby, is an especially cruel variety of guilt trip.

For some reason, women’s bodies become public property the minute they get pregnant. Strangers feel like they have the right to reach out and touch their bellies, or police what they’re eating or what they’re doing. It seems this is true even for pregnant women who choose abortion — who may never get to the point where their pregnancy shows, but who are still being made to feel like they owe someone something. In this case, a freaking baby.

Sometimes I wish I could be a guardian angel for women who choose abortion. I wish I could envelop them in my big angel wings and protect them from the hate, the judgment, the protesters, the politicians. I wish I could wrap them in love and they would know that someone out there supports their choice, and trusted them to make that choice in the first place. I wish I could protect them from the kind of guilt that comes from unintentionally tactless emails like the one above.

Asking to adopt a pregnant woman’s baby might make good television (it’s a running plot arch on this season of Parenthood), but in real life it’s a bad idea. If you’re looking to adopt a baby, go through the channels that will link you with pregnant women who have already chosen adoption and are looking for great parents just like you. But if a pregnant woman chooses abortion, have some compassion and leave her the fuck alone.

Abortion riders: Just another way to support rape culture

Earlier this month, this happened (from the McPherson Sentinal, Kansas):

And Rep. Barbara Bollier, a Mission Hills Republican who supports abortion rights, questioned whether women would buy abortion-only policies long before they have crisis or unwanted pregnancies or are rape victims.

During the House’s debate, Rep. Pete DeGraaf, a Mulvane Republican who supports the bill, told her: “We do need to plan ahead, don’t we, in life?”

Bollier asked him, “And so women need to plan ahead for issues that they have no control over with a pregnancy?”

DeGraaf drew groans of protest from some House members when he responded, “I have spare tire on my car.”

“I also have life insurance,” he added. “I have a lot of things that I plan ahead for.”

It’s true. Sometimes it’s important to plan for the worst. Flood insurance, life insurance (though it really should be called “death insurance,” don’t you think?), car insurance – these things are important because shit happens. When I say “shit,” I’m referring to freak accidents or forces of nature that cannot be prevented or predicted. Things like getting struck by lightning, a tsunami, a freak accident where something falls out of the sky or runs in front of your car. Yes, these things happen and they aren’t preventable, controllable, or anybody’s fault. It’s important to plan for them because they could happen at any time, and there’s nothing we can really do about it.

But you know what IS preventable, controllable, and definitely somebody’s fault?

Rape.

When we say “shit happens,” we are absolutely, positively, NOT referring to predatory, criminal acts like rape. Rape is NOT something that we must accept as a statistical inevitability, nor is it a freak occurrence. Rape, and abortion coverage in case you become pregnant as a result of rape, is not something you plan ahead for.

Rape is a social illness supported by a culture that sexually objectifies women and children and portrays men as hormonal cavemen. Rape is preventable through cultural awareness, education, legislation, and social change.

An “abortion rider” purchased separately from your health insurance is NOT equivalent to carrying a spare tire or buying life insurance. It’s a much more comparable to buying torture insurance, just in case you end up getting tortured by a fellow human being.

Flat tires happen. Death is inevitable. We can tolerate them as unfortunate realities of life. Crimes against humanity like rape and torture are illegal because we refuse to tolerate them – a moral absolute that is fully contradicted by the idea of an abortion insurance rider.

“Post-Abortion Syndrome” is a Major Logic Fail

In 2009, Priscilla Coleman of Bowling State University and her colleagues published an analysis of the National Comorbidity Study and concluded that women who reported having had an abortion were at higher risk for anxiety, mood disorders and substance abuse than women who did not report having an abortion. Julia Steinberg of the University of California, San Francisco, and Lawrence Finer of the Guttmacher Institute recently reviewed the data (read their report) and reject Coleman’s finding.

After analyzing the same data from the National Comorbidity Study, Steinberg and Finer refute the causal link between abortion and mental health issues.  From the Washington Post:

“We were unable to reproduce the most basic tabulations of Coleman and colleagues,” Steinberg said in a statement released with the paper. “Moreover, their findings were logically inconsistent with other published research — for example, they found higher rates of depression in the last month than other studies found during respondents’ entire lifetimes. This suggests that the results were substantially inflated.”

What they did find was a that women who had multiple abortions were more likely to have pre-existing mental health disorders and to have experienced sexual or physical violence before the abortion, compared with women who had had one or no abortions. Taking that into consideration, researchers found no significant link between abortion history and substance abuse or mood and anxiety disorders. Not only does that finding dispute Coleman’s bogus claims, it reminds us that when thinking about supposed “mental health risks of abortion,” to use our common sense.

The reality is that most women who get abortions do not choose to do so for so-called “frivolous” reasons, as the Pro-Lifers would like us to believe. Often times there are a lot of overlapping factors that go into that decision. While plenty of women DO NOT experience depression after having an abortion, some certainly do. But suggesting that this link is causal – that abortion causes depression – is ignoring a whole piece of the puzzle and just bad logic.  Mental health is inextricably linked to situational circumstances, and the same kinds of circumstances that could lead to one needing an abortion are also ones that could affect mental health. Post hoc ergo propter hoc: correlation, not causation.

Let’s say a woman is raped and becomes pregnant from that assault. Or let’s say she becomes pregnant because her partner refuses to use contraception and she cannot afford to support or care for any more children. Or maybe she had a health condition that makes it really dangerous to continue the pregnancy. Or maybe she’s 16 and her parents will kick her out on the streets if they found out she was pregnant. So she gets an abortion, and she is also depressed.

Saying that she has “post-abortion syndrome” is kind of like saying that a woman who has to leave home to escape from an abusive partner and goes to a hotel is depressed because she’s suffering from “post-hotel syndrome.” Or that a victim of a vicious bear mauling is depressed because she is suffering from “post-reconstructive-surgery syndrome.”  She’s not depressed because she went to a hotel or had a medical procedure. She’s depressed because of the circumstances surrounding it.

And yes, often times the circumstances surrounding the decision to abort are depressing. If Pro-Lifers were actually concerned with women’s mental health, they would be working to improve those conditions (poverty, homelessness, rape, misogyny, sex education, healthcare) instead of working to take away access to a procedure that is most often chosen in order to prevent and alleviate further strain.

This study is just another example of how Pro-Lifers value the *airquotes* life of the fetus over the actual, real-life LIVES of women, and how they are ready to manipulate the truth in order to get what they want.