Archive for the ‘abortion’ Category

What have you learned that’s helped you in your own grief process?

How vulnerability is where it’s at. To be courageous enough to be vulnerable with someone else can be so healing. The people who I encounter who just expose themselves to me are inspiring because I have a lot of boundaries about what I’m willing to tell people and in what moments. Ultimately, I’m very forthcoming with my stories in many contexts, but they’re narratives that I’ve already authored and I feel comfortable presenting them. But, when I’m actually in an embodied experience of panic or grief, can I reach out to somebody then?

(My use of bold in the text above). And this on why people can find it difficult to receive compassion..

Why do you think they don’t want compassion?

It’s not that they don’t want the compassion, they just don’t want connection. They just don’t want to be anchored in this moment, perhaps because it’s too much. It gets too real, or it gets too painful. We all have moments in life where we just don’t want to acknowledge where we are right now. To connect with somebody, and to receive what somebody is offering brings you quickly into the present moment, and sometimes people just want to avoid that. And, that’s okay. That’s their way of coping.

From this interesting article on being an abortion doula in The Atlantic.


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I’ve always been ambivalent about having children, and whilst I have been told by far too many people that I have a natural nurturing side, I haven’t necessarily felt a need to channel that nurturing in to children of my own. Yet at this point in time I am feeling an extraordinary amount of pressure to become less ambivalent about child-bearing, whether it’s from society wondering what the hell a 35 year old woman is doing showing no signs of settling down, or family who have taken it upon themselves to make comments on my childlessness.

Honestly, as part of an Indigenous Australian family I thought I may be buffered from this a bit due to the fact that culturally I’m already a mother, and a grandmother, but apparently I am missing out on something huge, or so I’ve been told, and I won’t be complete if I don’t have children. Yep, even with kinship at play, it still seems to be rather unthinkable that an Aboriginal woman hasn’t given having her own children much thought.

From Celeste Liddle’s guest post, “Turning 35 and the quandaries of “reproductive choice”” at Crikey. I really like the perspective she provides in this excerpt on ‘mothering’ in Aboriginal culture. We’re very individualistic in Anglo Saxon culture so ‘mothering’ is defined in a restrictive way reflecting those cultural values. If maternal feminism only gets written about by white feminists then you can see how our insights will be limited.

More of Liddle’s writing can be found at the fantastic Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist. Looooove.

(Thanks so much to Claire B. for the link).

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I really like Walking Dead, in spite of its many problems. But the truth is, thinking about the show is often better than watching the show. And in my opinion the best thoughts on the show are coming from the round table at The Atlantic.

If you’re not up to date with the show then be warned, the following might include a truck load of spoilers for you.

Among the more interesting questions to contemplate about apocalyptic survival is what would parenting look like. Not far into Walking Dead a lead character, Lori, gets pregnant. She explores the option of abortion and receives criticism for that from some of the other characters in the show, including her partner, Rick. I found this unrealistic. If ever there was a time when abortion might be considered the kind alternative surely a zombie apocalypse is it. My suspicion is that a lot of pressure would be put on women in apocalyptic situations to have abortions because being pregnant, giving birth and taking care of babies involves dependency and I imagine groups on the edge of survival might be very merciless about that kind of thing. I have friends who debated me on this, yes we do think about Walking Dead way too much, and who have argued, instead, that groups in apocalyptic situations would see babies as an important sign that life still had meaning.

Lori, who subsequently gave birth to a baby daughter, was an interesting character in terms of how ‘bad mothers’ are framed. She was a deeply irritating character, which didn’t help, but it was noteworthy to see the criticism she received from viewers for imperfect supervision of her school-aged son when the child’s father was readily forgiven for the same parenting failures. In fact, Rick as leader of the group of survivors frequently takes extreme and unnecessary risks with his life and receives very little criticism from viewers, even though his death would leave his child extremely vulnerable in the zombie apocalypse. Lori’s pregnancy was interesting for me and my friends to speculate upon. Knowing how American television usually deals with birth, and also how very intervention-free an apocalyptic birth would have to be we wondered a lot about how the scenario would unfold. Some aspects ended up being very telling. Lori stood up during much of her labour and viewers, having not ever seen normal births depicted on television, predictably criticised her for what they saw to be a dangerous labouring position. Wouldn’t the baby fall out and hit its head? In the end, something went terribly wrong with the labour and a caserean was performed to save the baby’s life, where upon Lori was put out of her misery before she died and transformed into a zombie threatening them all. Lori redeemed herself as a mother through extreme self-sacrifice.

Post-apocalyptic parenting is one of the many storylines whose full potential is missed by Walking Dead, as noted in The Atlantic:

I don’t mean to go on, so I’ll quickly suggest two hoped-for fixes: The first is movement. TWD is much less flaccid when the survivors are on the road, in part because the road holds the promise of a better future — or at least of radical new circumstances. The second has to do with Rick: The writers had two choices, post-Lori. Derangement was the more obvious choice, and it’s the way they went. But I would like to see Rick — who was built up, over two seasons, to be the most capable hero in all of television — actually be allowed to adjust to a new, complicated and dramatically interesting role, as a father in a post-apocalyptic environment. Post-apocalyptic parenting seems like an fascinating subject to me (as well as a great name for a magazine), and I’m waiting for him to meet the challenge…

.. And I love the idea of post-apocalyptic fatherhood as a theme. Since the end of Season 2, Rick seems mainly to have resigned himself to Carl being forced into premature adulthood. There have been alternative treatments of the theme, meanwhile: Hershel, resiliently, with his daughters and now his adopted son-in-law, Glenn; the Governor, pitiably, with his unparentable zombie child..

.. While we’re on the subject of post-apocalyptic parenting: Isn’t the show tackling it already? Rick may be checked out of the whole fatherhood thing, but the rest of the group is doing a pretty good job raising Little Ass-Kicker: Glenn and Maggie go on formula runs, Daryl and Beth take turns feeding her, someone who’s probably not Michonne makes time to change her diapers. As the old saying goes, it takes a village to raise the child of a ghost-chasing lunatic, and I like the way that Judith has become a rallying point for our heroes. It’s basically what they tried to do with Sophia’s disappearance, but with actual dramatic weight..

.. Hope filled me early, as the monochromatic Carl confronts his father: “You should stop,” he says. Rick asks, “Stop what?” Carl responds, “Being the leader.” A wrenching thing to watch, but a portent of something excruciating and complicated to come? No, of course not: This moment is left unexploited by the writers, who allow Carl’s words to cure his father instantly. This is apparently an extremely convincing kid.

It’s not easy to for me to argue against this miracle cure, because last week I suggested that this most recent run of episodes would be more interesting if Rick would actually be allowed to parent in an apocalyptic environment (what, for instance, does a father say to a child after the world has ended? I would like to know), and now we have been promised an episode in which Rick and Carl (and Michonne) are going to be doing some zombie-land bonding. But still, imagine for a minute what a David Chase could do with this father-son relationship, and then despair at the missed possibilities.

Now, if you really want to explore post-apocalyptic parenting then you can do no better than the film, The Road. But ohmygod, prepare yourself for tense and grim.

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I have never had an abortion. Through a combination of dumb luck, (mostly) good efforts and respectful partners, I managed to avoid getting pregnant until the time when I wanted to have babies. But if it hadn’t worked out that way, and I had my share of pregnancy scares over the years, I would have had an abortion. And now that I’ve finished having babies, if I get pregnant again I would almost definitely have an abortion. So, absolutely, abortion is a motherhood issue and I not only fully support reproductive choice but I fully support those women who have chosen abortion.

Having children reinforced my pro-choice beliefs rather than weakening them. But there is something noticeably confronting about being happily pregnant and calling your own little clump of cells a ‘baby’ (and grieving it accordingly when one is lost to miscarriage), after spending years as a pro-choice activist working with the language of the abortion debate. This article, “So what if abortion ends life?” from Mary Elizabeth Williams (whose writing I am really starting to love) in Salon is about moving the abortion rights campaign away from arguing the semantics around early life and highlighting that the real issue always has been and always will be that a woman’s life is worth more.

It seems absurd to suggest that the only thing that makes us fully human is the short ride out of some lady’s vagina. That distinction may apply neatly legally, but philosophically, surely we can do better. Instead, we let right-wingers perpetuate the sentimental fiction that no one with a heart — and certainly no one who’s experienced the wondrous miracle of family life — can possibly resist tiny fingers and tiny toes growing inside a woman’s body. We give a platform to the notion that, as Christina Locke opined in a recent New York Times Op-Ed, “motherhood had slyly changed us. We went from basking in the rights that feminism had afforded us to silently pledging never to exercise them. Nice mommies don’t talk about abortion.”

Don’t they? The majority of women who have abortions – and one in three American women will – are already mothers. And I can say anecdotally that I’m a mom who loved the lives she incubated from the moment she peed on those sticks, and is also now well over 40 and in an experimental drug trial. If by some random fluke I learned today I was pregnant, you bet your ass I’d have an abortion. I’d have the World’s Greatest Abortion.

My belief that life begins at conception is mine to cling to. And if you believe that it begins at birth, or somewhere around the second trimester, or when the kid finally goes to college, that’s a conversation we can have, one that I hope would be respectful and empathetic and fearless. We can’t have it if those of us who believe that human life exists in utero are afraid we’re somehow going to flub it for the cause. In an Op-Ed on “Why I’m Pro-Choice” in the Michigan Daily this week, Emma Maniere stated, quite perfectly, that “Some argue that abortion takes lives, but I know that abortion saves lives, too.” She understands that it saves lives not just in the most medically literal way, but in the roads that women who have choice then get to go down, in the possibilities for them and for their families. And I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.

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In the first study of its kind, to be published on Tuesday, researchers from the National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) identified 413 criminal and civil cases across 44 states involving the arrests, detentions and equivalent deprivations of pregnant women’s liberty between 1973 and 2005. NAWP said that it is aware of a further 250 cases since 2005. Both figures are likely to be underestimates, it said.

The report, which will appear in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, found that women were denied a wide range of basic human rights, including the right to life, liberty, equal protection and due process of law “based solely on their pregnancy status”.

It found a wide range of cases in which pregnant women were arrested and detained not only if they ended a pregnancy or expressed an intention to end a pregnancy, but also after suffering unintentional pregnancy loss.

Reasons number one to 413 why motherhood is a feminist issue, from an article written by Karen McVeigh in The Guardian.

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Recently we were being trolled by an Australian economist, Dr Steven Kates about the Obama win in the United States of America. Among his conclusions, that the Obama vote was made up of the medicants (ie. people who need significant medical treatment and can’t afford it, as in, I guess any of us at some point in our lives), the resentful and the envious (ie. anyone not feeling the ‘trickle down’ buzz these days), the abortion-rights lobby (apparently those unjustifiably concerned about reproductive rights), social science know-nothings ( hah! from one economist to another) and damaged women (ie. my personal favourite).

The interesting thing to note about Kates’ hate is that it includes almost everyone but older white men, like himself. This is funny only because the failure to understand the needs and perspectives of people other than your own little cohort is precisely what’s biting the US conservatives on the arse right now. It’s even starting to bite conservatives in Australia, where the mainstream media and the political opposition have both been taken by surprise by the groundswell response to Gillard’s misogyny speech and other recent events in political and public sexism.

But the peculiar thing about Kates is not his thorough dedication to supply-side economics – a school of thought being increasingly side-lined by the last decade or so of interest rate and inflation rate data, and where the debate about government policy and unrestrained markets has moved to such an extent that even the IMF is publishing working papers on revisiting the Chicago Plan – there’s still plenty of supply-siders around and economics is split on almost every issue; no, the really peculiar thing is that Kates wrote such a nasty piece about voters. Trash the other political side, sure, but trash the people you want voting for you? Not so smart. This kind of nastiness scares voters away.. as well it should.

Miss 31 voted for Obama and is representative of the women who are in massive agreement with the cries of misogyny and the lack of respect for women. There is no point going too far into this, but the most influential social philosopher of the twentieth century was Hugh Hefner and his Playboy Philosophy. You would have to be at least as old as I am to recall what a shock it was to read Hefner’s “philosophy” in the pages of Playboy back when I was about 14 in the 1960s. Here’s the gist: all those uptight girls hanging onto their virginity ought to liberate themselves and get into the sexual scrum with the boys. In an era when a goodnight kiss was a big deal this was magic. And with the likes of Germaine Greer and her buddies saying the same just as the birth control pill was becoming readily available, a new world opened for which neither the young women of the time or the young men were really prepared.

But who has come out of this genuinely hurt by the changed attitude to women. Both men and women are worse for it, but if you ask me, it is women who have been psychologically damaged far more than the men. And I suspect Miss 29 has not avoided the deep and fearsome pains of commitment-free sexual relations either.

These are the attitudes that Obama was tapping into. Watching the Middle East burn and the American economy trashed by debt and deficits are irrelevant to such women whose anger is beyond all understanding, particularly for men of my and Romney’s generation.

There is quite the hint of ‘hysterical’ in this nonsense description of women. It is both insulting and patronising to argue that women, as voters, are people who obsess over contraception, abortion and sexual assault at the expense of caring about, or even understanding, economics. For starters, all those factors actually impact directly on economic outcomes for women. And secondly, a lot of men care about reproductive rights, too. After all, not many men only want to have sex for making babies these days. For that matter, contraception and abortion are not just issues for women having “commitment-free sexual relations”, they’re also issues for married women, possibly more so given people in relationships have more sex than single people. This is something Kates might want to consider when he is trying to understand “deep and fearsome pains”.

The gross over-simplification of women and the issues we care about is something I am seeing a lot in Australian media discussions of women voters at the moment. We’re about to head into an election year for the country and I suspect the stereotyping of women is only going to intensify. Women, being blinded by their silly, little causes. Women, angry and irrational. Women, not understanding economics. While that’s happening it’s worth remembering this. Kates, and others like him, tend to think that people didn’t vote for Romney because they didn’t hear the Republican message. They like to think their message was obscured by reactionary left-wing causes and Obama-inspired, greedy self-interest. (It’s amusing to reflect upon how appalled these people can be by others voting in self-interest when they invest so much in notions of self-interest to deliver positive outcomes for all in an environment of ‘small government’). So let’s be clear here, the problem isn’t that ‘damaged women’ aren’t and weren’t hearing your message, the problem is we heard it and we really, really don’t like it.

Cross-posted at Hoyden About Town.

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See the collection here. (Thanks to Jen for the link).

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My friend, Mary-Rose MacColl (author of the excellent book, Birth Wars) writing about homebirth, and I completely agree with her here and this is something that has long been bothering me, too:

“You are sitting in a court of law, not a court of morals.” Thus spoke prosecutor Michael Byrne in his summing up of the case against a woman who’d taken a drug to terminate a pregnancy. The woman, just twenty years old, had been charged under Queensland law with procuring an abortion. This was 2010 not the dark ages. Protest marches were held all over Australia in support of women’s rights.

I’ve been thinking about maternity care and why there’s not the same outcry in response to what happens to women when they make choices about birth. When homebirth is reported in the media, it’s mostly because a baby has died and someone must be blamed. More often than not, it’s the mother and her midwife who are blamed. I wonder why we are demonising women, again. Are women really killing their babies? Are midwives? Is that what they were doing?  Where is destroying-the-joint when it comes to birth?

I wrote my book The Birth Wars because when I worked for a review of maternity services in 2005, I met so many women who had such awful experiences of maternity care. I wanted midwives and doctors to know the cost of their wars on women and families…

.. How come the stories about homebirth in Australia never conclude that we should make it safe for women, if it’s not safe? Why is it that when people talk about homebirth, they blame the women who choose the option and the midwives or doctors who provide the care and not the system that doesn’t support homebirth? Why can’t we have safe homebirth, when the UK can?

I’m not a homebirth advocate, far from it. Love science, love medicine. I do worry though that we’re becoming increasingly vicious in our hatred of women who make a choice I might not make. And that really scares me.

And I am not a homebirth advocate either, one of my children was born in a birth centre and the other in a hospital, but as I have argued before in Essential Baby, it seems clear to me that birth choices are a feminist issue. Because here’s the thing about homebirth, like abortion the real issue is not whether you would choose homebirth yourself, or not. The issue is that some women will choose a homebirth and that homebirth has always been around and always will be, for lots of reasons, and given all that, how do we want to legislate for the reality of women’s lives?  And do we not feel the tiniest bit suspicious of motivations to criminalise women’s lives?

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Mehdi Hasan has written an infuriatingly limited piece for the New Statesman called “Being pro-life doesn’t make me any less of a lefty”.  Not being ok with abortion for yourself doesn’t make you less of a lefty but calling women who choose abortion selfish individualists is incompatible with being progressive. Hasan’s thoughts are not progressive and they’re certainly not new.

When it comes to abortion it is worth remembering the following:

There will always be unintended pregnancies. That is a function of being human. And there will always be abortion. There always has been. Some people do not agree that women should have the right to do that and they will agitate to outlaw it. But it will not prevent it. Because women do own their own bodies and direct their own lives and some of them will go to extreme lengths to maintain that autonomy, even if it means putting their health and lives in danger. We have centuries of data supporting this.

So when a couple of elite males decide that they will find some sweet spot that will make these women happy as well as those who don’t think these women should have the right to make that choice, it’s an infuriating denial of women’s basic human agency. It is simple. Women are going to have abortions, full stop. The only question is whether or not they are going to be forced to go through hell and possibly die to get them — and whether society is going to admit that it cannot and should not make that decision for them. Once you accept that reality, the rest is just talk. If religious leaders want to counsel their adherents not to do it, fine. If politicians want to lecture the public that it’s wrong, fine. If they want to create programs to help women get access to birth control and afford to raise kids if they want them and all the rest, terrific. If you care about your fellow humans, you should want all of that. But the right to abortion is a fundamental human right and the necessity of it being safe, legal and available is a requirement for a decent society.

From Digby’s Blog via Tedra.

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This is an amazing speech from Australia’s Prime Minister and if you haven’t watched it put aside ten minutes now and watch it. In fact, watch it with some kids because they need to see it, too.

I have a lot of very big opinions about all this but I found that if you take long enough to finish writing something that a bunch of other people will write what you were thinking, only much better. So…

“Walking and Chewing Gum” from Restless Capital.

All political communication has multiple audiences, and good communicators will be able to address several at once. Gillard made the coalition look pretty sheepish, probably put some fire in the belly of her colleagues, and for a while it looked like she might have contributed to Peter Slipper keeping his job. But this particular speech had qualities that have found a global audience, and one of those qualities was its obviously sincere anger about the constant drip of gendered insults flowing the Prime Minister’s way. Women everywhere, and not just women, could relate to Gillard’s anger.

“Gone is the turned cheek: Gillard as we’ve rarely seen her” from Anne Summers at The Drum.

Here, finally, was a powerful woman speaking out against the sexism and misogyny that so many of us have to deal with. It was something that Julia Gillard has rarely done since she became Prime Minister and certainly not in such personal and impassioned terms. That was what got the response.

That was why the speech was so exhilarating – and that was why it has attracted such a huge and impassioned response, here and around the world.

Only in Canberra, it seems, did her words fall on sceptical and tone-deaf ears. Only in Canberra was Gillard’s assault on the Opposition Leader’s behaviour towards her portrayed – somehow, incredibly – as either a defence of Peter Slipper or a failure to attack him. Only in Canberra was a vote against the motion to dismiss the Speaker of the House seen as supporting sexism rather than upholding the separation of powers as outlined in the Constitution.

The reportage and commentary this morning out of Canberra was so startlingly at odds with the reactions of such vast numbers of people both here and abroad that you have to ask: why and how could this be the case?

“The gatekeepers of news have lost their keys” from Tim Dunlop at The Drum.

When we can watch events live ourselves without having to wait for the six o’clock news to package them for us, or even watch a YouTube replay in a time of our own choosing, we can also be free to interpret the story in the way that we understand it.

When we can log onto our blog, or fire up Twitter or Facebook, and express our views in real time; start or join online conversations; develop, change or reinforce our views via discussions with friends, “friends” and “followers”; and share footage and stories and images and shape that information in a way that suits us, then we have moved into a world unrecognisable from the previous era of journalism.

As anyone who has a Twitter account or a Facebook page has noticed, the media’s interpretation of the Alan Jones’ affair, or more especially, their interpretation of the Prime Minister’s speech in Parliament about Mr Abbott’s sexism, is rejected outright by many people.

Social media has been full of people interpreting these events in ways that are at odds with the media’s view. People are simply tired of any professional view that pretends to be authoritative, let alone definitive.

They can see through the groupthink that dominates so much political coverage and they know something is wrong.

“Gillard’s words changed politics forever” from Susan Mitchell at Crikey.

When Peter Hartcher claimed in his column in The Sydney Morning Herald that Gillard had let down the women of Australia, he could not have got it more wrong. The hundreds of responses to his claim demonstrated that for the first time in our lives, a prime minister was speaking on our behalf. The fact he and most of the male political commentators have totally missed the point of her speech only serves to prove what she is saying is true.

Will her speech just drift off into the ether with all the other political hot air?

Why has her speech spread so quickly around the world? Why are women in many different nations reading it and commenting on how lucky Australian women are to have a prime minister who has the guts and passion to attack the kind of sexism that some of us face on a daily basis?

Few might remember the details of the Slipper saga but her words will ring in our minds and our hearts forever.

The Prime Minister’s message is clear. When confronted by relentless sexist and misogynist language and behaviour, women should: confront it openly, call it for what it is and never consider it to be acceptable behaviour under any circumstances.

“Ladylike: Julia Gillard’s Misogyny Speech” from Amelia Lester at The New Yorker.

So why is this among the most-shared videos by my American friends today? Purely as political theatre, it’s great fun. Americans used to flipping past the droning on in empty chambers that passes for legislative debate in this country are always taken in by the rowdiness of parliamentary skirmish. It could also be that the political dynamic depicted in the clip parallels the situation in the States: a chief executive who is a “first” took power after a long period of control from the right of center, and whose signature policy achievements have at times been overshadowed by personal vitriol. Or perhaps it’s that we are right now in one of the rare periods every four years where the American political process provides actual face-to-face debate between the leaders of the two parties. After his performance last week, supporters of President Obama, watching Gillard cut through the disingenuousness and feigned moral outrage of her opponent to call him out for his own personal prejudice, hypocrisy, and aversion to facts, might be wishing their man would take a lesson from Australia.

“So Peter Slipper slides out – was it all worth it?” from Bernerd Keane at Crikey.

There is of course one final aspect of all this that is yet to play out. In demanding Slipper’s departure, the Coalition has just set a new benchmark for political behaviour, one that, courtesy of the government’s defence of Slipper, doesn’t apply to anyone except itself and Wilkie. All male Coalition MPs and Wilkie will now need to reflect: did they ever send a vulgar message or email privately to a staffer, a colleague or a journalist? Did they ever reflect on the appearance of a female colleague? Did they ever call someone a c-nt? Did they ever make a smutty joke that, stripped of its private context and cast into newsprint, will look s-xist?

If they did, they’re all now just one leak, one disgruntled former adviser, one factional enemy, away from a world of pain. One they voted for yesterday.

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