Archive for category abortion and birth control
March 10 is an anniversary, along with those of the wars the U.S. has launched on the world, that I find sickening to have to remember. But I do. Every year since 1993, I think of Dr. David Gunn, who was shot in the back and killed while walking to a clinic he had just opened in Pensacola, FL, to provide abortions. Only two days after International Women’s Day; twenty years after abortion began legal in the U.S. because of the struggle of women to control our bodies, the murderous violence began.
Dr. Gunn’s death, on March 10, 1993, outside his clinic, after threats and stalking, at the hands of a fundamentalist Christian vigilante named Michael Griffin, was the first murder in a series of murders, attempted murders and bombings of people providing abortion care in the U.S. and Canada. His son, David Gunn Jr. wrote:
Dr. Gunn was a skilled, dedicated physician. Dr. Gunn traveled over 1000 miles a week providing an unpopular service in communities that lacked reliable abortion providers. He practiced medicine in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, seeing patients in Mobile, Fort Walton, Columbus, Pensacola, Montgomery, Birmingham, Tallahassee, Savannah, and Orlando. He drove all of these miles in great physical pain. You see, Dr. Gunn suffered the effects of a childhood bout with polio, which resulted in the limited use of his left leg; however, he did not let his physical pain obstruct his duty as a doctor. Furthermore, Dr. Gunn endured daily picketing, protesters, stalkings, and death threats; all of which caused severe mental stress. In light of all of these obstacles, Dr. Gunn stayed strong and continued to provide women with all of their health care needs.
Soon after the murder, the New York Times did a sympathetic portrait of Dr. Gunn, describing his transformation from a member of the Church of Christ, a fundamentalist group against abortion, to a trained OB/GYN doctor who chose to work in a county with the highest infant morality, in order to change that. His pain from polio, and the constant harassment he suffered – “wanted” posters, being followed on back roads – didn’t make him back down. Colleagues reported that on January 22, 1903, on the anniversary of Roe v Wade, he played the song “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty on loudspeakers aimed at antiabortion protesters in Montgomery AL.
In the next several years, more doctors and clinic staff were killed in the U.S. In 1996, the anti-repression organization Refuse & Resist! named March 10 as the National Day to Appreciate Abortion Providers, calling on other organizations and thousands of individuals to participate public programs, volunteer efforts, and letter-writing campaigns to show appreciation for those who put their lives on the line to help women. “Without providers, there is no choice.”
This year, March 10 falls on a Sunday. Find ways to mark it.
Yes, I am editorializing. All religions do damage, especially to women. Thanks to Annie Laurie Gaylor, Director of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, for pointing out four articles in today’s New York Times. Each, from my/our point of view, shows how dangerous religious beliefs are, especially when they are used as the basis of law.
Annie Laurie writes
The lead story on the front page, “For Somali Women, Pain of Being a Spoil of War” details atrocities in the name of religion, starting with a teenaged girl being buried in the sand, and stoned to death for refusing to marry a Shabab commander.
The article details the horrific rise in rape in war-torn and starving Somalia, including the experience of a 17 year old gang-raped by five militants claiming to be on a “jihad, or holy war.”
She points out that
The Old Testament shared in common by Muslims, Christians and Jews alike of course sanctions the use of women as “the spoils of war:”
Not that the New York Times is picking on one, or any, religion; they’re being “objective.” But you get the sense just in this one day’s news coverage how religious views are shaping public discourse, as much or more than when the Bush regime instituted its offices of public instruction in “abstinence only.”
The Times points out the change in 4 years in Appealing to Evangelicals, Hopefuls Pack Religion into Ads
Gone are the suggestive and supposedly subliminal images of campaigns past, as when Mr. Huckabee caused a stir in 2007 after releasing a commercial that appeared to show a cross floating in the background.
The new, more pointed religious references reflect how campaigns are scrambling for support among evangelicals who are still divided over whom to support as the caucuses near.
All of this has to be challenged directly if we want a world that values critical thinking and the well-being of women.
In the summer of 2005, people were starting to come out of their 6 month long depression over the outcome of the 2004 election. It was somewhat of a struggle to get people to stop blaming Bush voters, and grasp and grapple with the depravity of the Bush program, and the fact that two aggressive wars had been launched on the basis of lies.
Some of us already working to end the wars, torture, and in many other causes wrangled with the problem that, “fighting against each outrage and winning on important fronts — from immigrants rights to defending the right to due process, to defending abortion, evolution, against discrimination or to defend critical thinking on campus — is invaluable to making real change in a world that desperately needs it. But we are fighting each and every one of these battles on losing ground – ground that is rapidly disappearing under our feet.”
The future is unwritten…
A better outcome for the world required a mass movement of people united in acting to drive George Bush, “Dick” Cheney, and their illegitimate regime from office, and repudiating and reversing the program which had become to be identified with them, especially after 9/11/01. That movement needed to act independently and stop looking for a savior from the Democratic Party. It needed a spirit, call, and direction, which World Can’t Wait supplied in the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime.
The Call was quickly distributed hand to hand in about a million copies nationwide starting that summer, and published in several full page newspaper ads in The New York Times, many local papers, and USA Today, with 40,000 people ultimately signing it. While it aggravated some, the points outlined in it captured what was coming down from the heights of power in a belligerent way, and moved many to act:
YOUR GOVERNMENT, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in their sights.
YOUR GOVERNMENT is openly torturing people, and justifying it.
YOUR GOVERNMENT puts people in jail on the merest suspicion, refusing them lawyers, and either holding them indefinitely or deporting them in the dead of night.
YOUR GOVERNMENT is moving each day closer to a theocracy, where a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism will rule.
YOUR GOVERNMENT suppresses the science that doesn’t fit its religious, political and economic agenda, forcing present and future generations to pay a terrible price.
YOUR GOVERNMENT is moving to deny women here, and all over the world, the right to birth control and abortion.
YOUR GOVERNMENT enforces a culture of greed, bigotry, intolerance and ignorance.
Over Labor Day weekend in 2005, as the waters of Katrina were covering New Orleans, 250 people gathered in New York City to found The World Can’t Wait – Drive Out the Bush Regime. Sunsara Taylor and I chaired the discussions. We took time out to march, with about 150 more joining us, around midtown, demanding, “rescue, not repression!” for New Orleans, which set a basic approach of immediate response to government action – or inaction.
Don’t Go to Work! Walk Out of School!
It was a bold call, and thousands followed it. On Thursday, November 2, 2005, on the year-anniversary of Bush’s re-election, tens of thousands marched around the U.S., inaugurating the effort to drive out Bush and Cheney, and reverse and repudiate the Bush program. Older people heeded a message from Gore Vidal to:
“join together in a popular movement dedicated to ending pre-emptive wars and restoring the nation to its traditional tax base which repaired levees, educated the citizenry and at regular intervals repaired the wall that Thomas Jefferson wisely put in place to separate church from state.”
Howard Zinn issued a call to students. High school students at more than 200 schools across the country left school and walked out, sometimes for miles, to join organized political protest in unprecedented ways. Protests took place in more than 60 cities, and involved at least 40 college campuses, in addition to the high schools. The outpourings of people all over the country had many faces. Local office holders came out and spoke at New York, Chicago and San Francisco rallies with mothers of soldiers who died in Iraq. Prominent public intellectuals and Hollywood celebrities gave their support to this effort to actually drive out the Bush regime.
In San Francisco, Latino day laborers joined with thousands at the Civic Center as Cindy Sheehan, California State Senator Carol Midgden, and others spoke from the stage. Statements of support came from artists and figures such as Jane Fonda, Harold Pinter and Gore Vidal, who signed on to the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime.
In the dead of winter, as 2006 broke, and Bush gave his State of the Union address, people gathered in 68 cities to “drown out” the lies with street protests – then traveled to Washington, DC to protest in cold rain February 4, 2006, demanding Bush step down. The Bush Crimes Commission held hearings with testimony from people like former Brigadier General Janis Karpinsky and former UK ambassador Craig Murray on the crimes that the Bush regime was actively carrying out. In October of 2006 more than 200 cities across the country held mass protests of thousands. With heart and courage, thousands of us came together to make a powerful and precious political statement against a truly dangerous and repressive government. More on driving out a regime.
Next week: stopping torture as a key expression of the Bush program – spreading a culture of resistance through the Declare It Now: Wear Orange campaign and wearing orange jumpsuits.
The world still can’t wait for people in this country to take responsibility and STOP the crimes of your government. World Can’t Wait, and its projects War Criminals Watch, Fire John Yoo, and We Are Not Your Soldiers, deserve and need your support. Become a sustaining supporter here.
New York City: I went on the very fast Walk that zoomed up Broadway from Foley Square, around Washington Square Park and back down in a little over an hour. There were 101 people — I counted, with 2 older than me, and about 70% women under 25, a few younger guys. They wanted to walk & scream with their home made signs. They did really loud whoops under awnings that got attention, and generally favorable comments. People wanted to talk to me about my sign, but we didn’t have time to stop and talk to anyone if we wanted to keep up. The main chants they did were “We Have A Choice! We Have a Voice!” and “What do you want? Choice! When do you want it? Now!”
Lots of spontaneous energy. I would say the dominant sentiment was outrage — they can’t do this; we won’t let them. A lot was attributed to Republicans being in power. Those in the lead said they heard about it on tumblr. I didn’t know anyone from that 100.
When we returned from the Walk, THE Planned Parenthood started. About 4,000 people came, mostly younger women. Some of the union activists
and leftists from the “Save the American Dream” rally a few blocks away, which was also several thousand, joined in. Most of the speakers were politicians, local, state and national.
The message was don’t cut funding for women’s health, Title X and PPFA. Kathleen Turner spoke, but I missed her. Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill talked about getting care at PP in Chicago in 1989. Amanda Marcotte talked about her #thanksPPFA campaign on Twitter.
My sign (written by Richie M) was well received — probably 200 people took photos. Memo to Congress, advertisers, and so-called pro “life”ers:
The most DANGEROUS place for a WOMAN is a country without ABORTION and BIRTH CONTROL. worldcantwait.net
Reports from other areas:
Chicago: I estimated 400 to 500 people, overwhelmingly under 30 years of age, very unapologetic. The weather was awful, snow and cold, and got worse as the afternoon went on. I know several of my older friends couldn’t come because of it. Lina can describe the one older woman who tried to tell them they shouldn’t say “abortion” – keep the rhetoric at “choice” – they weren’t buying it!
One woman, about 30 years old, made her sign, “Planned Parenthood saved my life.” She said she was 20 years old; her Christian fundamentalist father drove her to the clinic, paid for her abortion, while her mother still hasn’t forgiven her. She told me that one middle aged woman who was watching from the sidelines, came up to her, pointed to her sign, said “me too” and walked away.
Many creative signs, including one that said, “You screw us, we’ll multiply, and you’ll be in real trouble.” Another young woman made this sign; it looked like a cartoon cell, with a woman in a bathing suit coming out of a body of water, with words, “I’m tired of swimming in a patriarchal sea.” The two banners – Abortion Providers Save Women’s Lives and Abortion on Demand & Without Apology – brought by World Can’t Wait were the backdrop for the rally.
There were young women dressed for the occasion in bright orange, some with flowing skirts over their jeans, and this contributed to the mood of joyous determination. Another woman had an outrageous huge wig of many colors, shaped like the hair of a pharoah — she said in honor of the Egyptian people.
A number of young women I spoke with thanked us veterans for continuing the battle for reproductive rights.
At the rally, one of the loudest cheers went up for the contingent from Medical Students for Choice from the medical school at U of I-Chicago. One of the female medical students told the crowd of her abortion 3 weeks ago that was safe, with proper pain medication, and support from her pro-choice friends. She pointed out that she became pregnant when she was using an IUD.
[from another report] I was most struck by was the young people in the march. It was overwhelmingly young and they were not afraid to say exactly how they felt, whereas I felt some of the older people were too tempered or bothered by the frankness of the youth.
Seeing the youth among the crowd made me think of how hard we have worked to get youth to take the lead of a movement of resistance. I really saw the potential in this today…not just with standing up for Women’s Rights to abortion and birth control but, really taking the lead in demanding an end to wars/occupations and torture…so when I had the opportunity, I tied the oppression of women into the overall oppression of humanity in the wars/occupations and torture. Many of the crowd were I think acutely aware of the need for consistent visible resistance and when Lina and I spoke of Egypt and Libya and all the countries that are rising up against oppression they understood it…still though there was a tendency among some of the crowd to put the blame solely on the right wing fascist rather than looking at the fact that the Democrats don’t act in the interest of women either when they seek to find common ground with the antis…but we addressed this over and over and emphasized this why people had to take responsibility for fighting these viscous onslaughts and when we did most of the crowd got it and agreed. It was a really great day!
Champaign-Urbana, IL: We also had a Walk for Choice yesterday! Like the other walks, ours was also mostly all young women. On Monday, I met with the Gender Action Network (student organizers at the University of Illinois who have feminist student groups, such as NOW, Feminist Majority, etc.), and they said it was too late to get a Walk for Choice organized. However, I launched a Facebook invite on Tuesday and we did it!
On Friday evening, four young women (three who were sophomores from a sorority on campus) joined me in making banners and signs in the basement of the English Building on campus. The “sisters” shared that they didn’t talk politics in their sorority because it was too controversial, but they each
identified as liberal, had very progressive moms, and were concerned about Planned Parenthood.
The day of the walk, about 20 people came out – all women students (+two guys) plus two young non-students and one woman who was a counselor on campus who worked with students on sexuality issues. We met at Planned Parenthood on the sidewalk (which is located one block from campus). We read aloud summaries of each of the bills (HR358, HR3, HR217, South Dakota HB1171, and Georgia HB1). I thought this would be helpful to us in learning exactly what these bills said. We did a ceremonial “boooo” after each one. We also read a list of all the services PP provides and cheered.
We walked around Champaign, through the restaurant and bar district, over to campus, and back to PP again and chanted from a list of rally chants I found online (there were about 20 good ones!) About half-way through, I gave the megaphone over to the president of NOW and this gal did an amazing job! This was also my first time with a bullhorn, so I was a bit nervous (but the old high school cheerleader in me kicked in!) We had lots of waves and supportive honks during the walk!
At the end, we stood in front of PP and formally introduced ourselves and described how we could keep in touch (names of student groups, organizations we work with, etc.) The overall feeling was – YES! Let’s keep doing this!!! If we weren’t standing out in the cold, we could have hung out a while and chatted. There was the feeling of, is it over already!? So, it was a lingering departure.
Also, Planned Parenthood of Champaign recently put up a banner on their building reading “Stand with Planned Parenthood” and a number to text a message. I thought this was pretty interesting! Good for them, it’s time to bring it local and I think they are changing their tune.
Honolulu: Two organizations called for protests on Saturday noon at the State Capitol. One, a rally and march to support the protests in Wisconsin was called by MoveOn. A second rally and march was called by Planned Parenthood as part of the national “Walk for Choice.”
World Can’t Wait responded to the call made by Planned Parenthood and came to the Capitol with lots of Pro-Choice signs and banners It was a good thing we did, because many Pro-Choice supporters hadn’t made their own signs, and picked up one of ours. We have often brought banners and signs saying “Abortion on Demand, and Without Apology” to events, and people have generally backed off from carrying them – and have often expressed their disagreement with the slogan. This time the slogan was welcomed. The Planned Parenthood CEO gave us a thumbs-up as soon as she saw it. Two youth who had never met us before picked up another.
More than 150 people came to support the unions; about 50 to support a women’s right to choose. The two groups merged the rallies, first one person from one group taking the mic, and then someone from the other group. Liz Rees, spokesperson for World Can’t Wait-Hawai`i, gave one of the three talks supporting reproductive rights and received repeated applause. She was the only one to boldly speak out for abortion, and to link the “Walk for Choice” with national events to defend the right to abortion. Her call to be bold, and to refuse to compromise on a women’s right to choose was met with resounding approval. For those who had come to support the unions, this may have been the first time they’d heard such a talk, and many people approached Liz after the rally to thank her.
The march was even more confusing than the rally, with pro-choice signs mixed in with a variety of signs reading everying from “Defend the American Dream” to “Defend Unions” and “Kill the Bill”. A passer-by along the way obviously understood the pro-choice signs, but then asked why we were marching for civil unions, when the governor had signed the bill granting civil unions last week. While the merging of the two groups was confusing to some, others linked the tea party attacks against both organized labor and choice.
In spite of the confusion, getting out more than 200 people on the Honolulu streets with less than 3 days notice was remarkable, and there seemed to be a renewed sense that the need for resistance is more urgent now than ever.
Seattle: Good day in Seattle! About 600 people, mostly young women, college students, came out. We held a speakout on-stage. Some of the chants were “abortion on demand and without apology, without this basic right, women can’t be free!” and “a woman should decide her fate, not the church and not state!”
The speakout was very powerful. We called on women to share their stories of having an abortion. Some other people said that we shouldn’t talk about abortion and that we should just stick to talking about “choice”. One older woman was saying that she was so happy she was able to have had an abortion, that she felt relieved because she didn’t have to take care of child she wasn’t ready for. There was another women who said that people shouldn’t feel shame about taking care of their bodies.
A woman talked about how on the march she had started to cry once she saw all the women on the sidelines who were clapping their hands and cheering, and when she saw their faces light up when they saw us coming down the street. People traveled from all parts of the state to come and the feeling of empowerment was really electric.
After the older woman started to speak about their experience, girls as young as 17 told their stories. One young girl said that she had a really cruel boyfriend, she got pregnant and was able to have an abortion. If she didn’t have the ability to do that, she would be in a really bad situation and she was glad that she has the life she has today. Some women were crying in hearing these stories.
It was very heartening to people who have been continuously fighting for abortion rights and the liberation of women to see women in the streets after years of being afraid, put on the defensive and kept out of the streets. Older people were also inspired by the young women that came out to show that they are not ashamed to talk about reproductive issues, birth control or abortion.
Philadelphia: About 200 walked, joined in with a rally for union rights.
Greensboro, NC: Between 70 and 80 people from various parts of North Carolina participated in protests today in Greensboro in support of abortion rights, and against the attacks against women’s rights in Congress and in state governments.Initiated by a blogger in Chicago and coordinated by a spontaneous network of volunteers on sites like tumblr and facebook, the walk for Choice took place in more than 50 cities in the US, with others occurring in Canada and the UK.
Women, mostly 25 and under, made up the majority of participants in Greensboro, which also had significant participation of women who were brought into activism in the days before Roe v. Wade. Several men also participated, coming in with friends from Charlotte, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem. Drummers from the Cakalak Thunder Radical Drum Corps provided the beats along the march, which took place up the main downtown strip. All the placards were handwritten, with messages like “May the baby you save be gay,” “Abortion on demand without apology,” “I’m a woman, not a womb”, and a bright orange banner painted with the words, “Abortion providers are heroes: A fetus is not a baby, abortion is not murder, women are not incubators!”
On returning to the park where the march began, several marchers took part in an open mic and reflected on the serious situation we’re now confronting. A 60-year old marcher who had broad experience with women seeking abortion in the days before Roe told several stories of the horrors women faced and warned of the very real danger of going back to those days if we don’t oppose the rash of laws being put forward. A young woman told the crowd that she was going to be moving to Kansas soon, in spite of (or really because of) the fact that Kansas has been the site of massive anti-abortion activity, and that she is going to commit herself fully to the pro-choice movement there.
The organizer of the march, for whom this was the first protest that she had ever organized, talked about the attcks on Planned Parenthood, and emphasized the importance of taking action, even if you have no experience organizing or mobilizing people. Se added that social networking sites have become a very powerful tool in the hands of activists.
Another activist who supports the Revolutionary Communist Party emphasized the importance of fighting the lies of anti-choice forces with scientific understanding, adding that it’s crucial not to be afraid of using the word “abortion”, nor to apologize for being in support of full equality for women. Oranigzers with World Can’t Wait distributed the leaflet, “Stand up for women’s Right to Abortion and Birth Control in 2011!” and made the connection between the attacks on women and the fascist trajectory in the US, which includes the demonization of Muslims and immigrants, as well as the ongoing wars.
Los Angeles: 250-300 people gathered at Pershing Square in Downtown L.A. Men and Women, students, families; splattering of orange. I spoke to students who came from over an hour’s drive to participate. Many of them representing community colleges, universities. People took the World Can’t Wait Abortion Statement readily and Abortion on Demand, without Apology. Of the 30+ people I spoke with, only one had heard of Dr. Sue Wicklund and loved the book. All said they would check out the website, the book and the DVD with Sunsara and Sue.
No one had heard of World Can’t Wait and when I said WCW wears orange to stand against torture and to rally people to stand against Crimes of this Government; there was lots of agreement. Asked people to join in the streets on March 19th Against the War. The majority were unaware of the march.
1 2 3 4 Open up the Clinic Door
5 6 7 8 You can’t make us Procreate!
and the standard:
When Women’s Rights
Are Under Attack,
What do we Do?
Stand Up Fight Back!
For a year, I attended a Protestant university where the “girls” dorm had a midnight curfew; the men, 2:00 am. Condoms were stored behind the counter at the town drugstore, so you had to ask the creepy pharmacist to allow you to buy them. I doubt anyone had ever dared ask the college health service to prescribe the Pill, but the answer would have been “no.” It was 100 times easier to buy any illegal drug on that conservative campus than to buy something to protect your fragile young life. We were really stuck in the Dark Ages, though it was 1969.
I was 18, a few months into college. My friend’s roommate’s girlfriend went home at Thanksgiving to see the family doctor, and found out she was 6 weeks pregnant. She was a senior, planning law school, much more sophisticated than I, and still, in a complete panic. Though I was still too scared to have sex — precisely because I wanted to avoid just such a pregnancy — I was the designated brave one delegated to find her an abortion. I knew people in Chicago in the anti-war movement who put me in touch with JANE abortion service. I remember it as a huge relief. She avoided the back-alley experience, and we learned that there was this amazing network of women who took care of other women with unplanned pregnancies, selflessly and safely.
Only 4 months later, women could get to New York City, camp out overnight in front of newly opened clinics — as they did in happy bunches — and get a safe, legal abortion because New York state had broken the ban. With the Roe v. Wade decision in three years later, we thought the years of agonizing deaths from septic abortions were over; we thought women, at least in the U.S., would not be forced to bear children against their will anymore.
The women who died from unsafe abortions are hardly remembered now, certainly not by what Dr. LeRoy Carhart calls the “Right to Lie” movement against abortion. Their story goes that if women were not forced to have abortions by the “abortion industry,” they, the good Christians, could intervene and convince every pregnant woman that God planned this pregnancy for her, and she ought to go along with His plan for her life and, no matter how hard it is, accept this blessing [overheard verbatim this weekend outside Dr. Carhart's clinic in Maryland].
But Dr. Carhart, who trained at Hahneman Hospital in Philadelphia, said the women he treated with septic abortion injuries made such a lasting impression in his surgical training, that he set out to make sure women would have the best care possible after 1973. In spite of the intense anti-abortion harassment — including a Nebraska state law passed in 2010 to stop his provision of abortion past 20 weeks — he’s expanding services at his Bellevue, Nebraska clinic. And he’s now doing advanced gestation abortions for maternal and fetal indications at his clinic in Germantown, Maryland.
Germantown, Maryland – January 23
About 150 anti-abortion protesters (link provided for reference, not endorsement) were outside that clinic Sunday, though it’s not open on weekends. On short notice, 45 pro-choice activists came, from 6 states, to celebrate abortion rights and defend Dr. Carhart and courageous abortion providers who make choice possible. We were filmed and interviewed by most local news, and some national outlets.
Those of us defending the clinic were on site two hours before the anti’s but of course the police told us we had to move. The sergeant said,”it will be fine. Separate, but equal!” (well, he didn’t actually say that).
South Bronx, NYC – January 22
Saturday, on the anniversary of Roe, the staff of Dr. Emily’s Women’s Health in the South Bronx, with the New York Coalition for Abortion Clinic Defense, welcomed 70 supporters for a street rally in front of the clinic. The monks who usually prey on women there were fairly quiet, but we weren’t. It was moving to hear from a first-year law student (especially given the experience above) whom I’d met earlier this fall working on prosecution of Bush era war crimes. Chloe described the decision to terminate a pregnancy just as she started school as uncomplicated, since she had access to good care. But, even if abortion was illegal, she said,
“I would have walked to the ends of the earth to terminate that pregnancy. Because my life already means something! I am not just a vessel waiting to be filled!”
WBAI Radio: a Celebration of Roe v. Wade – January 22
For an hour Saturday, I was on the radio show Equal Time for Free Thought. Sunsara Taylor hosted The Morality of Abortion and the Immorality of Those Who Would Force Women to Bear Children Against Their Will (audio).
Guests were Dr. Leroy Carhart; Merle Hoffman, Founder of Choices Womens’ Medical Center in Queens NY (going strong since 1971); Carole Joffe, author of Dispatches From the Abortion Wars: The Cost of Fanaticism to Doctors, Patients, and the Rest of Us, as well as, Doctors of Conscience: The Struggle to Provide Abortion Before and After Roe V. Wade and myself.
We jumped into the discussion of the morality of abortion, four of us with several decades of history doing so, from two sides. Depriving women of control over our bodies — even birth control access is being limited by state laws now — is profoundly diminishing to women, and immoral. When backed up by theocratic ideas like the Biblical submission of women to men, and violence to abortion providers, it’s intolerable to a people who care about the humanity of women.
Arguing for the morality of abortion, I can’t say it better than this:
The morality that should be supported and fought for is one that values the rights of women to lead full social lives. It supports social and intimate relations where people respect each other’s humanity and flourish together—and not where women are supposedly commanded by “God” to “submit themselves” to men. This morality sees children as a joy to society, and as ultimately the responsibility of all society, while not compelling anyone in any way to have children against their will. It does NOT, as these theocrats do, sanctimoniously shout hosannas to a clump of cells that might someday become a child—while feverishly upholding the murder of real live children in the war being waged by the U.S. in Afghanistan, and self-righteously dooming literally millions of other real live children, right in the U.S., to lives of deprivation and punishment—in the name of those same traditional values.
San Francisco, CA – January 22
There was a very large statewide anti-abortion protest in San Francisco, with many more children and teenagers than in past years. The pro-choice presence was smaller than previous years, though some young ones got a banner stretched across the anti-abortion group, before being pushed off.
There really is a battle for the minds of the next generation on this. Will their heads be filled with the lie that “abortion is murder?” World Can’t Wait activists with a bullhorn directed questions to the children brought to the march, which apparently infuriated some of their parents. “For all you who were afraid to tell your mom and dad you didn’t want to come here today — for all you all who are afraid to tell your pastor you believe abortion should be legal — you’re right!”
Sunday morning, the New York Times reported on an abortion provider who is bearing the brunt of society’s under-appreciation for the caring service he provides:
“I’m just a punching bag,” he added. “I don’t do well with that. Sometimes they [patients] won’t even look at me the day of the procedure; they won’t speak to me. That I despise. I really hate that.
“They were referred to me because I do it safely and expeditiously,” the doctor continued. “To be treated like garbage — and my staff — is really very upsetting.”
Please, send Dr. Berg a thank-you card and let him know just how vitally important his work is to women’s lives, and how much we appreciate him.
Robert E. Berg, MD
148 Madison Ave., Ste. 200
New York, NY 10016
Dr. George Tiller was killed almost a year ago, on May 31, 2009. His murder, for World Can’t Wait, and others, brought a renewed commitment to stand up for women, and build a movement to stop the spreading attacks on abortion & birth control.
Access to abortion is as limited now as it’s ever been since 1973, with new laws in 10 states being considered, and these passed:
* Nebraska has criminalized abortions after 20 weeks — that’s before viability! This law, which is in direct violation of Roe, is designed only to stop Dr. Leroy Carhart from working in Nebraka. It will be challenged in the courts — but it could also be the basis for the Roberts Supreme Court to overturn Roe.
* In Oklahoma, women seeking abortions will now be forced to undergo an intrusive vaginal-probe ultrasound while viewing the fetus and hearing it described in detail.
* Arizona now prohibits all private and public health insurance plans from covering abortion care — depriving thousands and thousands of women of the insurance coverage they currently have.
(thanks to Terry O’Neill, President of NOW, for this information)
It is not at all unlikely that Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision allowing abortion in 1973, will be overturned soon, leaving states to make their own laws. In about 40 states, that would mean no, or decreased, legal abortion.
Call to Action: Operation “Save America” in Charlotte NC, July 17-23
On July 17, a rabidly fundamentalist sect of anti-abortion fanatics called “Operation Save America” is calling on anti-abortion forces to “storm the gates of hell” at a women’s health clinic in Charlotte, NC. Operation Save America has a long and vicious history of opposing women’s right to choose, fighting against gay rights, and spreading vicious anti-Muslim hatred. They must be opposed.
World Can’t Wait is calling for people to converge on Charlotte to defend women’s reproductive rights, and oppose Operation Save America. No to fundamentalist fascists who want to impose their Dark Ages morality, their anti-gay hatred and religious bigotry on society! No to false and anti-scientific claims that abortion harms women! No to threats and violence intimidating those who heroically provide women with the right to control their bodies and their own lives. We seek to unite with a broad array of pro-women’s rights and human rights forces and individuals; that’s where we need to be seeking “common ground” and common cause-not with people who want to control women and promote violence against their healthcare providers!
Contact World Can’t Wait to find out more about this mobilization-and mark the week of July 17th on your calendar to be in Charlotte, NC to defend women’s rights, and defend clinic access! Abortion is not murder-a fetus is not a baby-women are not incubators!
Abortion, Morality and the Liberation of Women, featuring a discussion between Dr. Susan Wicklund, author of This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor and Sunsara Taylor, writer for Revolution newspaper will be screened at the Mid-Atlantic Women’s Studies Association Conference this June.
Women and the Politics of Possibilities: What Have We Made Possible, What Can We Dare to Do?
Friday, June 11, 2010, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Montgomery College – Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus
7600 Takoma Avenue, Takoma Park, MD 20912
Learn about and share the long history of abortion and birth control at artist Heather Ault’s website 4,000 Years for Choice. Designed to educate and inspire, Ault has sent hundreds of postcards to clinics around the country besieged by the anti-abortion movement, and collected an impressive historical timeline that properly places abortion into its context as a human practice found in every civilization. You can even buy poster versions of her beautiful postcards! Heather is also the editor of World Can’t Wait’s film Abortion, Morality and the Liberation of Women.
Some science: PZ Meyers, atheist blogger and biologist at the University of Minnesota, has this blunt and frank appraisal of all the talk of granting the “right of personhood” to embryos in An Embryo is Not a Person.
Abortion Empowers You! Anti-abortion ads appearing in NYC subways claiming “Abortion Changes You” are being corrected with these awesome stickers, setting things straight: Having a child against your will changes you!
Currently anti-abortion ads are running on NYC subways. Abortionchangesyou.com perpetrates confusion, shame, guilt, and disinformation to discourage women from having abortions.
Here are some things we’re doing to challenge these ads:
1) A new campaign, hatched moments ago at the “From Abortion Rights to Social Justice; Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom” is AbortionEmpowersyou.com. What is your abortion story? How did abortion change your life? How would you do a creative alteration of the AbortionChangesYou ads?
We’re collecting responses right now at the conference — look for the site to be updated tonight! Collaborators are Heather Ault of 4000yearsforchoice.org and Jennifer Klozik DeCapua of 45millionvoices.org and Debra Sweet of WorldCantWait.net
2) From organizers for “From The Burkha to the Thong, Everything Must, and Can, Change– WE NEED TOTAL REVOLUTION!” A national campus tour by Sunsara Taylor:
Saturday April 17th, 2010
& its anti-abortion, anti-woman message
in the New York City subways
Speak out for Abortion Rights
and Women’s Liberation!
Abortionchangesyou.com promotes an aura of shame and guilt around abortion and contributes to the lie that to have an abortion is to murder a baby. This comes in the guise of concern for women and providing emotional support for them. The anti-abortion agenda of these ads has been exposed in a New York Times article, which points out that the site directs people to pro-life groups with the Catholic Church and the site’s founder has collaborated with Feminists for Life.
“forced childbearing changes you”
Abortion on demand and without apology!
Join us April 17th to break the silence and shame and declare that women are human beings, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with abortion!
A fetus is NOT a baby!
Women are NOT Incubators!
Abortion is NOT Murder!
Meet at 2pm near the subway entrance – SW corner of Union Sq. Make your own pro-abortion/pro-choice ad and we’ll spread our message through the subway, stopping at Columbia University, in Harlem and Williamsburg
From organizers for “From the Burkha to the Thong, Everything Must, and Can, Change– WE NEED TOTAL REVOLUTION!” — a national campus speaking tour by Sunsara Taylor
Contact– Sunsara_tour@yahoo.com 347-721-8980
In my decades of escorting women through anti-abortion protesters and into abortion clinics, I’ve observed that there are a variety of culturally different responses to the bullying, whining, pushing and threats. I’ve seen Latinas dissolve into tears and confusion when confronted at the clinic entrance by a priest saying the rosary over them, when they are told they’ll go to hell for “killing their babies.” Russian women tend to breeze by the antis as if they’re invisible, while white American women, more than any others, feel they have to answer for their personal actions to obnoxious and complete strangers.
Black women (African American and West Indian) are the most likely, in my experience, to challenge the antis to “stay the f— out of my way!” Their anger at being interfered with comes out righteously. They don’t need anyone to tell them about their business. The anti-abortion movement has historically had a very difficult time getting support in the Black community, for this and other reasons (their own racism, for one).
As part of the overall society-wide assault on abortion rights with includes murdering doctors, devising ever more state laws to restrict access, and the work of Democrats both overtly anti-choice and those who just seek common ground, the anti-abortion movement has recently put a lot of money and PR talent into blaming Black women for having abortions.
Of course, they don’t say that directly. Several anti-abortion groups are funding a campaign to cast Black children as an “endangered species” because Black women have abortions. And more than that, they assert there is a concerted campaign of “Black genocide” fostered by an “abortion industry” that targets Black women who abort unintended pregnancies.
There is so much incorrect, dangerous, and outrageous about every one of their contentions and methods, that I can only begin here a sketch.
(Parenthetically, what if we suggest to the antis that they focus on a group who is really “endangering” their fetuses? Catholic women, as identified on medical admission forms, who use abortion more than any other religious group, perhaps? I know most Catholics say they don’t listen to the Vatican on sexual matters — and why would they, given the revelations of the Pope’s protection of pedophiles? But it’s likely that the 12th century teaching that birth control is a sin is at least a major factor in the higher number of unplanned pregnancies among Catholics, and the various miseries they lead to. Let’s tell the Right to Life movement to do some truth in advertising on that!)
At the heart of the campaign to shame and control Black women is a film called Maafa 21. See the trailer at blackgenocide.com (striking footage and dramatic music: high production values and serious funding behind this effort). It starts from the assumption that slavery of Black people in the United States was followed by an attempt by “America’s wealthy elite” to make Black people disappear.
Well, that’s true. An unemployment rate of 50% for African American men in NYC. 2.4 million people incarcerated, a huge proportion of them Black. The lowest life expectancy among any group in the US, and a higher infant morality rate. Higher rates of deadly diseases, and lower levels of health insurance. Higher rates of combat death in every war from the Civil War on. This is systematic oppression of Black people!
But those behind Maafa 21 don’t care about any of that, least of all actual living Black people. The film weaves aspects of true facts — including the scientifically wrong eugenicist views of Margaret Sanger who fought in the early 20th century to bring birth control to poor women and founded Planned Parenthood — into a conspiracy by abortion providers today to “sell” abortions to Black women in order to reduce their birth rate.
This is all wrong, backwards, and very dangerous.
And we need to answer it. There is a professional promotion effort of this film especially to to HCBU’s (historically Black colleges and universities) with cuts of it on YouTube and comments indicating people are being taken in by the argument. See Abortion and Black Genocide (Barack Obama and the Negro Project),
I would challenge anyone giving this film any credence to look at who made it, and how it’s being used. Credit goes to “Life Dynamics,” a group in Texas run by one Mark Crutcher. After a career in “promotion of automotive products” (used car salesman), Crutcher branched out to targeting abortion doctors over the last two decades, and sending a threatening pamphlet to medical students in the 1980′s. He specializes in “intelligence” against abortion providers. He has no history or connections with any movement endeavoring to protest, nor better, the lives of Black people in this country.
This aggressive disinformation campaign goes beyond a film. Georgia Right to Life put $20,000 into 80 billboards in Atlanta in January calling black children an “endangered species.” Some of the billboards are still up, and there are plans to spread them to other cities with large Black population. I see one got a welcome alteration last week (Black children are beautiful members of the HUMAN species!).
Cindy Cooper writes in Anti-Choicers, the Media, and Race, on another aspect of the assault on women in Georgia:
the billboards are propaganda for an anti-abortion legislative assault, a bill in Georgia titled the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, and called “PreNDA” by its anti-choice sponsors. The bill would create a new felony of “criminal solicitation of abortion.” Under it, a person commits a crime punishable by five years in prison if the individual “solicits or coerces” another person to have an abortion ‘based in any way on account of the race, color, or sex of the unborn child or the race or color of either parent of that child.’ Under the bill, a doctor commits “criminal abortion,” punishable by 10 years in prison, for performing an abortion based on those factors or ‘with knowledge that the pregnant woman’ based it on them. In addition, abortion is defined as ‘the homicide of an unborn child,’ and civil actions are extended for damages.”
For more on the actual restrictions this will place on women who need abortions, see Black Abortion: Battleground Georgia on RH Reality Check. We must and will answer the lies in this “Black genocide” argument. Leaders in the fight for reproductive justice are already doing so.
“They tell African American women that we are now responsible for the genocide of our own people … We are now accused of ‘lynching’ our children in our wombs and practicing white supremacy on ourselves… This is what lies on steroids look like.
…The sexism in their viewpoints is mind-boggling. To them, Black women are the poor dupes of the abortion rights movement, lacking agency and decision-making of our own. In fact, this is a reassertion of Black male supremacy over the self-determination of women…. It is about re-enslaving Black women by making us breeders for someone else’s cause.”
Melissa Harris-Lacewell, a Princeton professor, looks at Black women’s situation in this society in A Right to Life for the Living:
A recent study by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development revealed that single black women have on average only $100 in personal wealth, compared with $41,500 for single white women. With less disposable income, many black women are shut out of the booming reproductive technologies market available to their white peers. In this twisted sense even college education could be argued to constitute racial genocide.
This past Saturday I sat around a table in Harlem with an abortion provider and a dozen people who escort at an abortion clinic in the Bronx. I asked how people thought we should answer this “Black genocide” campaign. Francesca was really outraged at the idea of the anti-abortion movement talking to Black women about “life” for unborn fetuses. She asked, “what about the epidemic of Hep(atitis) C? Black women are out here struggling with life and death! They don’t need to tell us anything.”
A student said “we have to make an unapologetic case for abortion rights!” We talked about the antis’ so-called “science” and how it’s used to confuse and lie to people about our bodies. Others said the “genocide” argument is used, and has historically been used, to manipulate people against abortion. Sharon, who provides abortions, said that we have to explain the actual reality for women of color. “We have more unintended pregnancies, for economic reasons.”
Everyone agreed that women — including women of color — can determine what they need to do for each pregnancy. And no government, husband, father, religion, Pope, or group of lunatic murderers with a budget should force motherhood on any woman.
Thanks to scientists who studied female reproduction, there are women in the world fortunate enough to have access to the birth control pill. Take a few of them after being raped, or any kind of unprotected sex where one fears pregnancy, and the “morning after pill” prevents implantation of any fertilized egg.
But what do you do the morning after you’ve been politically attacked so deeply you feel it in the gut and you’d like to vomit from the White House down the Mall to Congress? We need a “morning after the health care bill” pill.
Because the so-called “health-care reform” passed by the Democrats yesterday rolls the bus over the bodies of women now, and in future, denied access to abortion, and the right to control their own bodies. We knew this was coming, and yet, the way it was done twists “the change you can believe in” knife deeper into the wound of the body politic.
This whole “reform” process isn’t over at all, and I don’t think anyone can predict just what will happen. Except that for sure, women are screwed, and there is no pill to save us. Who should we be angry at? Obama, Pelosi, all the Democrats, the Republicans, the tea-baggers, the health care “industry,” and some in the women’s movement.
For 4 months, we’ve been protesting the Stupak Amendment, the move by anti-abortion Democrats to further remove access to abortion under the guise of “reform.” Stupak, et al, wouldn’t go for Obama’s health care bill without it.
If you missed the news because you’ve been protesting for immigrant rights or against the U.S. illegitimate wars all weekend, or otherwise not paying attention, the savior of the health bill is Barack Obama’s Executive Order “ensuring enforcement and implementation of abortion restrictions in the patient protection and affordable care act.”
An Executive Order has the force of a law, except…it does not need to be reaffirmed every year, as the restrictions on abortion for poor women in the Hyde Amendment, part of appropriation bills, have had to be. In fact, it’s permanent.
Meaning, according to Feministing:
The status quo was terrible to begin with. The Hyde Amendment bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortion, restricting access for women on Medicaid, military personnel and families, those who receive care through Indian Health Services, and women on disability insurance. The Nelson “compromise” expands these limitations to the exchange set up through health reform. The use of private funds to pay for abortion will be restricted, with women having to write separate checks for abortion coverage and the rest of their health care. A George Washington University study and subsequent analysis suggest this will lead to the elimination of all insurance coverage for abortion services.
They conclude that “for U.S. women Barack Obama is an anti-choice president.” Yes, from the “common ground” with the anti-abortion agenda last spring, to enforcement of their agenda this spring.
The Washington Post summarizes:
ABORTION: The bill tries to maintain a strict separation between taxpayer dollars and private premiums that would pay for abortion coverage. No health plan would be required to offer coverage for abortion. In plans that do cover abortion, policyholders would have to pay for it separately, and that money would have to be kept in a separate account from taxpayer money. States could ban abortion coverage in plans offered through the exchange. Exceptions would be made for cases of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother. [my emphasis].
According to Chris Hedges, we also have no “reform” of health care. On Truthdig, he goes after the giant gift the bill represents to insurance companies:
The claims made by the proponents of the bill are the usual deceptive corporate advertising. The bill will not expand coverage to 30 million uninsured, especially since government subsidies will not take effect until 2014. Families who cannot pay the high premiums, deductibles and co-payments, estimated to be between 15 and 18 percent of most family incomes, will have to default, increasing the number of uninsured. Insurance companies can unilaterally raise prices without ceilings or caps and monopolize local markets to shut out competitors. The $1.055 trillion spent over the next decade will add new layers of bureaucratic red tape to what is an unmanageable and ultimately unsustainable system.
Passage of the bill consumed much of the progressive movement over the last year, as people’s aspirations shrunk from the demand of “single payer” to “public option” to well, whatever the Republican minority would allow. The fact that some claim this bill as a victory only shows how low their sights have fallen in accommodating to attacks from the right.
The right is not going to be satisfied, no matter how far you cave in, anyway. Bart Stupak was going to get a “Defenders for Life” award, but because he “caved in” to the “most pro-abortion” President in history, he lost it (!). Another Congressman, Randy Neugebauer, from Texas, yelled “baby killer!” while Stupak was speaking in favor of the bill. So, even though Stupak listens to “leading bishops, Focus on the Family, and The National Right to Life Committee” when drafting legislation, he is not far enough to the right for the anti-abortion movement which wants nothing less than women utterly subservient to men. See Jodi Jacobsen’s Bart Stupak: I Don’t Listen To Nuns.
The right-wing “tea bagger” opponents of the health care bill –clearly orchestrated and led by forces for whom this is about much more than just health care — were out by the thousands surrounding the Capitol on Saturday.
At least their white supremacist agenda came out very openly. Three Black US representatives, including John Lewis and James Clyburn, were called the “n” word, and one was spit on. Rep. Barney Frank, who is openly gay, was called “faggot.”
McClatchy Newspapers quoted Clyburn,
“I heard people saying things today I’ve not heard since March 15th, 1960, when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus,” Clyburn said. “This is incredible, shocking to me.”
Republican Congressmen (and one woman) were on a Capitol balcony egging them on like frat-boys at a football game. Check out The Right Wing Populist Eruption: Yes, It Actually IS Racism in Revolution newspaper for an analysis of where this movement comes from.
But this is not a game. Reporters on MSNBC reported never having heard shouts inside the Capital while a vote was going on. They may not have been there in the 60′s when there was fear from inside the government that student anti-war protests would destabilize the government. But that was hundreds of thousands of righteously angry people back then, whereas these right-wingers gathered on Sunday in the thousands only (but were given much more physical access to the Capital than any recent anti-war, pro-immigrant rights or women’s rights protests).
I give credit to a few proponents of women’s rights who braved the tea-bagger crowd at the Capitol, getting attacked by them for opposing the health care bill for the “wrong” reasons, and for being “baby-killers.” Had we not been at the other end of the mall protesting the illegitimate occupations of Iraq & Afghanistan at the White House, I would have been there with them. But all of the organizations supporting abortion should have been out there, going toe-to-toe with the right wingers, and having OUR voices heard inside the halls of Congress.
Instead, we hear this kind of thing from Planned Parenthood, which hailed the health care bill as a “victory:”
we regret that a pro-choice president of a pro-choice nation was forced to sign an Executive Order that further codifies the proposed anti-choice language in the health care reform bill, originally proposed by Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska. What the president’s executive order did not do is include the complete and total ban on private health insurance coverage for abortion that Congressman Bart Stupak (D–MI) had insisted upon.
But the people who raise money for young, poor, and rural women to get abortions, the National Network of Abortion Funds, said:
“At this very moment, a woman is rationing the food left in her pantry, further delaying her electricity bill, and facing heavy penalties on her late mortgage payment — all because she cannot pay for an abortion she needs. This is the cruel legacy of the Hyde Amendment, a legacy that President Obama renewed yesterday by signing an executive order to appease a handful of legislators who represented no one’s interests but their own. As a nation, we demanded that health care reform address the inherent inequality and unfairness in our existing system. But with the stroke of his pen, President Obama expanded the Hyde Amendment’s guarantee of inequality and unfairness. Because of the Hyde Amendment, every year nearly 200,000 women who cannot afford abortion care must make extreme sacrifices in order to pay for a basic health care procedure.
There is no pill that’s going to make the right-wing assault on abortion rights stop; nor one for the structural lopsidedness of our society causing the suffering from denial of health care benefits in this capitalist-imperialist economy.
There does need to be a decisive settling of what’s really in the interests of the people, both of this country, and of the world. None of terms represented in this health care battle are what we should accept. So we have to wake up and stop accommodating them.
Begun by the group Refuse & Resist in 1996, March 10th: “Abortion Providers Appreciation Day” is marked by people who care about women and our continued right to control our reproduction.
I was marching this past weekend to commemorate International Women’s Day (actually on March 8th). It’s the year 2010, but there couldn’t be a better time to get in the streets and take a stand for women here and around the world. See the latest attack on women’s right to abortion in Nebraska: the “fetal pain” law being debated. What about the pain of the woman?? ABC Local Affiliate
Today, take a moment to call or write a postcard to your favorite abortion provider or local clinic. Listen to Dr. Susan Wicklund talk about how much it means to hear from people who respect her work.
Above, see the National Abortion Federation project where you can print one of their messages, upload a youtube, and get it to a provider in their network. Feministing and Feminists for Choice are also promoting it. Call or send a card to your local clinic, and remember to remind your own doctor that all physicians must protect choice.
Have you watched Abortion, Morality & the Liberation of Women yet?
Comments from viewers:
Suburban mom/medical technician
I am sooo impressed with your documentary. I watched everything. It got me thinking in a way I never did before…lots to say really. The questions were valuable because they addressed what I was wondering about at that moment, so that was a helpful agent to keep me interested till the end. If I took anything away, it was the importance, and necessity to be more vocal, even if only in my circle (I know lots of women who have had abortions and don’t know how to talk about it). Or when any opportunity arises.
I didn’t realize the scope of this issue to be honest with you. I was especially surprised to learn how compromise was such a large part in keeping the topic mired. The fact that, ok some cases are permitted but not everyone can be considered. And how that, of course, is still the heavy hand at work that keeps us all subjugated to their will not ours. Is your documentary on YouTube only right now? I think it should be in libraries at least. Thanks for the information. You can never have too much of that!
Sandy Rapp, activist/musician
Abortion/Morality is a very wonderful and extremely important piece. All bases are covered and, for the sake of women’s choice worldwide, this film should experience WIDE distribution. Congratulations to World Can’t Wait. Two thumbs WAY up to the sky!!!
I really enjoyed the video! Sunsara is an excellent public speaker with a lot of energy. I also thought Dr. Susan Wicklund’s experience as an abortion provider was very moving.
Send us your comments and feedback!