Tag Archives: abortion

Federal judge upholds most of restrictive abortion law in Texas

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The biggest news in abortion access this week comes from Texas, where parts of one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation–part of the bill that the now legendary Wendy Davis filibustered against this summer–was blocked by a federal judge. This is good news for feminist activism, a social movement whose presence in Texas has been instrumental in bringing national attention to the restrictive laws in this state. However, it is important for supporters of abortion access to fully understand the content of this law and the ways in which this ruling is not fully a win.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel’s decision blocked an aspect of the law which required  admitting privileges for all physicians who perform abortions.  The judgement seems to be based off the precedent made by the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, which upheld the constitutional right to abortion under the Fourteenth amendment’s right to privacy, and the 1992 Planned Parenthood vs. Casey decision, which established an undue burden clause, indicating that abortion restrictions which place an “undue burden” on those seeking abortion is unconstitutional.  Referencing today’s ruling in Texas, Judge Yeakel ruled that Texas’s law “places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus and is thus an undue burden to her [emphasis mine.]“

Despite the block against the restriction targeting admitting privileges, other extremely harmful aspects of the abortion law in Texas will go into affect over the next week. This include a ban on all abortions after 20 weeks, (even those performed to protect the life and health of the uterus-owner) as well as a provision stating that after October 2014, all abortions must take place in “surgical facilities”. Judge Yeakel also did not block a provision which requires that medication abortions be prescribed according to FDA protocol– a restriction that sounds “sensible,” but actually limits the ability for qualified physicians to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

The Texas fight against abortion restriction is drawing national attention, and it is important for supporters of abortion access to realize this fight for what it is. This is the new battleground for abortion access– bills which seek to challenge PP v. Casey and the “undue burden” clause, bills which blatantly disregard the right to privacy established under Roe vs. Wade, and the growing constant need to push back against restrictive legislative measures rather than fighting forwards for economic justice, abortion funding, and healthcare for everyone.

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Planned Parenthood to Move Away from “Choice”

prochoiceRealizing that I identified with the “pro-choice” label was one of my very first “click” moments as a young feminist. From the Second Wave’s fight for legal abortion to our current struggle in the conservative war against reproductive healthcare, “pro-choice” has been one of feminism’s uniting slogans, one that we declare on bumper stickers, buttons, and protest signs. Just in time for next week’s fortieth anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, Planned Parenthood announced its plans to abandon the pro-choice label to make room for language that is more inclusive of the complexities of abortion. Below is a video from Planned Parenthood called “Not In Her Shoes” which details some of the reasoning behind the organization’s shift in language.

This move by Planned Parenthood is concerning in more than a few ways.

To begin, it is disappointing that Planned Parenthood used such cissexist language in this latest video. It is not hard to say that “people need abortions” rather than “women need abortions”. The video not only relies on female pronouns and identities for its cartoon patient–it also genders the politicians, congressmen, and presidents male. This blatantly erases that fact that there are women in positions of political power at all. And it ignores the fact that quite a few of the congressional representatives who continue to vote to limit access to abortion services are women. The fight for abortion access is not men against women, so why is Planned Parenthood representing it that way?

Okay, so you might say I am nitpicking. Let’s return to the larger issues represented by the “Not In Her Shoes” video. For many people seeking abortion in the US, “choice” is not really an option that can be exercised at will. Bills that limit state funding for abortion services for poor people, laws that keep underage teens from getting abortion without parental consent, and the mere fact that there is only one abortion clinic in the entire state of Mississippi is a very good reason to abandon the “pro-choice” label. Abortion access is not merely about having a legal choice anymore. To encompass this range of issues regarding access, affordability, and stigma, young feminists have been using the label “reproductive justice”.

It is understandable that Planned Parenthood, which continuously fights for its federal funding and its right to keep clinics running, is maybe a few steps behind the modern feminist movement. They are right to emphasize that “pro-choice” and “pro-life” labels seem to ignore certain complexities in the issue, and perhaps most importantly, they create a hostile environment between the two sides with no room for dialogue about the real issues that people face. But the announcement to abandon the “pro-choice” label still makes me wary, and here’s why:

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“It depends on the situation,” reported the majority of voters when asked their personal view on abortion. Planned Parenthood wants to interpret that as “abortion is complicated and should be left a private decision”. I interpret that as “sure abortion is sometimes necessary for rape or incest but some sluts use it as birth control and that is just wrong and we should stop them no abortion on demand!”. Let me emphasize that this survey asked for personal views on abortion. The people who said “it depends on the situation” were really saying: “to me, some people’s choice to have an abortion is morally acceptable and some people’s choice is morally unacceptable.”

The pro-choice label emphasizes the fact that having or not having an abortion is a personal choice. I fear that by abandoning that strong label, Planned Parenthood is allowing people to continue to believe it is up to them to decide when abortion should be “allowed”.

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Can we please stop “What about rape and incest” -ing?

This election season, the issue of abortion in the case of rape seems to be the only thing that both parties might be able to agree on. I say might because, of course, there are plenty of Republican politicians who believe that women who become pregnant from rape should be forced to carry that pregnancy to term. But from my own involvement in the abortion and contraception debates on the internet and in the real world, the majority of folks are able to admit that even if the idea of abortion makes them uncomfortable, there should be certain allowances for abortion in cases of rape.

This tiny sliver of common ground feels like progress to some– but to me, the “there should be exceptions for rape and incest” rhetoric is very destructive to the future of the abortion debates and to my position as an activist. This position suggests that legally and morally, only certain people are “allowed” to have abortions. It divides women with unintended pregnancies into categories of moral “good” and “bad”. Not to mention (and pay attention, MRAs) that if being raped is the only way that a woman would have access to safe and legal abortion, false rape accusations would skyrocket. 

Especially within the pro-choice movement, using “What about a woman who has been raped?” as your primary argument for abortion access is ineffective at best, because it does not get to the heart of the issue. We cannot decide who is more deserving of an abortion. We cannot judge whether a woman’s reason for having an abortion is legitimate or not. We need to trust women.

I am fiercely pro-choice and do not mind calling myself pro-abortion either (a post on that for another day) but even I would like to see later-term abortions (when a fetus is closer to medical viability) be as rare as possible. This does not mean we should make them illegal, or only accesible to women who fit certain frameworks set by the government. This means we should encourage comprehensive sex education, safe sex and contraceptive use; make all forms of contraception accesible and free; and make abortion within the 1st trimester easily accesible and free. That will reduce late-term abortions. Making exceptions only for rape will not.

I’ve heard a lot of folks say they are pro-choice, spit out a “what about rape and incest” to make their point, and then degrade women who have abortions for “convenience.” This line of thinking is so destructive. What is your definition of convenience? Is it convenience if you don’t want to be a parent, took every precaution not to become one, but became part of that 0.1% of people whose birth control fails? Is it convenience if you are a single mother of an infant who knows she won’t be able to afford food and childcare for two children under three? Is it convenience for a fifteen year old who has only known abstinence-only sex education and was told by her boyfriend that she couldn’t get pregnant the first time?

These weak arguments against abortion only show that the anti-abortion movement is more interested in controlling people’s bodies and sexuality than they are in ending abortion.

 

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Action on X protests abortion laws in Ireland

Members of the Irish pro-choice group Action on X are outside the Irish parliament in Dublin today protesting the state’s strict abortion laws.

As I have previously mentioned, I am currently working on a long-term research project exploring the effects of Ireland’s strict abortion laws on the Irish women and on the Irish feminist movement. Action on X’s protest is an important demonstration of Irish feminists increasing dissatisfaction with the way their country treats abortion and reproductive health access. Abortion in not legal in Ireland even in cases of rape, incest, or a threat to the mother’s life. Over 4,000 Irish women and girls travel to England every year to obtain abortions– a journey that requires money, time to travel, and typically, a level of secrecy.

Action on X and other Irish feminist groups like the Irish Family Planning Association, the Irish Feminist Network, and Cork Feminista (to name a few) are leading the Irish struggle to change its restrictive abortion laws. As American feminists, the increasingly virulent attacks on reproductive rights in our own nation can be frightening, but I urge my fellow feminists to look beyond our borders, not only to the global South, but also to the unique feminist struggles in Western nations like Ireland and Poland. Creating a global feminist fellowship between feminist networks in all geographic areas is crucial to supporting these struggles that occur across national borders.

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Skins and Teenage Pregnancy (Part 1)

*Spoiler alert for all series of UK television show, Skins (up to series 6, episode 6).  You have been warned.

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of British television series, and the gritty and controversial drama Skins is no exception. For those who may not be familiar, Skins began in 2007 as the brain child of a father-and-son duo, Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain. The show’s success is often attributed to its writing team, which has an average age of 21. ¹ The show rotates its focus every two seasons to a new “generation” of eight or so teenagers attending college in Bristol as they deal with love, family, sex, drugs, mental illness, addiction, and of course, pregnancy.

I would like to engage in a critical analysis of how Skins has dealt with pregnancy in each of its three generations and what we can glean about the contemporary political and social youth climates that these plots represent. I was motivated to write about this after watching the latest episode of Skins (series 6, episode 5), which deals with a pregnancy plot in a very different way than previous series of Skins has. I also want to juxtapose Skins to a show that is often compared to it, but is different in many ways. The Canadian teenage drama Degrassi: The Next Generation also deals with rotating generations of young people and has also dealt with multiple pregnancy plots in its generations. I want to argue that Skins mostly depoliticizes its pregnancy plots while Degrassi uses them to make pedagogical moral statements.

In the first generation of Skins (series 1 & 2), we are introduced to Jal Fazer, the sensible, intelligent clarinet player. By the second series, Jal develops a friendship with the group’s goofy pill-popping party-boy, Chris. Their friendship soon develops into something more, of course, and Jal finds herself pregnant. Stressed over her audition for music college and drama within her family, Jal puts off telling even her best friend Michelle, and can’t seem to break it to Chris. We see Jal visit a pregnancy counselor, who tells her she must make a decision soon. As Jal is leaving through a waiting room full of screaming babies, we see her drop a pamphlet titled “It’s Your Abortion!” as tons of little faces look up at her. This may be the only moment that could be construed as a political scene, but I don’t think it is. Though the children are seen looking at Jal’s abortion pamphlet, Jal does not meet their eyes. She walks out defiantly, listening to distraught mothers yell at their little ones.

Later, we see Jal in her home examining her stomach in a mirror. She speaks to her reflection: “I can’t…. Can I?” She then sits on her bed and begins practicing a sad clarinet song as she begins crying. Jal later admits her pregnancy to her family, which causes her usually absent mother to show up and encourage Jal to make a choice. Then… PLOT TWIST! Jal returns to Chris’s apartment intent on telling him about her pregnancy, but finds Cassie there instead, who drags Jal with her to the hospital. Unbeknownst to Jal, Chris has inherited the same neurological disorder that killed his only brother. As Chris is falling into unconsciousness before his surgery, Jal tells him about her pregnancy, but he doesn’t hear her.

In the next episode, Cassie talks to Chris, who has just been told by Jal about her pregnancy. Chris is understanding and tells Cassie that he couldn’t be a Dad and that Jal can’t have a baby because of her music career. While the recovering Chris is being nursed back to health (with a little marijuana) by Cassie, he suffers another seizure and dies at home.

Since Skins covers so many characters, we aren’t shown exactly when or how Jal finds out about her boyfriend’s death. The next time we see her, Jal is seen being comforted by her friend Michelle. Jal admits to Michelle that she had the abortion.The gang attends Chris’s funeral and Jal makes a moving speech about him. Jal’s abortion is not spoken about again.

Jal’s pregnancy plot is interesting because a very common fan response to her abortion is a sadness that she decided not to carry Chris’s child even after his death. There is speculation that Jal has planned to keep the baby, but decided to abort after finding out about Chris’s genetic disorder. While I think these are valid responses to the emotions that the Skins writers portray in their characters, I believe that Jal would have always had an abortion. The Skins writers are generally skilled at keeping with their character development. Jal is the responsible one of the group, the one who always had future in music college. It would be out of character for Jal to do anything else.

(In the next two parts of this discussion series, I will discuss Skins pregnancy plots in generations 2 and 3 and deal with the Degrassi comparison. Stay tuned!)


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Blog for Choice on January 22nd!

Can you think of a better way to celebrate the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision than by participating in NARAL’s Blog for Choice Day? I can’t!

I just got back to the city yesterday and have been greeted by some gloomy rain while my friends upstate enjoy the snow. I was bitter about it for a bit, but there is plenty to distract me– impending classes, hoping to hear good news from my job interview today and of course, preparing for Blog for Choice day.

If you are feminist blogger or just someone who supports the Roe v. Wade decision and a woman’s right to reproductive health, please join me in flooding the internet with Tweets, Facebook statuses, and blogs this weekend to remind our friends, family, and coworkers why we are pro-choice!

Brenna note: This is a quick update– regular blogging will commence beginning next week. Get ready for some big New Years changes. 

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