Tennessee woman Hadleigh Tweedall shares her abortion story.

Hadleigh Tweedall and her husband had long been hoping for a second child to join their son, born in January 2014. Tweedall got pregnant just a few months after her son turned 1, but she experienced a miscarriage at the 11-week mark. “After that, it took us a while to start trying again,” Tweedall tells SELF. “It was obviously very devastating.” So when Tweedall found out she was pregnant again at the end of summer 2015, she was ecstatic. She and her husband were hopeful this pregnancy would be a successful one.

“Baby Grace,” she says. “That was the baby we ended up terminating.”

When Thanksgiving came around, Tweedall was 12 weeks pregnant. She’d just had a checkup and an ultrasound, and had been told everything looked normal with her pregnancy. She went in for some noninvasive prenatal testing, per a suggestion from her doctor. These tests could tell her the sex of the fetus, and they could alert her doctor to the presence of trisomies—chromosomal abnormalities that could lead to fetal anomalies or miscarriage. Tweedall and her husband were excited to find out the sex, so they went in and completed the tests right before Thanksgiving. The doctors said they would hear back about their results just 10 days later.

“We did Thanksgiving with our families,” she says. “We announced our pregnancy to our extended families, and it was a really exciting time.” But when they got back from Thanksgiving, Tweedall and her husband still hadn’t gotten their results. The couple called the office repeatedly over the next three weeks, until a doctor finally told them they needed to come in. “I was hysterical, because I knew something was wrong,” she says. “She would have just told us everything was fine over the phone, but she wanted to see us.” At that point, Tweedall knew her fetus likely had a trisomy—though she had no idea which one.

Tweedall and her husband soon learned their fetus was female, but the tests also found trisomy 21—more commonly known as Down syndrome. “It was a lot of information coming at us all at once,” Tweedall says. She learned there was a small chance that there was a false positive—meaning her fetus wouldn’t actually have a trisomy. Tweedall was only 30 years old, so her risk of conceiving a child with Down syndrome was 1 in 940. Her doctor recommended more tests to confirm the results, and the couple agreed.

“It was Christmas,” Tweedall says. “Everything was booked, and every sonogram place was closed for the holidays.” The couple got the earliest appointment available to them on December 28. In the meantime, Tweedall did some research. She reached out to the director of the Down Syndrome Association of Middle Tennessee, and connected with a family who had children with Down syndrome. “I wanted to get a better idea about the condition,” she says. “It could lead to multiple surgeries and a very short suffering life for the child. Or the child could be very high-functioning and prosper. You just don’t know.”

For Tweedall and her husband, the next two weeks dragged on. “I don’t think I got out of bed very much,” she says. “You just feel really lost with a diagnosis like that.” When the couple finally went in for tests on December 28, they learned the fetus had both Down syndrome and hydrops fetalis—a condition in which the body fills with fluid. “It was a terrible day,” Tweedall says. “Her legs had stopped growing due to fluid. Our doctor told us there was no way this baby would survive more than a month or two of pregnancy.” Tweedall explains that if the pregnancy had been farther along, the doctor could have induced labor and tried to save the fetus. But Tweedall was only 17 weeks in. “At that point, there’s not much you can do when there’s that much fluid in the baby’s body,” she says.

The doctor told Tweedall that the pregnancy would become increasingly high-risk if she decided to carry it to term. “‘If she passes away, your body might take a while to realize she’s no longer living,'” Tweedall was warned. This increased Tweedall’s risk of hemorrhaging or contracting an infection.

“So my doctor recommended that I terminate the pregnancy—from a safety standpoint for me,” she says. Tweedall notes that many laws restricting abortion access are written to include exceptions for cases that endanger the life of the mother. “But it’s a hard thing, because that’s based on opinion,” she says. “Nobody told me I was going to die. My risk of death and hemorrhaging and infection increased if I continued—but it’s such a fine line. I’m a wife and a mother to a little boy—I want to be around for that.”

Tweedall’s doctor said the closest place that would perform a late-term abortion was a clinic in Atlanta. “It wasn’t even a conversation to see if anyone would do it here,” she says. “But I didn’t want to be away from everyone, sleeping in a hotel, and not even knowing or trusting the medical staff.” So Tweedall didn’t really look into going to Atlanta. Instead, she decided to take a trip to her hometown—Chicago—because she felt more comfortable being in a place where her parents still lived. “It’s scary enough that you’re going through all this,” she says. “To think you’re going to be in a clinic somewhere you aren’t familiar with is a lot to take in.” And Tweedall felt disappointed by the lack of support she was receiving from her medical staff in Tennessee. “Everyone just sorted of washed their hands of it and walked away,” she says.

So Tweedall planned to travel to Chicago to receive the medically necessary procedure. Beforehand, she had to fax over her medical records and send ultrasounds showing that the fetus had severe hydrops fetalis. “But I had to follow up with my doctor three or four times just to get her to send over the paperwork,” she says. “I called her office numerous times—and never got a call back.” Tweedall grew concerned. The Chicago hospital would only perform abortions on pregnancies under 20 weeks, and Tweedall was already at 17.5. “We were leading up to the new year,” she says. “It was the holidays—everyone was out of office. No one was responding, and the longer you wait, the more your risks increase and the more difficult the procedure becomes.”

Tweedall ended up terminating her pregnancy five days into the new year—on January 5, 2016. “It was the hardest thing of my entire life,” she says.

Tweedall says that after she came home to Tennessee, people kept trying to reassure her by saying that what she did “wasn’t an abortion.” “But I kept saying, ‘No—it is,” she says. “I wanted to reclaim the word abortion, because the stigmatized image people have of abortion isn’t always what it is.”

Tweedall later learned that she could have had her abortion at a Tennessee hospital, after all. The state’s laws permit women to have abortions at clinics until they’re 15 weeks pregnant. Then, between 15 weeks and fetal viability (20 to 22 weeks), a woman can have an abortion at a hospital. These medical facilities have the right to deny patients, meaning they’re not required to perform the procedure—they’re just permitted to. If Tweedall had been more aware of Tennessee’s laws, she might have avoided traveling 491 miles just to receive a safe, legal medical procedure she needed.

“It was just interesting to find out that technically my doctor should have fought for me,” she says. “But nobody did. Nobody fought for me. And that’s disheartening. You rely on your doctors—especially in a crisis situation—to give you accurate information. On top of it, you’re grieving the loss of your daughter. And it’s just—I don’t know—the regulations and the way I was treated by the medical team here in Tennessee didn’t make the situation any easier. I even had to call and follow up about our paperwork. Thank God for my husband, because he was doing most of it while I was on the floor crying. So to find out later that I technically should have been able to go home to my bed that night is just awful.”

And though reliving these experiences brings back negative feelings, Tweedall says it’s only getting easier to talk about. When I spoke with her in early January, she was about to give birth to another child. After three years, one miscarriage, and one abortion, she and her husband are finally welcoming a second child into their family. “It’s been a long nine months,” she says. “It’s been so long, and we’ve had to go through so much crap to get to this point.”

And whether her tragic experience is effecting change, inspiring open-mindedness, or making someone feel less alone, she’s happy to share it. “At least if my story can help somebody, it’s worth telling,” she says.

Source: Self



Should we journalists use the word “lie” to describe President Trump’s most manifest falsehoods?

That debate has roiled the news world. The Times this week used the word “lie” in a front-page headline, and I agreed with that decision, but there’s a counterargument that lying requires an intention to deceive — and that Trump may actually believe his absurd falsehoods.

So in 2017 we reach a mortifying moment for a great democracy: We must decide whether our 45th president is a liar or a crackpot.

Yet the costliest presidential falsehoods and delusions are not the ones that people are talking about, such as those concerning the inauguration crowd or electoral fraud. The most horrific chicanery involves Trump’s new actions on women’s health that will cause deaths around the globe.

It followed the weekend’s stunning women’s marches: At least 3.2 million people apparently participated in all 50 states, amounting to 1 percent of the U.S. population. In a slap at all who marched, Trump this week signed an order that will cut off access to contraception to vast numbers of women, particularly in Africa.

It will also curb access to cancer screenings and maybe even undermine vaccination campaigns and efforts against H.I.V. and the Zika virus. The upshot: Thousands of impoverished, vulnerable women will die.

Americans have focused on the executive actions about building a wall, or expediting oil pipelines, but nothing is more devastating than the edict on women’s health (signed in front of a group composed almost entirely of smiling men in suits).

In fairness, Trump probably thought he was doing a good thing; that’s a measure of his delusion. He reinstated what’s called the Mexico City policy, which stipulates that family planning funds cannot go to foreign aid groups that ever discuss abortion. (Federal funds already don’t go for abortions.)

Presumably Trump thought this policy would reduce abortions, and was thus “pro-life.” In fact, this is a “pro-death” approach that actually increases abortions, as well as deaths among women.

How can that be? Many groups, like Marie Stopes International and Planned Parenthood International, lose funding in poor countries from this policy. In 2001, when President George W. Bush imposed a more limited version, 16 developing countries lost shipments of contraceptives from the U.S.

Stanford University researchers found that the Bush version of the policy reduced contraceptive use in Africa — and increased abortion rates.

This all sounds wonkish and antiseptic, but in poor countries, the most dangerous thing a woman can do is become pregnant. I’ve seen too many women dying or suffering in filth on stained cots in remote villages because of childbirth.

I wish Trump could see them: a mother of three in Cameroon dying after her birth attendant sat on her stomach to hasten delivery; a woman in Niger collapsing from a common complication called eclampsia; a 15-year-old girl in Chad whose family dealt with her labor complications by taking her to a healer who diagnosed sorcery and burned her arm as she lay in a coma.

With this new order, Trump will inadvertently cause more of these horrific scenes. Maybe “war on women” sounds hyperbolic, but not if gasping, dying women are seared in your memory.

Worse, Trump expanded this “global gag rule” — as critics call it, because it bars groups from mentioning abortion — so that it apparently will cover all kinds of health services, including efforts to tackle polio or Zika or H.I.V., even programs to help women who have been trafficked into brothels. (The White House didn’t respond to my inquiries.)

I hope all of the marchers call the White House, 202-456-1111, or their members of Congress, 202-224-3121, to protest.

Marie Stopes alone estimated that if it cannot find replacement funding, the new policy will result in 6.5 million unintentional pregnancies, 2.2 million abortions and 21,700 women dying in pregnancy or childbirth.

The victims invariably are among the most voiceless, powerless people in the world. When Bush imposed his version of the policy, it meant that no contraceptives reached a village in northern Ghana. As a result, a young woman named Kolgu Inusah became pregnant.

She tried to abort the pregnancy herself using herbs, but something went wrong and she suffered terrible abdominal pains. She was rushed to a clinic, but doctors couldn’t save her. Her two children now have no mom.

President Trump, you may think you are “pro-life” and preventing abortions, but that’s a lie or a delusion. In fact, you are increasing the number of abortions and of dying women.

And to those women and men who marched last weekend, remember that this isn’t about symbols, speeches or pussy hats. It’s about the lives of women and girls.

Please, please, keep on marching, keep on calling.

Source: NY Times



Women are forgoing food and delaying bills to pay for abortions as costs remain in the hundreds of dollars despite the introduction of an abortion drug, a national study reveals.

Researchers led by La Trobe University’s Judith Lumley Centre delved into the experiences of women who had medical or surgical abortions through a private group of clinics and found a third suffered financial difficulties as a result.

The study published on Monday in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health comes as the federal government reviews rebates payable on surgical abortions and the Victorian government prepares to introduce a new scheme to make abortion more accessible.

When abortion drug mifepristone, known as RU486, was included on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in 2013, reducing its price to under $15 for healthcare card holders, the hope was more women, particularly the disadvantaged and those in regional areas, could access abortion through their local doctor.

But up to two years later – when the women were surveyed in the six months to April 2015 – only 35 per cent of those eligible had chosen a medical abortion, with one in 10 saying they had not even known about it.

The study also revealed that related tests and medical care associated with the drug, which is distributed in Australia through the Marie Stopes Foundation, still added up to about the same price as a surgical abortion, an average cost of $450 to $500 out of pocket for early terminations. Medical abortion cost more upfront than the surgical option.

Some 2326 women were surveyed after attending one of 14 Dr Marie Clinics located in NSW, Victoria, the ACT, Queensland and Western Australia, where public abortion lists are limited, restricted to exceptional cases or don’t exist.

The Dr Marie clinics are estimated to perform a third of all abortions in Australia, according to the study, co-written by Dr Marie medical director Philip Goldstone, as well as researchers from Monash and Sydney universities.

“These results indicate that the potential for medical abortion services will remain limited unless knowledge, financial and geographical barriers to obtaining early care are adequately addressed,” they wrote.

While a third of the total survey group reported difficulty paying for an abortion, 1500 women answered a question about whether they had to forgo necessities to meet the cost. Thirty-five per cent said they had. Among those, 71 per cent had delayed paying bills and 35 per cent said they had skipped food and groceries.

On top of direct costs of the service, 41 per cent of the women faced significant added expenses for travel, accommodation, childcare and GP referrals.

“We thought that offering medical abortions would make it more accessible and more affordable and what this study shows is that neither of those things are happening to the degree we thought they would,” Professor Angela Taft, from the Judith Lumley Centre said.

A requirement that women must attend two medical appointments, the second to check the pregnancy had terminated, may also be a deterrent, she said, adding there was growing evidence women could test themselves with a pregnancy kit, while the drug could be provided through nurses.

“We have consistently lost beds for surgical abortion in this state [Victoria] because the hospitals have been contracted out to religious organisations who refuse to do vasectomies and abortions,” she said.

“There ought to be public options available for women seeking abortions and allowing nurses to do that safely and in public facilities is going to reduce that financial burden and make it more accessible.”

Dr Susie Allanson from the Fertility Control Clinic, another private clinic in Melbourne, said while access needed to be increased, clinical care should not be compromised.

She said the introduction of a Medicare item number for medical abortion, increasing the rebate on the surgery and steps to ensure more public hospitals were offering the services would help.

A federal Health Department spokeswoman said the rebates payable for surgical abortions, set in 2012, were among those being re-evaluated by the Medicare Benefits Schedule Review Taskforce.

The Victorian government is expected to announce this year a statewide sexual and reproductive health strategy to improve access to contraception and termination services.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Jill Hennessy said the strategy would

“focus on what action the government can take to increase access to reproductive services in primary and community care settings, as well as in public hospitals.”


Source: The Courier

Do any of the Presidential candidates give a crapola about abortion?

I watch a lot of television coverage of the campaigns (CNN and Fox) and I have yet to hear either Hillary or Trump even say the word “abortion.”  Remember in years past it was a pretty hot issue?   Well, this year you don’t hear a peep about it.

Well, maybe every once in a while one of them mentions the Supreme Court and I think I heard Trump say he will appoint pro-life judges but it clearly was not the main message of his speech.  Actually, I’m never sure what his main message is, come to think of it.



Trump does intrigue me, however.   Billion dollar “playboy,” three wives, the Big Apple.  Are you telling me that he’s never been personally involved someway in the procurement of an abortion?  Now that would be a story, wouldn’t it?  Indeed, out of curiosity I called a doctor friend of mine at a large clinic in Manhattan and I asked him if he ever saw Trump come through his doors.  To his credit, however, he said “well, if I did, I could never tell you.”   Oh yeah, I forgot about that confidentiality thing.

The pro-choice folks know Hillary is clearly on their side and has, in fact, come out in favor of taxpayer funded abortions.  But as for Trump, I know a number of pro-lifers are skeptical of his position on abortion.  Like me, they look at this high-flying jet setter and it spells “I knocked someone up and I took care of it.”

But the pro-lifers have nothing to worry about.   Even if he has some pro-choice in him personally, if he became President here’s what will happen.  First of all, if he becomes President that means the U.S. Senate will remain in Republican hands.  So, he would right off the top have Justice Scalia’s seat to fill – and who do you think he would nominate?  Well, he is going to have to nominate a pro-lifer.  If he doesn’t, if he tries to play games, that person will not be confirmed.  Simple as that.  The Senate Republicans will be in no mood to accept any kind of moderate.  And you know what?  Trump will go along with them because he honestly could give a shit about the Supreme Court.  That’s not his thing.  It takes too much thought to consider the ramifications.  He’ll be busy trying to build his wall and would rather not be spending any time talking about Supreme Court cases.



Now, when Hillary wins, the Senate might go back to the Democrats.  But she will not have 60 or more Democrats needed to stop a filibuster of her nomination.  Indeed, the MINUTE she nominates a pro-choice justice, the likes of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and other would be candidates will be lining up for the microphone to lead the “historic filibuster” against the nominee.  So she is going to have to be very clever – nominate someone who is pro-choice but whose position on the issue is unknown.  And how she does that is anyone’s guess.


In a recent Daily Beast article concerning abortion-related comments between Rand Paul and Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, Samantha Allen wrote, “By turning late-term abortions into a metonym for the issue as a whole, [Rand] Paul is clearly attempting to challenge the American consensus on the legality of abortion earlier in pregnancy. It’s a tactic as old as Roe: make first-trimester abortions guilty by association with the more easily demonized late-term procedures.” Nothing new was said here about the intent to frame all abortions as happening in the third trimester. “Metonym” is what caught my attention.

It is metonyms that keep the average person confused about abortion. Since most people, politicians and regular voters included, do not go out of their way to educate themselves about abortion and the numerous complexities of the debate, they are influenced by metonyms.

Not to be confused with a metaphor, a metonym is “a word, name, or expression used as a substitute for something else with which it is closely associated.”  We use metonyms all the time. Online sources cite “Washington” as an often used metonym for the federal government, “sweat” for hard work, “plastic” for credit card and so on. Most of us take care in everyday conversation to avoid metonymic usage if it will misinform. That is not the case in politics and, after reading Allen’s article, I realized how pervasive metonyms are in the language used to discuss abortion, primarily by those opposed to abortion.

What is the most destructive are the efforts to present abortion as something it is not. Achieving public policy objectives through false data and building public support by misleading the less passionate into a belief system based on ideology presented through using inaccurate and incorrect word choices is wrong, yet never effectively challenged.Embryos-Human

Responding to the same Rand Paul – Debbie Wasserman-Schultz comments, Casey Mattox shared in the Federalist that Wasserman-Shultz and the Democrat Party support abortion “through all nine months of pregnancy.” He later states, “Democrats are big on abortion euphemisms. When they say, as Wasserman-Shultz did, that abortion should be a woman’s ‘choice’ through all nine months, they want you to focus on something other than the reality of what abortion is. Simply put, there is no clean and humane way to kill a seven-pound, full-term baby.”

I am not sure what specific euphemisms Mattox had in mind, or if he incorrectly thinks that correct terms, such as blastocyst, embryo, or fetus, are euphemisms and that pro-choice advocates should use his preferred set of ideological words or metonyms. All pro-choice people I know would agree that it is inhumane to kill a full-term baby. We also tend to believe it inhumane to have public policies that would force a woman to compromise her health or die in order for a fetus to evolve into a born person. Mattox used the “choice” term in the context of the abortion debate as a metonym for “abortion on demand at all stages of pregnancy for any reason.”  Sadly, the dispassionate all too often believe such rhetoric.

Over the years, many of us have written about the language used to discuss abortion. Often divisive and steeped in emotion, the language is powerful. The terms “pro-choice” and “pro-life” have always created barriers to productive discourse about abortion to the point that many people now refuse to be categorized as one or the other.

Decoding Abortion Language imageFetus and unborn baby are frequently used as metonyms for blastocysts and embryos. Abortion opponents use murder metonymically for the abortion procedure itself.  Decoding Abortion Rhetoric: The Communication of Social Change (Celeste Michelle Condit 1990) discussed how metonymic language shaped public policy on abortion. That was 25 years ago and metonyms continue to define each and every facet that leads to abortion-related public policy today. Another book, Lexical and Syntactical Constructions and the Construction of Meaning, published in 1995, also discussed the metonymy of abortion language. When “embryo” is used by abortion opponents, it is as a metonym for stem cells, which has dramatically limited potentially lifesaving research. As author Mark Bracher stated in yet another book, Lacan, Discourse, and Social Change: A Psychoanalytic Cultural Criticism (1993), “Insofar as antiabortionist discourse convinces its audience, through such operations of metaphor and metonymy, that the fetus is an instance of human life, it succeeds in positioning abortion…” (p105).

Metonymy has positioned abortion in public policy outcomes. What it cannot accomplish is altering the experiences so many Americans have had, directly or indirectly, with abortion. Abortion polls that both sides use to claim victories from time to time are not reliable. What is reliable are the personal and family experiences people have with abortion rights and access.  Those experiences reject the metonyms and steer people to the belief that abortion is a personal decision between a woman and her medical provider.

If you have been following my recent posts, you know I am supporting the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride set to kick off on 23 July 2013 in New York City and San Francisco.  I discussed this summer’s action with a number of people I respect, and there is a divide in the abortion rights community on whether or not it is wise to embark on this action.  I did not reach the decision to support and join with the Riders without giving the decision due diligence; nor, did I neglect to consider the multiple outcomes of the action.

When facing a dichotomous debate among two sides of the community, two camps who should be working together toward common goals, I ask myself now as I did in the past, What Would Dad Do?  Would he shrink back into the shadows, rely solely on private action and influence, or would he advocate, and actually engage in, direct action and response to those who tormented, stalked, and eventually killed him?  Obviously, we know the answer:  he did not back down!  As I wrote a couple of posts ago, I also cannot and will not back down.

Upon the 20th year after my dad’s murder by a Christian terrorist, as we face continued threat of violence, and as state after state passes draconian anti abortion legislation, I reflect not only on what my dad would do but also consider the words of Yeats:

Things said or done long years ago,
Or things I did not do or say
But thought that I might say or do,
Weigh me down, and not a day
But something is recalled,
My conscience or my vanity appalled.

Knowing I will be appalled by remaining silent, I resolved the vacillation by opting to support what I believe is the right course of action.  To that end, I co-authored a piece on the merits and need of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride with one of its primary organizers Sunsara Taylor.  I want to share with you our recent missive so perhaps more of us will come together on the need for direct, vocal, and mass support our clinics, our doctors, and our rights

Abortion Rights Are At a Crossroads:
This is NOT a Time to Lay Low – It is Time for Massive Uncompromising Struggle!

By Sunsara Taylor and David Gunn, Jr.
July 12, 2013

Across the country, people are waking up to the state of emergency facing the right to abortion. As legislators in Texas push hard to close down 37 of 42 abortion clinics statewide, new laws in North Carolina would close four of their five remaining clinics. Meanwhile, Ohio’s recently passed budget could close as many as three abortion clinics. North Dakota, on August 1st, may become the first state to effectively ban abortion. Already Mississippi’s last abortion clinic is merely an appellate ruling away from closure. We could go on.

If we do not reverse this trajectory now, we will condemn future generations of women and girls to forced motherhood, to lives of open enslavement, terror, and life-crushing shame. Women will be forced to have children they do not want, trapping them in abusive relationships, driving them into poverty, forcing them out of school, and extinguishing their dreams. Women will go to desperate and dangerous measures to terminate unwanted pregnancies, once again flooding emergency rooms and turning up dead women in cheap motels with blood caked between their legs.

We face two divergent roads: Either we seize control of the debate and reset the terms and whole trajectory of this fight; or we continue down the road of “established conventional wisdom,” only to awaken before long to an unrecognizable and untenable situation for women. What each of us does matters,and matters tremendously.

It is in this context that we initiated an Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. Our echo of the Civil Rights Freedom Rides is intentional and fitting. Women who cannot decide for themselves if and when they have children are not free. On the contrary, they are mere child-bearing chattel whose purpose is to serve and not actively chose their destinies.

Volunteers on this Freedom Ride will caravan from both coasts to North Dakota, traverse through the middle of the country into Wichita, and head due south to Jackson, Mississippi. Our aim is threefold: one, we must move beyond localized fights andlauncha national counter-offensive; two, we must radically reset the political, moral, and ideological terms of this fight so that millions understand that this fight is about women’s liberation or women’s enslavement; lastly, and of paramount importance, we must call forth the mass independent political resistance that is necessary to defeat this war on women.

As the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride evolved from conception to genesis, many have responded by with enthusiastic and unequivocal support. Regular people from across the country as well as those who have been on the front lines of the abortion rights struggle are joining with us in demanding abortion rights without compromise and thanking us for daring to travel to where women’s rights face harshest threat.

However, some who share our passion for the cause have raised concerns and even opposition to this action. They fear the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride will be too confrontational, too vociferous for abortion, and may turn off avenues of support.
Some have argued that it is wrong for people to come into local areas from the outside. Others argue that mass political protest will endanger the chances of winning important court cases and that it is better to rely on official channels of politics.

Because the future of women is at stake, we feel it is critical to address these concerns head on. In fact, it is exactly the faulty logic at the root of these concerns that has contributed to all of us finding ourselves in such a dire situation.

First, while local ground conditions are different and unique in some ways, the fact that every clinic and every state is facing heightened assault is not unique nor is it local. We all face a national assault on abortion rights which requires a national counter-offensive. Not only is it utterly immoral for us to abandon the women living in the states most under direct duress, it is delusional to think that what happens in states like Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota and Kansas will not come soon to a theater near you. Our futures are bound together and we all share the responsibility to take this on and turn the tide where the attacks are the most severe.

Second, while it is true that a great many people – including many who support abortion rights – are defensive about abortion, they should not be ashamed and this defensiveness and shame is precisely something we must eradicate.

Among the reasons many are defensive about abortion are decades of propaganda by those who oppose women’s equality but posture as defenders of “babies”; meanwhile, supporters of abortion rights have too often been conciliatory, muted, and compromising. This must stop. This fight has never been about babies. It has always been about controlling women. This is why there is not a single major anti-abortion organization that supports birth control.

If we want to turn the tide, we have to tell the truth: there is absolutely nothing wrong with abortion. Fetuses are NOT babies. Abortion is NOT murder. Women are NOT incubators.

A great many people are hungry for this message. They are furious and searching for a meaningful vehicle to make their outrage felt. It is only by asserting the positive morality of abortion rights that we can call forth and mobilize the tens of thousands who already share our resolve. Only through direct action and a polemical shift can all of us stand together and change how millions of others are thinking. Shouldn’t this emergency situation awaken us to the need to change public opinion, not accommodate it?

History has proven that directly confronting oppressive social norms can be disruptive and scary; yet, it is a necessary and uplifting part of making any significant positive change. Many argued that it was wiser for LGBT people to stay closeted until society was more accepting; others counseled against the Civil Rights Freedom Rides out of fear that it would only rile up the opposition, but it was only when people took that risk and got “in your face” that broader public opinion and actions began to change.

We must create a situation where being anti-abortion is seen to be as socially unacceptable as it is to advocate lynchings, anti-LGBT violence, or rape (although, if you listen to some on the Right, rape advocacy is not necessarily off their table).When we reach that summit, we will be on our way to turning the tide.

Third, while court cases are important – even essential – it is only through truly massive independent political struggle that we stand a chance at defeating the truly unyielding and powerful foe we face. Every setback the anti-abortion movement experiences only makes them more determined and every victory only makes them more aggressive. They will not be appeased if we lie low. No court case or election or new law will stop them. Not only has the existing power structure proven unwilling or unable to do so, people who believe they are on a “mission from God” are not bound by human laws and do not yield to public opinion.

But they can be defeated. Forced motherhood is deeply opposed to the interests of humanity. If we get out there and tell the truth, if we resist, if we clarify the stakes of this battle, and if we mobilize wave upon wave of the masses to get off the sidelines and into the streets with us, we can win. There is a tremendous reservoir of people who can and must be called forth to join in this struggle. We have seen this vividly in Texas. Let us not underestimate the potential that exists in every state across this country.

We stand at a crossroads. For the future of women everywhere, let us refuse the worn pathways that have allowed us to lose so much ground. We must not lay low, hope these attacks will blow over, and allow women in some parts of the country to be forced into mandatory motherhood while hoping to preserve the rights of a shrinking few. We cannot continue to foster the attitude that abortion is the 21st Century’s Scarlet Letter while allowing abortion providers to be further stigmatized and demonized. We cannot recoil from the massive fight that urgently needs fighting at this moment in this time.

Now is the time for courage, for truth telling, for stepping out and launching an uncompromising counter-offensive. We have right on our side. We call on everyone who cares about the future of women to join with us in strengthening the national impact and influence of this Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. Join with us at our kick-off rallies in New York City and San Francisco in July 23. Caravan to meet us in North Dakota, Wichita, Kansas, and Jackson, Mississippi. Send a donation or a message of support. Reach out to individuals and religious communities that can provide safe passage to the courageous individuals who are giving up their summers and putting everything they have into winning a different and far better future for women. Most importantly, let us together take the rough road to victory. It may be less traveled, but only through struggle can we reap the benefits of love’s labor won.

To learn more about and get involved with the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, go to: http://www.stoppatriarchy.org/

Sunsara Taylor writes for Revolution Newspaper (revcom.us) and is an initiator of the movement to End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women (StopPatriarchy.org)

David Gunn, Jr. is the son of David Gunn, Sr., the first abortion doctor to be assassinated by an anti-abortion gunman, and blogs for Abortion.ws

Given the challenging professional and political conditions for abortion providers, there is a tendency for pro-choice activists and organizations to speak of abortion providers at times as if they are infallible. They are not. Within their group, abortion providers experience the occasional normal risk-related patient complications. Like their colleagues in other areas of medicine, honest mistakes occur at times and the infrequent bad doctor does surface once in awhile.

Most who work at abortion clinics, or for the pro-choice cause, are so accustomed to misinformation and intentional deceit about abortion that many initially thought the news about Kermit Gosnell was too ghastly to be true.  How quickly should any of us judge the merits of any indictment? Pro-choice organizations eventually did publicly condemn the man for the criminal he was. It wasn’t enough condemnation for some and, I hate to say it but some of the criticism of the pro-choice leadership “silence” was fair.

Throughout the trial of Gosnell, abortion opponents supplied a steady stream of commentary indicating that pro-choice people protect bad doctors who provide abortions. It may seem off topic but how many adoption lawyers do anti-abortion people “protect” after an adoption has been mishandled? When a “crisis pregnancy center” misrepresents itself as an abortion clinic, how many of their supporters ignore the harm in the deception? More on those issues in a later post.

There should be no reluctance at all to discuss the facets of the Gosnell case that draw attention to a doctor who included abortion in his practice and did so recklessly and criminally. Holding pro-choice views or working in an abortion practice does not make one tolerant of malpractice or criminal conduct!  When a bad doctor is exposed in other medical fields people may respond with outrage but they don’t paint all doctors in the same field as bad. Nor do they label all workers in that field as protective. Once the doctor is censured or his/her license revoked, people are grateful for the systems in place to deal with such transgressions.

Unlike other doctors, abortion providers are under constant regulatory and political scrutiny. Like other doctors, they are conscientious and consider their patients’ well-being their chief priority. To hear what is disseminated by anti-choice groups, you’d never know any professionalism existed among abortion providers. Anti-choice leaders continuously strategize about how best to sully the reputations of abortion providers. One of the more destructive forms of anti-choice harassment is videotaping patients for whom an ambulance is called. They film it for two reasons: 1) to intimidate, and 2) to accumulate “data” to bolster their misleading claims about what is “normal” for abortion patients. In their world, risks are acceptable in other medical procedures but not abortion. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that when a clinic calls an ambulance, the doctor is being responsible and following professional medical standards and protocols.

Regardless of the unfairness in how doctors who provide abortions are treated, there are some bad guys. Brian Finkel, an Arizona abortion provider, was convicted in 2004 of sexually abusing 13 of his patients. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Whatever his medical skills, only bad doctors abuse patients. Tom Tucker provided abortions in Mississippi and Alabama. In addition to being the subject of medical board complaints in both states, he was the subject of several death or injury malpractice cases.   New York convicted an abortion provider for murder in 1995 after he botched a second trimester abortion he wasn’t qualified to perform; the patient bled to death. With the exception of a few, the pro-choice community did not rally around these doctors and in fact expressed relief that they were no longer providing abortions.

What does it take to get pro-choice people to respond to negative events involving abortion providers? A little over 20 years ago I directed an abortion clinic.  When I assumed the position, I hired appropriate staff so that it could also provide comprehensive reproductive health services.  The doctor was responsible for regulatory compliance. There were some things that seemed amiss. For example, during one period I had to sign a monthly check to an RN who was never there but whose name was on all medical charts as the attending nurse.

The people who actually assisted with the abortions were not medically trained or licensed.  After a patient had a seizure I was able to convince the doctor to have a trained person present at all times.  After hiring a part-time RN, her signature was put on all charts regardless if she was there. In other words, medical records were routinely falsified. The doctor simply did not believe that abortions necessitated full-time, expensive, and trained medical staff required by law.

When the doctor decided to offer second trimester abortions, he also decided to offer sedation to patients.  After purchasing the drugs and some equipment, he did not seek additional training nor did he want to hire a nurse or technician trained in anesthesia. Second trimester abortions are more complicated and there were several occasions in which patients experienced problems in their hotel rooms. Support staff, not medically trained, answered the phone after hours. The patient calls were not always handled as professionally as they should have been. Word about patient experiences reached two other abortion providers who had the decency to call me personally. I began to question whether the clinic I took such pride in was delivering what I thought.

A nurse practitioner (RNP) I had hired primarily for the reproductive health services component of the clinic came to my office one day to let me know that she was resigning and why. The violations the doctor was regularly committing was the only reason, some not illegal but all potentially dangerous to patients. She cited the frequency in which she had been pulled away from her work to assist the doctor with crises that occurred during abortions, most related to sedation. Aside from the risk to patients, she also believed that her professional license was at risk. Regardless of his sound medical skills, with sedation in particular, training, legal compliance, and protocols are imperative. It is noteworthy that the involuntary manslaughter conviction Gosnell received was due to sedation complications.

After the RNP resigned, I started a conversation with the doctor about the violations. I also let him know that I had heard from other providers and that they were concerned. In addition to my job directing the clinic, I was also a public figure leading a pro-choice constitutional amendment initiative.  How could I be advocating safe and legal abortion if I was working at a clinic that was not entirely operating to maximize the “safe” aspect of abortion? The doctor informed me that since I was not medically trained, I did not know what I was talking about.

This doctor, now deceased, had been incredibly good to me. Nonetheless, my moral compass was stronger than my personal affections. It was a hyper political era for the abortion issue, with a highly involved media. A lawyer explained to me that by virtue of having knowledge of unsafe and illegal practices, I would be legally liable in the event there was ever a lawsuit. That was his legal speak. He then spoke in ethical terms and advised me that in life it is incumbent on all of us to do what is right when we know there is real or potential harm involved. The lawyer prepared a letter to the medical board, assuring me the complaint would be private. Nothing would be public unless there were violations that did not get corrected and disciplinary action was taken.  I then met with the doctor and informed him that I was resigning from the clinic due to the continuing violations. I also informed him of the letter to the medical board.

After resigning from the clinic, I was able to receive a salary for my work with the constitutional initiative and explained to the pro-choice organizations that I was leaving the clinic in order to devote all of my time to the political dimensions of the issue. Shortly afterward, the doctor had received notice that my claims were going to be investigated. Amazingly, the doctor responded to the matter by writing a scathing letter about me, suggesting that I was actually anti-abortion, and mailing it to hundreds of pro-choice people, including politicians. Since I was a public figure, he could say anything he wanted about me.  Since he was a private figure and the medical board complaint was private, I could not respond to his words without liability.

The letter made its way to the press. My resignation from the clinic, and then the amendment campaign, became front page news. Several judges, politicians, and, yes, abortion providers called me to let me know that they believed I did the right thing.

Who spoke out against me? The local chapters of Planned Parenthood and National Organization for Women! The NOW president even issued a press statement that the doctor was the best there was and that I was a “former disgruntled employee…”   Those organizations had long believed that someone from “their own” should have had the position leading the pro-choice cause. Ego and politics trumped concern for patient safety or even the plausibility that I had acted appropriately. The medical board was not able to verify or reach individuals who could verify my claims. No matter, I did my part and was at least confident that the doctor would change or at the very least avoid putting patients at risk.

The vitriolic response from the most vocal in the pro-choice movement was personally hurtful but truly a shame for the cause of preserving the right to safe and legal abortion. It was a lesson about the confluence of politics and a cause as well as the power of ignorance in our own thinking at times as our convictions blind us. It was arguably “evidence” of the pro-choice community “protecting” a doctor; after the news hit, I received countless letters and calls from anti-abortion folks. Since I did generally have respectful and collegial relationships with most of them, there was not much exploitation of the situation.  I really appreciated that. In truth, there were very few in the pro-choice community who did not support my actions. Their voices were publicly silent because it was the appropriate response to a privately conducted medical board investigation.

Yes, some abortion providers are bad and some make mistakes.  The resistance to acknowledge it does no favors for the pro-choice cause. The failure to do so can imply that this area of medical practice will accept any standard provided abortion remains legal. That simply is not true and yet when the Gosnell case hit the news, pro-choice leaders were reluctant to respond. It was acceptable to take a wait and see attitude about the facts. It was not acceptable to avoid responding. It was bad public relations to miss the opportunity to proactively address exactly what the standards are concerning late term abortions, clinic personnel, and so on. Those issues eventually got addressed but as reactions and not as educational responses to a situation no pro-choice person would want to see for patients.

Gosnell’s pathetic legacy will continue to fuel mostly unproductive discourse. The anti-abortion forces will be sure to invoke his name as synonymous with all abortion providers. They will continue to do all they can to malign all abortion providers through lies or implication. Just as the anti-choice protesters have routinely displayed photos of full-term fetuses to imply that all abortions are late term, they will now display photos of Gosnell.  He does not represent any competent doctor. He certainly is not representative of the late Drs. George Tiller, Slepian, Gunn, and Britton – all of them responsible, dedicated doctors murdered by extremists who opposed them for providing abortions in their medical practices. Gosnell was and is a dishonorable and incompetent man at best. Let’s work harder to ensure that the good guys are supported and the bad guys are thwarted.

John Stewart

John Stewart

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

I’m sorry folks, but I cannot resist writing again about my legislature here in Virginia.  After all, our elected officials, including Governor Bob McDonnell, have been the butt of jokes on Saturday Night Live and John Stewart.  Why shouldn’t I jump into the mosh pit?

By now, everyone knows how the legislature passed a bill requiring women to have an ultrasound before they could get their abortion.  The unstated purpose of the legislation, of course, was to put yet one more (expensive) obstacle in the way of women seeking to obtain a legal medical service.  Oh, sure, the pro-lifers argued that women need to have even more information about the abortion procedure because, well they don’t say it out loud but, women are DUMB.  But thankfully we have these strong, sensitive, intelligent mostly male legislators to get women through this procedure!

Anti Abortion Governor

Anti Abortion Governor

Ultimately, however, the boys found out that many women would have to get a vaginal ultrasound, which means sticking a probe up “there.”  Suddenly, charges of “State Sponsored Rape” hit the airwaves, jokes abounded and Virginia became a national laughing stock.  How did all of this happen?

Bills in the Virginia legislature move very, very fast.  A hearing on a bill can last only an hour and they are usually perfunctory exercises.  That’s particularly true with the abortion issue, where elected officials are either for or against.  It is a rare legislator who actually thinks about this issue and 99 percent of them vote on abortion like lemmings to the sea.  They just have their aide check to see the position of the pro-life or pro-choice groups and they vote with their buddies, the goal being getting a 100 percent rating on their annual “scorecards.”

Vaginal Probe Sonogram

Vaginal Probe Sonogram

So, in this case when the vote came up, both sides voted accordingly.  Then, the poop hit the fan.  It seems that some lawyer from out of state actually thought about the effect of the bill and reasoned that the “jelly belly” ultrasound for a woman who was in the early stages of pregnancy wouldn’t work because you can’t see the fetus that well which meant that they’d have to perform a – dare I say it – vaginal ultrasound!  Even the folks at Virginia NARAL were surprised.

Soon after things hit the fan, Governor McDonnell started to back track.  And the reason was simple – he has national political aspirations and could not afford to because a late night television joke.  In essence, he had to admit that he and his fellow pro-lifers hadn’t thought the bill through and so they will now pass something less drastic.

This whole process (or lack thereof) is yet another example of why politicians should not be involved in this issue.  They’re out there trying to score political points, not understanding that they are actually affecting the lives of women.  But there’s another disturbing issue – and that is that this is yet another example of how the pro-choice groups still don’t seem to be communicating well with the actual abortion clinics.  The day the bill was introduced, didn’t anyone think about picking up the phone to ask a local clinic how it would impact on them?   It doesn’t sound like that happened because, if they had talked to the clinic, the doctor or nurse could have easily told them how ultrasounds work.

It’s sad to think that we have John Stewart and the folks at SNL to thank for defeating this legislation.

Abortion Thanks

Thanks for Abortion Rights

Well, it’s that time of the year again.  Time to sit back and reflect on what we have to be thankful for.  So, I’m going to get a little personal and corny here as I share a few thank yous to a few folks.

Thanks to the Lorraine Maguires and the Jane Bovards of the world.   Both of these amazing women represent many other women who for years ran abortion clinics.  Lorraine was in Charleston and Jane was in Fargo, North Dakota.  Unless you have been involved in the provision of abortion services, you cannot possibly comprehend the torture that these women went through for years at the hands of the anti-abortion movement.  Like many of their peers, they and their family were terrorized, stalked, harassed, and threatened with bodily harm on a regular basis.  At the same time, they were helping 30 or so women a week who had just made one of the most difficult decisions of their lives.  Today, both of these women are no longer at their clinics, having passed the baton on to the next generation.  But their endurance and, yes, courage is to be commended.  I thank you both and those who you represent.

Violence by Pro Lifers against Abortion Providers

Violence by Pro Lifers against Abortion Providers

Thanks to David Gunn, Jr.  On March 10, 1993 David’s father, Doctor David Gunn, was murdered by an anti-abortion terrorist.  The murder was the first that targeted an abortion provider and it made national news.  Over the next few months, this shy young man became a symbol for the abortion provider movement.  He regularly appeared on television shows, never wavering in his commitment to convince the Clinton administration that the murder of his father was an act of domestic terrorism.  He became our national spokesman and ultimately had a private audience with President Clinton on the day that Clinton signed into law the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.  A year later, David gave the keynote speech at a gathering of abortion clinic workers at the site of his father’s assassination.  I have never been to a more emotional and scary (Paul Hill was there) event in my life.  The last I heard several years ago was that David was selling insurance.  Thanks, David, for stepping up at a very difficult time.

Abortion Doctors

Abortion Doctors

Thanks to the owners/managers of www.Abortion.com, for providing women a wonderful directory of reputable abortion facilities.  As the recent case in Philadelphia shows, there are bad apples in this field as there are in every other field.  And, unfortunately, some women are desperate and do not have the resources so they wind up going to the cheapest doctor in town, which might not necessarily be the best thing.  The facilities that are listed on www.Abortion.com have been vetted thoroughly, so women should feel comfortable making appointment at those clinics.  This domain name could have been used for many other purposes, perhaps for political action.  Heck, the anti-abortion movement could have gotten it!  Thanks to those involved who secured the name and converted it into a useful tool for women seeking abortions.

Dr. George Tiller - assassinated by a Pro Life Terrorist

Dr. George Tiller - assassinated by a Pro Life Terrorist

Thanks to the doctors:  George Tiller, Lee Carhart, Sue Wicklund, Bill Knorr, Randy Whitney, Richard Manning, Gary Boyle, Buck Williams, Bart Slepian.  Thanks to Medical Students for Choice.

Thanks to the activists:  Frances Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice, Eleanor Smeal, Jane’s List, Senators Lowell Weicker, Bob Packwood and Barbara Boxer.

Finally, thanks to the abortion clinics that gave me the privilege of working for them for so many years.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone – I mean everyone – who reads my blog!