Where Are We Going?

“I have been coming here for 25 years. I know what I am talking about.”

This was screamed at the clinic doors by R trying to convince clients to come talk to him. Twenty-five years is a long time to devote one or more mornings a week to bullying, shaming and harassing clients because they did not make the decision you believe is right. That time commitment goes beyond a belief and drifts into a lifetime vocation of being a bully; a lifetime vocation of hating women; a lifetime vocation of wanting to control another’s choices about their body.

He is not alone. A lot of the antis have been coming out to harass clients and their companions for 20-plus years. Some come out almost every day the clinic is open; week after week; year after year.

I have thought of this dedication to control another person’s health care decisions as more and more anti-abortion legislation is proposed and passed by different states. It seems that every day brings another proposed bill: TRAP laws designed to close clinics; mandatory ultrasounds for all abortion procedures including RU-486 medication abortions; mandatory in-person counseling; waiting periods lengthened to exclude holidays and weekends; banning abortion after 20 weeks or in Kentucky at 6 weeks. (See IN Senate Bill 371; KY Senate Bill 4; KY Senate Bill 5, KY House Bill 132;  SD House Bill 1237, ND House Bill 1456) There is even a new flurry of bills regulating miscarriages and personhood agendas that would put women in prison for “killing” a fertilized egg. The one bright light in this flurry of anti-abortion legislation is New York’s movement to ease abortion restrictions.

We definitely know the chipping away of Roe vs Wade by state legislators will not eradicate the need for abortion. If the extremists are successful in shutting down most of the clinics in the country it will force a lot of people to go back to the pre-Roe vs Wade days of illegal abortions. Only those with financial resources or luckily living in states with less restrictions will have access to abortion.

There was a really thoughtful article published by Betsy Phillips in January about abortion access in Tennessee. It addresses the comments that people can just go someplace else for their abortion.

  • The funny/terrible part is that here in Tennessee I have had politicians and their staffs tell me to my face on several occasions that they can’t understand why I’m so worked up about abortion rights, after all women who “really need” them can go to Atlanta, even if they’re impossible to get here.

Her article is one that I keep coming back to in my mind because I hear the same thing: they can just go to another state where abortion is still legal. Everyone can just travel to New York. What happens if they cannot afford to travel, take time off work, arrange childcare, and jump the various state restrictions they will face? How many people needing abortions will seek dangerous solutions?

And now we are back to the beginning of this article. What will these extremists focus on next if they are successful in shutting down abortion clinics around the country? Where will they expend their energies to bully and harass? Will they move their operations to New York? Will it be demonstrating in front of OB/Gyn offices who prescribe contraception? Will it be pharmacies that fill prescriptions for contraception? Will it just be protesting in front of any healthcare facility? Will it be in front of religious or atheist meeting places that don’t conform to their brand of Christianity? Will it be some other place or cause in their attempts to control people’s lives?

Where are we going to go from here? Where are they going to go next?

Abortion Facts

The Supreme Court case of Roe vs Wade was decided January 22, 1973. There have been many articles written about abortion access over the 40 years since the decision. Last year saw a huge number of articles in response to state legislation designed to chip away at the right to abortion.

This blog published a series of articles last January covering Roe vs Wade: The Marches, Legal Barriers and Battles, Physical Aggression, History, and a Call to Action.

This year Guttmacher Institute has published an information sheet and a set of infographics about abortion in the United States. The five fact sheets present a lot of details about abortion in the United States. They are easy to read and I encourage you to look at them all.

All of the graphics are excellent, but two of them really caught my attention. The issues highlighted in them are what we see daily when we escort at the clinic.

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Unintended pregnancies are rising for those below the federal poverty line and decreasing for those with incomes greater than 200% of the federal poverty line. The reasons for this are not listed, but access to health care, health insurance and contraception must be contributing factors. If you do not have access to free or low-cost effective contraception, you would expect a rise in unintended pregnancies. Some clients I have talked to at the clinic have stated they couldn’t afford their contraception for one or more months, but thought they would be safe with other methods. They made the decision to pay for other necessities of life.

What happens when 42% of the women having abortions are below the federal poverty line? As the graphic points out, an abortion can be delayed by the need to raise money. This results in a higher cost for the procedure. It is a real Catch 22. One client told me she was using her rent and grocery money for the month to pay for her procedure and was just hoping she wouldn’t be evicted until she could pay some on her rent, but she wasn’t sure where she was going to get food for her and her two-year old child. Those are hard decisions.

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The second graphic that caught my attention ties into the difficulty of the 42% of clients below the poverty line. If 35% of all women live in the 87% of the counties without an abortion provider, how do they negotiate the additional cost of travel, time off work, and possibly childcare?

In addition to the physical barriers to a provider location, there are legislative barriers to abortion access. These include waiting periods that add more delay time and possibly raise the costs of a procedure. In addition, there have been a multitude of hurdles that clients have been forced to jump to access abortion thanks to anti-choice legislators in state governments.

Guttmacher says it best:

There are no women of reproductive age in the United States today who were of reproductive age prior to Roe. U.S. women of this age have never known a nation in which abortion was illegal and unsafe. Yet, keeping abortion legal and safe—and accessible to all women—is and must always remain an urgent national priority.

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REMINDER: Share your story.

January 22, 2013 is the 40th Anniversary of Roe v Wade.  Forty years of legal, safe abortions.  This invitation comes from our allies at Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice:

“KRCRC (is making plans for a January 20 event in Louisville, “The Roe Monologues,” to mark those 40 years (four decades, two generations!) since the Roe v Wade ruling, and we need your help.

We’re looking for your story. But also for your mother’s, your daughter’s, your sister’s, aunt’s, girlfriend’s, roommate’s, friend’s story. Fairly brief; 2 to 5 minutes, and starting with the year. (e.g. “It was 1983, and I was trying to finish up my nursing degree, when I found out I was pregnant.” “In 2008, my wife and I had been trying for several years to have a baby. Now she had finally gotten pregnant, but when we got the results of the amnio, …” “1957. I was living in Missouri, and abortion was illegal. When my roommate learned she was pregnant, …” etc)

On Jan. 20 at our event, we will love it if you will present it yourself. But if it’s bad timing, bad location, or you’d just rather not get up to present it yourself, we will be happy to have someone read it for you. Also, you can use your own name or a made-up name, your choice.

We need these stories! – and people need to hear them. Will you help us? Will you spread the word that we’re looking for these stories?

Please email info@krcrc.org if you think you’d like to participate, either in person or by providing a story for someone else to read.”

By stepping out and talking about our experience we reduce the stigma and shame that surrounds abortion.  By sharing our stories, we support each other and continue building a world where reproductive justice is a reality.

40 Years ~ No Turning Back

At the clinic Saturday, we had the bus with the folks from the Bible College show up.  This is the group whose women always wear skirts, and they bring guitars and sing.  They did a lovely rendition of Amazing Grace.

At least I think it was the same group. They used to stand further down the sidewalk, on the other side of the pray-ers, but this week they were front and center.  They were all mixed in with the people who yell at the clients as they get to the doors.  Here’s what it looked like:

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Yes there really are two of the blue ABORTION signs and two of the CHOICE signs.

They’re standing in front of the clinic windows in both of those pictures.

If you were coming down the sidewalk from 2nd Street, here’s what you saw on Saturday.  Remember, you’re headed for the concrete “awning” thing that says EMW.

IMG_1807I think it’s a daunting prospect, which of course, is exactly what they want it to be.  They would like to turn the clock back 40 years.

January 22, 2013 is the 40th Anniversary of Roe v Wade.  Forty years of legal, safe abortions.  This invitation comes from our allies at Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice:

“KRCRC (is making plans for a January 20 event in Louisville, “The Roe Monologues,” to mark those 40 years (four decades, two generations!) since the Roe v Wade ruling, and we need your help.

We’re looking for your story. But also for your mother’s, your daughter’s, your sister’s, aunt’s, girlfriend’s, roommate’s, friend’s story. Fairly brief; 2 to 5 minutes, and starting with the year. (e.g. “It was 1983, and I was trying to finish up my nursing degree, when I found out I was pregnant.” “In 2008, my wife and I had been trying for several years to have a baby. Now she had finally gotten pregnant, but when we got the results of the amnio, …” “1957. I was living in Missouri, and abortion was illegal. When my roommate learned she was pregnant, …” etc)

On Jan. 20 at our event, we will love it if you will present it yourself. But if it’s bad timing, bad location, or you’d just rather not get up to present it yourself, we will be happy to have someone read it for you. Also, you can use your own name or a made-up name, your choice.

We need these stories! – and people need to hear them. Will you help us? Will you spread the word that we’re looking for these stories?

Please email info@krcrc.org if you think you’d like to participate, either in person or by providing a story for someone else to read.”

By stepping out and talking about our experience we reduce the stigma and shame that surrounds abortion.  By sharing our stories, we support each other and continue building a world where reproductive justice is a reality.

Day 5 – Roe v Wade – Call to Action by fml and servalbear

January 22 is tomorrow. What are you going to do to support the right to access abortion?

Here are some ideas:

  • Kentucky RCRC is holding a Candlelight Vigil January 22 from 5P-7P. The location is The Temple, U.S. 42 at Lime Kiln Ln., Louisville, KY
  • National NOW Supreme Court Vigil is being held Monday, January 23 from 5P-6P. The location is the US Supreme Court Sidewalk, 1 First Street NE, Washington, DC
  • World Can’t Wait is meeting for Stand Up For Abortion and Birth Control on January 22 at 6P and January 23 at 6P. The location is the US Supreme Court Sidewalk, 1 First Street NE, Washington, DC.
  • Look in your area for events scheduled in support of Roe v Wade.  Be a presence at an event – there’s power in numbers.

We need to support abortion access for everyone without any apologies. Stand up and let your voice be heard. Remember the past so we do not have to repeat it.

If you cannot participate in a march or event for pro-access, please write your congressman and senators to let them know how you feel. Vote for candidates who are pro-choice in this year’s elections.  {More on that tomorrow…}

Donate in support of reproductive rights. There are several organizations listed on our “How to Get Involved” page on this blog.

Sometimes we feel like the things we can do aren’t big enough to make a difference.  Call or write your legislators… Really?  How helpful is that in the long run?

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But recently here in Louisville, efforts to merge a public hospital with a Catholic conglomerate were blocked. The hospital would have had to follow Catholic beliefs about health care. The merger would have limited access to basic reproductive health care, such as tubal ligations.

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There was enough of a huge outcry against it.  People rallied against the impact of following religious guidelines in a public hospital.  We’re proud to say our governor bravely vetoed the merger.

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Governor Beshear may not have vetoed it due to concern about abortion access, but at least he supported the separation of church and state in medical care.  It feels good to know that we were part of the public outrage that led him to investigate the terms more closely. One voice at a time let him know how unpopular this merger would be for health care in Louisville.

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So we keep doing what we can.  We hope in the long run, it will be enough.

Abortion Support in Kentucky is celebrating Roe vs Wade with their donation drive towards efforts to make abortion and reproductive healthcare more accessible in Kentucky. Please visit their website and contribute whatever you can.

Day 4 – Roe v Wade – History – by fml and servalbear

We do not want to go back to the days when abortion was illegal. The memories and stories are too painful. We have posted several stories on this blog about the way it was. Making abortion illegal will not stop the need for access to safe abortion. It will just make it more difficult for clients to get them.

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There is a famous saying by George Santayana.  “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

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For anyone wanting to explore the history of abortion in Kentucky, we highly recommend “Standing Up For Reproductive Rights The Struggle for Legal Abortion in Kentucky” by Fran Ellers, published Chicago Spectrum Press; 1ST edition (2008).*  You will learn, among other things:

  • In 1973 the first abortions were available in Louisville and Lexington
  • In 1973 Right to Life in Louisville started monthly marches to oppose abortion
  • In 1973 Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice was founded
  • In 1986 the National Organization for Women chapter in Jefferson County began providing escorts
  • Escort notes from 1986-1987 could have been written last week. They tell the same stories we tell today.

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There is another piece of history in a book recounting the murder of Dr. George Tiller we recommend. “The Wichita Divide: The Murder of Dr. George Tiller and the Battle over Abortion” by Stephen Singular, published by St. Martin’s Press, First Edition edition (April 12, 2011)**

Being familiar with the history of the war on reproductive rights is a necessary step to protecting those rights in the future.

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Reminiscence from fml:

I remember when I first realized I was pro-choice, back in the early 80’s.  A friend of mine was telling me about the plans she’d made to improve a life that seemed hopeless to her at the time.  She described her goals, the steps she’d planned, the things she’d already done to start the process.  It was very exciting.

I was enthusiastic, but I could tell something wasn’t quite right.  She got through describing her plans and said, “Sounds great, doesn’t it?”

I nodded, all hopeful.

“I’m pregnant,” she said.

I swear I heard a cell door slam.   A sick feeling in my stomach, an ache in my heart, and the sound of a metal door slamming shut.

I was so glad she had a choice.  It doesn’t matter what she did.  I’m just so glad she had a choice.  We can’t go back.

Abortion Support in Kentucky is celebrating Roe vs Wade with their donation drive towards efforts to make abortion and reproductive healthcare more accessible in Kentucky. Please visit their website and contribute whatever you can.

*A copy can be purchased for $25.00 by stopping by the ACLU office Monday-Friday 9a-5p. Reproductive Freedom Project, American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, 315 Guthrie Street Suite 300, Louisville, Kentucky 40204

**Available for purchase at book stores and Amazon.com.

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Day 3 – Roe v Wade – Physical Aggression – by fml and servalbear

The aggression against abortion rights isn’t all legislative.   Anti-abortion violence has been directed towards doctors, clinic workers, escorts and clients. Over the 39 years, anti-abortion factions have committed acts of terrorism including murders, attempted murders, and fire bombings.  They have made countless threats and tirelessly harassed in their zeal to prevent abortions. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-abortion_violence
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On New Year’s Day 2012 a homeless man set fire to the besieged clinic in Pensacola, FL. This act of terrorism was done because:
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  • Rogers said he had recently witnessed an anti-abortion protest near the clinic. “Rogers admitted to intentionally setting fire to the clinic due to his strong disbelief in abortion,” an affidavit stated, and “he stated (he) was further fueled when he recently witnessed a young female entering the clinic while he was sitting amongst anti-abortion protesters.” 
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The presence and aggression of anti-abortion protesters prevents access to abortion 39 years after Roe vs Wade. Some of our most impressionable citizens view their actions as implied consent to stop abortion any way possible. (Scott Roeder, Paul Hill, Bobby Joe Rogers) The presence of protesters in front of clinics is not an expression of free speech but an unwanted intrusion into the private medical decisions of clients.
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We get threats at our clinic.  One day a young man on a bicycle got in a verbal conflict with an escort.  He ended the argument by saying, “This is why I have guns at home,” and rode off.   This makes us stay on edge, watching for his return, the rest of the morning.
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Fortunately, he didn’t come back, and incidents like that don’t happen often.   Sometimes, people ask if escorting is dangerous.  Of course, it could be. There is always the potential. We never quite forget the illusion of safety could disappear in a second.
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Most people who are against abortion would not be willing to kill an already-born person even to prevent abortion.  However, some people actually believe it would be “justifiable homicide.”  Interesting values for the “pro-life” group.
 
 

Abortion Support in Kentucky is celebrating Roe vs Wade with their donation drive towards efforts to make abortion and reproductive healthcare more accessible in Kentucky. Please visit their website and contribute whatever you can.