Tuesday, December 16, 2014

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Top Ten Highs (and Lows) In Reproductive Health and Access in 2014

It's been a roller coaster year those who support reproductive rights, but thankfully it's almost done.

So what were the high and low points of 2014? These are our picks...

1) The Supreme Court disappointed us, but we did get “Notorious RBG”

Between letting privately held companies deny us birth control coverage and telling anti-abortion protesters they can yell at us all the way to the clinic door, SCOTUS was nothing but disappointments this year. But while the old men in robes consistently let us down, we will always have Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg to make us feel better.

2) Texas abortion clinics were left in limbo.

Texas began enforcing HB 2, and that meant closing a whole bunch of clinics. Then the court made them reopen some. Then another court closed them. Then another reopened them.

3) Unintended teen pregnancy reached a new low.

Teen pregnancy rate goes down, and the abortion and birth rate, too. That’s a 51 percent decline since 1990!

4) The Hyde amendment was reauthorized. Again.

The Hyde Amendment was approved again, forbidding Medicaid from covering abortions. But the All Above All bus hit the road to change that for good.

5) We threw a mom in jail for helping her daughter end an unwanted pregnancy.

A Pennsylvania woman was charged for obtaining abortion inducing medication for her teen daughter because the nearest abortion clinic was too far away and their insurance wouldn’t cover a termination.

6) "Personhood" bills continued their losing streak.

North Dakota and Colorado voters both reject “Personhood” bills that would give legal rights to fertilized eggs, and would potentially outlaw abortion, some forms of birth control and infertility treatments.

7) But Tennessee lost its strong constitutional protection of a woman's right to choose.

Voters approved an amendment that weakened the right to an abortion in the state constitution. Now they are already discussing mandatory ultrasounds, extending waiting periods and more.

8) Courts blocked admitting privileges requirements in many states, but upheld medication abortion restrictions in some.

Requirements that a doctor performing abortions have admitting privileges to local hospitals were blocked in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Mississippi and Alabama, all states where the law would have closed most or all of their clinics. Unfortunately, judges didn't block restrictions on how RU-486 must be administered in North Dakota, making it nearly impossible to have a medication abortion in that state, though they did in Oklahoma. Confused yet?.

9) The 2014 election may have opened the door for federal abortion restrictions.

The midterm election had one of the lowest voter turnouts in recent history, and white women voters were more supportive of GOP candidates than in past elections. As a result, Congress is now in Republican hands, putting women one veto away from a number of potential federal anti-abortion measures like a 20-week abortion ban, defunding Planned Parenthood or codifying the Hyde amendment for good.

10) We broke our silence on abortion.

This year gave us Obvious Child, the 1 in 3 Speakout, Sea Change, Emily Lett's abortion video, and a number of politicians, advocates and celebrities all talking about their own experiences with abortion. In fact, 2014 was the year of ending shame and silence around abortion, and that's the biggest victory of all.

Now, on to 2015....

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New at Cosmo - "In an Alarming Move, Activists Are Trying to Shut Down a Clinic Over Birth Control"

"It started with a Facebook page and an online petition. Next came the meetings, prayers, phone calls to the Chamber of Commerce, and a protest at the clinic's grand opening. Now neighbors are coming home to door hangers warning them about a new provider 'preying upon your community,' and abortion opponents have maintained a constant presence at the clinic's door.

All of this to stop a clinic that doesn't even offer abortions."

 Read the rest here, in my first article for Cosmopolitan Magazine...

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Clinic Stories: Be a Reporting Partner!

Fund Clinic Stories and Be a Reporting Partner!

What is the link between parental consent laws and the Army of God? Why do some anti-abortion activists believe that abortions are being performed on people who aren’t pregnant? Which state has the most pro-life advocacy groups and what does the Personhood movement have in common with the failed Albuquerque fetal pain ban?

These are the questions Clinic Stories hopes to answer.  Clinic Stories is a12 part series that will look at 12 different clinics in the country, telling the history of legal abortion through the face of each building and the people inside and outside it.

Each Clinic Story will be an intensely researched, long form article anywhere between 5000 and 10,000 words, detailing the history of the clinic and its role in the movement, tracking laws that it has challenged, protesters it has faced, anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights groups that have worked for it or against it, and where it fits into the greater history of the last four decades of the abortion rights movement. It will include interviews with current and former workers, escorts and even those who have worked to shut those clinics down.

The story itself will then be available either by email subscription to those who have donated to make Clinic Stories happen, or via download for 99 cents per story off of the Clinic Stories website.

After a year as a freelancer, writing about clinic access issues, abortion access issues and anti-abortion action groups, I have learned that good, quality reporting requires funding, research and time.  With Clinic Stories, I hope to be able to bring more of that to the public and without the barrier in length, timeliness or other issues that can come from publishing through an online or traditional publication.

So, why would it require $60,000 to fund this project fully?

1)   On the ground research, a necessity for in person interviewing and first person accounts of current clinic situations, has costs. After working on my article on Louisville, Kentucky, I’m estimating travel expenses (airfare, hotel, car rental/transportation, food) at $1500 per clinic.  With a total of 12 clinics, that comes to  $18,000 for the full series.
2)   Per word writing cost. Because these articles will go directly to the public, versus be published through an outlet, there will not be any payment when they are complete. By paying myself a per word rate, such as magazines do, I am recouping those costs. Most major print publications pay 25/50 cents a word, so a 5,000 – 10,000 article would run about $2500.
3)   Maintenance, editing, etc. Clinic Stories will need a website. Also, each piece will need an editor, since I have learned in the last year the value of a fantastic editor. It needs to have its URLs paid for, basic start up costs (as well as a percentage to Rally for fundraising).  I have some other fancy ideas in mind as well. These will all be rolled into the extra $1000 a month projected for this project because it is better to ask for and plan to need too much than too little.

What do you get as a partner?

I’m not joking when I say you are a partner in this. Any person who donates any amount, regardless of how little, is a member of the team. Think of it as a reproductive rights research co-op.  You will get to vote on which story is pursued and what clinic will be next in line. You will get to weigh in on whether a side project is worth putting some funding into as a clinic story is put on hold for a month (For instance, would you like an inside look at March for Life next year? I can do that.  A check in on the biggest ongoing hospital protests? I can do that, too.). Essentially I want to by your reporter, writing what you are interested in, and funding this project will let that happen. Plus, you will still get each Clinic Story delivered directly to you (Side projects would be emailed to supporters as well, but would also be posted to the Clinic Stories website under “Other Stories.” This is why there are additional costs written into the budget.).


If being a member of the team isn’t enough, or you want to do more, we can do that, too. 

For each donation of  $25 you will be listed on the site as a sustaining member.

For a $50 donation, you will be listed and will receive your choice of bauble from Mia’s Muses Jewelry (Limited, first 20 donations)

For $100, you will be listed and receive a signed copy of  my book, Crow After Roe, on how abortion and birth control are being made inaccessible one state at a time.

For $1000, you be listed and will receive 10 copies of the book, signed, as well as a virtual (or if you are in a future Clinic Stories city, in person) book club discussion at the date of your choosing.

For $3000 and above, you will be listed and also receive one training or speaking event for your organization, either as a seminar, panel, fundraiser or event of your choosing.

How This Works

I don’t expect to raise all the money at once (although I would love to and that would be amazing). Since this is meant to fund the research and pay the travel expenses, the stories will start as soon as each can get funded.  That’s why donating and being a member is so important, since you get to decide the order in which they are published. Once we have $5,000 raised, we can get moving. When we run out of money, we wait until we can raise some more. My hope is by doing this that I can have one clinic story out each month.

Research, write, report. That’s what Clinic Stories is here for, and that’s what I hope I can do. All I need is your help.

Come join the co-op. Fund Clinic Stories!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Why Does Indiana Want to Make Doctors into Targets?

There's great news coming out of Louisiana that the emergency rules that could have caused a 30 day wait for an abortion, and later, still potentially shut down all of the clinics in the state, have been rescinded -- for now at least.

Indiana, too, has seen a massive overreach TRAP bill in their legislature this session, and like Louisiana some uproar has pulled some teeth from the bill, making it unlikely to immediately close every clinic in the state. But despite the changes, the bill still puts them all in danger by requiring every doctor who agrees to provide follow-up care on the rare case that there is a post-abortion complication have their name and contact information listed publicly.

Does this benefit the patients who might need them? Not really. Much as you don't suss out the info for any potential emergency room doctor you might need someday, if you need treatment you want immediate help, not a physician's credentials beforehand.

What it does do, however, is paint giant targets on these physicians' backs. That's exactly the point of the bill.

For the most part, we like to believe that we've left the days of abortion providers in physical danger behind us. Having ridden in a car with one on the way to the clinic one day, watching her casually brush aside her bullet proof vest to give me room on the seat next to her, I can say that for a number of them those days aren't as far distant as we like to believe.

However, whatever your belief about the physical danger providers and those associate with them may be in, there are many other ways to intimidate, harass and harm a physician. And there are extremist, anti-choice groups willing to engage in any of these tactics they think will lead to less abortions.

In Huntsville, Alabama, an anti-choice group announced plans to protest a hospital for continuing to employ a doctor who provides follow up care to doctors performing abortions in local clinics.

In a Chicago suburb, Dr. Cheryl Chastine was protested repeatedly at her private practice, which didn't provide terminations, as Pro-Life Action League sought to force her to stop providing abortions in Wichita.

A landlord in Maryland saw his 6th grade child protested at her school, as anti-choice activists tried to pressure him out of renting to Dr. Leroy Carhart.

The owner of Dr. Mila Means office was threatened with protests if he allowed the Wichita physician to perform first trimester abortions in her private practice. She later received a letter to her home address saying that anti-choice terrorists knew her car and she should check it for explosives.

Cleveland Right to Life has had a series of outrageous claims against one local doctor, urging their allies to contact her university to have the institution "end its collaboration" with her and the "abortion industry."

Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust take their abortion protests to the homes of doctors they consider "abortionists." Not offices. Homes.

One Mississippi physician lost his Medical Board appointment because he provided admitting privileges -- not abortions, just privileges -- at the only abortion clinic in the state.

Think this wouldn't happen in Indiana if doctors' contact information was made public? Missionaries to the Preborn already has activities in the state, and the team at Created Equal has Indiana ties. Protesting, harassing and intimidation is the lifeblood of extremist anti-abortion groups, and a list of doctors keeping abortion clinics legally functioning is a rich pool of potential subjects for future actions.

Harassing doctors who provide abortions is nothing new or revolutionary. But anti-choice groups know that unlike abortion providers, who have an unshakable commitment to ensuring access to safe, legal abortion, going for those who are on the peripheral of provision are far more vulnerable to pressure.

Don't let Indiana pass what is in essence a contact sheet for anti-choice extremists to apply financial and physical pressure, especially when all they are doing is providing follow up care under limited and rare conditions

Indiana, let them be doctors, not targets.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

This Just In: Florida is banning abortion on June 1, 2018 and other news

Florida Rep. Larry Ahern is even more impressive than the Mayans. They only thought they knew what day the world would end on. Rep. Ahern, meanwhile, knows exactly when abortion will be illegal in the state of Florida. June 1, 2018.

"We want Florida to become the state that stops the killing of the preborn," Rep. Ahern said at the state Right to Life convention. "I'd like to set a date certain to make that happen."

It's nice of Rep. Ahern to be so open about the fact that they aren't interested in women's safety, as anti-choice activists so often claim lately. One other thing we know is true and he'll admit candidly behind closed doors -- they want to put Planned Parenthood out of business all together as well.

"We want to shut down Planned Parenthood,...As the pro-life movement advances, remember, the culture of death becomes a lot like a wounded animal and will fight fanatically to protect that false right to kill the unborn. ... They will get rabid as it gets worse for them."

He didn't set a date for that part, yet.

Oklahoma's war on pregnant teens seeking abortions starts this week. This is why that matters.

Former Kansas AG Phill Kline, who made it his mission to try to put Dr. George Tiller in jail before an anti-choice terrorist shot and killer Dr. Tiller in church, has had his Kansas law license suspended. Anti-choice groups have responded by calling it a "political vendetta" and "political lynching." The irony would almost be amusing if Kline wasn't in a completely new career in Virginia working for Liberty University, with no intention of practicing law in Kansas again, and Dr. Tiller was dead.

A faculty member at a Catholic University is being forced to resign for saying abortion is a decision that should be between a woman and her doctor.

This man has been charged with trying to burn down a Missouri Planned Parenthood. Twice. The clinic did not offer abortions. This man says that helping to lead the Black Hawk Special Ops force has prepared him for the "current state of warfare" of saving babies. This one says that because he lets his parents buy him food and it's not legal to kill him, abortion is wrong.

Both abortion rights supporters and opponents are continuing to protest in front of Crestwood Hospital in Alabama. Anti-choice activists want the hospital to fire the doctors who have admitting privileges that allow a local clinic to stay open. Pro-choice advocates want to show the hospital support for keeping the doctors on staff. The question will be whether the presence of both sides makes the hospital cut ties with the doctors just to get people to stop protesting in front of it. Which, of course, is exactly what the abortion opponents are counting on.

Finally, women could be the deciding factor in the Virginia governor's race. So, if you are a Virginia woman reading this, please, please PLEASE vote.

Friday, October 18, 2013

This Just In: Fetus in a Handbag, Antis in the Driveway

A teen is being investigated after having a miscarriage, because the fetus was discovered in her bag when she was questioned for shoplifting. If there was any doubt that they are trying to decide if she should be charged criminally for the miscarriage, the fact that they are allegedly having a medical examiner check to see if the fetus took a breath or not should clear that up.

As this article explains, in countries where abortion is illegal all miscarriages are investigated just because of a "presumption of guilt." The issues that will make you look the most guilty are the same issues that would make you more likely to miscarry in the first place: young, irregular periods, poor, little access to health care, the same things that would make you unlikely to get prenatal care and lesson your chances of a successful pregnancy.

It's a vicious cycle and one American abortion opponents seem all too willing to push pregnant people into under the guise of "saving babies.

Alabama wants to make it even less likely that abortions would be performed outside of clinics by cutting the number of abortions a doctor can perform in his or her private practice from 30 a month to just 10.  Alabama, you will remember, passed a bill that would have closed all the clinics in the state if the courts hadn't enjoined it. So, twofer!

Sen. Rand Paul makes no qualms that his entire reason for trying to make abortion illegal again is biblically based, telling an anti-abortion fundraiser: "Our message doesn't have to be one of fire and brimstone — OK, maybe a little fire and brimstone."

Finally, things you would think anti-abortion activists would know by now:  women covered in sheets aren't dying, they are being protected from you taking pictures of them. Which you commend. Also, no one could threaten to run you over if you weren't standing in driveways, which are meant for cars. But you know that, because you are trying to impede traffic.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

This Just In: Real Women Don't Like Lust and other Anti-Choice Idioms

“A child’s right to life trumps a mother’s right to choose to end her pregnancy." There is the entire anti-choice movement in one succinct sentence.  And it was uttered by the radical, bloody fetus waving Missionaries to the Pre-Born.

With that belief energizing the anti-abortion, anti-birth control movement, even leaf-letting is getting aggressive when anti-abortion activists do it. Meanwhile AI.com wants to know if you think clinic protesting works. Go vote.

Dr. Carhart has been cleared of any medical negligence in the case of a woman who died early this year after having a later abortion. The doctor took the opportunity to rightfully shame anti-choice activists who released her name and medical info without her family's consent in an attempt to score political points. 

Civil rights icon Dolores Huerta railed against the proposed 20 week abortion ban in Albuquerque, calling it “an assault on the rights of women.”

Bakersfield councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan is still trying to push for some form of anti-choice resolution in the city, since her Human Life Amendment got trashed. Tonight will be a final vote to see if she gets what she wants.

The president of Susan B. Anthony List wants you to know that most later abortions are elective. Then again, when you believe a parent would benefit best by holding their born baby in their arms and watching him or her die, I guess you think every abortion is an "elective" one.

Finally, this is the saddest commentary you will ever read. Ever.