Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tweeting Your Abortion

So, there's this single mom on Twitter who is live tweeting her abortion {medical, not surgical}. Her IUD failed and she got pregnant with her boyfriend. She was 6 weeks along. She's listed some of the reasons she doesn't want to be pregnant; she has a special needs son and wants to be able to focus on mothering him; she has significant pregnancy-induced medical risks. She's also made it clear that her reason for tweeting about it is to demystify the process because there's a lot of misinformation out there, and because she wants to help remove the shame stigma.

And I think she's fantastic.

Some people are calling her an attention whore {or just plain whore}. I have a hard time buying the idea that she'd be taking these risks just for 15 minutes of fame. Apparently the death threats have already seems some extremists only value life up until a person is born. But I don't want to waste my time talking about the nut-jobs going after her. I don't have that kind of time.

This whole thing has really grabbed my attention. I've been doing research on some repro-rights and women's rights, etc. And an online friend in Provo clued me into the awful new law headed to the governor's desk in Utah. Have you ever noticed, after buying a car, that you suddenly see that car ALL the time ALL over the place? I guess it's like that. Repro-rights and abortion have been on my mind and now I'm noticing the issue coming up all over the place.

The discussion of which I've been a part regarding the law in Utah have been interesting. Some people have defended it with a "well, it's not going to be used in a bad way" argument. I think that's an irresponsible assumption. Laws are often twisted in one way or another...and the wording of this law is practically begging for it to be applied in bad ways. I have a lot of thoughts on the situation, and not sure how organized they'll turn out to be but, here goes:
  • I fell down the stairs TWICE while pregnant. It must have been on purpose! Nobody's that clumsy, right? {Hah! Even the most graceful woman can find herself suddenly QUITE clumsy while pregnant, center of gravity changes, can't see your feet, etc.} The first time I fell I hesitated to head to the hospital. I was worried out of my mind, but I was also worried I was overreacting and that I'd be a burden/nuisance to the hospital staff if I went in to get checked out. Eventually some online friends convinced me that it was worth it, if for no other reason than to get some peace of mind. So I went in. But I sit here, and I remember how I hesitated {I hesitated even though it wouldn't have cost me a dime}. And I imagine how much more hesitant women will be to seek medical attention if they're worried someone is going to report them to the police. After the case in {was it Iowa?} in which a woman was turned over to police after falling down the stairs I worry that women in Utah won't seek medical attention after accidents.
  • Who gets to decide what's reckless? Is the woman who has a baby at 40 being reckless because of her age? Is the woman who feels trapped in a violent relationship being reckless? Is the woman who drinks coffee while pregnant being reckless? What about the woman who eats deli meat, or sushi? What about the woman who goes horseback riding every day {I knew a woman online who rode every day, including the day she went into labor}. It's easy to say the law won't go too far...but not only can you not promise that, you have to ask...WHOSE definition of too far? Some people have an occasional drink while pregnant {sometimes following the, in my opinion, bad advice of their doctors}. I think that's reckless...but I don't think it should land a woman {a woman who may have a family who depend on her} in jail.
  • I'm wary of any law that seems to put an embryo's "rights" above that of an actual, living, breathing, thinking, person. - I don't believe an embryo is a person. I think at some point a fetus must count as a person because I don't feel comfortable with the idea that passing through the vagina suddenly instils a baby with person-hood when there was none the day before the birth. That said, I don't know where that line is drawn...age of viability? Maybe. But here's the thing...very, very, very few abortions are late term. In Canada {according to Wiki} "During the year 2003, 6.5% of induced abortions were performed between 13 to 16 weeks, 2.2% between 17 to 20 weeks, and 0.8% over 20 weeks" And {also according to Wiki re: the US} {my thoughts in pink} of the women who got “late term abortions” did so because of the following reasons
71% Woman didn't recognize she was pregnant or misjudged gestation
48% Woman found it hard to make arrangements for abortion - With the number of anti-choice laws in place that attempt to do just that {make it difficult to get an abortion} this doesn't surprise me. The pro-life movement is actually doing fetuses a disservice in this case. If they didn't make it so damn hard for women to get a safe and legal abortion this number would probably be a lot smaller because the women this number represents would have been able to get the abortion earlier on {this problem also occurs with the pro-life efforts to restrict access to Plan B and birth control}.
33% Woman was afraid to tell her partner or parents - This is a cultural problem that won't change any time soon I'm sure, but I think the woman tweeting her abortion and the article in Glamour probably help. If 26 out of 100 {Wiki} pregnancies are ended by induced abortion worldwide, then it's probable that we all know someone who's had one for some reason or another. If we can remove the shame stigma from it then we can lower this number too. I would much rather women be choosing Plan B, or RU 486 than be getting abortions later in their pregnancies when we can't be sure of the person-hood status of a fetus.
24% Woman took time to decide to have an abortion This number {as well as the 6% who didn't realize timing was important and the 5% who didn't know they could get an abortion} are disturbing. Women who are educated with the truth about abortion will have an easier time making their choice, one way or another. But the sad fact is that there is a LOT of misinformation, or in the case of abstinence only programs, no information at all. This is yet another reason I think it's great that the woman on twitter {and now another woman getting an abortion who has joined her} are tweeting. Honestly, I've been pretty clueless myself. I'm educating myself now, because it interests me. But I really have been holding some outdated, untrue, etc. ideas or been unaware of certain facts. This seems to be common. In the discussions I've been seeing it seems most of us aren't even clear on the difference between Plan B and RU 486 and how they work, nor what the laws say about our bodies. And I find myself very unsettled by the idea that we're not making sure we know what's going on, not only medically concerning our own bodies and options, but politically and legally.
8% Woman waited for her relationship to change
8% Someone pressured woman not to have abortion
6% Something changed after woman became pregnant
6% Woman didn't know timing is important
5% Woman didn't know she could get an abortion
2% A fetal problem was diagnosed late in pregnancy I'm wondering if this number includes induced stillbirths.
11% Other
So, yeah, off on a tangent there. But my point is this...I think a law that values fetus rights over the rights of women {about whom we have NO doubts of their person-hood} are anti-woman. Women are people, not just walking incubators.

  • As best as I've been able to glean from the news is that this whole mess got started after a 17 year old girl hired a man to beat her up in an attempt to cause a miscarriage. I definitely think the girl should be charged with filing a false police report, but I certainly don't think we need to go and create a dangerously vague law in response to this one, very sad situation. And I'm annoyed that the "solution" to this problem is to create a new law that infringes on women rather than CHANGING the bad laws that created the situation in the first place. This girl hired this guy because her father wouldn't let her get an abortion. Utah has parental notification and consent laws in place so her FATHER got to make the decision about HER body. That's just wrong. Parental consent laws are wrong. And here's why I think that...first, it's not the parent's body. The parents will not be going through 9 months of pregnancy and then giving birth. It's not the parents who will have to provide for this child by either raising it or giving it up for adoption. Secondly, parental consent laws basically say "we, as a society, think you're old enough to be a parent but not old enough to decide on your own, without your parent's knowledge/consent whether to have an abortion." That's ridiculous. But now they're making another bad law to fix the problem created by the first bad law! I also have to wonder how this girl might have fared if Utah schools taught comprehensive sex ed. Did you know that the Provo location of Planned Parenthood gives out more Plan B than any other PP in the nation? Just something to think about.
  • This law isn't about protecting people, it's about punishing women...punishing them for having THE SEX outside of the prescribed manner, or punishing them for being "BAD MOTHERS" {being reckless while pregnant}, etc. This girl was stupid, but I don't think we should make stupidity criminal. What I do think is that we should make it easier for girls like her to get safe, legal, and {preferably} early abortions.
I really do think that, ultimately, most anti-choice laws have more to do with punishing women than we'd like to admit. And the way some pro-lifers talk about women only strengthens that suspicion. If it were really about babies then the pro-lifers wouldn't be trying so hard to limit access to Plan B {emergency birth control} or regular birth control. But it's NOT just about babies. On some level it's about THE SEX. Some people don't want people having sex outside the prescribed "appropriate" manner {heterosexual marriage}. It doesn't matter that not everyone holds the belief that only married people should have sex. Some people who think that's wrong think that they're on a moral high ground which makes it OK to enforce that belief on society as a whole...even if that means embracing sex education methods that lead to MORE teen pregnancy and MORE STDs. Of course, there are also the people who think that a fertilized egg = person. And I just don't know how anybody is supposed to reason with them. They're opinion isn't based on science or anything provable, so trying to explain to them that a 6 week old fetus should not have the same rights as a 20-something year old mother of one is, at best, a frustrating endeavor. These are often the same people who think regular, hormonal birth control, is evil because sometimes an eggs manages to get fertilized but then doesn't implant because of the birth control. To these people any type of abortion, even the ones women don't know about that were caused by their birth control, are murder. And then there are the outright liars who have been saying this woman on Twitter has aborted a fetus with arms, and eyes, and hands and blah blah blah.

But back to the "punishment" idea. If you listen long enough to the arguments against choice you'll hear the subtle indicators that underlying the anti-choice movement is a current of misogyny. Phrases like "well she should have kept her legs shut" or the more polite version "she made her choice when she chose to have sex" and "she wants to have sex without consequences" {"consequences being a code-word for "punishment"} are often thought-stoppers. But we should think about them, hard. First off, we should think about the imbalance of this attitude. It takes two to do the {horizontal} tango. But we only seem to insist on punishing the girls...their biology makes it so easy to do so. But secondly, when we throw arguments out like "well, this is the consequence or her previous choice" as an argument against abortion we're basically saying it's more important to us that this girl or woman face the consequences/punishment for having THE SEX than it is to consider her well-being or the well-being or a potential child. And, for those of us who are married and using birth control, it's doubly crappy for us to use this argument. When we do that we're saying it's OK for us to have THE SEX and not want the consequence {babies} because we're married...but it's not OK for the unmarried people. That's a double standard based on moral codes not all of society shares.

So, there are some of my thoughts. I'm pro-choice. I'm uneasy with late-term abortion; it's great that it's so much more rare than the anti-choice movement would have you think. I don't know that I would feel comfortable legislating my uneasiness. I think that if we made sure all our citizens had not only comprehensive sex education, but easy and affordable access to birth control, Plan B birth control, and RU 486 that we wouldn't even need to worry about late term abortion. And I think the new law in Utah is at least as stupid as the current laws that created the problem in the first place.