Tag Archives: Pro-choice

“Stand With Wendy!”: A Texas Senator’s Inspiring Abortion Filibuster Races Down the Clock

Screen Shot 2013-06-26 at 12.27.56 PMWendy Davis was just 19-years-old when she gave birth to her first child. She had helped support her single mother and three siblings starting from the time she was 14. After becoming a mother, herself, she went on to pursue further education, first at community college, then at Texas Christian University, and finally as a graduate of Harvard Law School. By these life touchstones, alone, it’s clear Davis is a force to be reckoned with.

Fast forward several decades to 2008 when Davis was elected to state senate as the progressive Democratic leader who yesterday inspired women’s rights activists around the country. The occasion for yesterday’s filibuster – which lasted nearly 13 hours, during which Davis didn’t eat, drink, sit down, lean on anything, or leave for any reason – was the anti-abortion and reproductive rights bill SB-5. If passed, this bill would have prohibited abortions past the 20-week gestation mark and result in the closure of 37 of the state’s 42 abortion clinics, along with a host of other restrictions.

Davis began her filibuster at roughly 11am on Tuesday, and by the evening nearly 200,000 people were watching the livestream on YouTube. Even President Obama tweeted to show his support, ending his tweet with hashtag #StandWithWendy. This viral movement, contained in the space of a whirlwind 13 or so hours, swept social media and shot Wendy Davis to the national stage at unprecedented speed.

But the events of the day were by no means tidy. Davis’ filibuster was cut off by Lt. Governer David Dewhurst, for what reasons are unclear. Other Democrats on the floor jumped in to further stall the final vote, as by now the clock was ticking and the midnight deadline fast approaching. With just 15 minutes to go, Senator Leticia Van De Putte jumped in to demand her voice be heard: “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” The question acted as a rallying cry for women’s rights, and the crowd erupted in support, pushing the proceedings over the midnight mark. Thus, despite swift measures by Republicans to contest the final time of the vote, the clock didn’t lie, and the bill would not pass.

Watch Wendy Davis respond to an emotional crowd after her nearly 13-hour filibuster that secured reproductive rights for women in the state of Texas:

With yesterday’s filibuster, as well as Davis’ previous filibuster against Texas public school budget cuts, it is clear that Wendy Davis is a senator worth keeping an eye on. Her energy, drive, and progressive values may make her the strong female politician we’ve all been waiting for (not that there haven’t been many others to inspire us over the years.) What do you think? Would you vote for Wendy Davis to be the first female president? Will yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act make it harder for Davis to get re-elected to the state senate?

Photo credit: Twitter

Denied an Abortion – What Now? A Study on the Effects of Unwanted Motherhood

Screen Shot 2013-06-14 at 3.05.08 PMIt may have been one spontaneous night with an ex, never to be replicated; or perhaps a traumatic moment of violence and sexual abuse. She could be unemployed, ill, very young, or already a bit creaky in the joints. Maybe she has other kids at home and a partner in active duty, in prison, in the hospital, or deceased. And in the midst of working, paying bills, job hunting, taking care of children, doing homework, or whatever her daily responsibilities include, the tender belly and light periods get pushed to the back of her mind – until it’s too late.

Whatever their reasons, these are the women who discover their pregnancies late in the game, determine their best course of action is abortion, and upon medical inspection are turned away from the procedures they desperately want or need. How do these women, the ones forced into motherhood, fare and what are the effects of their denied abortions?

This question provides the foundation for an ongoing study, called “The Turnaway Study” run by Diana Greene Foster, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco. Researching abortion clinics around the country, Foster’s study aims to determine the differing effects, if any, between women who seek late-term abortions and get them versus women who seek late-term abortions but are denied them, most often due to timing. (Individual states’ and clinic’s limits vary, but tend to fall sometime in the second trimester.) Such effects might range from the psychological and emotional, to socioeconomic factors, to long-term physical health. In essence, is there any statistical evidence to prove that women are any better or worse off for keeping a baby, even if they wholeheartedly wanted to terminate the pregnancy?

This study lands in public discourse at a time when pro-life advocates preach the many dangers to women’s mental and physical health resulting from abortion. It isn’t a hard line of reasoning to follow, especially given the hormones that are already being released in early pregnancy. But, as noted in a thorough article published in the New York Times, the psychological and health effects of carrying a pregnancy to term – and then, of course, raising a child – can be just as overwhelming, if not more so.

Based on Foster’s study, women in the turnaway group suffered greater health effects, including increased hypertension rates and chronic pelvic pain, as well as socioeconomic effects that left them below the poverty line three times more often than the women who received abortions. Both groups, however, Lang points out, began with similar life circumstances.

Only 6.6 percent of near-limit patients in the study and 5.6 percent of turnaways finished college (nearly 30 percent of adult American women have a bachelor’s degree). One in 10 were on welfare, and approximately 80 percent reported not having enough money to meet basic living needs. A majority, in both groups, already had at least one child.

These are interesting statistics on several counts. First of all, women seeking abortions later in their terms share a baseline social disadvantage that includes less education, lower income, and, now, pregnancy on top of their other responsibilities. In being forced into motherhood by denial of an abortion, these women experience all the physical strains of pregnancy and childbirth, as well as the often-overwhelming financial burden of another mouth to feed. No one sets out to someday get an abortion, but when it comes down to it, some women feel this is their best option – and the results of Foster’s study might give us cause to concur.

Both Foster and Lang are mindful of the politically-charged nature of this research, though. Foster does not consider herself a pro-choice pioneer, but rather a concerned ob-gyn, interested in determining what is best for women’s health.

The purpose of Foster’s study is not to set policy by suggesting new or uniform gestational limits. She notes, however, that there are ways to reduce the number of women seeking abortion at an advanced gestational age by improving access to reproductive health care. But Foster sees herself as a scientist, not an advocate. She did not set out, she says, to disprove that abortion is harmful. “If abortion hurts women,” she says, “I definitely want to know.”

Truth be told, there is no pro-abortion movement. Nobody “supports” abortion, of course, because ultimately we would hope to live in a world in which people who want to have children do, and those who don’t, don’t. The point is rather that women know what is best for them and their families, and childbearing may not factor into that at the moment.

It’s a delicate topic, though, and one that certainly warrants further discussion. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!

Women

Last week was the 37th anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision.

 

 It’s a time in our history when the emotional support of a woman’s right to choose is still uneasy and unsettled, and insurance coverage for abortion is an active battle fraught with contention.

 In many ways politics have removed us from women’s personal experience.

In the Abortion Questionnaire of my Women’s Realities Study women are making clear the individualized seriousness with which they contemplated their decision to end a pregnancy.  They also reveal how personal a decision it is to live with.  The choice can be heartbreaking, but if we lived in a society without the ability to make that choice, imagine how much more heartbreak there would be.  Here is a representative sample of the range of responses to the question:

 What do you want others to understand about your experience of abortion?

·      That women do not have abortions out of carelessness or because we enjoy them. We have them to get out of the trap that our own body sometimes sets us. If society valued women and children more, we might not feel as if motherhood would back us into a corner.

·      That is was OK, I don’t regret it and it doesn’t haunt me. It helped me make some hard choices which have ultimately improved my life tremendously.

·      It’s a horrible, degrading, stupid thing to do.

·      I want others to realize that many women have had an abortion. I want people to realize that just because I support abortion, that just because I had an abortion, does not mean that I am proud of my decision. I want people to realize that they should not talk about abortion indiscriminately, because they don’t know who is in the room. Several times since then it has come up in conversation with people who do not know that I have had an abortion, and each time, I want to ask them, "How do you know I haven’t had one?" I don’t, of course…

·      Birth control failures can happen, even to well-educated and well-off individuals. When they occur, pregnancy is a natural consequence. Ending a pregnancy is a very personal decision. Reasons for doing so are not something that can be fully understood by anyone but the woman involved. It is MY body and therefore I should decide what to do with it. I decided to have sex before marriage, and I decided how to deal with the consequences. Better to have two less babies in the world than to have three miserable people now. Being a mother is not all about raising children – it is about the emotional and physical bond that forms during pregnancy. I didn’t want that bond.

To that end, I am ashamed at myself when I think about the shame I felt going through the procedure. I should have held my head up high. It’s just so hard when you feel like everyone around you is judging you.

·      That not everyone who has an abortion is an unwed teenager. That one out of every couple hundred pregnancies involves a chromosome abnormality and that no one takes lightly the decision to end a pregnancy.

·      It is not something that any women I know take lightly or use as a form of birth control. It is a major tragic decision that no one wants to make, but some of us are forced to. I never thought I would be someone who had three abortions. I did not have sex until I was 18, I used birth control always except one weekend (yes it is true), I did not want to watch my child live in pain only to ultimately die a painful death from a severe heart defect, I also did not want my older daughter to watch her sister die, I did not want to bring a sick child into this world that would be in chronic pain and fight an illness for the rest of his life, I did not want my other children to loose their mother because I was off caring for a sick child all of the time. I made these choices out of careful thought and love. I do not regret my choices.

·      It sucks! You never fully heal. It is so much better to go through the hassle of safe sex than to live with the feelings.

I went to confession about 25 years later and the priest, who was a very good man, asked me if I had ever thought of a name for the baby. And I said yes, I thought I would have named him Michael. He said that was the name he was thinking at that moment as well. This brought me some level of peace.

·      Even if it is a choice we can make, it is an extremely difficult one. Seek the support you need.

·      I am a bright, college-educated woman and found myself pregnant. It was an agonizing choice, but a choice that my mother helped me make.

 And to remind us that this isn’t a always a decision women make alone, in my entire study of over 1,200 questions, the only question to receive 100% unanimity was this:

Q:  If married or in a committed relationship, was your partner supportive of the abortion?

 A:  Yes.

 Living in a culture in which women can carry shame or feel vilified for having an abortion, it would serve us well to remember this is very often a decision made in concert with men.  The silent partners of abortion.

Women

 

 

 

Last week was the 37th anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision.

 

 

It’s a time in our history when the emotional support of a woman’s right to choose is still uneasy and unsettled, and insurance coverage for abortion is an active battle fraught with contention.

 

In many ways politics have removed us from women’s personal experience.

In the Abortion Questionnaire of my Women’s Realities Study women are making clear the individualized seriousness with which they contemplated their decision to end a pregnancy.  They also reveal how personal a decision it is to live with.  The choice can be heartbreaking, but if we lived in a society without the ability to make that choice, imagine how much more heartbreak there would be.  Here is a representative sample of the range of responses to the question:

 

What do you want others to understand about your experience of abortion?

·      That women do not have abortions out of carelessness or because we enjoy them. We have them to get out of the trap that our own body sometimes sets us. If society valued women and children more, we might not feel as if motherhood would back us into a corner.

 

·      That is was OK, I don’t regret it and it doesn’t haunt me. It helped me make some hard choices which have ultimately improved my life tremendously.

 

·      It’s a horrible, degrading, stupid thing to do.

 

·      I want others to realize that many women have had an abortion. I want people to realize that just because I support abortion, that just because I had an abortion, does not mean that I am proud of my decision. I want people to realize that they should not talk about abortion indiscriminately, because they don’t know who is in the room. Several times since then it has come up in conversation with people who do not know that I have had an abortion, and each time, I want to ask them, "How do you know I haven’t had one?" I don’t, of course…

 

 

·      Birth control failures can happen, even to well-educated and well-off individuals. When they occur, pregnancy is a natural consequence. Ending a pregnancy is a very personal decision. Reasons for doing so are not something that can be fully understood by anyone but the woman involved. It is MY body and therefore I should decide what to do with it. I decided to have sex before marriage, and I decided how to deal with the consequences. Better to have two less babies in the world than to have three miserable people now. Being a mother is not all about raising children – it is about the emotional and physical bond that forms during pregnancy. I didn’t want that bond.

 

To that end, I am ashamed at myself when I think about the shame I felt going through the procedure. I should have held my head up high. It’s just so hard when you feel like everyone around you is judging you.

 

 

·      That not everyone who has an abortion is an unwed teenager. That one out of every couple hundred pregnancies involves a chromosome abnormality and that no one takes lightly the decision to end a pregnancy.

 

 

·      It is not something that any women I know take lightly or use as a form of birth control. It is a major tragic decision that no one wants to make, but some of us are forced to. I never thought I would be someone who had three abortions. I did not have sex until I was 18, I used birth control always except one weekend (yes it is true), I did not want to watch my child live in pain only to ultimately die a painful death from a severe heart defect, I also did not want my older daughter to watch her sister die, I did not want to bring a sick child into this world that would be in chronic pain and fight an illness for the rest of his life, I did not want my other children to loose their mother because I was off caring for a sick child all of the time. I made these choices out of careful thought and love. I do not regret my choices.

 

·      It sucks! You never fully heal. It is so much better to go through the hassle of safe sex than to live with the feelings.

 

I went to confession about 25 years later and the priest, who was a very good man, asked me if I had ever thought of a name for the baby. And I said yes, I thought I would have named him Michael. He said that was the name he was thinking at that moment as well. This brought me some level of peace.

 

·      Even if it is a choice we can make, it is an extremely difficult one. Seek the support you need.

 

·      I am a bright, college-educated woman and found myself pregnant. It was an agonizing choice, but a choice that my mother helped me make.

 

 

And to remind us that this isn’t a always a decision women make alone, in my entire study of over 1,200 questions, the only question to receive 100% unanimity was this:

Q:  If married or in a committed relationship, was your partner supportive of the abortion?

 

A:  Yes.

 

Living in a culture in which women can carry shame or feel vilified for having an abortion, it would serve us well to remember this is very often a decision made in concert with men.  The silent partners of abortion.

 

 

 

 

Reverse Bush’s anti- choice regulation

www.ppaction.org/campaign/hhsdec08_pporg 

 

The Bush administration has released a rule that could allow individual health care providers who receive federal funding to redefine abortion to include the most common forms of birth control — and then refuse to provide these basic services. A woman’s ability to manage her own health care is at risk of being compromised by politics and ideology.

 

With the health of so many women at stake, the Obama administration must begin working immediately to reverse this rule. Sign your name to the petition in the link above so that when the Obama administration begins in January, they’ll know we need them to act quickly to protect women’s health and reproductive freedom.

Many thanks for listening,

Elaine

 

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