Archive for the ‘Abortion/Pro-Choice’ Category

Fighting Kindness with Kindness

September 16, 2011

We’ve heard the stories of abortion doctors and clinic staff being harrassed at their places of employment and at their homes. Even those peripherally associated with clinics have been targeted by protesters for harrassment. 

A Germantown, Maryland abortion clinic landlord receives calls and letters from protesters every day. The anti-choice group Defend Life distributed to its members the landlord’s personal contact information, including the names of his wife and two children. Members were asked to write or call him to ask – in a polite, Christian manner – if he would evict the clinic occupants from his building. He reported that the phone calls and emails have so far been polite, but felt that the protesters went too far when this week they went to his children’s school and a held up a huge banner printed with his name, address, phone number and photograph and the words “Please Stop the Child-Killing” for all of the parents and children of the school to see. 

The landlord has had enough, and has decided to launch a counter-campaign to return the “loving” emails, letters and phone calls that he and his family have received since Defend Life has targeted them. From an article on the story from Alternet:

So he’s decided that it’s time to call back, politely, with thanks for the prayers and wishes he has received, and with the hope that a phone call and email will literally bring home to his “gentle” opponents what it’s like to have that safe personal space invaded–even by so-called well-wishers.

Here is one of the landlord’s original emails, which he sent to the early supporters of the campaign:

I would like to organize a campaign to call and email each of these “concerned citizens” back. It would be 100 times as thoughtful if each of the people who called or emailed me got 100 calls or emails from people who lovingly and in a Christian way said to them:

1) The family truly appreciates your prayers.

2) Your opinions and pleas have been heard but

3) Defend Life has unfortunately misinformed you about the [family]’s legal rights regarding their ability to evict or terminate the lease of the clinic.

If you would like to help by sending polite emails, letters or phone calls to anti-choice protesters who have targeted the landlord, you can contact enddlterrorism@gmail.comto learn more. One thing to know: the landlord does not want people to be part of the campaign if they cannot be polite and non-confrontational. So no yelling, no threatening, no snark. If you can’t do that, don’t bother to sign up. Also, I volunteered to do some of this, but I’m watching out for my safety and privacy; I will be using a private, dedicated email account and a Google Voice phone number.

I think this is an interesting idea. I generally don’t engage in arguments with pro-lifers for the sake of attempting to change someone’s mind about the issue. But this campaign isn’t seeking to change people’s minds about abortion; it’s about getting individuals to rethink their tactics. If even one person is upset with the barrage of emails and phone calls that they’re about to get, perhaps they will understand how annoying and disruptive being on the receiving end of this type of campaign can be, and maybe they’ll decide not to engage in harrassing other human beings in this way in the future.

10 Things Amanda Marcotte Would Tell Anti-Choicers

July 28, 2011

This is a genius list. But first, recent abortion wars news:

Every day I read about absurd pieces of legislation that are specifically written to limit access to abortion or reproductive choice. Today’s Bill-O’-Fun-and-Oppression comes out of North Carolina.

Earlier this week the NC House managed to override the state governor’s veto on a bill that would require all women who seek an abortion to undergo a a 24-hour waiting period, an ultrasound, a detailed description of the fetus and state-mandated “counseling”. Today, the NC Senate  passed that bill 29-19.

This intrusive government-mandated health care now requires that every women have her ultrasound 24 hours in advance of the procedure, regardless of whether the woman is a victim of incest or rape or medical necessity, and regardless of whether she wishes to accept the state’s kind offer to waste her time with unsolicited, unnecessary medical procedures and lectures about “other options”. Book your hotel room now if you’ve traveled a distance to one of the eight cities in North Carolina that currently have abortion clinics – you’re going to be there for a few days. And so sorry if you can’t find the money for a hotel, or obtain transportation, or find childcare for several days, or take time off of work. Maybe you’d just better have that kid; in the short term it will be much easier than terminating your pregnancy. The pro-lifers in the North Carolina legislature can assure you of that.

And now on to Amanda Marcotte’s Awesome List of Awesome. Here are 10 very good points which people entrenched in the anti-choice movement ignore completely. But if you’re one of those people who have always identified as pro-life (then you’re probably not reading this blog, but just in case), but you’ve never really given the issue a lot of thought, check out Ms. Marcotte’s full article on AlterNet, in which she goes into detail about why each of the statements below is true. Or if you support reproductive rights, read her piece to brush up your knowledge on why abortion isn’t evil.

10 Things Amanda Marcotte Would Say to the Anti-Choice Fanatics Trying to End Access to Abortion

  1. Most abortions take place early in pregnancy.
  2. If not for anti-choicers, even more women would get abortions much earlier in their pregnancies.
  3. Doctors perform late term abortions because of medical indications, often on women who desperately wanted the baby.
  4. Women who get abortions aren’t afraid of being mothers.
  5. Abortion is physically safe.
  6. Abortion is mentally safe.
  7. Women who get abortions take responsibility for their decision.
  8. Abortion providers are responsible medical professionals who work to make sure their patients are healthy and avoid future unintended pregnancies.
  9. Women get abortions because they’re being responsible.
  10. Conservative policies cause the abortion rate to be higher than it needs to be.

Remembering Dr. Tiller

May 31, 2011

Today marks the second year since the assassination of Dr. George Tiller, a pro-choice advocate and provider of reproductive health services, including late-term abortions. On May 31st, 2009 an anti-choice extremist named Scott Roeder shot and killed Dr. Tiller. Roeder was convicted by a jury of his peers on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated assault, and was sentenced to life without parole.

The stiff penalty for killing an abortion provider doesn’t seem to be detering other would-be murders. Last Thursday Ralph Lang, a 63-year old anti-abortion extremist was arrested in Madison, Wisconsin when he told police that he had driven in from Marshfield, WI to shoot  the doctor and nurses at a Madison Planned Parenthood.

There is a long history of persecution, harassment and violence against those who provide abortions or who work to ensure access to abortion. In 1995, David J. Garrow of the New York Times wrote that this type of extremism “is the death throes of an anti-abortion movement in which almost every remaining participant realizes that the war to overturn Roe v. Wade has been irretrievably lost.” Would that he had been right, but 16 years after that article was published our abortion providers still have to wear bulletproof vests to work. Clinics still need enhanced security and volunteers to ensure that patients can get to their appointments. Legislators are still introducing new bills that would restrict women’s access to abortion.

Pro-choice advocates often do not receive the positive recognition, support and accolades that they so richly deserve. There is a lovely post over at Almost Diamonds which urges all of us on this Memorial Day to recognize not only the veterans of US wars and military engagements, but those who have fought to ensure our freedom in other areas of our lives.

I recognize Dr. George Tiller, Dr. Barnett Slepian, Officer Robert Sanderson and Nurse Emily Lyons, Dr. Jack Fainman, Dr. Hugh Short and Dr. Garson Romalis, Shannon Lowney and Leanne NicholsDr. John Bayard Britton, James H. Barrett and June Barrett, Dr. David Gunn. I recognize all of the employees and volunteers of clinics who support or provide abortion, who work to keep clinics open and serving their communities despite the potential for harrassment, violence and even death that is, frustratingly, just part of the job. This Memorial Day I remember their courage and their sacrifices.

Photos of PPFA Supporters

April 23, 2011

Yesterday I posted the story of my experience at the Good Friday  counter-protest that was held during the pro-life prayer vigil at Highland Park Planned Parenthood. Here are some of my favorite photos from yesterday, and here’s a big shout-out to everyone who took time on a Friday morning to show their support for men and women’s access to reproductive and sexual health.

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Planned Parenthood on Good Friday

April 22, 2011

Good Friday protesting is a tradition at the Highland Park Planned Parenthood in St. Paul, MN. Every year on this day a prayer vigil is held and hundreds of anti-choice supporters gather to pray to God for an end to abortion. In response, hundreds of pro-choice supporters gather to walk and cheer their support for the services that Planned Parenthood provides and a woman’s right to reproductive choice.

This is the first year that I’ve participated in the solidarity event, and the first time I have visited the Highland Park Planned Parenthood. I arrived at 7:30am and found a parking spot not too far from the clinic. Everything was very well-organized with cones, mobile fencing and plenty of uniformed police. An area for protesters was set up on one side of the clinic’s driveway, PPFA (Planned Parenthood Federation of America) supporters were on the other. There was a division between the two groups of about the length of the clinic itself, and the only people who were allowed to stop in this neutral zone were police and on-duty Highland Park clinic escorts.

The police and escorts were very good about keeping people from both groups off of the sidewalks and property unless they were walking through (that’s my way of saying I was wrist-slapped twice during the day for standing on the sidewalk while I took photos).  

Both groups were setting up when I arrived. I signed in at the pro-choice supporter’s booth, grabbed a sign (“Women’s Health Matters”) and joined a small group which had started walking clockwise around our “pen”.

The PPFA supporter sign-in area was in the clinic parking lot, but escorts did a great job of keeping the driveway entry clear for patients and staff.

At around 7:30am, the walk begins!

One of the first things I noticed as I was getting in line was a nearby run-down white building with a sign out front that said “Highland LifeCare Center”. I walked down to take a look.

Ugh. Yup – Crisis Pregnancy Center. CPCs usually position themselves close to clinics that provide abortions. This isn’t a medical clinic, but a “counseling” center. CPCs exist to try to keep women from getting abortions, and they have been known to use some pretty sneaky and underhanded tactics to achieve that goal. Bummer that this one is here.

8:00am and the crowds grow larger:

As time went on, more and more people showed up for both sides. There was no drama that I saw; both sides kept to themselves. The protesters chanted bible verses, sang hymns and church leaders showed up to give sermons and lead prayers. There were a few anti-choice signs, but nothing graphic, no bloody fetus replicas or yelling or screaming. I think that for most of them this was a pretty solemn occasion.

Okay, I swear that the appearance of the DQ Chicken Strip sign is purely coincidental and was not an attempt at humor. But it does kinda look like one of the marchers could be carrying it, doesn’t it? Pro-lifers for Chicken Strips!

There was little to do except chat, walk and cheer – which was a blast! I had a chance to meet some interesting people, including a lovely, charming woman who has been involved in the pro-choice movement since 1991. She told me about the illegal abortion she obtained back in the day, and how years she later she tracked down the doctor who had provided her abortion in order to thank him. I spoke with a gentleman who is interning with the MN National Organization for Women, and who I had met at the much chillier Walk4Choice back in February. And then I ran into some friends who I hadn’t even known were pro-choice supporters!


Walking at PPFA solidarity events is a great way to make new friends…


…and a good place to have surprise meet ups with current friends!

We were walking on Ford Parkway and there was a lot of passing traffic, a lot of supportive horn honking, and very little heckling. I did see one woman make a cross with her fingers (what are we – vampires? And get your hands back on the steering wheel, lady!), and I heard another walker exclaim, “I think that woman just hissed at us!” and start giggling. The supporters who drove by were very vocal and wildly waved out of their car windows or gave thumbs up. For those who didn’t agree with our message, well…Minnesota Nice kept them most of them politely disdainful and quiet.

Around 10am some of the PPFA supporters held a non-denominational service and sing-along.

And that was about it for me. There was a little drizzle, and the weather was cool, but not not horribly uncomfortable. I ended up leaving at around 11:30am when the crowds swelled so much that we could hardly move around our allotted space. I ran off to have lunch with the Hubby, and on the way back to his office we drove by and added some of our own honking and waving to the mix.

All in all, it was a really good experience and I’m glad I participated.

Clinic Escorting

April 13, 2011

In March I underwent clinic escort training for a women’s health center in Minneapolis. I am a strong supporter of a woman’s right to obtain affordable, confidential and safe abortions, and I believe that all people should have access to and information about sexual and reproductive health care. Being a clinic escort is one way for me to show my support for these issues and for the people who take advantage of these rights.

At the women’s health clinic at which I volunteer, a pro-life group has paid staff who stand outside and intercept women who have come to the clinic to have an abortion. These staff members hand out pamphlets filled with pictures of bloody tissue, stories from women who were “crippled by dispair and depression” because of their decision to have an abortion, and dubious or disproven claims about the links between abortion and breast cancer or future reproductive and sexual health. They walk alongside potential clinic patients and quote statistics at them or tell them to consider adoption or other alternatives to baby killing.

The women and men who come to the clinic often become exasperated, angry or distressed when these protesters get in their personal space and start speaking at them about abortion. They may yell back at the protesters, making a tense situation even more loaded. And as a clinic escort, do you know what I get to do in this situation?

I get to smile.

When a client approaches the clinic and is accosted by a protester, I get to stand off to the side in my bold yellow jacket that proclaims “clinic escort” on the front and smile, open the door to the clinic and motion them inside. That’s it. Nothing really world-saving there. I’m an unpaid doorwoman and it’s really easy work. But the relief on the clients’ faces at seeing a friendly, welcoming smile and having a guide past the aggressive in-your-face tactics of the protesters is the most incredible thing.

Last Saturday was my first day of escorting. There were  two of us escorting and four protesters, all of them regulars who are well-known to the clinic. We were all pretty nice to each other, considering we were diametrically opposed about the issue at hand. It felt very much like “you’re here to do your job, I’m here to do mine.” (and again – they’re *paid*, so they very literally were there to do their jobs).

At some point one of the ladies gently tried to hand me a pamphlet and I said “Look, while we’re out here together I’ll talk to you about anything you like except abortion.” She shrugged and we actually talked about the weather! She tried to slip abortion back into the conversation now and then, but each time I averted my gaze and sealed my lips. Then she’d sigh and go back to talking about her garden or grandkids. When a person or couple would approach the clinic, I would walk right next to the client(s) and distract them with chit-chat so the protester was relegated to speaking loudly at our backs. As soon as the client was inside the protestor and I would go back to discussing the weather.

It was an odd detente and I imagine a pretty good protester experience to have on my first day of escorting. I’m guessing they won’t all be this genial.

I learned about volunteering as a clinic escort from a twitter user named – appropriately enough – @clinicescort. Many Saturdays @clinicescort posts a tweet or two from the front lines about protests occurring at the clinic where she or he volunteers. I am always astounded by the spiteful, ignorant, close-minded vitriol that @clinicescort endures, but I am grateful that she or he is there to play interference for the clients of the clinic so that they can go about their day with less harassment. So far it seems like the protesters at my clinic are pretty benign – they don’t scream or unduly harrass, so small favors.

If you want more information about escorting, let me know in the comments or shoot me an email. And if you’re ever in downtown Minneapolis and you see me standing around in front of a building wearing a bright yellow jacket, make sure to give me a smile. I’ll certainly smile back.

Walk4Choice Minneapolis

March 1, 2011

On Saturday I walked with the Minneapolis contingent of the nation-wide Walk4Choice, a visibility event meant to draw attention to the recent anti-health legislation being proposed by pro-life advocates at both the federal and state levels.

Several bills have been introduced in 2011 which would do (or would have done) things like expand conscience clauses, define murder of those who attempt to harm a fetus as justifiable homicideredefine rape so that some types of rape would be “worse” than others (and thus less deserving of abortion and funding for abortion), put financial pressure on insurance companies who cover abortions, and call for the investigation of miscarriages as prenatal murder unless they can be proven to be spontaneous.

Perhaps the most heart-wrenching bills are those like H.R.3: No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion, which would cut federal funding for organizations that provide any type of abortion services. That means that organizations like Planned Parenthood would lose federal funding for desperately needed services such as contraception, breast and cervical cancer screening, gynecological exams, STD testing and other routine lab work, treatment for urinary tract infections and yeast infections and countless other services, education and support.

And here’s the real kicker with these bills that are being introduced in the interest of “not forcing taxpayers to pay for abortions”: Because of the Hyde Amendment, Planned Parenthood (and others) already cannot use federal funding in the vast majority of abortion services. Planned Parenthood serves over five million clients a year, and only about 3% of their services involve abortion counseling and abortion procedures.  Talk about cutting off the nose to spite the face.

H.R. 3 passed the US House on 2/18/11 and will next go before the Senate.

These types of bills are not intended to protect we taxpayers or to save lives; they are a distraction from greater problems that we face as a country. The lawmakers who are introducing these bills are wasting time until they can have a crack at the 2012 elections. Unfortunately, we can’t just dismiss these bills as the political posturing that we know them to be because people will suffer if we defund organizations like Planned Parenthood, if we restrict safe, legal access to abortion, if we stop offering affordable health services to men and women in a health care environment like the one we have in this country. So we write opinion pieces and blog posts, we call and email our congress members, we sign petititions, we send checks to organizations that support our rights, we have conversations with our friends and family.

And we walk.

Walk4Choice Minneapolis heads out from the intersection of 4th Street SE and 15th Ave SE in Dinkytown by the University of Minnesota, led by walk organizer Nora.

Walk4Choice supporters pose in front of the Minneapolis skyline on the Stone Arch Bridge. In total we had about 20 volunteers, with some people showing up later on the route.

In front of Minneapolis City Hall as the light rail glides by. Half of the group is huddling for warmth in the train shelter.


Two walkers laugh and cheer as we get shouts of support and honking from passing traffic. We had some hecklers and a few curses were thrown our way,
but for the most part people were polite. The honks, thumbs up, waves and cheers were very welcome encouragement.

Here we are on Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. You can see the Pantages theater in the background. Halfway through the walk my lips and cheeks were so cold that I had trouble forming the word “women” when we chanted “Trust Women!”. We ended up walking about five miles on slushy, cold, icy, windy, snowy sidewalks and streets, and our organizer later used the hashtag #freeze4choice to describe our walk on Twitter.

My Response to an Anti-Choice Note

January 18, 2011

Someone wrote me this note in response to my “Defend Reproductive Freedom” and “Keep Abortion Legal” bumper stickers.  I decided to answer his or her questions to the best of my ability.

Original Note:

Sorry to Meddle, But isn’t it hyprocritical to be for abortion when you yourself are alive? What if u were the one that was aborted. What about adoption. America want to save the whales, but abort the babies. Very sad. [sic]

My Response:

Hello unknown person who left the honest note on my car,

I do not think you are meddling – I welcome your hard questions and will do my best to answer them.

It is not hypocritical to support a person or family’s right to have an abortion when I myself am alive. This is because people do not have abortions to prevent life, but in order to prevent unwanted, unplanned or unsafe pregnancies, which if carried to term would result in a lesser quality of life for either the parent(s) or the unborn child.

To your second point – if I were aborted, we would not be having this conversation. That’s pretty much all I can say about that.

Lastly, you ask about adoption. I think that adoption is a choice, and if that choice is not acceptable for a woman or family, I would not pressure them to choose it over another form of reproductive control. Just as I would never presume to tell another woman or man how to raise their own child, I would never be so bold as to dictate to a woman or man how to have – or not have – a child in the first place.

Being pro-choice does not mean being “for abortion”; abortion is scary and a choice of last resort for most women and families. Nobody wants to have an abortion, but sometimes that’s the best – or only – option available. In these cases I want women and families to have safe and legal access to excellent physical and mental health care, and to not have to carry personal or social shame around in their hearts and minds afterwards.

PS – I think that whales and unborn children should be saved when at all possible. I am very pro-living.

Thanks for thought-provoking note, and for not just vandalizing my car instead.

I just folded up a printed copy of the letter below and placed it under the windshield wiper where I found the original note this morning.  I wanted to also post it here because I worked hard on the damn thing and know that it probably won’t be received by the author of the original note, so at least it will be seen by someone.  Thanks for reading it.

My Very Own Mail!

January 18, 2011

I’ve seen some bloggers use the blog title “I get mail” when they receive particularly noteworthy mail – usually when the message is on the snarky, aggressive or incredibly inane side of things.

Biodork has relatively tiny readership, I address a wide range of topics, and when I do write about a controversial issue, I try to avoid name-calling or other fallacious arguments, so I think I rate relatively low on the dickhead scale. Thus, I haven’t incited much mail from commenters who want to save my soul or chew me out for my garden variety hippie liberal left-wing leanings.

But I received something this morning, which I might be so bold as to call “better” than an e-rant: A handwritten note underneath my windshield wipers in response to my “Defend Reproductive Freedom” and “Keep Abortion Legal” bumper stickers!

Sorry to Meddle, But isn’t it hyprocritical to be for abortion when you yourself are alive? What if u were the one that was aborted. What about adoption. America want to save the whales, but abort the babies. Very sad. [sic]

I’m oddly touched by this note. I mean, it’s hand-written and it’s local – maybe from one of my neighbors who I see in my apartment complex or around town. It’s not an auto-generated response from some group halfway across the country that found me via a bot which was attracted to a blog post tag. I like to think that the person who left this note was walking home from somewhere, and that upon seeing my bumper sticker was so moved that they dug out some scratch paper and penned this letter on the spot so that they might inquire further about my personal beliefs on abortion, thus opening dialogue and prompting thought-provoking debate on the issue.

Okay, I’m getting flippant. But there is something human and non-rabid about this note that appeals to me, so tonight I’m going to leave a hand-written response under my windshield wipers. And who knows, maybe they’ll find it. At the very least it should garner some sympathy (or laughs) because it’ll look like I got a parking violation ticket.

Odds and Ends

April 28, 2010

Things that make me sad:

Oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Barrier Reef.  I’m just getting my SCUBA certification this spring – quite screwing up the pretty diving areas!

The Party of Hell No! – Republicans who like to look tough when they’re grilling Goldman Sachs executives, but who vote no to discussing Wall Street Reform.

The new Papers Please law.  Thank you, Arizona, for your cultural sensitivity and legal logic.  From Jon Stewart: “”It’s not unprecedented, having to carry around your papers. It’s the same thing free black people had to do in 1863!”

Oklahoma’s new limiting-your-choice abortion laws.

Things that make me happy:

Pay It Forward Day (here’s the facebook group).  As Anne Frank wrote: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

Zooey Deschenel’s She and Him.

My favorite books.  Not too long ago I had to submit a Top 10 list to the bookstore for a “Our Employees Suggest” display.  This was the original list – before I had to chop it down – who only gets to pick TEN favoriate books?

Stranger in a Strange Land

Robert A. Heinlein
I Never Promised You a Rose Garden Joanne Greenberg
Tales of a Female Nomad Rita Golden Gelman
Flowers For Algernon Daniel Keyes
Good Omens Neil Gaiman
Neverwhere Neil Gaiman
Lamb Christopher Moore
The Shack William Paul Young
Voyage of the Dawn Treader CS Lewis
The Cat Who Went to Heaven Elizabeth Coatsworth
Ecoptopia Ernest Callenbach
Brave New World Aldous Huxley
Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
Beggars in Spain Nancy Kress
Darkfever Karen Marie Moning
Vertical Run Joseph Garber
Replay Ken Grimwood
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams
Toxin Robin Cook
And Eternity Piers Anthony

This picture that Liz from the bookstore drew during break, and then gave to me!  It’s a book superhero robert:

Things that make me giggle:

A church sign seen in Hutchinson, MN:  Be a fisher of men – You catch ’em, He’ll clean ’em.  Aieee!  I don’t want to be filleted!

This Family Guy video: