Thursday, December 30, 2010

What I hear you saying is...

Part of the pre-abortion process at my clinic is counseling. Clients talk with a counselor one-on-one to review their medical histories, discuss the details of the procedure, ask questions about the aftercare instructions, and work thorough any lingering doubts or concerns they have. Some clients latch onto this idea and want to use it as an in-depth therapy session for things that really should be handled by a professional, while other clients roll their eyes at the idea and assume that counseling is yet another law with which the clinic must comply, a law created with the assumption that women don’t understand what an abortion is or that every human was once a fetus.

But the majority of the clients welcome the opportunity to talk with someone whose job it is to listen and to be pro-choice. I value it because it gives clinic staff a chance to develop a rapport with a client. (Not to mention the chance to debunk myths about having to slice someone stem to stern to perform an abortion.)

I actually took the counseling portion of the program for granted until I learned that some very compassionate, professional clinics don’t offer counseling to their clients. It could be a trick to save time (clients always complain about how long the process takes) or minimize cost (we ARE in a recession), and it could simply be what has worked and continues to work for individual clinics.

So, readers, I’m curious: If you’re an Abortioneer, does your clinic offer counseling? If you’re a friend of the Abortioneers, would you opt for counseling, given the choice? And if you’ve been a patient, did you have a counseling session? What have your experiences been?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

That's Entertainment!

Ah, TV. I'm not really sure where I'd be without you. Who better to supplement my early childhood education? Who better to boost my self-confidence with your pathetic reality slop? Who better to show me what real life is all about?

Wait. Scratch that last one.

My favorite thing about TV is how inaccurately it portrays everything (except, of course, for Sandra Lee's "Kwanzaa Cake" calamity, which is depicted with frightening accuracy). For example, very few programs or movies related to pregnancy address abortion as more than a sidebar comment. This problem extends beyond it's disdain for reality and thoughtful women; I wager that folks who are not involved in the pregnancy options world actually buy this tripe and take it as gospel. In the last couple years, since the outpouring of pregnancy-related entertainment, I've lamented to friends and coworkers time and again that abortion should be part of the story. Their responses are usually to this effect: "But Anti-Anti, if she had an abortion there would be no story lol!"

Apparently the media has made ignoramuses out of all the people I know and respect. No story?! People are actually starting to believe that abortion is a nonsense topic. It's something that people don't go through. It's something that people don't seriously consider. It's something that is not nearly as chaotic or side-splitting as a woman carrying to term an unplanned pregnancy brought on by some doofus with a stupid haircut.

Let's count the ways in which choosing an abortion continues to be an issue of substance:
1. the woman actually has to weigh her options to make a decision
2. the woman probably already has kids
3. the woman has a deadbeat partner, or an awesome partner who doesn't want her to have an abortion
4. the woman doesn't have the money for an abortion
5. the woman doesn't have an escort to get to her abortion
6. the woman is near the gestation limit in her state and has to get to her appointment NOW!
7. the woman has to get a judicial bypass because her parents would mangle her if they knew
8. the woman gets mugged and all her hard-scrounged abortion money is stolen
9. there is a fetal anomaly and the woman has to get to a specialized health center NOW!
10. the woman is homeless
11. the woman is a teenager
12. the woman is ill
13. the woman doesn't speak English
14. the woman has no support from friends or family and has to rely on total strangers
15. the woman was desperate enough to attempt a DIY abortion
16. the woman's pregnancy circumstances are not ideal, yet her biological clock is ticking
17. the woman belongs to some moron religion
18. the woman was a virgin impregnated by God, but still thinks it's not cool
19. the woman makes a living as a swimsuit model and doesn't want to compromise her figure
20. the woman wound up at a CPC and has to make up for lost time and lost sanity

Phew! With any combination of those circumstances I could write a Judd Apatow-esque comedy that would knock your socks clean off, about abortion! What's our world coming to? When did unplanned pregnancy become HILARIOUS? Something that is a wild ride while you're on it, but always feels better at the end? Screw that. I want to see a) an abortion comedy, where a woman does some hilarious things and faces zany circumstances to make her abortion happen or b) a pregnancy tragedy where a woman listened to all the folks around her telling her not to have an abortion and dies in childbirth and utters with her last breath, "If only I had chosen abortion, one of the safest medical procedures in the United States."


On that note, I'd like to pay tribute to MTV, who aired a wonderful special on abortion last night. One of my fellow Abortioneers will investigate this topic in depth, but I'd like to first share with you the link so that you can see for yourselves just how interesting a story about abortion can be.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

An abortioneer who will live in infamy

The postal clerk informed me that the holiday favorite at my local post-office is alllllways *the mother and child,* while blizzards that coincided with capitalism’s year-end, cash cow smothered the United States halting semi-sacred festivities and crazed travelers all over the place as if to say, mother knows best.

The Abortioneers are heartbroken to acknowledge the peaceful passing of Robin Rothrock—a divine mother and careful leader of the reproductive justice movement.

A water grrrl to the bone, Robin portrayed the utmost courage and dedication to reproductive health when she moved to landlocked Shreveport, Louisiana, to open Hope Medical Clinic for Women in 1980, in order to fill an inexcusable gap in abortion care for women of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas.

To complicate her stay, the state of Louisiana devised a plethora of anti-abortion hoopla year-in and year-out. Undeterred, Robin challenged filthy, mother-hating legislation by suing the state over twenty times. In her effervescent resilience, in-spite of obscene obstacles, she visualized a society which truly understood that mother doesn’t only
know best, she deserves to be holistically treated with dignity and respect.

A fine artist and genuine humanist, Robin was a constant source of magnanimous energy for reproductive health professionals. Always on the cutting edge of creativity, always a wellspring of invention, she single-handedly connected and inspired abortion care providers across the world when online social networking was merely for hackers.

Most importantly, I still remember her placid yet striking request to improve public discourse with the addition of one simple word, and I have agreeably abided by her suggestion ever since. Abortion CARE. We provide abortion CARE.

A true abortioneer when The Abortioneers were still receiving abstinence-only, grade school not-so-educations, Robin Rothrock will forever remain a pillar of sheer brilliance and spirited valiance in our minds, hearts, and the CARE we provide.

*Artwork entitled Swimming in Space, an original by Robin Rothrock

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Nice to MEAT you

Today’s Abortioneers post is brought to you by the letters V.E.G.A.N. That’s right, as mentioned briefly in my first post (and by my handle), this Abortioneer is powered by a plant-based diet and it is high time I wrote a post about it. A quick history on my food choices: I grew up in a mainly vegetarian household and sporadically ate meat throughout my life. A few years ago I decided to go completely vegetarian and then a little over a year ago I moved to a 100% vegan diet and lifestyle (not buying leather, fur, etc). Coincidentally, I became vegan around the same time I became an abortion host.

Looking back on the past year I see how my views have already evolved around the issues of animal rights and how uncomfortable I am with meat and animal byproducts. A year ago my beliefs were still forming and I was not as educated as I am now about the issues related to animal cruelty and factory farming. That being said, when I began hosting women and their guests a year ago I had no problem with them eating meat in my home.

The normal routine is that when I pick them up from the clinic I immediately ask them if they are hungry (they always are--most of them have not eaten due to being put to sleep for laminaria insertion). Most women choose to order takeout when we get back to my apartment and a few have brought food with them. Inevitably as they are looking through the takeout menus it comes up that I am vegan. The majority of the women don’t really understand what veganism is and I try to briefly explain it. In my regular non-hosting life I often get asked about veganism and see it as a teachable moment, but not in these circumstances. If women seem hesitant to order meat or feel bad, I urge them to order absolutely whatever they want. In my mind I feel like their needs should always come first and I am here to accommodate them.

I remember fondly a couple that stayed with me from upstate New York. They actually offered to buy ME dinner. They returned from the store with three cans of Beefaroni, which I eagerly offered to heat up for them. Maybe it helped that Beefaroni in no way resembles any sort of real food, but I smiled through the preparation and assured them I didn’t mind. Parts of me were cringing on the inside as I heated up can after can and then the louder part of me was happy to provide this couple anything they needed or wanted. The couple admitted that they were very nervous about staying with a stranger but really had no other options due to the cost barrier of a hotel. We spent a great night together talking and getting to know each other and I don’t regret for a second making them the Beefaroni.

I love animals and the main reason I am vegan is for an animal rights. I try to live a very deliberate and intentional life that does the least amount of harm to animals. To be honest, as time goes on I do struggle with this non-vegan food issue. I don’t ever bring non-vegan food into my house. My friends and family don’t bring non-vegan food into my house. Why am I so tolerant of strangers bringing meat and dairy and eggs into my house, and even using my utensils, plates, and pans to cook this food? I don’t like having to choose one issue or cause over another.

I don’t like how PETA exploits women in their ads for the sake of animals. I don’t want to have to choose abortion clients over animals. This is something I debate often in my head…I’m not sure how to reconcile it. The women who stay with me are expecting room and board and some support related to their abortion. It would feel extremely inappropriate of me to expect a woman I just met to be restricted to vegan food (especially since many have not eaten in 24 hours). While I obviously see nothing wrong with vegan food, I understand how it could come across as intimidating or negative to someone who has never been exposed to a vegan household.

I have gotten better at feeling out someone’s curiosity or intrigue with my veganism. I can tell when a woman wants to probe me about it and when she just wants to order her chicken lo mein. Or maybe my mention of it will plant a seed so that the next time they meet a vegan or hear about it in the news they will be more likely to listen. Stay tuned because this is a work in progress for me.

p.s. Happy Holidays to all of our readers out in abortioneer’land. If you are looking for a good read check out The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol Adams. This is a great examination of the intersections between feminism and meat:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Phone Etiquette

Lately, I've been thinking about how people who call doctors' offices can act strange on the phone. I've had/or my friends have had any of the following situations occur before:

1) Patient who wants an abortion ordering McDonalds while trying to schedule an appointment.
2) Patient screaming at her kid while trying to schedule an abortion (I always cringe whenever this happens).
3) Client's mother screaming at daughter (who needs/wants an abortion) because the daughter was so "stupid to get knocked up!" (Ugh. Also cringe-worthy.)
4) Patient's boyfriend who calls to "make sure she really had her abortion."
5) Patient's driver calling to pick up the patient after her abortion, but refusing to walk inside the clinic to get her.

If I could make a request of people: please don't call us and scream. Please don't scream at us, in our ear, at your child, at your mother, or at your partner when talking to us on the phone. Thanks!

I'm sure you've had crazy phone situations, too. Though sometimes I want to hang up - especially when yelling ensues - I am grateful that people are so different that they keep us on our toes.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Yule Time

Women's bodies are dictated by the cycle of the moon. 28 days between each menstrual cycle, 28 days between each new moon. Each woman's cycle may vary slightly and can vary a lot for many different reasons. My menstrual cycle was always 26 days until I got sick. Women's bodies are lunar.

I wonder what it would be like to time my body with the moon like so many women did in the past. Now we use birth control packs, calenders, and hope to figure out when our menstrual cycles might bless us with it's presence. Each month most women of reproductive age experience a moon time. We have many negative names for it: the curse, rag, cycle, period, time of the month, visit from aunt flo/dot, and yet the moon time is sacred and a blessing especially for women who don't want to be pregnant.

Last night there was a lunar eclipse on the night of Winter Solstice. The winter solstice is the longest night of the year, the beginning of winter, the height of feminine energy. The winter solstice celebrates the return of the sun, because the days will increasingly become longer until summer. The sun is associated with the divine masculine, while the moon is representative of the divine feminine. The male divine is born out of the female divine during the winter solstice and yule time. The winter solstice is a pagan holiday that celebrates this change in seasons, the potent energy of the moon and new life of the sun.

This year's winter solstice was further intensified by a lunar eclipse. A lunar eclipse occurs during a full moon when the sun, moon, and earth are closely aligned. The earth blocks the sun's rays from hitting the moon. Both of these events are cause for celebration. They represent potent feminine divine energy.

While writing this blog I googled "winter solstice + abortion." I found mostly anti-abortion rants that linked paganism with all things "bad" like abortion. It's quite ironic, because the Christmas that so many Christians today celebrate was born out of Yule time. The birth of the sun from the moon - or the son, Jesus, from the mother, Mary.

Manipulate household finances and personal security to get the desired result from your female appliances.

The last few weeks have brought up a lot of issues around affording one's abortion care. First Mr. Banana Grabber described some of the difficult situations we hear about at holiday times when mothers are juggling the cost of the heating bill, toys for the kids, their outgrown winter coats and, oh yeah, the abortion appointment. 

A few days later, Mr. Banana Grabber is hella bummed out, because some anti-choice blogger, who's so disconnected from reality she appears to not even know any poor people, says she doesn't believe that women would return, pawn, or sell their kids' holiday gifts over a stupid little abortion (why not just wait til January?!). An anti-choicer not trusting women's knowledge of their own experiences? Shocker! 

And last week Anti-Anti took up the topic again, discussing the privilege of being able to afford an abortion and the importance of recognizing that others may be in very different situations. UneFemmePlusCourageuse commented to say that even the hard work done by donation-based abortion funds doesn't nearly plug all of the cracks: 
If someone is married, and their spouse makes fairly good money, but she can't tell him that she wants/needs an abortion, then many abortion funds won't help her cover the procedure... just because someone seems to be financially comfortable overall doesn't mean that paying for an abortion wouldn't be difficult for them.
As I said in reply to UneFemme's comment, I'm confused/curious about this statement. It's true way too many women are still struggling to find assistance, or enough assistance, despite fund staff's efforts. But I've worked on abortion funding, too, and haven't run into a specific requirement that a woman discuss the appointment with her partner -- in general the funding groups I worked with recognized that (a) disclosure isn't a woman's "obligation" and (b) disclosure isn't always safe. 

One thing I have heard, and said myself, in the course of financial counseling is, "If you can't borrow money for an abortion, can you maybe borrow money by saying that it's for something else?" Not just for partners, but also when women [understandably] balk at discussing their situation with parents, friends or neighbors. So if a woman's finances are 'comfortable' but controlled by her spouse, a fund volunteer might ask her to try requesting money for an acceptable but non-routine purchase (for instance to replace an ostensibly worn-out pair of shoes for their child); put her utility money toward the abortion fee and then ask a neighbor for help with an unexpectedly-high gas bill; or in some other way shuffle "allowable" money around. 

It sucks that women have to lie to the people around them. What sucks the worst is to see women aware, or quickly becoming aware, that they're not taken seriously as moral agents, that they have to lie to be able to do right by themselves, and that if their loved ones can use money as a tool to dictate their choices, they will. Our government certainly does.* And it's disgustingly objectifying. 

I know I shouldn't say "women" as though it's a universal truth for all of us. For example, personally, I'm lucky to have at least some people in my life whose support for me is unencumbered by that kind of bullshit. But variations on this theme happen so goddamn often that it's hard, after all, not to see this as a collective problem for women. Indeed, every time a woman tells me she can't talk to anyone because she fears being beaten or thrown out on the street by her asshole of a partner or parent -- fears that her only "choice" is between her need for bodily self-determination and her need to not bleed or freeze to death -- I feel like that asshole is vitiating the moral agency of us all. 

*"I would certainly like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion: a rich woman, a middle class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the HEW Medicaid bill." (Henry Hyde, 1976)

**Disclaimer: My linking to NNAF should not be interpreted as a statement that I work or have worked for NNAF. (Just like my linking to the Hyde Amendment should not be interpreted as a statement that I currently work or have worked for the jackass.) 

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Schooling Chris Smith" on abortion's role in the UN's Millennium Development Goals

Good evening! Just wanted to let you know that Kelly, the brilliant and gracious creator of Schooling Chris Smith, is hosting a cross-post of sorts by yours truly.

Before I get ahead of myself-- do you know who Rep. Chris Smith is? Well, number one, he's a douchebag, and number two under-informed and number three not very good at rhetoric; let's just say all that up-front before you read his op-eds and injure yourself trying to understand what the fuck he's going on about.

Number four, he's also a member of Congress (R-NJ4), and among other things he's the ranking member (second only to the chair) of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs's Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health. What does all that mean? Well, as Schooling Chris Smith puts it, it means he gets "to be seen as a strong proponent of human rights despite his complete opposition to full human rights for women." To continue quoting Kelly:

Back in September, the Washington Post published an op-ed by Chris Smith urging activists not to sidetrack the U.N. summit on global poverty by talking about abortion (which is kind of hilarious, considering this is one of the guys who sidetracks women veterans' health care into abortion politics). His op-ed obviously speaks for itself by claiming all abortions cause psychological damage for women and implying that human trafficking and child soldiering are caused by abortion (I have to admit, that's a new one for me).

Some letters were published in response to this piece, but one wasn't. [That's mine! -PS]

So, yeah, being ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs's Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health (takeanotherbreath) also means he gets to say things about global health and international development policy and have them published in newspapers. Even though he hasn't done his research, doesn't know his facts, and can't string together a logical argument. (Am I bitter that I do ALL these things but don't get published in the paper? Not at all!) The Post published a couple responses that (rightly) pointed out Smith [a] was dragging abortion into the conversation from out of nowhere and [b] had glaringly omitted mention of the life-saving importance of contraception. But those responses themselves completely omitted mention of the many errors and false claims Smith made about the role of abortion in saving lives.

Even though it's well past September now, the inauguration of Schooling Chris Smith got me thinking that I shouldn't let a good letter die unread. (If I do say so myself.) Without further chitchat, here it is:

Re: "Abortion does not further children's health," Chris Smith, op-ed 9/19

Rep. Chris Smith's op-ed was long on claims, but short on facts. Having engaged in research, education and service provision in the field of reproductive health, I am left wondering on what evidence Rep. Smith based his assertion that abortion harms children's and women's health (the focuses of the UN's Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5). His attempt to exclude abortion from MDG efforts, discarding established medical evidence in the process, is the real threat to the health of women and the children they already have.

The statement that abortion is "by definition, infant mortality" is silly, as all abortions are, "by definition," performed before birth, which precedes infancy. Terminology aside, Smith's concern for embryo survival leads him to overlook the actual women who die when safe abortion care is out of reach: some develop severe pregnancy complications; some have ectopic pregnancies; others drink bleach, insert sharp objects, or jump from tall heights in an attempt to end pregnancy themselves. Each year an estimated 50 million women worldwide obtain abortions, half under unsafe conditions; worse, the vast majority (95%) of those unsafe abortions take place in the developing world where treatment for complications is harder to obtain. As a result, around 70,000 women die each year due to unsafe abortion, and millions more suffer nonfatal injury and illness. Yet abortion performed by a trained provider in a sanitary setting is one of the safest medical procedures in existence -- much safer than carrying a pregnancy to full-term delivery, as a matter of fact! Contrary to Smith's insinuation, repeated and rigorous cohort studies demonstrate the error in claiming that properly-performed abortion causes physical or psychological complications.

Disregard for the value of human life, as Smith calls it, is made manifest in the poverty, illness, and avoidable death experienced by families who cannot afford another mouth to feed or who lose a caretaker to eclampsia, hemorrhage or sepsis. If safe abortion is struck from the agenda, then unsafe abortion will simply continue to kill women and orphan their children.

placenta sandwich, A.D.D., I.B.S.
Vice-President of Irritated Blogging and Letter-Writing
The Abortioneers
Credentials Out The Ass

(Actually, I gave them my real name and my real credentials-out-the-ass.)

There was so much more I had wanted to say, but brevity is the soul of getting published, I was told. (Am I bitter that I chopped a bunch out but didn't get published? Not at all!) Like I also wanted to say that there's empirical evidence at the family level that maternal morbidity and mortality (for example from unsafe abortion) results in greater child mortality. Not a shocker. And also that anyone who knows anything about health infrastructure can tell you that women in Chile and Ireland survive (mostly survive) their countries' abortion bans because they have access to doctors trained to treat complications of illegal/DIY abortion, not because they've stopped having abortions! Anyone who thinks an abortion ban would not increase mortality in a country with poor health infrastructure and lots of remote rural area -- like, say, Ethiopia or Zambia -- would surely not qualify to be on anyone's Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, right?   Oh... wait. (Still not bitter!!)

I'll leave it there and ask you to head over to Schooling Chris Smith to discuss Kelly's question: What would your letter in response look like? What else has been left out?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Common anti-choice bumper stickers and my responses to them

Because it's too cold to write anything of substance.

"Abortion stops a beating heart
Well, yes. Generally, that's the idea.

"Smile! Your mom chose life!"
I'll smile because she was able to CHOOSE, and if she had chosen otherwise, I wouldn't hold it against her at all, not to mention, I wouldn't have known the difference.

"Take my hand, not my life." (Accompanied by a photo of a fetal hand)
I'm not sure that's possible.

"It's a child, not a choice."
It's a fetus AND a choice!

"Choose life"
Wham! is back?!

"Abortion hurts women."
Wrong. YOU hurt women, douchebag.

"Adoption, not abortion"
You offering?

"Don't abort me!"
I won't, stock image kid, age 2.

"Pretend I'm a tree and save me!"
I don't want a tree growing in my uterus, either.

"I'm pro-life. Ask me why."
I'd imagine it's because you're a self-righteous, misguided misogynist asshole.

I think I need to stop now because I'm sick of Googling slogans to jog my memory.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kitchen Sink

Abortions are expensive.

For my part, I have insurance that covers the procedure at a facility that I know and trust. Failing that, I could use my credit card, or even dip into my savings. But with the median personal income at something like $32K for adults 25 and over, it's easy to see why women are often screwed when they need to finance abortions. $400 might not seem like a whole lot to me or even my Abortioneering counterparts, who were fortunate enough to go to college or even grad school, who have worked full-time and have had employer-sponsored insurance and could get our acupuncture and zit creams for little more than a $30 copay. At the same time, we are not millionaires. Even though my income exceeds the median it's not by much, and I'd be pretty unhappy to have to shell out that much cash for an abortion. So imagine what it's like for those below the median, or making nothing at all.

NEWSFLASH: This is a reality!

Women DO ask their partners/baby daddies for money. Women DO pawn jewelry bequeathed to them by grandmothers. Women DO sell their hair. Women DO commit petty larceny. Women DO trim down their children's Christmas lists!

I think a lot of antis are antis not because they have a moral or religious opposition to abortion, but because they hold some sort of prejudice against poor people who they likely have never even associated with. This capitalist wasteland that is the United States fosters the ideology that if people have financial troubles they are a) just exaggerating and whining, and b) they must have done something to deserve it. Well, you low-hanging fruit, I am here to shed some light on your egregious misconceptions. Try some compassion-building activities this holiday season:

-Visit a shelter or food kitchen
-Volunteer on a charity drive
-Deliver meals to the elderly
-Volunteer on a hotline (any one) and actually talk to people who are different from you
-Clean up a messy neighborhood
-Take a walk on the other side of the tracks and just observe

I have dealt with so many folks who feign understanding but simply don't know the score. Educate yourselves!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Keep on bloggin'

Daughter of Wands is caught in some internet-hampering weather today. I am filling in, and would have done so a lot earlier if I weren't anxiously trying to finish three different late assignments before the end of the day. Lately several of us have had reason to ask for a helping hand from our fellow bloggers: exams, extra shifts at work, application deadlines, family stress, business trips.

We have so much going on in our lives (and so much of our work already contributes to the abortiony movement), why keep blogging? Why not drop this obligation every now and then, when "real life" gets crazy busy?

Here's one reason, from an article published a few months ago that bounces around in my head every time I think about taking days off of blogging: ‘Abortion’ Googled more where abortion access is restricted. (For a PDF of the original article in BMC Public Health, click here.)

Basically, two Children's Hospital doctors (who don't have any particular vested interest in abortion per se) proposed that internet search data might shed light on the regional impact of health policies, just like it might be shedding light on infection patterns (remember when Google searches for flu-related terms were found to closely mimic the pattern of flu infection?). To test this, they considered abortion both within the US and across countries, comparing the number of abortion-related searches in different areas, local abortion rates, and local abortion policies.
Abortion search volume was significantly higher in states where fewer than 10 percent of counties had providers, and in those with a mandatory waiting period, mandatory counseling, mandatory parental notification for minors, or mandatory parental consent for minors.
They concluded that both in the US and abroad, "the volume of Internet searches for abortion is inversely proportional to local abortion rates, and directly proportional to local restrictions on abortion."

The less abortion (and information) is locally and openly available, the more likely people are to search for it elsewhere and more privately. That's a reason that I try to keep up my blogging even when I don't feel up to it, even on days when I'm not sure what new insights my post can bring to others. If people out there are trying to find information about abortion that they can't access in their given environments (a library book, a family doctor, a trusted friend, a local professor) then I hope they'll be able to find information that is accurate in letter, true in spirit, and published with honest intent. So I show up to work, if you will, to help my blogging colleagues (see blogroll at right) in this effort to make that information available.

Of course, you could argue that we don't know if some of those Googlers are, say, anti-abortion bloggers from anti-abortion states just doing their research by looking up other anti-abortion bloggers to circularly cite. Who knows! But that's not in contradiction with the study -- after all, bloggers are people too, and they need open access to accurate information. I'd love for some anti somewhere to stumble across this site and learn a bit of accurate information (such as: murdering placenta sandwich would terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being that feels pain and tries to do right by born women).

(You could also say, maybe causality goes the other way, since we don't know which came first -- what if researching abortion teaches women that it's something they want to avoid? For example, if they meant to visit the National Abortion Federation at but instead end up at, which publishes deceptions and outright lies about purported risks of abortion, that may scare them away from licensed abortion providers just like lies in 'real life' have always attempted to do. But the comparative lowness or highness of abortion rates and abortion restrictions are fairly consistent and enduring -- they pre-date the internet and certainly search engines -- so it's probably not that.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Reality vs Bullshit

Welcome to a little game I just made up called reality vs bullshit. I have recently been reading some anti-choice blogs (like Banana Grabber), and man-oh-man…they are riddled with bullshit. It’s fascinating how they sell it too in the boat loads…big steaming piles of it.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Abortion is dangerous:

Abortion is so incredibly safe! It’s ridiculous! As someone who has seen very sick pregnant women…and some pregnant women die from simply being pregnant…abortion is a helluva lot safer than carrying a pregnancy to full term…or as close to full term as you can get.

Those pictures of fetuses antis like to show off:

I get this gets the message across in a disgusting way, but the reality is most products of conception are just tissue (and the majority of abortions are before 9 weeks). Fetal parts are not visible. I guess that wouldn’t be as compelling. Most of those pictures look like fetuses that were probably born spontaneously and didn’t survive or were intrauterine fetal demises. Which is why there are actually these close-up pictures of them. Of course facts and the anti-choice community never seem to go hand in hand.

Make abortion illegal!

The reality is that making abortion illegal just makes it unsafe. Women who do not want to be pregnant will make it so they are not pregnant…legally or illegally. History will repeat itself, guaranteed. Which further proves my point that antis don’t care about women. They would rather a woman shove a knitting needle through her cervix than have the legal right to terminate a pregnancy safely. If you block a woman from terminating a pregnancy, that woman doesn’t magically say “oh, I do want this baby.” Most women think about this decision for weeks before even making an appointment. I guess we are just pregnancy vessels. Physicians in South America rotate through labor and delivery and also the septic abortion floor…because women self-terminate. It happens and it will happen again the more you restrict abortion and if you make it illegal.

Abortion hurts women!

Antis hurt women. When you scream at women making a difficult decision, you are hurting them. When you try to make legislation blocking women’s access to abortion services, you are hurting them! Looking at anti-choice organizations -- so many of them are led by white, privileged people. You don’t see the struggle we see in the clinics, in the hospital. You are hurting these women and it’s disgusting. Frankly, it’s bullshit.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Vent Sesh

As I continue to spend more and more time in Abortionland, I get more and more pissed off at antis. I have never in my life encountered a group of people who were so closed-minded, selfish, and delusional. Normally, I do a pretty good job of avoiding anti-information,* but recently I was doing some totally work for my job, and I stumbled upon several blogs that were attacking our blog. I don't feel like naming names, thereby increasing their sites traffic, giving them some type of credence, etc... but I did find it at minimum extremely annoying. A woman responded to my post about abortion funds, stating that she simply "didn't believe" that a woman might have to pawn Christmas gifts she had purchased to pay for her abortion,** and that she couldn't believe the fathers wouldn't help out and pay for part of the abortion, or help with her prenatal care, etc. I just really have a hard time understanding how people can be so woefully misinformed. If she spent ONE DAY working on a pregnancy hotline, like NAF or ACCESS, she would find out that 1) women DO have to sell or pawn things like intended Christmas gifts to pay for their abortion, and 2) men are all too often totally absent from the equation. If I had $1 for every time I spoke with a woman seeking an abortion where the guy involved was MIA, wouldn't give her money, etc, I would have several hundred dollars, possibly over a thousand.

My point is that everyone in this debate, no matter how pro-choice or pro-life you are, could benefit a lot from finding out about what women who are choosing or not choosing to have an abortion are going through. To presume that you know what is best for a 23 year old pregnant woman living of off food stamps with 3 kids is totally fucked up. You don't know anything about her life, where she is coming from, where she is going or what she has been through. Why do you get to choose for her? Why do you get say if she can or cannot access a legal medical procedure? I have really spent a lot of time trying to understand how you can believe a woman should never be able access abortion ever because she is "murdering a person." Instead of focusing on the pregnancy or "baby" or whatever you want to call it, why can you not focus on the living, breathing woman standing before you? Do you not see the pain in her eyes? I understand having personal reservations about abortion. HOWEVER, just because I am not sure if I would choose to have an abortion if I were pregnant, does NOT mean that I get to dictate another woman's life for her!

:LKDSF:LEKTHE:ORSEILRJSKLDJBFK I just get annoyed sometimes. And this is not even taking into account the Crazies. A Crazy somehow got my email address and started sending me pro-life BS. Any social networking site I am on I have very ramped up security settings, and I don't just blab my email all around the interwebs... So.... what gives. I have plenty of co-workers, collegues, friends, etc that have:

1) gotten threatening phone calls
2) been followed home on foot
3) been followed home by a car
4) gotten harrassing messages on Facebook
5) oh yeah, been murdered.


*NOTE: I am always interested to read pieces by anti-abortion folks who are reasonable, thoughtful, and don't live in a world of hatred. Unfortunately, most of the anti stuff I have read tends to be uninformed and vitriolic, but I just wanted to say that I don't just avoid allllllllll anti-abortion material and live in a bubble of WHEEABORTION. I do think it's very important to have a well-rounded view of "the issues."
**For anyone out there wondering, that is totally true!!! Things of that nature happen way more often than the average Joe would think!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bringing abortion home

I spent two years as a paid employee at an abortion clinic. I regularly worked six days a week and often over 50 hours. There was a conscious awareness among my co-workers and I that our lives revolved around abortion even when we weren’t spending early mornings, long days, and late nights at the clinic. We constantly discussed that even when we were not at the clinic we chose to spend our time with co-workers. I’ve seen this trend among many abortioneers; we tend to flock together in our free time even after long work weeks. This is partly due to the fact that we all have a lot in common because we work in abortion (so we naturally click on things like feminism, social justice, politics, etc). I also think it is because we are like a group of soldiers serving in this war we wage (reproductive access for all!), and the best way to process our PTSD is together.

As we found ourselves spending all this extracurricular time together there was an acknowledgment that maybe it wasn’t the healthiest approach to our free time. Didn’t we need time “away” from abortion? Shouldn’t we separate our work and home life? Wasn’t it important to have other interests, hobbies, and passions besides abortion? Most importantly, didn’t we need actual time away from abortion so that we would be refreshed and renewed when we returned to our next work day?

I always tried to keep abortion at the clinic. It certainly wasn’t easy and I didn’t always succeed. I can remember countless nights out with coworkers where we always came back to a story from that week or something going on in the news about reproductive health. Ultimately my own apartment was the one refuge where I could exist without being around coworkers who would tempt me into discussing abortion.

Since starting graduate school, the only interaction I have with abortion (besides blogging, obvi) is in my home. Quite the 180! Just to refresh the readers: I volunteer for an organization that provides free housing for women who stay overnight in my city and cannot afford a hotel/motel/etc. Women most often stay overnight because they are having a multiple day abortion and have travelled from far distances. I have been hosting women (and sometimes their friends/families) for a year now and I absolutely cherish the chance to provide them with a safe and free place to spend the night when they need it most.

While I love the opportunity to host women, every time I host I am opening my home up to the unknown. I am directly confronted with abortion in my personal safe haven. I recognize how vulnerable I am by bringing women into my self-created refuge. Most women are scared and alone and vulnerable themselves and I risk my own emotional well-being every time I answer that call from our Phone Coordinator telling me that a woman needs a place to stay for a night or two.

I literally have brought abortion home. Into my serenity, my peace, my den of cleanliness and order. I have had sleepless nights--when a Haven guest snored so loud my dog kept checking on her to make sure she was ok, and when the support person of a guest spent the entire night on her cell phone trying to reach her son who had just been arrested. I spent hours helping a Canadian guest figure out how to get a hold of her boyfriend with international calling codes. I have had discussions with guests about abortion, birth control, heating pads, and post-abortion medications—mini counseling sessions taking place in my very own living room.

I think about how abortion is now a part of the most personal and private arena of my life. I can’t leave the clinic or say goodbye to coworkers at a happy hour and escape abortion by heading home. My home has welcomed abortion.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"Why don't you..."

Ensure women are confident in the decisions they make about their problem pregnancies
Help women leave their abusive partners so they can have that baby
Combat domestic violence
Provide women with contraceptive services to avoid unplanned pregnancies
Find a job developing more effective forms of contraception
Prevent rape and sexual violence - so that "the innocent ones" don't have to have abortions, natch
Find counseling for assault victims
Throw them baby showers so they'll have "all the supplies they need"
Offer to adopt her children so she'll have time and energy for one more
Buy her kids the damn Christmas presents so she won't have to have the abortion (What?? Please work on distinguishing between a problem and its symptom, OK?)
Help her with the cost of a new baby
Pay their utility bills
Help them find safe cheap childcare...


Dear devoted denialist antis, regular know-it-alls, and well-meaning strangers/friends/family/bloggers who just think abortion "shouldn't be used so thoughtlessly": 

Thank you for your suggestions. We regretfully see that you consider yourselves geniuses for having hit on the one magic solution that no one has tried.

In order to keep this letter brief, I leave to your own heroic efforts the task of identifying which of these things we ALREADY DO that you just assumed we don't do, which of them we would NEVER DO because you are not adequately informed to dream up effective strategies ("tell her to Just Leave him!"), and which ones we would LOVE to do but lack the resources and/or magical patriarchy-busting power to do.

In fact the purpose of our reply is simply to ask you a question, since you brought it up.

Why don't you?

No, seriously. Why don't you do those things? Answer me, each of you, about your individual practices. And society-at-large, you answer me too. And when you've all answered why YOU don't do these things, I'll understand you a little better, and then one day maybe we can "discuss reasonable solutions" as you have proposed but are currently unprepared for.

We regret that we will not be working with you at this time but encourage you to submit future proposals that meet the minimum thoughtfulness standards.

Good luck,

Placenta Sandwich
VP of Irritated Blogging
The Abortioneers

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Say It Loud and Proud!

Recently I told someone very awesome the name of this blog and they proclaimed "eek!" It was a joke implying the name is not socially acceptable. The joke didn't bother me one bit. However, it made me think about the social stigma involved in my work and the name of this blog. I personally did not name the blog, but I was supportive in its origin. I think we named it "The Abortioneers" because there is no shame in who we are. There is no shame in abortion. Sometimes it happens, and it may or may not be ideal, but abortion just is. I have been in the habit of telling people exactly where I work these days. It's always a bit of a conversation-maker, ya know. Most recently I've gotten responses like...

"Oh my, I should have covered his (my child's) ears."
"Oh, what a shame."
"What do you do there?"
"So what do you think about health care reform?"
"You really aren't doing anything with your degree, are you?"

I have met a few people with varying levels of comfort with abortion, and this isn't everyone, only the ones that stuck out to me. One response includes a long explanation of why the person's mother, an OB/GYN, does not provide abortions. As the Xmas season comes around, I have to consider: will I continue to be myself? Will I tell people exactly where I work?

Each day I feel surer about my line of work. I recently went through a procedure from start to finish as a patient advocate. I am considering getting more involved in clinical aspects and enrolling in a pre-med or nursing program. However, I still feel apprehensive about telling people where I work. When I saw that anti-abortion "WANTED" posters were popping up again it only made me more apprehensive. I'm not ashamed, but I do fear other people's radicalism. It gets pretty serious for some folks.

I love the name of this blog and I intend to keep finding a balance when it comes to "outing" myself as an abortioneer. I wish we lived in a world that understood abortion is a simple medical procedure.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Spoken Word tribute

I'm a huge fan of spoken word. Can't believe I hadn't seen this before. It's a powerful piece called "To the Oklahoma Lawmakers: Poem." Lauren Zuniga is her name. She's a member of the Oklahoma City Slam team. Check her. And enjoy.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Thou doth protest too much, methinks

While anti-abortion folk toil over abortion on the legislative floor of practically every state in the country and gibber gabber outside your women’s health clinic, I muse over the plentitude of activities one might engage in as valiant demonstration of pro-lifeness far more so than harassing women who are seeking deeply personal health care.

1. Stay home
2. Read Idiot America
3. Distribute food and toiletries to the poverty-stricken, unemployed, and starving
4. Babysit
5. Eat fresh, hulled oats
6. Go jump in a lake
7. Protest heart attacks
8. Unsubscribe from e-mail lists
9. Start a talking circle in the park
10. Hoist blow-ups of Anne Geddes’s photography and pass out champagne at your local maternity ward
11. Keep orchids alive
12. Vacuum your carpet in perfect rows
13. Empty the trash
14. Make turkey ala king with leftovers
15. Host a sex toy party
16. Trade-in the minivan for a hydrid
17. Leave baskets of organic fruits on neighbors’ doorsteps
18. Read The Tao of Health, Sex & Longevity
19. Watch Food Inc
20. Call your mom
21. Wash your hands
22. Jump rope
23. Donate clothes to good will
24. Scrapbook
25. Purchase a star
26. Climb a tree
27. Go camping
28. Roll your own sushi
29. Read poetry
30. Wear skinny jeans
31. Listen to NPR
32. Try applesauce instead of oil
33. Leave quarters in every vending machine at the super market
34. Leave quarters in every washing machine at the laundromat
35. Can vegetables
36. Cut snowflakes out of scrap paper
37. Blow bubbles
38. Take a nap
39. Eat steamed spinach with ghee
40. Cancel your catalogs
41. Tip your barista
42. Tip 25%
43. Order a vodka martini up with olives stuffed with bleu cheese
44. Beat a piƱata
45. Don’t mow your grass
46. Replace your light bulbs and seal your window cracks
47. Find a penny and pick it up
48. Ride a horse
49. Move to another planet
50. Be quiet

*Image of Anne Geddes toy

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What's love got to do with it?

"Sex is painful, but I'm fine."
"He said he'd pull out, but I guess he didn't."
"I don't think I've ever orgasmed."
"I don't really enjoy sex, but I just get through it because that's part of being a woman."
"I told him I was pretty sure I was ovulating, but he didn't listen."
"I have to put the medication IN my vagina?! Which hole is that?"
"He doesn't think it's important to use birth control."

I don't think that a lot of abortion clients are having particularly good sex. At all. I've heard all of the above statements from women I've counseled and my co-workers and I have had meetings about expanding birth control discussions to include questions about sexual side effects since so many women seen hesitant to bring those up if they even recognize them in the first place.

Our clients aren't dumb, and I'm not blaming them for the lack of sexual empowerment I've seen from working at the clinic. But they live in a society that values male sexual satisfaction to the extent that Viagra is lauded as a discovery tantamount to the Polio vaccine (vaccine/autism debate notwithstanding). They live in a society that only refers to vaginas as "down there," and limits related dialog to freshness, which brings right back to the obsession with male sexuality. We all know the axiom that if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament," and I bet you that if a man experienced pain during sex, a full-scale, multimillion dollar investigation wold be launched.

And that male-centric sexual society is the one that values the cuuuute little baybee fetus and refuses to even acknowledge the enormous amount of women's rights involved in the need for choice and the need for abortion. And sex is about communication and bonding and mutual pleasure (usually about these things. I know it's not 1956.), so if the sex complaints above are any indication, of course the couple is in no position to bring a baby into the relationship. And I'm so glad there's a choice available, but that choice sure doesn't exist in a vacuum. (No pun intended.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tis the Season (To Support Your Local Abortion Fund) :)

Around the holidays, most of us start thinking of presents we want for Christmas, gifts we are giving to others. Anticipating holiday parties, fun gatherings with those that we love, perhaps traveling somewhere to visit relatives.

Unfortunately, this time of year can be particularly difficult and trying for low-income women who are pregnant. Like most, they too are in the process of holiday shopping. Many of these women already have children and are already at or below the federal poverty line. They are already scraping by. Trying to make Christmas happen for their kids is going to be hard enough as it is. Plus, it's colder, so electric bills can be higher. The kids have a couple weeks off school which means daycare has to be found if she wants to work. The list go on.

On top of that, having an unwanted pregnancy. I have talked to women who had to pawn their kids' Christmas gifts to raise money to pay for their abortion. There is nothing more heartbreaking than listening to a woman cry because she cannot provide for her children, even at Christmas.

A glimmer of hope -- one way many of these women seek additional assistance is through local abortion funds. They can tremendously help out these women in very desperate situations.

Some funds that are worth your time (and money if you are so inclined) include:

The DC Abortion Fund

The Chicago Abortion Fund

Make A Difference Fund

National Network of Abortion Funds

Texas Equal Access Fund

Third Wave Foundation

And a bunch more here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hallmark Keepsake

Will you keep it.

Keep what.

The moldy loaf of bread. The ring. Wilting bouquet. Steak fat. The upside-down floating fish named Danny. The jumping bean. Sea monkey. Benign tumor. The appendix. The changing mole. Will you keep the kitty cat. The broken television. Vacationer’s plants. Keep close to your heart. Keep tabs.

Will you let the tick suck your blood until he’s the size a newborn baby?

The baby. Will you keep the baby. The zygote. The embryo. The fetus. Conceived. Pulsating sac. The heart beat. Muffin. Pumpkin. The burrito. Something that is very real in someone's head. The pregnancy.

Will you keep the callous-less bundle of human being and hope it never grows into a stinky person.

What's the uterus say. What the heck is she holding on for. Those, eager ovaries, wistful tubes. Whores. Cannot see the light of day, the reeking economy. The cupboards are stocked with toxins that lead to a host of reproductive health deficiencies. Dick Cheney’s heart’s still beating. They’re poking holes in the moon because we’re thirsty. On speed. Apparently have no effect on this womb.

Will you keep it?

Keep what?

The abortion.

* image of Hide N' Seek Pickle, a new edition to the Hallmark Keepsake collection

Monday, November 29, 2010

Media Monday! "Abortion Democracy," the documentary

A few weeks ago I met a German woman named Sarah Diehl, who's in the US doing a screening tour for her documentary, "Abortion Democracy: Poland / South Africa." I saw a short preview of the film and have been looking forward to seeing it ever since.

Poland is one of the few countries in Europe that has criminalized abortion in almost all cases -- and this isn't an ancient law, either, but one passed in 1994. I remember a few years ago reading about a Polish woman who sued the government in the European Court of Human Rights after being denied an abortion that would have saved her deteriorating eyesight. Alicja Tysiac is functionally blind as a result of this denial; the court found that the Polish law did not even uphold the narrow exceptions it claimed to make for cases where a woman's health was endangered by pregnancy, the government had failed by the standards of its own law and  Tysiac's human rights had been violated. The court awarded her compensation, but of course that won't restore her sight. The story both outraged and terrified me: abortion policies aren't an abstraction limited to proving ideological points -- they are terribly, viscerally real for the women whose decision-making they vitiate.

South Africa, on the other hand, is one of the few countries in Africa that has legalized elective abortion. The law was changed in 1996 to allow abortion "on demand" in the first trimester and abortion on certain legal, medical or socioeconomic grounds in weeks 13-20. (Quick fact: "on demand" means that women are not required to stand before a judge, panel of doctors, or other jury who will approve or reject their 'case' for an abortion.) Yet legally-qualifying abortions are still quite difficult to obtain for many South African women, especially in the second trimester. In fact, "Abortion Democracy" suggests that it may be "easier to obtain an illegal abortion in Poland than it is to obtain a legal abortion in South Africa." In this sense, national policies are not the only thing that determines the nature of on-the-ground access, not by a long shot.

I'll be watching the movie tonight, so I'll be back with an update on how it was. In the meantime, I hope this trailer gets you as intrigued as I am.

Friday, November 26, 2010


I don't do it for the thanks. If I did, there are plenty of days that I might have quit! I've had women shout at me, swear at me, tell me I wasn't a good feminist, I hadn't secured enough financial assistance for them, I didn't answer my phone often enough, I wasn't checking them in fast enough, doing enough, caring enough. When in fact I care really hard and I try really hard. Sometimes I'd hear a coworker have a similar interaction -- maybe just an abrupt goodbye after she phoned to delivered news of a donation toward a patient's abortion costs -- and hang up and mutter, "A little gratitude would be nice." Idunno, I say screw that. Women have a right to choose abortion; I don't have a right to clients' gratitude just for providing their care. It's a matter of social justice that women have access to abortion, and they don't owe me thanks for their rights. They weren't mine to give anyway.

Don't I appreciate a word of thanks from a patient who, by all rights, ought to have her mind on anything but my feelings? Of course--quite a bit. It's wonderful to hear, "You all have been so kind and so professional; thank you for making this so much less stressful and scary than I expected." It's wonderful to get letters that read "This means the world to me. God Bless and may heaven smile upon you guys. Thank you."

But it's the part that comes before it that keeps me doing this work: "Due to my pregnancy I was discriminated against at work, they cut my weekly hours from 40 to 15 and I could barely afford rent, let alone paying for an abortion or even having a baby."
"I'm involved in domestic violence and have had no one to turn to. You have saved my life from eternal abuse and my child from growing up with violent torture."
"This year I earned a sports scholarship to go to college, but when I found out I was pregnant I was afraid I wouldn't even get to graduate high school."
[Excerpted to protect privacy, but these are women's own words.]

Those women don't owe me thanks! We, as a society, owe them all that we can do to reverse workplace injustice, end domestic violence, increase educational opportunities, AND make reproductive freedom a reality. And I thank them: for not giving up, for seeking to make their own life, for being patient with the unfairly long process of seeking a provider, an appointment, the money, the ride, the babysitter, the day off to recuperate.

Thank you, so much, for the compassion and companionship that I hear you offer each other in the waiting rooms and the recovery room.

Thank you for the times I was training and you consented to have me in the room, even though my presence was of no particular use to you that day. Thanks for everything you continue to teach me and my coworkers as we strive to support you and connect you with what you need. In short, thank you for the privilege of being involved in your care -- I will try to earn it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

We are one thankful rafter of abortioneers

Here at the Abortioneers we wanted to share with all of our great readers what each one of us is thankful for this year (and also what we have been thanked for). Sit back and relax in your Thanksgiving food coma and see what we are thankful for in our lives.

Revolutionary Vagina:

Sometimes we go through life taking for granted the amazing gifts we have. I certainly do my fair share of that. Whatever many of us think of Thanksgiving and its origins, it is a holiday that causes us to take a moment and reflect upon those great gifts in our life. I am thankful for my family. I have the most amazing, supportive family, and I am so appreciative of all they have taught me. I am thankful for great friends. I am thankful for a fabulous roommie, and her cute little dog who brings me joy every day. And while it may drive me nuts sometimes, I am thankful for a job that fulfills me and pays my bills.


border terriers
hawaiian pizza
natty boh
in-flight movies
reese's peanut butter cups
st. ives apricot scrub
and her two sisters whose birthdays come exactly one week before and after TG, making it a nonstop party til xmas

About A Girl:

Thankful for:
1) legal abortion
2) amazing doctors who give a shit
3) incredible co-workers who are compassionate
4) a boss who remembers what our work is about: the women
5) to work for an organization I'm proud of
7) Medical Abortion
8) Providers who do abortions later in gestation
9) Abortion funding
10) The women!

Things I've been told "thank you" for lately:
1) For helping to find abortion funding
2) for being non-jugmental
3) for giving information

Placenta Sandwich:

It's nice to get thanks from patients, but for various reasons, I don't really expect it: they have much bigger things on their minds; they are stressed out; their abortion is a right, not a privilege; and they don't owe me anything for doing my job. In a way I think we abortioneers take on the responsibility for gratitude. When a volunteer fund agrees to allocate their scarce resources to my patient's care, I thank the funding volunteer profusely; and when our clinic agrees to discount the price of care for a woman in need, her case manager thanks our clinic manager. When our doctor leaves the clinic, I say "thank you, Dr. X," and when I leave the clinic, my supervisor says "thank you, placenta sandwich" -- we're all thanking each other for showing up and being part of the team, even if we've had a rough day. And when people ask how to avoid burnout at work, I think of all the coworkers I'm thankful for and say, "It helps if you get lucky and work with awesome people."

Thank you, abortioneers, for being the funnest, funniest, coolest, cleverest, biggest-hearted, best colleagues of all time. You're dedicated to our work, you're good-humored in tough times, and you're so good at supporting women in their various situations that I am always startled when I go out into the real world and remember that not everyone is like you.


I am always thankful for the work I do. Each time a patient is thankful, I feel thankful she was able to get the care she needed. Last week, in a pinch where the native Spanish speaker I work with was tied up, I was thankful to be able to talk to 2 Spanish-speaking patients with some fluency. Then, I was thankful when another patient, an older woman with several children, hugged me as she left the clinic after her procedure. I am thankful every time a woman expresses gratitutude, relief, or self-assurance.


I'm thankful for passionate staff, caring and competent doctors, endless research, all of our clients, the right to choose, the myriad of birth control options, and the part I get to play in so many women's lives.

Mr. Banana Grabber:

I am thankful for abortion providers. I am thankful we live in a society that decided in 1973 women should have the control over their bodies. I am thankful I have resources available to me which enable me to make sure I do not get pregnant. I am thankful that if I did get pregnant, I could choose to have an abortion. I am thankful that I have that option available in a safe setting. I am thankful for those who support me and my work. I am thankful that, unlike many of my patients, I know where my next meal is coming from and where I am going to sleep tonight. I am thankful I have never in my life had to worry about that. I am thankful my parents love and support me. I am thankful I have a partner who respects me and honors me. Finally, I am thankful for my fellow Abortioneers for their work, love, and support.

Vegan Vagina:

I am thankful for my health, family, friends, my best-in-the-world-EVER dog, embracing veganism, being comfortable in my own skin, opening my home to women in need, living a life that challenges me to grow, anything made out of fleece, clean air, and rollerblading.

Finally, we want to all thank our READERS. That is you! Anyone reading this right now---thank you thank you thank you. Without you we would not have anyone to share our stories, opinions, efforts, successes, failures, and everything else we love to talk about regarding abortion. We love having such smart, passionate, and engaged readers and it is such a joy to have this as a place for the abortioneer community to gather.


Love, all of the Abortioneers (and Harley the turkey who I adopted this holiday!)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Another One Bites the Dust: Feminist Clinic in Washington State Closes

We need to expand access to abortion services. We all know this. So, the question may now be, within our own Abortionland, what exactly does expanded access mean? How can abortion access expand without crushing little, struggling clinics? Is it even possible for different service delivery models (hospitals, Planned Parenthood, etc.) to expand without hurting independent clinics? And if possible (which I believe it, of course, is), is it realistic? Will providers set aside competition for altruism (increased access)? And at the risk of sounding cynical, should they set aside competition? And....are independent, feminist clinics now obsolete?

These questions are – hopefully – being asked by people besides me. You’ve probably heard all the buzz about another feminist abortion clinic closing down: Cedar River Clinics’ Yakima site (one of three in Washington State) just closed down last week after 30 years. Let me say that again: after 30 years.

I read about this closure on RH Reality Check’s site here. It’s a lovely tribute to the Yakima clinic which appears to have served women from all over the Pacific Northwest and beyond (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana). The closure also has created a big hoopla – a controversy even – because Cedar River Clinics points the finger directly at Planned Parenthood as the reason for their closure! (Ballsy, I know!) The comments on the article obviously get very feisty. (Pretty fun to read if you’re in the mood for feistiness!)

It seems like there is this clear divide, an us versus them between some independent clinics and Planned Parenthood. If you’re not up on the debate, the issue seems to be the apparent recent Planned Parenthood decision to expand all their abortion services… even in areas where there are already providers. It’s pretty obvious there are many who are uncomfortable with this pointing of fingers, saying that by pointing fingers at Planned Parenthood, abortioneers are unnecessarily feeding into all the negative media that the antis put out against them. (After all, Planned Parenthood does do a lot of good work.) Well, on this blog, we pride ourselves in talking about the things that are hard to talk about. We speak the unspeakable – the unpopular, even – at the risk of antis twisting it however they will (they’ll always twist things around).

Let’s say the independent clinics out there are right: Planned Parenthood plays a role in closing down little clinics (not intentionally, I’m sure). Should people NOT talk about it just for fear of what the antis are going to say? Of course not!! Sure, we’re all in the same boat: we want to provide abortion services to women; but like I talked about here in September, there is, of course, competition. We're only in the same boat up to a point. Abortion rates are down. Clinics still have a business to run. If another provider comes in and offers the exact same services (same gestational limits, for example) as another clinic in town, then that’s direct competition. If a small clinic is already struggling, a direct competitor will surely hurt said struggling clinic. It sounds like that’s precisely what happened in the case of the Yakima Cedar River Clinic and the Yakima Planned Parenthood.

We don't like to talk about competition: it's the big elephant in the room. The reality is, competition exists. The analogy of the big corporate store coming in, causing the little independent store to close is very similar to the small abortion clinic versus a corporate-like Planned Parenthood. I am an idealist at heart, so it's difficult for me to even acknowledge the elephant. I want to tuck myself into a little world of abortion safety where everyone is in it just for the women and the focus is so entirely on that, not politics and competition and business models and strategies and blahblahblah. The harsh - ever so harsh - reality is that when big corporate business comes in and succeeds, it offers a service that customers/clients/patients respond to. They're doing something right. That doesn't mean the small, independent clinic is doing anything wrong...

Or are they? Little businesses often fall prey to "treading water syndrome." They can be hyper-focused internally and don't always invest/have the resources to look externally. For all business - non profit or profit - it's vital to not only scan your external environment, but do an in-depth analysis. The for-profit sector and non-profit sector are not really that different. (Despite how much I'd like to bury my head in the sand and pretend they are.) They compete. And abortion providers compete, too. In the case of Yakima, it appears that Planned Parenthood came up with a strategy that worked for them. You can bet your bottom dollar that Planned Parenthood has the resources to do an in-depth SWOT analysis and probably really researched the opportunities in Yakima (and other places). Did Cedar River Clinics? Like so many small businesses, did they focus too much on putting out fires that they didn't stop to recognize Planned Parenthood as an external threat and then decide what to do about it?

Look, I am a huge fan of supporting local businesses. I support my local book store. Unless....Amazon meets my needs when browsing the internet at 1am. I would go to my independent abortion clinic if I knew it was locally owned. Unless... Planned Parenthood was more convenient (price, location, abortion days/times that fit my schedule) and made themselves more known to me (advertisement). I'm talking about the marketing mix. The Four P's:
- Product
- Promotion
- Place
- Price

Do I wish that Planned Parenthood could've expanded their gestational limits in, say, Spokane where they could've better met the needs of rural women? Or maybe opened a clinic in a region of Washington State (or Idaho, or Montana, or Oregon) where there wasn't an abortion provider at all, instead of going to Yakima and directly competing? Hell, yes. That would've been the altruistic thing to do: the thing that would've truly been in rural women's best interests (women travel upwards of 10 hours because Yakima is the only provider going further than around 15-16 weeks west of Missoula and east of Seattle). There are large areas of Washington state without abortion providers, so it seems there was/is growth potential there. Why didn't Planned Parenthood take the high road instead of directly compete? On the other hand, we could all ask Cedar River Clinics why they didn't expand to an unserved area to improve access, too.

My point is: Cedar River in Yakima must've missed some opportunities for growth that Planned Parenthood captured. So if small, independent clinics are doing anything wrong at all, it may be that they don't/can't meet the demands of the clients and what their needs are when (gulp) Planned Parenthood did/does (like Amazon sometimes meets my needs better than my local bookstore). And this does make me cringe. But we're talking about consumer behavior here.

Planned Parenthood has nothing on a legacy of a feminist clinic. It can't stand up and say it's been there for its community like a small clinic can say; but if the competition wins, it's not just because they're terribly corporate. Look, little independent clinics need to LEARN from Planned Parenthood. What do they do that's right? Branding. Clients trust them. They're everywhere. Like McDonalds. Independent clinics need to be firmly rooted in their communities. They need to promote themselves. They need to advertise. They need to be involved. They need to prove to their communities they know them better than Planned Parenthood does. They can't ostracize themselves just because they do abortions. They have to have their finger on the pulse of their clientele. Offer different days. Different hours. Have nice buildings. Decorate them well. Have them in good locations (see my dream clinic blog). Ask clients what they want. Make appointments shorter. Small, independent - even feminist - clinics will become obsolete unless they figure this out, significantly invest in strategy, and learn from Planned Parenthood. My sincere hope is that they will....

...who will pick up this gauntlet?