Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Banality of Abortion

HT: Jill Stanek

"My Abortion," the New York Times hopes, will "destigmatize" abortion and generate -- um -- I hope they're not shooting for enthusiasm, because these aren't really your upbeat, "Abortion changed my life for the better" tales the collectors of said tales were probably hoping for.

Let's have some examples. (Emphasis mine)
Nicole, 19
Kentucky, 2013
It was this past spring. The due date’s coming up—I’m dreading it. I wanted to keep it. My boyfriend always had football practice, so he couldn’t go to the doctor appointments with me. If he’d gone, he would’ve felt differently. But he said, “No way.” I wanted to show him that I loved him enough to do it for him. When I was thirteen weeks, we made an appointment at the closest clinic in Kentucky, four hours away, but the night before, we decided not to go. At two in the morning, he called and said, “Get dressed.” I said, “I don’t want to go.” We both cried the whole way there. I don’t think abortion is killing, but I’d always been against it. When I told him the credit-card scanner at the clinic wasn’t working, he asked if I was making it up. We went to get $1,000 from a gas-station ATM. I was hysterical, and he said, “Okay, you don’t have to go back.” I was so happy. Then he said, “We drove all this way. Stop crying, act like a woman.” I was angry, but I was so sleepy and tired of fighting. When I had the ultrasound, I asked for the picture and a nurse said, “Seriously?” A month later, he said he regretted it too. When I cry about it, I cry alone. He thinks it would make me sad to talk about, but I don’t want our baby to think we forgot. I’ve never heard of anybody else having an abortion here.
So, that's Example #1: Browbeaten into unwanted abortion by boyfriend, feeling pretty miserable. She needed a friend, not an abortion.
Mira, 29
South Dakota, 2004
The day I got accepted to college, I had a positive pregnancy test. I went to a community health center and said I wanted to talk to a nurse about my options. They told me to leave. The closest three clinics were all 300 miles away. I borrowed my mother’s car. My boyfriend, now my husband, came with me. I honestly don’t remember how we came up with the $700. We left at 5 p.m., after work, and drove to Colorado. It was the dead of winter, cold. Weather can be touchy through the Rockies. We stayed in a hotel in Cheyenne, another $60, but we couldn’t sleep. I felt very on edge. I wished someone I knew besides my boyfriend was nearby. When we got to the clinic, an escort met us at the car and asked if we wanted a bulletproof vest. Inside the clinic, the doctor took my hand and apologized that I had to travel so far. Ten minutes later, it was done.
WTF? She remembers all those details, but there's no real content. No feelings (other than "on edge"), no thought process, no conclusion of anything but her baby's life.

Heather, 32
Tennessee, 2011 and 2013
I already had two daughters. Neither was planned, and it never, ever, occurred to me to terminate those pregnancies. I was brought up with a very religious background. Now I’ve had two abortions, and if my family knew, my relationship with my family would be gone. My first was two years ago. My husband and I were having financial problems and were considering separating. I just had to shut my conscience down. The doctor was grotesque. He whistled show tunes. I could hear the vacuum sucking out the fetus alongside his whistling. When I hear show tunes now, I shudder. Later, he lost his license. A few months ago, I got pregnant again. My in-laws have been helping us out financially, so we have no choice but to involve them in our decisions. They gave us $500 cash to bring to the clinic. I felt very forced. I felt like I was required to have an abortion to provide for my current family. Money help is a manipulation. I’m crazy in love with my daughters—imagine if I did that to them? It’s almost too much to open the door of guilt and shame because it’ll all overcome me. In the waiting room, there was a dead silence that’s hard to describe. Everyone was holding in her emotions to a heartbreaking degree. Truly pro-life people should go light on the judgment, because shame motivates abortions.
Feeling trapped and pressured and forced to violate her own conscience. The first clinic had a creepy quack doctor who ended up losing his license. The second one was like a tomb. Where's the free choice, the caring and compassionate professionals, the liberation?
Mayah, 23
Oregon, 2009
I was secretly excited for the ultrasound. But they couldn’t see it. They said I could let it grow and go back for the procedure, but I couldn’t stand the idea of letting it grow. I went into this refrigerator of a room, with a tiny poster of a tropical island pasted on the ceiling, and this middle-aged white lady nurse told me to breathe and hush. I wanted to sock her in the face. A couple days later, I found out I was still pregnant. The amoeba—my baby—was somehow surviving. The next time, I kind of hoped it wouldn’t work. I kept saying negative things to myself, like, “Stop being such a baby.” Afterwards, I felt this mix of regret, relief, gratitude, and I had a new sense of control and determination about my future, like, I’m going to do this and this and this. I tracked the whole pregnancy online, living in fantasies about how big my belly would be. The only people who would listen to me say I had any emotions were people who wanted me to fall down on my knees and ask for forgiveness. I saw a counselor at a crisis pregnancy center, but she gave me an icky feeling. There’s no room to talk about being unsure.

So many mixed emotions, so much uncertainty. And though she got rid of her baby, she couldn't let go. This is sad.
Janet, 48
California, 1983
When I was 18 I was drugged and date raped. I just remember waking up with the guy on top of me with this weird grin. When I found out I was pregnant I just thought: That asshole. I didn’t think about the baby. I had to save up money, so I had to wait for the very last possible week. My best friend drove me. I was very scared. When I was actually at the facility I thought, Oh my God, there’s a baby inside me. The staff was very matter-of-fact, no kindness. A nurse said, “It looks like it was a girl.”
Recognized that it was a baby, went through the abortion. And the only feeling expressed is disgust for the rapist. Like Mira's, her story is emotionally void.
Abby, 28
New York and Oklahoma, 2010 and 2011
The first time I was 25, in New York. From the time I was a teenager, the idea of having an abortion if pregnant was a no-brainer. I had this idea you can’t let life get in the way of your plans. My friend drove me. The procedure was in a tiny, bright white room—it was like a nightmare, but it was over really, really quickly. They moved me into this communal healing room. Women were reclining on big, pillowy chairs. I remember feeling comforted, warm—we’d all been through the same experience. Two years ago, I was in Oklahoma. I wasn’t given a choice in method—I got the pill. My boyfriend worked in Idaho—I was alone. They gave me all this paperwork that said, “This is serious. You could die,” and an antibiotic, painkiller, and a latex glove and a pill to shove up my vagina. At home, the antibiotic made me vomit and shit everywhere. I thought, Fuck the latex glove! Fuck them for thinking I can’t touch myself! After the contractions started, my hands turned into claws. I was dehydrated. I had this underlying feeling that I was being made to suffer, to repent for my situation. I called my boss. He took me to the ER. It cost $2,000. When I stood up, the bed was covered in blood. I felt ashamed, but the way he reacted with kindness, I saw that I could choose not to feel ashamed. When I went home, I got up to pee, and this gray golf-ball thing came out. I thought, So I just flush the toilet?

The first abortion was "like a nightmare" but at least "it was over really, really quickly." The second abortion, strangely enough, she doesn't describe as a nightmare. But then, she doesn't have to. It's hellish enough without being elaborated on. And again, like Mira's and Janet's stories, it just stops. In fact, it stops with a question that she never answers.
Maria, 38
Pennsylvania, 2003
We had a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old and hadn’t envisioned having more. At first I thought, Well, I love my husband, and we have plenty of money. I had this naïve notion that access to abortion was easy for people like us. I called my doctor, who referred me to someone else because that practice didn’t perform abortions. I’d never thought of myself as someone who goes to a clinic. I called five doctors, each time having to explain how I’d gotten the number, as if I needed some secret code. Pittsburgh has world-class medical centers, but it took a couple of days to get an appointment. Pennsylvania is one of 26 states that require a waiting period between counseling and the procedure. We went back the next day. The staff was great. It felt a lot like a regular checkup but with painful cramping. My insurance covered the whole thing. In the waiting room, my husband said, “Where do you want to go on vacation?” We booked a trip to Spain.
This is, I think, the creepiest story. A stable marriage, enough money, too hoity-toity to go to a clinic like the unwashed masses, and then off to Spain. WTF?
Anya, 36
New York and California, 2003 and 2006
I actively support Planned Parenthood for doing important work, but I was stuck in a waiting room for hours, with young girls, some flippant, some sad, and the doctor was dead-faced and didn’t make eye contact. I woke up in a gurney in the hallway, surrounded by chaos. No one checked on me. About three years later, in L.A., I found out I was pregnant again. There was this lightbulb moment when I realized I had health insurance. I made an appointment at a hospital, and the whole thing cost about $30. On the way, my boyfriend started freaking out, saying, “What if you’re killing my son?” I had him pull over so I could drive. I respect that it was an emotional experience for him. I never think about the abortions. When I tell people, they respond with a panic face, and when I say I’m truly okay with it, they make a second panic face. I end up comforting them. 

Another ringing endorsement for Planned Parenthood. And like so many of the others, she just comes across as emotionally flat.
Lynn, 28
Kentucky, 2012
I called the university health services from the Walmart parking lot and said I wanted the abortion pill, and the woman said, “The abortion pill is illegal in the United States.” I was livid. I said, “That is not correct.” How many young women has she told that to? I went directly to the doctor. The lady administering the pee test said, “Congratulations, you’re pregnant!” and I thought, Congratulations, you’re an idiot! I was in my gym clothes, obviously distraught. The doctor said the abortion pill wasn’t an option in our state. I called clinics all over until I found one a four-hour drive away in Tennessee. I couldn’t have told my family. The two girls I told have kids and husbands; they couldn’t just drop everything and come with me. I drove four hours by myself, thinking about what an idiot I was for stopping birth control. I took the first pill in Tennessee. I took the second one the next day, on the Fourth of July, my favorite holiday. I was expecting something terrible. I watched movies alone. I felt fine and could’ve even gone out, but I’d made up stories about where I was.
Not using birth control. And another emotionless story that just abruptly ends.

These stories are meant to normalize abortion and, I guess, make it seem more okay. Like just another life experience, on a par with having to get major suspension work done on your car. Expensive and inconvenient and well, that's life.

I'm not sure these dismal tales will have their intended effect. In fact, I think the overall effect will be to just leave people oddly disquieted but otherwise squarely where they started.

The whole thing -- all these matter-of-fact tales of dead babies -- is just depressing. Is this really the world people want? Women dully trudging in and out of abortion clinics, not even really sure why they're doing it?

Paint it all gray. Just one uniform shade of gray.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What's the Alternative? Choose "Choice"?

They're all a-flutter at the HuffPo over those mean old "antichoice" (their word) organizations getting money from those mean old "Choose Life" license plates.

Of course, the rational, adult response would be to create a plate putting out one's own message. But with what can one counter "Choose life"? Choose Choice?

I decided to revisit the old Choose Choice plates theme by critiquing what's there. Please let me know if there is any update in the status of these plates. And please note that I'm not going to address any of the assumptions behind the plates, just the plates themselves.

To be fair, all of these designs start at a disadvantage. Abortion is not exactly an upbeat thing, like the birth of a new baby, so it's hard to come up with a cheery graphic.

Massachusetts. They seem to be struggling pretty hard with the inherent downer that most people find abortion to be. They just drag out the standard non-approved fetus-dislodger, the coathanger. This is the only plate that in any way acknowledges that the topic in question is abortion rather than the market-tested "choice" that everybody else sticks with. As a result, the plate is simultaneously militant and depressing.
Florida. Adorable! Look how the little aborted baby stars fly up to Heaven while the one little lucky "chosen" star ... floats .....  Um.... Mom? You're not even holding that baby. That's a bit disturbing. I'll push that thought away by assuming that Junior is in a snugli. After all, there's no point in getting your hands all tied up with even a chosen child.

Alaska. Like Florida, they go for the floating-baby theme, though it's hard to say if these parents are throwing the baby or trying to catch him as he flies away. Are they letting him go or trying to hold on? Either way, it strikes me as a bit unsettling in the abortion context. Just as an aside, the people also look a bit like sleds, particularly against the snowy background. This is the only plate I've seen that graphically acknowledges the existence of the father.

Virginia. This seems to still be in the proposal stage and not gracing the Prius yet. Featuring minimalist art like the Florida and Alaska plates, this one is utterly childless. It's hard to tell if the checkmark-woman is fleeing or celebrating. Maybe she's not sure herself. Is that elongated arm holding her back or is she unable to let go?

Hawaii. A ballot graphic with the ambiguous word "choice" is dull and boxy. Placing it atop the rainbow background that's on all Hawaii plates leaves the meaning even more ambiguous. Is it a gay rights plate? What's the driver trying to say? Where did the extra money for the plate go? Maybe it's best not to ask too many questions.

Montana. They're not content with mere ambiguity and are going for a total message-flip. They might actually be hoping to sell these plates to people who like the mother-and-child design and who would never dream that they're taking a stand for abortion rights.

Pennsylvania. The straightforward Planned Parenthood logo lets people know up front where their money will be going. Kudos for the honesty in that, PP, especially considering how little honesty your organization is known for overall. Pennsylvania plates typically have much more dynamic designs, so this one took zero effort, as if they just couldn't be bothered.

These are the only plates I've been able to find. I'd love to list more.


This last plate is totally unrelated to the  post but I spotted it and found it amusing, if somehow darkly ironic, considering the search that produced it:

Saturday, November 09, 2013

NARAL's latest Human Shield: Dana Weinstein

What kind of organization takes a devastated, bereaved mother and uses her as a human shield to protect their allies' political and financial interests?

The name of the organization is NARAL Pro-Choice America. The bereaved mother is Dana Weinstein.

Dana's pain is very real, as is the pain of women in similar situations. What compounds the tragedy is that her horrible anguish is being used for the political and financial gain of abortion practitioners and the political organizations they work with and through.

Using this poor woman as a human shield is absolutely despicable. This woman has been lied to at every turn by people she trusted.

Anencephaly does NOT cause the baby pain. Dana did NOT have to be alone, because perinatal hospice is available. Serious fetal problems are a MINORITY of the reasons for late abortions. This woman had already been abused by her health care providers and by Warren Hern who charged her thousands of dollars to kill her baby. She doesn't need to be exploited by people who are afraid of being called out on their lies and instead put them into the innocent mouth of a bereaved mother.

There are three important responses to this appalling exploitation:

1. Hold Dana's health care providers accountable for lying.

Dana was already traumatized beyond what any mother should have to endure in learning that her baby was going to die. It was an unconscionable act of cruelty to then tell her the flat-out lie that anencephaly would cause her baby pain. Though there is disagreement as to what, if anything, babies with anencephaly feel, the range of possibility runs from "the normal sensations any baby would feel" to "no sensations at all."

What possible justification could anybody have for lying to Dana, when she was already staggering beneath the horrible blow of devastating news? What justification could there be for adding to her anguish? Wasn't she already suffering enough? In fact, she was told that her only choice was abortion.

We can't know why the health care professionals in Dana's life chose to heap false horror on top of real tragedy. We do know, sadly, that this is not at all uncommon. Doctors -- such as the doctors these women had to deal with -- need to start being held accountable for bullying their patients.

2. Hold Dana's health care providers accountable for failing to provide appropriate care.

It's long been well documented that many women have very poor emotional and psychological results from abortions. Certain risk factors make it more likely that the woman will suffer serious emotional and psychological trauma from an abortion. Among those risk factors:

* The woman wants her baby.
* The abortion is taking place late in the pregnancy.
* The abortion is being done for some sort of medical indication.
* The woman finds the abortion decision to be a difficult one.

Dana, with all of these risk factors, was a poor candidate for an abortion. However, given the flat out lies she was told about her baby's condition, I sincerely doubt that she was informed of this. I also sincerely doubt that she was told about the option of  perinatal hospice.

Perinatal hospice helps the parents of a gravely ill unborn child the way a children's hospice helps the families of a gravely ill child of any age. The parents are given emotional support, help with writing a birthing plan, assistance in making plans for making the most of whatever time they might have with the child, and support in making arrangements for a memorial service.

There are also online supports available to parents who are facing a grave prenatal diagnosis. Again, I doubt that mentioning these supports to Dana even crossed anybody's mind.

In fact, Dana said that she felt alone when she got the diagnosis. So clearly she was not told that there are networks of people ready to help her, networks including families who faced exactly the same terrible diagnosis she and her husband were facing for their child.

3. NARAL needs to be held accountable for the full depth and breadth of the falsehoods they managed to cram into such a short ad.

FIRST: It's perfectly understandable that Dana believed that anencephaly would cause her baby to suffer needless pain. She was told this by her trusted health care professionals. But NARAL had a responsibility to vet the facts. Even something as brief and superficial as a Google search would have revealed that babies with anencephaly don't suffer any more pain than any other baby, if indeed they suffer pain at all. Including Dana's mistaken beliefs in the final cut amounts to a deliberate lie, that Dana's abortion was necessary to prevent her baby from suffering needless pain. I don't know why Dana's health care providers lied to her, but I have my suspicions about why NARAL lied to the public.

SECOND: NARAL can't fail to be aware of the facts about late abortions for fetal health reasons. The only reason the general public isn't more aware of the facts -- the terrible risk of psychiatric problems afterward, the high rate of browbeating women into aborting wanted babies -- is because organizations like NARAL deliberately hides these facts and presents to the public a picture that is the diametric opposite of reality. This is disgusting and inexcusable.

THIRD: NARAL asserted that late abortions "often happen in the most tragic circumstances." They knew full well that situations like Dana's are not even remotely representative of abortions past 20 weeks.  Clearly, somebody even told Dana that late abortions are typically cases such as her own, on order to have this bereaved woman unwittingly spouting their own lies, because who could challenge anything poor Dana said?

Even Ron Fitzsimmons, head of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, has called upon the prochoice movement to stop lying about the reasons women undergo late abortions. George Tiller, the nation's  most famous (or infamous) late term abortion practitioner admitted that only 8% of his third-trimester abortions were done for fetal indications. And remember, "fetal anomaly" is a broad category that includes everything from a fetal condition like anenecephaly to conditions like Down Syndrome -- hardly a fate worse than death -- to simple cleft palate. It also includes mere suspicion of a fetal abnormality. So putting Dana in front of a camera and presenting her as if she is a typical late-abortion patient is a bald-faced lie. If late abortion is really something society can get behind, why aren't abortion advocates putting forth more typical cases? (For more on this theme, see Late Abortion Lies: They're Only Done for Health Reasons.)

Every decent human being in the United States needs to call NARAL out on this despicable stunt.