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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.



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Entries tagged "abortion"

Reproductive Rights Get Gutted Again

July 25, 2013 ·

Despite the reproductive rights uprising inspired by Wendy Davis' heroic filibuster, lame-duck Texas Governor Rick Perry has continued his anti-choice rampage. By signing a contentious measure into law, Perry has made it much more difficult for Texan women — particularly poor and rural women whose ability to travel is limited — to access safe and legal abortions.

Not only does the law ban abortions four weeks earlier than the standard set by Roe v. Wade, it also imposes arbitrary and expensive regulations on clinics, putting all but five of the state's 42 abortion providers in danger of closing permanently.

Five. In the entire state of Texas, which is roughly the size of Florida, New York, Idaho, South Carolina, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island combined. Home to roughly 13 million women,Texas may soon have only five clinics at which those women can get an abortion.

Legally, that is. Opponents of the bill have raised the concern that, if they can't get to a clinic before the new deadline, Texan women will resort to black market or self-induced abortions, even resorting to taking pills sold at flea markets. The lives of Texan women are in more danger than before, thanks to a posse of supposedly "pro-life" Texan lawmakers led by Perry, whose 2012 presidential bid was the stuff comedians' dreams are made of — fingers crossed for new stand-up material in 2016.

The new Texas law is bound to ruin — or end — the lives of women whose only crime was being born in Texas.

But conservative Texan state lawmakers aren't satisfied with the damage they've already done. That new law looks like a memo from Planned Parenthood compared with what is effectively a total abortion ban Representative Phil King (R-TX) recently introduced in the Texas House.

This new proposition would ban all abortions, except in the case of immediate medical emergency, after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. That can happen as early as six weeks after fertilization.

Most women don't even realize they're pregnant that soon. Doctors often use the detection of a heartbeat to determine the very existence of a pregnancy. King's House Bill 59 can't be allowed to become law in Texas. The risk to women, and to their families, is too great.

mirsasha/FlickrThe six-week ban has reared its ugly head before — a federal judge thankfully shut the whole thing down before it could go into effect in North Dakota. Judge Daniel Hovland denounced the ban as "an invalid and unconstitutional law," based on the precedent set by Roe v. Wade. The law is against the anti-choice lobby on this ban. Hopefully, the same will hold true in the Lone Star State.

State Representative Harold Dutton, Jr. proposes an intriguing potential dam against the rising tide of anti-choice legislation. Dutton, a Democrat, introduced the Abortion Law Moratorium Bill, also known as House Bill 45, which presents so-called pro-lifers with a challenge: The state would have its draconian abortion restrictions, but only after it bans the death penalty.

If all life should be protected, the reasoning goes, the state has no business executing prisoners. If Texas is so "pro-life," then why does it lead the nation in state-sponsored executions, with over 500 of them since 1976? More than half of those 500+ took place under the trigger-happy Perry.

Dutton's bill isn't going anywhere — he's introduced it before with no luck. But the message he's sending anti-choice legislators brings into sharp relief the cognitive dissonance of the phrase "pro-life," which can be deadly for some women. And he's laying bare the hypocrisy of being anti-choice and pro-death penalty.

Kathleen Robin Joyce is a student at Georgetown University and an OtherWords intern at the Institute for Policy Studies. OtherWords.org

Blog for Choice 2012: To Sever the Stitch of Shame

January 22, 2012 ·

To say I am not sad is to say I am a monster.
And in this world is a village of women
whose houses are full and fragrant They grieve

in private and carry a sack of ashes to their graves

Twice a year I have the privilege of choosing poems for the online feminist quarterly, On The Issues Magazine. Each issue has a theme, to which the poems should also adhere, at least in the way that poems do, which is to say, in all sorts of ways.

Susan Bee artwork, via On The Issues Magazine. This winter, the theme is abortion rights. When I heard, I was anxious. I wondered if my sister poets could contain it all, the history of women’s struggles; the personal stories of women who’ve had abortions; the complex feelings some women carry; the resistance to the Right’s attempts to control women’s bodies through intimidation, legislation, and outright violence.

And then I wondered why I thought that the poems needed to carry it all, when they’d be surrounded by insightful essays and analyses by some of the sharpest thinkers on this issue we have.

Oh me of little faith. I put out the word and the poems that came in response do it all.

In “Women’s Liberation, 1971,” Judith Arcana brings us right into the underground circle of activists who counseled women needing abortions before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing them: The next card is/Terrelle, who’s thirty-two and angry. Her/doctor gave her an IUD that didn’t work;/he says there’s nothing he can do/they lived far away, had no one but us,/no one to tell, no one to help, no money.

The language is simple, the story less so: true stories of scared women, angry women, hurting women. And of the determined women who quietly helped them when no one else would.

Sonya Renee Taylor speaks from the other side of the equation, from the experience of having an abortion. Her piece, “Why We Held Our Tongues,” is a manifesto to sever the stitch of shame. First she names the names that others give to women who’ve made the decision to end their pregnancies: monsters, liars (if they say they are not sad), lepers, heartless as tile.

Then, with a propulsive rhythm that does not quit, the piece takes us through the abortion itself and out the other side, celebrating the decision, the choice, not as a regret, not as a shame, but as the exact right thing:

To say, the doctor's face was a blur of soft cotton, 
his voice a crisp steel speculum is to free the pigeon of truth
from its cage so it might return dove. To say,
in the recovery room I smelled twenty shades of crimson escape 
fleeing down all the women's thighs is to say, I am seer and historian, 
conqueror and scared teenage girl 13 credits shy of statistic.
To say, I have never spent $350 dollars more wisely

Johnna Schmidt’s “Red Rover” reminds us that abortion rights can be about the question of not whether, but when, to have children, as the speaker laments the mess of her life when she was pregnant at 25. How then later, motherhood bounces back,/catches me in its shining snare.

Poetry dwells in contradiction and complexity, too. Melissa Tuckey’s poem, “Abortion,” resides at the nexus of gratitude and sorrow:

And somewhere in this world is a village of women
who wear only black They confess their joy
in private and carry a sack of ashes to their graves

Finally, the poems came full circle, as they came to my inbox. Katherine Anderson Howell, who works as a clinic defense volunteer outside a Planned Parenthood clinic, shows us in her poem, “Things to Know When Walking to the Abortion Clinic,” that abortion rights are still under attack, 40 years after Judith Arcana’s women gathered in clandestine solidarity.

Thanks to the speaker in Howell’s poem, however, and to so many other activists, health care workers, and volunteers – female and male – the clinic is still open.

Sarah Browning is the director of Split This Rock, poetry co-editor of On The Issues Magazine, and an associate fellow of The Institute for Policy Studies.

Interview with Roe v. Wade Lawyer Sarah Weddington

January 20, 2012 ·

January 22 marks the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States. That ruling has been called the most significant of the 20th century. Certainly it was the most significant for women.

The case was argued by a 27-year old female lawyer from Texas — Sarah Weddington, in her first appearance before the Court. Female lawyers were so rare in those days that the Supreme Court lawyers lounge didn't even have a ladies room. There were no female Supreme Court justices. Weddington faced a wall of older white men.

Almost 40 years later, Sarah Weddington is still a tireless advocate for women. She now teaches leadership at the University of Texas at Austin, writes and speaks nationwide, and continues to educate young women and men on rights and responsibilities, and the fragile nature of progress without vigilance. I took a look back (and a look forward) with her last week on my radio show, Equal Time with Martha Burk. Here are some highlights:

Sarah Weddington. Photo by Daily Texan.

MB: When you argued the case, you were a young inexperienced lawyer. Were you scared?

SW: Well, yes. I cared so much about the result. I was the only person that would be allowed to speak to the Court for the plaintiffs, asking them to overturn the restrictive Texas law. So it was fear-invoking, awe-inspiring, and something you just want so much to win you can taste it.

MB: You won the case 7-2. It seems like every decision that comes out of the Court now is 5-4. Is the Court more politicized now than it was then?

SW: I think it definitely is, particularly on the issue of abortion. Now you have several judges who are very strongly in favor of Roe v. Wade, but you also have several who are strongly against. We have two women judges that we're not absolutely sure what their position is going to be. They didn't really talk about it in their confirmation hearings, and the Court hasn't had a case [on Roe] since they've been on it.

MB: You did something very unusual when you testified against Clarence Thomas. You brought a picture of a pregnant Thomas to the confirmation hearing.

SW: Yes. He had made some comments that were so outrageous and controversial, and I was trying to say that if he had ever been in the position to be pregnant, he would have much more sympathy and understanding of the way women feel when they're pregnant and don't want to be. There are so many in such dire economic straits — many couples who both have to work to take care of their families, and there is no day care. If Thomas could appreciate the position so many are in, he would understand why it should not be his decision, it should not be the government's decision. They should have a right of privacy on when to continue and when to terminate a pregnancy.

MB: Did the case hang primarily on the right to privacy?

SW: Yes. We had in our Supreme Count packets these documents from previous cases where the Supreme Court had said there is a right to privacy in the use of contraception. We were trying to get them to pull that rubber band a little wider, and say it also covers the decision of whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy. But when you argue a case before the Supreme Court you will argue anything that you think might be possible, so we had many [other possible arguments], in other words several parts of the constitution that might apply.

MB: It seems the opposition is no longer attacking the right to abortion head on — they're concentrating more on onerous restrictions — waiting periods, mandatory sonograms, clinic size requirements and the like.

SW: There is a real split in the opposition. Most of the opposition in recent years has not concentrated on making abortion illegal. They're waiting for the Supreme Court to change so they can win. [In the meantime], they want to make it unavailable. [These restrictions] belittle women and their families who try to make the best decision for their own situations.

MB: Given the Roberts court, do you believe a successful challenge will be argued on the privacy issue or will it be "fetal rights" or even "fertilized egg bills" trying to declare that eggs have the same rights as everyone else?

SW: Even that would probably have several [affirmative] votes on the Court. But the voters have turned down similar laws, most recently in Mississippi. So the voters have said there are some things you should not have the government deciding. I trust the voters on those cases more than I do the U.S. Supreme Court.

MB: Do you see the fervor in young people today? Or do they think we've got their rights won?

SW: I do see young people trying to help, supporting Planned Parenthood. But I'd say far greater numbers are having such a hard time just going to work, getting money for school and the like. So it's harder for them, but I wish somehow we could get their attention. Part of it is for young people to know what they have now that women didn't have before. We never want to go back to the way it was. And we really need the help of voters and of younger people to save their ability to make their own choices.

MB: You teach leadership at the University of Texas. If you could give only one piece of advice to young people today, what would it be?

SW: Leadership is about leaving your thumb print — a concept of trying to leave the world a better place for others. So I would say to young people, ask yourself, what can I do and how can I leave the world a better place than I found it.

Listen to Weddington's full interview here:

OtherWords contributor Martha Burk is a political psychologist, women's issues expert, and director of the Corporate Accountability Project for the National Council of Women's Organizations (NCWO). Follow her on twitter at @MarthaBurk.