#StopTheBans Day of Action for Reproductive Rights

“Excuse me, are you pro choice?”
”Yes.”
”But it’s not your body.”

-as told to Emily by a young white man in front of the Supreme Court

It’s been a long month since I last posted. A long time since Kieran died, since his funeral, since his mom started to meet each day without him. It’s been an honor to bear witness to some of her grief, to sit with her in it, to see a community rally together to help in any and all possible ways.

The past two weeks alone have felt horrifically oppressive. We have seen our “president” cross the 10,000 lies to the American people mark. We have seen Alabama and Missouri pass draconian anti-abortion bills; no abortion after six weeks, no exceptions for victims of rape or incest, heinous punishments for any woman who seeks an abortion and any doctor who dares to help her. Meanwhile, the rapist can have parental rights. These bills were voted on by majority-white Christian men. Here’s the Alabama slate responsible:

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Do they look like people who have uteruses? Who can become pregnant from rape? They don’t and aren’t. And I am SICK TO FUCKING DEATH of other people, especially sanctimonious, right wing Christian men and women, attempting to regulate what I may decide to do with my body.

If you don’t remember, the right to abortion was decided in 1973. Forty-six years ago. And yet, for as long as I can remember, my mother has hoped desperately that women never need relive the pre-Roe years. I volunteered for NARAL while Tom and I lived in Boston, and marched in their March on Washington in 2005. I have listened ad nauseam as far-right pro-life supporters have demanded that I live by their rules and values while simultaneously denigrating mine and acting in stunningly hypocritical fashion all the while.

See: all the uber-Christians at my high school who sent out conversion caravans and preached abstinence but concurrently held the mantle of highest teen pregnancy rate in my town and area. Consider the one who had a painful, scary miscarriage in the toilet stall next to me in the school bathroom.

See: Alabama governor Kay Ivey carrying on about the sanctity of life as she signs the anti-abortion bill but who has also, while governor, executed seven men on death row. Alabama is notorious for the systemic racism that puts innocent men behind bars, including on death row. This is why the Equal Justice Initiative and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the lynching museum, are housed in Montgomery.

See: the publicly pro life GOPers [Tim Murphy (a PA senator and Elliot Broidy (former RNC deputy finance chair, for example] who have decried abortion while paying for their mistresses and girlfriends to have them. (And if you don’t think serial adulterer Trump has done the same, your head is buried in some dark sand.)

Perhaps most revoltingly, I have become aware that for way too many pro-life folks, pro life really only means pro birth and, ideally, pro-white birth. Just look at the lack of willingness to support programs for hungry children, diaper banks, free- and reduced-lunch plans at school, early childhood education programs, and so on.

Sixty percent of Alabama women seeking abortions are black. “Alabama is tied for fourth-worst place in infant mortality,” according to this article in the Los Angeles Times. In this piece you’ll find that “more than a quarter of Alabama’s children live in poverty; 30 percent of those children are under the age of five. Only half of Alabama’s 67 counties have an obstetrician.” The state has no equal pay laws protecting women from discrimination.

It’s utterly despicable to force children into this world and then refuse to care for them or their mothers. It is sick and cruel to force a girl raped and impregnated by a family member to have the baby and then share custody rights with her rapist. Read this heartbreaking article if you want a firsthand account. That’s not pro life. That’s pro birth and then shit on the mother and shit on the kid. This is anti-woman and control the women at all cost crap.

This morning, I hurriedly coordinated with two regular Resister Sisters so that we could attend the #StopTheBans women’s rights rally at the Supreme Court. All of us canceled or shifted plans, grabbed or made signs, water bottles, and backpacks, and headed downtown. I riffled through my library of protest signs past before remembering that I’d been forced to leave my favorite pro choice sign outside of the Senate building before entering last time.

I scrounged up a half sheet of foam core, Sharpied “I didn’t vote to live in Gilead” on one side and “If it’s not your body, it’s not your choice” on the other, pulled on my resistance shirt, and left with my friend Karen.

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Initially the turnout felt small, but by the official start time, the rally was thrumming with energy, camaraderie, outrage, despondency, and determination. My friend Julie arrived, and she and I set up camp just behind the speaker’s lectern, over to the left. This was fortuitous because in addition to the wonderful NARAL and Planned Parenthood speakers, including the wonderfully fierce Dr. Leana Wen (PP’s new president), a long line of Senators and Congresswomen and men, joined us and spoke.

Senators Klobuchar, Hirono, Wyden, Murray, Blumenthal, and Schumer. Congresswomen Pressley and Speier and Congressman Swalwell. Bernie was there but left before speaking. I’m sure I’m forgetting some, and because of early school dismissal I had to leave before the rally ended, but it was really an excellent turnout of support.

Julie felt pumped up and grateful to be in the company of like-minded resisters; Karen and I enjoyed ourselves, but really feel the bleakness of women still being treated like such non-beings. Things feel hard and as if nothing will ease in the near future.

Which was why I was beyond enraged when a young dress-shirt-and-tie guy came up to me and said, as I quoted at the start of this piece:

“Excuse me, are you pro choice?”
”Yes.”
”But it’s not your body.”

Yes it fucking is, man without uterus.

Karen sputtered and said, “Bless his heart,” before we turned around with utter disgust.

“It’s not your body” is really the essence of all this, isn’t it. If you see women as equals, with agency and selfhood, you couldn’t possibly divorce one’s physical self from one’s emotional self, reproductive desires and choices, and independent plans for life. You couldn’t possibly tell her that her body isn’t hers.

I am not just a goddamned vessel. No woman is UNLESS she chooses to be. The choice should be each of ours, as should safety and respect.

Grr, Texas...

I wasn't surprised by yesterday's ruling in Texas which bans all abortions after 20 weeks and which places standards on abortion clinics so onerous that most are expected to now close, but I was disgusted and dismayed. A state of more than 26 million people is soon likely to have just four clinics that can safely offer women the abortions they need or choose to have. Last month, when Wendy Davis successfully filibustered the Texas Legislature's attempt to pass this ban, one of the strictest in the nation, I cheered her strength and accomplishment and felt inspired by her courage and determination. But I also knew that win wouldn't last long. Republicans and pro-lifers in Texas were crazed with outrage; ire feeds them as fuel does fire. And indeed, Rick Perry, TX Governor (he of the "there are three government agencies I'll close when President but I can only remember two of them") soon called a second special session of Congress to again try to ram this bill through.

Yesterday, it passed, largely (and not surprisingly) along party lines. Perry praised the ruling as a defense of "our smallest and most vulnerable Texans and future Texans" while many other supporters claimed this was a sincere means of protecting women's health. These echoed the comments made earlier this summer, following House approval of a ban on abortions after 22 weeks ("the most restrictive ban on abortion considered by Congress in a decade", NYT, 19 June 13), by Speaker Boehner who praised the significance and import of the decision in saying "we have a moral obligation to defend the defenseless..."

This point is repugnant in its disingenuousness. America ranks 50th in the world in maternal mortality: 49 other countries are better than we are at keeping mothers alive during and just after childbirth. According to a report by the Huff Post in August 2012, the maternal mortality rate in the US has doubled over the past 25 years. And this while we spend $98 billion a year on pregnancy and childbirth, making us the costliest place in the world to have a baby. So we spend more to have more women die and now Texas wants to ban all abortions after twenty weeks which means if a woman finds out that she might die after that point, well, tough. If she finds out her baby has a horrible congenital condition and will die after birth, might be born stillborn, might need enormous amounts of medical intervention or assistance for ever after, well tough, her financial state, mental health, the welfare of the baby be damned.

Meanwhile, House Republicans, most of whom also profess to just love life so much, especially when not yet born, stripped funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program before passing the 2013 Farm Bill. Millions of impoverished Americans, including millions of babies and children, rely on SNAP for nourishment: according to a Food Research Action Center report from April of this year, “children in families receiving SNAP were significantly more likely to be classified as ‘well’ than young children whose families were eligible but did not receive SNAP.” So really, I think it is super-consistent with a love of life and just really great morals to make kids be born, but if they're born into poverty and need federal help TO EAT, well forget about it.

As well, the House GOP proposed in May to also slash funding to local school districts and health research but, naturally, all Defense and Pentagon budgets would not be touched. Ok, so you must have all children but if you need help paying for their educations, forget it. You have to rely on public education? Good luck to you.

No one wants more abortions to occur, no one hopes that abortion is in her future, no one gets excited about abortion. That's why the current "discussion" about it upsets me so deeply. Pro-life supporters, in the name of morality, accuse those across the aisle of murder and hate and sin and so forth. In my opinion, that cruel judgment is as hateful as what they accuse pro-choice supporters of "wanting to do."

Abortion-rights activists don't want more abortions, they just want women to have the right to choose abortion if that's what's best for her. They want the mother of three, already strapped and stressed and tired and scared, to be able to decide if she really can't have another baby; can't support it financially, can't handle it emotionally. They want the woman I know, who found at 32 weeks of pregnancy that her baby was braindead in utero as a result of a congenital defect that had caused intrauterine seizures for months, to be able to choose how and when to say goodbye, in a way safe for both of them. These are never easy decisions, but they are often the right ones for these women. And each is HER decision, no one else's, not least some random man in Texas or Pennsylvania (Santorum) or a whole host of others.

I know how fraught this issue is, but to take away the ability to choose for all based on the beliefs of only some upsets and concerns me deeply.