Friday, December 14, 2007

Dolly Lama?

The Dalai Lama of Tibet, visiting Milan this week, told reporters that the next Dalai Lama could very well be a woman.

"If a woman reveals herself as more useful the lama could very well be reincarnated in this form," the 14th Dalai Lama told reporters in Milan, where he arrived for a private visit on Wednesday.

The 14th Dalai Lama has been living in exile since 1959 because of China's terrorist rule over Tibet. Looks like their power bleeds over into matters of the spirit as well:

China, which has ruled Tibet since 1951 and has violently crushed protests there, recently announced that so-called living Buddhas in Tibet needed permission from the government, officially atheist, to be reincarnated.


According to China's communist party, all matters related to religion must be ok'd by them - I have visions of a young child whose body holds the reincarnated soul of the 15th Dalai Lama waiting on an endless line in a windowless, white room much like the Department of Motor Vehicles holding his or her "papers" that need to get signed by some Chinese bureaucrat who doesn't even want to be there:

Bureacrat: Name?
Young child with non-validated soul of Buddha: Uh, I think I'm the 15th Dalai Lama
Bureaucrat: What?
Young child with non-validated soul of Buddha: Some monks visited my family and told us that I was the reincarnation of Buddha and that I must now take up life as the next Dalai Lama.
Bureacrat: Listen, kid. You're nothing until we say you're something AND especially not until you've filled out the proper paperwork, had it stamped and notarized down on the 2nd floor and then brought it back up her for processing.
Young child with non-validated soul of Buddha: But I don't need those papers. I am Tibetan and I have been deemed the next Dalai Lama.
Bureaucrat: You're bupkus until you've got the signed, stamped and processed paperwork from the Chinese communist party that tells you different. No move aside I've got other folks standing on line.
Young child with non-validated soul of Buddha: Thank you, sir.

... So, although successive reincarnations of the Dalai Lama are generally "revealed" to a committee of monks after the current Dalai Lama has died, the Chinese government will continue its oppressive rule over Tibetans infusing even their religious practice.

Friday, March 09, 2007


This is a blog post from my friend Alex about vaginas, The Big Lebowski and my son. It's more than worth a read.

Shin, Armpit, Little Toe, Vagina, Forehead...

Let's get one thing fucking straight: My girly body parts are not dirty, shameful or inappropriate for children. I'm not talking about pictures of vaginas (which aren't necessarily any of the above), any sort of sexual context or making anyone discuss vaginas against their will. I am talking about the WORD vagina, which names a part of the human body.

I am not surprised by this story at all. Sadly, I'm not even disappointed because I would absolutely expect nothing less. Three high school students in NY are possibly facing suspension for saying the word "vagina" in the context of a reading of "The Vagina Monologues." Their principal is a man. Big surprise. His name is Dick. I am not kidding.

The three students are on the Today Show this morning with Eve Ensler. Meredith handled herself with the usual airheaded idiocy. "But children were going to be present." I love that the president of the school board (also on the show) said that he has no problem with the word vagina and has heard it more in the last few days than ever before.

The point here is not if they get suspended or not, although, it would be an injustice. The point here is that there was even a question that the word in the context of a empowering phrase in a monologue that includes the word vagina may be offensive to hear. Ridiculous.

I think this point is well explained in the words, of Maude Lebowski. Let's consult the text:

My art has been commended as being
strongly vaginal. Which bothers
some men. The word itself makes
some men uncomfortable. Vagina.

Oh yeah?

Yes, they don't like hearing it and
find it difficult to say. Whereas
without batting an eye a man will
refer to his "dick" or his "rod" or
his "Johnson".

As an aside, my godson Elijah, who was about five at the time and who says his r's with a little difficulty, overheard me quoting the above passage. He responded matter-of-factly: "I don't have any twouble saying vagina, but I do have a little twouble with my r's."

Amen, Elijah. You're the product of feminist parents. Should all children be so lucky. Obviously Principal Dick's parents weren't.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

We Hate Bratz

"We hate Bratz dolls. Right, Mommy?"

My four-year old daughter makes me proud in the toy aisle at Target. We're looking for a gift for one of her girlfriends who is turning five soon. My daughter's mimicry of my intense hatred towards a slew of popular young girls' dolls like Barbie and Bratz may be rote but it's firmly implanted. For a toy company like Bratz or Mattel, makers of all things Barbie, there is no getting around my maternal barricade; at least for as long as my daughter believes that mama knows best. This, however, is not the case for millions of young girls in this country. Girls as young as three-years old are now the direct targets of marketing campaigns hawking things like toys and clothing with obvious overtones of sex and sexuality. Add advertising and media content that over-emphasize the importance of physical appearance and sexual appeal for women and according to the American Psychological Association's (APA) latest report, The Sexualization of Girls, you've got a "broad and increasing problem" that is "harmful to girls."

Continue reading on Reproductive Health Reality Check!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Talk for Planned Parenthood

This is great and straight from LifeNews (antis) but I had no idea! Sometimes ya get yer news from the strangest places...

Planned Parenthood Launches Nationwide Pro-Abortion Cell Phone

by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 21, 2007

Washington, DC ( -- The nation's largest abortion
has started a new wireless communications system partnering with
long-time pro-abortion long-distance carrier. Planned
Parenthood's new
cell phone service will allow pro-abortion activists to not only
calls but get action alerts from the organization.
Planned Parenthood Wireless is a new affinity program that
allows its
supporters to sign up for a mobile phone service and see 10% of
monthly bill go back to the abortion business.
The pro-abortion group will also use customers' monthly bills to
include action alerts and information and will provide 30 free
of calls every month to encourage its members to talk to friends
abortion issues.
"Planned Parenthood members care passionately about women's
reproductive health and rights," Cecile Richards, PPFA president
said in
a statement received. "Now they have a smart,
simple way
to support our work and express that passion with every phone
call they
make, through a wireless service provider that cares."
The service is handled exclusively by Working Assets, a company
exists to sell phone service to left-wing political activists
who want
to see their favorite groups supported. It has provided
phone services for Planned Parenthood for years.
Like many other affinity phone service companies, Working Assets
contracts with a larger phone company (in this case Sprint) to
telephone access to its customers.
In fact, the two companies partnered to generate phone calls to
Dakota residents urging them to defeat a statewide abortion ban
on the
ballot last November.
Customers who sign up will also get pro-abortion text messages
Planned Parenthood. New customers keep their current cell phone
and can get a free phone for signing up.
Not to be outdone, the pro-life side of the abortion debate also
companies that provide telephone service.
The Missouri-based Pro Life Communications offers long-distance,
telephone, nationwide cellular, Internet, and will soon be adding
satellite television to its lineup. The company says it donates
all of
its profits to pro-life organizations, which is currently about
15% of
the monthly bill customers pay.
Joseph Dalton, the head of the company, says it only contracts
networks and providers that do not support Planned Parenthood or
pro-abortion groups.
Another company, Amerivision Communications, has been working
pro-life groups for many years to provide them with affinity
long-distance services for their members. Also known as LifeLine
Communications or Affinity 4, the company offers Internet
services as
well as wireless communications, credit cards, and DirecTV
The company gives 10% of the monthly usage bill back to the
organization of the customer's choice and has contributed more
than $75
million to Christian and pro-life groups.
Related web sites:
Pro-Life Communications - Affinity 4

Printed from: _

Lake of Fire

I am warily looking forward to seeing Tony Kaye's new film Lake of Fire. It's a documentary about the abortion debate. It's 2 1/2 hours god.

But I'm looking forward to it because, from what I've read, it takes a look at the endless controversy surrounding abortion without bias and with an eye towards unearthing the extremism on both sides. That is, the film tries to show how deeply entrenched both sides are with feet firmly planted in the absolute rightness of their belief systems.

That sounds juicy to me. I think a lot about the gray. The gray that lives between the vociferous and passionate pro-choice advocates and the driving, vocal anti-choice activists. We're all hell bent on making sure everyone knows how completely RIGHT we all are. We're stuck in the black or white. But the rest of the country lives in the gray.

I've lived in the gray. I lived in the gray when I became pregnant with my second child - my daughter, while working at Aradia Women's Health Center. How could I feel such absolute joy and love for a collection of cells just 5 weeks old while advocating so strongly for the woman in the exam room next door to my office undergoing an abortion at 12 weeks pregnant?

The gray followed me for awhile. We did exercises at Aradia - the staff would engage in collective exercises, writing about our feelings about abortion. One day, a couple of days before our monthly staff meeting, we were asked to write about "something about abortion that surprised us". I wrote about the gray. I wrote about how surprised I was at my ambivalence about working at AWHC, about abortion, when pregnant with my daughter. I wrote about the sadness I felt that I could feel such love & happiness for a 5 week old embryo while women around me were saying good-bye to the embryos growing inside them.

I wrote about the fear. I had fear that maybe I wasn't "pro-choice." That maybe deep down I just couldn't advocate for something that wasn't black & white anymore. How could I be a passionate advocate for gray?

But somewhere between the writing of the piece and my growing belly, I relaxed. I realized that the gray had always been there. That it's there for many, many women. I realized that the sadness I felt wasn't to be crammed down, pushed away forever. The sadness was to be experienced and felt. The sadness was okay. The love I felt for my daughter growing inside gave me tremendous joy because I had made a choice - the right choice for me.

The sadness was one of those beautiful contradictions that life is made up of. Life is all about the anger, the joy, the beautiful, the ugly, the grief, the happiness, the fear, the calm. I don't live in the gray. But I can understand the gray and where it comes from now. I do feel absolute in the rightness of my belief that all women MUST have the freedom to control their reproductive destiny. My experiences, however, have taught me compassion for and understanding of those who live in the gray. My fears conquered make me stronger. My sadness overcome gives me courage. That's black and white for me.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Merck Puts A Stop To HPV Vaccine Mandate

Merck has decided to stop their push in various state legislatures to mandate Gardasil, their HPV vaccine, for all school-aged girls. Gardasil is the vaccine that has the potential to protect against cervical cancer by innoculating against certain strains of HPV that can cause cervical cancer.

Even before Gardasil became available, Merck - the New Jersey based makers of the vaccine, started campaigning to raise awareness. Texas recently became the first state to require the vaccine for school aged girls. There are currently twenty other state legislatures debating the same requirements.

But, according to a statement made by Rick Haupt, director of medical for Merck's vaccine division, there isn't enough state funding to pay for the expensive three-dose vaccine (each vaccine costs approximately $120, making it a $360 vaccine altogether!). And the American Academy of Pediatrics says there isn't enough "public acceptance" either. Also, there is talk that more research needs to be done before a large scale push to mandate a vaccine should happen.

I think Gardasil has tremendous implications if given to as many young girls as possible - in this country but even more significantly in developing countries where examinations like PAP smears and access to gynecological health care is rare. As a parent of a young girl, I want to know what the side effects are, I want to make sure that the benefits of giving the vaccine outweigh potential deleterious effects. But I think this vaccine has obviously been saddled with the weight of controversy by the nature of what it protects against.

But this has always boggled my mind. Hepatitis B is an STD and children routinely get innoculated against Hep B. Why no outrage?! Oh, because, this is for girls only. And we want our girls pure. We don't want to taint our girls sexual purity by protecting them against something that they should have no problem avoiding as long as they avoid sex for any and all reasons.

Off on a tangent I go. The thing is, I think we should be able to find funding for this. At Aradia Women's Health Center, I became almost obsessed with the HPV vaccine as soon as I heard it would soon be available. I did a lot of the prep work at the clinic to prepare for AWHC being able to provide the vaccine to our clients. I worked on it to the exclusion of almost everything else & AWHC was one of the first - if not the first - health provider in Seattle to be able to offer the vaccine to our clients.

But, of course, as with all health care in this country, the vaccine was available only to the more privileged. Some insurance companies decided to cover it. But for the great majority of our clients who used subsidy in some form or another to cover their health care, the vaccine was too expensive and therefore completely unavailable to them.

I hope the proper data is collected so that the major medical organizations in this country and the organizations working on sexual and reproductive health internationally are able to distribute the vaccine widely, ensuring that all girls have at least one more tool to protect themselves against an STD as well as cervical cancer.

For more on this, see Tyler's post on RH Reality Check!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

How "Ashley's Treatment" Is Like Abortion Rights

Her parents lovingly named her their "pillow angel" because she is "so sweet and stays right where we place her—usually on a pillow." But the simple and ethereal term belies the controversy that has surrounded Ashley, the "pillow angel", and her parents for the last six weeks.

In January of this year, a story broke that unleashed a media torrent and a worldwide outwardly centered on medical ethics. Unpeel the layers, however, and you find a story that shares a great deal in common with the quest for reproductive justice and what it means to be able to sincerely and lovingly make a choice that may seem, to outsiders, the wrong choice—and therefore the unacceptable choice—but an individual's loving choice all the same. At the center of the story, Ashley, a now nine-year-old girl who was diagnosed at 3 months old with "static encephalopathy of unknown etiology"—an unchanging brain abnormality that sentences Ashley to live the mental and developmental life of a three month-old infant while her body continues to age normally. Ashley cannot move or talk but she is expected to live a long life. To read the story of Ashley's early life on her parent's blog is both heartbreaking and beautiful.

Continue reading on Reproductive Health Reality Check!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

When Bloggers (that are women) Are Attacked

Amanda Marcotte of the blog Pandagon was hired on as John Edwards 2008 official blogmistress. She's an experienced writer, smart, witty and clearly knows where she stands on a host of issues. She's not afraid to state her opinion on any topic from sexual assault to reproductive rights to Catholicism. In short, she's a strong woman with strong perspectives - a perfect choice for blogmistress for a democratic candidate's presidential campaign. Melissa McEwen, from the blog Shakespeare's Sister, was hired on as Edwards' campaign's netroots coordinator. Melissa is also a powerful writer with a clear, feminist framework for her positions. She's what I like to call "badass." Yes, I said it.

So, I was not only surprised, but elated really that Edwards had hired on these two amazing women to represent his campaign to the blogosphere & beyond.

Apparently not everyone was as elated as I was. Conservative bloggers were angry that Edwards dared to hire two out of the closet feminists to make their opinions known to the world.

And then came crazy Willy Donohue who didn't just make disparaging remarks about Amanda & Melissa but called for their immediate firing!! And didn't just call for their immediate firing but somehow got two NY Times articles written and a host of mainstream media coverage about it!
This is the William Donohue who has these lovely gems to be proud of:

* "People don't trust the Muslims when it comes to liberty." [MSNBC's Scarborough Country, 2/9/06]

* "Name for me a book publishing company in this country, particularly in New York, which would allow you to publish a book which would tell the truth about the gay death style." [MSNBC's Scarborough Country, 2/27/04]

* "The gay community has yet to apologize to straight people for all the damage that they have done." [MSNBC's Scarborough Country, 4/11/05]

* Addressing former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) in a press release, Donohue said: "[W]hy didn't you just smack the clergyman in the face? After all, most 15-year-old teenage boys wouldn't allow themselves to be molested. So why did you?" [10/4/06]

* "I'm saying if a Catholic votes for Kerry because they support him on abortion rights, that is to cooperate in evil." [MSNBC's Hardball, 10/21/04]

* "We've already won. Who really cares what Hollywood thinks? All these hacks come out there. Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It's not a secret, OK? And I'm not afraid to say it. ... Hollywood likes anal sex. They like to see the public square without nativity scenes. I like families. I like children. They like abortions. I believe in traditional values and restraint. They believe in libertinism. We have nothing in common. But you know what? The culture war has been ongoing for a long time. Their side has lost." [MSNBC's Scarborough Country, 12/8/04]

* "Well, look, there are people in Hollywood, not all of them, but there are some people who are nothing more than harlots. They will do anything for the buck. They wouldn't care. If you asked them to their own mother in a movie, they would do so, and they would do it with a smile on their face." [MSNBC's Scarborough Country, 2/9/06]

But it didn't stop there. reported that the Edwards campaign fired both women. But Edwards said they weren't. But then Amanda quit. And Melissa. And now I"m angry - really angry.

Why the uproar? You know full well why the uproar. Because these are women who dared to speak up against the powers that be. These are two women who dared to believe that they could be strong, opinionated women who challenged the discourse of diluted campaign speak in favor of discussing real issues that reflect a diversity of though. Both of these women thought they could be themselves - young women in a society still infused with sexism, racism, classism; a society that still does not address its inherent inequalities & sometimes outright misogyny. Amanda & Melissa thought they could be critical of the radical, fascist elements of Christianity that ensure women and girls remain oppressed; both Amanda and Melissa thought they could take their deep-down-in-their-hearts belief systems out into the world with at least the support of the so-called "Democratic" left.

But it is clear to me that this is not about politics. Read what is up on Pandagon right now. The site is down but Amanda's got a page of evil, violent tirades and threats from the "Christians" who feel insulted by her (blasphemous!) existence as a feminist woman with a yearning to be free.

While Amanda was busy using expletives in her blog writing to emphasize her anger at the status quo (how inappropriate for a woman to express anger at the world in public!), while she was daring to be critical of some of the more anti-woman, patriarchal Catholic doctrines as well as expressing frustration & anger about a whole host of "issues" from reproductive rights to violence against women, she did not know that the world around her continued to bubble and boil with hate towards "her kind":

It's just too bad your mother didn't abort you. You are nothing more than a filthy mouth slut. I bet a couple of years in Iraq being raped and beaten daily would help you appreciate America a little. Need a plane ticket ?

Lest you think that is just one wormy, rotten apple in the hearts & roses bushel, take a visit to the page on Pandagon right now.

John Edwards is a coward. This country is still severely misogynistic. I am enraged. But I am not at all cowed.

Quick Update: Apparently Rebecca Traister sees William Donohue's oh so subtle hatred towards women as well. She's got an article on about this.

Also, you've got to check out Echidne's most recent post about this. Please.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

HPV Vaccine is Pro-Life

The governor of Texas (of all governors, of all states!) has written an op-ed extolling the virtues of making the HPV vaccine mandatory for young girls in his state. His take? It's truly a "pro-life" position as it saves girl's & women's lives by helping to prevent cervical cancer. Great idea - why didn't the pro-choicers think of this tack?! Oh, wait, we did. Our minds and bodies are bursting with the inherent knowledge that freedom of access and choice saves lives.

Gov. Rick Perry proclaimed his strong stance against cancer (wow, that's a brave choice!) in this opinion piece in USA Today (sorry, I'm a little grumpy today):

Opposing view: My order protects life
Vaccine mandate will prevent deaths, give parents the final word.

By Rick Perry

As governor of Texas, I will do everything in my power to protect public health. The executive order I signed last Friday will help stop the spread of human papillomavirus (HPV) and prevent cervical cancer in young women.

Some are focused on the cause of this cancer, but I remain focused on the cure. And if I err, I will always err on the side of protecting life.

For the first time in history, a vaccine exists that can prevent a deadly cancer — the second most common form of cancer in women. The HPV vaccine is approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a second vaccine is expected on the market within the next year.

Research shows that the HPV vaccine is highly effective in protecting women against the four leading cancer-causing strains of HPV. Though some might argue that we should wait several years before requiring the vaccine, I believe such a delay unnecessarily risks the lives of young women.

This is not the first vaccine Texas has required for a non-contagious disease. Years ago, Texas required inoculations to prevent the spread of Hepatitis B, spread primarily through sexual contact or shared needles.

Even with this new requirement, parents can still choose to opt out. But we will never eradicate a disease that impacts 20 million Americans with an "opt in" provision because statistics show only one-quarter of the eligible population gets inoculated in such circumstances. The "opt out" provision — standard for all Texas vaccinations —will help us protect three-quarters of our young women.

Parents will still have the final word, and a full debate will take place as our health agency adopts implementation rules before the order takes effect in 19 months. And if Texas legislators want to debate and pass a different vaccine law, there is nothing standing in their way.

If we could stop lung cancer, would some shy away claiming it might encourage tobacco use? This is a rare opportunity to act, and as a pro-life governor, I will always take the side of protecting life.

Rick Perry, a Republican, is governor of Texas.

I praise Governor Perry for coming out in favor of not just providing the vaccine to young girls & women in his state, but making it mandatory, thereby ensuring that all who want it, have access to it. As with any vaccine, a parent of a minor can choose to "opt out" on behalf of their children.

But there is the cynical, maybe just level-headed, part of myself that sees this (and all state policies that have made the HPV vaccine mandatory thus far) as a deal with the devil. It's a handshake between legislators and a powerful drug company lobby. Merck will get the billions, governors & legislators will get the support. Maybe that's just the way politics works. I want the HPV vaccine to be available and, more than that, accessible to any girl or woman who wants it.

And, as the oped states, when you make a vaccine mandatory there is clearly a huge percentage of folks who will get it, who wouldn't otherwise. So, it's a good thing, right?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Girls Gone Wild - NOT!

When my daughter was three years old and not yet reading, I got her a subscription to a magazine. I know it may have been a little presumptuous. But the magazine I subscribed her to, New Moon Magazine ("Bringing Girls Voices To The World"), is one of those tools in my growing toolbox of "Things to combat popular culture/sexism/patriarchy and help my daughter grow into a smart, loving, creative, beautiful, badass woman - like the girl she is now."

I got the monthly email from New Moon Magazine in my mailbox today featuring their concise attempt to dispel the myth that girls are suddenly getting more "wild" these days - that they are more violent now, that the number of incidences of girl-on-girl assault is increasing in our country and that young female celebrities like Paris Hilton are encouraging that "wild" behavior. According to the Girls Study Group, convened by the U.S. Justice Department, the media's attempts to cover the issue has resulted in overblown statistics and conflated conclusions.

In fact, the idea that young female violence is on the upswing is just plain wrong:

Newsweek's cover story this week proclaims "The Girls Gone Wild Effect" with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears hanging on each other. The authors of the article attempt to make a case that because young celebrity women are out in public more, partying with seemingly no care in the world, young girls are feeling the "negative effects" of these "Girls Gone Wild." I have to say that the premise seems like a rehashing of the idea that women should be good little females and mind their manners in public or girls will actually get the idea that they don't have to maintain strict standards for how they behave (gasp!) when they grow up.

According to statistics, there is no cause and effect relationship between however Paris or Britney choose to spend their time and girls descent into some kind of wanton craziness or brutality.

Thank you, New Moon Magazine, for being my co-conspirator & my support as I attempt to raise a strong, smart and feisty woman in this country that seems to try and foil me at every other turn.

But my love for New Moon Magazine is multi-layered. Their magazine is filled with stories, poems, art and articles written by girls. They also focus on public policy and political action. Their web site has a section called "Letters to Congress" that highlights political and social issues affecting women and girls around the world and what you can do to impact legislative policies.

And they have a blog. And whaddya know?! I checked it out today for the first time and their newest post is about the Global Gag Rule!! If I had had something like this when I was growing up I could have saved thousands on therapy.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

When Pregnant Women Attack

You know how sick and tired I am of politicians using precious resources and time to create problems where none exist?! Virginia legislators actually spent time and tax payer money writing legislation that would criminalize pregnant women for causing a miscarriage:

Del. S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk), the sponsor of the bill, said the legislation is aimed at protecting fetuses that are harmed during the late stages of pregnancy. He cited a Suffolk case in which a woman caused a miscarriage the day before she was scheduled to give birth. "If she would have taken it and abandoned it and it would have died, she would have been charged," Jones said.

Is this “when pregnant women attack”?! Really, are we to assume that this Virginia legislator was inundated with stories from his constituents begging & pleading with him to push a law that would put pregnant women in jail (?!) for bringing on a miscarriage? Del. Jones’ premise for this draconian legislation is so flawed; it’s amazing its being taken seriously. First of all, a miscarriage is defined as “the loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks.” So, unless this woman was scheduled to give birth when she was 20 weeks pregnant, he is not talking of a woman who “caused a miscarriage” but rather, induced an abortion Also, according to the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, most miscarriages occur in the first 3 months. Finally, it’s probably significant to note that approximately 10-15% of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage – and that’s only known pregnancies. Clearly the number is actually higher. How do we tell which one of these women caused her own miscarriage? You tell me. It’s probably safest to assume that if any harm should come to a growing embryo or fetus, we blame the mother & imprison her. Really, we just don’t want bands of women who have recently miscarried roving the streets unpunished.

I had a miscarriage after the birth of my first child. I was almost 12 weeks pregnant at the time. It was devastating. Only after I revealed to my close friends, co-workers and extended family that I had miscarried did I hear the innumerable stories of women who had also miscarried. Does this Virginia legislator propose to investigate all miscarriages? And how are we going to define “causing” a miscarriage?

Most distressing to me is that this proposed law sets up an expectation that a woman who causes her own miscarriage is guilty of essentially murder. If we are going to criminally penalize women who cause a miscarriage – ending the life of the fetus growing inside her, we must use the legal term, “murder”, to describe the result of the woman’s actions. National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) has been the most vocal and active advocates for pregnant women in the United States working “ to secure the human and civil rights, health and welfare of all women, focusing particularly on pregnant and parenting women, and those who are most vulnerable - low income women, women of color, and drug-using women” and I’m sure they will have a lot to say about this bill.

According to The Washington Post, the Virginia House of Delegates gave “tentative approval” to this bill yesterday, Monday, February 5. They also gave the same approval to a similar bill that would penalize someone, other than the mother, who causes a miscarriage to occur. The other law, the one I like to call “when pregnant women attack”, could result in a woman being imprisoned for up to ten years. So if a woman who is already a mother intentionally causes herself to miscarry, we not only punish the mother but we punish her living, breathing children as well by taking their mother away from them for upwards of ten years.

Once again, we see legislation designed solely to punish a woman for daring to get pregnant when she didn’t mean to or want to. Once again, we punish a woman for the intrinsic power her body can wield.

I’m shocked that this legislation actually made it through the Viriginia House. Final votes on the bill will happen today and if approved the bill will get sent over to the Senate. According to the Washington Post article, however, Republican leaders tried to block it because of its contentious nature (but not because its one more of the most woman-hating, basest pieces of anti-choice legislation that has hit our state governments in recent memory). Also, a 2005 Washington Post poll revealed that most Virginia residents want abortion to remain legal. This inherently anti-choice bill will certainly leave a bad taste in the mouths of most Virginia voters.

I read this article two hours ago and my mouth is still agape. I am truly disgusted. My brother and I have this discussion frequently: how can forced birthers/anti-choicers continue to advocate for the criminalization of abortion without calling for the imprisonment of the one who commits the crime – the woman? Eventually, we knew this was going to happen. I look forward to NAPW’s analysis of this and hope to god we don’t see copycat proposed legislation pop up around the country. Sadly, anti-choice advocates are slowly but surely succeeding at replacing the joy a woman feels, who is happily & willingly pregnant, with fear and terror. If we start prosecuting (and persecuting) pregnant women for “crimes” like miscarriage no pregnant women will be immune.

Monday, January 29, 2007

"Mom, Dad - I'm Pregnant"

Those two words - I'm pregnant - uttered by young women around the country millions of times over; the amount of teen terror as they try and muster up the courage to tell their parents, ocean-sized. And even if a young woman gets up the guts to talk to her parents; even if a young woman feels that her parents would understand, there are still mountains yet to climb. What are the options? How does one access those options? What if the young woman is pregnant as a result of a rape? What are the laws in her state around abortion? Adoption? What if she wants to keep the baby? Are the resources out there to help a teen care for her child?

The Abortion Conversation Project (ACP) has answers. In their new web site, , teens and their parents will find "communication advice for family crisis" in the form of resources, referrals, guidance, help and mostly information presented in a loving and compassionate manner, devoid of the political statements or angry judgements that seem to permeate other resources for pregnant teens and parents.

ACP has created a place where teens can access help to communicate with their parents about their pregnancy and where parents can feel gently guided if they are at a loss for what to say or how to support their pregnant teens. As the press release announcing the advent of the new project puts it,

Yesterday, your mother was nagging you about cleaning your room. Today, how do you tell her you’re pregnant? Your daughter has seemed remote but you never suspected she might be pregnant: how do you respond? The “Mom, Dad, I’m Pregnant” Project of the Abortion Conversation Project, Inc. addresses these questions and more on its new website and in companion handouts, “How Can I Tell my Parents?” and “How Do I Respond?” The website, offers specific suggestions for both young men and women and for their mothers and fathers who are dealing with a pregnancy crisis.

And this:

The site includes advice for teens on telling parents about a pregnancy, considering options, information in case of a rape, and special advice for young male partners. Advice for parents highlights how to respond and improve relationships with daughters and sons, as well as special advice for moms and dads. There are sections on Minor’s Rights, and what to do if parents may be abusive, as well as spiritual, legal, and additional resources.

Of course, since the Abortion Conversation Project was initially launched as a project to assist in reducing the stigma around abortion by talking truthfully and honestly about abortion, there will be the usual kicking and screaming from the anti-choice activists. But that's a shame. Because ACP has been the harbinger of positive and radical change in the pro-choice movement since its beginnings in 2004.

ACP has ushered in a new discourse around abortion and reproductive rights. ACP offered the initial support and guidance for publications like Our Truths, Nuestras Verdades (for which I was on the first Board of Directors) - a magazine that seeks to give voice to women's and men's abortion experiences through creative nonfiction, commentary, poetry and visual art. ACP offers resources for how to have an open, honest one-to-one conversation about one's abortion experience or the abortion experience of someone close; they also offer information on how to have community conversations about abortion.

The authenticity of the Abortion Conversation Project for me (a former abortion clinic staffer for 6 1/2 years), is that it was started and it continues to be lead by independent abortion providers. The sincerity with which the ACP desires to open the conversation around abortion and allow women's voices to rise to the top of that conversation changes the discourse around abortion dramatically.

While the anti-choicers are now ready to lead with their "new" strategy that focuses on highlighting women who say they have been hurt by their abortions and the tagline that's resulted ("abortion hurts women"), ACP focuses on how to help women who have had an abortion or women who choose to access abortion deal with their abortions without the stigma and silence that surrounds most women's experience pre- and post-abortion.

I'm very excited for this new resource and I hope Planned Parenthood doesn't let their super-powered, corporatist mindset stand in the way of steering young people and parents towards Can you sense my hostility towards PP? They seem to lead the conversation, with NARAL ProChoice America, around abortion even though the majority of abortions are performed by independent abortion providers thus making organizations like ACP - led by independent abortion providers - more "expert" than PP or NARAL.

ACP represents "the little guys" and they are nimble and authentic enough to know what women, families and communities need to move past abortion as a loaded topic into the real world.

Re-posted on Reproductive Health Reality Check.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The World We Want

The ACLU gives me hope with this piece. When I wrote the letter to Aradia Women's Health Center's donors & supporters announcing our closure, I ended with this thought:

Our success is due in large part to you, Aradia’s supporters, who have consistently believed in the power of feminist health care and championed Aradia’s mission. I hope our vision statement continues to inspire you and that you carry it forward: Aradia Women's Health Center envisions a world where each woman's individual choices regarding her reproductive and sexual health are respected so that she may live freely and truly reach her highest potential.

Because that is truly what's important - we must all continue our work towards the creation of the world we want to see, the world we want to live in, and the world we want our children to inherit. The dissolution of Aradia is depressing on many levels - but ultimately we need to ensure that we are ever vigilantly carrying forward a vision of a future where all women live in justice and equality.

The World We Want: 34 Years after Roe v. Wade

By Louise Melling, Director, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project

Thirty-four years ago this month the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe v. Wade, significantly expanding the ability of women across the country to decide when and whether to become a parent. The decision, while immensely important, was only one step in this country’s journey to true reproductive freedom. The world we want includes access to safe and legal abortion care, secures our right to have children when we are ready, and supports programs that foster healthy families and healthy lives for all.

The decision when and whether to become a parent is one of the most private a person can make and one that has a profound affect on all aspects of our lives. To participate fully in society, we must be free to answer for ourselves whether we are ready and capable of being parents. To achieve this world, we must continue to strive for reproductive freedom for everyone.

Supporting the right to have children: In the world we want, women, men, and families have the support they need to maintain healthy lives, healthy pregnancies, and healthy families. Reproductive health care is basic health care. All parents are equipped with the means to care for and educate their children and provide for their families.

Ensuring the right not to have children: In the world we want, all women have meaningful access to contraception and abortion, and both are considered part of basic health care. Unfortunately, in the world we live, we see a growing disparity between the ability of rich and poor women to prevent unintended pregnancies and obtain abortion care.

Educating for healthy lives: In the world we want, the government puts resources into programs that offer real information for real lives. Instead of federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that fail to give teens information on how to prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, government supported sexuality education would give people the information they need to make healthy decisions when it comes to sex, relationships, and family planning.

The world we want meets the needs of real people working to build a life for themselves and their families. On this 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it is time to take a critical look at the world we have and start working together to build the world we want.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Anti-Choice Strategy: We Care About Women...except when it comes to their bodies

The forced birth strategists have decided to try a new strategy. Will we see an end to those disgusting images of bloody and dismembered fetuses on signs at every counter-demonstration of pro-choice rallies; what about the oh-so-crafty activities of the religious zealots hurling insults at women entering abortion clinics; or, finally, the endless legislation dictating what kinds of politically-named, fake procedures can and cannot be performed by doctors?

The New York Times Magazine on Sunday reports on an "evolving antiabortion strategy that aims to "dismantle the framework" of pitting fetuses against women (a perfectly heinous image), instead taking the perspective that abortion is, according to the NY Times article, at the "root of women's psychological ills."

Despite mountains of extremely current evidence to the contrary, anti-choice advocates have apparently decided that abortion hurts women by increasing the risk of: depression, drug abuse and other issues. Or, really, they have decided that maybe that tack will get them ever closer to their goals of ensuring control of women's bodies.

I think the anti-choice activists have a parallel strategy: to break down pro-choice advocates by introducing endless, meaningless, absurd reasons for why abortion should be illegal. Ultimately, I think they are hoping to exhaust us with their clueless approach and stunning lack of concern or compassion for women.

Marcy Bloom is going to write about this for RH Reality Check this week. I look forward to reading what she has to say!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Blog for Choice: The Choices of Mothers

Blog for Choice Day - January 22, 2007

It's the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade Day and I'm ruminating on what choice means to me - as a mother. For all of the statistics & facts that we hear: 61% of women seeking abortions are already mothers; women who have abortions and women who have children are the SAME women at different points in their lives, I still don't see mothers, as a force, organizing strongly enough, to make a deep dent in the reproductive rights landscape on behalf of all mothers.

When I talk about my perspective on reproductive rights, there is no way I can even begin to frame the issue outside of my role as a mother.

When we throw phrases out like "My body, my choice" and "Motherhood by choice", I think not only of my vehement stance that abortion should be safe, legal and accessible to all women in order for women to be free but that the ways in which women birth, the resource available to women before motherhood, during birth and post-birth are plentiful and accessible.

Right now women in this country are given very few, abominably few options when it comes to making a decision about when and how to have children. Most women in this country are not even given the proper pre-natal resources to ensure a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Postpartum care is available to the most privileged among us which leaves a great majority of women in this country suffering in silence, thinking that the myth of blissful motherhood must be their faults. Midwifery is barely an option for most women in this country, cesarean sections are becoming standard regardless of what a woman may ultimately want. Paid - or even unpaid maternity leave (or paternity leave) is far too rare to ensure economic security for families with babies, affordable childcare is even scarcer.

The truth is, the idea of "choice" for women when it comes to much of our sexual and reproductive health and lives, is a dream we have chased for far too long. I am not talking solely of ensuring that abortion remains an option available to pregnant women (which, we all know, is not truly an option for most poor, teenage or non-English speaking women in this country) but that our ability to make the best choices for our sexual and reproductive health and lives is being severely hampered in our country - still.

So, on this anniversary of the historic Roe v. Wade decision, when we acknowledge the tenuous platform on which legal abortion balances, we must also be aware that we have not even begun to remedy the threats to motherhood on multiple levels in this country.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Is Hilary Pro-Choice?

Well, she's done it. Hilary Clinton has declared her intention to run for President of the United States. And Emily's List has their panties in a wad. They are very excited.

I guess if I let myself, I'm excited as well. It's an incredible time to be living through - we may be witness to the first female president of the United States.

But since my topic du jour these days is reproductive health and rights, I'm on a quest to figure out where Ms. Clinton stands in regards to reproductive health & rights. Where do her (and did her) votes lie on the sexual and repro health issues in the Senate?

Hilary on Parental Notification:

I believe in parental notification. I think there are exceptions. There are situations in which the family is so dysfunctional that notification is not appropriate. In general, I think families should be part of helping their children through this.

Hilary on Partial Birth Abortion (you know, the non-existent procedure named by anti-choice political strategists):

I have said many times that I can support a ban on late-term abortions, including partial-birth abortions, so long as the health and life of the mother is protected. I�ve met women who faced this heart-wrenching decision toward the end of a pregnancy. Of course it�s a horrible procedure. No one would argue with that. But if your life is at stake, if your health is at stake, if the potential for having any more children is at stake, this must be a woman�s choice.

Hilary on Abortion:

But I think it's essential that as Americans we look for that common ground that we can all stand upon. [Our] core beliefs and values. can guide us in reaching our goal of keeping abortion safe, legal and rare into the next century.

NARAL gives her a 100% we love you Hilary and would die by you Hilary. But, I, on the other hand do not think that she would be the voice of complete reason on this issue.

More later.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Willful Ignorance

"The lack of public, comprehensive, and complex sex education in this country contributes to this toxic sexual culture on most college campuses."

Willful Ignorance is Courtney Martin's insightful analysis of the true consequences of abstinence-only "sex ed" (because abstinence-only "education", once and for all, is NOT education its zealotry).

I happened to write about an amazing coalition that formed last year in Washington state (my home) called The Healthy Youth Alliance (see my post below) on Reproductive Health Reality Check this week. I may just continue the conversation for my piece next week...But back to Ms. Martin...

She's absolutely right, of course. Who decided that my children don't need information on how to communicate about sex? For god's sake, they are four and almost eight and they ask about sex, sexuality and their bodies quite a bit. Why do they talk about sex at such young ages, you might ask?

Here's the list:

1. They are exposed to thousands of advertising messages each day that essentially teach them that SEX sells. ("Mama, why does that poster show a woman's boobies sticking completely out of her bra?")
2. From the time they could talk, we taught them that their bodies were their own. We taught them that sex was a beautiful, positive, amazing experience between two people that loved each other. This, of course, inspires them to ask questions about what sex is and who does it.
3. Bratz dolls (have you checked out the Bratz horse? My 4 year old daughter does NOT need a plastic horse that's looking at her with "sexy eyes")
4. Clothing for girls. Can you tell me again why I should buy my daughter an eensy weensy mini-skirt and a belly shirt?!

Our children are naturally curious about their bodies, how babies are made, what sexuality is about because it's NATURAL. As they get older, they become more curious. If we release them on the world with no information about what sex and sexuality is about, how to talk about their own sex and sexuality and how to negotiate sexual relations, we're dis-abling them.

Because we are not giving our young people the information they need to navigate their sexuality, college campuses are teeming with repressive young adults. College students are essentially receptacles of raging hormones and spotty sexual information. Throw in the fact that most of those young people are living independently for the first time - and young women and men are paying too high a price for society's fear of sex.

...Of course the differences in the ways this lack of sexual knowledge manifests itself in young women and men can be vast. And Martin doesn't seem to much focus on this fact. She refers to the fact that abstinence-only zealotry doesn't teach either men or women to talk with each other about their sexual needs:

"The abstinence-only sex education that most young men and women receive does not teach them how to articulate their own sexual needs and respect those articulated by their partners."
But then, she writes:
"One study found that 75 percent of the males and 50 percent of the females involved in college campus acquaintance rapes had been drinking when the incident occurred."

Somehow I don't think that young men raping women on college campuses are just having a difficult time articulating " their own sexual needs" and respecting "those articulated by their partners." I absolutely understand her hypothesis that alcohol plays a definitive role in young people's abilities or lack thereof to handle their own sexuality. But when she talks about rape on campus, she says:
"All parties involved can be hurt by a failure to properly delineate and stick to boundaries."

Well, Courtney, yes that's true. But there is a vast difference between the way men are "hurt" when they choose to rape a woman and the way a woman is hurt when they become victims of rape.

I think Courtney has written an excellent piece and I agree completely that the effects of abstinence-only zealotry is much more deleterious than we realize. It's depressing but here's an upside:

See my post below on the Healthy Youth Alliance - working to ensure that comprehensive, science-based sexuality education becomes a reality for teens in Washington state.
Also, check out the blogosphere for more fabulous commentary on Courtney's article:

Healthy Youth Alliance: Swerving To Avoid Ignorance-based Sex Ed

My latest on RH Reality Check. The Healthy Youth Alliance released the results of a statewide survey of public schools on what (if anything) they are teaching to our teens when it comes to sex ed.

You can go to: to see the report!

Friday, January 12, 2007

NBC show 'Scrubs' is my new hero

Last night, I fell upon the NBC show 'Scrubs' while channel surfing. I admit to having watched this show a few times - though not much - and mostly because I have a 38 year old-woman-with-two-kids crush on Zach Braff.

But last night the show's storyline centered primarily on character Carla Turk's (played by Judy Reyes) plunge into postpartum depression immediately following the birth of her baby.

I gotta tell you - it was gooood. As a woman who suffered (needlessly in my opinion) from postpartum depression after the birth of my most amazing first child, my son, it was incredible to see such a thoughtful and measured portrayal of PPD.

The storyline essentially followed Carla from the moment she came home with her beautiful baby - you know, the time when we mom's are supposed to be blissed out and beautiful, wallowing in o-so-natural mamahood?
Except she wasn't. She was a bawling, sad pile of mess. And her husband, to the writers' credit, was not clueless and stupid or neglectful and frustrated. He kicked it into high gear - he immediately encouraged her to get help, go see a doctor, and continually told her it was normal to have those feelings. When she protested it was just "the weepies", he assured her it seemed more like postpartum depression.

Ahhh, knowledgeable television. I know I seem overly excited about this. But here's the thing. Towards the middle of the show when she was really, really losing it and clearly could not cope, her husband and his colleague - himself with a wife that had suffered through PPD- conspired to get them together so that Carla could hear firsthand that PPD was not only normal but common - from another mother!!

Yea - 'Scrubs' - you did good. You depicted one mother, suffering terribly from PPD & a society that STILL will not ensure that mothers have the resources they need to be healthy mothers, receiving clear, intelligent advice from another mother - a woman who knew exactly what she was talking about, acted kind & supportive and made sure the suffering mama received the help she needed right away.

I know some folks will protest because the last scene portrayed Carla Turk in the blissed- out-on-baby-love stage because of the anti-depressant assistance she finally received. But, again, as a woman who suffered through PPD and also used anti-depressants to get through that stage, I say GO FOR IT. Anything that will make that stage easier, make the mama feel better, help the woman to be able to truly enjoy those first few months of the most mindblowing, outrageous, difficult and heart-bursting time you will ever experience is fine by me.

Here is a blog devoted to gettin' the word out about PPD:

Feminist Peace Network